Almost a full Transition has passed since Elise's last enchanted dream, wherein she slew the goddess Gorphat. The report of her dream was received with interest, confusion, and trepidation by various ears especially Yffryn, who had hypothesized that the dream of Rockmore was the climax of the ritual. The High Council continued to meet, intermittently, in heated closed sessions. In the absence of true information, rumors flew: The Embassy at Babel was being closed and its staff recalled to Caroban. The College had asked the Temple to intervene on their behalf and was declaring war on Babel. The College was ceding authority over the Sphere of Dream to the Royal Babelite Mages and that Sphere would no longer be practiced by College mages. The Dean of Mind had split his Sphere from the Council in a rage and no longer recognized the authority of the College. The Council had declared the actions in Babel to be an act of divine beings, not magic, and therefore not a matter for the College's concern. Other, even stranger rumors grew from these, while the High Council's debate continued into one long night after another.
Caroban: Sphere of Water
Not surprisingly, a vast lake covers much of this northwest section of Caroban, devoted to this Sphere. Small islands and a few boats dot the surface, while a fanciful, semi-translucent bridge, courtesy of the adjoining Sphere of Dream, offers non-practitioners a direct route across. On a good day, submerged passageways can be glimpsed through the waves, leading between the various islands. One island, devoted to ice, is carpeted in white snow and decorated by ice sculptures. Many of the island feature waterways of their own streams, rivers, and waterfalls and the surface of the lake ripples with the changing patterns of fountains that play upon it.
Ambassador Dunbarre's negotiations, up until New Year's, had been going well in large part due to his change in approach from paternal to fraternal and Elise had hoped they were drawing to a close, but the turmoil generated by the High Council's evident discord had ground formal diplomacy with Rephidim to a halt. Dunbarre accepted this state of affairs with good grace, sending himself and his lieutenants on occasional missions throughout the campus to demonstrate Rephidim's good will.
Elise is returning from one such "mission" offering a lesson on fighting skills to apprentices and some of the non-mage staff. The apprentices lack the free time to be serious fighters, but Caroban does have a small security force trained in physical combat, and they seem to have appreciated her expertise on the subject.
The officer finds herself grateful that the lesson she gave was in an indoor arena, as she crosses the dream-bridge during a deluge that soaks everything in sight. A massive blue umbrella, lent her by one of her day's pupils, is barely adequate to keep her torso dry, as the wind whips droplets all around her. As she nears the center of the bridge, where it touches on one of the islands, she notices a lone drenched figure sitting on a rock below. At first, she might have taken the person for a water mage save that the robe worn is decidedly not Water's blue-green, even were it dry.
As the noblewoman walks along free from her current duty as teacher, she keeps the umbrella carefully balanced against her shoulder to ward of most of the rain as well as keep proper appearances. It has not been so long that she has forgotten, she reminds herself as she goes. Musing over how so much has changed in the past several years, she almost overlooks a figure seated upon an island section of the bridge. When she inspects the figure further she finds that the robes worn are unusual to the sphere, and decides to step forward for a closer look.
The bridge arches several yards above the lake's surface, but where its support column touches the island, a winding staircase leads to the ground level, where the distant figure hunches upon a rock. Leaning against the handrail and peering through the downpour that covers everything, Elise can guess that the figure is probably female. Even more oddly, the hood on her robe is down, plastering her hair to her scalp. From here, the hair appears multi-hued some white, some black, some gray or another color, hard to tell with it soaked through. The rain has rendered the footing treacherously slippery, though fortunately the translucent bridge, wide enough for a single carriage to trundle down, has handrails on either side as does the staircase leading down.
Elise's brow furrows when she finds the figure is weathering the rain quite without her hood, and rather than stare rudely in her pondering of who she might be, she decides to follow the stairs down to the island below. The weight of her armor provides some traction, but she grips the rail with one hand anyway and slowly guides herself downward. Once down, she begins towards the woman, lowering her umbrella to further shield herself from the rain.
By the time the poodle has gotten within a few yards of the person, she can guess at her identity the visible and soaked hair has the same pattern and coloration that she remembers Fyiara having though what the Dean of Chaos would be doing in the middle of Water's lake in a thunderstorm is anyone's guess. Apart from getting very, very wet. Fyiara if that's who it is doesn't seem to notice the other's approach. Her back is to the stairs, as she sits on a boulder with one leg out and the other curled to her chest, shoulders hunched and arms wrapped around her leg.
Although not too greatly surprised by the identity of the woman, Elise does show some concern as to her presence here. The gloomy yet certainly appropriately chaotic storm weather is somewhat at odds with her personality as she knows it. "Dean Fyiara of Chaos … are you well?" she inquires quietly, so as not to startle her.
At first, no response then, "Mmm?" the feline half-mews. She stirs, ears flicking about from their position flattened against her head. "Oh. No," she answers. Her head shifts slightly, as if she were starting to look at the newcomer, but then stops, her gaze still fixed upon the gray horizon.
Elise frowns at the Dean's response, hoping for better news. "I … " The poodle glances back the way she came, then follows the bridge with her gaze until her imagined path home is visually out of sight. She considers what she has to do now before turning back to the Dean. "I … would wonder if you would like an ear? Mine are free, until next the ambassador has use of me?"
This time, Fyiara does circle her head around to look at the poodle. The skin around her green eyes looks puffy as she considers the other woman for a moment. "You're getting wet," she observes.
The poodle woman offers a faint smile, an attempt to look friendly despite her armor and somewhat soggy appearance, saying, "I will be fine, Dean Fyiara. I have suffered worse. You need not worry."
"I suppose I have, too. One storm doesn't exactly measure up to, oh, being beset by Eeee goddesses or Earth golems." The feline scootches over on her boulder, revealing a dry spot that quickly becomes spotted by water drops. "Wanna seat? There's plenty of rock," she offers.
"Thank you, Dean Fyiara." With a seat offered, the Templar walks forward and around so she can face the water as well, then seats herself, arranging her garment and sword as she does so. She also shifts the umbrella so as to try and cover them both, lessening the coverage on her own person for it.
The dean bats at the umbrella, grinning as she tries to position it back over Elise. "Oh, don't worry about me. I can't possibly get any wetter. Except here, look." Fyiara holds out her hand to the poodle, all the fingers closed in except for an out-thrust pinky, which she waggles up and down before the poodle. It takes the lieutenant a moment to understand why, then she realizes the orange fur at the tip is completely dry and, surprisingly, staying that way despite the barrage of water from the sky.
Elise peers at the finger, at first apparently not finding what is to be seen, but after a few droplets fall and refuse to drench it, she looks surprised. "Magic? How strange … I have been here for quite some time, and still I am impressed daily by the enchantments here. But, why just your finger? Or … should I even ask?" she inquires.
The feline giggles, and as Elise watches closely, she can see that, though rain falls all around it, they never seem to quite hit the tip of this digit. The wind blows this way or that, and somehow each drop of water manages to just miss it. "You should be impressed! This is a potent application of Chaos magic," she says, in a confidential, almost bragging tone. She waggles the finger again, drops of water all around it just missing. "I worked a powerful spell to keep this fingertip from getting wet!"
"That … that is very impressive … Dean Fyiara." Despite her words, Elise appears more confused than anything, but she smiles anyway, and eventually just laughs softly. "Oh, I am not much of a liar, am I? I am afraid magic is all but lost on me, despite how often I seem to encounter it. Forgive me, Dean Fyiara."
"That's okay. And, I know, you wanted to know why just the fingertip." The Khatta drops her voice a little lower, leaning towards her, "Well … it'd be a lot harder to do. You know. Much more than that. See, this is pure Chaos. Manipulation of probability so that this one spot never gets hit by water. If this were, say, just a drizzle, you'd see that there are places that stay dry because the few drops coming down happen to miss them. In a downpour like this, that can still happen. It's unlikely. It's so unlikely it's practically impossible. And yet … it can happen. So I can make it happen. Making it happen over, say, my whole hand, would be an order of magnitude more difficult, though. Over my whole body… " She stares off into the distance. "Let's just say it'd be a whole lot easier just to duck under the stairs for shelter."
A nod from the poodle. "I believe I understand. Chaos, as opposed to say … Air. With your application you have bent probability so that the chance of a drop striking your finger is so low it is … nearly impossible, yes? And interesting because of that small probability. Whereas, an air mage may simply force the rain to not be here, sheer power, not probability?" attempts Elise. After saying her take on it she looks hopeful.
Fyiara beams, her expression making the gloom around them seem lighter. "Exactly! Or a water mage, who could order the water not to land on me. If I had an air or a water mage here, then I could make their spell more probable I could let either one of them, fairly easily, keep the water off of both of us. They order the water away, and I make their spell even more effective, less prone to errors, bigger, whatever. That's what Chaos is really about making you better at whatever you do already. Sez me, anyway."
"Mmm. I can understand it then, yes, very enlightening. I believe I was once told that Chaos is one of the more difficult spheres to comprehend, but I believe I have some small grasp on it now," says the Gallee. She shifts, taking another look at the pinky finger, then places the umbrella back against her shoulder so the dean can continue her research. "It is good to see you smile. You looked so gloomy here. It seems unlike you."
"Is it?" Fyiara twitches her whiskers, and she tilts her head back, letting the rain pour over her face and wash down the neck of her robe. "You're right. I'm not very good at being gloomy." Her expression sobers as the water cascades across her features, seeming to smooth the lines of her face with the fur. "But maybe I can learn. Did you … did you hear about Envoy?"
In response to the question about Envoy, Elise frowns gravely. "Mage Envoy … she is gone, is she not? Last I was aware, she left Caroban … and I do not even know if she was ever freed from the accursed spirit, Inala. My last encounter with her ended on such a … grim note. I take it that is what you mean?" responds Elise.
"I cannot believe she was granted passage from here still possessed. It is such … pardon me, Dean Fyiara, but I believe it was great folly," adds the poodle.
The ends of the mage's mouth turn down, making her expression even sadder. "No, that's not what I meant. Elise." The Khatta mage drops her chin, then turns her head and opens her eyes to look at the poodle. "The airship Envoy was on was attacked by Eeee Yodhinala among them. It looks like Envoy was helping them capture the ship, for a little bit. Then … she collapsed. We don't know if she's alive or not the priestesses destroyed the scryball shortly after it reported that much."
"What?" starts Elise, sounding quite surprised. She seems about to stand up, as if to rush off and do something, but abandons the action quickly enough when common sense sets in. "She … oh, no. I knew it. It was such a bad idea. She had been acting so strangely within the dreams. I warned her, and … and … ah, Cyprian, and now Envoy." The warrioress turns her head to look off and away from the feline, and though her expression is mostly hidden, the dean can just make out the pained look that crosses her face.
"I'm sorry about Cyprian, too. We don't know what's happening with him or the Embassy." Fyiara gives an exasperated mew. "The scryer for the Embassy has taken ill of all the things, or at least that's the message we got from one of the air mages. But you can't get secure messages from an air mage, so we're forced to resort to mail. Here we are, the mightiest institution in all of Sinai, bastion of magic, waiting for some poor pitiful bird to fly up to us with a note and let us know what's happening in the real world."
Elise lifts her free hand to rub her face, then brushes her hair back. "Cyprian is disabled, the Scryer is ill … and Eeee attack the ship Envoy was riding on? It … must mean something. It is foolish, but I would go Babel myself but I could." She then gestures her hand at herself before shaking her head. "But, I cannot."
"You wouldn't exactly blend in," Fyiara concedes, tilting her head to stare up at the sky again, eyes blinking at the rain. A lighting bolt cracks across the heavens, bathing the scene with a moment of light. "Neither would I. But I may be going, anyway. Rageson thinks I should."
"Cyprian … that is, Mage Cyprian was disabled during the dream featuring Captain Rockmore. When he and I moved to punish the traitor together he … gathered the spirits of the dead, called to his gods as I did, and then the souls passed through us to the traitor. And, he never woke up. Mage Envoy … asked me to kill someone within the dreams … but … " She looks over, studying the feline with concern in her watching eyes. " … will you even be safe? I cannot help but think something is afoot here. I worry for your safety, even if it is not my place to do so."
The deluge continues, unabated, and in the lake, ripples from each drop wash against one another to form a constant churn of motion. Despite the downpour, the fountains beneath the surface continue to play through their complex performance, a dozen streams arcing to meet the rain, swishing together and past one another in a wash of white froth.
Elise is rather soaked by now from the waist downward, though given the amount of clothing she wears combined with her armor, it may be difficult to tell if the water reaches her at all. She seems cold, but not so much as if she were drenched. The rest of her body is marginally wet, and even the driest parts are flecked with water from splashes against her armor or from a random wind that blew the rain past her umbrella.
"Will I be safe? Will any of us? Five years is a long time to work on one ritual, sugar," Fyia mews. "I don't know anyone who's spent that long building a spell to a climax. Maintaining one, maybe but they're not just maintaining this spell. They're going somewhere with it. I don't wanna find out where, or who they're taking with it. The College has gotta do something. Rageson's right."
"I cannot help but feel involved in this," admits the poodle. Her eyes shift away to the water and she nods slightly. "So much has happened. I used to believe this had nothing to do with me, that this was mere coincidence and that it would pass. It was not of my family, my duty, and at first it was not even of my life. But, no longer. I am involved. I, too, am a part of this. Dean Fyiara … I would go with you."
The Khatta blinks several times, as much at the poodle's words as from the rain. "Really?" She settles her chin against her raised knee, looking thoughtful. "I don't know exactly what's happening next," she admits. "I don't even know if the other deans will let me go. You know, gallivanting about the countryside on covert ops is 'beneath the dignity of a dean'," she mimics, mincing the words and flapping her wrists. Fyiara rolls her eyes. "Like I'm not beneath the dignity of a dean. I should pack it up and go back to my lab, I stink at this whole dean-thing anyway," she grouses.
Again, the poodle nods. "Yes," she answers. A wry smirk crosses her face, and she inclines her head to the dean's words. "Perhaps it is beneath you. You are a leader of a sphere of magic. One of the most potent teachers to be found here yet … it is also not my place to venture to offer my assistance, but I am none the less." Her hand reaches up and moves to tap the pommel of her sword, and she nods to it. "I am a soldier. I do as I am commanded. That is my place. I am also a noblewoman. It could be said that all this is beneath me; helping anyone of lower station is beneath me. But, in my time along the path of Gorphat I realized something. I fight, but for what? To protect. I am a noble, but is that simply a title? Am I to be a leech, stepping on the backs of the poor? Letting them fight impossible odds as I attend my balls and dinners? To be a noble, I believe, is to be an example. I prefer to be an example through action. It is similar with you, I think?"
"I don't know that I've ever thought about it that way." Fyiara lifts her dry pinky and examines it. "I like magic. I like the way it works, and the way it feels when I taste it in the air, and trying to understand it best of all. Like some great puzzle box that you turn this way and that until you finally unlock it … only to find out there's another one inside. And somehow the one inside is even bigger than the first. Everything I figure out just lets me know how much more I haven't. Every time I explain what I do know to someone else, I feel like I'm just a little bit closer to understanding it myself. Oh, I'm rambling. Sorry."
"No, go ahead. I am myself prone to my own speeches. I have no place to comment on the rambling of others." Elise looks down at the water as it moves, rain splattered. "I believe that there are times when one must act, regardless of station. Because if I do not … perhaps no one else will. I cannot stand to see people suffer, Dean Fyiara. I know that suffering all too well and I wish it on no one else. This feels like that … like, it is going to happen. But I can see it coming now. I want to stop it. I want to help you. I do not understand your reasons fully, but I believe they are good."
"It's the best kind of cause, I suppose. After all that they've done, all the dream mages that died or lost years of their lives to this cursed ritual, it's pretty safe to say that it's a Bad Thing." The feline mage shrugs, the sopping folds of her robe making little sucking sounds as they come momentarily unstuck with the motion. "I don't think I'm like you. I just want to stay in my lab and play with my focal point generators and study my contained strange attractors and figure things out. I'm not the world-saving type. But … Rageson is right. It doesn't matter what we want. We can't just ignore it and hope everything comes out okay, that you and whoever else Morpheus enlisted manage to push the right buttons and end it. And ending rituals is my field. Making magic work better or stopping it from working at all."
Elise nods her head to the point. "I do not know if I alone can stop this, were no one else involved. I have stumbled and I have fallen, and the victory I won seems so distant now. Standing against what they would have me believe is a goddess and striking against her … it is difficult to grasp now. But I know why I did it, and that I would do so again, and I think this is much like that. I would have a peaceful world, Dean Fyiara. I am not an adventurer, I just want the world to be safe. Or at least safer. Because I know what happens when havoc and murder come," she says. Her frown shifts, and she tries to smile, but fails. "Besides that, this affects me. My friends are in serious trouble, and this ritual could well be targeted at Rephidim … I have to go, for my own peace of mind, too."
The Khatta nods. "The Council's still waiting to hear from Saraizadze. Some of us wanted to send a group to Babel immediately … but we got outvoted. So. We're waiting. Rageson's still pushing at the rest of them, trying to make 'em act now and stop waiting. And he can be one mean son-of-a-buck when he's trying, too." She shudders. "I dunno how much longer before something gives, one way or the other."
"If I would accompany you, I would need to secure the permission of the High Ambassador. I believe I can convince him, however. I hesitate to request this before a decision is made, although given who is making the argument, I imagine a decision will be made soon. The Dean of Mind is an imposing man, and his arguments carry frightening force," says the poodle. "Oh, yes, there is something I wanted to ask you, but I fear more important matters had need be discussed. I should ask now, however, lest I forget once again. When you used your magic to check if I was … a … 'strange attractor'? You reacted rather oddly. Might I ask about that?"
Ruffling at the sopping hair on top of her head, Fyiara nods emphatically to the poodle's words about Viscoi. "Oh! That. Yeah, sugar, you're a strange attractor. You're the first one I've met that wasn't an Exile, so that was pretty cool. Um. You don't know what a strange attractor is, do you?" she says, scrutinizing Elise' s expression as she runs through the commentary.
"Other than what the name suggests, I am afraid not," admits Elise.
Elise, for the most part, looks faintly curious. She does not seem to put much emotional weight to the term other than a vague interest however, likely hinting at how little she understands it.
"A strange attractor is … well, the name's not a bad description. It's a localized point of enhanced quantum uncertainty a thing around which unlikely things happen. Mostly, strange attractors wander the world, like, say, a fly roaming around a house. A lot of Chaos magic is centered around finding strange attractors, manipulating them, and using things like focal points to cause strange attractors to produce the desired unlikely event, instead of just random ones." The mage pauses, studying Elise's face again. "Anyway, it's pretty rare to have a strange attractor move with a person, and one is moving with you. Not a very 'big' one, so to speak. It's not really a bad or dangerous thing," she adds, hastily. "It just makes your life more … um … interesting."
Elise listens and as the woman finishes, she covers her mouth and the laugh that follows it. "Oh, you say?" A smile appears, the edge of her muzzle curling beyond where her hand covers. "That certainly is an apt description of my life. 'Interesting', as in the old curse. I wonder if this is perhaps why Morpheus chose Mage Envoy and myself? If we are sources of unlikely events, and these crystals amplify or modify us to produce specific events, then that would account for our ability to enter the dream world uninvited?"
Fyiara blinks several times. "That could be it! I know Envoy is a strange attractor she's a big one. Almost all Exiles are, to one degree or another … though I think the biggest sentient strange attractor I've heard of is Feli Kurai you ever meet him? I've never had a chance to examine him, but by all reports whooo boy!" She grins animatedly, despite the stream of rain dripping down the side of her nose.
"Feli Kurai? Brother to … Eve Kurai? Actually … " The lady poodle reaches up and draws the pendant from around her neck, looking at it. " … I am told while I was unconscious due to a, well, fall … I was visited by Eve Kurai and given this pendant."
"Whoa." Fyiara rocks back on her perch. "Definitely strange attractor. I gotta get that pendant of yours up to my lab sometime soon."
A nod from the poodle. "I would offer it to you now, but Mage Cyprian theorized it may well also serve to protect me. If it were removed and I slept, I am uncertain what might occur. It could be nothing, then again, I could end up blindly following some part within the dreams that which allows me free action taken from me. I am rather certain that place they would have for me would be unpleasant at best," explains Elise. The pendant is soon tucked away and she continues. "You are welcome to borrow it while I am awake, however, though I would like to be present for the tests. You will forgive my concern but I must be certain this pendant is returned to me."
"I can tell you it is Sifran crystal, and that it allowed Mage Cyprian to act within the dreams. I would imagine this is because he was already part of them, or that he is a 'strange attractor' himself," the Gallee adds.
"Dat's fine, I understand. I ought to be able to get a full analysis while you're awake. Maybe Dunbarre'd let me do it during negotiations. Oh, scratch that, the Council would pitch a fit even if he didn't." Another lightning bolt cracks across the sky, and Fyiara shifts to stand on top of the boulder, stretching her arms out to the rain. "Cyprian? He always seemed so … normal. Or maybe just trying hard to be normal," she muses. "Gosh, I sure am wet." She glances to the poodle. "'n so are you. Maybe we should go back to the main complex and dry off."
"Mage Cyprian is … " The thought is left unfinished, and the warrioress stands up. She then offers her free hand to the dean. "Well, he is a man that tries too hard, I think. Come, let's go. Maybe they will have decided by the time we arrive. By the grace of the First Ones, I can only hope so."