With a high-frequency sput-sput-sput-sput of the suction-cup wheels as they grip the stone roadway, the rickshaw zips along at a break-tail pace, pulled by a frantically galloping selona-lizard, the wooden springs only barely reducing the jolting and jostling inflicted upon the passengers of the roll-cage-equipped vehicle.
Bassai is tightly wrapped around the bar provided for Naga passengers. Gripping it intently, he hisses in Imperial, "Just hold on; this is the fastest way to travel, despite the discomfort."
The garter selona-driver snaps his whip in the air, his lower body firmly coiled around a supporting beam toward the front of the vehicle. He cackles maniacally as the rickshaw approaches several slithering "pedestrians", interspersed with a few Rokugai and shigai. "Out of the way! Make way for the rickshaw of the most esteemed archae " *thumpthumpthumpthump* ("Aieeeee!") *thumpthumpthump* "… nevermind!"
Despite the fact that he has never been to or seen any of the sights of the Naga Empire, Fenter chooses to sit with his pointed hat pulled over his ears and his arms wrapped about his head. It seems to be the safest thing to do.
"Are we there yet?" Fenter whimpers in Imperial, peeking out of his arm cocoon for a fraction of a moment.
The rickshaw ride gets especially bumpy as it skids up a steep slope to avoid some especially dense traffic of the "common folk", and narrowly avoids a collision with a rickshaw travelling at similarly reckless (wreckless?) speeds. The city is large as cities go, but is fairly low and wide compared to the towering spires of Babel or Gallis or Chronotopia. Nonetheless, it is not so much a horizontal layout, as a stacking of many such planes, with many angles and slopes, rather than any vertical surfaces. It is made for those who are accustomed to climbing and crawling and slithering. It's less than convenient for those bound to walk, and not entirely accessible for fliers, either, what with all the crossways and tunnels that would give the claustrophobic fits.
"This vehicle typifies our philosophy… " Bassai hisses to the cocooned Rath'ani beside him, interrupted by another unfortunate bump in the route. "Typifies our belief that the more successful individuals can proceed overtop of lesser beings."
"It's not much further," the archaeologist adds.
Fenter hides his face again. "I thought it typified that everyone should use public transit out here or at least stay home."
Bassai's timing is impeccable. At this moment, the craft bounds-rolls-suckerpops out of a large tunnel, and into a wider expanse that affords a view of a grand palace that stretches out to fill what looks like a "valley" amidst the shallow pyramids, surrounded by a deep "moat" that is not filled with water … but instead with a rainbow selection of serpent and serpent-like creatures of all exotic (and poisonous) varieties. From here, it just looks like a mass of writhing color within the "moats".
The Ringneck Naga takes the opportunity to raise Fenter's hat. "This is a sight worth seeing, the Imperial Palace." He steadies the Rath'ani.
The raccoon peeks out again and spies the serpents, his fur bristles out and he quickly grabs onto Tekki's shoulder. "Glurk!" is all he says in reply to Bassai.
Various pyramid-shaped buildings can be seen here and there, with numerous poles sticking out of their surfaces to offer a place for Nagai of all sizes to climb their way up. The poles are of different colors, thicknesses and lengths, such that as the rickshaw moves along, different patterns and even pictures can be seen if fleeting emerging within the subdued colors of the angled surfaces.
The colours flash by the Archaeologist outside the wild vehicle, prompting a flickering of his tongue. He watches the swift approach to the multi-coloured moat, and the grand expanse of the Imperial estate. Tearing his eyes away, he checks to make sure that Fenter has a secure grip, and seeing him holding the Savanite, that Tekki does as well. "We're nearly there, try and relish the moment. Few get the pleasure of approaching the Palace by rickshaw."
The driver sends the rickshaw bouncing down a relatively steep incline, and down into one of several statue-lined roads leading toward the Palace. There are fewer pedestrians here, and few of such low importance as to warrant running over. There are fewer "thumps" along the way. However, at intervals, there are some slaves of various species (or, at least, their demeanors suggest that they must be slaves) who stand at each side, watching, as if waiting for the rickshaw to pass … and then throw themselves onto the road just in time for the rickshaw to bounce-schlorp-thump over them. As it passes, the slaves can be seen painfully getting back up or crawling off, having done their duty to give an honored guest a proper welcome to the Imperial Palace.
Fenter looks up at Tekki. "They're not going to run us over, are they?"
Tekki just sits there, trying to look as calm as the bouncing will let him, flattening his ears at each "thump" … his eyes shut tightly.
His tail, of course, betrays him. It's puffed out.
Fenter whimpers and continues his death-grip on Tekki's arm.
On each side of the processionway, statues stand, showing proud Nagas of times past and present (mostly past). Some hold implements and tools that hint at their professions and accomplishments. There are many vacant pedestals here and there that suggest much room for future expansion.
"I believe we must fear only the honour of the Potentate slithering over us." Bassai hisses in response to Fenter's question, "and hopefully we will also leave by rickshaw."
"I hope he's one of the smaller, garter-type Naga. they only tickle a bit when they slither on you." The raccoon coughs. "Er… so I've heard at least."
The garter selona-driver stops snapping the whip and pulls back on the harness. The craft slows, and schlorp-rolls onto a wider circle. A couple of ornately-decorated four-armed Rokugai rush up to the cart and set up a slither-ramp for Bassai's convenience to disembark.
Several garters line up at the bottom of the ramp, forming a 'red carpet' all the way to the entrance.
The Ringneck archaeologist unwinds from the riding pole and slides down the ramp, as he advances he gives a quick whisper to Fenter and Tekki, in standard. "Try to move quickly and lightly so you don't hurt them." Reaching the living carpet, he proudly slithers over everyone, spreading the honour of his weight around as much as possible.
Fenter unclamps his grip on Tekki's arm and peers at the 'carpet'. He gulps and tries to stand.
The carpet quickly disperses as soon as Bassai passes. Apparently the honor is not also for Rath'ani and Savanites.
Fenter seems visibly relieved by this and trundles down the ramp. He loses his footing for a moment and starts to tumble, but manages to bump into Bassai's back before he goes down too far. "Ooomph!"
The entrance leads to a covered bridge that still has vertical slits in the side that allow one to see a nice view of the colorful "moat" far below, and all those lethal little bodies writhing around within it. Over the bridge, and there is another archway that leads into a grand hall. Several more lowly servants and slaves throw themselves to the floor, so that Bassai can be seen making them his carpet as he enters into the assembly with several highly decorated officials in attendance.
The Ringneck archaeologist pauses long enough to ensure Fenter is standing properly, then progresses forward again, almost eagerly slipping over the servants and slaves. Perhaps it is excitement that spurs his swift forward motion; He slows to a more stately pace as he approaches the decorated officials, lingering on the bodies beneath him and demonstrating his status.
The raccoon takes a peek through one of the slits and looks down on the moat, ( I wonder how they feed all those little wiggly things? Ergh… maybe I shouldn't think about that. ) He hurries after Bassai, wincing every time another servant flops under the Naga.
The grand hall has a raised dais at the head that would seem to indicate the perfect place to put a throne, so that a leader might see his audience, but no such leader is in sight, nor is there a throne. There are only several Naga warriors, all clad in scale armor in repeated patterns, looking as if their protection was formed from the scales of a larger Naga, shed several times over and their sizes are already impressive, as if daring any unseen intruders to defy the sanctity of this place.
Bassai flicks out his tongue, only allowing himself a passing glance at the guards, one that also lets him check on Tekki and Fenter's progress behind him, and continues forward. He approaches the raised dais, proud and tall, looking for signs of court attendants or the even the Potentate.
Fenter looks sideways at Bassai and then peeks behind him, he's becoming more and more uneasy about something in particular.
There is a loud gong, and reflexively, even the most celebrated of the Nagai officials present dive to the floor, as if part of a well-rehearsed drill. An unseen Naga hiss-yells, "Prepare for the honor of being crushed under the lustrous coils of the Emperor-Potentate, the one whose scales are like precious gems, whose eyes are … " and so on and so forth goes the long introduction.
Fenter frantically tugs at Bassai's sleeve, he whispers, "Eh-heh… this Potentate is just a little guy, right? Right? A teensy Garter?"
"Try to stay calm Fenter, we are… yes we are." Bassai follows the others, also throwing himself flat. He hisses quietly to the Rath'ani in standard, "Lie on the ground Fenter, this is a great honour, and shouldn't hurt too much."
Down a side corridor, a dark silhouette blots out the array of hanging torches … a long, slithering shadow that progresses at a leisurely pace. The herald finishes his introduction JUST in time to throw himself to the floor … and disappear under the coils of a great Naga who looks for all the Empire as if he could be the physical incarnation of the Golden Serpent himself. Each scale shines in the light of the flames, enameled and individually painted, making the Naga appear to be as much a treasure as the jewelry and fine zolk robes he wears on his upper form.
The archaeologist looks at Tekki for assistance, his hand near Fenter's ankles in case the raccoon stays reluctant.
Tekki does his best to try to hold the Rath'ani down.
Wilting, the raccoon flattens himself on the ground. He makes a point of jamming himself in between Tekki and Bassai and trying to make himself 'flatter' than the other two. Perhaps the snake will go over him… or perhaps he'll get crushed to death anyway.
Bassai relaxes, watching almost hypnotically as the gleaming scales of the Potentate approach, trying to attain the trance-like mentality that will make this a pleasant experience.
There are a few chokes and wheezes as the great serpent makes his way across the gathered officials. As it passes over Bassai, Tekki and Fenter … well … no bones break, but the experience is one to be taken in moderation, and preferably as short as possible, so as to minimize the threat of asphyxiation.
Fenter mmmmmphs! Luckily his nose is jammed right in Tekki's ear to muffle the noise… for everyone except Tekki that is.
The ringneck archaeologist manages to contain any sudden gasps as a result of the Potentate's passing.
At last, the weight passes, for the most part, and then the coils have gone on entirely. Several of the highest officials of all the Grand Viziers and Governors and also a General clamber up onto the dais before the Potentate … and form a living throne, their ornate costumes blending together to form what looks like an exquisite piece of furniture … albeit one that occasionally shifts a little, flicks tongues, and blinks.
There is another loud gong, at which point the gathered officials all get up again, save for those forming the throne … and a few who may take a while longer to regain their breaths, or who may need medical attention. The herald is dragged off.
Bassai waits until the Potentate's throne has coalesced, and the Great Naga has taken a seat before rising. He gives a quick gesture for Tekki and Fenter to also stand once he is upright.
Fenter pulls himself back up to his feet and rubs his backside. He glances at the floor to see if the Potentate happened to shed any of those expensive looking scales.
A nearby officious-looking Naga slowly rises from his prone position and takes out a small whisk-broom to dust off his medal-decorated sash. He whispers to Bassai, "What luck to chance upon you, Bassai. May I congratulate you on a truly sensational find?"
The Emperor-Potentate shifts about on his "throne", lowering his head to listen to the whispers of his "armrest", the First Vizier. During this lull in the ceremony, a few hissing whispers can be heard here and there. Apparently it's safe to engage in a little court chatter until the next gong rings.
"Thank you, it was some luck, and a great deal of hard work. I am proud to bring this honour back to the Empire," Bassai hisses in a quiet reply, then takes a longer look at the other Naga, "Frissas? I last heard you were in the Abu Dhabi. How has your own research fared?"
Tekki dares now get to his feet, but keeps his eyes focused on the floor. While he may have enjoyed some authority and even some leeway on the expedition, here he knows his place and is determined to show it.
Frissas looks smug. "Quite well, very well indeed. I expect to present my findings to our colleagues within the next few weeks. I shall look forward to hearing your own as well. There must be many implications of your discovery." He leans closer to Bassai, conspiratorially. "Perhaps we might discuss our findings after the formalities, to gain the benefit of each other's wisdom."
Bassai nods to Frissas, a brief expression of concern or doubt flashing over his face as he observes Tekki in the side of his vision. That however, is a matter for another time, and he replies to the other Naga, "Yes, I would appreciate that greatly. Also, if I might ask, I have not had the opportunity to brief my companion on appropriate behaviour in the Potentate's presence. The Savanite is here to demonstrate by example, but a quiet hiss of correction is more easily understood. Please warn the Rath'ani if it is necessary."
Fenter continues to study the Naga that make up the throne. "I never thought getting squished was such a big thing here. And to think I thought it was something you only did to underclassmen… "
Frissas looks amused. He hisses to Bassai, "Dealing with the non-Nagai can be a constant trial, but it is ever our burden, we who expand the Empire's boundaries not only in tangible ways, but into the reaches of knowledge."
Frissas turns to the Rath'ani and hisses, "You will be good, won't you?" His tongue flickers between poisonous-looking fangs.
The Ringneck archaeologist nods, "Yes, I agree completely. It is not a burden without reward however, I was as much pleasantly, as unpleasantly surprised during this expedition."
Fenter nods his head vigorously and smiles. He has nothing to worry about after all, he's not a non-Naga… he's a raccoon!
The viperous scientist chuckles, but looks dubious. "The Vykarins, was it not? Well, any non-Nagai can be trained, given a suitably firm hand." He hushes as more officials begin to gather near a gong.
A similar hush falls across the assembly, as the Potentate's "armrests" return to their proper positions.
Bassai bobs his head again, resuming a proper stance in front of the dais.
There is a loud gong, as expected, and when it dies out, the great serpent on the living throne hisses, "Who is the archaeologist who found this new sky island and claimed it for the glory of the Nagai Empire? Let this one recite his name loudly, so that all present may remember it well, and speak briefly of his accomplishment, and its value."
Fenter follows behind Bassai, his head downcast in what might be construed as a gesture of reverence. He's actually studying his reflection in the polished surface of the floor.
Tekki's tail suddenly POOFs out!
A Naga hand settles on Fenter's shoulder gently, but firmly, pulling him back into the rows of officials. "Not so quickly," Frissas whispers into Fenter's ears. "This is your master's moment."
Tekki surreptitiously smooths out his tail again.
"Oh… sorry. Force of habit." the raccoon smiles sheepishly and steps back.
"I am Bassai." The Ringneck Naga hisses loudly, after a brief pause to gather his words. "An Archaeologist of the Nijushiho Institute. I led the expedition into a restricted area in the inhospitable Vykarin Wastelands. There I explored an immense and complex Sifras site."
Frissas beams, then surreptitiously uses his whisk-broom on the hand that touched the Rath'ani.
The Emperor-Potentate's tongue flicks out, but he does not so much as nod or bob his head in acknowledgment of what Bassai has said so far. He only focuses his dark gaze on the Ringneck, ever so patiently, and quite still. Indeed, his throne seems less furniture than the Potentate seems a statue at the moment.
"After much careful research it became apparent that this site was instrumental in forming Sky island's." The Archaeologist pauses, taking another breath. "It was my fortune to arrive as this process came to completion. Acting swiftly I relocated part of my team to the island's surface to be present during the launch."
Fenter idly rocks back and forth on his heels, waiting for the part about him becoming a sky god.
There are several tongue-flicks and exchanged glances at this, but no murmurings. All are silent while the Ringneck speaks.
Bassai gestures grandly behind himself at the Rath'ani. "My colleague, Fenter, along as a fellow researcher and observing for the Collegia Esoterica of Rephidim, was instrumental in gaining the assistance of the Vykarin warriors who were also present during the Island's Birth."
Fenter straightens himself and smiles, he widens his eyes a bit to try and show off the pretty colors.
Frissas looks dubiously at the Rath'ani.
The Emperor-Potentate flicks his tongue, and then hisses, "Do not waste our time with humility. Your accomplishments are to be indicated here, to enhance the glory of the Nagai Empire. Do not diminish it by sharing it with … others … " The great snake looks at Fenter, matching gaze with those color-changing eyes.
Several serpents shrink back at the commentary from the Potentate.
Fenter shrinks down a bit, ears drooping.
Bassai flicks out his tongue. "I mention it only to explain the ferocity those warriors fought with to repel the Sabaoth assault which killed most of my expedition crew. They believed him to be a Sky God, and adequately defended this territory in the absence of more loyal Imperial troops, allowing me to be here before you. I, of course, was supplying the necessary guidance through Fenter."
The Emperor-Potentate's tongue flicks, and his head seems to move … ever so slightly … and was that the faint whisper of an approving smile? "Do go on, Archaeologist Bassai of Nijushiho Institute."
"Maintaining control of the Sky Island allowed one more discovery to add to the light of the Empire. Several days after the Babelite attack, a mysterious visitor arrived during a meteor shower. It was a plant being, and it left behind lesser versions of itself, and gifted us with a fruit that is palatable to Nagai, and appears to be very pleasant to other races." The Ringneck continues, facing the Potentate.
Frissas leans forward, curiosity or is that greed? shining in his eyes.
The statement elicits no response from the Potentate though that is not to say that this is anything other than a good sign.
Fenter goes back to studying the floor.
( I bet all that paint on his scales itches like the dickens, ) the raccoon idly thinks to himself.
Drawing in another breath, Bassai proceeds into the final part of his declaration. "There were several other minor discoveries in flora and fauna which may be of interest to the Biological schools. Also, there were other difficulties and problems which the crew, under my direction, were able to overcome and so are not worth repeating. The Rhians, Savanites and Vykarins of the expedition responded well to my supervision, and exceeded normal expectations of their abilities. The Savanites were exceptional, equals to the other two races along with me. I have only one more thing to mention, of the greatest importance."
The comparison of Savanites with Vykarins and Rhians appears to prompt no surprised reactions from those gathered, though several tongues flick in anticipation of just what Bassai has to add in the way of "greatest importance".
If Frissas had eyebrows, they would be jumping off of his scales. He leans forward more, trying to guess what his fellow scientist has discovered that was not rumored.
"The Nagai surgeon, Fetiss, valiantly defended the Sky Island for the Empire. I wish that his sacrifice is not forgotten, and the Island bear his name. Also, the Templar Lancer Rose, was equally brave and among the first to fall; I feel she should be remembered for her gift to the empire. Their selflessness should not be forgotten, and should serve as inspiration." Bassai finishes.
The silence remains no more. Murmuring, forked tongues break forth of their restraints, at the boldness of making a request at this time.
The Emperor-Potentate pauses a moment for the murmurings to die a quick death, and then rises in his throne (to the dismay of those supporting him).
Frissas's face falls. His thoughts cannot be determined, but he looks on at Bassai, flicking his tail side to side.
Fenter glances up to watch the Emperor, his ears remain splayed off to the side.
The Emperor-Potentate waits another weighty moment before continuing, "So it shall be, that the sky island be named 'Fetiss', and these deeds will be duly recorded and remembered. But a discovery of this nature, if it is as momentous as you suggest, deserves more than remembrance in the tomes."
There are several anticipatory gasps from among those gathered.
The Archaeologist remains still, waiting with held tongue.
The Emperor-Potentate scans those gathered, silencing the gasps with his gaze. He then focuses on Bassai again, and hisses, "It pleases us to grant you a boon. What do you ask of the Nagai Empire, that may be bestowed upon you as a reward?" A couple of garter attendants faint. This is not a usual occurrence … and is a mixed blessing, from all that Bassai has heard of such instances.
Indeed, Bassai has great latitude in what he asks for, for the Emperor-Potentate's authority is great indeed. However, the choice is weighted considerably by political concerns.
To be too humble or modest in choosing a reward is to give the impression that one's contribution is worth very little. But to ask too much is to risk the dishonor of being turned down by the Emperor-Potentate, or to risk anger. And no one even knows what reaction might be sparked by making a request beyond the ABILITY of the Emperor-Potentate to grant.
Fenter hopes Bassai asks for a big feast to be held in his honor… with no live wiggly things and lots of ale. He wipes a bit of drool from off the corner of his mouth.
Tekki's ears pale, and his jaw drops, his gaze still firmly affixed upon the floor.
Frissas draws in a long breath at the magnamity of the reward, then shoots the distastefully drooling Rath'ani a warning look.
The Rath'ani ignores it completely. He's off in his own little world right now.
Bassai remains motionless, the immensity of the offer sitting before him. He takes a slow breath, pondering the possibilities, not letting the silence grow too long as he hastens to a decision.
Fortunately, tradition is not unkind on this point It is considered proper for the one offered such a boon to take some time in considering. To answer too quickly would suggest that the recipient was EXPECTING a reward not entirely unrealistic, if the accomplishment is great, but nonetheless presumptuous, and detracting from the honor of the Emperor-Potentate's authority in giving such boons as he pleases.
There are a couple more gasps as a few of the onlookers fail to hold their breaths for so long.
Bassai raises his head, flicking out his tongue. "I have given this my most careful consideration. Several possibilities have presented themselves to me, a request that I be named Governor of the Sky Island, or that I receive full backing of the Empire in my subsequent research and expeditions. These are however, selfish requests, and one occurs to me which would greater benefit the Nagai Empire."
The usual stirrings are prompted. Bassai most certainly has the attention of the assembled court and, most importantly, of the Emperor-Potentate.
"I wish that the legal standing of the Savanites be expanded, and they be accorded the rights and privileges of the shigai and other lesser races that dwell within the Empire." The archaeologist gaze remains fixed on the Emperor- Potentate.
Frissas's jaw drops.
So do several Naga officials, jaws and all.
Fenter's eyes widen, he looks to Tekki to see the slave's reaction (and catch him should he faint).
Tekki wavers a bit … and Fenter's foresight proves to be just in time to catch the cheetah from what would have surely been a faint on the spot.
The raccoon quickly doffs his hat and begins fanning the Savanite with it.
The Emperor-Potentate shifts on his living throne, bringing his head and long neck forward, sweeping back and forth as if he were crawling across the air separating himself from the relatively small archaeologist. "Why do you ask this of us, Archaeologist Bassai of Nijushiho Institute?"
( Because he's loony? ) Fenter wonders.
Other Nagas present hailing from the same institute watch with even more intensity. This reminder of Bassai's educational heritage strengthens his destiny with that of the institute If he is so honored, his school shares that honor. But if the Emperor-Potentate shows his displeasure, and if he deems it not sufficient to only vent it upon Bassai, it will likely spill out upon the institution as well.
Some Shigai servants drag off unconscious Naga officials who have fainted or otherwise lost the ability to stand in the presence of the Emperor-Potentate.
"During this expedition I was forced to allocate more responsibility to the slaves than I would normally allow, the conditions required it. I trained them well, but I was still surprised at the ability I saw." The Ringneck hisses slowly, flicking out his tongue. "The Nagai Empire is a glorious beacon to other races and cultures beyond our borders, leading them by example in all areas of scientific discover. The Savanites have existed within our borders for more generations than I have scales, and I believe our guidance has finally impressed civilization upon them. They were the most loyal of my crew, and I believe their present legal status is limiting them in the capacity for which they can serve the Glory of Empire."
A Naga lawyer gasps. Perhaps it's at the statement that implies that there's anything negative about the current legal situation.
The raccoon fans Tekki even harder now, accidentally smacking him in the face a couple of times with his hat.
Tekki wakes up … skims over recent memory … and faints again.
(or at least does a really good job of faking it… )
"I am an archaeologist, my experience encompasses the evolution of past civilizations." Bassai continues, with a short glance at his colleagues from the institute. "Cultures progress from infancy to adulthood. Watching the Savanites work beside the Rhians and Vykarins, I was impressed by their equality. In some ways the slaves exceeded the abilities of the other two races. It is my belief that they have matured, at least to a level recognized with other non-Nagai. I feel an increase in their rights and capacities will allow an equal increase for the Empire; They will be able to serve in the manner presently enjoyed by the other species within our Borders." Bassai flicks out his tongue, adding finally. "It can only benefit the Empire."
Frissas stares dumbstruck, then looks at Tekki suspiciously. No, there don't seem to be any invisible strings… He looks back at Bassai, even more horrified.
The Emperor-Potentate waits a little longer for additional unconscious Nagas and attendants to be hauled away, and to be certain that Bassai has finished his 'sales pitch'. He then looks at Bassai and says, "You evidently have put much thought into the legal and economic ramifications of such a sweeping societal change." It is said as a statement, not as a question.
Fenter begins to slip a bit. He's not the strongest Rath'ani around… and Tekki seems to be getting heavy, urgh.
Bassai gives a short head-bob to the Potentate, "Yes, I can give you my counsel if you so desire."
The Emperor-Potentate nods slightly, then says, "Archaeologist Bassai of Nijushiho Institute," followed by a pause long enough for Bassai's fellow alumni to cringe, "approach the throne."
The raccoon gives Tekki a rough shake. "Wake up! Wake up!" he hisses in the cheetah's ear. "The Emperor is about to eat your master!"
The Ringneck Naga dips his head, covering a nervous swallow. He straightens and slithers forward, approaching the dais on which the great golden Emperor-Potentate rests. He stops at the required distance.
Tekki's eyelids flutter … and he collapses to the floor.
The head of the Emperor-Potentate descends and approaches, coming uncomfortably close to Bassai, making it all too apparent how the Emperor-Potentate could easily consume the archaeologist, and have room for seconds and thirds and dessert.
Bassai remains stationary, watching the Potentate, and waiting. Dignity demands it.
Fenter grabs Tekki's arms and looks around for the closest doorway to make a fast break out of. ( Maybe they won't eat us… maybe we'll just get tossed in the moat instead. )
The Emperor-Potentate's head swivels back and forth, making a half-orbit around Bassai as he regards the archaeologist more closely, and then he rises again, pulling back and addressing the entire assembly as he speaks of and to Bassai. "I hereby appoint you, Archaeologist Bassai of Nijushiho Institute, Minister of Savanite Affairs. It will be your responsibility to ease the transition, and to ensure that the Nagai Empire does indeed benefit from such sweeping changes."
Fenter drops Tekki as he hears this. He wavers a bit on his own feet as well.
The Emperor-Potentate's eyes narrow. "Your accomplishments are great, and so has been your request. As part of your justification, you have spoken of its benefit to the Empire. You will show us these benefits." The Emperor-Potentate's place is such that he need not vocalize the "or else" dangling on the end of that statement.
"I accept." Bassai flicks out his tongue in relief, "and I will do so."
Fenter falls to his knees and begins shaking Tekki again. "Wake up! Wake up! The Emperor didn't eat your master!"
The Emperor-Potentate's lips pull back in his version of a smile, subtle as it is. "In addition to your title, I also hereby call you to the Order of the Emerald Coil, and shall instruct the Imperial Sculptors to fashion your likeness for the Causeway at once. You will remain in the Imperial City to serve as a model … and to be available for additional consultation."
"Prostate yourself before the throne, Sir Bassai, Archaeologist of Nijushiho Institute, Minister of Savanite Affairs, Conqueror of Fetiss Sky Island," the Emperor-Potentate declares.
Bassai stretches his coils out flat in front of the Emperor-Potentate, lying before him on the ground. He inhales and tenses in anticipation of the honour he will receive.
The Emperor-Potentate begins to slither off of the throne. Rather than having a carpet of prostrate bodies to distribute his considerable weight across, Bassai is the lone recipient. The weight and honor is tremendous. Bassai does not retain consciousness for long.
The Archaeologist remains focused on his triumphs and glory for as long as possible, then the darkness claims him.
The massive serpent continues to slither along, its coils weaving and swaying in its wake. At last, the "throne" breaks up into its component members, as the ruler of the Nagai Empire departs the chamber. A herald (a different one) announces his departure … and the Royal Physicians haul the Archaeologist away. Honor can be painful at times.
Fenter grabs Tekki's arms and drags the Savanite out after Bassai.