It's nighttime in Darkside. Just like it is in the rest of Rephidim, really. However, nighttime doesn't tend to carry so many lethal connotations there. Perhaps that's why a certain black Khatta makes such good time in getting OUT of Darkside this evening. The sky is overcast, blocking out the light of the Procession, and there are no streetlamps to guide the way. Still, this lone feline makes his way in the apparent pitch blackness without so much as a stumble. At last, he's at the edge (if there is such a defined area) of Darkside, where it meets the abandoned portions that occasionally serve as part of the everchanging Bazaar, now and then.
Given how desolate these streets are, the Bazaar would appear to be more "then" than "now". In the distance, a bell resounds, ringing in the new hour thrice from a tower that is limned in the light from the more distant and better lit, of course parts of the city.
Jynx hurries on his way, not pausing a minute at this late hour. He's got to get home to sort out his mind, still swimming from the events that transpired earlier. He feels the silver dagger still firm in his hand, and his thoughts drift. Dominic and Lylia are going to be answering a lot of questions tonight.
Off to the side, Jynx picks up a movement in one of the alleyways. Just like he has countless times before, tonight. Someone lurking in the shadows, probably looking for easy prey … or perhaps scavenging for food. Or, given the sorts who can be found on this world, quite possibly both.
The black cat picks up his pace, a confrontation is the last thing he wants right now. He's still not even exactly sure how he got to Darkside in the firstplace.
The potential encounter is left far behind by swift feline legs. The Khatta returns to more familiar surroundings … places he's known for years, though in the friendlier setting of daytime for the most part. And, as he gets closer to the heart of the Bazaar as marked by the clock tower, a familiar store is within reach. It's closed, of course.
Kurai's Imported Ceramic and Crystal Store
One of the few stationary shops found in the Bazaar, Kurai's Pottery is a place where all sorts of ceramics, both domestic and imported, can be found. The front is painted a marble-white, to imitate the wares within, and large glass windows and doors allow for all passersby to view the reasonably-priced goods to be found there. Inside, the shop is spacious, with room enough to accomodate both products and customers both. All kinds of ceramics and crystal adorn the shelves, from large hand-painted Safar jugs to slender Babel wine glasses. Behind and on top of the store is situated a fairly large but modest dwelling, the residence of Dominic Kurai and his family.
Jynx quickly heads towards the front of the store. Trying the double doors, he finds that they're locked, and unfortunately he doesn't have a key. The Khatta sighs; so near yet to so far. Hoping for the best, he heads around the alley to the back, hoping that the stock room door may have been unlocked.
No such luck. The door is securely locked. Not only that, but Jynx notices something a bit different the windows have been barred. Not that this has been the safest of neighborhoods, but …
… consider just what sort of person is trying to get in right now?
The ebony feline stares. Barred windows? Why in the name of the First Ones did Dom do that? Puzzled, the Khatta heads back around to the front, and looks through the store windows to see if anyone might be home.
The lights are out upstairs, but that's not surprising at the third hour past the middle of night. Peering into one of the store windows, Jynx is able to make out … not much of anything, really. There's just not much ambient light to work with. However, he does pick up something warm and small trundling its way across the floor. The small creature works its way along the floor until it's out of sight, then hops up on a table and presses its cold wet nose against the window. If not for the glass pane, it would be pressing noses with Jynx. "Dead?" it queries in an adorably cute voice. It probably has adorably cute eyes to match.
Nearby, a sign hangs that Jynx hadn't noticed before. It's too dark to read clearly, but in the context of the moment, it can be barely made out. "Beware of Fuff'nars."
Jynx's already confused mind jumbles yet further. Unsure on what to do, and just wanting desperately to be home, the Khatta does all he can think to do. He bangs on the door. "Mom? Dad? Anyone here? Helllooo… ?"
The banging startles the fuff'nar, who disappears from sight entirely. At first, there is no response … but then a dim glow can be seen from one of the upper windows as a lantern is hastily lit. A voice calls out, "Wah? We're CLOSED! Come back at sunrise!"
The young cat backs away from the door to get a better look at the window, "But Dad, its-," Jynx then realizes that his voice is several octaves lower, it must still be in 'Shikouju mode'. Clearing his throat, he calls again, "But Dad, it me! Feli!"
The sounds of several latches being undone follows … and then a gray tabby head pokes out of the upper window, accompanied by a lantern. "Feli? It … it IS you! Well, why are you standing out THERE? Get in before Oh … Stay right there, I'll be right down!" Inside, muffled voices can be heard, and then pounding of feet on stairs.
"Okay," Jynx calls. He stands shivering a bit; it's chilly out here.
Inside the store, there can be heard a chorus of "Dead? Dead? Dead? Dead?" And then, there's a high-pitched whistle, followed by the pitter-patter of many little feet, and the rattling of cages.
After another uncomfortable pause, the front door to the store is home to the noise of several bolts being opened, and then the door pops open. A gray-furred tabby looks out, holding a large blunt instrument in one hand. He hurriedly looks one way, then the other, then grabs Feli by the arm and yanks him inside. Just as quickly the door is being locked and bolted shut again behind them.
By the light of the lantern, Jynx can see that the store is pretty much the same … except for the barred windows … and the several fuff'nars who are delicately munching on snacks in their cages about the room.
"Hi-AAAIIIE!" screeches Jynx as he is thrown inside. Stumbling a bit, he looks at all the… modifications curiously, mouth open in confusion. "What… what's all this?" He goes over to one of the fuff'nar cages and peers inside, "Did you guys get robbed or something?" He turns and looks back at Dominic, slightly taken aback at his brandished object.
Dominic looks at the club he's holding, as if he'd forgotten it was there, and quickly sets it down, then pats Jynx. "Ah. It's really you. Not a ghost. Good." Meanwhile, Lylia appears in the door to the store, and rushes in. "Feli!" She is quickly upon the black Khatta, grooming his face-fur and sobbing quietly.
Lastly, a white kitten pokes her head around the doorway. "Aha! I TOLDJA! He's an expert at falling out of airships."
Jynx mmphs! "Mom- ack, stop!" He tries to look back up at Dominic, "No for the millionth time I'm still not a ghost!" Still trying to guard his face from his mother, he once again asks his question, "Now -ack!- what's going on here?"
Eve sniffs the air. "Doesn't smell like he's been in the sewer this time!"
"Eve!" scolds Lylia. "Now then, dear," she says, turning to Jynx. "You look half-starved! Let's get you inside and put some good home-cooked food in you." She starts towing him toward the house entrance. Dominic is still locking bolts.
The black Khatta only protests mildly at the shooing, since food does sound a good prospect at the moment. "Yes, food sounds good," he looks back at Dom, "but you still haven't told me what all this is about!"
As Jynx is led into the kitchen and true to Lylia's priorities, there's already a kettle boiling over the fire Eve mews, "Daddy thinks the whole world is out to get him, since pirates attacked us! You got killed again. How many lives is that you've used up now?"
Dominic comes in from the store and snorts, "Pirates? Pirates don't attack over the docks, for First Ones' sake!"
Jynx sits at the dining table, and stares at his strange family, "Pirates? Do you mean the Babelites?" Not the question he really came here to ask, but first things first.
"ASSASSINS!" exclaims Dominic, as he further locks the door between the house and the store. But then, considering that there are fuff'nars running loose in the storefront, that's probably a good precaution.
Lylia shakes her head. "Now dear, only famous, rich people get assassinated. The rest of us just get mugged."
A curiously twitching black tail freezes, and the heart associated with it seems to skip a beat, "A- assassins? What do you mean?" He thinks he knows where this is headed. "Mugged? Now you're confusing me… "
Dominic sits down, drawing his robe more tightly about himself, as he rests an elbow on the kitchen table (exactly the sort of bad habit that earns him a stern glance from Lylia a stern glance which is just as commonly ignored). "On the way back to Rephidim, during the night, assassins attacked. One of the slaves woke me up, and I couldn't figure out what was going on until I ran outside… " He shudders. "I came THIS close!" He holds his index finger and thumb almost together. "THIS close to having my head split in half by one of THOSE!" Dominic points at a chitinous, barbed disc that is hanging by a peg over the mantle a strange new trophy for Jynx's father, it seems.
Eve gasps, "Ewwww! That's gross, Daddy!"
Jynx looks over at the strange weapon, brow furrowed in thought. "What were they? And why did they attack?" he turns his attention back to Dominic, "And why would they try to kill you of all people? I mean, you're not really a threat to anybody… " he trails off to avoid putting his foot into his mouth.
Dominic grumbles. "Nobody believes me. Not even the Temple. But that little lizard almost GOT me. It was as if he was EXPECTING me to come out right then with the slave. But … " His ears blush. "I was still adjusting my robe. I tripped on the hem and … landed flat on my face. I don't know whose luck is rubbing off on me … Feli's or Eve's!"
Eve giggles. "Feli's! I'm always graceful." She curtseys.
The black cat scowls at his little sister, but not for long. "But… why? What did you ever do to make an assassin go after you?" He holds back what little information he has, hoping to learn more.
"Thank goodness for that freak storm," mumbles Dominic. "Although we thought it was the end of you, Feli. Eve saw you walk out of the captain's cabin, with your nose stuck in a book, right when one of the booms came loose and … knocked you clean off the deck." He winces. "How did you survive?"
Eve mews, "Daddy thinks he made the Spotties mad at him!"
"I don't kn-" the feline stops himself short, the memories of the night comming back to him. "I-… I remember now. We were on our way home, and it was so boring. I was looking for something to do, and the captain had a lot of books." He gulps as he comes to the next part, "Some of the books were about an assassin called… the Sable Palm. I was reading one of those that night, when I thought I heard someone call my name out on deck. I went out, still reading because I didn't think it was important… then… then it just sorta goes black… " He looks back up at his parents, seeing what their reactions are.
Dominic's tail looks like a bottle-brush. "You shouldn't be reading filth like that," he says in a scolding tone. "It corrupts the youth."
Lylia focuses on cooking … whatever it is that she's fixing. (It smells good.)
Eve mews, "It wouldn't corrupt me! I'm too cute!" She bats her eyelashes.
Jynx stares at his father, "What's so bad about it?" He then shyly looks at the table, scratching a claw along it, "I kind of liked them… "
There's a clatter from the direction of Lylia's cooking. "I'll help you, Mama!" Eve squeals as she pitter-patters off.
Dominic frowns. "The hero kills people. And does other things that are very … ungentlemanlike. He's a terrible role model." He lowers his voice. "He's a cold-blooded killer. There's just no other way to say it."
The black feline eyes Dominic suspisciously, "But… how would you know? Have you ever read them?" His tail twitches, awaiting the answer.
Dominic snorts. "I would NEVER read trash like that!"
"Then how did you know what they were about?" Jynx's fur starts to stand on end at the strangeness of this situation.
Dominic's neck-hairs bristle. He starts absently smoothing out his tail. "When you've been around as long as I have, you'll pick things up."
Eve mews, "And when you've been around only as long as Jynx has, you'll leave your room a total mess!"
"Eve!" scolds Lylia.
Jynx sits in silence for a while, ignoring even the goading of Eve. He continues to scratch idly at the table with his clawtip. "I met someone a few days ago… "
Lylia purrs, "That's nice, dear. Eve, will you set the table?"
"She knew you two, especially you mom… " he waits a little bit longer. "And I think I knew her when I was a kitten… "
Dominic gives up trying to smooth out his tail. "Oh … really?" He gives the back of Lylia's head a LOOK.
Eve skips along, setting the table, as Lylia sets down a hastily-cooked pot of something breakfasty and mushy. Lylia must have started experimenting again. Still, it smells good.
Jynx grimaces slightly at the expression on Dominic's face. "She was a lioness, kinda old. She was familiar, and I remember dad not wanting her around." He pauses again. "She was also in those books… "
Dominic's face is gray, with just a touch of red in the ears. Funny how his ear-hairs give the illusion of smoke rising out of them. "Really?" he says through the teeth of a forced grin.
"Eat up, dear!" says Lylia. "Don't want it to get cold."
The black feline ignores the food for now, focusing on his father with a no-nonsense expression. "She also gave me this," he unwraps the silver dagger from its cloth, and lays it on the table.
Dominic says, "Excuse me a moment, son." He walks out of the room, into his study, and closes the door behind him.
Eve puts her dainty little paws over her ears. Lylia sighs.
Jynx turns his attention to Lylia, with a slightly sad expression, "Why didn't you ever tell us about her mom? About grandmother Martinette?"
From the other room, muffled by a thick door, comes many unpleasant sounds. When they cease, Eve lowers her paws from her ears. Dominic stumbles out of the room, looking like he'd really rather be in bed right now.
The black Khatta stares at his father, a bit of a worried expression on his face.
Lylia looks at Jynx and looks as if she's about to say some generic motherly thing, but pauses, frowning, and looking quite sad. "Dear Feli … " She looks up at Dominic.
Dominic sits back down in his chair, looking quite exhausted … and defeated.
Lylia says, "Eve, perhaps you should go to your room."
Jynx blinks, and nods, "Go on… " He gives a worried glance to Dominic, he didn't realize this would be such a shock.
Eve mews, "But MAMA! I'm just starting on my bowl of porridge!"
Dominic shakes his head, and holds out a hand to stop Eve from leaving the room. "No, it's time for you both to know. Though Eve probably won't understand half of it yet."
Lylia wrings the hem of her apron, and at last sits down as well.
Jynx swallows hard, and listens attentively to what's about to be said.
Dominic says, "I don't know what she told you … but odds are half of what she told you was a lie. I'll tell you this much She's no part of this family."
Lylia only frowns. It's the sort of frown rarely seen on her face. She seems to take just about anything in stride most of the time. Even visits to the Savanite Empire, or her son coming back from the dead every once in a while.
"She didn't tell me much," Jynx mutters, "but I remembered some of it. I know she's mom's mom, and I know who grandpa is, I think." He looks back up, "but I remembered her from when I was little… "
Dominic twitches. "She only visited once since you were born. She didn't stay long."
Eve mews, "I have a GRANDMA? Let's go VISIT! I want to be spoiled!" She smiles widely.
Jynx nods, "That I remember. But why did you turn her out?"
Dominic fumes, but does his best to contain himself only the first word comes out louder than need be. "BECAUSE … we don't need her help. We didn't need her help then, and we certainly don't need it now. She thought I was just a deluded misfit … that I'd never make it anywhere in business. That I couldn't support Lylia."
Dominic looks to Lylia. "Well, I have. And we've raised two … " He looks at both Jynx and Eve, and manages to smile a bit. "… very wonderful children." Then his face turns serious again. "And not a bit of our household has been supported by blood money."
"But why didn't you ever tell us about her?" says Jynx, looking pleadingly into Dominic's eyes, before going back to scratching at the table, "She seemed nice to me, maybe she's changed… "
Dominic says, "I'm surprised she's still alive. And … nice? Feli, your grandmother was a killer and a pros "
"DOMINIC!" cries Lylia, her eyes wet. "That's quite enough! PLEASE!" She covers her face with her apron. Eve looks quite out of place.
Eve gets down from her chair, looks to Lylia … looks to Dominic … and then, with a worried look on her face … rushes over to Jynx and clings to his tail.
Dominic slumps back in his chair. "I'm sorry, Feli. I kept telling myself I'd let you know when you were old enough. And then … I really just hoped I'd never have to tell you at all."
Jynx winces, at both the words and Lylia's reaction. "But that was in the past!" he says with a pleading voice, "People change! Besides, she seemed glad to see me, and I'm sure she'd like to see mom again." He takes a deep breath and swallows, oblivious to the kitten on his tail, "Besides, I'd like to learn more about… grandpa… "
Dominic's frown does not relent. "You never had a grandfather. Lylia was raised only by your grandmother. Though it's not too hard to read between the lines." He looks to Jynx. "You read those books. Don't you understand why we kept this a secret? At your age, you might be proud to be descended from some great pulp fiction 'hero'. But I don't want you growing up to be like him. You don't need that sort of 'celebrity'."
Eve mews to Jynx, "Where does grandma live? Did you go visit her? Are you going back again? Can I come, too?"
The black Khatta's ears droop slightly, "He's still family… and so is she." He swallows yet again, swatting at Eve with his tail, then mutters, "besides… maybe I am proud… "
Dominic shakes his head. "Son, I don't know what story your grandmother told you … but I know the books. No, I haven't read them … but I KNOW them. The Shikouju of those books is bad enough. But even they don't represent the real Shikouju. He was no hero. He killed for money."
Lylia shakes her head. "He loved Mother. He did many bad things … but he loved her. I know that much. And she was my mother. Doesn't that say enough?"
"But he also fought against tyrants!" Jynx exclaims, "And if Martinette's so bad, why did she raise Mom so good? Mom's no killer!"
Dominic just folds his hands, looking at the table. He's never given up at an argument like this. Not without ordering Jynx to his room or something along those lines. Perhaps it's because he looks so tired.
Jynx stands up. "I-… I want to get to know her better. I wan to judge for myself… " His fur is bristled, and he seems to be shaking. "I need to know what we've come from, regardless of what it is… "
Dominic rises as well, and reaches out for Jynx's arm. "Okay, son. Okay. You're old enough. But … you don't need to be your grandfather all over again. I've SEEN … things I would have never believed in you! You don't have to be someone else in order to be a hero, Feli."
Does he know about what has happened to Jynx? Surely that's impossible. But his bloodshot eyes are as serious as they've ever been.
Eve mews, "I'm going, too! I'll keep an eye on Jynxie!"
The young cat looks at his father curiously. Seen things? "I'll… I'll never be a hero… " He trails off, then remembers the earlier topic, "Why… why did someone try to kill you? Does it have something to do with… this?"
"I hope not," Dominic says, and gets that distant look, like he's exploring ideas that hadn't occurred to him earlier. He shakes his head. "I made some enemies, somehow. And I can imagine plenty of ideas just how." He looks to Feli. "You be careful. But for right now, you look like you need some rest. As do we all. You too, Eve! You're not going anywhere but straight to BED, young kitten!"
Jynx nods his head tiredly, and stands up to head off for his room. Before he reaches the stairs, he turns back to look at his family. "Mom? Dad? I'm… sorry… "
Lylia says, "Please, Feli, don't be."
Eve hugs Jynx's leg. "Thanks for coming home! We missed you bunches!" She looks up at him. "I'm glad you're okay." Her grin is almost blinding.
The ebony cat gives a weak smile to his little sibling, and then to his parents. Wordlessly, he turns to go up to his room and to the inviting bed. He seems to pass out as soon as he hits the pillow, his mind going totally blank in oblivious sleep … thankfully.