A hand or two
Snow covers the ground in patches where people don't usually walk, darkened by the splash of passing carts and the endless foot traffic that passes through the temple district. It's quiet this day however. There's a certain hush in the air that causes those walking to keep their voices lowered and it's not just the impressive stature of the district, it's something else. Zeke feels it too as he exits the temple of Daeus. He pauses just outside the doorway and tilts his head up far enough that the hood of his cloak falls back to reveal his blue-scaled features and his his six arching horns. He closes green eyes briefly and scents the air.
Today he is carrying a bag on his right arm, and it seems to be full of books and scrolls. A heavy burden and one that he's carrying a bit awkwardly with his staff also in hand. It makes for an unbalanced load and Zeke glances downward at his burden with a complicated expression. His tail flicks once and then he begins his careful way down the stairs.
The siren call of knowledge calls Iuitl. She seems to flit down from the sky and come in for an elegant landing near where Zeke is, landing on the stairs. A hand goes out to touch the bag he's carrying and she immediately offers, "Shall I help you with that?" She puffs up her feathers, delight in her face... because if she helps him, maybe they can get a book club thing going on. Just ignore the fact that she was flying. It's better than walking on the cold stones and frost, honestly.
"What is all of this for? Are you studying something specific?" Yeah, she seems excited.
The return yesterday evening had been a late one, and late the next morning finds Seldan stepping out of the doors to the Temple of Eluna, fully armed and armored as if for adventuring, gear and all. At least he and his gear are all clean, which is a distinct improvement over what Iuitl will have seen yesterday.
He pauses at the hush in the air, looking up at the fair blue skies above with an expression so mixed as to be difficult to read. He draws a deep breath, and starts down the stairs himself when Iuitl floats down out of the sky. A visible thing, to be sure, and it draws his attention that way. He turns his steps to match, greeting the both of them. "Peace be upon your nests, Zeke, Iuitl," he begins. "Were you able to dispose of the chicken?"
The blue-scaled sith startles backwards slightly in surprise at the sudden appearance of Iuitl, clearly not expecting her. She offers to take his bag and he has the grace to look embarrassed in the sith-makar way. There's no way to delicately take the bag from him because his staff is in the way, and he doesn't seem to know quite how to juggle everything. "Thissss one thanksss you for your offer Iuitl, thissss one isss headed to find a quiet plasce to reflect on thessse pagesss. Thissss one hasss much work to be done with them yesss. Are you... sssure you wisssh to aid thisss one?" He seems nervous, tail flick-flickering behind him.
Which is when Seldan walks up, and Zeke nods to the paladin, his balance swaying dangerously, but he manages to keep from unloading himself. It's easy to see that he'd be much better off if he used both hands, but he makes no effort to move his left arm to aid himself. "Peasssce on your nessst Ssseldan."
"The chick-- oh, yes, the demon you mean. It's in an enclosure at Mictlan to be plucked later," Iuitl says, going from caught off-guard to merry and helpful. "Svarshan will be very amused when I tell him about it. He needs the humor in his life. I think we all do." She smiles off toward the paladin, in the hard-to-read way that her people do.
Zeke's greeting reminds her. "Oh yes. Peace on your nests." Formalities often elude her when dealing with people she knows. "I insist. Allow me to help you..." She offers out her hand, ready to accept the bag just for the honor of carrying a bunch of books and scrolls. Her tail wiggles behind her in excitement. Just the smell of the library is making her happier, as it dimly emits from the collection Zeke's gathered.
"That was well done of you," Seldan tells Iuitl with a laugh. "I am certain Darshan will appreciate it as well."
Seeing Zeke's burden, and the difficulty in juggling it, he pauses, and draws a fairly simple arcane sigil in the air. He speaks a phrase to it, then places both hands before him, palm down. In a matter of seconds, he has spread them out, and a floating disk of blue-white fire hangs in the air before him, in range for Zeke to place things before they fall. "It will withstand your burdens, and it will follow me. Where did you wish to place those?" Seldan asks this question, his eyes glinting with boyish glee as he completes the spell.
Zeke carefully leans his staff against his shoulder and carefully, very carefully slides the bag down his arm to his claw. He is about to pace the bag on the ground when Seldan casts his spell and suddenly Zeke is very uncertain as to what to do. His tail flicks again behind him. The sith-makar looks between the pair and then sets the bag on the ground in such a way that it doesn't spill itself. Though... it still looks a bit precarious. "Thisss one can not imposssse on you /both/" That tail flicks again. "Thisss one appreciatesss the offer, but perhapsss this one sssshould carry thisss onesss own burdensss."
Iuitl looks down to the bag, and to the spell... She reaches down to pick up the bag with a grunt, steps on over, and hops up onto the disk. She sits on the disk, and holds the bag on her lap, her tail thrashing like an excited cat. She looks between the two, her headfeathers poofed, and the tip of her tongue sticking out. "Onward~" she says, gesturing forward. "What topic are you seeking information on, Zeke?" she asks, to try to keep the conversation going despite her oddness.
"You are not imposing, Zeke." Seldan's grin is still bright and boyish, and it only expands as Iuitl climbs up on it and settles herself. "I honor Her each and every time I touch the Sea of Mana, and it is a joy and a privilege to do so. It is no burden, for I take joy in Her gifts, and that they be used to aid another honors Eluna further still. Though ... we cannot go until I know where it is that Zeke wishes to go."
Once again Zeke looks back and forth between the two helpful people he had not expected to find and finally rolls his right shoulder in a half shrug. "Thisss one isss headed toward the inn jusssst outsside of Alexandria. Thisss one hasss requesssted a private room for ssstudy and eating. Thisss one hass found that though the templesss are quiet, that thisss inevitably becomesss embroiled in helping othersss if thiss one triess to sstudy there."
Zeke shakes his head and readjusts his staff to help him walk though he hardly seems to need the aid. It has the feeling of something he has done so many times that it has become habit. "Thisss one isss studying a few thingsss which plague thisss city. Vampiresss, demonsss, thiss missstresss of the tower whatever ssshe isss. Artifice." This last word he says shortly as if it makes him uncomfortable.
Iuitl nods in understanding of the topics. "The vampire is very powerful, though I have not encountered him myself. The woman? She's a demon. A very strange demon with a complicated history. It seems someone tried to raise her like a mortal and protect her from her origins. It seems her fate was cruel." She brushes a hand over her face and closes one of her eyes. "Artifice is not a plague, Zeke, it is simply a new and poorly understood school of magic," she argues, "Any wizard can be just as dangerous, or moreso, as an Artificer."
Seldan turns to walk north towards the Alexandrian gates at Zeke's direction. "Study anywhere within the city can prove difficult," he agrees. "As for the Mistress, not all are of that mind. She holds sway over a Duke of the Hells, a thing I would think impossible were she a demon. Demons rule by strength, and he should be able to overwhelm her. Yet does he not. The wizard Mikilos is of the mind that she is of the True Fae, the immortal sort, and I am inclined to think that plausible. He searches for a means of killing such."
Considering their words the blue-scaled sith keeps his peace for a long moment, clearly thinking over their viewpoints. One thinking that the mistress of the tower a demon, the other stating that she is of fae blood. "It mattersss very much what ssshe isss. Demonssss do asss they will without a sseeming cause or reassson, evil for the sssake of evil. However even one of another world, and difficult to underssstand thereby, would have a purpossse. Reasssonss that we might divine. If sshe isss powerful enough to hold sssway over a Duke of Hell, then sshe isss powerful indeed, and we have ssseen ssome evidence that he oppossesss her power. For hisss own reasssonss ssurely, and thisss one would like to know them." He nods to Iuitl. "Artifisce isss... not the problem. It isss the idea of sssuch magicsss being usssed againssst othersss againssst their will that disturbsss thissss one."
Iuitl looks a bit puzzled by the problem that Zeke explains that part about artifice being used on unwilling subjects. She makes a face in obvious disgust at the notion, and shrugs after it's mentioned. When Seldan mentioned that the woman is a 'true fae,' she looks even more overwhelmed. So many conflicting accounts and opinions on the matter make it hard for her to understand the situation. The disc putters along with her silently peering at them. "Just as any spell might be used on others against their will," she brings up, "It's not a different problem, it only seems different on the outside. The problem is the one practicing it, yes?"
"It has been my experience that the primary difference is that wizards are more likely to keep their collateral damage private," Seldan offers. "I, too, would learn her reasons...and his. She is not without purpose, for she keeps prisoners within the Shard Tower, that she torments and experiments upon to unknown ends." He paces ahead of the disk, which follows him obediently, the clank of his armor not -quite- so pronounced as with most armor. It does not appear to be steel, for in the sunlight it seems to have adopted a pale, iridescent shimmer. "He would like to be rid of one who contains and controls him, I think, but that may not be his only reason. Does she truly control this Duke of the Hells, and to what purpose does she use him? Much remains unanswered, and while it is tempting to eliminate her, if she is restraining a Duke of the Hells in some way, doing so could prove disastrous."
"Indeed, it isss the one doing thessse thingsss, not the magic itssself to blame, even sssso." He struggles with the ancient sith-makar distaste for magics that are out of control. Zeke isn't as biased as some sith are, but he has a firm hatred for those things which abuse people. It shows in the furrowing of his eyeridges. "Thisss one knowsss that there iss not enough known. Doessss ssshe control the Duke of Hell at all? Or do they merely oppossse one another and he movesss cautiousssly againssst a powerful foe? One thing isss for scertain; Eclavdran isss not purposselesss. Unlike hisss many kin he sseemss to have reasssonss ass well. Perhapsss thisss issss what it iss to be a Duke of the Hellss rather than merely another demon."
Iuitl looks between the two men, and dips her head in thought. She's quiet. Once more, everyone is talking about all of these demonic incursions, and she seems to struggle to find a way to engage with it. "All of these strange beings, and no one just talks to each other about what they want. She hides away and plans in the shadows but does not connect with anyone. I find that more tragic than evil. Does she not see that there is more to this world...?" Not really participating in the conversation so much as thinking aloud. "When I was shunned for my power, I grew angry. Maybe she's angry that she can't be accepted for what she has, and what she can do..."
"I...think it not so simple as that, for consider the girl in the village yesterday." Seldan, too, is contemplating all that he has heard, and it shows in furrowed brow and set features. "Eclavdran does have his reasons. He is planning something. But, he is not free of influence from her, I think, even if we do not understand the form of it. For when she cures someone of plague, she leaves a snowflake-shaped scar behind, and when he does it, he leaves the same scar. Were they rivals and not connected, I would think him to use a different mark."
Zeke steps slightly closer to Iuitl, concern for her evident in his eyes. "Perhapsss you are right. Being divided from the world can make one angry, can make onesss sssensse of the world... warped. We have no way yet of knowing the connection between thisss woman - whatever ssshe isss - and Eclavdran." This troubles the blue scaled sith; the voice of experience, who walks slowly and with care for the ice yet remaining on the ground. He walks with an odd gate. Step, tap, click. His crystal foot-claws poking out and shimmering like the ice they pass by. "Tell thisss one about thisss girl, and why you think that the misstresss of thisss tower is fae?"
Iuitl nods a few times, stroking her jaw as she does. "A token for her to be remembered, maybe?" she hypothesizes. "People leave their mark on people and the world for that reason. And her servant seems obsessed with... explaining her, in a way. But I feel my eyes are colored by my own pains. I have yet to have a chance to meet her where she doesn't display some power and seem troubling in mindset." Then she adds, to explain the fey connection, "Because she was among men and women that spoke the tongue of the fae when she was young. Sylvan is used in the feywilds and among forest creatures primarily. Elves use it, but it isn't their language for the mortal realms, they have another for that."
Seldan glances back at Iuitl as she speaks, and the look holds a generous measure of sympathy, but he does not speak, instead taking a moment to gather his thoughts. "If the girl we saw was her as a child...." he begins, then briefly spins the tale of the Guild job they had been sent on, the deception, the attempt to protect the girl within from demons, her stated ability to save them all, her declaration of vengeance, and finally, the old man's statement _Never let it be said that I did nothing for Alexandria, or for you._
"I know not who the old man is, nor indeed can I say with certainty that the two connect ... and yet does it seem a coincidence too great, for that village was full of the fae."
"Thisss one thinksss that thissss sssnowflake isss a sssymbol of... ownersship, but that may be thisss onesss experiance sspeaking also." Zeke nods to Iuitl. "We are all affected by our hissstoriesss. Perhapsss yoursss grantsss you inssight into thisss which othersss do not have. But tell thisss one, what makesss you think that you were able to sssee the missstress of thisss tower ass a child? That would be rare and powerful magic indeed. Did you perhapsss travel through one of the towersss asss othersss have?"
"It was a portal, formed by someone very powerful, who seemed intent on deceiving us into being the antagonists in an event that had already occured. When we quickly saw through the ruse, demons appeared to slaughter the villagers surrounding a girl he claimed was his granddaughter." A beat. "Maybe that WAS her grandfather..." She strokes her jaw. "It would explain his powerful magic, and his need to appear very old..." Then she moves on. "She displayed powers that are eerily similar to this mistress of the tower, but she seemed much younger."
"Maybe she's the child of a fae and a demon...? What would that even create?"
"A thing that none of us wish to face," Seldan answers with a shake of his head. "It is as Iuitl says. I have traveled through such a tower, although not this time. This was a deep and powerful magic indeed. The depths of the old man are greater than any of us guessed, and he was no doddering old fool. He wished to show us something. It was given to others to see Kol Demontry as a child, and they have spoken to me of what they saw."
Zeke shudders at the thought of what Iuitl suggests. "Thisss one hesssitatess to imagine a demon mating with /anything/. But if thissss girl wasss indeeed the misstresss of the tower, then perhapsss you have gathered much information about her. You ssssaw her people, you sssaw her. Thisss isss a beginning to underssstanding. If ssshe isss fae, then thiss too is a beginning and if Mikilosss can uncover how to kill one ssssuch..." His tail wags behind him and he seems suddenly in a better mood. "Thisss one can do ssssome more reading on ssuch thingsss. To sssee what can be learned about fae creaturesss."
GAME: Zeke rolls 1d20+2: (10)+2: 12
Seldan nods. "It is Mikilos who first spoke of her in such a way, and I have not yet managed to learn how it was that he came to such a conclusion. It fits, though, if indeed it is true." He continues to pace the floating disk, as if leading it, the length of the walk seeming not to concern him. Indeed, his pace is meditative and steady, but not beyond Zeke's ability to keep up. "The more to look, the quicker to find, and I spend less time among the books than many would find helpful." That is not a self-indictment, merely a statement of what is.
"The ways of the ssshaman-cassste are myssteriouss. Thisss one doess not know either, but if Mikilosss ssaysss it with scertainty, then thissss one doess not have reassson to doubt him. He hass been right on much otherwissse. It isss wissse though to be wary of believing without sssome proof of fact." Zeke considers, walking apace with Seldan and grateful that the other man does not seem to mind he mild pace he sets. "You ssspend much of your time out there in the world. Thisss iss alssso a usseful way to gather information. We each have our own plasce in thiss Sseldan."
"My attention is much divided," Seldan admits, his eyes lowering. "There are those I cannot aid, for lack of time in the day to solve all the ills within the city. This thing, I must do, and that for many reasons."
He nods to the part about seeking proof, though. "It is my wish to speak to him, as we both may. Our few encounters of late have been brief, and been disrupted. Ask him I shall, then."
Zeke lifts one claw, as if to touch his brow, but he's still holding his staff. They're approaching the inn now; or at the very least its in sight. "Thisss one undersstandsss. There are not enough hoursss in the day to heal all the sssick, to tend to all thosse in pain, to resssearch all the things that ail thissss scity. Sssometimess it ssseemss that peasce iss sso far off ass to be unobtainable. "Thisss one came however becaussse of ssuch thingsss, thisss one will do what one can to put each problem in itsss plasce and work through it until it isss done. That iss all that one can do."
He looks over at Seldan meaningfully. "Do not pusssh yourssself too hard. Remember that you are not alone in thisss, and that there are thosse who will aid you on your journey. Thisss one offersss sssuch. If there isss anything that thisss one can do to further our goalsss of unraveling the myssstery of the misstreess, Eclavdran, or their minionsss you only need sssay and thiss one will do oness bessst."
Seldan says, "For that ... I am most grateful. I know that I do not walk alone - did I walk alone, I would likely be dead or worse, by now. We must all stand together." As he speaks, the eaves of the inn Zeke sought become visible some distance up the road. "It is ... much to take in," he admits, his eyes lowering.
"It issss. Thiss one feelsss it too ssssometimesss. Without othersss..." Zeke seems to think about what he's saying and merely shakes his head. "Thisss one isss glad then, to have thossse like you to aid." The blue-scaled sith nods and they're practically at the inn now so he slows slightly and comes to a stop before the door. "It hasss been good to ssshare wordsss with you. More and more we learn, and more and more we draw clossser to the truth. It iss thanksss to you and othersss that we do ssso. Do not forget thesse accomplissshmentss."
"I pray only that they be enough." Seldan pushes that unruly lock of hair from his face, and the uncertainty and doubt in his bearing fade to something more cheerful and just a bit more formal. "It is good to share words with you, as always. Your words and your listening aid me in sorting all that I have learned, and that is more valuable than you know." With a gesture, he sends the floating disk up the stairs to the inn door, to wait patiently for the moment. "For now, I should go, but do not forget that my aid is yours, and you have but to ask. There is no shame in doing so."
Zeke has the grace to look embarrassed, clearly remembering the need for aid he'd had with his books, and yet he nods to Seldan, retrieving his things with great care once he has ascended the stairs himself. "You have thisss oness thanksss Sseldan. Light of the Dragonfather shine on you, and on our quessst." He nods again, and then he is going through the doorway into the inn.