Base of the Clock Tower
In the Bazaar, one of the if not THE most distinguished landmarks would be the old clock tower, long non-functional, but in recent history restored so that it tells the proper Rephidim Standard Time with its hands, with faces toward the north, south, east and west. About the base, it's about like any other part of the Bazaar: A random collage of booths, tents, mostly empty lots, and stages for performers, hawkers and merchants. Occasional Temple Guard patrols keep the peace, but it's up to the buyer to beware his purse.
Envoy stands and looks up at the now-working clock tower, and wonders how they keep accurate time on an island that changes longitude so often.
An overly thin, plantigrade Skreek eyes the wares of a herb merchant. She twirls a leaf between her fingers and then hands it to a large Savanite behind her. "This should have a strong oily smell, does it?"
Shrugging to herself, the Aeolun sets out her hat and unlimbers her dulcimer. She needs to raise as much spending money as she can before her trip, since there's no telling what expenses she may run into.
At the base of the tower, a Titanian enthusiastically smashes bits of meat with a War Tenderizer, to the entertainment of waiting customers, holding mismatched plates in line. Some of the nearby merchants with sensitive ears cringe with almost every hammer-blow, but this is too choice a place to have a booth for them to pack up and move on just on account of the occasional noisy distraction.
A tall, broad-shouldered, bare-chested (except for fur) and blonde-maned Jupani strolls through the Bazaar, muzzle held high, smirking at the Titanian as he passes.
A white-robed Rokuga with pallid scales weaves uncertainly through the crowd, afforded a little space from either his odd appearance, or his acidic chemical stench. His path is erratic, and he ends up often going in circles, muttering to himself all the while.
A tall Savanite standing behind the Skreek leans forward to sniff at the leaf. He pauses, looking uncertain, then sniffs again, then wiggles his fingers at the rat.
Envoy uses her tiny hammers to pick out a tune on the dulcimer, one that tries to take advantage of the pounding of the Titanian's hammer.
The big blonde Jupani strolls to a stop in front of Envoy, his ears perking up. He turns to regard her, not minding the fact that he's blocking traffic and forcing a few Bazaar-goers to change their courses to go around him. He smiles, looking quite amused.
Chiri scratches at the back of her head. "Right-o then." She focuses back on the merchant, carefully picking and choosing various little bags of herbs and potions. "Oh! Spenseweed, that's hard to find these days… "
Envoy looks up and meets the Jupani's eyes. "Oh, hello Pha'Bioh. Are you still an actor?"
The Jupani grins, and puts his hands at his waist, flexing his muscles as he poses. "Yahs ahnd no, for the Great Pha'Bioh is ahs real ahs they come!"
"Does that mean you're out of work?" the Exile asks.
Pha'Bioh frowns. "I prefer to say … 'Ahvailable for immediahte employment!'" He pastes on a fake grin, and makes another pose.
Envoy smiles, "Oh, too bad you didn't audition for the opera I was in. I'm sure they could have used you. Do you do anything besides acting and… um… flexing?"
The rat haggles a bit with the merchant, and then reluctantly hands over a copper coin. She stuffs her bag in the Savanite's arms and then wanders around aimlessly for a bit. "You'd think that with the dragon scare over the bloody prices would go down… "
Qing stumbles (In a manner of speaking) toward the herb merchant, one of his hands splayed out in front of him. "Accursed sunlight… a pox on this Serpent-forsaken skyland… " His hand touches the booth, and he pauses, trying to gain his bearings.
Pha'Bioh flexes again, and says, "Breaking hahts, ahnd honing my bahdy to a fine edge of perfahction!" He frowns, and adds, "It hahs been much hahder since Lord Titus haut Mikide died."
The Savanite follows along, his arms too full to comment on the political or economic situation.
Envoy suggests, "You might try to work as a bodyguard for a noble. I think they like impressive looking servants."
Pha'Bioh ponders this. "A Bahdyguahd? Hmm. True. I would excell at ahny feats of strength and bravery. But I would need to prove myself to a noble fahrst." He looks around, and spies Qing. "Hmm. Thaht looks like a Nagah noble. Maybe he needs gauhding."
Chiri's foot comes in contact with something large and white on the ground, namely… Qing's tail. She trips on the tail and tumbles down, uttering a string of very 'colorful' phrases in several languages as she does so.
Pha'Bioh ahas! "He is being AHTTACKED! I shahll defend him!" And with that, the big blonde wolf strides quickly over to Qing. "Away, you filthy raht! Unhahnd that Nagah noble!"
Envoy blinks at the tripping incident, and picks up her hat and dulcimer before heading over towards it.
Chiri's large Savanite, caught off guard by the incident, crouches down in an ineffectual attempt to help his master and hold onto his cargo at the same time.
Qing's commentary takes the form a one long hiss, and all six of his arms erupt from beneath his mantle, thrashing around blindly. He turns in place, trying to get a fix on the blurry shapes around him. "Kssssh! Who dares to assault an Imperial Witchdoctor?"
Chiri rolls over, growling. She spits out a mouthful of dust. "Who are you calling a filthy rat you… you… poofed up pretty boy!" She flails one arm out and manages to catch hold of the Savanite's shoulder. "It's not my bloody fault a Naga can't keep an eye out for when his backside is on other people's ways."
The Aeolun glances between Qing and Chiri. Would healers and necro-mages be natural enemies? Perhaps this isn't the time to ask.
Pha'Bioh pauses and flexes, striking a heroic pose. "Ha! You cahnnot fool me! You ahe a Skreek thief! Retahrn the Nagah noble's belongings you hahve filched!"
"Actually, Chiri is a doctor also, Pha'Bioh," Envoy comments.
Pha'Bioh seems caught off guard by this. He has no comeback. He merely changes poses.
"Thief!? THIEF?!?!" The rat hauls herself up to her feet. "You wouldn't know a thief if one snuck up and stole that ugly blonde mop off your head. Unless this fellow has some way of storing belongings in his TAIL, I don't see how you could even think to accuse me of robbing him."
Envoy holds out her formerly-broken hand to Qing, "See, she fixed this hand after some rude people stomped on it until the bones broke."
The Rokuga lowers his hat a little more, trying to shade his eyes enough to at least see whatever's being presented to him. "Your voicsse… it sounds familiar."
Pha'Bioh pauses, deep in thought. He's trying really hard to think of a way to accuse her, probably.
Envoy smiles and nods to the witchdoctor. "It's me, Envoy. The Exile that was there when you summoned up Isstan's ghost, and all those demon things made a mess, remember?"
Pha'Bioh doesn't apparently hear Envoy's reply, and answers as he were addressed by the Rokuga. "It is I, the Great Pha'Bioh, known ahnd loved ahll over Sinai!" He flexes and poses. "He of mahny muscles and the epitomy of mahnliness! Ahnd availahble for immediahte employment ahs a bahdygauhd!"
Chiri focuses on brushing her clothing off. "Always happens. A rat can't even show her face in the bazaar without being accused of filching something. And people wonder why so few of us even bother with getting real jobs… " She pauses in her grooming, perking an ear at the mention of summoning demons.
"Does that summoning trick only work with dead people?" Envoy asks, "Or can you summon up the ghosts of living folks as well?"
"Envoy! Ksshta… " The Witchdoctor coils his lower half beneath himself to get his tail out of the way, and gives his mantle a quick pat-down. Finding nothing missing, he relaxes somewhat. "I believe this was all in error, then. Pha'Bioh, your understandable wish to defend important Nagai is commendable, but misplaced in this instance." He regards the largest shape, assuming that this must be the guard he heard.
The large Savanite busies himself with picking up a few dropped items.
Pha'Bioh frowns, and thumps on his own chest. "Naht the Sahvanite. I ahm ovah HEAH," the Jupani says.
Qing's head turns a little in the general direction of the Jupani's voice. "Eh? My mistake then… my vision is blighted by the unforgiving sun today… it would seem I erroneously assumed the shape with the best build was the guardsman I heard."
"Hey Phabby… you shoud really try and stay indoors more, the humidity is making your fur all limp and lifeless." the Skreek comments, not bothering to help her slave pick up the dropped supplies.
The Jupani pauses in mid-pose and frowns severely back at the Skreek. "Limp ahnd lifeless? I ahssure you, I only use the FAHNEST of fah treatments!"
"Spirit is inherent in all living things, Exile," hisses the Rokuga. Since he can't seem to find his way, he decides he might as well speak with the strange Rephidimite. "Taking the spirit from a living thing would be disconcerting for it, however."
"Ahnd fahthahmoah," the blonde Jupani's accent gets worse, "I have the best build heah!" He flexes a pose to prove his point. "Thah is no compahrison!"
Envoy asks, "What about undead creatures, like… oh… for instance… hypothetically… a lich?"
"Ah ahm much better thahn any undead creatuhre!" Pha'Bioh boasts. He flexes.
The Skreek taps her foot. "But if you were undead… you'd never have to worry about growing old and weak. I hear that undead things are pretty strong."
"Why do you ask?" murmurs the Witchdoctor suspiciously. His upper set of hands rubs his temples, a headache starting to develop. "Have you met one? Liches are mere theory, I do not know of any spirit mage both powerful enough and stupid enough to try to become one."
Pha'Bioh switches poses. "But they do naht hahve fine, silky haiah like mine!"
Envoy watches the Jupani flex and pose, and wonders if it might be the result of some sort of nerve disorder. Maybe Chiri could cure it…
"Oh, I just thought that the being that summoned up those demons might be a lich," Envoy says, turning back towards Qing. "But then, Dean Malthus already said it was a curse."
"They probably just can't afford good conditioner like you can." Chiri replies, and then eyes the Rokuga. "I've got some herbs that might ease your head I get those all the time… in certain company."
Qing waves a hand distractedly at the Savanite. "This conversation is madness. Not only is it completely pointless, but it's quite apparent that whatever this is… " He indicates the slave. "… is far larger." He nods in the direction of the Skreek's voice. "You are a healer then? Yes, I would appreciate that… I did not anticipate this kind of complication."
"Ah," responds Pha'Bioh, certain he's still the center of attention, "but if youah haiah is DEAD, no conditionah will help it! I peahsonally recommend Pieahhre's Silky Touch(rtm) Fuah Conditionah! It goes to the poahes, building HEALTHY, vibrahnt haiah… " He goes on into a pitch that he must have rehearsed for an advertisement.
Envoy steps up alongside Qing. "Is there a way to actually capture a spirit? Put it into a bottle or something?"
Pha'Bioh answers, "Yes, Pieahhre's Silky Touch DOES come in bottles or a convenient squeezable tube!"
"Squeezable tube?" Envoy asks the Jupani, blinking.
The large Savanite, meanwhile, having picked up the fallen objects of Chiri's possession, keeps his head bowed in proper slavelike fashion.
Qing turns around a few times, trying to figure out which direction Envoy speaks to him from now. His typically deadpan expression holds a slight amount of irritation now. "As a matter of fact, Exile… yes, you can. You seem a curious sort… perhaps you would like a demonstration after I repay the healer."
Pha'Bioh nods. "Baht you must be cahreful if you have MAHSSIVE mahnly muscles like mine, or you could CRUSH it all out at once! I recommend the bottle."
Chiri squeaks, "Your hair is already dead… the part that shows anyhow. Didn't you know that? Maybe you should go dump some formaldehyde on your noggin before it's too late." She digs through her belt and produces a small package. "This should best be taken in hot water as a tea mister… er… Naga. I'm sorry, I didn't catch your name."
"Really?" Envoy's face lights up. "That would be neat! How many spirits can fit into one body?"
Pha'Bioh says, "Thahre are mahny secret ingrediahnts in Pieahhe's Silky Touch, foah that full-bodied look! But I cahnnot say how mahny."
"Witchdoctor Zhu Ye Qing, of the Higher Institute of Sorcery and the Supernatural," sniffs the reptile. "You are one of the few Rephidimites to regard me properly, so I would repay you. Do you require the services of a spirit mage? Demons banished, exorcisms, spirits raised, wards placed, or channeling?"
Pha'Bioh responds, "You need only repay me by allowing me to sahrve as youah personal bahdyguahd. And a mahdest sahlahry."
"There's only one demon I'd like to banish, and I don't think you could help me with him." the Skreek says, eyeing the Jupani. "I'm Chiria, Chiria Naochi… most folks just call me Chiri." She rubs her chin, thinking about something.
The large Jupani flexes his arm muscles, adopting the "I'm such a hulk that I can rip my shirt off if only I had one" pose, making seething "whoof whoof" noises.
Chiri suddenly jumps up and down, pointing at something behind the Jupani, "Look! Look! It's Roan Creenwing! Famous agent to the stars! I hear he's looking for talent right now too! Especially big glamorous wolves! Gee… it's a shame there's no big strong glamorous wolves around for him to hire."
"Do I have a spirit?" the Exile asks. "What are they made out of? Why do people drink them?"
"WHEAHRE?" says the Jupani, breaking out of his pose to look around. He sees someone who looks (to him) like the likely target, and he charges off. "Wait! Wait for me! I ahm a big glahmahrous Jupahni!" The hapless Bazaar-goer, seeing a charging Jupani … flees with all due haste, which only prolongs the chase.
"It is not unpleasant to meet you, Chiria Naochi," begins the reptile, halting as she launches into her ruse. He regards the Exile. "You will know in due time."
Chiri's Savanite breathes more easily with the departure of the flexing Jupani.
Envoy looks up at the clock face. Dew usually forms in the early morning.
"Whew. There, that takes care of one distraction." the rat focuses on Qing again. "The feeling is mutual. Now… perhaps we could locate a cafe or somesuch where we could brew that tea… and conveniently not be around when the Jupani comes back?"
The Witchdoctor nods, thought not in quite the right direction. "If you and the Exile could lead me to someplace less… bright, I would be indebted."
Envoy takes one of Qing's upper arms. "There is the Three Thieves. It's dark and they serve Yiffles."
Chiri removes some of the packages from the Savanite's arms. "X, give the Witchdoctor a hand, would you?" That suddenly soaks in, "Um… witchdoctor?"
Envoy points to Qing, "This one."
The large Savanite's eyebrows rise. His ears are hidden under his cowl.
"I imagine the establishment would frown on the practice of magic in their common room," hisses Qing. He nods in Chiri's general direction, and taps the symbol on the chest of his mantle.
With his newly freed arm, the large cheetah slowly moves to assist Qing with all delicacy.
Envoy says, "Maybe Chiri's tent then?"
"Adequate," replies the Rokuga, taking whichever arms are proffered to him. The ones he still has free fold themselves beneath his robe.
Chiri eyes X strangely before focusing back on Qing. "My tent would be fine. I can brew the tea there."
On the edge of Darkside, but still on the fringes of the Bazaar, the group reaches the healer's tent. It's fairly unimpressive and looks as though it's seen a couple of fires and a few other forms of vandalism. Inside though is a much different story, the pressed dirt floor is completely clean of litter, the tables and bed inside are spotless, and the shelves lining the inside are neat and orderly. The air has a sharp aroma of antiseptic… stronger than one would expect, but not overpowering.
A little cheetah cub pads around the interior of the tent, dusting that which looks to already be dust-free, and doing other little 'busy work' chores. He stops and waves, smiling, at the Skreek, the Savanite and her 'guests'.
Qing's own harsh odor mingles strangely with the sterile scent of a medical practitioner's place of business, but he pays it no mind. With relief from the glaring sun finally, the Witchdoctor raises his hat, finally able to look around comfortably. He appears slightly disoriented.
Envoy waves to the cub as she helps guide Qing into the tent, and asks Chiri, "Do you ever have leftover parts after operating on someone?"
Chiri wanders in and dims some of the lanterns. "I've never meet anyone from the Empire with a sensitivity to sunlight before, although I've seen the affliction in certain Eeee from time to time. And no, Envoy… I don't. I burn them." She focuses on the little cub, "Reedy, go help your pop make a kettle of water for me."
"My work typically finds me in the crypts," whispers the ivory serpent, adjusting his spectacles. "A lack of eyelids and pigmentation seldom bothers me there."
Little Reed bows to Chiri and pad-dashes off to assist his large father with the chore.
Envoy sits on the edge of a table, and asks, "Do you sleep, Mage Qing?"
"Ew. So you work with dead guys. Well, at least they don't complain much." the rat chuckles starts mixing a few herbs together in a small bowl. "Arre you herre frrom the Empirre?" she hisses to Qing in Imperial.
The Exile perks an ear, trying to pick up more of the Nagai language. She decides not to mention that Isstan seemed to complain about being summoned…
Qing's left eye-ridge rises above the rim of his smoked glasses. "Of course I sleep." The Rokuga bobs his head at Chiri, replying in the same (forked) tongue. "Indeed, my assignments have brought me to this… odd floating land. I am most impressed, healer… the large majority of those supposedly learned people here can not speak Imperial."
"I used to trravel a lot." Chiri hisses, showing a bit of a Rephidim accent in her speech. She pulls out a small marble pestle and begins crushing the leaves. "So what's the news in the Empire right now? I've gotten word that there's slave riots in the street."
"Riots?" Envoy chirps, looking interested. But then, she pretty much always looks that way.
"The situation is … unstable," murmurs Qing guardedly. "The Emperor-Potentate's wisdom and vision are not universally appreciated by the Savanites he honored with acknowledgment. They are not satisfied to be on a level with Jingai, it would seem. Upstarts."
Envoy bites her lower lip, but doesn't say anything. She promised.
Chiri squeaks, "A shame. Oh well, if they get too out of hand I'm sure your Emperor will squish them under his coils. So what is your business here in Rephidim? Some poodle wants to ask his mom where she stashed the inheritance or somesuch?" She looks to the back room, "X! Where's that water?"
The Rokuga's eye-ridges flatten out. "My business is to leave Rephidim. I had come investigating a supernatural matter, and now the ports are blockaded to my kind, for some unfathomable reason."
Envoy asks, "What sort of supernatural matter? Was it radioactive?"
There's a sound of sloshing water, and the large Savanite comes back, bearing the kettle with an apologetic look about him.
"I know not of this 'ray-dey-o-actib' that you speak of," whispers Qing. He looks over the rim of his glasses at Envoy.
Envoy smiles, "It's a kind of matter that has unstable nuclei which emit particles as they decay into a more stable element."
Chiri snatches up the kettle and pours the steaming liquid into a cup. Carefully, she measures several pinches of the crushed leaves in and then stirs it around. "I don't think there is such thing as a stable element."
"Mm." Qing pushes his spectacles back up the bridge of his nose. "My sphere of influence is in Spirit, not fire, water, earth, or air. Now that we are in a more quiet place, perhaps we can conduct that demonstration for you."
Envoy's smile gets even wider! "That would be wonderful!"
The Skreek hands the cup to Qing. "Um… what kind of demonstration?"
"Oh, something simple, to hopefully sate that curious nature," replies the Witchdoctor. "And perhaps taper off this barrage of questions."
Chiri folds her arms. "I'm not going to have some ghost hovering around in my shop and scaring away all my customers, am I?"
Envoy blinks, and attempts to look chastened.
"Nothing so blatant, I can assure you, healer," murmurs the reptile, taking some white zolk thread from a pocket of his mantle. He carefully begins arranging it in a circle on the floor.
The large Savanite takes a few steps back, placing a petty amount of more distance between himself and the thread, as if it might burn if he touched it.
Envoy glances up at X, and signs to him, "It's only magic."
X doesn't look the least bit encouraged by this hand-sign.
The Rokuga takes two, dribbly-beeswax candles from his mantle next, lighting both of them from one of the tent's lanterns. He places one of them on a table, in a smaller zolk circle. "Now, step into the circle on the floor, Exile, and hold this other candle."
Envoy does as instructed, and holds the drippy candle in both hands.
Chiri frowns a little, and hisses something to the Witchdoctor in Imperial.
"It's completely harmless, Healer Naochi,." whispers Qing, in his best attempt at a reassuring voice. It comes off a little less clammy then he usually is. With that, he begins droning in an odd form of Imperial. "Alnarith ss'az ch'l ksshalni Nagai tsu trallssik… "
Envoy blinks, but otherwise doesn't move.
Time passes… more time passes… nothing seems to happen in fifteen minutes, but between breaths, the mage emphasizes that this is completely normal. "The essence of magic seems annoyingly scarce on Rephidim… "
Chiri calmly sips at a mug of rancid smelling tea as she watches the witchdoctor do his work. Her eyes betray suspicion, but also gleam with curiosity… all a rat normally gets to see in the way of magic is the occasional street mage in the Bazaar.
Envoy's fingers slowly grow a coating of candle-wax.
After a strange series of undulations, and repetitions of what he'd chanted about four times before, the mage stops, and exhales one long breath. Drawing his coils around himself, he slithers to where Envoy is, and with a short puff, blows out her candle. The warm yellow flame of the candle on the table suddenly turns blue.
Envoy just stares out at nothing with unfocused eyes.
X frowns, and leads Little Reed back to the back room, looking to Chiri for permission.
Chiri rolls her eyes and makes a 'go on' gesture with her free hand.
The large cheetah retreats with the little cheetah to the back room.
Oh wow, thinks the little blue flame.
The Witchdoctor waves one of his hands in front of Envoy's face, then looks satisfied. "Good. That seems to have worked."
"What… did you hypnotize her or something?" Chiri squeaks.
"The Exile's spirit now resides on that candle, there," replies Qing, pointing at the blue flame on the table. "I'm hoping it's a suitably odd experience to entertain her for the time being, while I conduct a few tests."
It's almost like being with Lothrhyn again, thinks the candle, wistfully.
The Skreek's eyes widen. "What would happen if the candle was suddenly blown out? It sounds a bit dangerous."
The Witchdoctor shakes a small rattle at his comatose subject, mumbling to himself. His middle set of arms begins adding notes to a scrap of parchment already partially scribbled on. "Oh, it should be very difficult to blow that candle out. Once it's extinguished, the Exile's spirit will return to its proper vessel."
Vessel? ponders the candle. I suppose that would be my ansible. My body doesn't look like it's trying to reload me, so it must still think I'm there.
"In the meantime, was there something I could do for you, Healer Naochi? In return for the remedy you prepared?" He picks up the candle with the blue flame to regard it, murmuring to it, "I suppose that answers your question, as to whether you have a spirit."
Is it made of wax though? the candle think-asks.
"I'm jes' happy to oblige. Although if the great Witchdoctor could recommend this humble healer's tent to his friends in the Empire, I would be most grateful." the rat grins and drains the last of her tea.
The Witchdoctor doesn't seem to hear the candle, holding it his lower left hand, cocked so it'll keep out of the way. He continues to examine Envoy, occasionally muttering something else in that strange language, and making odd gestures at either the candle, or the aeolun, and occasionally sipping at some headache tea held in his lower right. "Very well, then. I shall recommend your establishment to those I know will travel here. Those that don't pass through my… department, of course."
Why does Qing call it a department? the candle wonders. Is it because everyone has departed before they've arrived there?
Chiri eyes the candle a bit more. "I wonder if she feels claustrophobic in there?"
This would be much nicer if I could still use my body at the same time, the candle decides. I wonder if spies use this trick? It probably won't work with any old candle though.
"How strange," Qing hisses to himself, furrowing his brow. He finishes whatever he's been doing, and rolls up the parchment, slipping it into a deep pocket. "Well, why don't we ask the Exile?" One of the arms on his left side crooks to pinch the wick of the candle. It goes out with a sizzle.
Envoy blinks and refocuses her eyes.
"So Missus Zelak scout… how did it feel to be a candle?" the Skreek asks, grinning.
Envoy finally says, "Thank you, Mage Qing. That was very… nostalgic. It wasn't as warm as I thought it would be… but melting was interesting. It's been a long while since I've done that, either."
The Rokuga stoops to pick up his zolk circle, looping it neatly before putting it away. "You may keep the candle if you do not ask me any questions, Exile."
Envoy looks down at the candle in her hands. "Which candle?"
"The one you are holding. And I won't count that question." The Witchdoctor takes his second, smaller circle off the table. He inclines his head toward Chiri. "Thank you for an afternoon's diversion. Hopefully, the sun isn't so high by now."
Envoy ponders her choice. "Would you answer my questions anyway?"
Chiri squeaks, "Quite welcome. Feel free to stop by anytime you happen to get a headache or swallow a yiffle the wrong way or something like that."
Qing eyes Envoy. "I would not. Good day, skylanders." With that, he lowers his hat back over his eyes, and begins slithering toward the tent-flap.
The Skreek waves to the Rokuga, "Nice meeting you. Stop by anytime."
Envoy hmms, then sticks the gooey candle onto the tip of her horn. "Thank you for letting us use your tent, Chiri."