[RP] By Magic Bound [Accepting!]

Discussion in 'ROLEPLAY GRAVEYARD' started by Murasaki_Sama, Apr 19, 2013.


  1. Calendar
    Year: 713 QE | Seven Hundred Thirteen of the Qinqu Empire
    Month: Nazna / 5 / Five
    Day: 17 / Seventeen


    Count Down
    || The Day of the Fete || 3 Days to the Ball || 7 Days to the Council Meeting ||


    Weather in Veratis
    Day 16: Some winds and clouds, but no showers.
    Day 17: Light breeze, clear skies. Hot. High humidity.
    Day 18: Stronger winds, light clouds on the horizon. Cooler than 17th, still humid.
     
    #1 Murasaki_Sama, Apr 19, 2013
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2013
  2. Re: Ra'Shala Emporium [Accepting Characters Now!]

    [​IMG]
    HLook how the pale queen of the silent night
    Doth cause the ocean to attend upon her....
    - Charles Best

    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ​

    The soft parchment paper was pliable beneath her hands as she flipped through page after page of notes. The monthly Fete hosted at the Emporium was little over a week away, and there was still so much to do. Despite the fact that the invites had already been sent, Asra found herself scanning the lists. There were three, each as important as the other. The first list was the same every month and was made up of all the long-time honored costumers; the slight of forgetting to send invites to all of them would likely loose her patrons. Those powerful or wealthy citizens of Veratis who were not her costumers yet, made up the second list. It too was often the same every month, although every so often a name was removed from that list and placed on the first. The third list was the one she was truly worried about.

    It was unique to this month's event, made up over two months ago and revised almost daily since. As the Royal Seasonal Ball was to be held only days after her Fete, Asra has opted for simplicity, rather than ostentation. She had chosen to host a public debate, and had invited scholars from all walks of life. The Akemi-ka trained as tutors would lead the discussion, while companion Akemi-ka, those trained in the art of conversation and social niceties, would mingle with the guests.

    Not one of the scholars on the list was a customer of hers, and she was unsure what any of them thought about the Akemi system, the Divine Daughter's refusal to name an heir, the Council of Greater and Lesser Clans calling a meeting, or even any of the topics likely to arise in the debate. It was a grave risk she was taking; hopefully it would pay off with new custom.

    "A debate?" A cold, taunting voice drawled from across the desk. Asra glanced up, her serene expression unruffled by the sudden and unexpected appearance of Tatari. He lounged like a wild cat in a nearby divan, a piece of paper dangling from his hand. "How unlike you, Asra dear."

    "You will be attending, of course." Asra countered calmly, well aware that Tatari had not been seen at a social event of any significance in living memory. It was not a question.

    Which he seemed to realize just as he was about to open his mouth. "Why would I want to?"

    Asra smiled. "You are a topic of discussion, of course." She glanced at the paper in his hand, an ornate piece of stationary, and missed the flash of darkness that shot through his eyes.

    "Ah. Yes. I forget that in Veratis, the contents of a man's private correspondence are a matter of public record." He sounded amused more than anything, and so Asra just shrugged, blind to the undercurrent in his words. After a moment of silence, the dark mage huffed and stalked off, no doubt seeking easier prey to torment.

    Asra went back to work, checking and rechecking her plans for the Fete, although she knew it was all well in hand. She had Looked twice, and seen nothing of concern; but the future was always changing, and it never hurt to check things over just one more time.



    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
    A mirror does not reflect a broken heart.
    - Persian Proverb
     
  3. Re: Ra'Shala Emporium [Accepting Characters Now!]

    [​IMG]
    "The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge."
    - Stephen W. Hawking

    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

    A breeze drifted gently through the large windows of the House of Wisdom as small groups of robed scholars and students walked quietly to and fro down the tile-and-sandstone halls. The faint whispers of debating academics can be heard coming urgently from desks and tables in the gardens, while younger students diligently chanted the long lists of magical components, animals and equations. All of this was familiar to the white-haired Teacher, Mariqah Al-Hikmah of the Haq family, as he sat in his windowed study scratching out new spells and theorems on the scroll before him. The smell of ink and old tomes filled the room, another familiar touch to the place he considered almost a second home.

    There was a gentle knock on the door as he finished another line, and in a few moments his personal secretary Axemi, Javaria, had the scholar's collegue Akram in a comfortable seat with a cup of tea in hand. Mariq smiled softly to the young woman and thanked her before standing and bowing deeply to his friend, who also stood and embraced the man.

    "Peace be upon you and the Goddess's good day, Akram! What brings you to my humble study, my friend?" asked Mariq, after kissing the other on both cheeks.

    "Just checking in on your health, and peace be upon you as well," smiled the man as he returned the greeting. "The tea is most delicious, if I might add."

    "A blessing from the Goddess, my secretary, Javaria," replied the scholar with a chuckle. "I have introduced the two of you?"

    The Axemi nodded shyly as Akram grinned. "Wouldn't be Mariqah the Caste-Crossing Teacher without it. Goddess's blessings on you, my dear," he winked as he half-nodded, half-bowed to the girl. "But enough with formalities. How are things, Mariq my friend? Last I heard you were making a ruckus again with your discoveries."

    "Only a minor thought experiment, nothing more."

    "Minor my eye, you overturned a thousand year's worth of confusion with a stroke of a pen!"

    "Nothing so grand, my friend," chuckled the scholar. "And you've had your own discoveries as well, Akram. All of us have contributed to the House of Wisdom."

    "Perhaps," conceded the other, who grew serious. "There's a seer, Asra Hanan, holding a debate of some sort. You know of her."

    Mariq sighed. "Yes. I suppose Father wants me to attend in his place."

    "He never attends those things anyways. You know your family. You're the firstborn son and heir to the Haq family. It's time to accept some responsibility. Your oldest sons are already studying here; shouldn't you be a good role-model to them?"

    "By attending some sort of rich man's gathering to shoot the wind while ignoring research? If you weren't my friend I'd be insulted," said the man wryly.

    "Mariq..."

    He laughed at the concerned expression on the other man's face. "I jest, I jest. You're right. Perhaps I'll go. But I will wait for Father to send me word... unless, of course, you are that 'word'."

    Akram pulled out a neatly wax-sealed scroll with a gold-leaf band. "I am, unfortunately. Sorry for the trouble."

    Mariq sighed. "No trouble at all. I'll see to it. Is there anything else?"

    The other man smiled slightly. "Perhaps we can meet in some lighter context sometime this afternoon, perhaps by the gardens? I can bring food and tea."

    The scholar grinned. "Sure. Would three hours after noon work?"

    "Three hours would be perfect. Thank you, and sorry for the trouble."

    "Always a pleasure to serve a friend."

    "And thank you for the tea, Javaria," smiled the other man kindly at the Axemi, who curtsied and blushed slightly, looking down.

    As the door shut once more, and Javaria began cleaning up after the guest, Mariq looked thoughtfully at the scroll.

    "P-permission to speak, Master?"

    He blinked, then smiled at the girl, who had finished and was standing quietly to one side. "Of course, Javaria. Always. What is it?"

    The girl blushed slightly. "I-I think Master's friend... is a very kind man."

    Mariq chuckled and patted the girl. "Yes, he is. If you're finished sorting the papers, you can read that book you brought from the Great Library now. I don't think I'll be needing anything for the next hour or so."

    "Thank you, Master!"



    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
    “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.”
    - Socrates
     
  4. Re: Ra'Shala Emporium [Accepting Characters Now!]

    [​IMG]
    Plant a demon seed,
    you raise a flower of fire.

    - U2
    ۞ ☽☾ ۞ ☽☾۞ ☽☾ ۞ ☽☾ ۞ ☽☾ ۞ ☽☾ ۞ ☽☾ ۞ ☽☾ ۞ ☽☾ ۞ ☽☾۞


    Tatari wondered aimlessly through the Ra'Shala Arena, an ornate scroll held loosely at his side. He had walked these halls since the day they were built, and would walk them until they crumbled into dust. When he stepped out of the Arena into the sprawling estate behind it, he stopped and looked down at the invitation he was holding. It been fifty seven years since he had last visited the Palace, and dined among the Qin. He reached into his shirt and pulled out a second invitation, this one more somber in design. It, he received every few years, whenever the Council called a meeting. He had never attended, of course; he knew where he was not truly welcome. The invitation a matter of form, an acknowledgement of his status as the last living Kiseki. For a moment, he held the invitations side by side, staring darkly at the flowing script upon the parchment. Then, with a small grimace, he folded them up and tucked them back inside his shirt.

    Moving purposefully now, Tatari stalked across the complex toward the Tower, private dwelling. On the way he passed training barracks, employee dormitories, and in the distance, the small mansion of the Shariah family, the nominal owners of Ra'Shala. Asra might run things, but it was her son who was the true heir.

    If he was going to be sociable, and three invitations to major events in the next week gave him little choice, he was going to have fun first. From the tower Tatari took a few tools of his trade, two red silk ribbons, with a dark sheen like blood; several class spheres, etched with runes and spells; and one blank tome of soft brown leather. He tucked them into his sleeves, where small folds opened into a spatial distortion, a space that was larger than it should be.

    After visiting the tower, Tatari moved back across the complex, heading toward Veratis. There were dozens of places he could visit, where the lost and desperate were waiting for him. Fools targeted the poor of the city, paying a pittance for half starved children that were close to death. Tatari visited the rich and poor alike, scholars and artisans as often as farmers or soldiers. Men and women from all walks of life had a yearning, a dark and secret desire that burned inside them. For a price, Tatari was willing to make that desire a reality.

    Today, he choose to visit the Great Library, where the hopeful civil servants, the dedicated scholars, and the few idle mages wiled away their time in the idle or frenzied pursuit of knowledge. Adjacent to both the House of Wisdom and the University, the Great Library was a good focal point of as of yet unfulfilled dreams. It was a good place for him to haunt, seeking desperate souls willing to sell their unborn children into a life of service.


    ۞ ☽☾ ۞ ☽☾۞ ☽☾ ۞ ☽☾ ۞ ☽☾ ۞ ☽☾ ۞ ☽☾ ۞ ☽☾ ۞ ☽☾ ۞ ☽☾۞
    An insincere and evil friend
    is more to be feared than a wild beast;
    a wild beast may wound your body,
    but an evil friend will wound your mind.

    -Buddha
     
  5. [​IMG]
    “Wars damage the civilian society as much as they damage the enemy. Soldiers never get over it.”
    - Paul Fussell

    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

    Salah grunted as he heaved his scimitar out of the other djinn, snarling at the pain from the red-hot cuffs of rune-etched gold digging into his wrists. The sun burned high, and bodies lay from where he stood to the horizon in this desert of sand and rock; all his brothers dead, and still the swarms of the enemy kept coming and coming. A black speck rose from somewhere far away, but his ifrit's eyes could read the black magic set upon the meter-long bolt, launched from some accursed western machine; it started slow, then lazily arched up and came down, faster and faster. White fire went up his arm as his spell-slowed body refused to move amid the chaos and the cruel metal bit deep into his inhuman flesh, a wail of anger and despair escaping his lips as the infidels kept coming and coming and coming...

    "AL-UZZA ACKBAR!" he shouted as he lunged forward... and fell over in a tangle of silken sheets onto the floor. The shock of cold sandstone cleared the last wisps of dream from his mind as he lay there panting. It had seemed so REAL...

    His bodyguards burst into the room. "COMMANDER! C- uh, sir?"

    He groaned and stood up, trying not to tear the sheets as he did his best to look decent. It was harder than it sounded, given that he wasn't wearing much and the blankets made him look like some sort of wish-granting Axemi rather than a war-scarred veteran of the Brotherhood. Goddess be praised, he somehow managed anyhow, without too much further embarrassment.

    "As you were, gentlemen. Everything's all right."

    The soldiers blushed and saluted, retreating hastily as the ifrit got the rest of the blankets off the floor and onto the bed. As soon as the door shut firmly, Salah collapsed back into the bed, rubbing his eyes and lightly slapping himself on the cheeks. He looked briefly into the mirror and smiled as the fires in his eye sockets danced back at him. Then, with a bit more formality and reverence, he went to his packs hanging in the corner, got out a gold-embroidered rug, and unrolled it carefully onto the ground, facing towards the palace-temple where the Goddess dwelt.

    With equal formality, he stood on the use-worn spots, took a deep breath, and knelt, touching his head to the rug as the calls to prayer echoed over the city.

    ~~~

    Some time later he stood back up, refreshed from his prayer. Some would fault him for being over-zealous in his faith. They had never been in the midst of a hopeless battle and prayed, and been answered with a miracle.

    The room didn't have windows; regardless of whether he lived in a city, he still felt more comfortable underground. The basement wasn't a cave, but it was close enough for him to take solace in the darkness afforded by the sturdy stone. Still, his duty to the Goddess and his oath could only be met above-ground, so after a quick rubbing with a moist towel and a basin, he quickly put on his enchanted armor, fastened the flying carpet around him as a sort of cape, buckled his sword and went up the stairs to where his bodyguards were standing guard.

    He smiled, breathing in the dusty smell of the city, the scent of incense mixing with spices and Axemi sweat. It was a good start to a long day, and there was much to do. Kidnappings, theft, curses, enchantments, all manner of drudgery to shift through.

    Most commanders delegated such mundane tasks to their underlings, filling their own purses while contributing to the bureaucratic bloat that was becoming a bigger and bigger problem now as peace continued to encourage more and more people to take advantage of an increasingly complacent system. Salah wasn't that kind of a commander.

    He had given his word to defend the empire and keep the peace; contributing to the chaotic mess that was the bureaucracy wasn't his idea of "keeping the peace", especially as often the whole mess ended up disturbing HIS peace.

    The inevitable stack of papers was waiting on his desk as he and his guards double-timed it into the small office lined with different sorts of enchantments and protective spells. Physical attacks never bothered him; as an ifrit, he was literally immune to them. Swords and spears simply broke when they touched him, and more than one bandit or thief had found themselves dislocating joints when they tried to use martial art moves on him like with a common human. The downside was, of course, a vulnerability to many sorts of magical attacks, especially the kind that bound you or made you an Axemi. He had a very rational paranoia about that sort of thing, not least because the greater portion of his race were Axemi now, after centuries of conflict and interaction with the empire. He had settled for learning anything he could about defensive magic and spells; he was mostly confident in being able to repel just about anything short of a nation-wide death curse, but it never hurt to take precautions.

    Some scars never healed. As he sat down, he could feel the ridges of his armor catching and sliding over the bumpy lines marking his back, legs and arms. Those were the least of his wounds. Each time he always regained use of his limbs in about a week's time, given healing potions or a trained cleric, and the military had some of the best in the empire. No, the wounds he truly had to worry about were the ones that were invisible. They were the wounds left on his mind and soul.

    He seldom slept without nightmares now, or without a weapon nearby where he could grab it. Too many battles did that to you. It took your innocent, naive mind and stripped it and beat it to a pulp before setting it on fire and pouring the ashes into the gutter with the rest of the city's sewage. Then it replaced it with something that wasn't you, an animal that blocked out all other thought except stabbing and slashing and cursing and casting, an animal that could survive and not get blown to bits when it counted. Good for the battlefield, sure. But in peace, it made for more deaths by a soldier's own hands or claws than by enemies and accidents combined.

    He coped with it through prayer. It was his way of taming his inner demon, calming it. Without his faith, he would have gone insane long, long ago in those blood-covered deserts. Because of the Goddess's blessings, he was spared. His devotion to justice and upholding the law stemmed from his realization that he was spared for a reason. He didn't believe in coincidences. You didn't trust in luck, not after being in a battle. A real battle, mind you, not these kid soldier's idea of a minor skirmish with bandits. Every soldier left alive afterward is alive for a reason. That was his answer to the screaming voice in his head when he went to bed, to the ghostly faces of the fallen that haunted his dreams.

    He was Salah Al-Sajjad. He was the Scimitar of the Goddess. And no Axemi, merchant, council or priest would stand between him and the Goddess's justice.


    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
    "We send our soldiers to war for our freedom and then lock them up when they are broken and of no use anymore."
    - Scott Lee
     
  6. [​IMG]
    Look how the pale queen of the silent night
    Doth cause the ocean to attend upon her....
    - Charles Best

    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

    Tatari had not returned to the Emporium for days. Since this was not unusual, and was in fact preferred to his presence, Asra ignored it. Her time was split three ways: raising her son, arranging for the social week of the decade, and over seeing business. She ruffled the feathers of an old time customer who wanted something she didn't have; she stood for hours for the tailor, bickering over colors and design all the while. She argued philosophy and social etiquette with a twelve year old boy who did not seem to want to wait three years to be a man grown.

    She was so busy that she found herself putting off her most important duty of all. She was a Seer, and she had not gone into a trance in some time, nor even done so much as cast the runes. It nagged at her, the uncertainty of a future she had not yet taken the time to delve into and explore. Eventually, she could put it off no longer; with half a dozen other obligations weighing her down, Asra set aside an entire afternoon for a dream trance.

    There was a room, tucked out of the way on the third floor of the main building. In this room was a divan, long and soft and perfect for relaxing in. There were no windows in the room, nor furniture of any other kind. Asra stood in the center of the room, right in front of the divan, and breathed deeply. As she worked to relax, to calm her mind, three employees bustled in behind her.

    The first was an elderly scribe, a man who had served the Shariah family for over fifty years. Then came a physick, part mage and part scholar, who specialized chemistry enhanced magic; he was not an Axemi. The third was a young child, barely ten, who was mute. Of all Axemi-ka, the mute were the most valued; of all Axemi, they were the ones who were never sold.

    Asra settled into the divan, stretching her body before relaxing completely. Near the top of the divan, a few feet from her head, the scribe knelt and set up his writing table. The physick placed a small, brightly burning pot on the other side of the divan, and sprinkled some leaves inside. A soothing incense began to float up, carefully guided by fan held by the child Axemi-ka. His job done, the physick moved to outside the room, and closed to the door behind him. If his medical knowledge was needed gain, a single call would bring him back. Until then, privacy was required, and he was forbidden to stay.

    The incense, combined with years of practice, lulled Asra into a half-sleep trance state best for dream Seeing. For long moments, there was no sound in the room. Then, her eyes still closed, Asra began to speak in rambling, disjointed sentences that made little sense. Dutifully, the scribe copied down each work, just as she said it.

    "Unbroken, unbent...Lost...so lost, gone now, no.... Dead...All dead...Gone... Old, twice cast, anc...So long, gone, now. Move child, old child. Undone, unbent. The darkness...It walks, it breaths like flame and.... coins clattering on the counter, child lost, gone now. Bright fire, saves water, cast out." The words spilled from her in fits and bursts, with no inflection, no emotion. Sometimes she would pause for long minutes without speaking, while other times the words would rush from her lips almost too fast for the scribe to follow.

    For three hours the trance lasted, just as long as it took for the incense to burn away. When many minutes had passed without a word from Asra, the child stepped forward and took a sniff of the smoke. He shook his head, and the scribe nodded. Moving silently, the two left the room, taking the writing table and incense pot with them. Asra, now fully asleep, a deep restful sleep that would have no dreams, was left behind.

    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
    A mirror does not reflect a broken heart.
    - Persian Proverb
     
  7. [​IMG]
    "In literature as in ethics, there is danger, as well as glory, in being subtle. Aristocracy isolates us."
    -Charles Baudelaire


    The slithering but sensual tail of a lamia snaked around the body of a lamius. To outsiders, the scene was intimate, but to House Sharpscale, it was simply an eccentricity of their new soon-to-be Mother Echidna. Indeed, the lamius was somewhat offput that he was not chosen as a suitor for the lady who made him a member of the house, but he respected her nonetheless. He had become a powerful man, and a trusted friend. So trusted in fact, that our current subject liked to sleep at his side whenever she was tired of her duties.


    The sunlight broke in through the windows. It was midday, or afternoon. The lamia coiled about the lamius had been up late the night before, attending to her duties and repelling proposals. She was hounded by aristocrats and superficial romantics who believed in love at first sight, so she escaped, and when she finally got some sleep, she never wanted to wake up. As the lamius shifted, the lamia coiled tighter about him and shifted on her back. "Ma'am, it's midday..." the lamius said shyly. The lamia simply groaned and turned over, accidentally coiling tighter about the lamius. "Stella, wake up!" Another strung out groan escaped her throat as she turned towards him with hooded, violet eyes. "Just a few more minutes, Julianus..." "Stella, you must awake now!" She moaned painfully and loosened her coils about the lamius, and began stretching on the bed.


    "Why are you so impatient?" "I have a job to do if you will not do yours, but I cannot get up if you keep choking me." Stella nearly giggled cruelly, but covered her mouth to hide her smile. "My apologies, then. I suppose we should begin our day?" The lamius sighed and his tail split off into a man's legs as he shifted out of the bed. "I suppose I'll begin my bath, then," she said, doing the same.


    After the usual hassle to get to her own quarters, she ran her bath and sighed. She'd love to go for a hunt today, or perhaps participate in a friendly skirmish. Fighting was a source of relief for her, and the soreness of a friendly fight was worth it, while the haul from a good hunt made everything sweeter. She contemplated how she would go about the rest of the day while she spent a good hour in the bath, soaking up the moisture and softening her humanoid skin. It still had that righteously scaly texture, but it was smooth. The callusses on her hands and feet made obvious her love for the sword.


    After her self-alotted time had passed, Stella hustled through the crowd of fools lined up at her chamberdoor and blazed a trail for the Room of Counsil, to meet up with her advisors and propose her schedule.


    "That's not quite going to work..." "Why not, Hendrick?" "There's going to be a Clan Council meeting in less than two weeks. The Fete is also not far off, we need to plan a Clan exhibition, and rehearse it, if need be!" "There will be no need for rehearsal, there will be a series of friendly duels. I'll take all comers. An Ifrit could challenge me, for all I care, and if I lose to such an opponent, I'll be wiser for it. There's our exhibition." "But--" "I've made my plan. Now, tell me what this drabble about a Clan Council meeting is all about." The mage-born hesitated. It was well known that Stella's mother had once attended a few of these meetings, and the major subject was always the same, some big stink about what The Seer Asra would do about the great Tatari Kiseki. She was unsure how she felt about this man. He shambled about the city, offering to grant wishes in exchange for mage-born children and turn them into Axemi-lis. As a sensible - if slothen - woman, she figured he was alright for that, but something still didn't seem right about him, something metaphysical.


    "It's about The Curse, no?" The mage-born nodded. His grandfather's uncle had become an Axemi-lis by the hand of a Kiseki, so naturally, he wasn't very found of the name, which is why she used his pseudonym. "Well, I don't know what we have to prepare about that. Do I have to rehearse my reaction to his absense or something?" "Nothing so paultry, ma'am." The future Mother Echidna smirked, laid back in her chair and stroked her hair. It was dried by now, so she figured she'd put it up into her battle-dress, a loose ponytail just tight enough to hold back her bangs. She tied it using a ribbon she kept in her dress pocket when she absconded from the bath.


    "And what of the ball? I plan on using it as a chance to meet with suitors on more personal terms. How many aren't just swine looking to strike it rich, or lovestruck youth? Any honorable men? Kind-hearted soldiers? Perhaps I should wait until after my exhibition at the Fete, see who turns up at my doorstep. Hopefully, someone who can appreciate a strong woman such as myself." She sighed and slouched forward, to which the Mage-born nodded. "I don't suppose there'll be any problems with any of those plans. Other than that, I suppose, with that business taken care of, there is still the matter of what to do with the children."


    "Don't we have an Axemi taking care of them? Julianus?" The children of clan Sharpscale were all raised in a comunal nursery to promote fraternity and unique generations. "Aye, we do, but from what I hear, he's feeling a bit hassled." Erpunthropic children are a andful, but normally, young, small Axemi-ter made great caretakers, as both sides were simply infatuated with the other, and it was easy for a juvenile Axemi-ter to establish themselves as an alpha mong children. "I suppose I'll have to stop by the Nursery, then. Should I arrive as a lamia, or a woman, Julianus?" "I would suggest lamia. They have all taken to prancing about as lamii themselves, so seeing their leader in the same form will strengthen their bond to the clan." "And I have to get married before too many of them come of age, don't I?" "Aye, m'lady, the pressures on. We have a few maturing a few days after the council meeting, and a small number of juveniles must go on their first hunt shortly after that." "I'm not likely to get married that soon. Engaged, possibly, but not married." "That should suffice for then. There's still pressure from your cousins, some of your more irrational ones have threatened mutiny"


    "Arrange a few friendly duels, then. Whoever screams first loses, and the winner is named clan leader." That was how Stella solved most problems with insurrection. By establishing herself as an Alpha female, she managaed to stay at the top of the clan despite numerous threats of forceful takeover. Nobody would follow a weakling nor a fool, so she successfully opppressed the grouchy married cousins of hers. Naturally, she had to train a lot, but she didn't mind. She like whacking things with sharp objects. "So, now everything's handled. I wish to organize a Reptiljakt for this evening, at dusk," Stella finally said with a confident smile. Due to her zeal with hunting, the clan had become very rich, whereas her mother preferred only to protect the clan. "Very well, madame. I shall inform the clan." Informing the clan was a matter of telling the in-town clansfolk, and sending messangers to those hunting independently, and those from oulying villages. "Julianus, before you skitter off, tell me, have we any recent surveys for good hunting spots nearby? Are there any basilisk dens for as to trawl? Great lizards for a Storareptiljakt?"

    "There are no official surveys, but I've heard word of a great serpent out on the planes, but I hear it's highly venomous as well. We'll only be able to send our venomous hunters out against it." "We must approach it with the ancestor Fafnir's blessing, then. Organize a survey so we have a better understanding of what we're doing." Julianus nodded and went off. So the entire evening was set up before her. By the end of a few more issues being resolved with Hendrick, it was mid-afternoon, and the sky was orange. She had to visit the nursery soon, and see how the Axemi-ter stationed there was doing.


    "We are the only real aristocracy in the world: the aristocracy of money."
    -George Bernard Shaw

     
  8. [​IMG]
    Look how the pale queen of the silent night
    Doth cause the ocean to attend upon her....
    - Charles Best
    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
    The seventeenth day of Nazna, the fifth month of the year, dawned clear. As the sun rose higher in the sky, the winds ceased and the air grew tense with humidity and expectation. For one not used to Veratis in the late spring, it would feel like walking through a dense, burning fog. For natives of the city, it were merely a pleasant day; if a slightly drier one than was usual.

    The Fete at the Ra'Shala Emporium was scheduled to start 3 hours after the Zenith, although guests would likely begin arriving a good hour or two before hand. Despite this, Asra made sure to appear in the entrance hall exactly thirty-seven minutes after the event was scheduled to start. It would have been horrible rude of her to arrive earlier; everyone knew that events truly started at least two hours after they were scheduled to. The start time was merely a social cue used to determine how early, or how late, a person wanted to be.

    Those who arrived early had nothing better to do; and the earlier they were, the more insulting their attendance became. Those who arrived close to the start time came, not for the event, but to socialize and be seen at the event. They often left within an hour or three of arriving. It was only those who arrived more than thirty minutes late who were truly interested in the event; one could determine their level of interest by how long they waited after the start time before arriving, since events could truly begin anywhere from one to four hours after they were scheduled to start.

    As Asra came down from the second level, she smiled at the guests who milled about the entrance hall. They were the ones here to socialize, and while she would welcome them, she did not truly expect them to stay. Her semi-sheer clothing was weighed down with silver chain jewelry, light and sparse upon the dark black of her dress. She greeted each guest by name, even those who had never come before.

    Asra’s Sight, like that of all Seers, was limited in scope, especially without any aid, such as a mirror, a deck of cards, or a Dream Trance. She could not see into a person’s future, or even into their past. There was one thing she could See, however, without fail and with little effort, and that was a person’s name. It was writ across their entire being, through their past, present and future; she Saw it in their eyes, and Knew it. Asra never failed to call each person by their name, her dark gold eyes sparkling each time she met someone new.

    The entrance hall led into two large rooms. One was the stadium, the Arena, where the Fetes were most often hosted. The second room currently served as a show room of sorts, although it could also be a ballroom at times. As Asra wove through the crowd, welcoming each guest by name, she glanced into the showroom, whose wide double doors were thrown open. She saw several other guests, customers truly, talking earnestly with the Akemi trainers, examining Axemi-ka and Axemi-lis, and looking vainly for Axemi-ter, which were not displayed in such a manner. A few potential customers were even sparing with body guard Axemi-ka, or talking quietly with tutor and companion Axemi-ka.

    Rather than stand next to the door, Asra choose to stand between the center of the hall, the door, and the entrance to the stadium. This meant that visitors who were just arriving would have to move through at least two layers of other guests before they could reach her. Additionally, even if they wanted to, no guest could pass her by and enter the stadium without being welcomed. In terms of the complex social protocols, it was a good choice. As a business decision, it left something intangible to be desired. It was if she knew it could be better, but did not yet know how. Still, it put her in the perfect place to greet all of her guests, marking the time of their arrival. She did not move to enter the stadium; her entrance would make the start of the event, and a good host always gave her guests plenty of time to make they way to her event.

    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
    A mirror does not reflect a broken heart.
    - Persian Proverb
     
  9. [​IMG]
    Plant a demon seed,
    you raise a flower of fire.
    - U2
    ۞ ☽☾ ۞ ☽☾۞ ☽☾ ۞ ☽☾ ۞ ☽☾ ۞ ☽☾ ۞ ☽☾ ۞ ☽☾ ۞ ☽☾ ۞ ☽☾۞

    Tatari arrived for the Fete a full fours ahead of time. The Axemi-ka hadn’t even finished arranging the podiums in the center of the stadium. He smiled slyly to himself as he passed the toiling Axemi, knowing that when they were done working, one of them would report his belligerence to Asra, who might then think better of ordering him to attend social gatherings. To further prove his displeasure, Tatari choose his seat carefully.

    The circle of the stadium seats was broken only main door, and only for the first five rows. There was a box directly above the door, where Asra and her favored guests would sit. Three other boxes scattered throughout the arena were reserved seating for the loyal, repeat costumers who had spent enough over the years to earn a token. This token was often passed down through a family, and was treasured. Boxes had individual chairs, or divans, comfortable and perfect for one person. The rest of the stadium seating was wooden benches, build into the walls, unmovable and unchanging.

    Tatari found the best seats in the house, at least among the benches. Rather than sit properly, face forward, he leaned against the walls of the nearby box, and lounged across enough bench space to seat four people. Then, to further expound his point, he pulled a book out of his pocket and began to read.

    The only way Tatari could have been more insulting was if he had come to the Fete naked.

    First, he was unreasonably early. It was the action of a man who had obviously nothing to do, who was so bored that spending six or seven hours waiting would be a relief. Second, he blatantly ignored the seats in the boxes, despite the fact that he both had a token and was welcome in Asra’s box, even without her invitation. This implied that those who choose to sit in the boxes were beneath his contempt, so much so that he could not be bothered to join them. Third, he took up more space than he needed, which could mean either he expected few to attend, or he did not care if potential clients were forced to stand. Finally, he devoted his time and attention to something entirely private; if he was still reading when the event actually started, it would be like a slap in the face for Asra and all who attended.

    This would be the last time Asra forced him to be social, or to be seen at all. Tatari was not exactly a hermit, but he did not like being out in public. He despised the way people gawked at him, whispered and trembled around him like windblown leaves unsure of where to fall. His reputation, dark and sordid though it was, could use a few more centuries to settle into legend, where it was less real. Perhaps then people would not talk of him so much, nor cringe when he smiled at them. Until that time, he fully meant to stay as far from the public eye as was possible for a man of his position.





    ۞ ☽☾ ۞ ☽☾۞ ☽☾ ۞ ☽☾ ۞ ☽☾ ۞ ☽☾ ۞ ☽☾ ۞ ☽☾ ۞ ☽☾ ۞ ☽☾۞
    An insincere and evil friend
    is more to be feared than a wild beast;
    a wild beast may wound your body,
    but an evil friend will wound your mind.
    -Buddha
     
  10. [​IMG]
    “Wars damage the civilian society as much as they damage the enemy. Soldiers never get over it.”
    - Paul Fussell
    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ​

    Salah arrived early, having been more or less commanded by his father to take charge of overseeing the protection of the guests, many of whom were extremely high-ranking members of society and essential to the government. He was wearing his inspection uniform and parade armor, which was engraved throughout with glowing golden passages from the Holy Book, as well as with intricate geometric shapes and figures from mythology. Ironically, much of the mythology was shaped by his grandfather and father, both of whom were deeply involved in the great wars of the previous few centuries, and whatever they said about tales and oral history, the bards had most of it right, more or less.

    Of course, his suit of armor was fully functional, as were the engraved verses; spells and blessings intertwined with the less magical and more fanciful quotes, protecting him from all manner of curses and hexes, as well as guarding him from the more conventional magical attacks. It had an additional coat of actual physical armor to keep the engraved spells intact, but much of it was rather generous in allowing movement, and quite light, given that the bearer needed no physical protection at all.

    At his side hung the long scimitar after which he was nicknamed, also engraved with shining spells and enchantments to pass through physical obstacles like knife through butter while granting it a magical bite against djinn, ghosts, wights and other supernatural criminals. He carried a magical bow on his back that was similarly engraved, and a quiver of very real arrows set with spells. His helmet matched his armor, and the flying carpet that he used as a cape was neatly brushed and silken.

    All in all he was quite prim and proper, with his face shaven and his goatee neat and tidy. That did not mean that he was not prepared for rough combat, of course. Besides his armor and weapons, he had spent the better part of the past few days beseeching the Goddess's blessings of protection and strength, as well as laying enchantments upon his own body and training vigorously in the barracks. This was an important event, and what's more, the individual known as Tatari would be there.

    Salah's family had a rather odd history with the enigmatic man. Being sworn to defend the nation, it placed them in an uncomfortable position when a single man seemed capable of wiping out one of the nation's most powerful and influential clans, entirely disrupting the political balance and international relations as well. The implication was that either the imperial guard and the Holy Brotherhood was completely inept and incompetent, having been incapable of stopping a single man, or that that man was threat enough that the entire military strength of Qinqu united couldn't even slow him down. Neither prospect was very appealing.

    Salah knew for certain the first was a lie; he had fought alongside his brothers in wars and countless battles, and knew that Qinqu's fighting force was one to be reckoned with. The second, however, was most disconcerting, and had been part of what drove him to take such extreme precautions and measures to defend himself against magical hexes and, more specifically, curses, which Tatari was known for, and which were blamed for the large majority of the assassinations.

    The fact that Tatari was HERE at the fete, then, was most unnerving and troubling, but as a Holy Warrior and a sworn soldier of the Imperial Army, Salah was obligated to do whatever he could to protect the people who would be attending. Certainly, it would not be simple or easy, but it was necessary, and only the best of the best would be worthy of attending.

    The paladin stood guard now, somewhat out of the way of guests but near enough that a quick flick of the wrist would quickly finish off any potential criminals trying to cause trouble and a single glance would tell him who and what the newcomers appeared to be.

    *****

    [​IMG]
    "The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge."
    - Stephen W. Hawking

    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ​


    Mariq arrived on time, as was his habit, despite social norms. It was one of his eccentricities, something which most academics familiar with him and his research generally accepted as a minor fault of his. He had arranged for his schedule to give him a lot of spare time today, and had brought along books for himself and for Javaria, who was accompanying him as his personal Axemi and helper. He was wearing his most formal academic's robes, embroidered with gold and precious jewels in elegant yet simple patterns and images from history and literature; rather whimsically, part of the cuffs listed some of his own mathematical formulas and theorems in the ancient tongue.

    He adjusted his brass glasses on his nose as he approached the building, looking around to see if there were others who might want to speak with him, then showed himself to the guards to be scrutinized. He brought along the golden scroll which had been his father's invitation, but since the older scholar was otherwise occupied by preparations for the Council meeting in a few days, Mariq was to appear in his place, being after all the firstborn son and heir to the Haq family's name.

    After being cleared for entry, the man made his way towards the seats that had been reserved for the Haq family, or more specifically, for his father. He carefully took out the proper papers and writing utensils for writing notes during the debate, as well as an abacus and several books on governmental, social, economic, mathematical and magical theory so that he could verify claims made and support his own claims if he felt it necessary to give input in his father's name. He wasn't planning on being belligerent or too argumentative, but it never hurt to be prepared.

    Once the proper formalities were in place, the scholar sat back and opened a journal on a new theory he was researching, and began to make notes and scribble formulas while he awaited the start of the debate.
     
  11. [​IMG]
    "In literature as in ethics, there is danger, as well as glory, in being subtle. Aristocracy isolates us."
    -Charles Baudelaire

    A stiff breeze ran through the air as Stella made her way to the Fetes. She wasn't interested in the event, being a debate between Axemi, but she did have time to kill until her exhibition, and getting a few glances at some important persons in the upcoming Council meeting would be beneficial if she had a point to make. She wrote on her arm in a thinned, ink-like tar a few notes about her reconnaissance, who to look for, what to see, and who of House Sharpscale was attending. She wrote her notes in the old Western tongue passed down through her family, so likely only other Sharpscales, and a few other clans, could tell what she was up to.​
    She decided to arrive on time, but street traffic had her arriving twelve minutes late. As she arrived, she simply nodded at the guards and relinquished a gilded scroll from her satchel, her only way in. She was wearing a dark, western dress, sure to catch eyes. The skirt fell to her mid-thigh and stopped, while the sleeves fell to below her elbows. The front of the dress' torso was made of lace, and her collar was fixed to her dress. She wore lizardskin stockings and gloves, while the hide of her most recent kill trailed behind her, falling to about her lower calf. On her left forearm was a lizardskin sleeve, concealing her notes.​
    On her way through the Emporium, she noticed one of her clan members sparring with an Axemi bodyguard. His juvenile daughter was behind her, quiet, not sure who to cheer on. She would be going on her first hunt in a few days, likely before the Council Meeting. She would not be allowed to use that bodyguard on the hunt. She found herself drawn by conversations some Axemi were trying to initiate with her, but she abstained, sticking to her mission. But the topics were so interesting...​
    Stella noticed something as she entered the stadium. The greeter was the Seeress, Asra. She double checked with her notes and confirmed it. She hadn't picked a seat, yet, so it would not likely be insulting if she left to perform more reconnaissance. She scouted out the seating and noticed an insolent looking man -- or, is he a man at all? Tatari, The Curse, reading a book, waiting for the event to start? He apparently didn't want to be here. Asra would likely make a point of this at the meeting. Now she had to go back and see Asra, see what she was up to.​
    As Stella retraced her steps through the Emporium, she caught sight of the greeter once more, and confirmed it was Asra. She wanted to talk to her, but the event would start in a half hour or so by now, so she had to make preparations for her exhibition. There would be those like her who were not interested in Axemi debating politics, but rather in the art of the sword. She had to head back to the Clanhouse to set up, strap on her armor, hone her blade. She also had to decide between using a sabre or a halberd. She would leave many patrons wounded, and may even be hurt herself, but she would always stop the fighting before someone died. She was not the type to spar with wooden swords and partial armor. She always sparred with real weapons and full armor, forged from Obsidian. Back in the west, there was an art called "fencing" she took up a minor interest in. It was easily practiced, since there were so many different blades available for the aspiring fencer.​
    After a while, Stella settled on the Sabre. The halberd was far more deadly, so Stella decided she'd rather save it for a Basilisk, or a particularly deadly opponent. She did, however, arrange for it to be held in reserve in case she did come upon such an opponent. She appreciated strong patrons, and patrons who appreciated a strong woman. An alpha through and through, Stella was a strong opponent, and preferred to settle disputes with friendly duels than verbal debates. Today was a day of duels. The private arena at the Sharpscale Clanhouse would be open soon, for the more martial-minded patrons of the Ra'Shala Emporium to abscond to. The Fetes would also begin soon, but whenever they weren't holding duels at the Fete, warriors, soldiers on leave, and impolite attendees flocked to the Sharpscale Arena.​

    "We are the only real aristocracy in the world: the aristocracy of money."
    -George Bernard Shaw
     
  12. [​IMG]
    Look how the pale queen of the silent night
    Doth cause the ocean to attend upon her....
    - Charles Best
    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
    As the last of the true guest trickled in, and the pseudo-guests began to slip away, Asra entered the stadium proper. There was a set of stairs right next to the entrance, which led up to the private Shariah box. Her dress, a modest cut garment of black silk and silver lace, rustled softly against the stone steps as she ascended to the front of the box, where she could look out upon the stadium floor, and the tiers of seating where her guests waited. There was no fan fair to her official entrance, and it took the audience several minutes to even notice her.

    She stood for several minutes at the front of the Shariah box, the murmur of gossip and intrigue fading away to nothing, before speaking. "Honored guests, be welcome to the Ra'Shala Emporium's monthly Fete! As you know, this month we have chosen to do something different. There will be no combat tonight, no dueling musicians or wary bodyguards. Tonight, the tutors and companions Axemi-ka debate for your pleasure." There was a sound from the audience, dozens of voices raised momentarily in complain. Most had come here for a show, a fight or theatrical production, not an academic debate. Asra just hoped those who had come for the debate out numbered those who had not. She also hoped her next tactic removed some of the disappointment felt by her guests.

    "A true debate could not exist without a dissenting opinion. As such, I will, for this event only, allow the audience to participate!" This time, the audience was part shocked and part excited. They had never before been allowed to take part in the actual event. The rules for participation, as Asra explained them, were simple. Anyone wishing to take part in the discussion had only to stand on one of four squares marked on the floor of the stadium. They would be called up by the Axemi-ka engaged in the debate, and would be allowed to speak for a minute or two. After that, they had to return to their seats. The topic of discussion would change every few minutes, and the audience would be given enough warning that anyone wanted to speak on any given topic would have time to move to the stadium floor. Audience members were discouraged from speaking more than twice throughout the night, so as to give every guest an equal and fair chance to join in.

    While she explained the rules, Asra's gaze swept the stadium. She pointedly ignored Tatari's rudeness, despite the fact that he was clearly visible from her private box. When she finished explaining how the audience could take part, she raised her hands. "Let the debate begin!" Any cher from the audience paled in comparison to the cheer earned at previous Fetes. The debate, it seemed, was not the most popular idea she had ever had.

    Asra took her seat, slightly out of the sight, but visible in silhouette, and watched as the first tutor Axemi-ka took the floor. The first topic under discussion was an easy one, in which there was little controversy. Some scholars contended that the Axemi system predated the empire, while others claimed the system, as it was known today, could only have been created after the official founding of the Empire.

    As the tutors talked, Asra scanned the stadium again, a feeling of uneasiness heightening her usual anxiety. There were landings throughout the seating designed for security guards to stand on; the position of each landing gave the guards a clear view of the audience. The landings also placed the guards within easy reach of any possible disturbance. Asra checked and saw that each landing was occupied, half by Axemi-ka bodyguards, and half by members of the military. Next she checked the audience itself, looking for signs of trouble. There were none.

    No Seer, no matter how busy, ever ignored their gut feelings. Asra was no fool, she knew this unease had come from somewhere. It seemed to grow, the more she saw there was no visible reason for worry. As it grew, it consumed her; she lost track of the debate, of who was talking and about what. From the shadows, barely visible to the audience, Asra looked, again, and again, for any sign that something was not as it should be.

    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
    A mirror does not reflect a broken heart.
    - Persian Proverb