"Von Ryuko made no such offer to me," Vorian says, shaking his head, "Though if I might be so prudent, I do not believe any of us were there for the reasons we said we were. The Baron has more money than God; he didn't make that fortune off oil. It is a given that he lured us all there for a reason..." Spinning his knife between his fingers, he continues to speak, an inquisitive tone in his voice. "I had not given it much thought before, but were others besides us that were supposed to be at the ball. Two or three of them were old acquaintances of mine. I know for a fact that they planned to attend, but they never arrived."
"Unfortunately, I was not privy to the original invitation. Gahiji had gone to visit the Baron early and was to attend the party. When we had not heard from him for a couple of days, I was assigned, being the, well, most expendable. I know the Clan wants the lands and will be displeased that none are forthcoming. Gahiji either stumbled onto or was brought in on the replicant scheme, I think, and was imprisoned. I do not believe his duplicate was as cooperative as the Baron would have liked. Something went wrong with Von Ryuko's schemes. Gahiji, Gigus... they did not do what he wished."
Rashida paces before the windows, glancing out occasionally. "If your mother has control of the ship, Duchess, maybe Gahiji is captive or dead. That would be a relief! However, if he brings her in on what he needs to do, she might decide to take Vorian's treasures - which I notice you have not addressed, Lord Ritter - to the Clan and claim a reward."
Cassie bites her lip; "Can I talk to you about Gahiji in private, later?"
Whist Cassie keeps quiet about the rest of the adventures of Gahiji and Mimi has retired away from the tables a slightly uneasy look crossing her face before she hides it.
Spinning her hair around her finger she continues; "The first time I met Baron Von Ryuko was during my débutante year. I remember he asked me to dance, I should have know better." she pauses contemplating; "it wasn't anything he did. His hands roamed less than most, though I am always persuasive at making sure they are kept where I wish. But it was just something in his eyes, a dark intense light."
"He did seem to turn up at most of the events I went to, always insisting upon a dance. I learnt to avoid him, a minor noble from a minor house...." Cassie's voice is shaky remembering the creepy man. "How quickly he has risen, so rich and powerful!"
"You know well enough that they are not my treasures, Lady Massri," Vorian says grimly, his expression disturbed by Cassie's account of the Baron, "I was hesitant to bring it up before anyone besides you, but if you insist... well, it is important enough anyway." He leans back in his chair, arms folded. "There are three sarcophagi on board the Virago, each weighing about two metric tons. Despite my men's best efforts, opening them proved impossible. And scans proved... inconclusive." Pausing for a moment, he looks to the others.
"Von Ryuko is the one who pointed me in the direction of the tomb. He has provided such information many times before, but rarely in person."
"Three sarcophagi? Interesting... What was that idiot playing at?" Rashida murmurs, looking thoughtful. "I would just as soon have this out in the open so you all know what we're dealing with. I do not know what you have heard about the Massri Clan, but we are, in fact, divine. Or as near to it as makes no difference. Each of us has the ability to channel the powers of a god, or a being that has been presented as a god to the human race for centuries. We are human, except for when we give ourselves over to them."
"The remains you had, Lord Ritter, were of prior vessels of the gods. There is only one vessel for each deity. In the past, there has been no way to determine what deity a particular set of remains will channel. What Gahiji's double told me, what the Clan kept from me, is that they believe they can identify who can channel what deity. They have been looking for one particular set of remains for years now, but the tomb had been disturbed and the sarcophagi removed. They believe you had them, Lord Ritter. And you may have saved the world thereby."
Rashida stops and pours more coffee, then stares out the window, sipping the dark brew thoughtfully.
"Ah, there is indeed something about you, different and sort of otherworldly, I am not surprised that you are divine, your Holiness..." says the Duchess von Meowselsworth, who in turn, might seem a bit off to one who has supernatural senses. "My purposes for attending the party had nothing to with von Ryuko's request of me, though... I just wanted to help my family..."
The feline duchess leans over the table to lap at the drink poured for her. "As for my mother... based on a Meowmail I received, I suspect that she is working with Gahiji for now. This alliance from a cat who slew her best friend without too much thought, though... I doubt 'stable' will be any way to describe their working together."
Rashida chuckles. "I'm not actually divine, you know, just a conduit -- and a frail one at that. Gahiji is far more robust, but then he's been at it longer than I. And it is encouraging that their alliance may not be a smooth one. Even if they make it there, the Massris will need some time to prepare the remains, so this is not a problem of immediate concern. Still, the sooner it can be stopped, the better. We do not need a conduit for the one they seek to bring."
'He left me for a disembodied cat?!' her pride takes another knock. She sadly looks to the helmet-cat, who is so strong despite her family problems.
"Not frail, delicate like porcelain. Beautiful and of far more use than the pig-iron; your brother." Cassie replies softly. "Maybe by following this lead, we might be able to find Gigus' spirit! Give him a separate body!"
"So once we have heard from the reluctant Mimi;" Cassie teases her double with a mischievous look in her eye. "We can either follow Von Ryuko, see who he's dealing with? Or find Gigus' spirit? Or stop Gahiji and the Sarcophagi?"
"Of course the immediate problem is. Do we wait, or try and head to an island?" her voice querulous obviously anxious to do something. To have her hands full.
"Saved the world? Are you certain you're talking about me here?" Vorian asks, incredulous over Rashida's revelation. The accidental hero was something one read about in a penny dreadful, not something that happened in real life! The baffled noble falls silent as he thinks back to that time, of what he had gained, what he had lost... what had it all really been for? He shifts uncomfortably in his seat, before pouring himself some coffee, adding generous amounts of sugar before drinking. As the others continue their discussion, he finally speaks again."Considering what Von Ryuko had at his disposal on the island alone, I do not believe pursuing him would be wise. He no doubt knows that Darkov failed... and we still do not know who his sponsor in the League is. He would be expecting us. As for my ship, well... I can make do without my other treasures for the time being."
Despite the change of subject, he continues to mull over Rashida's words. Vessels of the gods? Then what on Earth attacked me? And what of the staff...?
"We do need to question him. But before we do, I must support Lord Ritter's position. We should not go straight after Von Ryuko. Instead, we must try to gain resources and support and, hopefully, information. Once we reach the Continent, I can try to contact old allies - now that I am free. I have not been in touch for thirty years or so and have no idea what shape the organization is in, but they may be able to help us."
Rashida paces and taps her long, golden nails nervously against her crossed arms. "Do any of you have resources or allies to rally to our cause?" she asks, looking at each of the nobles, "Or possibly enemies who may try to either thwart us or aid Von Ryuko?"
Though troubled, Vorian could not help but smile at Cassie's words. Such a revelation might have come as a pleasant shock instead if it were not for the irony imposed by his reasons for opening the tomb in the first place. It was something he would have to come to terms with, sooner or later.
"I will try to do it right next time," he says to Cassie in jest, though even before the words come out of his mouth, he finds himself fancying the idea. At Rashida's question however, he frowns and shakes his head.
"I had a few acquaintances with connections in the League that helped me bend the rules from time to time. They were the ones I was planning to contact before we were attacked. With what Darkov said about the League however, I do not believe there is anybody I can trust. After all, Von Ryuko was once someone I held in my confidence. That turned out... most regrettably."
"I have family, mostly, and my family mostly consists of helmet cats, who are as unpredictable as they come. I mean, I love my siblings and children dearly but... the expression 'herding cats' comes from somewhere," says Meowselsworth. "Mittens sent me a message earlier as I said. I suspect she is in pursuit. Whether she will help or not is another matter entirely... the message I received, I suppose it was a bit strange. Something about attending my funeral? Which is odd, as she was always such a well-behaved kitten... Aside from that, well... contacts in the opera, of course." Pause. "But if operatic performance would help us in any way, I would already be lauded a hero!"
'Rashida has some group? Over thirty years, I hope I look half as beautiful as her when I'm over thirty. I hope I look half as be beautiful as her now!" she looks across at Mimi carefully assessing.
She smiles back at Vorian, with his dry wit and noble charm.
"Opera! You sing Opera! I simply adore it, you cannot dance but the emotions." she breathes a heavy satisfied sigh.
Cassie realises it's come to her turn; "Friends? Well, I have you three and Taraz?" she says simply in a query.
"Oh, I have lots of acquaintances in any number of courts. If you want an invite to anywhere, I can get it." she gets a cheeky look in her eye. "Although sometimes, jewels and items can disappear."
"Enemies, there's some...ex-paramours, jealous wives, a couple of noble family vendetta's. Mostly nothing too terrible, if you are able to live by your wits and tongue." her words are light, but there is a tightness to her eyes that shows slight fear of disapproval.
Rashida laughs. "This is not turning out so well, is it? We have a madman who seeks our lives for an unknown reason, the League which seems to have turned against us, a sprinkling of relatives and enemies, opera people, miscellaneous social contacts, a family of assassins, whatever a benevolent but poor philanthropist can bring to the table, a family who is trying to kill their youngest son, and an ersatz family of divine powers with an internal schism and rebellious cabal. Oh, and a renegade airship with a homicidal maniac aboard, bringing the means to destroy much of humanity to those who would revive it and use it. OH, and let's not forget replicants. Thank goodness all but Mimi were destroyed."
"Where to go from here? I can easily send the Massri Clan a message saying the League has betrayed us and seeks our destruction. That, along with the information about Von Ryuko's replicants, may be sufficient to rally their resources against the League. It also may give me more leeway to operate freely." She lowers her voice. "Watch the Ament crew. Few are left and I am fond of them, but if they think I am not operating in the best interest of the Clan, they will not hesitate to do what they think necessary to return us to the Massris or thwart what we attempt. As long as they think we are helping track down Von Ryuko to answer the insult he visited upon us they should cooperate."
"And resources are resources!" she continues in a normal tone, "We should think of what they can bring us. Opera and theater people are excellent at costuming and makeup should we need to go underground. An 'in' to any social venue could be of great value for access to those we need to question... or kill. A helmetcat on another ship gives us more transportation, and a vehicle far less gaudy than this one. And the people on this ship are the most valuable asset of all. We can at least trust each other, having been through the fire together. Right?"
"Two homicidal maniacs aboard," corrects Kittington on the subject of the renegade airship. "If you think that reuniting with Mittens is a good idea, I can reply to her message with some coordinates. Her standard mode of transportation is a hot air balloon, though... I am not sure if she's piloting something else. Still, if you see a black and white helmet cat... I would like to know."
"And yes, I think we should be able to trust one another after all that's happened. Such situations can form strong bonds..." says the Duchess.
|Mimi Von Sollier|
Finding her voice finally Mimi pipes up; "The League is not a unified body, they are fractious. The Houses can squabble amongst themselves, I believe Master...sorry...Von Ryuko has got a sponsor amongst them."
She looks around the room, "I am afraid I have no allies, well apart from her. A young lady I used to sneak out and teach during rest periods. She is aboard the Baron's ship." Mimi pauses; "That's how I know where he is, she's not usually far from his side."
|Mimi Von Sollier|
Mimi twists her hair around a finger nervously; "Errr....without sounding catty. She isn't bright enough to be trust-worthy. Master Eichorn made her that way." she hastily adds trying not too seem too rude.
"She doesn't know I have put a trace on her." Mimi continues; "We cannot tell her much, but she could feed information to us if we can communicate."
"If we can listen in passively, that's one thing. If she has to know our frequencies, I'm leery of that setup. If the Baron has resources, he may be able to triangulate on our transmission and find us. I would not like that."
Rashida looks at the buffet and smiles. "I'm not hungry! That's a switch. I hope that means things are becoming synchronized. These transitions are not easy."
|Mimi Von Sollier|
"It's a burst transmitter, at an irregular time period it puts out a signal of low ancient frequency. Which The Baron should not be monitoring." Mimi pauses; "I can send a transmission to the receiver, she doesn't know it's there. And monitor everything... however as you say that leaves us vulnerable to triangulation."
"Alright we should keep that on the back-burner. The sooner we get to civilisation the better." her words are prophetic as the engine starts to thrum back into life. Cassie jumps to her feet looking towards the rear of the ship, even if she cannot see through the bulk-heads.
Her countenance completely changed as a tension she doesn't realise she felt is lost, the ship is running again and she is not so lost...physically at least. "They did say they might be able to fix it by this afternoon!" Her voice is relieved and relaxed. "So Rashida, I saw a hot-tub?"
Rashida smiles. "Indeed, there's one on deck. So, we will allow the current course to continue? If I can stop by the University, I can attempt to initiate contact with my friends. It may lead elsewhere, but it is a start. Duchess, do you trust Mittens? If you do, another helmetcat such as yourself will be a formidable ally indeed! I have every confidence in you and your judgement and will instruct the captain to transmit coordinates if you so choose."
She sets a couple of coffee cups, sugar, and cream on a service tray and picks it up. "I will return to my stateroom to change into something more suitable for the hot tub. Meet you there, Cassie? I may be a few minutes." Despite her nonchalant attitude, her cheeks turn a bit rosier than before as she exits the dining room.
"Ahem," Vorian says, covering his mouth with a balled fist. Dabbing at his mouth with his napkin again, he pushes himself away from the table and stands. "Well then, it seems as though we have a plan of action. Good, good. I had better check on my men. Please, do enjoy yourselves. I dare say you've all earned it, after everything that happened last night."
Lingering there briefly, he acknowledges the others with a grind and a nod before moving to leave.
"You're welcome to join us." Cassie says with a wink at the fleeing gentleman.
She turns to Rashida as she too leaves; "Enjoy your tiffin!"
"So Duchess do you want to join us, you can wait by the edge sipping cocktails? And you too Mimi?" she concedes. "I always thought I'd look good blonde."
"Tempting!" Vorian calls out without looking as he leaves the dining room. He chuckles to himself, entertaining the idea of actually taking Cassie up on her invitation. Now, now, Vorian. Overindulgence is hardly gentlemanly. Besides, it wasn't as though he had any bathing suits - he hadn't even brought any to Von Ryuko's mansion.
Assassins at a pool party. Because surely that would have gone well.
"I trust the Mittens I know implicitly. She is kind and ethical, though admittedly a bit unpredictable... however, I am not sure if something happened. I worry..." says the Duchess, tail flicking lightly. "We will see how valuable an ally my dear kitten will be... I only hope that she is okay."
Her ears perk up at all of this talk of the hot tub and she says, "Ah, I will stand by, but I have a mechanical device plugged directly into my brain, so I may want to keep dry." While helmet cat helmets are actually perfectly waterproof, as a species, they tend to have a ready excuse for their hydrophobia.
"Good Duchess because I wouldn't want you to feel left out." Cassie adds, then with a smile. "I may even make us some cocktails!"
She bounces out of the room back to her stateroom; there she looks to see if Rashida kindly provided her with a swimsuit. Fortunately there is a white one-piece, with pale golden sparkles down the front whilst the side panels remain plain.
Quickly getting changed into it, Cassie looks down at her body with some annoyance. The bruises and scratches of yesterdays fight still mar her body. 'I wonder if Rashida has a healing tongue like her brother.' She then tries to rearrange the suit as if appears slightly tight in some places and loose in others.
Going back through the corridors, when a distracted crew-member walls into bulkhead. Cassie smiles, her confidence restored and with a swish of her hips goes up onto deck.
Testing the water of the hot-tub with her toe and finding it perfect, the soft breeze as the airship sings through the air. Perfect for the cocktails that Cassie begins mixing before slipping easily into the bubbling water.
Sipping deeply of the cocktail, just to try it for taste, Cassie decides that it needs a bit more peach brandy. Which she invariably adds, before shaking up the concoction.
Turning as Mimi comes on deck in a red bikini, and slides straight into the hot-tub. "This is what we are meant to do?" the replicant asks.
"Oh Dahling, you haven't socialized often have you? Will you be alright in the water it won't rust your sprockets? And here." Cassie bends over and hands the bathing robot a drink.
"No, I am all fleshy, well except for some core programming. The flesh is artificial but it feels real. Go on..." Mimi says whilst taking rather a large gulp of the amber nectar. Cassie gently pinches Mimi's arm with a nod, before having to refill her glass.
Rashida drifts out sometime later still in her pants suit, and takes a chair near the tub. She looks relaxed enough not to need a hot soak and sits sipping a little wine and watching the ocean sunset while the other ladies soak.
"No disrespect intended, but is it strange looking at yourself?" she asks quietly, though whether of Mimi or Cassie, it is impossible to tell.
|Mimi Von Sollier|
"Definitely!" they answer in unison. There eyes meet and they let out a little giggle.
Cassie moves over towards Rashida, there's a slight tightness in her eyes. "I'm sorry, my actions. I really treasure our friendship." she says nervously offering to refill her glass with either wine or the Woo Woo cocktail.
"This would have looked better on you than me." she indicates her borrowed swimsuit.
"You look lovely, in it. You have a nice body." Mimi replies innocently trying to make Cassie feel better. Bubbling away in the tub, Mimi is quite tipsy as she is unused to alcohol. "Anyway what was that with the lion-man that I heard about?"
"You have nothing to apologize for, Cassie. I owe you one. Let's forget about it and put it all behind us. We were both tired and very stressed, no? Oh, what is that? Sure, I'll try some." She holds out her glass for some of the mixed cocktail.
"You met Gahiji, Cassie? Did he help against those giants and the soldiers? It is why I released him. He didn't harm you, did he? I did not give him leave to."
Cassie blushes pouring out a taster for Rashida; then bringing her own glass to cover the rising redness of her face. "Yes, I met him. He's very arrogant, although he did have the.... power to back that up." Crouching down she looks to her friend and shyly continues. "He took out the giants....although 2 of them should count for me."
"If he tells you he won the bet. He's a liar." the enthusiasm bubbles out of her remembering how she was at the peak of her form, the adrenaline and excitement of the night before. "He even managed to heal me! It was a great contest, he didn't hurt me although he did threaten me....sort of."
Then her tone calms down; "Although he doesn't seem to keen on you, he's a ding-bat."
Rashida smiles. "He cares little for control or being controlled, particularly by a being he regards as weaker than himself. Still, his passions are not entirely reserved for blood. I'm certain he was... stimulating company. And you are safe from him, for now. If we ever run across him again, it may be that you should be the one to deal with him. You seem to have hit it off." Rashida looks searchingly at her friend, then shrugs slightly. "If you saw him in action, you know to be careful, Cassandra."
"Mimi, have you been to Europe before, perhaps with Von Ryuko?"
|Mimi Von Sollier|
Rashida's answer causes Cassie to puzzle; twisting her hair around the twizzle stick of her drink.
"Yes, I have. Although, mostly I was in the laboratory. The techies and Whitey didn't let me out often." Mimi pauses remembering "I was allowed to escort him to one stage-show. It was interesting, a quiz to work out how the performer and his assistant hid items and cut each other in half. Or performed other acts of mesmerism. Master Eichorn wasn't pleased when I told him how they did it." She whispers conspiratorially from the bubbling tub. "I don't think he got any of them. He was quite mad at me."
"Awwww." Cassie leans over and rubs Mimi on the head compassionately, "I think I'd look good as a blonde. How about we give you a make-over? What do you think Rashida - would Mimi look good with some sunny locks."
Rashida drops her eyes, then looks out at the sunset again. "Being a conduit is not... exactly what I thought it would be. I can do neither of those things. The goddess is nothing like Gahiji's god. Her domain is the soul, not the physical world. And it is not Gahiji who does those things, but his... uh... possessor?" She bites her lip. "He is a good vehicle for the one he channels. I am... not so good. But I am glad you have some sort of rapport with him. It is a better way to manage him than I can do!"
She peeks at Mimi and Cassie. "Blonde, hmm? I suppose. You can each try something new and decide what you like. Do you plan on being yourself once we reach the continent, or are you staging a disguise?"
Moving over to her best friend, Cassie puts a hand gently upon the safari suit. "Of course, you have too much personality and life to be perfect conduit giving yourself over to your Goddess. But does this mean that isn't Gahiji's personality? That he's actually a sweet guy?" she says the last hopefully whilst blushing. Then she shakes her head and drinks more of her sugary drink.
"I am going to be me. But that means.... I cannot be" Mimi finishes her sentence. Cassie looks at her sadly; "It's probably better this way, a make-over'll be a good excuse to spend some time together."
Rashida regards Cassie with some concern. "I won't lie to you, Cassie. I don't know Gahiji that well, but what I've seen has been awful. He's arrogant, violent, and sensuous. I would worry for your safety." She shakes her head and rises to stroll along the deck rail, enjoying the sea breeze as it tousles her hair.
"I'm glad you are going to get to know one another better, ladies. I think it will be to your advantage to see your differences as well as your similarities, now that you've survived your initial meeting. Once we get to the Bodensee, I will try to find what has become of my school friends and we can go from there. Perhaps Mittens will bring us other news, too."
|Mimi Von Sollier|
As her ebony hairs flicks in the wind, Rashida's words chill Cassie more than any wind. She is drawn to him like a moth, but sensible enough to know she'll get burnt. 'I want to see him again, but then I fear it...'
Whilst Cassie is lost in thought, Mimi laughs as the bubbles tickle her. "Yes, it's great to actually meet the person rather than the legend. I think it might be fun to be a blonde and if you could teach me that eye-liner trick too Miss Massri." she asks softly as her twin looks at her with some surprise.
"I take it Taraz looked after you last night?" she asks naively remembering her promise to the man.
With a modicum of effort, Vorian finds a member of his crew moving through the halls busily, bequeathed with some of the duties of those slain during Von Ryuko's attack. At the sight of his Lord however, he stops immediately, giving him his full attention.
"Lord Ritter! How can I be of service?"
Vorian grins plaintively at the man's unwavering loyalty. He was one of the few people left on the planet that he genuinely trusted. He considers the question for but a moment before answering.
"If you would, when the ladies are out of the hot tub, ask the Lady Massri to meet me at my quarters. Tell her that there is a matter she and I neglected to discuss, and that I have something to give her. Once she is dressed, of course. I won't have you misrepresent my motives, now."
Without question the crewman confirms the order, before setting about his other duties. Vorian lingers there for a moment, tapping the tip of his cane against the ground apprehensively before moving heading back towards his room. With a sigh, he passes through the door and closes it behind him, looking to his suitcase on the ground. Another piece to the puzzle. Mine, at least. Before he could settle into though too deeply, a glint in the corner of his eye catches his attention.
Moving over towards his bed, he finds that the most gaudy men's swimsuit imaginable laid across it. Lifting it before his eyes, he looks carefully at the fabric, an odd combination of awe and abhorrence coming over him. Is this... is this real gold? Did they actually expect me to wear this? If he had not passed on Cassie's offer already, he most certainly would have now. Casting the garment away with a huff, he sits at his bedside, content with waiting for now.
Rashida nods graciously at the Virago crewman's request. She bows briefly to the DuSollier twins and the Duchess. "If you will excuse me for a moment, ladies, I have business to attend to. Enjoy the sunset."
She follows the crewman through the ship's corridors and down ladders, wincing to see the evidence of Von Ryuko's bombardment. Though the bulk of the ship's structure was intact, there was certainly significant cosmetic damage. Most of the serious wreckage had been in the engineering areas, where Cassie and the crewmen had already worked their repair magic. Still, the mars in the perfection of Ament were jarring, if not serious.
How quickly we become accustomed to luxury and perfection, she muses, then halts rather abruptly as the crewman stops and knocks at a cabin door. He announces her quite properly and she nods thanks before allowing herself to be ushered into the compartment, bowing slightly to Vorian as she enters. "Good evening, Lord Ritter. I hope your cabin suits... er, I prefer the door remain open... no offense, Lord Ritter, it is only proper when a lady is unaccompanied in a gentleman's quarters," she says hastily as the crewman bows himself out and moves to close the door behind him.
"Ah, Lady Massri. I did not expect you to arrive so soon. I do hope Hubert did not bother you," Vorian says, looking to Rashida's escort, who was now shifting uncomfortably. Smiling weakly he gestures with his hand, dismissing the servant, who departs immediately. The smile wavers briefly at Rashida's request, trepidation passing over his face. Nonetheless he nods, acquiescing to the fact that it was her ship, after all. "Yes, of course." Standing, he approaches her slowly, stopping at least ten paces away.
"I apologize for summoning you on your own ship; it is highly irregular. But there is something I must tell you before we travel amidst one another's company for any longer," he says, folding his hands behind him before pacing back and forth. An awkward silence ensues as he searches for the proper words to use. "Those former 'vessels of the gods' that I stole, the ones now in Gahiji's possession... they were not the only treasures I found in your ancestral tomb." He looks to the suitcase off the side of the door, his grip tightening on his cane. It did not foster fond memories. "It is in the suitcase, there - I left it unlocked. Perhaps... perhaps you had best look upon it yourself. I find that words do not quite give it... justice."
"It is no bother whatsoever, Lord Ritter. After all, we are allies. I appreciate your candor." She looks curiously at the suitcase and kneels next to it, laying it flat and snapping open the latches. With a final glance at Vorian, she opens the lid.
Golden light plays across Rashida's face as she gazes at the strange - device? decoration? instrument? - for long moments. "It's beautiful," she breathes, "What is it?"
Vorian watches Rashida carefully as she opens the suitcase, letting out a sigh in response to her question.
"I do not know. To be entirely honest, I was hoping you would be more knowledgeable of it than I," he says with a wry grin, leaning forward on his cane, "I found it in the same chamber as the sarcophagi. I had presumed that it was connected to them somehow. It emits some kind of aura; I do not know how to describe it any other way. I've had tests run on it, but they were always inconclusive. It just feels unpleasant to be in the presence of. Its function eludes me."
Rashida remains kneeling by the case, eyes downcast. After a few moments, she sighs. "I can always ask, Lord Ritter. It may be that the goddess knows. As little as I like doing so, it is probably better that we know what this is and if it is of some danger to us."
She takes up the 'cane' with both hands, holding it flat across her palms as she gracefully rises to stand facing Vorian. "She is not violent, so have no fear, Lord Ritter. She is justice, and she approaches."
Rashida's skin begins to take on that golden glow that Vorian saw before on the landing pad, and her eyes flood with darkness. She throws her head back and shivers, then straightens and is suddenly someone - or something - else, someone who gazes at the golden rod impassively. After some time, it opens its lips to speak.
"Vorian Ritter, you have brought us a great gift," she says, voice echoing strangely, as if through other dimensions, "See now the Was Sceptre!" The being grasps the center of the staff with her right hand and waves her left over it, and the crawling runes upon its surface rush to align. The staff grows longer and thinner, forking at one end and growing an almost animal-like head at the other. Rashida[?] rests the forked end upon the deck, the head of the scepter now reaching her shoulder, and returns her dark gaze to Vorian. Both she and the staff glow even brighter now, shadowy blue hieroglyphics scrolling along the scepter's surface once again.
"You have doubtless seen these in tomb paintings, symbols of power and authority and order. The ones wielded by mortals were shadows of this, the Was which can be used only by the gods. Now, thanks to you, we have a chance of preserving order, even if the rogue Massri plan to return Set to this place succeeds. We have hope. This is a great gift, indeed. It is only fair that you receive a gift in return. What boon would you have, Vorian Ritter? If it is within my power, I shall grant it." The echoing voice is and is not Rashida's, and Ritter can easily tell it is not she who speaks, but the Other.
Cassie shivers upon the deck; her supernatural senses not as acute - the Protector interprets this as being cold from the wind chill. "Mimi, can you rub some of this on me? It's a healing unguent, the only thing I managed to rescue from my ship."
Producing a large Art-Deco clay vase from her clutch bag she hands it across to Mimi, as she lays face down on the lounger. With a smile that Cassie has accepted her, Mimi opens the jar and drizzles the oil across her back. Her twin works the warm oil into the cuts caused by the previous days conflicts.
“The Was Sceptre…?” Vorian murmurs, looking upon Rashida’s form with an expression of shock and awe. But is it truly her? Her appearance alone raised doubt, but it was the feeling of standing in her presence that told him that this was not Rashida. As though my very existence is being stifled by her being… so this is a goddess. Swallowing nervously, he quickly regains his composure, listening intently to this otherworldly being’s words. Try as he might however, the offer she poses catches him off guard entirely.
“A gift?” he replies futilely, the possibilities scrambling in his mind. What does one ask for from divinity? There was a time when he might have wished for women and riches, so that he may revel in luxury for the rest of his life. Eternal youth was another prospect, but Vorian had long learned the value of mortality. What he truly desired was to see his men once more, alive and well, but even he knew that such a thing was well beyond this goddess’ domain. It seems that I will have to be selfish yet again… but perhaps I can make some good come of it. After a long moment of deliberation, Vorian finally speaks.
“I am cursed. An apparition I encountered in the tomb of the Massri pulled on my soul. It… tainted it,” he says slowly, hardly believing what he was saying. Then he had merely thought it all to be a hallucination, a dream even, but seeing what Rashida was capable of had shattered his denial. Superstition was both killing him and keeping him alive – it needed to be put to a stop. “It agonizes me constantly, spreading across my body as the months drag on. I was promised a slow, painful death. Is it in your power to save my life?”
The being remains silent, regarding Ritter without expression as long moments stretch on. Finally, it speaks. "Vorian Ritter, if what you say is true, grave wrong has been done to one of us; either to you by damage to your being, or to me by tampering with that which is mine to judge. What I can see is limited. To know what has befallen you, and thereby aid you, I must touch your being. You have witnessed this before, on DuSollier and that poor construct. I must do the same to you or I cannot aid you."
She pauses to give Vorian time to think, then tilts her head slightly and clarifies. "It is not your time. I do not judge, but assess. Even if you are found wanting or flawed, your heart will not meet its final judgement now. You shall live."
She stands motionless with unnatural calm, the light of the Was Sceptre flickering along the walls as the writing writhes and flows, waiting for his answer.