Apr. 14. Kaela speaks with Ice-Light, while Jezebel, Jynx and Janus meet again at the City of Hands.
(City of Hands) (H'rral) (Jynx) (Kaela) (Savan)
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When Zoltan arrived at the place where the City should be … he found nothing. Nothing save for the canyon, the waterfall, and the river … and even then, he couldn't be sure anything was really right, as everything seemed subtly … different. However, matters became a mite bit easier when Jezebel (aka Third-Eye) finally recovered consciousness, and led the way … to a City that shouldn't be there.

The City was pretty much as Zoltan had left it … except that it now had quite a few more spottycats living in it, using some of the old stone buildings, as well as several make-shift tents and a few huts thrown together out of ample supplies.

Zoltan, evidently uncomfortable at mingling with one-hundred and forty-six spotty-cat mages (That's Twelve-Times-Twelve plus one Third-Eye and one Spring-Wind) turned in for the night early. That left only the felines about to enjoy the evening. Or dread it, depending upon one's perspective in all this.

Kaela sits near her tester, fidgeting with her hands a bit, her eyes downcast.

Kaela's tester is a tall, slim cheetah dressed in white robes with a seriousness to his face given away only by the alive brown eyes behind his muzzle-markings. "So, this 'Envoy' will find an appropriate owner and sell us to him, or her, as the case may be?" Icelight signs to Kaela. "What should be expected of this… ownership?"

Kaela fidgets a bit. "Well… you have to do whatever they tell you… wear what they give you… "

A cheetah raps on a wall to announce himself, as he walks up to the balcony where Icelight and Kaela are seated. He then kisses his knuckles, having rapped a bit too hard on solid stone, unlike the wood he would usually try that trick on, aboard an airship.

Kaela glances over towards the cheetah.

Icelight looks down from the balcony to the dancers. The Twelve-times-Twelve seem so different out of formal circle, some celebrating their rebirth, others soberly contemplating the years that have made ruins of their city. He signs, "So great a turn, from masters to slaves," more to himself in unconscious finger-talk than to Kaela. Then turns to the messenger with a raised eyebrow. One of Third-Eye's?

The messenger signs, "There is a black Khatta outside of the City, who claims he is a friend of yours. He came back with Twilight-Wing, No-Name and myself. We found him in the jungle. His name is Janus. Should he be allowed entry?"

Icelight looks at Kaela. "Twilight-Wing… That would be my colleague in the Dances of the Mind – Third-Eye's tester. I wonder what has happened?"

The messenger is Snaggle-Fang, whose namesake is always protruding from his lips. He is dressed in a black tunic and trousers, such as many are dressed who came with Third-Eye to the City.

Kaela blinks several times. "I do not trust him," she signs.

Down below, in an open area where some Savanites are having some roasted Bromthen forest-hog, another black cat is being served a meaty helping on a broken dish that is about two thirds the size it would have been originally, along with a gourd of a sort of tea, and a mixture of wild vegetables. Third-Eye sits in the shadows a stone's throw away, tail twitching, keeping to herself, leaning back against a broken stone wall.

Snaggle-Fang bows, then signs, "Then I will tell him that you refused." He begins to head away from the balcony.

Icelight looks at Kaela's hands, then signs "Princess, shall I give the order to have the intruder killed? He might betray the location of the city."

Kaela glances towards Icelight. "I don't know," she signs. "I… don't want to kill anyone… I'd just rather… no one knew we were here… "

"Then perhaps we should ask Twilight-Wing to erase the memory from this 'Janus's' mind," Icelight suggests. "We may then owe your sister-candidate, Third-Eye, a favor, but this city will be that much more secret."

The messenger dashes on away, leaving Kaela and Icelight alone on the balcony overlooking the dances and those having an evening dinner.

Kaela fidgets for a while. "I don't know how good a leader I'd be," she finally signs.

A Savanite trots over to the black cat, and signs something to him, though the meaning is lost. The cheetah seems to realize this, and looks a bit frustrated, then just holds out a platter with some more slices of meat on it, waving it slightly to suggest "take some".

Icelight's face softens as he sits down by Kaela. "You were not born to rule," he signs. "Such decisions are new to you. But you have chosen to champion a vision of the Savanite Empire for we of the Twelve-Times-Twelve to follow. You must learn to decide how it is that this vision is to be made into reality, before we can see if it is a practical and worthy vision. I can help you, but only as much as a teacher would a student. I cannot do this for you or the purpose of the testing would be lost."

The Khatta smiles, and nodding thanks to the cheetah, takes a few more pieces. One of these he promptly drops.

As the cat bends over to pick the meat up, he spills the contents of his gourd on the ground, and gives a sigh.

The cheetah's ears wiggle, as the server scoots along, presenting the plate to someone else, without making a motion to clean up the mess, as a proper Savanite would normally be expected to.

Kaela nods softly, looking a little bit relieved that he doesn't seem to expect her to eventually become Priest-King. "I just… can't let Three-Eyes gain so much power… She would do such terrible things… "

The feline is a bit puzzled at the Savanite's rather 'liberated' behaviour, but just shrugs and bites into the meat.

Below, Snaggle-Fang trots over to Jezebel, where she reclines, and probably is signing something to her, but his back is turned toward the balcony, so the content of the conversation is obscured. Jezebel's expression as illuminated by the fire, though, goes through numerous emotions, from anger to confusion to amusement to curiosity. She at last nods to the cheetah, and waves him off.

Snaggle-Fang sprints away, heading over to one of the Twelve-Times-Twelve who doesn't look especially busy at the moment, other than having several Savanites gathered around him, hanging on every sign that he has to offer about the "Good Old Days".

After finishing his meal, the cat leans back and attempts to relax, but his back meets with a rather sharp thorn. "Yipe!"

Jezebel's attention darts over to the noisy black cat. She shakes her head in disbelief, and signs, "He must be cursed," to herself, as she leans back again.

Snaggle-Fang, after consulting with the Mage-Priest, dashes off again, disappearing down the broken "street".

The cat extracts the thorn from his back, and once again tries to relax.

Something shiny catches the black cat's eye, just to one side. It's a little silver bead! It wasn't there a moment ago. Maybe it rolled there, after falling off of a costume of one of the dancers.

The cat glances at the bead curiously, and picks it up. "Hmm, wonder what this is from?"

"You must offer an alternative," Icelight signs. "More than that, you must be prepared to believe utterly in it, to give your life for it. We of the Twelve-Times-Twelve are being asked to give our loyalty, either to your sister-candidate, who preaches of a new Empire dominating this world, or to yourself and your vision of a sanctuary." He pauses in his signing for a moment, then continues.

The silver bead seems to … have a tail! It makes a scraping noise like fingernails on chalkboard, then tiny little claws on its underside prick the black cat's fingers!

"Yipe!" The cat tosses the bead as hard as possible, and sucks on his injured paw.

Kaela watches Icelights quietly.

The "bead" skitters away, only to be stepped on with a *crunch* by one of the dancers.

Icelight signs, "We understand that you are young, Princess, and that your heart sees visions that your mind is not yet ready to pounce. You have time. I am here not only to observe what you make of your testing-year, but to help and provide what wisdom we learned… Though it may be a wisdom that is best only for a time that is now thousands of years past."

Snaggle-Fang shows up again, coming back down the road, followed a distance behind by an adult black Khatta, significantly larger than the younger black Khatta who just got bitten by a "bead".

Kaela nods softly, sighing. "You… really want to be a slave?"

Janus looks around as he walks through the City. He appears more than a little bemused at the excess of life in what he can only remember as a ruin.

The smaller Khatta, still sucking his paw, glances curiously at what seems to be a cross between a Khatta and a Savanite.

Jezebel stands as she sees the other black cat approaching. She signs, "So, it's you again. I'm beginning to put weight on those fables about black Khattas being bad luck. How has yours turned out this day?"

Janus is a well-built feline who stands just over five and a half feet tall, perhaps an inch more with his ears. His fur is dull black with highlights that almost appear golden in the light. The cat has looked better. His clothes are a tattered mess, torn in numerous places and stained beyond cleaning. Once as blue as the sky, his long pants now make a passible gray. His shirt and cape are no more and the mess that is his fur gives you ample reasons why they may be gone. He is carrying one longknife on his waistband with a second sheath, empty, telling the tale of a lost blade.

"I? Want to be a slave?" Icelight looks surprised, then signs, "No, I do not want to be a slave. But for this testing-year, I accompany you. You wish to show us that our people suffer and need help… But you also need to show us that what your sister wishes, revenge and domination on those who now enslave our people, is not right. How better can we see the true state of our people than by living among them?"

Janus stops in front of Third-Eye and rubs his forearm absently before signing, "It's been pretty bad since you sold me to those slavers, actually."

Jezebel scrutinizes Janus a bit more, then signs, "Ah. So it's you. Come now. Once the potion wore off, it would have been plain you were not a Savanite. Did you not reach Rephidim?"

Janus makes a face, "Indirectly. After we wrecked that airship."

Jezebel signs, "Yes. So I learned. After the Rotten Eye was destroyed, another ship moved in to claim its territory. And thus I went from shamaness in the Savan to private dancer in Rephidim. It was an interesting change of pace, but I think I prefer it here."

Kaela nods slowly to Icelight. "All right," she signs.

Janus smirks. "I heard about that. I've been back here twice looking for signs of what happened to you."

Jezebel smiles, and signs, "That's touching. Why, I didn't know you cared."

Hearing words he understands, the black Khatta looks up, an elated expression on his face as he searches for the source.

The taller cheetah pats Kaela's shoulder. "There, there, Princess. If the blood of the Emerald-Eyes I knew runs true in you, you will take to this as quickly as a Creen to the air. Soon you too will be skipping out on lessons and playing with large and expensive toys, just like her." He looks serious, but his ears wiggle.

Janus grins lopsidely. "I don't. But I promised I'd be back, and now I have a reason."

The cat smiles largely. "It's about time!" He stands and begins to make his way over to Janus.

Kaela glances up at the cheetah. "Lessons?" She smiles tentatively.

Jezebel looks to the smaller black cat, and then to Janus. "This is a friend of yours?" she signs.

"Yes. Many times I remember her dashing in to lessons just at the very last minute, so out of breath from hard play that she hardly needed exercise to warm her limbs," Icelight signs.

Janus looks at the small cat, then back to Third-eye. "No. Never saw him before the fire. I guess he was mistaken for me."

A look of recognition dawns on the smaller cat. "Hey, you're the other two from the fire! What was that all about anyways? Oh, by the way, my name's Feli." He offers a paw in greeting.

Third-Eye looks back at the small cat, then back at Janus. "I guess I could see some small resemblance. So, it would seem you have not much luck at making favorable impressions upon my sisters." She turns and smiles to the smaller black cat, extending her own hand in greeting.

The cat sighs, "But you can call me Jynx… "

Jezebel snorts, and covers her muzzle with her free hand.

Janus stops in mid-turn, looking back at Third-Eye. "Sisters?"

Jynx smiles, and shakes the hand of the Savanite briskly, "A pleasure to meet you!"

Kaela grins a bit more. "You mean to teach me?" She signs, "I only had lessons to learn Rephidim standard… "

Jezebel waits until her hand is free, before signing to Janus, "Yes. Oh. You were not properly introduced? That was the husband of my sister Storm-Hand who was so glad that we could drop in for dinner."

Icelight's eyes twinkle. "I could tell stories about the Princess for a long time, even the stories she would rather that I do not tell, but for the moment, I will say that though she was impulsive at times, she was also very kind and curious. A fount of questions!"

Jynx, smiling largely, looks to the other black cat, "What's your name?"

Icelight nods to Kaela. "Yes, if you like. What sort of lessons do you wish?"

Kaela considers for a few moments. "I don't know… You gave me dancing lessons in my dreams… "

Janus shakes his head, looking confused. He blinks once looks at Jynx for a second. "H… uh, Janus. My name is Janus."

Jezebel looks to Jynx, then signs, "Poor boy. I hope he lives to grow up. He should grow to be rather handsome. Black is rather becoming, don't you think?"

Janus looks back at Third-Eye. "That Shamaness I knifed. That was your sister?"

Jynx says, "Well, I'm Jynx. Glad to meet you too!" He gives a puzzled look at the shamaness, but never stops smiling.

Jezebel blinks at Janus, then signs, "Oh my. Knifed? Well, I was not informed. Of course, there is a strong family resemblance. With certain exceptions," she adds, idly scratching at the side of her headband.

Janus shakes his head. "I'd hoped it was you. The light wasn't very good, though."

The white-robed cheetah looks bemused. "In your dreams?"

Jezebel gives Janus this mock look of surprise, then turns to Jynx with a shrug and a "Boys will be boys" expression (or something to that effect).

Kaela nods. "Emerald Eyes showed me some of her memories… and when I told her that I wanted to learn magic… to heal Mama… she let me join the lessons she'd had… "

Jynx smiles, and just scratches his head, completely lost.

Janus clenches his jaw, neck muscles tightening. "I guess I should have looked more closely. Maybe then I could have saved a knife."

Jynx, sensing that things are amiss between these two, says, "Well, I guess I'll be going… "

Icelight steeples his fingers in a moment of thought, then uncrosses them. "Interesting," he signs. "Perhaps in some way the signature of her mentality was caught up by the spell, then passed on to a direct descendant of hers… Would you mind if another of my colleagues examined you for lingering effects, Princess?" With an ear-wiggle, he adds, "I trust that if your vision of Emerald-Eyes resulted in you being taught by me, even if only in dreams, that the lessons were pleasant and interesting."

Jezebel smiles to Jynx, and waves a little "too-da-loo" with her fingers to him. "Charming boy," she signs.

Janus spares Jynx a glance. "Quite."

Jynx wanders off aimlessly, taking in the sights, and tripping every now and then.

Jezebel keeps a grin, looking to Janus with half-lidded eyes, as she signs, "Now, how about we let bygones be bygones … at least while we're in the midst of this camp of Savanites who were brought here mostly by myself and who might react very violently if you tried to kill me? Shall we dance?"

Janus forcibly reins his temper in. "I don't know how to dance. It wasn't exactly an important skill where I was born."

Kaela blinks several times, obviously following none of Icelight's comments. "Um… that'd be okay, I guess… " She smiles a bit. "I liked some of the lessons… especially when Emerald Eyes was there, too… "

Jezebel feigns disappointment. "Perhaps I could ask the musicians to play some slow music. I am not unrefined, after all. I can lead."

"You really SHOULD learn to dance, you know, if you plan on staying with us," Jezebel signs.

Janus tilts his head. With some effort he signs, "Why?"

"Perhaps not Twilight-Wing… Silver-Eye might be a good choice. He has a good bedside manner," Icelight signs. "I will introduce you to him in the morning, and we can make sure that you are well and there are no lingering effects."

Jezebel shrugs, and signs, "You don't want to miss the fun."

Janus lets out a breath, "The last time you led me anywhere, I ended up on board a ship full of slavers. You'll forgive me, I wager, if I have a little less than complete trust in you."

Jezebel gives Janus a peck on the cheek, then signs, "A pity. It's only a harmless dance. But at least you are honest."

Kaela nods slowly. "Last time we talked… a few days ago… she said it'd be a long time before we could talk again… "

Janus jerks his head back quickly and says aloud, "You should take lessons."

Jezebel sighs, and slinks away, looking back over her shoulder just once.

"I wonder what she meant? Could it be a kind of resonance effect… " Icelight looks quite curious, but then takes in Kaela's apparent sadness. He pats her on the hand gently. "Have you eaten tonight, Princess? I confess that I have curiously little appetite, but there is food below and I hear music."

Kaela sighs softly. "Maybe I could eat a little… "

Janus holds his back stiff as Third-Eye walks off. Slowly, he relaxes and sinks down to the ground.

Icelight helps Kaela to her feet first, then stands and walks his candidate down the stairs. "There will be much for our Dancers of the Earth to do to repair this city," he observes. "But you have a greater task and a greater dream ahead of you, Princess. The reconstruction of the spirit of our people. For such a task, you should be sure to eat well" He nags the young spottycat gently, then wiggles his ears.

Kaela moves along quietly, nodding a bit.

Janus hangs his head and covers his eyes with a heavy sigh. "She's right about one thing. I need to find a luckier color disguise."

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GMed by Greywolf

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Today is 2 days before Unity Day, Year 29 of the Reign of Archelaus the First (6128)