At the Mikide Townhouse, all is, for the most part, quiet. Everything has been cleaned up and put away.
Abana is asleep, the door closed, and it's best she be allowed her rest.
In the kitchen the preparation area in the servants' quarters Kaela has been allowed to sample some of the leftovers of the meal Titus haut Mikide had for his guest hopefully a fair payment for her having to stay up a little later to scrub some floors. (Yes, she was told she could get some rest, but minds are frequently changed, and what protest can a slave even a kitten make?)
It's far better fare than any slave could normally expect. And, after all, the food has to be disposed of anyway and why let it spoil? Why, if it isn't eaten, then that's just a waste, and a kit's belly would have to be filled with some gruel anyway.
Kaela quietly nibbles on a few of the sweets created with the leaves she procured from the Bazaar earlier in the evening. She sits at the side of one of the food preparation tables, idly swinging her legs. She's in no particular hurry… her leg is now aching enough that she doesn't expect to get much sleep tonight.
The kit is left alone in the darkness of the kitchen, at the table. Alone, that is … except that she hears approaching footsteps bare feet on the floor, most likely another servant.
Kaela's ears swivel in the direction of the sounds and she turns her head slightly to watch for the appearance of the source of the noises. It may be a servant, but it may be someone more dangerous. Like a resident of the townhouse.
A tall female cheetah walks into the kitchen. She's wearing nicer garb than most of the rest of the household. It's Jezebel that cheetah that Lord Titus acquired not long before that expedition to the Savan. Every move she makes is controlled and smooth as the silk she wears.
Kaela smiles a little bit at the older Savanite. She makes a quick sign of greetings before returning to her meal.
Jezebel has heretofore not been seen in this part of the manor not in the back portion occupied by the servants, accessing the main house through that tapestry, hidden away from any eyes so that it seems that the servants simply appear out of thin air when needed and disappear when not.
Kaela watches her curiously, but without making a sign.
The older cheetah holds herself with a bearing unbecoming of someone of her true station … but she is one of those slaves who occupies a different rung on the ladder, and has an air of one who ignores just how low she is by focusing more (looking down upturned nose) at those who are "beneath" her … even if by ever so little.
Jezebel takes a chair at the table, and, without so much as an acknowledgement of Kaela, begins to help herself to some of the remnants of delicacies.
Kaela pauses a moment in her eating, then signs to her elder, "Did you see the banquet?"
The taller female wears garb of silken material, a swath of cloth forming a headband that supports strands of beads that follow her curly strands of hair down to her shoulders. She looks up, following Kaela's hands, and then gazes at Kaela's face as if seeing her for the first time.
Jezebel frowns and shakes her head, looking back at her meal as if she would like this annoyance of a kit to go away. But then she looks back up. Something seems to press her to speak (or, that is, sign) nonetheless. "The Master has a guest tonight. I am not to be seen."
Jezebel looks down at the table again, focusing a look of disgust on the sandwich she has slapped together.
Kaela nods slowly. She signs, "None of us are." After a few moments of eating her hands begin gesturing again. "You only got here a couple days before I left on the expedition… we never really got to meet… "
The silk-garbed cheetah lets the sandwich drop to the table, apparently losing her appetite. "No, we did not," she signs.
Kaela gently reminds her, "I'm Kaela." In case she forgot.
There is something disturbed or disturbing about Jezebel's gaze as she looks at Kaela. "What is your true name?" she signs.
Kaela pauses a moment and looks the other cheetah up and down. "Emerald Eyes," she signs. She doesn't ask Jezebel for hers, assuming that she'll volunteer the information if she wants to. If she even has a true name.
The somewhat older cheetah signs, "In the sound-sign, I am Jezebel. But I was born free. I lived in the jungle." She looks back at her sandwich, and nibbles on it a bit, then sets it down again. "Have you any sisters?" she signs.
Kaela nods a bit. "Me too," she signs, "but we were captured and sold when I was little." It doesn't even cross her mind that she might still be considered little by some (or most). "I don't remember much about home."
Jezebel signs, "That is not surprising."
Kaela adds, "I had several sisters… but I don't know what happened to them."
Jezebel signs, "How many older sisters did you have?"
Kaela holds up six fingers.
A smile creeps across Jezebel's face. "And your mother had six sisters as well didn't she?"
Kaela nods a little bit, blinking. "She's told me that… how did you know?"
Jezebel signs, "Can you keep a secret, little one?"
Kaela nods slowly, blinking up at her.
Jezebel smiles and signs, "I know because I have six sisters. Of the seven, I am the eldest. And my youngest sister, but a kitten when I saw her last, had eyes of purest green."
Kaela blinks! "You mean," she signs, "You're my older sister?" Her hands have begun to tremble.
Jezebel smiles, and reaches over to caress Kaela's cheekruff. She then signs, "How can I know? But, tell me, what do you think?"
Kaela signs, "I… don't know… I don't remember much about my sisters… but… but there was something different about my oldest sister, I think… " She doesn't look entirely certain of her memory.
"Different?" Jezebel signs. For a moment, a frown crosses her face, but she goes back to a smile again. "What sort of different? The speakers say that if you have seen one of us, you have seen us all."
Kaela fidgets a bit. "I don't remember," she signs. "But there was something, I think. Mama would remember."
Jezebel signs, "No. Our mother must not know." She looks down. "You are not old enough to understand, but she would be ashamed to know that I should be her daughter. It would be a disgrace."
Jezebel looks back to Kaela. "This is our secret. No one must know. Not now," she signs.
Kaela shakes her head quickly. "But she's sick," she signs. "It would make her feel so much better to know that you're all right! We don't know where any of my sisters were… Or we didn't, until now… "
Jezebel's eyes flash angrily, "Can you not keep a secret?"
"It is better that she believe me dead," Jezebel signs, then reaches up with one hand to rub a circle around her forehead, covered by the silken headband.
Kaela ducks her head and lowers her gaze, rebuked. After a moment, she quietly signs, "If you were my sister, you wouldn't be kept away from her for anything. My sisters all loved Mama more than anything." But she doesn't look up.
Jezebel jerks her head away, reaching up to rub at her eyes. When she at last looks back, her eyes are filling with tears. "Then do not believe me. I am only a stranger, a stranger with a cruel sense of humor, that is all. Leave it at that," she signs angrily.
Kaela shakes her head quickly, looking back up. "No… please… you should go to her… it would make her so much better… And it would make you feel better, too… "
"You are marked," Jezebel signs. "Do you know what that means? If your master truly knew, it would mean your death. But for you, little kitten, it is but a color of eyes. In fact, he probably even thinks you beautiful. When I am too old, and you have grown Ah yes maybe you will be the next Jezebel."
"Magic," Jezebel signs. "You are touched by the magic of the surface world. With the proper training, you could cast spells. Oh, but no one believes that, because we cannot speak. We are only Savanites. We only wave our hands."
Kaela nods a few times. "I know," she signs eagerly. "I started learning today… " She trails off, though, and quickly averts her eyes. There's no way she could possibly explain that to Jezebel's satisfaction.
"You know?" Jezebel signs, hands shaking. She stands, almost knocking her chair over. "If only you truly knew. They are fools, all of them. But I know my heritage. And I know my destiny."
"I can see what others cannot. As can you," Jezebel signs.
Kaela blinks, making nervous 'careful!' gestures as Jezebel almost causes her chair to clatter against the floor.
Kaela signs, "What can you see?"
Jezebel signs, "I see what you see. Your secret is mine."
Kaela looks confused. Which probably isn't surprising. "I don't understand," she signs.
"I was the eldest, and I came of age when there were no sons … when our parents realized there would be none. So I was told of our heritage and trained in the Dance. You were but a kitten. Don't so many Savanites know how to dance? But your mother has not taught you, has she? Have you ever wondered why?" Jezebel signs.
Kaela blinks. "We're only servants now… we don't have time… "
Jezebel throws her head back, mimicking a laugh that one of the speaking races would use, though no voice issues forth. She slides the chair away, not caring about the noise it makes.
Kaela looks about worriedly, as though expecting the whole house to descend upon her for being in the same room with such a noise this late at night.
Jezebel signs, "Titus likes it when I dance. He says it casts a spell on him." She smiles wickedly, eyes flashing in the faint light.
Kaela looks up at Jezebel. "But… you don't have green eyes," she comments.
Jezebel reaches up and slides the silken headband away from her forehead. A single, pupilless eye blindly stares at Kaela from where the headband covered, pinkish around the edges, and seemingly luminescent in the faint light of the Procession streaming in through the windows. When Jezebel's two good eyes blink, it does as well.
Jezebel smiles, signing, "You can keep a secret, can't you? You know, they'd have to kill me if they knew. Except … Titus already knows."
Kaela flinches slightly at the sight. "That… it… it is you? It seems… somehow… familiar… "
Kaela blinks! "He knows?"
Jezebel signs, "How could he not?" She pauses, then signs, "Yes, he knows. It is I who told him of the City of Hands. And he thinks me only a tool yet by him I was allowed to walk its streets … just as you did."
Kaela fidgets, her eyes lowering slightly. "Then it was for nothing. If he knows… we won't be able to return there, will we?"
Jezebel signs, "He does not fully understand. His mind is weak. There are already others who manipulate him for their own ends. They do not even consider the idea that I, a mere slave, might be interfering with their plans."
"Soon enough, though, he will realize the truth," Jezebel signs with a smile. "He will realize that there will be a new order in things. Power will come full circle, and he can either aid me and earn my gratitude … or he can be cast aside."
Kaela shakes her head a bit. "But if we escaped… and went back there… he'd guess where to look for us."
Kaela blinks, looking up towards Jezebel. "Full circle?"
Kaela carefully signs, "What new order?"
Jezebel smiles, "Yes. And he will make sure none come looking for us, or it will not go well for him. The empire will rise again, and the Savanites shall no longer be slaves."
Kaela smiles widely, glad to finally have someone she can talk to about the City. "It will take time to rebuild the City. And many Savanites."
Jezebel smiles and nods. "Yes. It will take much time and work. We will need friends. Many friends," she signs.
"But for now, the time is for secrecy … until we build our strength," Jezebel signs, then kneels before Kaela. "I can teach you."
Kaela nods a few times. "I… can't lie to Mama," she signs, looking a little guilty. "But I won't tell her if she doesn't ask." She nods a bit, though, signing, "I want to learn."
"That is good," Jezebel signs. "You will learn to use magic. Powerful magic. Magic which will defeat all your enemies, against which none can stand. Whatever you wish, it will be yours, and none can keep it from you. I see that in you."
Kaela fidgets a little. "I don't want to defeat enemies," she signs, "I just want to live where it's safe… and where I'm not a slave."
Jezebel shakes her head. "You cannot be truly safe until your enemies are crushed under your footpad. But until that day, you can at least be safe among your allies, who give you strength. I have already made allies since I have been brought to Rephidim. And they will be your allies as well, especially once they learn of your heritage."
Jezebel signs, "There is a sign by which you may be known by your allies, and they may be known to you. But you must keep it secret. Our very lives depend upon this."
Kaela nods slowly…
Kaela isn't really a big fan of the whole 'crush your enemies' mentality. But leaves that discussion for another time.
Jezebel takes her right hand and traces a four-pointed star across her heart, then makes the curve of an anchor across her ribs … then repeats with the sign of the star once more.
Jezebel reaches up to her neck, and unclasps a chain, pulling the necklace free.
Kaela pauses a moment, then removes the star-anchor-star pendant from beneath her tunic. "Like this?"
Jezebel smiles. As her own chain comes free, from the necklace dangles … a pendant identical to Kaela's. With her free hand, she signs in Formal, " Yes, Emerald-Eyes. Like that."
Jezebel puts the necklace back in place, hiding the pendant once more in her silks, and she replaces her headband again.
Kaela fidgets a bit and nods. After a time she signs, "What to do now?"
Jezebel signs, "Rest, my sister. And when there is time, I will teach you more. But you must practice what I teach you on your own, when you are alone. You must devote your whole heart to learning the Dance."
"There are powers that even the self-proclaimed wizards here do not understand, and justly fear," Jezebel signs. "But you must not be afraid."
Kaela nods a little bit, yawning softly.
Jezebel ruffles Kaela's hair slightly, then smooths it out. "Take care, my sister."
Kaela nods numbly, standing and heading towards her cot. Too many things have happened all at once today, and she's not entirely sure her mind has caught up with them all.
"It is not chance that brings me here," Jezebel signs. "It is destiny." With that, she stands straight, checks her silks one more time, and strides out of the room, vanishing into the shadows.
Kaela clambers into her bed and spends much of the night sleeplessly staring at the ceiling, mulling over her sister, magic, and the proposition of being freed from slavery, only to be subjected to the self-inflicted sort that seems to be advocated by her eldest sister…