The dining hall of the Sanctuary of Ice is fashioned of the same Sifran crystal as the rest of the tower, giving it the illusion of being fashioned of ice, with translucent walls that let in refracted sunlight and a blurry, distorted view of the floating blocks of isetis and the fierce blue sky. The crystal architecture has been supplemented with cleverly carved ice sculpture, and some sort of magical effect keeps it from melting. Statues of armor-clad warriors and robed priests line the walls, and a long banquet table is set out with benches on each side. Double doors open to a balcony that hangs out into the central core of the tower, and plants of mundane and marvelous varieties peek up over the railing.
Though the hall is large enough to accommodate the entire crew of the Eternal Vigilance or all of the monks Elijah has seen so far in the tower, the banquet table only sports a few place settings. The plates, cups, utensils and even the covered dishes are fashioned of ice, all the more impressive, since some of the bowls hold steaming soup. A baked snark, still in its shell, is the centerpiece, and there is a cornucopia of fruits and vegetables. Curiously enough, for every item of food, there is a mirror image in the form of a sculpture carved of ice (including an ice snark), making for a most curious meal.
The place settings are all at one end of the table, so that no shouting is required to converse, and so that the food need not be shuttled to and fro by attendants. At the very end of the table, seated in a chair, is an exquisite sculpture of ice of a beautiful young vixen with spiky hair that calls to mind the "manes" of the frost imps, and fragile-looking folds of "cloth" that form a fairly simple but elegantly formed dress and cape.
To the sculpture's left hand, the Champion of Ice is seated, giving up his full suit of armor for a partial set and robes, including a cowl that obscures his face, though a vulpine nose and the tip of a white-furred muzzle peek out of the shadows. To the sculpture's right hand is a place for Elijah, as a silent monk escorts the Vartan into the chamber and toward the chair.
"Welcome!" the Champion of Ice says warmly. "Please, partake of some of the bounty we have been blessed with."
Elijah shakes his head as if waking up from a daze as he slowly eases into a seat at the table. "Is all of this sculpted by your hand?"
"In a manner of speaking," the Champion says. "It was all 'grown', so to speak, as non-organic analogs to the more … conventional foodstuffs you see arrayed on the table. The drinks are enchanted such that they stay cool. The dishware and utensils are enchanted not to melt, which is not quite the same thing."
The head of the vixen ice statue turns and smiles to the Vartan.
The Vartan almost drops his glass as the statue moves. He fumbles for a moment and manages to only spill a few drops. "A golem?"
"Oh! My manners," the Champion says. "Honored Elijah, this is Isetia. Isetia, this is Elijah."
Isetia inclines her head to Elijah. "I am pleased to meet you."
The Champion says, "She is my pinnacle achievement. A new form of life, perfectly adapted to the cold environs."
Elijah nervously bows back, his gaze darting between the Champion and Isetia. "A new form of life? I do not know if you have any right to play Star, Ice. What were your intentions for making her?"
The Champion says, "Oh, I do not claim deity. I certainly haven't omniscience or omnipotence. Creating life by magic is no more miraculous than doing so by union of marriage. In any case, she is my greatest achievement yet in my life's work of studying how we might make greater use of the frigid regions heretofore shut off from the rest of Sinai. Granted, I suppose it's a roundabout way of approaching the problem rather than making the frigid lands more hospitable to life, I have made life more adapted to the cold. In time, perhaps I can achieve both."
"Are there more like Isetia, then? If the Collegia ever got word of this they would not be pleased, I suspect." Elijah frowns, still not entirely at ease with this.
"Why should they not be pleased?" the Champion says, incredulity tinting his voice. "I'm certain that, if they were to be given a proper tour of this facility, any doubts would be wiped away. In any case … shall I give grace over our meal?"
"Of course. This is your table, you should have the honors." Elijah folds his hands and bows.
The Champion bows his head, as does Isetia. The cowled vulpine then prays, "We thank you for this time we have together, and for the feast laid out before us, your humble servants. Bless this bounty to the nourishment of our bodies, and this communion to the nourishment of our souls. Amen."
The Vartan seems a bit eased by the blessing at least. "Inregards to the College, they have become increasingly harsh towards those who are not members of its fold who practice magic. They also claimed neutrality during the war and any who used magic to further it were kicked out. This was fine with most of the Nagai and Babelite mages, but Rephidim lost quite a few helpful hands."
"Ah," the Champion says, "but I am a fully paid Alumnus of the College Esoterica. So there is no need for such concern." He begins to heap some mixed greens on his plate. Isetia mirrors his actions … though she helps herself from a bowl of icy versions of vegetables.
"I would still be wary were I you." Elijah rubs his thumbpad across the surface of his ice bowl, feeling out its texture and temperature. "There are already peopleliving here after all who have carved out a niche for themselves. If you open the gates wide, I wonder if someone might come in and take what they have, or crowd them out."
The bowl feels cool to the touch, but not as if it were really fashioned of ice. It would seem more appropriate that it were made of crystal. It certainly has the tingle of active magic and it is most likely a dweomer that would have to be recharged, not some permanent enchantment. (Indeed, this many permanent enchantments would be mind-boggling, from a technical standpoint.) spoof "To those who are given much, much is expected," the Champion quotes. "With every step of progress, we encounter new obstacles. It is the nature of things."
"You sound like Amber, now." The Vartan sets the bowl back down and ladles out some soup. "All I am saying is that if you care about this land then you should consider whether or not the consequences are worth it. The Knights have already had enough blame for trouble put upon them, and enough snatched from them to suit me for a lifetime. I am aware that I am being quite cynical over the matter, but I think I've been given right to be."
The Champion holds out his hands in a helpless gesture. "I research only possibilities. I have not the authority to grant to others to come and seek out homesteads here. It would be for authorities higher than myself to determine such things."
As the Vartan ladles out the soup, it steams, betraying that it's actually quite hot hotter than the bowl, most certainly, and, thanks to whatever enchantment is keeping the bowl intact, not melting it in the process.
Elijah smirks. "You sound like you have rather grand plans, though. You almost made me see little colonies of ice people dancing around with your words." He chuckles. "What would happen if your creations traveled to warmer climes?"
"That," the Champion says with a frown, "is yet something that I have not quite solved. It is not a matter of temperature, per se. Exposed to enough heat, they would melt … but no less heat than would burn you or myself. However, just as with the isetis, should they be taken far enough north, they will begin to melt at an accelerated rate, regardless of measures taken to keep them cool or sheltered from exposure to the air. I have made some progress in experiments to lengthen the life-span of isetis … but they are of little use, since isetis, better preserved, loses its inherently useful properties."
Elijah bows again to Isetia. "I apologize if my words sound insulting to you, Madame. I've been a fighter for too long, and a hunter of anything that might resemble a malicious spirit for far longer. Because of it, I tend to look for the teeth in circumstances that should probably require more trust of me."
The Vartan focuses on the Champion again. "Properties like flight?"
Isetia smiles, nodding quietly, and nibbles on her ice-formed vegetables.
The Champion nods as well, and says, "And its magical nature, which I find conducive to experiments such as this."
Elijah drinks from his bowl and arches his one uncovered eyebrow at the Champion. "Can you be more specific about its magical nature?"
The Champion says, "Isetis is inherently magical. In a crude way of putting it, it is 'frozen magic'. It is energy taking on material form. When it has completely dissolved, there is nothing left … nothing, that is, save for impurities which may have become trapped in the isetis crystals when they initially form, here, at the south pole of Sinai."
"It is magic given substance," the Champion continues, "which is something that would require a considerable amount of energy and focus to accomplish with magic as we know it. These blocks of isetis contain a remarkable amount of potential energy, if harnessed properly, and, given proper magical inducements, reveal a great many interesting properties. For instance, there are life forms that have developed here, completely free of organic origins."
"Like the crystal beasts I saw. It also explains why they eat the isetis to sustain themselves." The brown Vartan taps his beak. "What about under the water?"
"Ah, but I have had so much to study here on the surface and in the air!" the Champion says, with a wave of his hand. "Beneath the waves, there is all manner of life, some of it of the variety we would recognize, and some of it … quite alien, I dare say. This realm is saturated with magic."
Elijah nods. "Do you know what causes the isetis to form here in the waters and nowhere else on Sinai? Nowhere else that we know of at least."
"That, I fear, is a secret of the First Ones," the Champion of Ice says, "for the isetis forms from the ice and the air, without consuming either, and then floats away, for no discernable purpose, and as a result of no conceivable process that I might understand."
"Is it similar to Sifran crystal in any way?" The Vartan tilts his head to the side and looks back at the ice vixen, watching how she eats the crystal food.
The Champion of Ice nods. "Actually, yes, in some ways, it displays similar properties. I've actually discovered different grades of isetis. Naturally, only the rarest variety is of use for my experiments. While the bulk of isetis is useful for gravity-defying feats, only small quantities of the rarest, purest, most finely formed isetis has the stability and magical properties that would be of any use."
The ice vixen eats her food exactly as if she were a real vixen, and as if it were real food, save that, given that she is semi-transparent, the Vartan gets a curious view of little translucent chunks disappearing down her gullet, and fading away as they float downward.
"How can you tell the difference? All the blocks I've seen look the same, and I can't imagine the tedium in sifting through great icebergs of the stuff to find a small rock." Elijah's eye widens as he watches Isetia and then quickly looks away to focus on his bowl, blushing under his feathers as though he accidentally caught someone at an indecent moment.
"Ah, yes, they do look the same," the Champion says, in between bites of his greens, and then he pauses to crack a leg off of the snark, and starts to remove the meat from the shell on his plate. "No difference can be told save by magical exploration. It is a time-consuming process, of course, but given the results, well worth the effort, I dare say."
"In what manner do you use it?" The Vartan taps his ice fork against his ice cup. "Are these made of Isetis?"
"A hybrid," the Champion answers, "of isetis and mundane ice, with enchantments to preserve them. These were fashioned with lesser grades of isetis, and are not permanent constructs given how impermanent anything is, of course." He smiles faintly. "One needn't worry about washing the dishes, if there are no dishes to wash."
The Vartan nods, turning his glass in his hand slowly. "What do your monks do to help you with your work?"
"Oh, most of the time, they are busy with their studies and prayers," the Champion says, "and other duties appropriate to a monastery. But they assist by tending the gardens, and the plants therein of both varieties. They occasionally work with the Yverneti to fetch organic material for my experiments and for dinner." The Champion gestures to the snark.
"I noticed you seemed almost separate from them, but I couldn't tell for sure." Elijah sets his glass down and starts sawing off a Vartan-sized chunk of the snark. "Do you have any lancers?"
"Yes," the Champion says. "They're presently out on maneuvers. I'm sure you'll get to meet them before you leave."
Elijah starts cracking the shell of the snark chunk with his fingers. It's indelicate work, but effective. "Are they scholars and mages like yourself?"
"Scholars, yes," the Champion says, "though they are not practitioners of the arcane arts themselves. They do, however, have a significant understanding of it."
"Appropriate that they do." The Vartan munches on his liberated chunk of snark. "So tell me about Isetia."
The Champion seems about to do so, when Isetia stands up. "If you'll please excuse me, father … " She turns to look at Elijah. "… Master Elijah."
The Champion of Ice nods to Isetia, and she turns to leave. "As I was about to say, she's a very … quiet, contemplative child."
Elijah bows again and then gives the Champion a questioning look. "Where is she going?"
"Ah, she must be full already," the Champion says. "She's a fairly light eater. I only fashioned this much food, really, as a bit of … ah … vanity, I must confess. I do not often get a chance to show off for visitors."
"You say that she is sentient. How did you manage such a thing?" The Vartan holds his cup out to the Champion in a toasting gesture, mutely saying that he is, indeed, very impressed by the show.
The Champion smiles and lifts his own cup, mirroring the Vartan's own gesture. "That was the result of a long and lengthy process, an ongoing attempt to copy what is already present in nature. I am not, after all, the Star or the First Ones. I do not create something living from nothing. At best, I can study what is already there the blueprints already laid out by nature and attempt to copy it … and perhaps tweak something here and there. Nothing more, and nothing less."
"Is she an uplifted creature then? Or a spirit you made?" Elijah sets his cup down. "You speak in somewhat vague terms and I am interested in learning more."
The Champion frowns contemplatively. "I did not fashion her in the sense that a spirit mage would. Isetis displays some life-spawning properties of its own. I simply guided this process to mimic the formation of a child of my species, rather than letting it follow its natural, random course. Her development has been over a period of years. When she refers to me as 'father', it is an honest a label as there can be. I did not simply create her in any lofty sense. I raised her, and she is as much my child as if I had married and she were of my own flesh and blood."
"How old is Isetia?" The Vartan leans back in his seat to allow his dinner to settle.
"Not long past seventeen," the Champion answers. "She was born, so to speak, on the New Year. I thought it poetic, to complete my work on that day ushering in not only a new year, but a new age Powers That Be willing for all of us."
Elijah nods, sipping from his cup. "What does she do here? There can't be many playmates for her here."
"No," the Champion says, "sad but true, she hasn't much in the way of such distractions. But I see to it that she is well educated. With fortune, I shall find a way that she can venture to the outside lands. But that day is long ahead of me, I fear."
The Vartan leans to peer in the direction the ice vixen left. "What does she do to pass the time?"
"She's a talented musician," the Champion says, a touch of pride in his voice. "She may be an excellent cook as well … of, that is, food fashioned of 'ice'. But, alas, I have no way of confirming or denying that."
"Could she play something for us sometime? I would be interested in seeing her perform, if she's not too shy about such things." Elijah drains his cup and wipes his arm across his chin. "Also, have you thought any more about your decision?"
"Yes, indeed I have," the Champion says. "I believe that it would be irresponsible for me to make a decision at this time, for there is not only myself to consider. Rather, I intend to meet with representatives of all parties involved, to give due audience to all sides."
Elijah frowns. "Keep in mind that you shall be leaving yourself open to bribery, but as this is your sanctuary you have the right to do as you wish." He sighs. "As much as I don't like the idea, it probably is the best method considering you've been out of the loop as far as worldwide events. Someone else should probably represent the Knights in my place, though, as I am somewhat estranged at the moment."
The Champion wipes his mouth with a napkin. "I understand. Well then … I think I shall retire for the night, then. Or, that is, what passes for it in these quarters." He chuckles lightly. "You are very pleasant company. There are many wonders to see here, and I do hope that you and your crew might consider staying a little while longer to enjoy some of them. Wonders are of little use when there is no one to appreciate them."
"Could your daughter give me a tour sometime, Lord Ice? I've children of my own, and enjoy spending my time in the company of them." The Vartan slowly pulls himself out of his seat. "An excellent meal, might I add. I've been eating nothing but netted fish and airmelons for the past month; it was a welcome change."
"Certainly," the Champion of Ice says. And then, with a few more pleasantries, he excuses himself from the table. Someone else must take care of the cleaning up magical dishes or no.
Elijah brushes a few crumbs and bits of shell from his shirt as he walks back to his chambers to wash up. ( I wonder if this could be used to store fresh water during airship trips. Bah, probably not. You'd need a mage to keep the spell up. )
On his way out, back to his room, Elijah hears the distinctive sound of a female voice, weeping, around the corner.
Elijah pricks up an ear and freezes in mid-step. He tiptoes towards the source of the noise and peeks around the hallway at the source.
Around the corner, in a cul-de-sac that ends in a translucent section that serves as a window looking out from the cubbyhole over the expanse outside, Isetia is leaning against the crystal. Pebbles of ice run down her cheeks, in a fair imitation of tears.
Not wanting to appear like some sort of peeping-tom, the Vartan clears his throat. "Is something wrong, Miss? Did I say something that upset you over dinner?"
Isetia sucks in a breath and hurriedly wipes away at her cheeks. "I … I'm sorry. I didn't mean to disturb you. Everything … everything is fine." She puts on a pathetically fake smile and nods her head emphatically.
The Vartan glances down at the droplets of melting ice on the floor and gives Isetia a dubious look.
Isetia follows the Vartan's one-eyed gaze, and then bursts out sobbing, covering her face in her hands again. "I'm sorry! I'm so, so sorry!"
"Erm." Elijah blushes and reaches out to pat Isetia's hand. "It's because I was gawking over dinner; I should be the one apologizing, Madame."
Isetia shakes her head. "No … no, I'm used to that. It's … it's Father. It's so sad. I know he has a hard time accepting it … but every time we have a guest, he keeps saying … " She shakes her head. "The whole Lance … they've been gone … gone since before I can remember. But he just pretends like they're still around. I think … I think he's just so lonely."
The Vartan raises an eyebrow. "What happened to them? Did they not return from some mission they were sent out on?"
"It was some sort of accident," Isetia says. "I went into the room he said I should never enter. I was so bad! I could never admit to him that I went in there… but I was curious. I mean … it's so lonely here. I know every passage here by heart, and I never get to go out. I simply couldn't resist going in there. I just couldn't!"
"He thinks I'm his perfect little angel," she says, wiping at her cheek. "It would break his heart to know I broke his rule. So I never told him."
Elijah frowns. "Let's go to my room. I think I need to hear this, but I should probably hear it in private."
Isetia looks reluctant. "Well … I guess confession is good for the soul," she says, sniffling, and steps out of the cul-de-sac, muzzle dipped.
The Vartan hides a doubtful shadow across his face. It may be that the little girl is truthful, but he's not quite convinced of that just yet. He opens the door and ushers the girl into his room.
The room is constructed much like the other chambers of the tower, located along the perimeter, such that a semi-translucent wall provides a window that looks out on blurry forms of the isetis blocks and the sky beyond. Isetia takes a seat on a ledge that juts out from the wall, near the "window", and takes a deep breath. "I was told never to enter this one room," she says, "and I entered it, as I told you. Inside, I found the Lance. They're frozen solid."
Elijah blinks, the feathers on his neck bristle out. "Do you know how this happened?"
"Some sort of terrible accident," Isetia says. "You can see by the looks on their faces, they're so surprised! Something awful must have happened, to have done this to them. They're not even alive frozen. They're dead. It's terrible. And all these years, Father still hasn't come to grips with it."
The Vartan taps his beak. "Can you tell me where this room is? I'd like to see it for myself."
"I … I could show you," she says, "though I don't want to go in there again. Breaking his rule once is too much already."
Elijah doesn't seem completely pleased with that option. "All right. But why are you so worried that he'll find out? He's never badly punished you before, has he?"
"No," she says, "but something that involved his friends dying, and he can't even admit that they're dead has to be something really terrible, and I just don't think I could bear it." She wipes at an eye.
( Or an experiment gone wrong that he's trying to cover up. ) "I would prefer if you told me where the room was so that if I got caught it would only be me snooping around instead of you getting in trouble with me, but if you insist then I shall follow." Elijah tries to nonchalantly slide his gunblade into his belt.
The ice vixen puts a hand over her mouth, and looks as if contemplating (though it is fairly hard to read a face that is semi-transparent and shiny), and then nods. "Walk down the corridor past my spot where you … er … found me earlier, and keep going until you find the first step-disc. Then, take that all the way, up, up, up, as high as it will go. Then, walk along, and there will be another step disc. Take that one the rest of the way up, then find the door that's covered in ice, so it won't open. I can do things to ice, so I could get it open, but you'll probably have to melt or break it. And I suppose it would be best to only do it when there's no one watching."
The Vartan grins. "I can break doors. I'm very good at breaking doors."
The ice vixen nods quietly. "Well … if you won't be needing me … I should probably go. Father doesn't want me talking with guests too much. Not until they decide to stay here, that is."
"Star be with you, Isetia. Hopefully this will work out fine, and thank you." He opens up his door to usher thegirl out and then follows back down the corridor where directed.
Occasionally, there is the monk shuffling this way or that, but none pays any special attention to the Vartan at all, and he finds no opposition as he traces the steps of the directions given him. The first step disc provides a somewhat disconcerting ride upward, as it accelerates to an appreciable velocity, and it seems as if the air is lighter here. Fortunately, he is not exerting himself much by the walking he does, or he might have trouble catching his breath again. The second step disc takes him the rest of the way, and even for a winged being, the elevation makes him feel a little light-headed. Sure enough, he finds a crystalline door that has been sealed shut with bands of ice. No one else can be seen in the vicinity.
Elijah walks up to the portal and presses his palms against it, feeling for any active traces of magic like like a trap.
There is definitely a tingle of magic here, though there is quite a bit of that throughout the tower, making it difficult to pinpoint any individual foci. However, this door or whatever binds it or is located behind it radiates a stronger sensation of a concentration of magic than any of the surroundings.
( In for a shekel… ) The Vartan grits his beak and puts his shoulder against the door, shoving at it to try and wiggle it loose instead of aiming to rip it off its hinges just yet.
*crack* The ice, while it may be preserved from melting prematurely by some sort of dweomer, does not appear to be strengthened any the more for it, and under the influence of the Vartan's considerable brawn, it cracks and pops, several fissures forming. A few shards of ice fall away, shattering against the floor, though the acoustics are not such that it seems to cause any undue amount of noise beyond the immediate vicinity.
Elijah bounces gently against the door, trying to wiggle it open in the manner one would coax a loose tooth to come out.
More cracking follows, and sheets of ice break and slide off, shattering against the floor. At last, the last restraints out of the way, the door slides open. A cold blast of air rushes out over the Vartan. The interior of the chamber is lit by a faint glow from the Sifran crystal walls, and reflected and refracted by ice crystals and large, snowy deposits of frost that blanket the floor.
Standing in active poses, as if frozen in mid-motion, are four armored figures, sheathed in ice and frost the Ice Lance.
The Vartan squats down, picking up a chunk of ice and sticking one of his feathers into it. Just in case there is a trap in the room, one of his feathers will be more likely to set it off than the ice, considering that there's already tons of it all over the place anyway. He flings the chunk into the center of the chamber and waits to see what happens.
The chunk skips across a snowy pile, and lies there, seemingly unaffected for a moment. However, just when it seems that nothing is about to happen … there is an audible crackle, as ice starts forming around the chunk and its imprisoned feature, fusing it to the floor. The process is not instant, but once it starts, it is fairly fast-acting.
Elijah sucks in his breath. So it is a trap. He squats down and peers into the room, trying to see what the lancers were doing before they met their fate.
One of the Lancers looks as if he's braced in a combat stance, shield held up as if to deflect something, sword out and readied. Another is holding a hand up as if to halt someone or something. Yet another is poised in a defensive stance. The fourth is frozen in mid run, sword held high as if about to strike. It seems that there is hardly enough room here for the fourth Lancer to have been running such as he is If he was indeed frozen in mid-action, it had to have been somewhere else … and he was moved here.
Elijah peers about the room, looking to see if anything or anybody else might be inside or if this room is specifically reserved for the lancers themselves.
At first, it seems that these are the only victims … but as he peeks around, he can see a few other shapes amidst the ice and frost, less apparent, since they don't have flashy armor to stand out. It seems that there are a few monks here, one of them posed with hands clasped as if in prayer, another with a hand held up much as one of the Lancers, as if to hold off something, and one posed as if running.
There may be more hidden amidst the frost and ice, not immediately seen from the doorway.
The Vartan grits his beak and tugs the door closed; he then looks around the hallway for a place to hide. ( The Champion might be the culprit, but he seems too caught up in himself and he could have easily tried to attack me during dinner. Isetia just feels wrong somehow, though. If there was a trap here she should have known about it and warned me … but no doubt if she set me up to get caught, she'll come up here to check. I'll get my answers then.)
There are numerous alcoves and cubbyholes to lurk in, even large enough to hide the Vartan. In short order, he's situated with a good vantage point of the frozen chamber.
Elijah curls up in the shadows, hugging his wings around his shoulders to keep warm and taking the opportunity to catch his breath in the process.
After a time, a shuffling, cowled form comes around the corner, pausing in front of the chamber. The figure stoops, and starts picking up pieces of ice, then trying to put them back on the door. The pieces fall off. The cowled monk tries again. The pieces fall off. The monk tries vainly a few more times, then gives up, and shuffles back off the way he came.
Elijah peers after the monk, but remains in his hiding place. It appears to be just an innocent man making his rounds, and he decides not to pursue.
Some time later, Isetia shows up. She looks at the door, and the shattered ice on the floor, then looks around … though she doesn't spy Elijah in his hiding place. She looks as if she's about to repeat the movements of the monk, stooping down to pick up one of the larger pieces of broken ice.
The Vartan frowns and tenses himself. He concentrates, trying to deflect any detection magic from himself. It may be a token useless gesture, but it never hurts. ( Come on, aren't you even going to check to see if you've caught your prey or not? Or are you just covering my tracks for me? )
Isetia picks up the chunk of ice, and sticks it up on the door. Unlike the monk's effort, it sticks there. She repeats this process, putting the chunks back up, though some of the smallest pieces are simply too small to be assembled. These, she sweeps up with her hands, forming larger balls of ice, and then pulls off bits, sticking them back on the door, filling in the remaining cracks. With a bit of molding and shaping, the door is back the way it used to be … or else, if it's not perfectly so, a pretty good facsimile.
Elijah squints, trying to read the vixen's expression and her body language as she works.
That, it turns out, is quite a challenge. She seems bent on getting the work done and doing it quickly and diligently. She doesn't seem intent on watching over her shoulder, and her ears don't twitch nervously … but then, no one shows up to challenge her, either. She stands back, regarding the door a moment, then starts walking off the way she came.
( Well, for someone who was supposedly frightened stiff about coming near this door, she seemed awfully nonchalant. For now, I think I'll explore a bit on my own, and quietly, before I make any accusations I can't prove. ) The Vartan just watches Isetia leave and allows more time to pass.
Time passes. Elijah feels a bit cold, and has a dull feeling in his stomach, perhaps from keeping watch here for so long, but nobody else comes to inspect the door for quite some time.
Elijah slowly drags himself out of his space and works his limbs. He rubs his stomach as he shakes off the cold. ( It hasn't been all that long since I last ate, has it? )
The Vartan's magic sense tingles as he rubs his stomach.
( Oh dear. I think I'm about to make a monk very very angry. ) He ducks back into the alcove, sticks a finger down his throat, and tries to make himself gag.
The results are unpleasant, but predictable … for the most part. What's a bit of a surprise, though, is that, amidst the usual results on the floor at the end of this, he notices quite a bit of frost that shouldn't have come from inside him.
The Vartan spits the remnants of his dinner out and wipes his beak. ( There is definitely some kind of plot going on here, and I don't care much for it. )
A short time later, the sounds of shuffling can be heard, as another one of the monks must be approaching from up ahead.
Elijah looks around, hunting for an exit that might allow him to scoot out through the long drop without meeting up with the monk or hide in a spot other than the one near the mess he's just created on the floor.
It looks like the walkway on this level circles around. He can either retreat away from the footsteps and catch up with another step-disc elevator, or else he can duck into another one of the nooks along the way and hope he escapes notice.
The Vartan opts to catch up with the step-disc. ( I wonder if the Champion is a puppet of his child, or the child is a puppet of the Champion, or if they're in this together, or if the whole of the Sanctuary is in on this. Maybe if I can find out what's being covered up, I can get a better idea. Which means I need to start poking around and hope I don't attract too much attention. What I wouldn't give to be Enos' size right about now.)