Were someone only casually familiar with Anisa's personality to come in off the street, they would in no way realize that the place they now stood was her room. Indeed, they would most likely take it for the domain of an eight year old girl as opposed to that of a brawling barmaid. The color pink is the dominant feature of the room, with both the walls and the ruffled bed sharing the hue with the curtains over the window. A desk sits just to the right of the room's front door, piled high old romance novels and yellowing, long forgotten textbooks. To the left of the room sits a white dresser and a set of shelves recessed into the wall, piled high with old stuffed animals, dolls, and the ocassional Templar action figure. Past the shelves is an open closet, which usually has various items of clothing spilling out of like a waterfall. This room is definitely lived in.
Today has been much like any other day for Anisa as of late. The morning was mostly spent dealing with paperwork, bills, suppliers, and customer issues right down to pulled threads in the towels. The afternoon calmed down enough to afford her a little exercise time; though she did have to close the office door because it seemed like that neverending stack of paperwork just might be stalking her.
Finally, Anisa is able to close up and head home after nightfall. This may or may not be a welcome thing for the Lapi, since she's currently got a roommate, the peculiar Kiriga, Kin. She's polite and generally quiet … but having someone in your space can always be a bit tiring. When Anisa enters her room … something is amiss. Something is very amiss. The room has been cleaned. Her piled desk has been reorganized. Not only are the books in general alphabetical order, they're standing on edge from the shortest to the tallest in neat progression. Her stuffed animal collection looks to have been dusted in some manner and also reorganized. To make things odder, the action figures have been tucked into the arms of the stuffies; great knights and … cuddling. Lastly, the bed has been so neatly made one could swear there isn't a single wrinkle anywhere on it. Kin is sitting in the corner on her makeshift bed as she sorts through a pile of colorful and shiny fabrics.
The doe pauses at the door and takes in the sight, her ears beginning to splay outwards in annoyance. Catching herself, she smooths the long lobes back, and breathes deeply. "So," she says, "I see you've been… busy… "
"Oh, you're home," the reptile says as she sets down whatever she was folding. She looks around the room, then says with a short nod, "Yes. I felt I should be useful since your days are occupied with your job. Your room was about to be devoured by chaos; but it has been defeated for now."
"Are you sure the chaos needed to be defeated?" Anisa grumbles, closing the door behind her. Wearily, she tosses a stack of papers onto the newly immaculate desk, then walks over and leaps onto her bed with a buck-toothed yawn. After briefly burying her head into the pillows, she pulls it back out and sighs. "You know what? That was catty of me." She smiles to the reptile. "Thanks for cleaning this place up, I appreciate it. I planned on getting around to it… one of these years."
"What is being catty?" Kin asks, looking for all the world that the comment didn't register as admonishment. "Was your day full of Khattas?"
"It means… well, never mind what it means. It's not important." The Lapi spins onto her back, and leans against the headboard, clutching what appears to be a plush bunny ballerina. "Whatcha got there? Picking out some new curtains or something?"
Kin stands up and unfolds one of the bundles. A couple yards of shimmering gold and black zolk spread out before her with intricate embroidery along the edges. Unfolded it's much easier to make out what it is; a fine robe. She slips her arms into it and then pulls the front closed around her thin form. The embroidery is easier to make out now; along the edges stylized serpents twist and glide. Over the left side of her chest is an intricate circular crest. "I am just folding some of my formal kimonos so they do not wrinkle too much from being in the travel pack. I'm not sure where to put them, though," she explains.
Anisa almost does a double-take at the garment, rarely having seen so much zolk in one place (outside of the fine clothing shops, that is.) "By the Star, where'd you get all of those? There has to be a few thousands shekels worth in those piles!" Sitting up cross-legged, she places the stuffed bunny in her lap, staring at the robes with a faraway look. "They're gorgeous!"
"These? Oh, well. They belonged to my family. It's … it's not important," Kin says and slides out of the robe. "I only brought a couple with me. Would you like to try one on?" she asks.
The Lapi almost leaps from the bed. "Could I?! Er, that is… " She grins sheepishly. "If you don't mind, that is." She sets her ears back in embarrassment. "If you need somewhere to put them for now, we can hang them in my closet, or put them in the dresser."
"Do you prefer purple or gold?" Kin asks. Her pleasant, if a bit toothy, smile should answer the question if she can or not.
Anisa bites her bottom lip in indecision, her ears swayed forward, looking for all the world as if this was one of the most important decisions of her life. "Umm… gold… NO! Purple! No, wait… wait… " She scratches an ear, then looks Kin in the eyes. "Um, gold, maybe?"
A sudden rapping at the door heralds a new arrival. "Hello? Kinny? Are you in there? I can smell you being in there," a familiar voice calls out. "I thought I heard something about a thousand shekels, too! And gold?"
"Or you could try both and decide?" Kin suggests. She holds out the gold and black robe for Anisa so that the Lapi can easily slide in. Turning her head towards the door, she says, "No money in here, Lilac. Anisa is just looking at some robes."
"You can come on in, if you like," Anisa calls out to Lilac, while slowly and carefully slipping into the robe, acting for all the world as if one wrong move would destroy the delicate fabric.
Kin slides the the robe up onto Anisa's shoulders then lets it drape lightly over her body. She then reaches over and around the Lapi as she pulls the front closed, then ties off the edges to hold it closed. "Now it needs the obi," the reptile comments and fetches that from her pile of neatly folded clothing.
"Awww," the person behind the door replies in response to the absence of money, the sound almost like a whine. The door opens, and the bard steps inside, wings, tail, ears and all. She's dressed in what looks like a bargain-basement hooded cloak, over a blousy dress of some common fabric. The cloak seems to have some needlework; purple flower patterns cover much of its outer surface, and, at one time, it might have been a fine garment. "Oh, wow! Did a reverse-gremlin attack this place?" She reaches over with a finger, hovering it above a now spotless piece of furniture as if afraid to touch it.
The sheepish grin remains on Anisa's face as she looks down at the robe. "Wow, its light as a feather!" Of course, being more than half a foot shorter than Kin, much of the robe sits in a jumbled pile at her feet, and the sleeves hide her paws from sight. "Kin tidied up a bit earlier."
Kin slides a rather wide sash around Anisa's waist and pulls it back tight. It's not as bad as wearing a corset, but it's noticeable. With a few quick movements of her hands, the Kiriga ties off the obi with a large bow at the small of the Lapi's back. It may be too big for Anisa, but it does show off one certain thing; Lapis have a lot more curves than a Kiriga does. "If the length was adjusted, it would look quite stunning on you," she notes as she oddly feels over the top of Anisa's head. "You lack sufficient mane for proper styling, though."
"Kinny got you to put one of those on?" Lilac eyes the robe with an appraising looking, tail flicking. "Wait," she says, ears splaying, "You never let ME try on your nice kimonos!"
"You aren't allowing me to stay in your home, either," Kin points out to Lilac. "Plus, you never showed interest or asked, you know."
"Oof," suggests Anisa as the sash is tied tight. Letting her arms down to her sides, she turns to look at herself in a full length mirror placed by her desk. "Wow," she whispers, an ear falling to one side. "I could get used to one of these." With that, she turns this way and that, trying to get a better look at her reflection, smiling all the while.
"I don't HAVE a home!" Lilac replies. Then, all at once, she turns around and plops down on the bed and wilts. "Oh great, now I made myself sad." Her ears flatten more.
"Maybe Kin will let you try the other one on," Anisa says to Lilac over her shoulder. "I think I'm partial to this gold one, myself."
"It is a pity it is too big for you. You would have been welcome to wear it out sometime," Kin says as she finishes checking over the ties. With a glance to Lilac she adds, "If she asked, certainly."
Lilac waves a hand, flicking her tail in her lap and proceeding to adjust the ribbon there. "Ohhhh, don't worry about it. It's all right, I've just been a little … antsy … and maybe sad, too. I wish Gibson would come back from where-ever he went off too. You don't," she looks up, tilting her head, "you don't think he left again, do you, Anisa? I mean, for good?"
The doe sighs, both at being too short to borrow the robe, and at the mention of her brother leaving. "You never know with him," she says, smoothing out the fur on her head from where Kin mussed it, "but I doubt it. He's got too much going on here to just take off, plus he usually at least says goodbye to me and Ben before he goes." The rabbit mugs for the mirror once more, then folds her hands in front of the obi. "I bet he'll be back soon. He's probably just busy."
"He may just be gathering research on the Cinders current plans," Kin suggests, "That is what I was doing this morning. There is much unrest in Imperial lands and it will be growing worse. The Imperials are sending soldiers into the Beast Lands to settle governmental unrest there. So, the question is then, is it the leader of the soldiers that serves the Cinders, or is it the current government?" Turning back to Anisa, she adds, "Plus, I believe one of your brothers may be having dreams as of late, too."
Anisa turns to look at Kin, almost tripping over the shiny pile of zolk at her feet. "Dreams? What do you mean? Who do you mean?" The small doe bends down to gather the bottom half of the robe into her paws so she can move a bit.
"Well, all right. I'd … Well, I'd be sad if he left." The human woman's sears skew, and she sits up a bit. "I really am sad all over the place lately, aren't I? I mean, sure, I'm a, um … dog? … half the time, and I wander, and, well … Um, yes, but I have so much else that's working out pretty well." She tightens her tail bow, then lets her tail flick out of her lap. "Like, well, YOU guys! I haven't had some friends in forever."
"Your brother, Royce. Lilac and I spoke with him," Kin says, "And please do not take offense at this, but Royce could use some lessons in politeness. In my home, guests would never be spoken to as he spoke to us. When we asked more about your experiences in the Pearl … he was defensive. The comment he made about 'still living it', made me suspect he may be having dreams as you have." Returning to her makeshift bed on the floor, the reptile sits back down. Smiling to Lilac, she says, "Things are not so bad, no. You are free and now you know more about yourself than you did. Now that you know, you can do something about it as well. But … you have to quit running, you know. All your wandering makes me suspect you were trying to avoid the truth."
Anisa's brow furrows as she takes Kin's words in, and she pulls her desk chair out to take a seat, smoothing the robe out before she does so. "He's still… living it? I had no idea, he never mentioned any of that to me." Anisa is well versed in Royce's abrasiveness, so she doesn't comment on it. "Did he say anything more about it?"
Lilac listens with ears perked, then nods to Kin. "I think you're right. I really didn't want to, well, not admit it I never really knew I just … suspected. But, I couldn't bear to think about it much, and, well, it's fine to say accepting it, while really disturbing, isn't as bad as running away from it," she tells the draconid. To Anisa, Lilac adds, "Royce seems like he has problems, you know? Like something is haunting him. He even hides in that dank basement, with all his talent!"
"He told us you would know more than him, as you made it in further and came out covered in blood," Kin comments, "And wouldn't tell us much, saying he ddin't really learn much from the book. He did offer to look over the book again should it be open when it returns, though."
Anisa sets her ears back and steers her gaze away from the others, a look of nervousness crossing her face. "Oh, yeah… I did make it further than he did. But… " She looks to her feet, and rubs her arm with a paw. "I don't like to talk about it."
"You may need to," Kin says, for once in a gentler tone. "There is a lot at stake and you may have to face all of it again."
"He said you met black things," Lilac presses, leaning forward. "And, well, I talked to Mr. Tinsnip, and I think maybe there's a connection. That is … if you want to hear a story. I'll even make it short, as much as it paaaains me."
"AND, if you're nervous about talking about waking up covered up in blood, well, let me tell you, that happens to me a lot more than I'd like," Lilac adds encouragingly, tail wagging.
The rabbit stays silent for a few moments, then looks back up to face the others, though her eyes avoid their gaze. "When we went into the jungle, we came across a group of, well, little people, and they talked about these things called 'Observers' giant monsters that were left over from the Ancients or something. To get into what they called 'The Node', I had to face one… " She squeezes her eyes shut at the memory.
"Little people? Like gremlins? Or … gnomes? Dryads? Elves? Goblins? Morkles?" Lilac inquires, curious. "And, I've never heard of 'Observers' or a 'Node.'"
"And you must have succeeded, because you made it in and then back out alive," Kin says. The Kiriga gets back to her feet and walks over to Anisa. Carefully, she reaches over and lightly lays her claws on the Lapi's shoulders. "When you faced it, was it intelligent? Did it speak to you?" she asks quietly, "And please, if you cannot answer now, we understand."
Anisa shakes her head. "Just little… people. Like you or me… well, not really like you no offense," she says to Lilac. "It was… kind of intelligent? I dunno. It could talk, and at first it was like gibberish, but then it somehow linked up with me using the pendant. It was almost like some kind of technopriest machine."
"I presume you had to pass some sort of test to enter? Was it intelligence? Riddles? Lore?" Kin inquires.
"No, it just approached me, and studied me," answers Anisa. "I think it was my pendant they were both made by the Ancients or something. Of course, the Observer was just the beginning… "
"What else happened?" Kin asks.
"Oh, I'm getting used to that, Anisa. The 'not like you,' I mean. It used to bother me, but … Maybe I can incorporate it in to my image? Standing out is good when you're a bard." She tilts her head the other way, working her lips before asking, "A … Technopriest machine? Like … an airship? Gears and wheels?"
Anisa gives a thoughtful look. "Kind of, but more… elegant. It was a behemoth, but not clunky at all. It seemed like a real creature, except for how it behaved." She smooths out a wrinkle in the golden robe. "But as we started going further into the Node, weird things started to happen. It started to get cold deathly cold, and we came across a tree that was… sprouting birds… like leaves."
"Birds that grow on trees? That would sell well in Jadai; an excellent food source," Kin considers for a moment; her expression thoughtful. "What happened after the tree?"
"It sounds like the stories of Bosch I know. The land turning in to a tree, then a bird, then a man," the human bard relates. "I don't remember a lot of machines, though. Machines were usually symbols, or symbolism, for order. Usually Chronotopian order."
"Not these kind of birds they withered like dying leaves, and fell to the ground in just minutes." Anisa continues, "Vandringar had taken my brothers and friends prisoner, and Wanda and I were trying to rescue them. While we were doing so, we saw all sorts of strange things. The place had roses with eyes in them, and Vandringar's lacky, Kakkura-", the rabbit's ears set back at the mention of the name, "she was somehow controlling her followers' minds. That 'devolution' stuff or whatever."
"What did Kakkura look like?" Kin inquires curiously. "That name sounds Imperial." To Lilac, she comments, "Roses with eyes? I would more have expected potatoes with eyes… "
Lilac blinks, then gapes. "Was that a JOKE?! Gods!" She leans over and pushes Kin in the shoulder, gently. "A real joke! I think you're becoming almost mammilian." Laughing lightly, Lilac glances at Anisa and remarks, "It sounds more and more like Bosch, but, well, no one goes in to Bosch and lives."
"A joke? I was being serious. It makes logical sense that potatoes should have eyes. Roses should come attached with some poetry reciting lover," Kin states flatly and tries to look somewhat offended at being called mammalian.
Lilac gives Kin a shrewd look, then just tosses her hands up and falls back on the bed. "Give me strength, gods, for she is the most difficult of masters," she prays with mock-seriousness.
"I am not difficult. Not once have I had you flogged," Kin says with a sniff. "Though, maybe for you it should be a flea dip… "
Anisa cracks a small smile at the joke, but her demeanor still seems serious. "No, she was a Vartan, and I wasn't very fond of her. Still… " The rabbit drifts off, then clears her throat and continues. "Eventually, we came up to this big black tower, and somehow I got inside using the pendant." She fidgets a bit, "Once inside, I found an army of Observers, and someone something there told me how the place had gotten the way it was. There used to be an old race that just liked to mess with creation, and they wound up destroying themselves. Then, later, another race came along, and created the towers to contain the chaos. The Observers were created by them too to protect the Node, and keep people out who would use it."
Returning her attention to Anisa, Kin asks, "Vandringar made it in as well, did he not? Did you fight him there and defeat him? Was the node destroyed or just sealed away again?"
"So, it's the Node Vandringer and his forces wanted. I can't believe it, though a magical artifact that can transform people! It, well, I'd say it sounds impossible, but, well … Hello! Me." Lilac reaches up and tugs on her ears, to prove her point. "Do you think," she rolls her head to look at Anisa, "the 'black creatures' Royce and Mr. Tinsnip mentioned were the Guardians? Royce said something about you being covered in blood, too."
Anisa shakes her head. "We defeated Vandringar's followers there. Or I should say, the Observers did. The pendant let me control them, and although I didn't want to hurt anyone, the Observers weren't exactly, er, 'peace keepers', I guess you could say." She shakes her head once more, and shudders. "Vandringar wasn't with them, but the Observers slaughtered them, and I was right in the middle of it all."
"But as far as I know, the Node is still there," continues the Lapi. "Everything is kind of a blur after the fight, but once the Observers finished their job, they went back to their resting place. I doubt anyone from Vandringar's group has dared go back there for a while."
"Given your aversion to meat, I … it must have been terrible for you," Kin comments softly. "But, please, do not feel pity for them; they would have done worse to you. You were merciful in comparison."
Anisa shrugs, "Maybe they would have, maybe they wouldn't. All I wanted to do was protect my family, but I didn't want to kill anyone." The rabbit's eyes go slightly red, as she seems to be fighting back tears.
"They would have turned your family and you into animals," Kin reminds Anisa gently. "At least from what I have seen with one of his associates; they have little concern for others."
Lilac sits up and scoots over until she can reach over and put a hand on Anisa's shoulder. "Do you want a hug? I don't charge for those, and they don't come with stories unless you want one," she offers.
Anisa smiles at the others in thanks, a few tears creeping through as she starts to reply to Lilac. Before she can utter a word, however, her ears spring up in alarm. "The Observers! Oh, Dagh!!" Looking worried to Lilac, and then to Kin, Anisa sits up in her chair. "My dream! What… what if Vandringar has a pendant like mine now? What if he can control the Observers?"
"Then we deal with that when the time comes," Kin says with the usual reptilian calm. "My advice here would be to get your pendant back from those you gave it to. Borrow it or steal it; we may have use for it. I know someone who is good at stealing." The Kiriga looks pointedly at Lilac.
Lilac, who looked ready to hug, suddenly jerks back at the outcry, her ears shooting up like Anisa's. "Well, that would be bad!" A pause, and she adds, as if not quite sure what else to say, "Horrible!"
Lilac, her ears still up, gapes at Kin a moment as she processes the reptile's comment. "Hey!" She sticks her tongue out at the woman. "I am not a thief."
"Hakuu's seal," Kin says simply. Her brow ridge arches.
"Creative borrowing," Lilac insists. "I gave it back! And, he's a monster, so he doesn't count. I should have drawn a smiley face on his precious art!"
Anisa fidgets in her chair. "Mr. Tinsnip may know where the pendant is at, we'll have to ask him first chance we get." She then turns to Lilac. "Did you say that Tinsnip spoke of the Observers?"
"Yes, he's a monster. Be thankful you were not the one he made a full body mold of. Naked and covered in plaster is not pleasant," the reptile comments.
"Oh! Yes! I almost forgot, but this is important, so, bear with me … " Lilac runs a hand back over her head, which de-perks her ears and flattens them back, as well as her hair. "Anyway, you see, long story short: the Raveness of Sylvania is said to have controlled a power a dark power, and that her lands are cursed. She was said to be vicious, and she experienced a great loss. Further, a observed tapestry from her lands is said to show black monsters." Lilac gives Kin and Anisa a serious look. "A bit like someone we know, you know? Or someone Anisa knows. What's more, he mentioned someone who has been there, and is in Rephidim now."
"Really? Then we should seek this someone out," Kin comments after Lilac finishes. The dragon finally sits back down and folds her hands into her lap. "Perhaps we could find him after dinner tonight. I believe your Mother should be calling for us soon," she adds with a glance to the darkened window.
Anisa mulls Lilacs words over in her mind, then nods. "We'll have to find this person, maybe they can give us an insight into whatever Vandringar's up to." The rabbit visbly calms down, and settles back in her chair. "Yeah, its almost dinner time. Late, actually Quinn must be busy."
"Welllll, if you really want to find him, I can lead you there. It'll be, um … dangerous, however." The human stands up, patting Anisa good-naturedly on the arm as she does. "I was going to go see him alone, but I'd appreciate the company in Darkside."
"Darkside?" Anisa scratches an ear. "We may want to wait until tomorrow then. That's not the best place for three women to be after nightfall."
"Do not fret, Lilac, Anisa, I will protect you. The Autumn Harvest will reap those who may wish us harm," Kin says reassuringly. "Tonight should be fine."
"Reptiles are crazy," Lilac whispers to Anisa. "Now, I'm going to go hunt down something to eat NO, not literally!" Lilac eyes everyone. "And see if I can find some clothes that I won't ruin. Oh, I should talk to your mother about a job, too, Anisa. Busy, busy!"
"'Nisa!" cries a familiar voice, as Petal opens the door enough to poke her face through. "Dinna!" This followed almost immediately by Beatrice calling, "Christina, come down and help serve!"