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Maurya-Rahm Advisor

Rashida Massri's page

480 posts. Alias of Treppa.


1 to 50 of 480 << first < prev | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | next > last >>

Daughter of Gods. Gods! or possibly of aliens.

I still like Taraz's new look.

Daughter of Gods. Gods! or possibly of aliens.

The Reckless trait makes Acrobatics a class skill (for the big +4) and gives a +1 bonus to the skill.

4 class + 3 dex + 4 ranks + 1 trait = 12?

Saves are from cloak of resistance +1.

Daughter of Gods. Gods! or possibly of aliens.

Backing CON off 1, so HP 30 instead.

Daughter of Gods. Gods! or possibly of aliens.

Weal or Woe?:

L1: 8+2 = 10
L2: 1d8 + 2 ⇒ (2) + 2 = 4 (take default of 6)
L3: 1d8 + 2 ⇒ (6) + 2 = 8
L3: 1d8 + 2 ⇒ (8) + 2 = 10
Total HP: 34


Daughter of Gods. Gods! or possibly of aliens.


Daughter of Gods. Gods! or possibly of aliens.

Can we play less common races, like aasimar? :)

Daughter of Gods. Gods! or possibly of aliens.

20 point buy, roll for HP but minimum 1/2+1, standard WBL.

Daughter of Gods. Gods! or possibly of aliens.

Who art thou, stranger?

Daughter of Gods. Gods! or possibly of aliens.


Daughter of Gods. Gods! or possibly of aliens.

Rashida falls silent, somewhat confused and unwilling to admit it before a helmetcat. Helmetcats always seemed to know what was going on, making even the host of a goddess feel rather stupid at times. Maybe she misunderstood everything. Oversight was not the same as protection. She stands silent, scratching under Sam's chin and waiting for the goddess to return or for the inhabitants of the basilica to come forth.

Daughter of Gods. Gods! or possibly of aliens.

"Unfortunately, this is true." Rashida strokes the tabby a bit more, then, thinking back upon what was said, ventures a question. "Do you mean Kittington was with us to... to protect Taraz?"

Daughter of Gods. Gods! or possibly of aliens.

Rashida watched the graceful helmetcat approach along the deck rail, heedless of the long, long drop to the ground. "Oh. Greetings, friends. I was just on my way to check the medical bay," the feline vocalized through her helmet.

The Duchess had been in sick bay when Rashida had awakened there, fully restored to proper function. The helmetcat sat on the bunk of a similarly helmeted tuxedo cat, gently licking the unconscious cat's face and purring softly to her. Nobody had been by Rashida's bedside, she felt sure. She was not the person Lady DuSollier had intended to save. She was not the person Lord Rorenson had been seeking in the horrid lab below Von Ryuko's island. She was not the one the goddess Ma'at wished to commune with, having tried to touch the goddess throughout the trip to Morocco. She was... nothing.

With a gracious nod to the helmetcat, Rashida said, "I hope all is well with your loved one, Duchess. I would accompany you, but I have other things to do. If you will excuse me Duchess, Captain." She withdrew and descended to her cabin, there to extract a long cylinder from its hidden stowage. Slinging the leather tube over one shoulder, she marched determinedly up the ladders to the top deck, where Lady DuSollier leaned on the rail, gazing out across the hills and rooftops of romantic Roma.

Unslinging the tube, she joined Cassie at the rail and thrust the container at her abruptly. "Here. This is not mine. I have tried to use it, but cannot. All it does is vibrate and swivel to face a direction. I think it is pointing to Rashida. The real Rashida. She did not go where I expected, where I told her to go. I can't blame her for not trusting me, though perhaps the goddess rules now." She didn't try to hide the bitterness in her voice. "She trusts you, so I can also trust you to return this to her. I am done here. Tell her... tell her I kept our bargain. Tell her I decoyed Gahiji successfully, but only until he struck me. He knows, as do our enemies, that she is not with you. I tried to protect you, too. It was what she wanted. But I am useless as a decoy any more. And you do not need protection in Rome, back in civilization. Also, I have no wish to meet Lord Rorenson now that I know what I am. Here. Give this to Rashida." Rashida thrust the tube into Cassie's hands.

Daughter of Gods. Gods! or possibly of aliens.

Rashida continues to stroke Sam, oddly comforted by the helmetcat's rumbling purr, almost as if she were in the company of the Duchess again. In the meantime, her thoughs and the goddess' war within her head.

Through her own melange of fear, hope, and joy, Rashida clearly sensed Ma'at's astonishment and even outrage. This cannot be! It cannot be allowed! the divine being clearly thought, before suddenly disappearing. Apparently, the goddess had the means to cloister her thoughts. Or had she withdrawn? Rashida could not be certain, but she felt more alone now than she had for the past week.

"Sam... you mean that Taraz and I... we're, uh... I'm... uh...?" Rashida timidly and inarticulately asked the helmetcat, feeling certain this was the meaning yet not sure she was properly understanding.

Daughter of Gods. Gods! or possibly of aliens.

"Wha---? Rashida barely catches the helmetcat, firms up her support of the feline, and caresses his back, stunned.

"Wha---? Ma'at simultaneously said, as both came to understand the import of the helmetcat's words at the identical moment.

"But... that's impossible!" they said/thought in unison.

Daughter of Gods. Gods! or possibly of aliens.

"Never fear, it is natural for cats to be impertinent. Their disorder is part of the order of things, if that makes sense to you. But I digress, perhaps to delay the inevitable. Bide a moment." The beautiful woman's eyes unfocused from the helmetcat and stared into unfathomable distances.

Rashida roused reluctantly from a dream of warmth and love. The goddess wanted her. Was it the clergy at last? But no. "A messenger for you, Rashida. One of Bast's helmeted servants." Rashida found herself surprisingly refreshed after the enforced nap, though a base of grief ran through her mind which would not be banished for a long time, if ever.

Rashida returned to her body with the joyous thought "The Duchess! Surely it is she!" But her eyes registered a different feline, helmeted entirely (to her) oddly. Still, its presence here was interesting, exciting. A message...?

"Greetings. I am Rashida. I fear I do not know you, Sir Cat. Are you a relative of my friend, the Duchess Kittington?" Though nothing had blatantly changed about the golden woman standing before him, the helmetcat could see the change when the one called Rashida spoke. The eyes... it was the eyes. They had become human, both in look and expression, and lost that vast dispassion that the goddess necessarily carried. Yes, this was Rashida, as she said. Of that, there could be no doubt. Just as there was no doubt that Ma'at still remained, quiescent but present.

Daughter of Gods. Gods! or possibly of aliens.

The thread of consciousness connecting Rashida's person to Ma'at proper twinged, alerting Ma'at that something was happening on that fragment of Geb the natives now called "Earth". Satisfied that her other selves were functioning properly, she opened her real eyes to survey the room and study the great figures enthroned there. All sat quietly, some with eyes closed, some with eyes glinting as their consciousness focused momentarily upon their primary body. Ma'at's eyes closed once more as she turned her attention to Earth.

A surprise awaited there, where no delegation of bright-clad cardinals or solemn bishops approached. Instead, seated near her feet, a helmeted tabby cat smiled with eyes nearly slitted closed. Ma'at nearly smiled herself at the emissary of one she considered an ally and inclined her head slightly in greeting as she used the brain of this body to replay the words of the helmetcat so she could formulate a reply to his request.

"Child of Bast," she said softly, "It is good to see you here again. I'm certain it has been a long time since we last met, considering that my kind has been kept from this place for centuries. You are well come. But you say your message is for Rashida, more properly named my guest than my host? I am surprised. Does Bast have no word for me here?"

The goddess tilted her head curiously and regarded the smiling helmetcat. "I can awaken the child Rashida. She has had some... ill news lately and has been distraught. Perhaps your message will distract her, whether good or bad. You do realize that whatever you tell her, I will know?"

Daughter of Gods. Gods! or possibly of aliens.
Two weeks ago wrote:

The Swiss Guard, resplendant in their gaudy red uniforms, had cleared the Basilica of tourists and clergy alike. Still Rashida stood stock-still under the dome near the altar, her illumination turning the gilt artwork to fire. It had been two hours since Ma'at had revealed herself, and the only response had been to clear the hall. Rashida's legs shook from standing motionless for so long, and she worried that she might faint, yet Ma'at retained control and kept her there, motionless.

You worry too much, child. This is not your old human body, remember. It is partly mine and can endure much more than you suspect. Forget your frailties. You will find what you need to know when the time comes. Ma'at's internal voice felt amused. Were you not protected with your brother's manikin attempted your life? You would not have known that power had you continued to hide behind the human you are so fond of. A rill of laughter flowed through her head. 'White knight' indeed. It amuses me that you, of all people, sought a protector in the Baron's games. Had you allowed our communion earlier, the game would have ended sooner, with all guests safe... unless they brought evil with them.

A wave of comfort answered Rashida's sudden despair. It is not your fault. This thing that has been done to you should never have happened. You, of all people, are blameless in this situation.

I could have reached you sooner, goddess.

Ma'at sighed. This was difficult for you because you are a complete person. When this body was made for me, it was mine to inhabit with nobody to displace. I do appreciate the knowledge that you bear, but the cost for it was high... and will go higher still, I fear. For this body, dear child, is mine, and has been for many centuries. Your time may be, shall we say, limited. At least, as you are now.

Rashida's confusion at this statement was evident to the goddess. You will not die, of course. But the longer I use this body as a conduit, the more you and I will... merge? It is not the best word. I would leave you to your life if I could, but the fate of the world is at stake. I must be present here to try to safeguard this place, and my own home. If the balance tips in this place, it will spread.

Merge? What do you mean? Rashida knew her response was alarmed, nearly panicky, but could hide nothing of her heart and mind from the goddess. She felt a trickle of sweat slide lazily from between her shoulder blades along the curve of her spine, down to the small of her back, but Ma'at prevented her from reacting to the discomfort.

The goddess was a long time in replying, and Rashida could sense a complex mingling of sadness, regret, and resignation before the answer. As the neural pathways of this body align to my presence, you will become more... me. Less the person you once were. You will learn what I know and how to function, and will take on more of my personality than your own. It is inevitable.

Wait. My thoughts will change... my feelings? What about...? Images flashed through Rashida's mind faster than conscious thought - her old confederacy to undermine the Massris, the new friends she had made among the nobles, the ones who had become very dear to her, especially...

Your lover, Taraz... I see your fear. Yes, I have no more regard for him than for any other being here. I care for you all, but fairly, evenly. I am here to bring balance, reward virtue, and punish evil. I am not here to be a friend or a lover. Neither shall you be.

At Rashida's fresh wash of despair and grief, Ma'at continued, as though to comfort her. It is better this way, child. Your body is not human, as I said. This man you love... you cannot give him the kind of home or family one of your kind seeks or deserves in their natural course of life. You can, of course, take lovers and serve their and your own desires, but you cannot give any mere human a family. Only with one of our own can you reproduce, and that is forbidden. It is not fair to this man to be saddled with such a life when another could give him everything he needs.

A pause.

I see you are not comforted. I am truly sorry. This should never have happened, but what is done is done. I will shut you away from this body for while lest it leave my control and grieve openly. Such a thing would not do here. Go then, and try to find peace. I will return you here when something happens. Rashida, I would be your partner here on Earth, to work with you to set things right. Sometimes, higher callings interfere with our wants. Sometimes, we hurt. Now go.

And the darkness swallowed both Rashida and her grief.

Daughter of Gods. Gods! or possibly of aliens.

An involuntary smile flickers across Rashida's normally placid face as the apellation "Cleo" registers. Turning from the rising sun and the gilded rooftops and domes of the Eternal City, she surveys the young man, still somehow scruffy and unkempt even in uniform.

"Captain," she drawls ironically, then pauses a moment, remembering.

The Chase Ends wrote:

Lord Ritter's face had paled even as they approached their quarry, now turning as if an animal at bay. From her spot on deck, watching the pursuit, Rashida could hear a loud hissing and clang from the ship ahead, then a rising whine of electronics powering up. Vorian whirled to face the command deck.

"Squirrel!" the nobleman shouted to the young man on the bridge, "Don't let Virago get a bead on us, or we're done for! The firing port is in the bow, there!" His outstretched finger indicated a strange opening just below the figurehead of the lead ship, just now coming hard about to line up with Phantom.

The street rat had hesitated only a moment, rapidly sizing up the turning Virago. "A'ight, hard to starboard, props to full. Keep us out of line of dat ting! Squirrel turned to give rapid-fire orders to two of the bridge crew, who immediately hustled up the rope ladder into the giant gasbag keeping Phantom aloft. The ship turned with agonizing slowness, barely staying ahead of Virago's aim for the minute or so it took the crewmen to enter the ship's main balloon compartment and disappear. "ALL STOP!" yelled their scruffy captain, and Phantom drifted on the wind, slowing now that the propellors were idle. Virago's gun port swung inexorably on target until it pointed at Phantom's midships, propellors whirring hard to hold its aim on the pursuing ship.

"What are you doing!? She's lining up a shot, I tell you!" Rashida had panicked at the alarm evident in Vorians' voice, but Squirrel had only skewered Lord Ritter with an icy glare, standing firm on the bridge until the audible whine from Virago scaled up into painful frequencies. "God, she's going to..."

Phantom's first mate cut off Vorian's cry of despair with a ringing shout of "FIRE!". Twin reports from inside Virago's bag were immediately succeeded by two louder POPs and the whistling of gas venting from the bag's outer shell. Virago, deprived of a tenth of its buoyancy, immediately plummeted twenty feet, as if a giant had swatted it downward, jarring nobles and crew alike from their feet, except for the nimble helmetcat. Almost simultaneously, there was an enormous BOOM! from Virago, and something roared between Phantom and her gas bag faster than anyone could possibly see, heating the air to oven-like temperatures and snapping some of the suspension cables, but missing both the ship and its gigantic balloon.

Virago immediately (for an airship) began moving straight toward Phantom, descending as she came on, as if to ram Phantom broadside, propellors whirring furiously to impel the gigantic lighter-than-air ship into motion. Another hiss/clunk was audible, and Vorian's knuckles tightened on his cane as he and the rest of the people on deck struggled to their feet. Do it, ignorant savages. Destroy my ship, if you must, but destroy yourselves, too, he muttered within Rashida's enhanced hearing.

The nobleman knew what the ship's horrid captain and first mate did not, what none of the impressed Moroccans knew, and what the few remaining Virago crewmen would never tell their hijackers - that a second firing of the great railgun would destroy it, and possibly the ship. As Virago came on, lining up the killing shot, the electronics whined up the scale into the ultrasonic. "Ritter! What now?" the young captain had called, but Vorian had given him a relaxed wave of reassurance, more relaxed than he doubtless truly felt. The next tremendous report from Virago was truly explosive, tearing apart the entire midships, a few screaming bodies plummeting gracefully to the sand far below. The cabin bobbed and rocked in the aftermath, but it held together, as did its suspension cables. Crippled but maintaining buoyancy and momentum, the great ship continued on its course towards Phantom, intent on ramming, despite the steam hissing from its gaping midships, bundles of pipes and wires dangling like horrid viscera from a fatal wound.

"My mother. Oh no..." The noble helmetcat's fur suddenly puffed in alarm and she dashed up the ladder to the bridge, helmet's vocal apparatus at full volume to be heard over the cacophany of the two ships' stresses. "Captain! My mother lives in the 'brains' of that ship. Should it touch ours, she can move to control this one. This is something we definitely do not want. It must not happen, or we all die. Unless I can control her. Which I'm not certain I can."

The young first mate blinked for a moment, then roared to his crew, "All a' ya, listen up! Deploy oars! Row us outta da way o' dat ting! Spring, ya sheep-head, spring! Spring, muttonchops! Spring and break yer backs. Ya nobles - spring, too! Take an oar! Spring, all of ya, spring yer eyes out!"

At the first shout of Deploy oars!, crewmen dashed along Phantom's sides, unfastening the cleverly stowed wind-oars from their place along the rail, while the pilot pulled a great lever that deployed other banks of oars from the hull. Once out, tremendous steamwork mechanisms within the ship began sweeping the shafts forward, then back, the oars automatically unfolding on the fore-stroke to catch the hot desert wind and use it to propel the ship forward, the entire ship shuddering with the stress of the mechanism.

Interesting. He's got a good grounding in the classics, Rashida thought, curious. But when an oar was deployed near her, she instinctively jumped to obey the young man's orders and pulled at it with a good will, enjoying the unaccustomed feeling of strength rippling through her frame. Perhaps being partly mechanical - what is that called, anyway? - is a good thing after all. I'm certainly stronger than my human body ever was.

She'd watched in awe as this young man had transformed as if by magic from a street urchin to a figure of power and command, voice ringing across the decks as if he were born to be a leader of many men. He had certainly saved the ship that day, even if they had not been able to move Phantom fast enough to be out of range of the leap of the great cat waiting hunched at Virago's rail for the point of closest approach. He did not deserve the ironic title 'Captain'. He deserved the real thing.

She straightens and gives him a solemn nod and serious greeting. "Captain Squirrel. I am well, thanks to you. We haven't spoken since... you saved us from that horrid cannon and from that mad helmetcat's spirit." Placing one manicured hand at her throat, she bows slightly at the waist. "My thanks. It was well done. You truly are Phantom's captain now."

Daughter of Gods. Gods! or possibly of aliens.

The clack of her heels echoed through the great stone room beneath the Dome of St. Peters in the heart of Rome. Fashion-conscious Romans stared at the Egyptian, clothed in traditional pleated linen garb, gold jewelry, and heavy, stylized makeup. I'm not supposed to be here! Rashida thought, looking around the imposing edifice with great curiousity and some little panic. All will be well, child, said the other voice in her head, the one that had been with her ever since that night on the train.

On the Alpine Express wrote:

Rashida closed her cabin door and leaned against it with relief. After all the turmoil in the city and the crowds on the vehicle, solitude was most welcome. Her sloe-eyed gaze drifted to the window, where the slightest band of pale rose lingered along the horizon, seen in a glimpse through a broad mountain pass, and she wondered if Cassie were watching this sunset as well. She trusted she had left her friends in good hands, at least, and their huge group would be an event in tiny Siwa. No, if she wanted to get to the heart of the Massri mystery, she needed to visit Siwa alone. Siwa, where she had been born, so long ago. Siwa, where she was recruited by the Massris and the Massri rebels. Siwa, where she had left her parents and siblings behind, and where the mechanical Rashida thought the key to the rebellion and its betrayal lay.

She took her time disrobing and performing evening ablutions. This body, human though it looked, was something more. Her long training had taught her to respect it as an actual temple, and the habit remained, shaped long ago in this world but a short few months ago in her mind and memories. Stripping off her clothing, she moved gracefully through a series of cat-like stretches that ensured her body remained limber while helping her mind calm and center. After a brief shower, she began her daily grooming routine. Without her servants, the process took a good two hours as she shaped and repolished nails, painstakingly removed any stray hairs that marred the golden-bronze expanse of her skin, buffed off any roughened spots on feet or hands, and glazed her body with a coating of expensive oil. Her scrutiny in the mirror contained nothing of pride, but more the careful examination of a craftsman checking her work.

Next, she washed her hair, dried the gleaming tresses, anointed those while damp with a different exotic oil, and plaited them carefully into a close yet elaborate hairdo suitable for sleeping. She ignored the ache in shoulders and arms as she plaited, bound, and pinned hair into place. Finally, she smoothed the makeup from her face, carefully removing every trace before washing with clear soap and dabbing on yet another expensive cream. A last look brought a smile to the image in the mirror as she paused to run her hands down her body in wonder. I knew I would inhabit a goddess, but never expected this! Chuckling slightly at her own light-mindedness, she shrugged a gauzy shift on over her head, draping a matching robe about her shoulders and securing it all with a broad satin sash.

She sat gingerly on the edge of the bed, testing the mattress and disliking the idea that she had to sleep where others had slept before, the unyielding mattress increasing her discomfort. Stars stood bright in the blackness outside the window. Perhaps I should wait, she thought as she rose and opened a travel case, lifting out a tray to expose the vials nestled in soft satin below. Her long, brown fingers caressed the glass as she calculated the time to arrival at her destination. I should start now, though, in case the timing is not exact with these new extracts. Satisfied with that excuse, she began the preparation, mixing, sniffing, and drawing the resulting product into a syringe. Recalling the discomfort of the mattress, she piled pillows, clothes, bedcovers - anything soft - onto the bed before reclining and using the syringe.

The drugs took hold, drawing her under harshly and abruptly. She tried to relax into the experience, holding the face of a dark, laughing-eyed man in her mind, but something was not right. This mixture was not the accustomed dose. Almost, she felt his presence. Almost, she was able to nestle close to her beloved, bodies separated by miles, but minds touching, closer than any two ordinary people could be. Almost...

But a golden glow grew brighter, washing out the man's face, blinding her mind's eye. Ah, child, you reach out, but not to me. Were you not taught better? I indulged your preferences once. But matters more serious than your dalliance are pressing. You have avoided me long enough. Now you will show me what you know. Now you will do my bidding. And her will was swept away easily, as a flood sweeps a feather, carried on the current of an alien mind and will. Her mental cry, Taraz!, fell into the vast emptiness of the universe, and she was swallowed up.

This is a mistake, Rashida declared mentally, trying to make the alien goddess understand, They cannot help you here. But Ma'at did not deign to answer. Rashida felt the heat as her skin began to glow, feeling like molten metal sheathing her body, eyes burning as they, too, took on an otherworldly light. The tremendous pressure of the goddess' presence burst forth, filling the dome with golden light, casting a tall, black shadow of a winged woman stretching back towards the doors. Rashida could see people turning to stare but was helpless to control anything about her body as the goddess exerted her will.

"I am Ma'at, seeker of truth, bringer of justice. This world is in peril. I would speak to the God of this place, ruler of this world. Hidden One, come forth! For we must ally to protect your world, else it be destroyed, and the universe with it. Come forth! I, Ma'at, demand an audience!"

Daughter of Gods. Gods! or possibly of aliens.

The great airship's engines change pitch, making Rashida aware of their constant thrum for the first time in hours. Her cabin, though ornate and luxurious, is tiny, and she finds the enclosed space suddenly stifling. A peek out the cracked door shows the passageway empty, so she slips out and up the ladder to the deck. The glow of the rising sun reflects bright gold from the rooftops and domes of the city on the horizon. Ruby lips curve in a smile at the glorious vista. Would that I could paint a view like this. I could make my way alone in the world with such talent.

A glance around the ship's deck shows crewmen on duty and -- oh, dear -- the slender, auburn-haired Frenchwoman on the bridge, doubtless admiring the sunrise as well. Rashida frowns. She had avoided Cassie as much as possible, right up until the fiasco in Morocco, when the fearless adventuress had gone haring after the fleeing figure of Gahiji. Rashida knew in her heart that the monster was luring the dancer away from the support of the party, and, filled with terror of what Lord Rorenson might do if any harm came to a friend, Rashida had followed, intent on protecting Cassie from one of the more monstrous of her family.

When she had caught up and come upon the scene of the... struggle?... pure animal instinct had kicked in, and she threw herself upon the man-lion, wrapped in mortal combat... or something... with the dancer. Ignorant of martial arts, unschooled in battle, her body had nonetheless responded with lightning-quick, fearsome blows, momentarily forcing Gahiji back. But she was no match for a hardened warrior with the heart of a predator. A quick feint and whistling slash of claws laid open her side from waist to knee, revealing to all of them the bright metal of her skeleton, the pistons and pulleys, miracles of clockwork engineering, that motivated that frame, and the leaking of fluids and air from her power systems. Horrified, she had looked to Cassie, only to see the delicate features of the dancer's face harden into an expression of, perhaps, revulsion.

Rashida's mind was unprepared for the sight and her body's systems were thrown out of balance by the sudden need to close off leaking hydraulics and begin repairing the oversheath of flesh. The world faded to blackness as Gahiji's laugh rang in her ears.

She awoke back at the ship, nearly healed, uncertain of how she had gotten back there or who was aware of who -- what -- she was. Nobody had inquired as to her health, and everyone seemed publically polite, but somehow, she never found herself alone with anyone to hold a probing conversation. Shutting herself up in her cabin, she fumed, not needing to sleep or eat, gears turning both figuratively and literally.

I did not ask for this. I was human until put into this... shell. I was a pawn as a human and am one now. Who made me, and why? What did they expect me to do? What I told Lord Rorenson... it was true. I was Rashida, then. I know the difference now. She has the body of a goddess, I have one of steel and springs. Leaning against the rail and looking out over the ancient city, Rashida felt hope dawning like the new day. But I have harmed nobody. I am not needed, as I cannot be the conduit to the goddess. I have done my duty and protected Rashida's friends. Why should I continue this farce in shame and misery? Perhaps here, I can strike out on my own. I have the best education Massri money can buy. Mayhap Gahiji thinks me destroyed and the Massris will not seek me out. Maybe here, I can make a life for myself, alone if need be, but free of the machinations of the great houses and the gods. A thread of pity for the Rashida-of-flesh crept into her thoughts, but she shrugged it off. Her fate is hers. Mine is mine. A few more hours, and I can be free. Another smile curled her perfect blood-red lips, and she dared another glance up at the Frenchwoman on the bridge. Free!

Daughter of Gods. Gods! or possibly of aliens.

Rashida waves the steward with the brandy over to Cassie. "This might be a good time to call it a night. I believe this performance has given us all much to think about." Her face is a calm mask, but she keeps her hands folded together so they do not reveal any inner tension.

Alyce laughs. "Bed? How can you think of it, when there's so much to see, so much to do!?" She rises and spreads her arms wide, still laughing. "I'm off to the deck to look over the world. Our world!" Holding out a hand to Ralph, she gifts the urchin with a radiant smile. "What about you, Squirrel?"

"Ah, the misplaced confidence of youth," Rashida murmurs too low for any but Cassie and Vorian to hear, "Were we ever like that?"

Daughter of Gods. Gods! or possibly of aliens.

"Yes. Indeed," Rashida murmurs to Cassie, "Most... intriguing. I would like to understand exactly what happened." Seeing the hand holding the brandy shaking, she swiftly sets the snifter and oins the applause, hoping the other woman has not noticed the trembling.

"I saw... the past. Somebody's past, anyway." She clamps her lips shut when her voice proves as shaky as her hands.

Daughter of Gods. Gods! or possibly of aliens.

A final chord is still ringing through the theater when Rashida starts from her long reverie... daydream? vision? Whatever it was, her mind was left tinged with nightmare unease and strange discomfort.

The helmetcat still sits on her perch above the stage, looking like a statue but for the a tiny flick of her tailtip, regular as a metronome, which gradually stills as the music ends. Her spotlight slowly fades as the house lights gradually rise, swapping the performers and audience for the moment.

Rashida looks to her fellows as they become visible. All bear a stunned, bemused, or tearful visage. Pressing a stud on the arm of her seat, Rashida is able to croak 'brandy' into the tiny horn nearby which would carry her voice to the attending staff.

Before long, wait-sailors are circulating with small snifters, offering refreshments to the still-recovering listeners. Rashida swigs hers once with very little decorum, then lets the burning liquid reunite her senses with her frame. She turns to Cassie, noting the hair fallen over the woman's pale face. "So... what did you think of the performance?"

Daughter of Gods. Gods! or possibly of aliens.


Am I here again, truly? Is this a dream? Or can I... can I change things?

"I am... curious, Manetho. I've studied so much, but not about... this..." Rashida waves her hand vaguely at the instruments and lab, doing her best to ape the unconscious carriage of innate and unquestionable authority she had seen in the god-bodied of her family, "If I understand, I'll go to sleep, you'll take a... recording?... of my, uh, my mind? Then I'll wake up, but so will somebody else, with my mind in their body. Won't they be me? Won't they want to, say, go see my family?"

Get it together. You're not this inarticulate. And if you're dreaming, you can't really learn anything you don't already know. Idiot.

Oh, shut up.

Manetho smiled briefly, like a light switched on and off, his impatience evident. "You have not thought this through, my dear. Every child knows our self has five parts: ib - heart, sheut - shadow, ren - name, ba - personality, ka - essence. They reside within the khat - body, and the ba and ka animate the akh - intellect. What we will record today - onto this - " The scientist held up a transparent, blood-red disk which sparkled and glittered in the lab's harsh light - "Is your ba and ka, to make up an akh. Thus, the body into which we plant your recording will have your knowledge of the world. After all, it would not do to treat a goddess as a puling infant. She will awaken with your knowledge, but her body will attract its own sheut, and ren. Thus, she will not be you, but herself. We will modify this recording, too, and not provide your younger years. She will not remember a family, not even hazily."

Warming to his subject, he switched to a professorial lecture mode without realizing it. "The body of the goddess, having been reconstituted - or, more precisely, regrown - will have its own 'memories', coded into its very flesh, though perhaps not complete. It depends upon the condition of the body and the information that remains within. The better preserved it is, the more of her old ib she will retain. These things are a matter of chance and art as much as science. But it does not concern you. Not anymore. Your part is done."

Interesting. They can change the recordings, or at least edit them.

That is, if this isn't just a dream.

Shut. Up.

Manetho smiled again around his hawk nose, dark eyes gleaming. "Now, I must remind you before we start - when you wake up, you will be safe. You may be in a new body, but you will be safe with us. It will take some time for you to gain control of the body, as the pieces of your soul attach to the newly awakened form. Do not panic. All will be well. We honor the goddess." The man spoke slowly and emphatically, as if trying to drive the point into her brain.

Honor the goddess. But what about me? And pieces of the soul will attach to the new body? But... what if the body is not human? What of who I once was? Does she live now in Siwa?

Manetho waved a long hand at the table. "If you will, Rashida." The guards in the doorway shifted subtly, as if impatient, their motion bringing them together to block the opening. "It is time to fulfill your end of this agreement."

Agreement. I never agreed to anything. My parents did. And now... do I have a choice?

Warm, strong hands were on her arms, guiding her unresisting to the table, laying her down, fastening straps. Manetho flicked a syringe, then brought the point near to her arm.

Wait! What can I do? She thought frantically. There is a traitor among the scientists. There is a traitor. Remember this. Your mind has gone to more than one body. Remember. And the syringe plunger depressed as the devices around the table whined into hissing life.

Daughter of Gods. Gods! or possibly of aliens.

Rashida sits entranced as Meows builds the musical tapestry. This is like the great pipe organ in the concert hall, only so much better! she thinks, amazed that one person could control all the devices so perfectly in a single, unified performance.

Then the helmetcat's natural voice penetrates through the mechanical music, and it all falls away...


The stone is cool and sandy beneath her feet as the bronze man leads her into a chamber deep within her family's complex. A narrow gurney stands jutting out from a wall filled with dials and lights and gears and sparks and wires, all centering around a helmet lying at the head of the gurney.

"It's fine, my dear. You won't feel a thing during the actual recording, then you can be on your way back to Siwa, if that's where you'd like to go. Your family will be happy to see you, I'm certain." The man smiles reassuringly, sun-touched skin creasing into many fine wrinkles around his green eyes, stunningly set off by his white cotton headdress.

What am I doing here again? This is done already, decades ago. She raises her hand in confusion, seeing her short, stubby fingers with their bitten nails and ink splotches from long hours of study and note-taking.

"Manetho? Is that you?"

He looks at her, slightly startled. "Of course it is I, Rashida. Now, shall we start?" The helmet gleamed at the end of the gurney, as did the row of instruments on the nearby tray, all neatly laid out on white linen.

What am I doing here?

Daughter of Gods. Gods! or possibly of aliens.

Cassie's words ring in Rashida's head as the young woman stares at the stage without seeing the show. "The best way to combat death... is to live life. To enjoy it to the fullest. It is too easy to withdraw, to hide, to slip away into the darkness." That thought chases others in circles in her mind. But what if the only way to live is to slip away? And what if the only way to live right is to risk that life? Still, what do I owe any others? Should I allow myself to be a pawn in their games? Or am I already one, thinking I am changing the game while doing their bidding?

Soon, unbidden, the face of a young man intrudes into the circle of cogitation, one who she had met at the Baron's and who had changed her life forever. Realizing where her thoughts have wandered, she gives herself a mental shake and looks around, surprised to see Cassie seated with Vorian and the man on stage taking bows. When did Ritter arrive? Unwilling to spill her drink, she taps a foot on the parquet as the others clap their appreciation of the jongleur's skills. Her brief, uncertain hesitation at joining the seated duo proves fatal to that plan, as the house lights darken completely and a bright circle of light appears onstage, the hissing of the limelight the only sound in the theater beyond the distant rumble of the ship's engines, more felt in the gut and bone than heard.

Rattling, a man clad in a brown morning coat, starched brown shirt, dark brown waistcoat, and striped brown trousers steps stiffly from behind the curtains to stage right, tendrils of steam leaking from under the brown bowler hat atop the rigidly erect figure. Stopping near the edge of the stage, the bent-armed form executes a soldier's right-face, spinning ninety degrees to face the audience. A very human right eye surveys the theater while a brightly polished gear spins in place of the left. His right hand rises stiffly to his hat brim. When he jerkily raises the bowler to salute the audience, a complex of spinning gears is where his cranium should be. The lips form the shape of a smile as the mouth opens.

"Willkommen, bienvenue, welcome," a voice booms through the theater, slightly out of sync with the movements of the man's mouth, "Gluklich zu sehen, je suis enchante, happy to see you. Mein Damen und Herren, mesdames et messieurs, ladies and gentlemen! Guden Abend, bon soir, good evening! Leave your troubles outside. So, life is disappointing? Forget it! We have no troubles here! Not here, where the Divine Duchess graces us with her song!"

With a racheting flourish, his left hand flies up to point at the top of a stone tower sliding out noiselessly from stage left, where a second spot lights a tiny ledge there, empty of any occupants. While Rashida's eyes seek the helmetcat's form in the new spotlight, there comes a huge clatter, and the mechanical M.C. falls into a heap of gears and springs, tiny, glinting parts rolling across the stage while a few bounce out into the vacant front seats. Two youths in ship's uniforms dash onstage with brooms and pans, glancing at the audience with some alarm, and sweep up the hapless creation while the spots dim, the one on the stage winking out while the light at the top of the tower remains barely visible. Darkness fills the theater.

Daughter of Gods. Gods! or possibly of aliens.

"Not so much," Rashida murmurs softly to her companion as the lights dim, "Though I may know more of death than most, as it turns out." Despite her light tone, the cords on her arms stand out as her muscles tense without her realization.

She remains standing as the curtain rises, watching the performance from the floor behind the small, tiered seating area, face impassive and attention obviously far away.

Daughter of Gods. Gods! or possibly of aliens.

"You think there are no gods? I think you are wrong. Once something is so far beyond us that we cannot rationally explain its power, it may as well be a god, don't you think?" Rashida quirks an eyebrow right back at the graceful dancer, "But then, that implies that if we know more than others and can put that knowledge to use, we can be as gods. A heady thought. What god would you be, hmm? Goddess of dance and death?" Rashida's dark eyes dart to Cassie's for a moment before returning to the stage.

Daughter of Gods. Gods! or possibly of aliens.

Rashida manages a smile for her friend. "I'm sure it's kindly meant, but how do you propose to protect me from those who are gods? You have talent, but you may be a bit out of your league here, Lady DuSollier." She turns to view the stage, which has several crewmen/stagehands moving half-walls and vegetation into place, and sips her drink, a placid smile on her lips.

Daughter of Gods. Gods! or possibly of aliens.

"Well, yes. I've been out of the game so long that I don't know who's who anymore, beyond general family allegiances. And I'm not certain what my own family is up to. What happens if I fall into their hands? Will they welcome me or destroy me?" Her attempt at a smile only gets as far as grimace territory. "So yes, I'm a bit preoccupied. Sorry."

Daughter of Gods. Gods! or possibly of aliens.

"Don't care for humping it through the desert, hmm?" is Rashida's ribald rejoinder as she sniffs the drink and blinks, then sips it carefully, "I take it you're intimately familiar with the place? Good. Maybe you can find tales of slaughter for us. Sometimes provincials can be quite insular. You could be very valuable here, Lady DuSollier."

Daughter of Gods. Gods! or possibly of aliens.

Startlement fleetingly flashes across Rashida's visage. "I'm... fairly young. But the Duchess is much younger, I am sure." Bumping Cassie's arm, she almost smiles. "Are you planning on drinking both of those yourself?"

Daughter of Gods. Gods! or possibly of aliens.

"I have not had that honor," Rashida says softly, eyes flicking between Cassie and her shadow, Alyce, "She was not yet born in my day."

Daughter of Gods. Gods! or possibly of aliens.

A slender figure in the white uniform of the ship's crew joins the group assembling in the little foyer of the ship's theater. It takes a second look to discern that it is Rashida, who has apparently spent much of the afternoon removing her beaded hairdo, gold fingernail extensions, and heavy makeup. The white uniform shows off her bronzed skin, and the light makeup and simple, pulled-back hairdo make her look like a particularly attractive crewmember.

She pauses a moment in the entryway, then strides toward Cassie and Alyce with a determined look and pace. "Good evening," she greets them, "You both look wonderful. I can't wait to hear the Duchess sing." Her dark eyes shine from tears or excitement; it is impossible to tell which from her taut expression.

Daughter of Gods. Gods! or possibly of aliens.

Rashida found her way to her private cabin and locked the door behind her, leaning against it wearily. The note at the university had been disappointing. One word - 'Siwa' - and it was what she should have known. After all, it was where everything had started for her, yet not at the heart of the Massri world. In the know, but on the margins. The perfect place for rebellion to foment.

Foolish to go there. You will certainly be recognized. Every instinct for self-preservation was at work undermining her confidence as she unpacked her purchases from the previous day. Her long fingers paused to caress the vials from the pharmacist/alchemist. I hope these work properly. Who knows what kind of skill these amateurs have? Still, he works near the University. He must know something of his craft. She set them carefully into a pile of satin in one drawer of the tiny bureau, then settled down on the bed to stare out the window at the passing landscape.

Too early to use them, she lied to herself. It was never too early to contact the goddess. It was, however, unlikely that a certain man, laughter in his eyes and a bottle in his hand, would be asleep now, and she was uncertain of this new elixer's ability to take her deep enough to contact his mind while he was awake. She needed to wait until he was bound to be asleep, to touch his drifting, dreaming mind and be with him again in mind and heart, though not in body. She would wait, for now.

Lulled by the gentle swaying of the cabin, she soon drifted into a light slumber.

Daughter of Gods. Gods! or possibly of aliens.

"Particularly since we were denied one by the ruckus at the Clockwork Theater. I was rather vexed about that. Of course, the Duchess might decline to perform for such a small group as ours," Rashida concludes mournfully. "And for now, I bid you adieu. Until dinnertime, my friends." Bowing gracefully, the Egyptian turns and sweeps from the room.

Daughter of Gods. Gods! or possibly of aliens.

"Excellent. With luck, we'll get clear of the Alps before sundown and head down the Italian coast. We can stop in Corsica or Sardinia if need be." Rashida ignores the salacious horseplay and moves to the windows, watching the ground fall away as the ship gained altitude. Sighing, she turned back to the room at large.

"I don't know about you folks, but yesterday was quite tiring. I'm going back to my cabin to rest further and recuperate, then to the library to do a bit of research. We should meet tomorrow morning, bright and early, to put our heads together and create a plan. That is, unless the Duchess intends to perform on this, her own ship, tonight. I would not miss that."

Daughter of Gods. Gods! or possibly of aliens.

Rashida hovers over the map as Cassie points, nearly leaning against the dancer and nodding at Cassie's rumination. "Yes... possibly. I can tell you, though, that Alexandria would be only a stopover - IF they stop there. Gahiji will want to return quickly to the family home with his prizes, once he tires of mayhem. And that, of course, is Thebes. Now, will they go straight across the desert, or hug the coast? It would be easy to say if they were rational, but it seems each has their own particular madness."

Cassie and Rashida are jolted together as the ship jumps from its mooring.

Daughter of Gods. Gods! or possibly of aliens.

"Thank you." Rashida swiftly and neatly rolls up the paper, holding her long, gilt nails clear of the surface, then gives the navigator a nod. "This will be in the guest dining room if you have need of it," she tells the uniformed woman. Her long, white gown swirls around her bronze legs as she strides rapidly from the room, barely glancing at the impressive view from the wrap-around windows of the bridge. Outside, the blue sky and sparkling water are a jarring frame to the smoldering wreckage of the Grand Hotel.

She re-enters the dining room right after Alice, who dashes up to Cassie. "Squirrel is back on board. We met him near the foot of the ramp. He said he had to get something from town, but he's ready to go. I think all of us are... ma'am." She finishes softly as Rashida unrolls the map across the largest table.

"Somebody conversant with geography come here and help me," Rashida demands, "Where on here is... oh, wait. There is the island. And nearest landfall, well... I can see options." She pores over the map, nail tapping at several spots.

Daughter of Gods. Gods! or possibly of aliens.

"That is not my problem, nor do I see why it is serious. After all, it should still know north from south, and we all know where the Pole Sar is," Rashida replies, "My problem is that we are still here and need to be elsewhere. Plot a course for North Africa and be ready to take off when all our party are accounted for. And I need an extra map of North Africa, as well. Hurry, if you please."

Daughter of Gods. Gods! or possibly of aliens.

"I will go to the bridge and tell the navigator to plot a course. They may have an extra map that we can use for planning. I shall return here." With a furtive glance at Cassie, Rashida slips from the room.

Daughter of Gods. Gods! or possibly of aliens.

"You must have been exhausted, Duchess," Rashida sympathizes, "Do you think it will be possible for all of us together to take Virago, with proper planning? My brother is little more than a savage killing machine, so there is not much worry about brains there. But if your mother is anything like you, she is our worry."

Daughter of Gods. Gods! or possibly of aliens.

Rashida blinks in surprise at Cassie, then gives her a tiny nod.

Daughter of Gods. Gods! or possibly of aliens.

"Is Squirrel going with us? Are you, Drake? This could be dangerous. And if Squirrel is going, why has he left the ship?" Rasha's eyes flash with annoyance, her desire to hurry their departure quite obvious.

Daughter of Gods. Gods! or possibly of aliens.

Rashida grimaces slighly. "Any contacts I might have are family contacts, which means that it may be dangerous to use them. There are factions within the family that I frankly do not know or understand, having been asleep for fifty years or so. But the goddess and I fear that the family has become skewed towards the side of chaos and destruction. She, of course, desires balance - not denying chaos, but not wishing to plunge the world into it, either. If the things in your ship become revenants of more beings of chaos, more powerful ones, the balance is in serious jeopardy."

Ivory teeth worry ruby lips for a moment. "I can always send a message to the Massris, letting them know that all is well here, the ship is being repaired, and that we are heading to... oh, I don't know... Istanbul?" She smiles.

Daughter of Gods. Gods! or possibly of aliens.

Rashida looks at Vorian blankly. "Can't.... don't you know where your ship is? Can't you track it?" she stutters for a moment, then regains a bit of composure. "If not, our best choice is to plot a course from Ritiro del Gigante to the Massri stronghold at Thebes and try to intercept Virago along the way. If we get close enough, we can simply open the windows and follow the screams..." She shivers.

Daughter of Gods. Gods! or possibly of aliens.

Rashida paces nervously, nails clicking against her bracelets. "Absurd! We were victims, or to be victims, that is obvious. The fact that the Massris willingly sent me there makes me suspect they would be happy to have me out of the way... which is why I do not wish to remain in this place should they decide to send a family member to investigate. If there is something we can do about the League or Von Ryuko or the Assassins that you think would be time better spent than running down Virago, count on my support - as long as we move from this place. If you wish to stay here, I, at least, must leave. All I will do is bring trouble upon you."

She whirls and faces Ritter and DuSollier, urgency in every line of her body. "So let us decide quickly - I care not where: London, Paris, Reykjavik, Peking - and let us be gone!"

Daughter of Gods. Gods! or possibly of aliens.

"Well, what did we discover from our stay here? Besides our new crewmates, that is. We've barely had a chance to chat. What did you find from local contacts - anything?"

Alyce drifts in, slinking to the buffet to pick up a pastry and stand uncertainly in the middle of the room. Rashida fixes her with a bright stare.

"Well, what's your part in all of this, girl? Are you part of whatever it was that happened in the theater last night?"

Alyce shakes her head uncertainly but says nothing, as her mouth is full of cranberry muffin.

Daughter of Gods. Gods! or possibly of aliens.

"It's been done before, Lord Ritter," Rashida says clinically, flushing slightly, "All of us have been killed before. Which brings me to the point: if what is on that ship is returned to the family, as I am certain Gahiji intends, we could have more avatars running around, and they might very well be unfriendly to us, as well as to the rest of humanity." Pouring herself a cup of hot, black coffee, she blows across the surface with ruby lips. "Of course, if we can figure a way to turn them against Von Ryuko or League, we may be able to use them. But I don't like that idea very much, do you? What good is a weapon you can't control, which very well may turn on you?"

She pauses to sip her coffee, musing, as her eyes search Cassie and Vorian's faces.

Daughter of Gods. Gods! or possibly of aliens.

"I am perfectly serious, Lord Ritter. We are uniquely qualified to do it. We currently have two helmetcats to combat the ghostcat in the machine. The rest of us will be required to try to contain Gahiji. With any luck, they will not have the means to use whatever weapons Virago may have. My brother's bloodlust has doubtless eliminated all on board who are capable of aiding them." Rashida's face is cold and impassive, oblivious to the pain her words might cause the owner of the ship and the father of its crew.

The Egyptian ticks off her points with her long, gilded fingernails, which have apparently been repaired after the chaos of the previous night. "Besides, it may be premature to strike at Von Ryuko. Unless I am mistaken, Rorenson -- I mean, dear Taraz -- has an angle of his own to pursue. Acting against Von Ryuko before Taraz has completed preparations could guarantee failure. I have no doubt he will signal when ready - probably a rather spectacular signal. Did you think he had deserted you? Us? You do not understand him, then, nor the lengths to which he will go... but anyway, yes. I propose retaking Virago."

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