Midsummer 9, 6107 RTR (Feb 04, 2007) Olivia brings Natasha and Inaya together, so that Natasha can let Inaya know the truth about herself.
(Madame Natasha) (Olivia) (Stonebarrow) (Sylvania) (The Return of Valicross)

    Augusta Weaver's Front Parlor
    The door to the room where Augusta Weaver entertains all of her business clients is located in the middle of a very short hallway, close to the main entrance of the Weavers' compound. Inside, it is decorated very formally, with a round table and four straight-backed chairs standing in its center, a small fireplace in one wall, and a roll-top desk with an overstuffed chair in one corner for writing out contracts. A large window in the wall opposite the fireplace has frilly lace curtains drawn across it, to keep out the afternoon sun.

It is now just around noon and Olivia Weaver is bustling about her aunt's parlor, getting it ready for the meeting between Inaya and Natasha. The whole place has already been dusted from top to bottom and a small fire is burning in the grate, as the day turned out to be cooler than expected. On the table is a proper lady's tea, complete with a hand-painted ceramic tea service, cloth napkins, and a selection of finger foods. Apparently, Olivia's Aunt Augusta felt that Lady Inaya should be given the full treatment and ordered all the food and tea to be sent in at the last minute. Now Olivia is busily setting up a few more chairs in the corners of the room for extra guests.

There's a knock at the door. "I have arrived, Olivia," comes the voice of Natasha a moment later, followed by the door opening. The Khatta walks in, followed by Bravil. She's dressed in the same disguise she wore the day Inaya gave her presentation of thanks to the town; a heavy cloak, veil, and hood. After a look around the room, she says, "So, you have been busy. You have gone to more effort than should have been necessary … but I imagine part of it is from being nervous. I am … uncertain."

Bravil lays a hand on Natasha's shoulder, saying, "If you are worried, we can leave at anytime."

Natasha reaches back and lightly lifts his hand from her shoulder. "No, this must be done. But I thank you for your concern and I am glad you are here. Please, find a seat." She steps away and selects a seat for herself. As she settles down into it, she folds her hands into her lap.

Bravil closes his eyes for a moment, then nods. "As you wish," he says. The large Jupani selects a chair in the back of the room and settles down.

Olivia goes over to the table and sits down beside the Khatta. "Well, some of this wasn't my doing – my aunt wanted all the food and tea brought in. I think it's just to impress Lady Inaya," she admits, the insides of her ears flushing in embarrassment. "Although goodness knows if anyone will actually want to eat anything at this meeting. I'm… I'm pretty nervous about it, too. I just hope it all goes well."

"Little can be said of what the future truly holds; it is an array of infinite possibilities where each path is selected by the smallest of decisions," Natasha comments as she leans back in the car. "Heh, listen to me, here I am spouting philosophy," she admits and reaches up under her hood to rub at her forehead.

Olivia reaches over to pat Natasha's other hand gently, not knowing what else to say to the woman to make her feel better. Instead, she looks into the corner where the Jupani is sitting and asks, "All right over there, Bravil?"

The only answer Olivia gets from the Jupani is, "Mmm."

Natasha asks, "May I have some tea? Perhaps it will be calming."

I keep forgetting that he's the strong and silent type, Olivia thinks to herself, smiling faintly. To Natasha's question, she says, "Of course," and pulls a cup, saucer, and spoon over for the Khatta. Then she carefully takes the teapot and pours a cup for her, pushing the cream and sugar bowls within her easy reach.

Natasha puts in a small amount of cream and sugar before she stirs the tea slowly. Then after blowing on it a bit to cool it, she lifts up her veil and takes a drink. "Thank you," she says. There's no real time to relax, though, as a knock on the door comes only moments later.

Olivia looks at both the Khatta and the Jupani in turn, then nods briskly. She gets up from her seat and goes to the door, opening it.

"A pleasant noon to you, Miss Weaver," says Inaya as the door is opened. "I hope I am not too late or too early?" she asks as she steps into the room, flanked by her two large feline guards. The two guards glance at Bravil in the corner, but say nothing.

Olivia moves aside to let Inaya and her entourage pass, then shuts the door. "Not at all, Lady Inaya," she says, gesturing to where Natasha is already sitting. "If you would like to have a seat, there is tea and other refreshments on the table for you, compliments of my Aunt Augusta. If your… guards would also like to sit, there are other chairs in the corners of the room."

"Ah, thank you," Inaya says. To the guards she waves a hand dismissively and the two take up positions in the chairs in the corners of the room. Inaya herself walks to the table and settles down into it. She looks across the table at the gypsy, saying, "It is unusual that I would agree to meet with someone like you. But given the service you provided me, it was the only honorable thing to do."

The comment extracts a sigh from Natasha. "Ze world is not so polarized as vou may vish it to be, Lady Inaya," she says as she slips into her accent. "Vhat vou view as vrong or evil is merely a different perspective on the vorld."

Well, THAT'S not the best beginning I've ever heard, Olivia thinks grimly, quietly going up to the table and removing one of the empty chairs for herself. She carries it over to the corner where Bravil is seated and puts it next to him, then sits, as well.

"I am not here to debate my views on the world, Dame Natasha," Inaya says calmly as she pours herself a cup of tea. "Miss Weaver said you had more information about my sister?"

"Vou views of ze vorld affect much of vhat ve are to discuss," Natasha says pointedly and shifts slightly in her chair so that she can glance to Olivia. "Vour sister came to these lands to 'free' dem of those vho use magic vithout license. Her actions vere ones of aggression against the residents in these lands. Perhaps to some her fate vas deserved. To understand vhat must be explained, vou must be villing to listen vith an open mind and heart."

Olivia catches and holds Natasha's glance for a moment, then smiles a little and nods encouragingly. You can do this.

Inaya takes a long drink from her teacup and sets it down on the table. "Do not press your position too far," she warns the gypsy. "Slight my sister again and you will not like the outcome. Now, is there a point to this discussion? I will listen and try to keep an open mind, but that is all I can promise."

At this, Olivia feels Bravil stiffen in the chair next to her. She leans over to put a calming hand on his arm and shakes her head slightly. "It's all right, Natasha can handle this," she murmurs to him. "Have faith."

Natasha lets out an audible sigh. "Very vell," she says in a disappointed tone. "Vour sister suffered much at ze hands of Valicross and she died there … in a sense. Ze woman she was died, torn to nearly nothing in both body and soul. But she lived on; she lived on because ze very people she had been hunting; her 'enemies' found her and took her in. They healed her body an did their best to heal her mind."

Inaya drops her cup, which lands with a clatter on the table and spills out the milky-brown contents across its surface. Fortunately it was close enough to the surface it didn't break. "What did you just say? My sister is alive?" she asks in a slow and precise tone.

Bravil's jaw and body tightens again next to the Skeek. He looks for the world as if he wants to stand.

That's going to take some bleach and a few good scrubbings to come out, Olivia thinks, for some reason more distracted by the tea spilling on her aunt's best tablecloth than Inaya's shock. To steady both herself and Bravil, she tightens her grip on his arm.

"She vas found floating in one of the many rivers and streams in dis land. A wandering group took her in and tended to her vounds. One of dem sat vith her each evening as she was consumed vith nightmares. In time she recovered an they even taught her ze language of ze land. Not once did she reveal dat she knew magic or vho she vas, for fear they would kill her in revenge for t'ings she had done," Natasha explains, then pauses to take a drink from her cup.

"I … see," Inaya says slowly and controlled. She reaches over and rights her spilled up before adding, "Then I assume they found out some day and ended her life; for why else would she have not contacted her family when she was well enough?"

At last, Olivia feels on a firm enough footing to enter into the conversation. "Things are not always as simple as they seem, Lady Inaya," she says quietly. "And once a life has been taken from all that it has known before, it tends to… change somewhat. Is that not right, Natasha?" she asks her friend, smiling gently again.

"Ves, dat is true," Natasha says, "The matron of the wanderers took vour sister in an looked after her; taught her ze language an ze customs of ze land. An for a time, vour sister found peace an recovered; her nightmares faded. But zat vas no' to last."

Inaya frowns, clawtips tapping on her now empty glass. "They found out about who she was, didn't they?" she asks.

"In a vay. Vour sister was faced vith a choice one evening; use ze skills she had to stop a revenant from ravaging these simple people or stay hiding. Out of respect for ze people who vere so kind to her, she acted. Ze wanderers saw ze power dat she wielded … but instead of lashing out at her, they thanked her. Ze matron of ze tribe even told 'er that dis vas de sign dat she had fully recovered," Natasha explains. "Vou see, ze Matron already knew vho she vas. Zhe knew ze danger it was to take in a mage and heal her; and yet ze did anyway."

Olivia, who had not known this part of Natasha's story, now finds herself listening with rapt interest.

"I … see," Inaya says again, this time tracing a claw along the top of her cup. "And this is why you said I need to open my mind and see the world in other ways."

"Ves. Vou do not trust ze people of dese lands and yet dey are truly no different dan vou are. Dey all have dreams, hopes, vants for dere future. So vhat if dere witches and seers do not have a degree from a particular place? Dey still seek to protect their lands an dere people. Dese lands hold many dat de world has forgotten or pushed aside and yet dey persevere."

"An, they haf protected those who are not of de lands an' welcomed them. Have even vou no' recieved an honored welcome?" Natasha asks.

" … Yes," Inaya admits and looks down at the cup in her hands. The simple painted ceramic cup in her hands might be considered 'crude' by standards she is used to. "They have tried to make me feel welcome; even the silly otters with their offerings of fish."

Olivia puts up one hand to hide her smile at the thought of Emmett Oggton appearing at Inaya's door just to heap fish on her. Finally, she bites back her laughter enough to add, "And we are glad to have you here, Lady Inaya – both you and your daughter. Even your guards… although they look like they just want to eat us most of the time," she teases, catching the eye of one of them and grinning.

The guard snorts in Olivia's direction and bares his teeth at her.

At this, Olivia merely rolls her eyes heavenward and retorts, "Just like a Khatha – no sense of humor!"

To which Olivia gets another snort.

"So, what happened to her? And how do you know of all of this? You were one of the wanderers that found her, weren't you?" Inaya asks, finally setting down the cup on the table.

"No exactly," Natasha explains as she too sets down her cup on the table. "Ze vinters dat vear vere harsh; many of ze wanderers did not survive the cold or left ze group to join a town for a chance at a better life. The few zat remained banded together tighter than ever; an unlikely family in a harsh land. Even ze Matron, who had protected vour sister, grew ill. On her deathbed, she asked a favor of vour sister."

"Which was?" Inaya asks quietly.

"She asked vour sister to look after her 'children' and make sure dat de would be safe vhen she vas gone from de vorld," Natasha answers in an equally quiet tone. The cloaked feline then reaches up and eases back the hood on her cloak as well as draws away the veil she has been wearing. "And how could I refuse?" Natasha asks, her accent falling away. "They took me in, so close to death. They tended to me. Bravil, dear Bravil, never left my side throughout those seemingly endless nightmares. They accepted me as family, even knowing what I was. They gave me back a life; I had a future for the first time since I was forced to leave our home."

Olivia takes in a deep breath as Natasha lifts away her veil. Her eyes dart quickly from Natasha's face to Inaya's, watching for the younger Khatta's reaction, her own body tense. Please let everything be all right!

Inaya sits there expressionless and unmoving for a time. Then it's as of Inaya can move like lightning; the Khatta darts over the table. She embraces Natasha and nearly topples over the chair she's sitting in. "Dagh take you," she growls and is virtually in tears at the same time. "Why didn't you tell me?" she hisses, "Why didn't you contact us? You were alive and you never once wrote, you never came back. Why did you abandon us?" Even with the anger in her voice, Inaya holds tightly to Natasha, as if she were afraid she would fade away at any time.

Bravil and the two guards are on their feet almost immediately. They stare at the reunion but none of them make a move towards the two.

The tenseness in Olivia's body relaxes just as abruptly, although she finds tears welling up in her own eyes at Inaya's reaction. Brushing them away quickly, she also gets to her feet and says to the tiger guards and Bravil, "No! Leave them alone. This is for them to sort out between themselves. We should not interfere. It is not… the honorable thing to do."

"I did not abandon you," Natasha says as she embraces Inaya, fingers lightly stroking the back of her neck. "I could not return. If I had contacted you in any way it would have likely meant your death."

The tigers and Bravil give Olivia one of the oddest looks. The three of them easily outweigh Olivia by many times … and yet, they all sit back down. One of the tigers even grumbles.

To her credit, Olivia also looks a bit surprised that they are actually obeying her. "That's better," she says, trying to sound commanding but not quite managing it, under the circumstances. Then she sits down, too, and turns her eyes back to the two Khattas.

Slowly, Inaya releases her grip on Natasha. "What are you talking about? How could contacting us have condemned us?" she asks.

Natasha shakes her head, then explains the situation she was placed in and the ultimatum placed upon her by one of the 'up and coming' courtiers of the Emirate that she has spurned the affections of all those years ago.

"I always thought it looked like you knew you would not be returning," Inaya admits and looks down at the floor. "I had never thought it was because you couldn't and that you were protecting us. I had thought it was just another … forgive me."

"But it looks like Master Qing will be able to help you with this problem, right, Natasha?" Olivia interjects. "If I recall rightly, he talked to you about this lately, didn't he?"

"Yes. He was going to see about dealing with the matter and also see about your protection until it is over," Natasha says with a short nod.

"So, you will be returning home?" Inaya asks hopefully.

Bravil turns his head away from the group and closes his eyes.

Olivia sighs quietly and pats the Jupani's large knee. "What did I just say about having faith?" she mutters to him, trying to keep her tone light.

"Perhaps to visit … but I have a family here now to care for. The tribe adopted me and helped me. They have been there throughout the worst period of my life. They would … likely not survive without me," Natasha says with a tone of sorrow. She then reaches over and takes Inaya's hand, adding, "And they would be your family too, if you let them. Cast aside your prejudices for a night and see them with new eyes? I am not asking you to join us in living in these lands, but … to just accept them as part of the family and while you are here. Come stay with us for your remaining time?"

"I must also offer you one piece of advice," Natasha adds with a glance to Olivia, "Do not call her Miss Weaver. She … disapproves. Loudly."

"You've got that right," Olivia agrees, giving a surprised laugh at this unexpected bit of humor.

"Speaking of which," Natasha says, "Olivia, will you do me a favor?"

Her brow creasing in confusion now, Olivia replies, "If you wish. What is it?"

"I would like you to go to my camp and arrange a celebration of sorts, if you do not mind. I wish Inaya to see the life these lands have," Natasha asks.

At the revelation that Natasha won't be leaving them, the normally taciturn Bravil lets out a long held breath an actually comments to himself, "Thank you."

"Oooh, a party! That sounds great!" the Skeek exclaims, clapping her hands in excitement. "I'm sure Liliana and her dance troupe would perform – although, er, they might have to tone their routine down a bit for the present company," she adds, glancing over at Inaya and blushing. "I know the gypsy's band would play for everyone, and I could help with the decorations! How does that sound?" she asks anxiously, looking to the Khattas for approval.

Natasha nods at that. Inaya looks a bit unsure about the request. "You wish me to attend a party of … " she says, then shakes her head, "As you wish. Guards, will you please leave us? I wish to speak to my sister alone for a bit."

Olivia jumps to her feet and grabs Bravil's large hand in one of her own. "C'mon, I'm going to need your help in hanging some of the banners from the taller tree branches," she says, tugging rather ineffectively at it. "Besides, you heard Lady Inaya – these two want to talk alone for a while. So, are you coming?"

"Hmph," goes Bravil in his usual manner. Still, he does get up and allow himself to be lead from the room. The tigers are right behind them. The two Khatta do not resume their talk until the door closes. So, whatever is said between the two, remains a secret known to only them.


GMed by Jared

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