It's evening. The air is quiet and cool and the current breeze is helping keep the stink of the nearby swamp away tonight. Liliana is busy this evening; doing something 'special' for Amelia. Though exactly what is somewhat secret at the moment. As Morgan walks into the gypsy camp, he can hear the occasional giggle from Liliana's wagon thanks to the distinctive voice of the Eee. Up ahead is Natasha's wagon and that's Morgan's destination this evening. It's time to learn how to sustain some spells that Natasha wishes to use to uncover what is wrong with her longtime friend, Bravil. There's a dim light in one of the wagon windows, but other than that, the wagon is still and quiet.
Morgan inhales as he takes in the cool evening air. His long walk from the Gnarly Tree to the gypsy camp has brought to mind all the many people who live here, their lives, and his own. He glances at Lily's wagon as he passes it, thinking about how much he's changed since he met her. He wonders, too, what she might think, if she knew about his father. When the Kadie reaches Natasha's wagon, he leans up to knock on her door.
There's a pause, then the reply, "Ah, please come in Mr. Nightshade. It is unlocked."
The Kadie turns the knob and pushes the door open, stepping inside and closing it behind him. "Hello, Madame Natasha. I hope you've been as well as can be expected in these trying times," he greets her as he turns back around.
Natasha is currently setting aside some book. Her hair is brushed back and tied, her attire just a loose, drab, robe. "Such is the way of life. I have survived worse times, I will survive this one," she says and offers a smile, albeit a bit tired one. "Thank you for coming. Since you already know about me, I ah, won't be maintaining my usual guise, of course."
Morgan inclines his head. "As you wish." Glancing around, he says, "This is probably the most pleasant conversation I've ever had with a Guild Mage, or ex-Guild Mage, as it happens. Since we're dropping pretense, I'll admit I'm not exactly comfortable being here. However, I think Bravil is more important right now, as is Stonebarrow." The man is dressed in embroidered loose black pants, a similar vest, and a blousy shirt in a lighter shade of purple.
"I suspected as much. I keep an enchantment on the doorway of my wagon that allows me to sense the feelings and concerns of others when they pass through. It helps keep up the mystique of being a fortune teller," Natasha explains and motions absently to the rune covered door frame. "I do hope you believe I am no threat to you. Having lived in these lands as long as I have has taught me a different perspective on things. I am … sorry how your kind has been treated."
"As you say, we've survived. Frankly, I don't think external forces have much to be concerned about in our humble country. We have always been a haven for the mystic for good or ill and they, Caroban I mean, rarely sends anyone to investigate. A low profile," Morgan taps the wood frame of Natasha's wagon, "can make up for a lot. That said, there's something we need to be clear on: I won't tell you about what I do. Older, more powerful forces than a gaggle of mages would take offense to my sharing, much as I like to be transparent." He smiles.
"I'm not asking what you do. It is not my place to know," Natasha says and waves her hand dismissively. "I understand the basics of how you work magic. You invoke the power of your land's guardian spirit," she says rather bluntly. "It's also known enough to Caroban, unfortunately, that they do teach people how to specifically counter that. But, in this case, it helps because how you will maintain spells would be different from how I would."
Morgan 'hrmps' at the mention of training people to counter his magic, but nods anyway. "I can see how it would be different. From what I understand, mages pull at the world, demanding its attention, rather than working with the greater fabric of spirituality," he says.
"That is a fair explanation. We learn how to exert our will to alter the world around us. You ask the world to alter itself," Natasha says and nods in agreement. "There are advantages and disadvantages to both. You can have a greater power source, but are bound to it. I can operate anywhere magic itself exists. Which is right? That is an old and endless debate which I don't see any point in getting into."
"Nor do I. Know I have nothing against magery itself, only the politics involved," Morgan agrees. Looking around again, he eyes a seat, and asks, "Do you mind if I sit down?"
"Oh, forgive my manners, please sit. Let me do something about the lighting, too," Natasha says. She closes her eyes and starts muttering quietly in an unusual language. After about fifteen seconds, several small crystals flare to life around the room, bathing it in a bluish-white light.
"Ahh, it's a strange flavor of mysticism mages practice. The flavor is different, or rather, the feel. Foreign magic is like an unfamiliar scent, when you know a place well as I know Stonebarrow," Morgan explains as he takes a seat.
"Ah, good. You can feel the differences and subtleties," Natasha says as her eyes slowly open. "Before we begin anything, I would like to ask you a more … personal question. Why are you willing to help us? We aren't of your town."
"Honestly? The first reason is that I want to; helping people has always seemed like the natural course. Mind you, I'm also suspicious by nature, but that doesn't mean I don't want to help sometimes I like to help, and never let anyone know." Morgan winks, then folds his hands around his knee and leans back. "It's also tradition. We help people. Spookiness aside, we treat more cuts, bruises, pregnancies, and other general ailments than any midwife or herbal doctor in a league. Beyond that, despite bringing a terror to our village which I don't hold against you it's always good to make a friend. That's real witch wisdom for you."
Natasha smiles and asks, "So, you see pregnancies as an ailment, do you? Spoken like a true male."
Morgan rolls his eyes. "Just because I placed pregnancy in the list of conditions we treat doesn't mean I consider it an 'ailment,' per se. If you're going to poke fun at my phrasing, not to mention my contribution to the village, this isn't going to go very well," he remarks.
"Please, do not be offended. I was trying to bring lightness to the conversation, but not very well it seems," Natasha says with a sigh.
Morgan nods again. "I'm afraid my position and contribution are not something I take lightly. I suppose I have never been a very jovial person, or quick to find humor, like a certain lot of otters I could name," the Kadie admits. He smiles, then leans over to pat Natasha's hand. "I'm also not very fond of references to my gender in relation to my position, especially when it sounds negative. Call it a sore spot."
"I come from a society where the roles are reversed generally. Women are not as often allowed to be taught magic and the like," Natasha notes. "In Abu Dhabi women are often expected to have children and a family, not a career. Women with careers are not considered marriage material, as it were."
"Interesting. I imagine that Stonebarrow may have seen something of that, before our time. Then again, the history of Sylvania is clouded in darkness as well as fraught with peril. It's sufficient to agree we are different, I suppose, and that I hope you are enjoying the freedom of our village," Morgan replies.
"As much as my position allows. Given that I have to be the authority of this caravan, I have limits on what I can do. I'm sure you understand that," Natasha says and looks directly at Morgan. "It … prevents a lot of things I wish I could do."
"In that, I think we are perfectly matched," Morgan says with a nod. He pats Natasha's hand again, then frowns as he gazes out the window. "For me, that means sooner or later Liliana will leave, and that I must remain behind. I'm sure you have something similar."
"Liliana does not have to leave if she does not wish to. In the end, that will be her choice. If you wish her to stay, you should ask her. I would not stand in the way," Natasha says and looks to one of the glowing crystals. "For me, the person I care for, I cannot ever be as close as I wish I could. I'm sure you know it's Bravil I speak of. He means more to me than anything. People see him as a monster, which isn't fair to him. I wouldn't be alive today if it weren't for him. He took a terrified and damaged young woman and nursed her back to health; sitting through her endless nightmares and daytime terrors. And now that woman can't even … so it's important to me that I do something for him now."
"My relationship with Liliana is a difficult one. It may be easier since I am male, but I'm still obligated to have children and not by Liliana, if that's even possible." Morgan frowns in thought, then turns to examine the crystal. "As for Bravil, I'll do what I can for him." Morgan then looks up, brows raising. "I do have a question, though: were he healed, why can't you be with him? Is it tradition? Obligation? Curse? Society?" His tail flicks, shifting position and shape to roughly resemble a question mark.
"You should talk with her about your obligations," Natasha notes, then goes quiet for a bit. "As for Bravil, it's a mixture of things. I know that he is far older than he looks and has had something horrible happen to him in the past to make him what he is now. I'm not sure how or what to do about that. The other thing is, as tradition dictates, the tribe leader should maintain an air of mystery and aloofness, to keep authority over those in the tribe. If I get close to him, it breaks that tradition down. There could be chaos if the tribe then starts to question me."
"I would think there is some similarity in your town. Your mother does not have a husband that I've seen," Natasha notes, then quickly raises her hand. "And that is not a question as to why. It is an observation only."
The Kadie listens attentively, nodding now and then. When Natasha finishes, he says, "I've wondered at that myself. If we really need to be as mysterious as all that. As much as I hate to say so, it seems to be partially true. I've been teased far more in my relations with Liliana than I used to be. I'm also happier. A price for everything more witch wisdom for you." "My father … " Morgan inhales, then gazes out the window as he breathes out. "Well. Liliana and I may possibly have more in common than our love for each other. I meant to ask her about that, but no matter."
"So, as you say, we are more alike than not. But, such are our duties, and the good we can do outweighs the personal costs to ourselves. The reward for helping someone makes up for it," Natasha says and leans forward a bit. "I need to ask you a few general questions to understand how much I'll need to show you and how much you know. Is that all right? If the question is too much, just say so."
"What?" Morgan blinks, snapping out of his own thoughts, and nods as he turns back. "Questions? Oh, yes, of course. I'm sorry, I was just thinking. I'll be sure to let you know."
"When you were learning magic, were any of the lessons such that you learned how to maintain a spell started by another?" Natasha asks.
Morgan frowns, then reaches up to rub his temples. "For a good cause. Yes, I did. That's probably obvious, since there is more than one witch, and you may have met some of the others when Axel first arrived," he answers.
"Have you maintained unfamiliar spells before? Or has it always been familiar?" Natasha asks next.
"Familiar. I dare say this is a landmark meeting between a mage and a witch," the Kadie responds.
"Okay. Then I need to see if you can maintain any spell I start," Natasha says with a nod. "I'll use something basic, a simple spirit light. It's what I use to illuminate the room. It's nothing more then giving the ambient magic in the area a nudge to condense and glow. Much safer than candles, particularly when digging through the stacks of old libraries. Are you willing to try?"
"I am. I am, however, not at all sure what will come of this. I can't think of any precedent, nor do I know how the spirits will react to something of this nature. A good intention isn't always enough," the witch answers. He eyes the glow a moment, apparently considering it carefully, then says, "I feel the energies of it, but I hesitate, for the spirits may take offense to forcing their hand. We shall see." He looks up and nods.
Natasha nods and closes her eyes again briefly. She holds out her hand and starts the same strange chant she did earlier. Just as before, fifteen seconds later a pale blue ball of light flares to life, this time sitting in the palm of her hand. "See if you can take this from me and maintain it," Natasha says and holds her hand out to the Kadie. "When I think you have it, I'll cut my tie to it. If you can maintain it, then it should stay. If not, then it will simply vanish."
Morgan reaches over to take the flame, and, brow narrowed, watches as it falls into his hand. "The composition is beyond me," he admits as the light flickers, " … but feeding it is not. It's a bit like watering a plant. If you know how much water, you … mmm … you don't need to know the rest to keep it alive." After a moment, the flame steadies, and Morgan holds it up with his hand.
And Natasha waves her hand in a dismissive gesture. The light remains. "Good, you can maintain it, even if you don't know how to necessarily build it yourself," Natasha says and nods, looking pleased in the way only a feline can. "This is promising," she notes, then reaches over and lightly pokes Morgan's nose all of a sudden, to see if a distraction will cause it to dissipate immediately or if the Kadie can maintain it in the face of distractions.
The Kadie blinks, then quirks an eyebrow. He does not, however, falter. "I treat Gunther," he offers, as explanation.
"Good. Again, I had to be sure. Maintaining another's spell is harder than maintaining your own. You would have made a good student at Caroban. Most would have lost that immediately," the Khatta says with a smile. "You can let it go if you wish. Now, I assume you are familiar with people's spiritual auras, yes?"
"I think I'll keep it; it's special to me, now," the Kadie teases. He leans back, light-hand out, and perches his head on his other hand. "I've occasionally wondered at Caroban, but it's a bit like the mouse wondering at the monster's maw. As for auras: no. I speak with the spirits, but I have little traffic with the spirits of mortal men and women. A person's nature can be observed without magic, in any case."
"Hmm. This will be tricky, then. Because the spell I need to do works with their auras and mind," Natasha says. "Well, to explain briefly, people have a spiritual energy not unlike the one you speak with that guards your town. It's just smaller and not generally noticeable unless you look for it. It's that energy which leads to the creation of ghosts and other imprints on the nature of the land around you. All life affects other life. Do you follow?" Natasha asks and watches the Kadie curiously, her ears flicking, then canting a bit to the side.
"I've heard similar, although without such an … academic … tone to it. But, yes, I understand. Everything has a spirit, and its nature can be known through magic. Necromancers abuse that knowledge, enslaving the spirit," Morgan answers. He wiggles his fingers through the light, tail flicking. "I always thought it was a very comforting idea, to know our spirits are interconnected."
"You understand perfectly. Necromancers abuse and manipulate that which ties us all together. It is magic no one should practice … but as with all such things, people do," Natasha says and shakes her head with a sigh. "Now, the way I know to enter someone's dreams involves using this energy, this tie that is between all of us. What I must do is, for a time, intertwine our auras, our spirits, together. Blur the lines that make us distinct entities from the spirit realm, to say it in another way. When the auras are linked, we can see what others see and feel what they feel. We become part of them, and they part of us. As you can probably guess, this can be dangerous."
"The mystic usually is. That is, perhaps, for the best, all things considered." Morgan flicks his light holding hand, and the glow blinks out instantly. With his hand free, he tucks it under his other, so that his head is doubly propped on his folded hands. "From what you describe, I take it you will begin the ritual, and I will maintain the link between us all. This will be an intense ritual, I think. Rarely do I need to focus so much for so long, but I'm willing to try." Morgan purses his lips a moment, then adds, "The trick will be making it work at all, I think. Multiple people, and living spirits, are far more than any simple spell, as you know."
"Correct. I'll establish the link. But as I'll also be part of it, once immersed, I won't be able to maintain it. Without a focused will behind it holding it together, it will unravel like so much thread in a poorly made shirt," Natasha says and folds her hands together. "As for making it work … it's not hard as long as everyone involved is fully willing. That makes them at a spiritual level easy to nudge into doing what you want. It's as you do now with your land spirit. You basically can ask them to join then gently hold them together. Now, if people were unwilling … that is orders of magnitude harder to do. Could I do it? Yes, given enough time. Would I? No. Forcing such things is walking a dark path."
"Very well, I trust your confidence in this matter." Morgan's tail twitches as he works his mouth, biting his lip before continuing. "I'll need rest and silence for this. As much as I love Gunther, he, and those like him namely otters mustn't be allowed to interfere. I do, however, have a perfect place: the basement of Doctor Pike's castle. Deep within, there is an old magical chamber which we can use in peace, if we can move Bravil there. If not, we must do this with what is available."
"Yes, we will need a place without any distractions," the Khatta says with a nod. "Can you arrange the use of that location? I am sure we can somehow manage to move Bravil there."
"I can. Doctor Pike, while an eccentric woman, has always been amiable to aiding the town. I'll see to it when I can," Morgan answers. "Beyond that and the ritual itself, is there anything more I should be aware of? Do you have questions for me? I know we've spent some time together, but we've never really talked one-on-one before."
"Well, from your perspective the ritual, once active, may not have to be held for a very long time. For those who dream, time passes differently. So, no days long holding," Natasha notes as she rubs her chin in thought. "And … I am not getting you into any trouble, am I? I do not wish to cause you any harm or issue with your town or mother."
"Any trouble I get into will be my own responsibility. You're not 'getting me into' anything, since I came of my own free will, and thus am bound to my decisions. Personally, I feel helping Bravil is most important." Morgan smiles a bit, looking a bit melancholy. "You came to me, not my mother. I intend to solve this in my own way."
"Well, admittedly, I figured it was easier to ask you, given your association with Liliana. You seemed the sort who was willing to flex when necessary. I was not as certain your mother would be so approving," Natasha admits.
"Nor am I, though I feel guilty for not mentioning this to her. My mother is stronger than I, but her responsibilities are great. Plus," Morgan sighs, glancing out the window again, "sometimes I feel like I need do to things my way. If I'm just my mother's shadow, how can anyone have confidence in me?"
"You are a smart and brave man, Mr. Nightshade. Those that have gone before are priceless for what they can teach you. But, you alone must forge your own path and use what they taught you in new ways," Natasha says approvingly. "Otherwise, when those who taught you leave this world, how else can you continue on? A different way does not make it a wrong way."
"My thoughts exactly! If I knew we had this much in common, I'd have come to you sooner." The Kadie's tail flickers, and he looks back from the window. "I admit, I was put off by your background and foreign magic you understand as to why. Your relative received the same from me, although I'm much more leery of her, I fear."
"I hold no grudge for that, Mr. Nightshade. You have reason to dislike me, as my background … puts us at odds. Had you met me years ago before life decided to teach me a harsh lesson … we would have been enemies. I was not so different from my sister back then," the Khatta admits with a sigh. "One thing I have learned and am grateful for is what you said a bit ago. Different isn't wrong. So you and I use magic differently. Is my way, or yours, any more correct? No matter what either side may like to say, I say no. To use an old proverb, just two sides of the same coin."
Morgan nods to that. "If it means anything to you, I wouldn't hesitate to call upon you to defend this town. Mind you, I say that also because we have ties that bind us together, but, more importantly, because I feel you are a wise and capable person who would use her strength to help others. In that, you're not so different from my mother. You remind me of the aunt I never had," the Kadie explains.
"It does. It eases feeling so … isolated," Natasha says with a small, but grateful, smile. "Is there anything you would like to know about us? We've often called ourselves the tribe of the lost because all of us are misfits who don't really fit anywhere anymore. I think you've seen that with myself, and with Liliana and her mother."
"You've told me about your family, your conflict with the necromancer, your love for Bravil, and your current outlook. Such a deep look at your life is a tremendous privilege, and I am grateful you shared with me. I haven't any other questions I think I'll find more, but for now I have much to think on." Tilting his head, Morgan then scratches his nose, tail flicking as he thinks. Then, he asks, "You've shared a lot about yourself. Mmm. Speaking of misfits: do you know anything about what Liliana is? If you feel it'd violate her trust, please don't say. I only ask because people like her are of interest to me."
"I know only what I've learned of her family and what some non-invasive inspection of her has told me," Natasha says and looks out one of her windows towards Liliana's wagon. "I'm certain she would tell you if you asked her, so I don't see how it would be any sort of violation. She's an Eeee, that much is certain. But as you've experienced, there's more to her than that. She is contaminated, for lack of a better word, with some unusual form of magic. My understanding is that she was conceived in a town called Worms. A place where all forms of demons, lust, and types of pleasure can be found at night. When her parents were young, they frequented that place in their folly; it seemed like safe 'fun'. Well, the last time they went, her mother became pregnant. It is possible that Liliana may have more than one real father, from what her mother told me of that night. One Eeee, and one a sort of demonic spirit. With the right influences, that other side asserts itself physically. It's also why she can never visit that place herself. If she went in, she would change forever and become a part of that place."
"Then that mustn't happen," Morgan decides, with finality. He seems to mull over what he's been told, working his mouth, and staring past the trees at some thought only he can see. Finally, he asks, "Am I like Liliana?"
"Why would you be? Granted, I haven't done anything to examine you, as it wouldn't have been proper," Natasha answers and looks back at Morgan.
"Mmm." The Kadie's tail flickers agitatedly, then he glances back. "I did say we had more in common than love. Would you examine me?"
"I could try, yes. Do you have something specifically you're looking for?" Natasha asks. "With Liliana, there was always a peculiar undercurrent in her own aura, something that wasn't 'Eeee'. The rest I learned from her mother about the circumstances of her birth."
"It's possible that my father was also a spirit, but of a different kind. I've been trying not to think about the implications, but, I'm not someone who will leave a question unanswered if I can help it. Not when I'm the mystery," the Kadie explains. "It may be best to start with the same test you used on Lily, and work from there if you would, please."
"That was pretty basic and would take little time to perform. Do you want me to do it now?" the Khatta inquires.
"Yes. We won't have a great deal of time soon, I imagine," Morgan answers.
"You won't feel anything, then," Natasha says and sits more upright. "Lower your hands please and just try to relax."
Morgan places his hands in his lap, then pulls his legs up to cross them. His long, black hair falls forward as he dips his head down to relax. "I'm ready," he says, once he's comfortable.
Natasha levels her gaze on Morgan; the kind which is intense and searching. She moves her hands in fluid and light movements and then starts to chant quietly in that unfamiliar language. As she chants, the feline's pupils dilate and and retract in an almost rhythmic pattern matching the words.
Used to all manner of magic, especially by intimidating older women, Morgan doesn't blink or look away. His hair does continue to spill forward with his hair down, however. His long, shiny black hair is probably half of what makes Morgan look so feminine and he cares for it religiously.
And then, it's over and Natasha lowers her hands and folds them together on the table. "Do you really want to know?" the Khatta asks quietly.
"I make it a point not to ask questions I don't want to hear, or know," Morgan replies, quite seriously.
"There is something unusual about you," Natasha says seriously. "While most of you just resembles what I would expect for someone who has sensitivity to magic, the multicolored ripple and movement of wings is not. What you suspect may very well be true. What sort of spirit was the possible father?"
Morgan rolls his head back, looking at the ceiling. "A Creen or a multitude. The story is, um, odd, but the ways of spirits are not to be understood in mortal terms." The man bites his lip, murmuring, "Multicolored. A Creen, a rainbow Creen … "
"Well, I would then have to guess that something did have influence on your conception. While you may have had a normal Kadie father in one sense, something else was influencing as well, given that," the Khatta says, then tilts her head a bit. "Is the answer what you had hoped, or had feared?"
"It is what I thought may be the case. I suppose, the worst part was thinking myself one thing, and then suddenly knowing I may be something else. Stonebarrow is my foundation, and I thought I knew my place in it. I'm not used to having my foundation shaken," Morgan explains, quietly. When he looks down again, he smiles, then shrugs. "I'll live, I think. Do you know I'm a shapeshifter?"
"It doesn't surprise me, given what you have just said," Natasha says simply. "Those who have been touched in magical ways often have side effects from them. Some can do it willingly, others are triggered by events. If you ever wish to pursue it further, something that could be attempted is trying to summon what left that mark on you. It would be an extensive ritual to perform and take a lot of time to prepare for."
"I'd like that, I think. You know, at first I felt a little mad at the spirit; but I've placed my life in the hands of the spirits for so long, I think I'd just want to say "thank you," and meet my father," the Kadie says. After brushing his hair from his face, he unfolds his legs and settle back again. "Ultimately, I wouldn't want to force him. I'd just want to request his presence, and see how it goes from there."
"Asking is all you usually can do in a summoning ritual," Natasha says with a nod and leans back a bit heavily in her chair. "Free spirits are often harder to manipulate because so much magical force comprises them, but it can be done. What affects them strongest are beliefs. But that is a matter for another time. We must worry about the present issues. Once past that, I'll start work on what will be required for that ritual. I owe you that much for helping with my problem, if nothing else."
"I appreciate that, but I've done little for you so far." Pushing himself up, Morgan bends over to peer out the window. "I wonder what Lily is doing with Amy … " he murmurs. Louder, he insists, "Anyway, if I'm to do what we have planned, I need to prepare, and I need time. I can brew something to help maintain my focus, but I need a day for it, and I have other chores besides. And, well, I need to think on things a while."
"It will take me time to prepare what I will need as well. People who aren't users of magic are always so amazed by the effect … but never see how much work has to go into the preparation. I'm sure you've experienced that as well. When you go beyond the parlor tricks, everything takes time," Natasha says and stands up. She offers a small bow to the Kadie, adding, "Thank you again. I will speak with you in a day or so."
Morgan grins at that. "Why, the illusion is half the fun," he insists, teasingly. After backing towards the door, he bows back, then waves. "It was good to talk to you, Natasha. If you ever want to talk again, I'm always around somewhere. Next time, I'll bring tea." And with that, he slips out the door.