Morning comes slowly to the City of Hands, the sun cutting through the fogs that swirl about the ruins and the thick jungles intruding upon the overturned stone blocks. In the makeshift camp where Jezebel's followers tend to Abana with not quite as much reverence as might nominally be due a would-be Empress's mother, and several of the Twelve-Time-Twelve keep a watchful eye, a small kitten accompanied by a taller white-robed cheetah make their way through the lines.
Icelight signs to Kaela, "It will not be long before my colleagues must begin again the rituals, if we hope to finish by sundown. But she has just had breakfast, so your mother should be awake, if perhaps a bit drowsy." His ears twitch. "Try not to bounce up and down on her tummy, Princess, I understand that upsets the digestion."
Kaela grins at Icelight, and eagerly pushes ahead towards her mother's cot. She hasn't seen her since the night before… and even then, only briefly.
An elderly cheetah rests upon a cot with several makeshift pillows of folded cloth piled behind and beneath her. Her gaze swims about the city walls as she motions away the remnants of some fruits on a tray, and her color seems somewhat better than before. She flexes her hands as if marveling at their loosening.
Kaela bounds over, signing, "Mama!" Grinning, she throws her arms around her mother and nuzzles her.
Abana squeeks! surprisedly. Her words are lost, since her hands have gone behind Kaela's back. She nuzzles Kaela's forehead softly, then starts licking her ears.
Kaela purrs quietly, snuggled in close for several moments. Finally, she moves a little bit back, though she sits on the edge of the cot and stays rather near to her mother. "I was afraid Three-Eyes had hurt you… or was going to… "
"Not at all, but I am so swarmed over with these magicians that I barely have room to breathe," Abana signs back. "The way they act, you'd think I was made of pottery or something. Don't drop her, don't bump her, don't get water on her… Well, Third-Eye has been well behaved, though she constantly reminds me how nice she is being… " She rolls her eyes.
Kaela pauses for a few moments. "Was… she really the one who sold us into slavery?"
Abana's hands form no signs for a moment. "It happened so suddenly, I don't really remember, my youngest daughter. All I remember is everything going strange, then voices… People 'talking', not signing at me and you and my other daughters, and at Ibis. We were on an airship. I didn't understand what they were saying, none of us did… It could have been. There was talk in the village… "
Kaela nods slightly, just snuggling back in. "I guess it doesn't really matter… if she did, the Twelve-Times-Twelve will know… Especially since she picked a mind-mage to test her… "
"They are strange people, the Twelve-Times-Twelve," Abana signs. "Be careful, my youngest. They don't know anything about how to behave. They are… Proud people. People with magic." Her eyes are weary for a moment, then smiling again. "But they are doing wonders for these tired old bones, I give them that."
Kaela nods slowly. "The one that's with me… wants to go back to Rephidim… to see what it's like to be a slave… "
Abana wiggles her ears. "Fool. Does he think it's some kind of game?" Fortunately, Icelight has walked off to sign with some other of the Twelve-times-twelve, so he doesn't witness the slur on his sensibilities.
Kaela signs, "I… I don't know… but he wants to go and see, so I sort of have to go with him… "
The older cheetah tips Kaela's chin up and looks into her daughter's green eyes.
Kaela looks up at Abana, swallowing a little bit and holding very still, waiting for her mother's reaction.
Abana looks down. She draws her hands back, then signs, "Third-Eye will not watch my words. She will watch no one, I think, but herself. You, you are good at watching. You must be strong for me, because you must make the mages watch you, make them see… "
Kaela quietly signs, "I'll do my best, Mama… " She continues watching Abana, snuggled close to her side.
"Many people will hurt if Third-Eye gets her way. She is strong, but thoughtless." Abana sighs softly, a breath rustling Kaela's ears, then draws her close and signs with one hand. "Be good for me, daughter. Teach others to be good."
Kaela nods a few times. "I will," she promises with the hand she isn't using to embrace her mother. She rests with eyes gently shut, snuggled close against her mother.
Abana strokes Kaela's head gently, her chest rising and falling slowly. Such a little cub on which to place such a great weight… She prays inside herself, to the First Ones, that she will be there when these of her daughters return to the City of Hands, and that somehow, something good will come of all this.