On the deck of the Freedom's Dream, the fennec doctor has been returned to the airship with the aid of one of the half-Vartans, after several strange events happened apparently caused by Zoltan's tinkering in the base of the tower.
One of those results was the sudden dying of the harsh winds preventing flight over the island. With the realization that the sky island is not presently in a Forbidden Zone (but over ocean and a scattering of more conventional islands), and that the winds no longer impede flight, the Eeee and half-Vartans have started a spontaneous celebration of sorts, exercising their aerobatic abilities with unrestrained glee (and much noisemaking).
Just a moment ago, Roho could sense Zoltan arriving, carrying Jezebel, but didn't have time to react before the Vartan and Savanite had gone belowdecks.
Roho sits on one of the benches along the railings, grinning to himself. Now that the crew's flying again, the number of bats visiting him complaining of all variety of ailments has dropped dramatically. He's roused from his half-asleep state by the arrival of Zoltan, but they're gone before he's even fully sat up.
Roho's ears lift at some sounds not long thereafter, coming from below. He sighs, and gets to his feet, ducking through the hatch.
"Whoo hoo!" squeals a bat as he careens by. Already, though, many of the fliers have landed back on the ship, and some have started to speak to each other in more serious tones. However, those sounds fade away as Roho heads down … and are replaced by sounds of a commotion past the slave quarters, in the hold.
Roho stops for a moment… then continues on to the hold, stopping before the door.
Inside the hold, a large male Savanite is pinned to the floor by a larger male Vartan, while a female Savanite stands to the side, her tailfur bristling out as she notices Roho's arrival. The smell of incense and herbs fills the air, intermingled with sweat and just a touch of blood.
Roho stands in the doorway, sniffing the blood. He looks at a loss for what to say, then asks slightly sarcastically, "Am I interrupting anything?"
Zoltan grips the Savanite by his shoulders, growling to himself about trouble and insanity as he tries to incapacitate Twilight-Wing.
The Savanite Mage-Priest twitches and convulses, but at last falls limp in the Vartan's grasp, with one last shudder, breathing and panting heavily.
The Vartan raises his head to look at Roho. "Close door, quick! Nobody follow you I hope?"
Roho walks in and shuts the door, "No, though I don't doubt I could raise someone if it's needed… those bats above have sensitive ears. So I'd really appreciate knowing what is going on here."
Jezebel rushes about the room, picking up fallen candles, and not minding any burns while she hastily snuffs them out and then stomps and smears the chalked lines of a magic circle on the floor.
Zoltan slowly eases off the limp Savanite. "I explain in moment. I need to go to deck and warn Wynona. Look at Savanite here and make sure he alrights… then tie him up… I think he make himself go insane."
Roho starts to protest, then narrows his eyes, "All right, Zoltan. But I'm not comfortable with it. I trust you'll have a good reason when things calm." He takes his pouch of medicines from his waist, and uses the rawhide cord to bind the Savanite's wrists to his feet behind him.
The Savanite mage makes no resistance to the bindings. He is either unconscious or nearly so.
Roho starts checking the Savanite over, to make sure he's not dead, or about to die.
Zoltan quickly rushes back out the door, closing it softly behind him as he makes his way to the deck to find the air-mage.
On the deck, the bats and half-Vartans are making such a ruckus that it's doubtful anyone heard much of what was going on belowdecks except for the fennec, that is. Toward the rear of the deck, a white bat in sky blue robes is tracing out a runic circle with colored chalks.
Zoltan anxiously makes his way to the bat as fast as he can, shoving his way through bats. This isn't a time for too much delicacy right now.
"Hey!" "*squeak!*" Bats flutter left and right and tumble about in the wake of the charging Vartan. Wynona keeps right on scribing her runes, oblivious to the incoming hippogryph, even as he reaches the edge of her circle.
Zoltan reaches out and grabs Wynona's wrist as soon as he's close enough, wrenching it away from the circle.
The white bat squeakily shrieks as she's yanked out of the circle as easily as a child's toy by the sizeable Vartan. "AIEEEEEEEE!"
"Sorry." Zoltan whispers as he lets the bat's wrist go. "Need to talk to you below deck… NOW."
Wynona shakes and shivers, rubbing her wrist. "Ah … ah … of course … yes … whatever you say." She shakily makes her way toward the stairs leading belowdecks.
Zoltan follows, directing the mage toward his cabin.
Several of the Eeee and half-Vartans stop their chattering and singing and joking, watching the Vartan and air mage pass with curious and a few worried looks. But none of them follow the two as they disappear belowdecks.
Wynona squeaks quietly, "What is this about? You're not going to kill me, are you? I mean, whatever it is I know too much about, I won't tell a soul!"
Zoltan opens the door to his cabin, gesturing for the mage to enter. As softly as he can, he whispers, "Can any bats on deck hear us?" He blinks at the Wynona's statement. "I no going to kill you! I just save you… hrr… needed someplace quiets to explain."
Wynona gulps, then steps inside the cabin. "No … nobody could hear us in here … unless I scream."
Zoltan closes the door quietly. "I sorry I scare you. But was very urgent. I guess you know magic here restored?"
Wynona nods. "Yes … and … I hear that you had something to do with that. I'm … very grateful for that." She bites her lip and wrings her hands.
Zoltan shakes his head. "I not do it right. If you try and cast spell, it mess with you head… or something else." He scowls for a moment. "I know I scare you… was very brave of you to tell Roho about bounty hunter coming after me. Is probably no help you trust in me much that I drag you here so roughly… but I not know any other way. Hrr… just had accident with magic below deck, not sure if mage alive or not. Same thing could have happen to you."
Wynona's wings droop. "You're telling me … you restored the magic … but I'm not supposed to cast any spells?" A tear begins to well up in one eye.
Zoltan squawks, "I no restore it right. Machine was telling me things about errors and chaos fields and… hrr… lots of things that no make sense." He looks at the bat and sighs. "I sorry… maybe we fix as soon as we find some way to get crystals back from cannibals. But now, you only hurt youself if you try."
"I fix it soon as can." Zoltan adds. "Is Vartan promise. Vartans always keep promises."
The bat sniffles. "I … ah … well … thank you very much for warning me … " She pauses, then adds, "May I leave now? I … had better clean up my mess."
Zoltan squawks, "Is any other mages in ship crew? Tell them, and anyone who ask why you no cast spells, that I no bring magic back rights. Machine in temple say so."
Wynona shakes her head. "No … I'm the only mage. … I think I'll be going now." She opens the door.
Jezebel stands just outside the door, in the corridor, looking into the room.
Zoltan rises up and follows after the bat. He puts a hand on her shoulder and squeezes gently. "I sorry." He looks up at Jezebel, searching her eyes to read her expression.
Jezebel's expression right now looks like nothing so much as … jealousy. She glares daggers at the bat when the latter is not looking.
The Vartan arches an eyebrow at this. He quietly waits for Wynona to leave before signing anything to Jezebel.
The bat slips away quickly, heading back abovedecks, not hiding any desire to be away from the Vartan.
Jezebel looks to Zoltan, then signs, "Twilight-Wing is alive, and not seriously injured in the body … though perhaps in the mind. The Zerda is skilled, and, I am confident, can heal him."
Zoltan looks out after the bat. ( I wish there could have been a gentler way to warn her. I hope she forgives me, but I didn't want to startle any of the crew. )
Jezebel looks annoyed. "Are you ignoring me?"
"I hope his mind intact… hopefully stopped him in time." the Vartan signs. "I had to warn wind-mage."
Zoltan shakes his head. "Sorry… but news upset her. I think I scare her… I not like scaring people."
Jezebel shrugs, and signs, "It is better to scare than to be scared."
Zoltan signs, "I suppose. Still… " he lets the sign trail off, not completing his thought. "We should go back to doctor. There much explaining due." He offers his hand to Jezebel, sensing her jealousy.
Jezebel takes the hand, and accompanies Zoltan back toward the Zerda and his patient.
A few mornings later, in Roho's sickroom, the unconscious Savanite slave stirs, squinting his eyes and then trying to open them.
At least the sickroom isn't cluttered with bats. Now that they can fly as they please, it seems to have done wonders for their collective health.
Zoltan walks in quietly. "How Twilight-Wing doing?"
Roho walks quickly to the bedside, and replaces the damp towel on Twilight-Wing's forehead with a fresh one. "He's been stirring slightly for a while now… I think he may be ready to wake up."
Twilight-Wing verifies Roho's prediction with a cough as he tries, weakly, to sit up, his eyes scanning the room.
Roho tenses a bit, "I'm glad you're here, Zoltan… just in case. Though perhaps a sickly Savanite and a blind ancient would be just about matched in a fight." He grins slightly.
Zoltan quickly walks to the bedside. "Are you alright?" he signs, praying under his breath that the slave hasn't gone insane.
The cheetah looks back to Zoltan with eyes that may be troubled, but don't hint at madness. He brings up his hands and signs, "No, I am not. I have been stirred from my sleep by a disturbing vision."
The Vartan's eyes widen. "Tell me what you see. Could be important."
Twilight-Wing repositions himself so he can sit upright, then signs, "As Third-Sight may have told you, my specialty is the Sphere of Mind. I have sensed traces of other activity in my Sphere on this island. When the magic returned, I sought to probe for more information. I got my answer, after a fashion."
Zoltan nods. "He alrights I think, Roho." Then dropping back to sign, "Was wondering what you were doing."
Roho nods, and sits by the bedside, letting the two converse uninterrupted…
Twilight-Wing continues, "We are not alone here. There is one whose power is strong here … whose power surpasses my own in the Sphere of Mind, I suspect. But there is more. I sensed this presence again but a short time ago, when I had another vision and began to awaken. We face dire times indeed."
Zoltan's eyes narrow. "Could someone like that control person's actions and what they see with magic? Maybe make person see things that happen to someone else?"
The Vartan quietly whispers the cheetah's words to Roho, as well as his suspicions.
The cheetah looks to Zoltan curiously, then signs, "Many things are possible." He looks to the fennec, then back to Zoltan. "The Zerda is already in your confidence, I presume."
Roho whispers to Zoltan, "Do you think that person controlled your actions at the controls?"
"My upmost confidence," Zoltan replies. Then whispering to Roho, "I beginning to suspect so… "
The cheetah looks to Roho, then back to Zoltan, signing, "In my vision, I sensed many other presences others of my Sphere who were also witness to a disturbance. I know not how to describe it to you, except that it was like someone shouting from a mountaintop many secrets, and only those of my Sphere had ears to hear … And, as I found, most were not Savanites. I felt their power, and know for certain now that we are no longer the masters of magic in this world."
Zoltan signs, "Did you see what any of them look like? Feline perhaps?"
The cheetah nods. "Yes. There were Kattha, but also a strange one, with spots like a Savanite, but not of our kind. I sensed a great age in her that even with my imprisonment, she was my elder."
The Vartan hisses. "I have visions of her too. She wears lots of jewelry, yes? How much you see with her?"
The cheetah nods, looking faintly surprised. "Yes, she was adorned with much jewelry, and silks as fine as cobwebs. She seemed to be in control of this vision, and the main audience for these shouts. Of these 'shouts', I should tell you, they were like memories of someone who has been to the City of Hands an outsider, not of our race."
"Remember shiny cat I tell you I see in tower?" Zoltan scrawks quietly to Roho. "He see as well."
Roho nods to Zoltan, "It seems that these dreams were as far from nightmares as one can get. At least, normal nightmares."
Zoltan signs, "Did she tell you do to anything? Warn you or show you a vision of recent past or future?"
The Savanite pauses, as if pondering, then nods, signing, "There will be much trouble. All who witnessed this vision know of many secrets. They will know that the City of Hands remains … and it seems that our map room for predicting the paths of the sky islands must be of great importance as well. I did not realize the full extent of it. This may jeopardize the strength of the future Priest-King."
The cheetah shakes his head at Zoltan's question, signing, "No. The queen I am certain she was a queen paid no attention to anyone but to the giver of memories."
Zoltan continues translating the Savanite's signs in hushed whispers.
The cheetah's eyes go wide, and he tries to get up, instead falling out of his cot and crashing to the floor.
Roho makes a little squawk of surprise, and scrambles to help the cheetah, "No heroics," he says aloud, forgetting that Twilight Wing probably knows no Rephidim common whatsoever.
The Vartan erks. "He seeing things again!" He looks concernedly to the Savanite.
The cheetah tries to stagger to his feet, his hands shaking out signs, "The queen has summoned Third-Eye! That is why she smote me, so I could not prevent it!"
"Summoned? What do you mean?" Zoltan signs, his hands beginning to shake as well.
"Where is she?" signs the cheetah, though his expression doesn't seem to hint that he expects an answer from the Vartan.
Zoltan signs, "I don't know… should I fetch her? What does the queen want with her?"
Twilight-Wing tries to gather his thoughts and his composure, but at last shakes his head, "I do not truly know. But she has tempted Third-Eye with promises of power and an alliance to aid the rebuilt Savanite Empire. It is a lie, for this queen has cast all our secrets to the winds!"
Zoltan's ears go back. "Twilight-Wing… I had vision of Third-Eye as Priest-King. She destroy Rephidim and brought about destruction of Sinai itself."
The cheetah looks to Zoltan, then signs, "I respect what you have done for the daughter of the Priest-King, but I do not know your visions. I would offer to make a ritual to see your memories for myself, but I know the fear of magic of your kind Even if you were willing, you could not free your mind enough to make it possible."
( Does every mind-mage on Sinai know of the City of Hands now? ) The Vartan thinks to himself. He shakes his head. "Magic here is wrong somehow. Machine directed flow upwards, and magic inside is unstable, I think. Do I need to get Jez-… Third-Eye? We need to stop her?"
The cheetah nods. "Yes. Stop her. Even if you must harm her to do so… " He adds this last bit with some evident reservation.
Zoltan groans. He whispers this to Roho as well, then rises to his feet. "We better start looking."
The Savanite starts to nod, then stops and puts up his hand in a gesture of waiting. "Please! I just realized … "
Roho stands up with Zoltan, and promptly walks out the door, of course quite missing the stop-gesture. He walks back in a few moments later, blinking…
Zoltan looks back to the slave.
Twilight-Wing signs, "If Third-Eye is in the thrall of this queen, you will need protection … Please … I realize your warning, and the dangers of using magic. But I will need to perform a ritual, in secret … a ward, to lessen the grip this enemy may try to use upon your mind. You have a strong will, but you will need help. I will cast no spell upon you only a ward to aid you."
Zoltan gulps. "What will happen if I do not let you perform the ward?" Then he hisses softly to Roho, "He want to do something to protect us… but it mean he have to do more magic."
Roho tenses. He likes magic little more than the Vartan.
Twilight-Wing shakes his head. "I do not know. I have tasted this one's power, and it is bitter. But it must be your decision. You are the one who has delivered the daughter of the Priest-King. My ritual will take hours, since we are so high, and since I must be especially careful."
Zoltan looks down at his feet as he ponders. "It going to take time." He mumbles to Roho. "Hrr… we either risk damage from mind-mage spell and maybe be protect from whatever else is out there… or we no do it, and maybe risk more damage. Hrr, lesser of two evils. But which is less?"
Roho takes a deep breath, and lets it out with a whistle, "I'd go with the spell."
The Savanite signs, "This is a matter of magic. Only by magic can you fight magic."
Zoltan growls loudly. "I feel like I being given choice whether to jump into boiling pot or get tied onto spit instead… "
Roho chuckles, "I don't like magic either. But I'd rather risk magic, when we know who's casting it, than face unknown magic unprepared."
"What if queen attacks you again?" Zoltan signs to the Savanite.
The Savanite's hands drop at this, and it is a while before he responds, "Then I am quite likely dead. I will be more exposed when I perform this ritual."
Zoltan sighs a very long and hard sigh. "Queen has made me do strange things while I here. Some useful… but some malicious like cutting head. I sorry it taking me so long to decide… but is Vartans knew what I being asked, and that I considering it, they banish me." He realizes that the Savanite probably doesn't understand him and simply signs. "What will ward protect me from? Just queen? Or I be able to see through third-eye's shadows too?"
The Savanite answers in sign, "My ward can only protect you from elements purely of the Mind. Shadow magic overlaps the Sphere of Mind in some regards, but not entirely. Protection from its effects would be … very limited."
Roho listens to Zoltan's translation, and grins a little, "That's what having a blind fox is useful for… my eyes can't be deceived. So, if you take me along wherever it is you're going… "
Zoltan nods. "If I sense trouble while you doing ritual… can I stop it? Queen might use you to attack us." He speaks the last bit aloud as well for Roho.
Twilight-Wing shakes his head. "This ritual will be complex and tiring, and I am weakened already. I may appear to falter, but you will have to trust me to take my spell to its completion, which will take several hours."
The cheetah straightens up, and looks out of the room. "Our time will be limited enough. If we are to begin, I must do so immediately."
Zoltan sighs. "How long it going to take you to prepare? I can go and tell some Vartans to look for Third-Eye and keep her out of trouble, or look for signs of trouble while you do it."
Twilight-Wing signs, "If I start now … My ritual should be completed just before sunset. The longer I delay, the less time you will have before night falls entirely."
The Vartan hisses, disliking the idea of being useless until sunset…
The cheetah looks to the Vartan, then heads out the door. "I will begin. We have no time."
Zoltan growls again and follows after the Savanite.
Roho follows Zoltan lastly.
( Master Nicodemus, if only you could see me now, ) Zoltan thinks to himself. ( I just hope Dagh sees fit to protect me anyway after all this… and Jezebel sees fit to wait until nightfall to begin her plans. )