Completely soaked, Ja’Deir brought Mikala to CrIsis on the docks of New Crests. He had become frustrated by the hatred CrIsis was faced with upon reaching the docks, precipitated by the ancient fear and hatred of Minotaurs. Ja’Deir knew of Minotaurs only through hushed horror stories and whispers in conversations about The Citadel, so he understood where it came from, but he thought that Apis’ love was over the people of New Crests, and that they were friends and allies of Isis’ champions.
He was not completely wrong.
The surprisingly playful Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of the Yin-Sloth Jungles tugged on Ja’Deir’s foot as he swam with the Dolphins under Matilda’s keel – the surprise almost made him swallow the entirety of the bay, but luckily he restrained the reflex.
Mikala Groff bailed out the misunderstood mishievers, and the entourage started to make their way from the shocked and nervous dock workers toward the soon-to-be shocked and nervous city crowds. As per the request given to Ja’Deir by a Friend of CrIsis through séance, CrIsis put Matilda into Drydock, so that Roggan could be in contact with his beloved earthfriends. No mention of pay even crossed the lips of Mikala, or his brother Elanu, so Ja’Deir assumed that it was taken care of by them. The ol’ Seafaring Scallawag Ship’s Captain Overkill took to explaining it all to Roggan, as the workers transferred the marvelous yellow-wood vessel to the frameworks in the shipyard. Ja’Deir almost sang a victory hymn out of joy for the opportunity to help the precious Rock-Friend of CrIsis.
When the mismatched group made it to the Groff Estates, they adjourned to the parlour, wherein they partook of candied pralines in an absinth reduction and guffawed and chewed the fat about the days which were good and ole. The first impression of family Groff was Rich, and not just rich, but Old. They had roots that ran the length of New Crests, and throughout the foundation of it.
The conversation led to the Defilers, and the Eyes of Evil that were the prizes at the Lopanic Games in their day. They said that the Gods pulled for their champions in the past, so as to further their interests. Xerx’ses was quite shocked to hear that her Lady Isis took part in concealment and trickery to a degree. His standings are being tested every day, and it shows in his actions – he’s getting low on patience.
After the chatting, the Ranger, Captain, Priest and Wizard left to equip themselves for the games, as none of their then-current equipment was legal. The Warlock and Ja’Deir availed themselves, after checking the security of our rooms, of the creature comforts proffered by family Groff. Ja’Deir took a frigid bath, and luxuriated atop the plush bed in his room. After a quick nap, he asked his Gnomish friend if he wanted to take tea in the Estate Gardens, and almost tripped when he saw the clothes he was wearing.
The Gnome had been given freshly tailored garments, finer than any Ja’Deir had ever seen on anyone but royalty. Silks and Satins and bright colors, and filigree of every shade adorned his miniature form. From his face, Ja’Deir knew he had died and gone to “self-proclaimed Fashionista” heaven. Even Otto pranced along at his side, preening with his paw and muzzle, more delicately than Ja’Deir had though possible, his new collar and his master’s new accouterments.
Not two cups into the pot were they before Xerx’ses dive-bombed into their midst in a huff, and asked exasperatedly what the trio was doing, and if they wanted company. As friends, they poured a cup-o’, and asked what had gotten him into such a state.
The Shapeshifted Minotaur had been discussing the finer points of economics, politics, and geography with a shop keeper when the words cut deeper than either could face. Rather than reassign homes for the facial attributes of the esteemed merchant, Xerx’ses shifted into a bird, and took flight. As he left, he heard the merchant’s angry and shocked shrieks. Before he got to the Estate, he doubled back, and saw that Peri, the Hawk in Cava’s keeping, was flying northward, out of the city.
Tyvernos and Ja’Deir consoled him, and then decided to find out what became of the rest of CrIsis. The Warlock employed the forces of Air to transform himself into a mini Ja’Deir, and the Ashada robed himself in illusion. The three of them then took to the roofs and trees. They saw the humans and dwarf being unloaded from the constabulary’s paddy-wagon, and perp-walked into the jailhouse. “Why, if mine eyes don’t deceive my prodigiously perceptive perspicacity, our ambitiously abstruse allies are being fallaciously forced, con-fined to close-quartered convict’s confines! Avant, we must needs avail our august associates for assistance!”
Mikala assured the adventurers that the laws of the land would protect the just, despite their worries that the Dark would interfere.
The next day, the trial was held. The power of the psionic testifiers shocked Ja’Deir, when he saw them. The trial almost fell into the hands of a psionic worshiper of the Dark, but the light shone through, and he was punished at godly hands for the effort. No matter what people say of Ra, the Pantheon of Light is so much more forgiving than the Pantheon of Taut.
The merchant tried to take a poison, to avoid confessing to his crimes, but due to the quick-thinking Ja’Deir and a deft telekinetic catch the attempt was foiled. One death-bed confession later all of CrIsis was free, walking in the open sun. Xerx’ses, whose enchanted appearance was waning, had to hurry back to the safety of the Groff Estate. On their way home, Cava gasped, looking into the crowd, whispering a name under his breath. Ja’Deir caught a glimpse of firey hair whipping out of sight, and the Ranger was off, stalking the prey that had eluded him for his entire adult life. Such are his skills in Tracking and Counter-Tracking that he vanished completely from the abilities of the then-present CrIsis members.
As the sun sank into the depths of the eastern oceans, the Priest suggested that all of CrIsis pray for Cava, for thanksgiving after the blessed court ruling, and for blessings on the path toward the Lopanic Games. It was suggested that the vigil should be held on the beach, and CrIsis set off toward the shores. The group gathered a very large following, both from followers of CrIsis itself, and of general worshippers of the Pantheons, and of those that had heard of the events that day in the Courthouse. By the time their feet touched sand it could very well be considered a multitude.
Indaris lead all in the prayer service, and though he wasn’t in any posture known to Ja’Deir, the Xarisian assumed the pose of Rin, muttering the mantra of Isis, the Vajra of Glory and Sacrifice; “o’ṃ baishira mantaya sowaka…” The Priest spoke of many things, and in the native tongue of the Gods of Ma’ip. Long minutes passed, with scores of souls silently listening and lending their faith to the sending of Indaris’ words. Finally, the sermon concluded, Ja’Deir’s body felt strangely weak, as if he were channeling into the Astral plane.
The air started to feel heavy, as if a tropical storm were about to arrive, though the dusky sky was clear as could be wished. Though light blue still rimmed the sky, stars could be seen overhead, the strange minutes between night and day that both hold sway over the earth. The wind stopped dead, and the waves that had been growing larger and larger as the tide came in also froze, as if the world were holding its breath.
The Lady showed herself in a torrent of wind and water, glorious and beautiful and deadly as lightning incarnate. She was more beautiful than could be described without new words crafted to fulfill such grandeur. Though all that see her would call her the most gorgeous creature that any had ever beheld, no one would be able to ascribe this beauty to any one feature, or even describe it correctly after leaving her presence, as such things escape thought in the composition of the whole. Hair; Eyes; Lips; Neck; Breasts; Torso; Legs; Feet; each more awe-inspiring than the last, though none as perfect as the whole. Even more than that, is that the beauty oozing from every pore bespoke a deadly grace and nature far more terrifying than anything Ja’Deir had ever come across.
Ja’Deir prostrated himself, hands forming the Mudra for Isis: Vajra, the Great Thunderbolt. She of many names spoke to CrIsis from the sea, her voice sounding more resonant than you would expect. As individual members of CrIsis answered her, theirs were too, as if all were standing in an empty theater instead of on the open beach. She scolded them for being too rigid, and hesitant with the gods, as if all of them were Ra copys. She spoke to them of Cava, and his new mission outside of the group – which made their worries subside greatly.
She spoke to Xerx’ses, and dropped his disguise for all to see his nubile minotaurian glory. Ja’Deir sensed the shock, awe, and panic from the crowd, though no sound reached his ears from behind them. An uneasiness shuddered through the other members of CrIsis, but they waited for the Lady’s infinite wisdom to show them what they should do. She spoke to him as her child, with love and care washing over all in her ancient voice.
“Now,” she said, "I must do something else these children think I have been admonishing thee, champions. I should shed Light upon you this night.‘’ And when she said Light, there was an infusion of power from her to the heavens, and a second sun climbed into the sky as if shot from a bow. The heaviness in the air dropped, and the sound of the prayers of the multitude washed over CrIsis almost like a physical impact. "Peace be unto ye; Let the Light prevail!’’ She said as she vanished. A cheer went up, and the crowd rushed the unsuspecting group, hesitantly toward Xerx’ses and Ja’Deir at first, though Ja’Deir asked Xerx’ses to throw him and Tyvernos into the sky.
With titanic strength, the bovine hero thrust his groupmates into the heavens. The air caught in Ja’Deir’s ‘wings’ and Tyvernos let lose a terrible volley of fulmination, like fireworks in the skies above them. With a deft warlock’s touch, the two stayed airborne for much longer than they should have, and after several minutes the magnetic forces – with some heavenly help, no doubt – in the air transformed the heavenly fury into an aurora visible for miles around, proclaiming the light and love of Isis for all to see. On the beach the Priest provided milk and honey, and mana from heaven for those gathered, and although Groff Estate Servants appeared to cater the ordeal those surprise parishoners prefered the holy food to the lavish accomodations provided by mundane wealth.
The celebration of faith, love, and brotherhood lasted for hours, and will definitely become a source for strength for generations for those blessed New Crestians.
The next morning, the whole of the group was awakened by an urgent yelling by Indaris. The scene was strange that they stumbled upon; Ja’Deir thought that Overkill had been turned to stone, if not for his rosy complection still visible over his beard. The Captain knelt motionless with a letter in his hand with a very distinctive, spidery script. Something in those strokes reminded Ja’Deir of another letter he once received on the Grasslands of Orphid, which only engendered feelings of worry and dread for the Dwarf.
His infant daughter lay in the box, no doubt long dead. Ja’Deir’s senses passed over the tiny box, and it felt greasy to him, and wrong. Pain, anguish, despair, all infused every fiber of it, though far more heavily than any mortal, mundane villain could have mustered. Ja’Deir’s breath was sucked away as soon as he felt around it, and he couldn’t catch his breath, so terrible was the box. He had to turn and walk away to catch his breath. Poor Overkill. Another suffocating fit started to come over Ja’Deir, and he pushed it down. He couldn’t continue like this, for Overkill’s sake.
The others wanted to investigate, though everyone was being as gentle and mindfull of the Dwarf’s emotional state. No one in CrIsis would ever want to desecrate the remains of a loved one, especially one so perfect and innocent.
They took the paultry casket into the woods, far from unsuspecting passersby and accidental victims. After discussing, Overkill decided to be the one to open it, to verify that it was his progeny. Ja’Deir stood by with a paralytic strike ready, and prepared himself to ease Overkill’s troubled mind if needed. Ja’Deir’s worry changed to necessity, and he and Xerx’ses helped him relax. Ja’Deir eased Overkill’s mind, and he realized it would take long months of counseling for Overkill to overcome this ordeal. Ja’Deir steeled himself, and accepted the request to read the casket.
Ja’Deir knelt on the grass next to the box, muttering a mantra to clear his thoughts, feelings, and concerns. “O’ṃ a ra ba sha nō Sowaka, Zen. o’ṃ A ra Ba sha nō sOWaka, zeN. O’ṃ a RA ba shA nō sowAKa, zEn…” his voice modulated randomly, not intoning any specific emphatic meaning in the words as they carried him deep into his conscious and sub-conscious minds.
He pictured the box, roughly three palms in height, one and a half in width, made of a sturdy, solid paper substance, the lid of a separate piece. Its occupant in a supine supplicating state, arms outstretched in an optimistic infantile gesture of defense, trying to push the lid off and away from her terrified body, positive that if she could just open the lid, her mommom would be there to take the hurt and fear away.
His mind’s eye glided from the top of his head to the bottom of the box, looking through the opening. The day’s light vanished, like someone blew out the flame of a candle. Above the box loomed a dark-skinned demon. Its long, wicked claws stroked the box, and its hellish rasping voice cooed mockingly to the poor innocent. Ja’Deir instantly felt glad that he was channeling the box, and not the child.
Ja’Deir took a deep breath, like someone coming up for air after swimming. He related what he saw, and the others wanted him to read the buttons sewn onto the infant’s eyes while it still lived and screamed. His stomach wrenched and heaved, but he started back into meditation anyway.
Again, Ja’Deir’s mind’s eye glided from the top of his head to the box, but this time they rested six inches above the bottom of the box, to where the bloodied buttons rested atop the poor girl’s face. He heard a high-pitched scream, distant yet still close. It was almost inhuman in its intensity; a feral, airless scream from an age where the dark things still ruled the world, and man had to eke out their living scraping on rocks and conquering fire.
He felt the needle entering the button’s eyes, the thread pulling against its carved bone sides, and the blood welling up and splashing across the bottoms of it. As the sewer’s gnarled fingers bobbed, attatching the buttons, the screaming got louder, and he realized that the screaming wasn’t the child’s, but it was his own. The blood crusted layer after layer, and the lid came down like a giant’s foot, crushing all in its path. Pudgy, blood- and snot-stained hands lifted to the top, and defied the oppressing coffin’s lid.
Ja’Deir’s chest started to burn, and his arms felt as heavy as a minotaur’s droppings wrapped in soaked wool sheets. He realized his body had been screaming, and hadn’t stopped during the entire vision. His body couldn’t take in a breath, forced into the terrorized screams of an impossibly confused little innocent girl. The world melted slowly into darkness, edges first. Just before the last vestiges of the waking world sank into eternal night his chest finally heaved a painfully ragged breath. His throat burned as he coughed air back into his lungs.
His screaming changed into sobs, grieving for Overkill’s unfortunate daughter, and the gruesome, grisly, murder of her, and for the torture of all the loved ones at the hand of the Agent, and this unknown demonic ne’er dowell. He could still feel the blood coating his back, and the fuzzy thread passing through his stomach.
Ja’Deir rolled over, and realized the blood he was feeling wasn’t merely psionic residue, but mud from the forest’s floor due to his having urinated in the throes. He ran into the bushes to empty his stomach. He vomited until there was nothing but acid, and kept going.
The poor child was laid to rest upon the waters in a Bizantinian burial rite. The rest of the week passed in a haze for CrIsis, even in the midst of the exciting trials for the Lopanic Games.
Picture: Cute Overload