1 Harvest, 6106 RTR (Nov 23, 2007) Tasha meets with the High Priestess of Abaddon and reports on her quest.
(Amazonia) (Legacy of the Fenris) (Tasha)
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    Garden of Abaddon
    Behind the austere temple is a well-kept garden, featuring statues of legendary heroes, heralds and virtues. It also has a large pond with a small central island. A narrow footbridge leads to the gazebo situated on it.

While the Karnors undergo yet another session with the priestesses of Arcadia, Tasha has answered a request from the High Priestess of Abaddon and joined her once more in the garden. High Priestess Nitsa has tea prepared, and as usual looks far too serene to be carrying around a ceremonial battle-axe. "Welcome back, Aldara. I am eager to hear of your quest in Abaddon's name," she says politely.

"I 'ope you 'ave a lot of tea," Tasha says as she takes a seat before the High Priestess, folding her hands in her lap. "Because this is goin' to be long an' complicated."

"Important things usually are," the doe says, folding her hands in her lap after serving the tea. "I am, as the saying goes, 'all ears'," she remarks, her large Lapi ears turned towards the Vartan.

"Tha' they do say," Tasha agrees. She frowns now, looking down at her hands as she thinks back across the adventure of the last week. So much has happened, and she needs a moment to gather he thoughts. "On our journey to Harriot Hall, we came upon a cave full o' wounded an' dyin' people. We did wha' we coul', I gave blessin's, then we moved on … "

"Warriors?" Nitsa asks before sipping from her tea.

"Aye." Tasha looks up, ears lowering slightly. "It was a place they came to die, an' die they did. We did wha' we could. Then we moved on."

"Please continue," the priestess notes with a slight nod of her head.

Tasha nods, looking down again. She seems somewhat relived to move on, not wanting to dwell on that place of death any more than she need to. "After tha', we ascended the mountain an' met the leader of Harriot Hall. We were tol' tha' a demon came in the nigh', tha' it used a whip o' lightnin', an' disabled Warrior with bu' a soun'. We waited to meet the demon, an' we foun' tha' they were partly righ'. It did wield lighin', an' it could disable a Warrior with soun' alone. O' the people gathered, only I coul' stan' when its sound echoed. I am, as they don' say, no' all ears." She gestures at her inferior canine ears.

"You were able to defeat the demon then because of that?" Nitsa asks, with wide eyes. "And what sort of demon was it?"

"We defeated i', no' jus' I. I saw the the part o' it tha' made the soun', an' I smashed it. The Warriors then 'ad at it once it began to move again – one tore its 'ead off." Tasha's head tilts, and she looks up again, smiling slightly as if she knew a secret. "Oi, tha's the part they didn' 'ave correct. It wasn' a demon. It was a machine."

"It behaved as a demon though?" Nitsa asks for clarification. "Please describe the machine for me, so I can have it noted in the records."

"It be'aved at the behest of another machine, bu' I'm gettin' ahead of meself." Tasha takes her hand and begins walking her fingers along the ground, nodding at the walking hand. "It moved like a person, an' it looked like me, bu' made o' metal an' wieldin' weapons – or maybe tools – greater than I 'ad ever seen. It coul' even 'ave flown, once. It was a machine, a suit o' armor tha' powers itself, the armor 'o the crew of a great ship tha' slept in the mountain. Tha' ship is The Fenris, an' we foun' it by followin' the trail o' the defeated machine. The Fenris is the source o' skymetal. The Fenris is a ship tha' sailed the Sea o' Stars." She takes her hand, and very deliberately, points straight up at the heavens above. "A ship from heaven," she repeats, to drive the point home.

"Do you feel that that is the real reason Abaddon sent you there, rather than to defeat the demon?" Nitsa asks next, without showing any obvious surprise at the revelation about the Fenris.

Tasha frowns at the woman's reaction, tilting her head in suspicion. "Part o' it," she admits. Then, she asks, "You knew The Fenris was there, didn' you?"

"The place is called Fenris Gash," Nitsa reminds Tasha. "The name had to have come from somewhere."

"True," Tasha agrees. "Nevermind then." The High Priestess has shown knowledge beyond the others Tasha has met here in Amazonia, and so the Vartan wouldn't put it past the Lapi to know more than she lets on. Still, Tasha isn't willing to press the matter, and she doubts and malevolent intent on the High Priestess's part. "Within' the ancient vessel – old before Amazonia was new – were many wonders. Ancient vehicles, tools, rooms tha' coul' clean a person withou' water. It was all clean, as if it 'ad been polished the day before. It was still an' clean. I'll never forget i'." Taking a deep breath, Tasha goes on. "It was deep in the ship tha' we found their place o' medicine, an' a machine then ambushed us. It came for me, because I … I wore the … pendant o' … o' the woman tha' wore the demon armor." Another deep breath, this time with Tasha closing her eyes, and then she admits, "'Er name was Nora Argentine. We look almos' alike, as it turned out."

Nitsa tilts her head to one side, and looks lost in thought for a moment. "Curious," she notes, then nods for Tasha to continue.

"The machine was too much for us," Tasha admits, continuing. "It 'ad another sound device, an' though I smashed it too, it poisoned me an' I fell. The others fell wit' me, an' we were captured. Bu', it meant not to capture us. It was no' a weapon o' war. It was a machine tha' was also a doctor, an' it saw in us a way to 'eal the crew o' the ancient vessel. Yes," Tasha meets the High Priestess's eyes, nodding slightly, "they yet remained, aye. No' all o' them, bu' some, asleep in their ancient liquid beds. Tha's where the machine placed me, to sleep beside them, thinkin' me Nora. There I dreamed – or maybe I was in a machine-world? – an' I met Nora in tha' place. We are … a lot alike. She recognized she 'ad died, once I tol' 'er wha' 'appened, an' she told me 'ow to stop the mind o' the ship an' 'ow to awaken everyone. It was very sad. I 'ad to kill 'er memory, an' in doin' so become her in the eyes o' the ship."

"You were drawn into a realm of spirits then," Nitsa says, not so much as explanation but as 'that's how it will be recorded'. "Was it difficult for you to do that? Kill her spirit?"

"Aye. I liked 'er, an' think we would 'ave been friends if we 'ad been alive together. Wha's more, I saw 'er in me, an' me in 'er. In seein' 'er sad end, I saw mine. In seein' 'er dyin' ship, I saw my life, or where it coul' end. It was like killin' a friend an' meself at the same time. An', 'er life is somethin' I desired. She did wha' I could' only dream o'. I was buryin' a … A dream." Tasha reaches up and rubs at her eyes, shaking her head. "We all awoke in time. The lost Lapi, who 'ad been taken by the first machine, were there. They were weak, bu' alive, an' will recover. Bu' they were no' the only ones to awaken … "

"You were reborn along with them, you mean?" Nitsa asks, sipping at her tea.

"I may 'ave been reborn," Tasha admits, looking pained. Her ears lay back, and she rubs at her arm uncomfortably. "Bu' the others never died. Three ancients awoke. Six-thounsan' years the slept, an' … I woke them up."

Nitsa looks at Tasha, and steeples her fingers. "Tell me, Aldara: after your awakening, were you still the Herald of Abaddon?" she asks quietly. "You came to us as a self-thought goddess. You left us as a Herald. Do you return now as a woman?"

"I am wha' I am," Tasha answers, looking the priestess in the eyes again. "I am the person I was, in part. I was the Herald o' Abadon, an' I did wha' was asked o' me. My mission succeeded, wha' ever else 'appened there. When I awoke, I wun'ered. I wun'ered if Nora an' the Herald were me, or if I was jus' a pretended, a look-alike. The answer is: I don' rightly know. Maybe they're all me, or maybe its all just chance. I'm Tasha, an' all tha' Tasha is, or was, or might be." She grins a little, but it's alittle sad. "Seems like everyone wan's someone more than me. Heralds, goddesses, Nora … Am I no' enough? Do I 'ave to be these things? Can' I be them an' be Tasha? Or is bein' a woman not enough for anyone?"

"So long as you know who you are inside, it doesn't really matter what others want you to be, Aldara," Nitsa notes. "What happened after you all awakened?"

"I don' know who I am jus' yet," Tasha admits. "Bu' I at leas' know who I wan' to be, an' wha' I wan' to do." She then smiles, forgetting, for a moment, she shouldn't do that around Lapi. "Wha' we did was res' an' recover – an' wait. We waited for the ancients to awaken. We waited to see if they lived. An', by all miracles, they did. They live yet. I swore then tha' I woul' keep them safe, an' carry out the mission Nora 'ad entrus'ed to me." Tasha glances over at the ancient carrying case beside her, the memories of the crew, an object that never leaves her side. "When the ancients were ready to leave, an' all tha' needed doin' in the ship was done, we put an' end to its mind. Its evil mind. For you see, the ship killed Nora, tha' it might keep its … secrets forever. It 'ad gone mad, an' it was the true monster. It even used the Themis-Skoll to try an' kill us – wha' a shame, bu' at least the Themis-Skoll is free."

"So, there was a demon then," Nitsa says. "What is the Themis-Skoll?"

"Aye, an' tha' demon was MOTHER, a machine-mind, a great thing o' crystal tha' spoke in the language o' hands. I think part o' the world corrupted it, an' it saw secrets in those more ancient than even the ship, secrets it wan'ed for itself alone," Tasha explains. Lookin up, Tasha searches until she finds what she's looking for: a structure high as the Themis-Skoll, for reference. "There," she says, pointing at it. "The Themis-Skoll was also a machine, bu' greater still. It looked as I do, a thing o' metal an' wings. It was beautiful, a war machine tha' was as much art as a weapon. I think in its time, it coul' 'ave defeated all the Warriors o' the land. It coul' fly, it coul' rip an' airship from 'eaven. It was their champion, an' it broke free when MOTHER died. I spen' some time wit' it when it rested, an' I always felt I 'ad to prove meself to it." Tasha looks down agaim, and adds, "I would 'ave made o' it a shrine, if it 'ad remained. Lookin' at it made me wan' to learn artifice, to craft an' build. Lookin' at it would make anyone feel Abaddon."

"A shame you could not bring it back to stand in font of the Temple," Nitsa says. "Did you suffer any casualties or losses?"

"Casualties bu' no losses. Our group 'ad cuts an' bruises, no' much more. The taken Lapi suffered worse, the beds, they drained their life away to keep the ancients alive. We rescued them in time, so they'll 'eal," Tasha answers. She then nods, admitting, "It is a shame, bu' in my time in tha' ancient machine, I saw the war it was made to figh', an' I wun'er … wha' would come o' the worl' if tha' power walked Sinai? Might be bes' it ascended again, bu' wha'ever might be, I'll remember it. I'll remember it all."

"It is vital that gods refrain from combat," Nitsa says. "War is a struggle for mortals to endure, otherwise it would loose its horror. I know that you brought the ancients back with you, since the Temple of Arcadia has sent their best healers to Kerebos Keep. What will become of them next?"

Tasha takes a sip of tea, the places the cup in her lap as she watches the waters stir a moment. Finally she looks up, answering, "Nora tol' me 'ow the other ancients migh' live again, an' o' their own mission. She entrus'ed me with both of these, tha' I might take them where she asked. This I'm goin' to do. I will leave this worl' for Abaddon, an' from there, I will seek the way to Sheol. The ancients will come with me, tha' they might find their 'ome, an' because I promised I woul' take care o' them. Nora would wa' tha', I think. They're a bi' los' withou' 'er."

"Of course," Nitsa says, setting down her own teacup. "What sort of help do you require from the Temple?" she asks.

"You still wan' to 'elp me, even though I migh' no be a Herald anymore,?" Tasha asks, eyes widening. "All I coul' ask is tha' we be allowed to leave, an' wit'out anyone fightin' over the ancients, or even meself. The containers we 'ave also mus' go wit' us, 'cause they're dangerous, part 'o wha' made MOTHER like it was. They're artifacts, an' they'll go 'ome with all the res'."

"We have never sent an emissary to the world of Abaddon before," Nitsa notes. "To bring home Ancients and Artifacts, in the name of Abaddon, would go a long way towards the establishment of a temple there."

"Then I'll do tha' for you, too. If the people o' Abaddon – this Expedition, the place where The Fenris sailed from – are anythin' like The Fenris itself, then it'll be the perfect place for our faith. An' I think I foun' a new way I love Abaddon, ha' I wan' to explore there," Tasha agrees. Nodding, she then requests. "Alrigh', wha' we'll need is trade goods. It's goin' to take wealth to reach there an' build, an' I don' rightly know wha' they migh' wan', bu' I do know passage there will cos' us. Once I know wha' they wan' an' 'ow to get it, I'll send word back."

"Hmm, trade goods are not exactly something we deal with," Nitsa admits. "We may be able to get you some military aid, though. I will look into it."

"I'm no' sure wha' a military will do. I'm almos' worried abou' showin' any military intention, 'avin' seen their military migh'. Bu' I do know tha' trade 'as been goin' on wit' Abaddon – the planet – for years, an' they 'avn't tried anythin', so maybe. It's 'ard to say wha's beyond tha' gateway; I only know rumors. The world's filled with iron, its red, an' its people are similiar to ours bu' differen'. From Nora, I know there's many groups, so we'll be dealin' wit' a few governments. I'm no ambassador, bu' I'll do my bes'." Tasha's head tilts as she thinks – how could the Temple help? She knows they would want to, and their help would honor them, so she wants to gve them a means. "I don' suppose you 'ave an airship aroun' 'ere? Somethin' taken from the outside worl'?"

"No, we've never had one," Nitsa explains. "But there are many outside who captain such craft that pay homage to Abaddon, if not exactly openly."

"Tha's a shame, I coul' 'ave tried to get it goin' again, bu' tha'd be a long shot, it would," admits Tasha. She taps her chin, then says, "I 'ave a Cap'n I know, too. 'E ought an' take me where I need to be. I jus' wish I coul' think o' a way we coul' 'elp each other. I've journeyed enough wit' your people to know it'd be an honor to 'elp, an' I don' mean to rob anyone o' tha', 'specially no' my Temple."

"Our prayers will be with you, of course," Nitsa says.

"'Ow odd. I came 'ere lookin' for riches an' fame, a good time an' gold to my name. Now I'm leavin' 'avin' turned away fortunes, jus' so I can go to a dangerous place, watchin' over ol' men. This mus' be wha' bards call knowledge tha's more valuable than gol', or tha' changes your life, so you're no' the person you were. You see High Priestess, I know where we came from now. I know secrets someone like me never ought to 'ave known. The worl's diffren' now, an' I'm no' sure where I fit in or who I am – jus' wha' I wan' to do, an' wha' I wan' to be." The Vartan then smiles, leaning over and patting Nitsa's hand with her own. "Did I make for a good Lapi? Was I a good Herald?"

"You fulfilled your duty as a Herald," Nitsa says. "As for being a good Lapi… I don't know. Did you cuddle anyone?"

"I did," Tasha says, wagging a little. "I even considered becomin' a slave, so I coul' be a part o' your worl' in truth. Bu', I don' think this is where I s'posed to be. 'Sides, Gabriel needs me." He smile falters a little, and she admits, "Gabriel is one o' the ancients. I felt somethin' for 'im ever since 'e awoke. 'E loved Nora, though. 'E's called me Nora … before. An', 'e's an' older man, somethin' I never though' I'd be in'erested in. I worry I 'andled 'im wrong."

"Men are simple creatures," Nitsa notes. "Sometimes they become confused. But it not difficult to overcome with a little patience."

"My worse' virtue," Tasha says with a hint of a laugh. "I'll give 'im some space an' let 'im sort it out in 'is 'ead. In the mean time, I like takin' care 'o 'im. I never knew it before, bu' it's nice 'avin' people who look to me for help."

"You'd make a good mother then," Nitsa says. "Or a teacher."

"Maybe I'll be both, at tha'," Tasha agrees, smiling at the thought. "You know, Gabriel tol' me the same thing?"

"Do you love him?" Nitsa asks next, with a smile.

"I don' know," Tasha admits, head tilting and ears laying back. "I feel somethin', an' I felt it ever since 'e awoke. S'more than lust. I do things for 'im to take care 'o 'im, to make 'im 'appy. 'E's even as close to me species as can be short o' a Vartan. Bu', he loves Nora, an' if I'm Nora reborn or no', I'm Tasha. I'll care for 'im wha'ever 'e thinks, bu' to 'im, I may jus' be Nora. A replacemen' Nora."

"But you said yourself that you feel Nora is a part of you now," the Priestess notes. "Perhaps that piece of her spirit is the cause of your feelings?"

"Tha' coul' be. Bu' I feel tha' even if tha's true, Nora'd wan' to be loved as who she is now, no' as the face o' a ghost long gone. I guess I wan' 'im to care abou' me an' accept me as Tasha, be me Nora, Herald, or wha' not. I wan' 'im to see tha', too, so 'e'll move on. As long as 'e clings to the pas', there'll be a rift between us. I can' be Nora until 'e stops thinkin' I'm 'er, if tha' makes any sense," explains Tasha.

Nitsa tilts her head from side to side. "I can't say that I've ever encountered quite the issue you are dealing with. Perhaps Tyche Circerae could give you better advice on how to handle things," the High Priestess admits.

"Oi, well, she is an expert on controllin' men," Tasha admits, albiet grudgingly. "Las' time we talked, I fel' a bit nervous aroun' 'er. Like I could feel the difference in our confidence. I was fake, an' she 'ad real strength. Rubbed me wrong, it did. Now, maybe … " The Vartan nods. "Now I can face 'er."

"I wouldn't let her near your Ancients though," Nitsa says in a confidential tone, leaning forward to pat Tasha on the knee.

"She'll 'ave me to answer to, if she does. Queen or no," Tasha whispers back, grinning widely. Head tilting, Tasha then asks, "As a curiosity, 'ave you ever 'eard of a people called the Sifras? The First Ones?"

"The Old Ones, yes," Nitsa remarks. "We do not worship them as some do, however. They are long gone."

"I wun'er abou' tha'," the Herald says, glancing around as if they might overhear her. "I wun'er who they were. They were 'ere, o' tha' I'm certain, bu' where are they now? An' why are their artifacts so odd? MOTHER looked in to Sifran artifacts, an' it made even a machine like 'er go odd. This is their worl', too. I wun'er if they're watchin' us?"

"Well, I'm sure we've very entertaining then," Nitsa says. "But I'd rather not think they are watching us. After all, what would they do if they grew bored of the show?"

"The worl' was empty before," Tasha says, ominously. "Then the heavenly ships came an' … Well, never you mind me." The Vartan grins, a little mysteriously, lifting a brow. "Think I might 'ave an audience with Tyche, or is it too late in the day?"

"I'm sure she could fit you in," Nitsa says. "How busy could she possibly be, after all?"

"I'm sure she's always busy, in one way or another. A woman like 'er never stops, even when she's looks to be restin'," insists Tasha. She places her cup aside, and stands. "High Priestess, you've taught me a lot in our short time together. I 'ope you'll remember me."

"Oh, I certainly will," Nitsa says, with a smile, and then stands and walks over to Tasha, giving her a kiss on the cheek. "And I'm certain Abaddon will bring our paths together again in the future, Herald."

"I 'ope so." Tasha leans over and kisses the woman back, on the cheek, and wags. "I'll tell you abou' Abaddon, an' Sheol then."

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GMed by BoingDragon

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