The Caines In The East 2

[22:14] <Minaplo> [In the healing house of Shangri-la slept Elisha Fontaine.-
[22:18] <Minaplo> [The house's accomodations were simple and clean. Single beds, about ten of them, along with a pillow and white wool sheet each. Around the beds, built into the roof, were hangers; all sported a plain black curtain.-
[22:22] <Minaplo> [The walls were hard sandstone, yellow-brown, dignified. Square windows sat near the beds, allowing patients to peer into the world outside, at green grassy plains, forested hills and snow-capped mountains. At people in the square.-
[22:23] <Minaplo> [There were only six people inside the healing house, and of those, only three were patients. Elisha was one, lying in a bed near the door. In the corner was the 'fire man', who had been Elisha's first challenge.-
[22:26] <Minaplo> [Unlike the others, the third patient, Serafina Raskova, was awake. She stared at the roof, looking uncomfortable.-
[22:27] <Minaplo> [Standing over her was the healer, Ibrahim, a short man with a warm, cheery face and a neatly trimmed glossy black beard. "Ready?"-
[22:27] <Minaplo> ["Uh-huh."-
[22:28] <Minaplo> [Ibrahim placed a hand over Serafina's stomach. For a few seconds, rainbow light filtered through the gaps between his fingers.-
[22:28] <Minaplo> [Serafina gasped, her entire body tensing. She sounded as though she'd been plunged into ice water.-
[22:30] <Minaplo> [Ibrahim quickly ran his hand down to Serafina's bloody, dirty foot. A large, ugly, jagged wound had torn right through her foot, flesh and bone all. Ibrahim unhesitatingly grasped it.-
[22:30] <Minaplo> [Serafina's gasp became sharper, louder; a scream. The wound convulsed. Muck and pus and dirt and mud began oozing out of it, followed by dirty blood.-
[22:31] <Minaplo> [Then came crunching, clunking sounds, followed by odd popping noises. The flesh and skin began to push together.-
[22:32] <Minaplo> [The process took a minute. By the end of it, not even a scar remained. Only Serafina's ragged breath and sweaty, clammy skin remained as evidence of Ibrahim's miracle.-
[22:32] <Minaplo> ["All done." Said Ibrahim. "You'll feel weak for a few days. Go straight home and rest, Sera."-
[22:32] <Minaplo> ["Al… Alright."-
[22:33] * Vannik (~ten.labolgcbs.xtslld.deepsthgil.212-441-251-99|kinnaV#ten.labolgcbs.xtslld.deepsthgil.212-441-251-99|kinnaV) has joined #nervfrance
[22:33] <Minaplo> [Two other people had stood to the side as the process took place: Tengri Khan and Mary Caine.-
[22:37] <Minaplo> ["How long until my brother wakes?" asked Mary.-
[22:37] <Minaplo> ["Only two or three days." Said Ibrahim. "Although he is likely to be shaky for a few more days after that…"-
[22:38] <Minaplo> ["I see. Thank you, healer Ibrahim." Said Mary.-
[22:38] <Minaplo> [He gave her a polite bow of the head.-
[22:39] <Minaplo> [Tengri Khan gestured wordlessly to the door. Mary took the hint. She left.-
[22:39] <Minaplo> [Khan followed behind.-
[22:40] <Minaplo> ["With all due respect, Lord Khan, we're lucky that Shangri-La's tests didn't result in deaths today." Said Mary.-
[22:40] <Minaplo> ["Lucky!" Khan shook his head. "No, lucky is not the word I would use. I am a peaceful man. I would not let it come to a death."-
[22:41] <Minaplo> ["Really? Lord Khan, it seemed to me as though only a few more seconds, a simple mistake here or there…?"-
[22:42] <Minaplo> ["I can do a lot in a few seconds." Said Khan with a bright smile.-
[22:42] <Minaplo> ["I don't doubt it…"-
[22:45] <Minaplo> [They walked into the town square proper, where the sound of the tinkling clean waters of the marble fountain could be heard clearly. The damage from the battle- shattered tiles, scorch marks- had already been repaired.-
[23:03] <Minaplo> ["So where do we go from here, Lord Khan?" Asked Mary.-
[23:06] <Minaplo> ["You must be undoubtedly worn out." Said Khan. "For today, you should make like young Sera and rest. I have things to attend to myself, preparations… I'll send someone along to lead you to your room."-
[23:06] <Minaplo> [The room. The one prepared for me…-
[23:08] <Minaplo> ["Very well, Lord Khan." Said Mary.-
[23:09] <Minaplo> ["Let us talk a little more tomorrow." Said Khan.-
[23:10] <Minaplo> [Mary nodded. "Let's."-
[23:10] <Minaplo> [And with that, Khan left. He had a firm, powerful, stately walk, its strength untouched by age.-
[23:17] <Minaplo> [Mary was left behind.-
[23:18] <Minaplo> [She stood by the fountain, trying to look unruffled, trying to appear to not be as out of place as she felt.-
[23:26] <Minaplo> [Mary felt the ripples. The wrinkles. The unsettled waves of emotion all around her, ebbing and rising in periodic crescendoes. A ruffled people, slowly quieting.-
[23:27] <Minaplo> [She stood at its epicentre.-
[23:28] <Minaplo> ["Mary Caine, I presume?"-
[23:28] <Minaplo> [Mary'd lost track of time. She blinked several times and looked around.-
[23:29] <Minaplo> [A tall, gaunt man stood nearby.-
[23:30] <Minaplo> [He looked to be in his thirties or so. He had long, rich black hair and brown eyes behind worn bifocals. He possessed a strong jaw and pronounced cheekbones; it gave his cheeks a yet more hollow look to them.-
[23:30] <Minaplo> [He was wearing a simple white robe with leather shoes. He was smiling warmly.-
[23:31] <Minaplo> ["That's correct." She said slowly. "You have me at a disadvantage…"-
[23:31] <Minaplo> ["Ephraim." He said. "Ephraim Siskin von Brandt."-
[23:33] <Minaplo> ["Nice to meet you." Said Mary, switching over to German. "I'm going to assume you can understand this."-
[23:34] <Minaplo> ["I can, yes." Said Ephraim, replying in slightly hesitant German, his own accent notably different from her's. "I've been sent to guide you to your room…?"-
[23:34] <Minaplo> ["Yes, of course. Please lead the way, Mr. von Brandt."-
[23:36] <Minaplo> […-
[23:37] <Minaplo> [Mary's room was cosy, holding her luggage, a single bed and a wooden cabinet within. It sat on the third floor of a tower, which was also built atop a hill. Through her window she could see most of the village and much of the valley below.-
[23:39] <Minaplo> ["It's lovely." Said Mary quietly. She stood at the window and leaned against the sill, her arms folded.-
[23:40] <Minaplo> ["It is at that." Said Ephraim. "A little disquieted right now, perhaps, but lovely nonetheless. I assure you it's lovelier in more peaceful times, though…"-
[23:41] <Minaplo> ["Give it a few days." He said. "People'll calm down, you can visit the marketplace… Or if you wish it, walk through the countryside, the farms, paddocks and such."-
[23:42] <Minaplo> ["I'll keep that in mind." Said Mary.-
[23:42] <Minaplo> ["Good, good."-
[23:42] <Minaplo> ["…"-
[23:43] <Minaplo> ["I'm afraid the place might seem a little boring to you, though, if you're used to the distractions of a European metropolis." Said von Brandt. "Only a few places here use electricity."-
[23:44] <Minaplo> ["It won't be a problem." Said Mary. "You survive without all the bells and whistles, after all."-
[23:45] <Minaplo> ["Quite." Said Ephraim with a smile. "Which reminds me. I live at the top of this tower. There most of the time, in fact. I'm a solitary fellow- if you ever want to speak to me, then, I'll be there."-
[23:46] <Minaplo> ["Thank you for the invitation." Said Mary.-
[23:46] <Minaplo> ["So." She said, half-turning to look at him. "Mr. von Brandt- or do you prefer 'Ephraim'?"-
[23:46] <Minaplo> ["Ephraim, please."-
[23:46] <Minaplo> ["Well, Ephraim. What do you do?"-
[23:47] <Minaplo> ["What do I… Do?" He smiled politely. "Care to narrow it down?"-
[23:52] <Minaplo> ["Your 'gift'."-
Session Time: Sat Jun 06 00:00:00 2015
[00:00] <Minaplo> ["Oh." Said Ephraim. "I can feel thoughts. If I focus, senses as well, seeing and hearing what another sees."-
[00:00] <Minaplo> ["Sounds intrusive."-
[00:02] <Minaplo> ["It can be, yes." Said Ephraim. "I'm not really into the abusing-my-gift business. None of us are, really. That's bred out of people who live here, you know…"-
[00:02] <Minaplo> ["Good." Said Mary, smiling a little.-
[00:02] <Minaplo> ["Mmm."-
[00:03] <Minaplo> ["… In any case, my main role here in Shangri-La is to sit in my tower and broaden my perception so widely that I can sense the presence of everyone in the valley." Said Ephraim.-
[00:03] <Minaplo> ["Oh. So you're a watchman." Said Mary. "You must've sensed us coming from miles away…"-
[00:05] <Minaplo> ["Quite." Said Ephraim with a bright smile. "We're all expected to do our part for Shangri-La. I help with security. And, when necessary, act as truth-seer for Lord Khan. Occasionally, when people feel it's necessary, they'll bare all for me, let me into their innermost thoughts, and try to let me help them."-
[00:05] <Minaplo> [Mary's eyebrows rose. "That sounds drastic."-
[00:06] <Minaplo> ["It's not something I enjoy too much, no." Said Ephraim. His smile became weak. "It can be overwhelming to plunge so deeply into another's mind. Difficult, too, to ensure you don't bring something untoward back."-
[00:07] <Minaplo> ["Hmmmm." Mary tilted her head to the left slightly. "How curious."-
[00:08] <Minaplo> ["Ah… Yes." Said Ephraim, shifting a little. "I suppose it is. You want to know if it's happened before."-
[00:08] <Minaplo> ["Did your gift tell you that, Ephraim?"-
[00:09] <Minaplo> ["No." Said Ephraim. "It was, ah… Fairly obvious."-
[00:10] <Minaplo> ["Oh, I see. I won't push for answers, in any case. I don't need to know."-
[00:10] <Minaplo> ["Appreciated." Said Ephraim. "To be honest… Mm. No, nevermind."-
[00:10] <Minaplo> ["Hmm? Go on."-
[00:11] <Minaplo> ["It's fine." Said Ephraim. "I should go. Is there anything else you need?"-
[00:13] <Minaplo> ["A guarantee."-
[00:13] <Minaplo> ["A… Guarantee?"-
[00:37] <Minaplo> ["Keep your inner eye away from me whilst I'm in here." Said Mary with a small, sly smile. "I detest being watched, and make no mistake: I'll know if you see something you shouldn't."-
[00:38] <Minaplo> [There was a spike of ruddy discord in Ephraim's feelings. Mary's smile widened.-
[00:38] <Minaplo> ["I uh… I can make that guarantee." He said nervously.-
[00:38] <Minaplo> ["I'd be disappointed if you couldn't."-
[00:38] <Minaplo> ["I wouldn't want to disappoint you." Mumbled Ephraim.-
[00:39] <Minaplo> ["You learn fast."-
[00:39] <Minaplo> ["Uh… Yes. Right. Good day." Said Ephraim quickly, shuffling away.-
[00:43] <Minaplo> [Mary continued to smirk as she shut the door.-
[00:43] <Minaplo> […-
[00:47] <Minaplo> ["Why did you come here?"-
[00:48] <Minaplo> [Khan and Mary left Shangri-La behind them, walking a paved road towards the nearest mountainside.-
[01:07] <Minaplo> ["There's a few reasons." Said Mary. "You could say we share overlapping fields of specialisation."-
[01:07] <Minaplo> ["What do you mean by that?"-
[01:07] <Minaplo> ["Metaphysical biology?" Said Mary.-
[01:09] <Minaplo> [Khan snorted derisively, shaking his head. "'Metaphysical biology'. What a self-interested puffed up piece of academic waffle."-
[01:09] <Minaplo> ["Not a fan?" Said Mary politely.-
[01:15] <Minaplo> ["Not of the term, no." Said Khan.-
[01:16] <Minaplo> ["May I ask why? Beyond your already stated objections."-
[01:20] <Minaplo> ["It sounds uncommitted." Said Khan. "As though you believe the topic won't be taken seriously unless it's given some sort of discipline-based academic title."-
[01:32] <Minaplo> ["You may be right." Said Mary. "But I think the term has the charm of intuitiveness. It deals with physical particulars that produce metaphysical effects."-
[01:34] <Minaplo> [Khan snorted. "Then the term is backwards."-
[01:34] <Minaplo> ["Oh?"-
[01:37] <Minaplo> ["Do you even have any examples of pure physicality leading to metaphysical changes?" Said Khan. "I assure you in every situation, every damn one, it is a metaphysical cause, not a physical one."-
[01:39] <Minaplo> ["You may certainly be right." Said Mary. "But still, the field is focused on beings possessing both biological and metaphysical characteristics, with a focus on the metaphysical. I feel that's perfectly valid."-
[01:46] <Minaplo> ["I recommend a different term." Said Khan.-
[01:46] <Minaplo> ["By all means…"-
[01:48] <Minaplo> ["How does 'Miaphysitism' sound?" Said Khan.-
[01:49] <Minaplo> [Mary's eyebrows rose.-
[01:49] <Minaplo> ["Not good?"-
[01:49] <Minaplo> ["I'll see what my puffed up academic family thinks." She said wryly.-
[01:49] <Minaplo> ["Huhn."-
[01:50] <Minaplo> ["In any case, that aside, I think my central point holds true." Said Mary. "It's a field in which we're both very active, in our own ways. We came here to learn from your perspective- and maybe offer something of our own."-
[01:50] <Minaplo> ["Hmm."-
[01:51] <Minaplo> [Khan and Mary continued to walk. The settlement slowly dwindled away behind them, becoming smaller as the mountain ahead became larger.-
[01:55] <Minaplo> ["Of course, it's possible that you know what we know already." Said Mary. "You seem… Very well informed. Well enough to have prepared room for me twenty years in advance. I can only assume you've observed my family."-
[01:55] <Minaplo> ["A fair assumption." Said Khan.-
[01:56] <Minaplo> ["So you must've known about my brother's nature before he arrived." Said Mary. "That he was one of the seven- ah-"-
[01:56] <Minaplo> ["'Star Princes'." Said Khan. "You metabiologists use some other term?"-
[01:56] <Minaplo> ["E-Types."-
[01:57] <Minaplo> ["Such a lifeless description." Muttered Khan. "Very scientific."-
[01:57] <Minaplo> ["The 'E' stands for 'Eve'." Said Mary.-
[01:57] <Minaplo> ["Hah."-
[01:58] <Minaplo> ["Yes, I figured you'd appreciate that." Said Mary with a small smile. "In any case- did you know?"-
[01:58] <Minaplo> ["I did, yes." Said Khan.-
[01:59] <Minaplo> ["So why the test?" Said Mary.-
[01:59] <Minaplo> ["He was being obnoxious, so I figured a beating would do him well."-
[01:59] <Minaplo> ["…"-
[01:59] <Minaplo> ["Made me feel better." Said Khan cheerfully.-
[02:00] <Minaplo> [Mary laughed. "It was rather cathartic, wasn't it?…"-
[02:01] <Minaplo> ["But that wasn't the whole reason." Said Mary, her tone still light.-
[02:02] <Minaplo> ["No, you are right." Said Khan. "Star Princes are… Special in our society. There are only seven, after all, and most Shangri-Lese only see one in their lifetime- that is, the Tengri Khan."-
[02:02] <Minaplo> ["So you are an E-Type. Sorry, Star Prince." Said Mary slowly.-
[02:07] <Minaplo> ["I am." Said Tengri Khan. "Shangri-La always has a Star Prince as Tengri Khan. Not always the same one, of course, and sometimes there are- gaps- between appointments."-
[02:07] <Minaplo> ["But the Tengri Khan is always a Star Prince."-
[09:00] <Minaplo> ["Why?" Asked Mary.-
[09:02] <Minaplo> ["It is an old practice inherent to this very settlement's founding." Said Khan. "There are things known to the people of Shangri-la, old truths… Revelations."-
[09:05] <Minaplo> ["What kind of revelations?" Asked Mary.-
[09:06] <Minaplo> ["The sort that lead to academics 'discovering' metaphysical biology." Said Khan shortly. "The deep revelations. The ones that explain the origins of humanity. The nature of souls. The nature of the afterlife. The ancient beings that shaped our world."-
[09:11] <Minaplo> ["Ah." Said Mary. "So you know about the Seeds."-
[09:11] <Minaplo> ["The… Oh, the ancient beings?"-
[09:11] <Minaplo> ["Yes." Said Mary. "Although we call the first one Adam and the second one Lilith."-
[09:13] <Minaplo> [Khan frowned. "I recognise the names, but… You named the creator of humanity 'Lilith'?"-
[09:13] <Minaplo> ["Yes."-
[09:14] <Minaplo> ["I was under the impression that Lilith was an evil entity in your lore." Said Khan.-
[09:14] <Minaplo> ["That's the typical portrayal, yes." Said Mary. "The first woman, who rebelled against Adam, and later gave rise to debased offspring."-
[09:15] <Minaplo> [Khan shook his head. "What a charming little bunch you all are."-
[09:15] <Minaplo> ["Hm." Said Mary with a smile. "But you were saying, lord Khan?"-
[09:21] <Minaplo> ["Yes, yes. So the nature by which these revelations were revealed to us would overwhelm people." Said Khan. "Destroying their minds, soemtimes driving them to death… All except the Star Princes, who could receive the revelations without any danger whatsoever."-
[09:30] <Minaplo> ["… This sounds familiar." Said Mary.-
[09:30] <Minaplo> ["Oh?"-
[09:33] <Minaplo> ["The way we learned was through ancient obelisks." Said Mary. "Old, powerful technology that would burn their data into your mind. Those affected would then obsessively write out their interpretation of what they'd seen."-
[09:34] <Minaplo> ["Mm." Khan nodded.-
[09:34] <Minaplo> ["We call the obelisks the Dead Sea Scrolls-" continued Mary.-
[09:34] <Minaplo> [Khan snorted.-
[09:34] <Minaplo> ["… And it sounds very much like you yourself have encountered them." Said Mary.-
[09:40] <Minaplo> ["Mm, not quite." Said Khan. "The last time we saw a Pillar was almost a century ago. Every hundred years, a few of the Shangri-Lese go on a pilgrimage to their hidden place and the Khan receives the revelations."-
[09:43] <Minaplo> ["The Khan then records that knowledge." He said. "And over the centuries, the sum of all the Khans' knowledge has been collected into a canon, some of it thousands of years old. The pilgrimage is intended to correct any drifts or corruption due to time, and to glean new knowledge."-
[09:44] <Minaplo> ["In fact, as I've yet to go on pilgrimage myself, almost all of what I know about the Truth comes from the writings of my predecessors." Said Khan.-
[09:44] <Minaplo> ["I see." Said Mary. "So that's why the Khan is always a Star Prince: to be able to read the obelisks safely."-
[09:44] <Minaplo> ["Precisely."-
[09:54] <Minaplo> [They walked on. The paved path inclined upwards, deeper into the foothills of the mountainside.-
[09:55] <Minaplo> [They didn't speak for a time; the only sounds were the rhythmic thudding of Khan's staff on the stones and the wind rustling in the trees that dotted these green hills.-
[10:09] <Minaplo> [Mary would then see something new: a building, sitting alone on a green hilltop; it looked down on the valley-town below. The building was several metres tall, broad and round; it was made of white stone, and was unadorned except for a single rectangular door facing the path.-
[10:10] <Minaplo> [As Mary watched, a lean-looking vulture alighted on the roof, then vanished from sight behind the lip of the perimeter wall.-
[10:13] <Minaplo> […-
[10:14] <Minaplo> ["Not to be rude, Khan, but it's been nearly three quarters of an hour since we left the town." Said Mary gently. "I'm wondering where you're leading me."-
[10:34] <Minaplo> [Khan huffed.-
[10:35] <Minaplo> ["We're nearly there now." Said Khan. "Just over that rise…"-
[10:38] <Minaplo> [The road levelled out a few minutes later. Now their destination was clear: a cave mouth, carved into the mountainside. A pair of heavy stone doors, bounded by metal, stood open for them.-
[10:41] <Minaplo> ["A cave?"-
[10:41] <Minaplo> ["Hmph. Cave." Muttered Khan.-
[10:42] <Minaplo> [They walked inside. The walls were white, and veined with deep red; they were smooth to the touch.-
[10:44] <Minaplo> [Sitting at the doorstep was a basket deep with long white candles; next to them sat three candlesticks. Khan took a candle, placed it in a candlestick, then took out a box of matches. He withdrew one match, struck it against his staff, then lit the candle with it.-
[10:44] <Minaplo> ["Funny." Said Mary. "This place feels so isolated that it's a little strange to see you use a matchbox."-
[10:45] <Minaplo> ["Hmph."-
[10:45] <Minaplo> [Khan rose again, and held the candle out in front of him. "Let's go."-
[11:17] <Minaplo> [They walked deeper into the cave.-
[11:18] <Minaplo> [The passage was about two metres wide and gently widening as they went. The only light was from Khan's candle; the flickering flame cast dancing light across the smooth walls.-
[11:32] <Minaplo> [As Mary watched, the smoothness of the walls gave way to bas-reliefs. At first it was nothing, just a flat plain cut into the side.-
[11:34] <Minaplo> [Then slowly, shapes emerged. Stars first, only a few, then dozens, hundreds, carved into both sides.-
[11:34] <Minaplo> [Then came the sun, round and large, emanating rays; it sat on the right-hand wall.-
[11:34] <Minaplo> [The moon sat opposite on the left, surrounded by stars.-
[11:36] <Minaplo> [After the sun and moon came hands. Two large, yet slender-looking hands carved from the stone in mid-relief. They had no nails or other such details. The arms ran upwards, toward the roof.-
[11:36] <Minaplo> [Mary looked up.-
[11:41] <Minaplo> [A humanoid figure emerged from the stone ceiling, its form human only in the absolute basic sense: two arms, two legs, a torso and head, yet there were no other features. It had no mouth, but only deep empty sockets for eyes.-
[11:41] <Minaplo> ["Watch your step." Said Khan.-
[11:42] <Minaplo> [Mary looked down- just in time to notice another relief on the very ground below her, making things uneven.-
[11:42] <Minaplo> [This one was also human in basic form, and in many ways mirrored the being on the ceiling. However, it was diminished somehow, smaller and meaner; its arms were wrapped across its chest, fingers splayed out aggressively, not open or welcoming.-
[11:43] <Minaplo> [Years and years of passage through this tunnel had marred and weathered the figure. Scrapes and gouges cut across it and had not been repaired.-
[11:44] <Minaplo> [Eventually the floor smoothed out, but the walls did not. In the great figure's wake were small shapes- men in robes standing profile, enrounded by large multifaceted wings. There would've been over a hundred, on both sides.-
[11:45] <Minaplo> [New shapes appeared now. To their left was what looked like a bull, yet it had teats like a cow.-
[11:46] <Minaplo> [And to their right was a relief of a human being. This one was detailed, with a firm face, gentle eyes and a strong frame. The figure, Mary saw, also had both male and female genitalia, as well as breasts.-
[11:47] <Minaplo> [They walked on.-
[11:48] <Minaplo> [The bovine and the human reappeared; now they had been cut down and killed by some beast. A relief of fluid, cunningly carved, seemed to flow from their wounds. It was like a river; Mary reached out and ran her hand across it. She felt little waves and breaks beneath her fingers.-
[11:49] <Minaplo> [Beings emerged from the fluids. On their left emerged animals- not just cattle, but roosters, sheep, eagles… Hundreds of animals of all kinds.-
[11:49] <Minaplo> [To their right… Two human beings, male and female.-
[11:50] <Minaplo> [The path came to an abrupt stop.-
[11:50] <Minaplo> [In front of them were two stone doors, closed.-
[11:50] <Minaplo> ["Not locked." Said Khan. "Push them open."-
[11:51] <Minaplo> ["As you like." Said Mary. She stepped forward, placed her hands firmly on the doors- which were cool to the touch- and pushed.-
[11:51] <Minaplo> [They gave way… And Mary gasped.-
[12:02] <Minaplo> [Before them was a cavern. A monumental cavern, larger than Mary had ever seen before…-
[12:06] <Minaplo> [It opened in all directions; the path beneath Mary's feet now became a narrow bridge across a great chasm.-
[12:07] <Minaplo> [There was no need for Khan's candle in here; indeed the whole cavern was bright with light. Across the walls of the cavern had been positioned dozens of mirrors, reflecting light from some source above.-
[12:08] <Minaplo> [In the light, Mary could see the statues and high-reliefs, even in this huge room. To her immediate left and right were two statues, three metres tall; a woman to her left, a man to her right.-
[12:12] <Minaplo> [There would've been easily hundreds or more reliefs in the chamber. In one area she saw robed soldiers with bows battling men with short swords; in another, nine wise robed men sitting in a circle around a single book. Another corner saw a group of women clustered around a great bird; it was thirty metres long and had huge peacock wings fanning around it; it had front claws like a lion
[12:12] <Minaplo> and the head of a dog.-
[12:14] <Minaplo> [Everywhere Mary looked were reliefs, each showing a different scene, each filled with intricate detail: one relief, twenty metres away, showed a baby being held by its mother; Mary could easily see the baby's detailed hand grasping his mother's finger.-
[12:17] <Minaplo> [But the greatest reliefs of them all sat along the middle of the cavern walls, standing opposite to each other- two great formless shapes, each with four broad wings. They towered over the cavern; Mary judged them to be over sixty metres tall.-
[12:18] <Minaplo> [The reliefs continued all the way down the sides of the cavern as well, deep into the chasm. Below was a lake, a brilliant bright blue that seemed to shine light all of its own, illuminating the walls.-
[12:19] <Minaplo> [Mary had come to a full stop, utterly speechless.-
[12:29] <Minaplo> ["How fortunate you are." Said Khan quietly. "To look on the great grotto and rock-cut city of Zoroaster."-
[12:30] <Minaplo> ["Incredible." Said Mary breathlessly. "Just incredible…"-
[12:31] <Minaplo> [Mary spent a few minutes slowly walking across the bridge, staring around at the legion of reliefs. Her eyes were wide and sharp, drinking in the splendour.-
[12:31] <Minaplo> [Eventually she spoke. "City." She said. "Do people still live in here?"-
[12:32] <Minaplo> ["Once it thronged." Said Khan. "But much of the old city is old, abandoned and sealed off. Now only a few live here… One less as of a week ago."-
[12:32] <Minaplo> ["… Oh, I see." Said Mary slowly. "I'm sorry to hear that."-
[12:32] <Minaplo> ["Mm." Khan pressed on.-
[12:33] <Minaplo> [Such was the size of the Gallery Cavern that it took them nearly five minutes to cross the bridge.-
[12:35] <Minaplo> [The bridge was soon a path once again, a four-abreast wide passageway leading deeper into the mountain.-
[12:36] <Minaplo> [The path branched off as they went, but Khan seemed to know the way and briskly passed them. Before long they came to a plaza, in the middle of which sat a stone staircase leading upwards.-
[12:38] <Minaplo> [Khan led Mary up the staircase. It came out into an antechamber, with paths leading to their left and right. Directly ahead of them, however, was a temple facade. A pair of stone doors stood open for them.-
[12:38] <Minaplo> [They entered. Instantly the air became warmer. Mary could hear the cracking of distant fires.-
[12:49] <Minaplo> [The temple chamber itself was quite wide; the floors were bare, although the walls were decorated with reliefs of winged, robed spirits and creatures. In the very centre of the room was a square pool of shallow water, perfectly still; sitting in the middle was a short pillar, on top of which sat a silver urn. A bright fire burned within the urn, casting a brilliant display of light on the
[12:49] <Minaplo> water below.-
[12:49] <Minaplo> [But Khan led Mary past this without a word.-
[12:50] <Minaplo> [There were doorways at the back of the chamber, narrow and unobtrusive; Khan led Mary through one.-
[12:51] <Minaplo> [Beyond the doorway was a small room, about four metres by four. In the middle was a stone table, surrounded by four wooden chairs.-
[12:55] <Minaplo> [Sitting on one was a man of forty or fifty. He was tall and strongly built, with long curly hair and a thick, combed beard, both black shot through with grey. He had dark, dusky skin, long arms and large hands. He wore a robe of undyed linen and a white formless cap on his head.-
[13:00] <Minaplo> [As Khan and Mary entered, the man rose quickly and bowed. "Khan- it's good of you to come." He said. He had a deep, calm voice.-
[13:00] <Minaplo> ["Mm. How is he, Bahram?" Asked Khan.-
[13:01] <Minaplo> ["Distraught." Said Bahram. "He's kept to himself mostly… Doesn't eat, barely moves. If it weren't for Holly he'd do nothing at all."-
[13:01] <Minaplo> ["Mm. Where is Holly now?" Asked Khan.-
[13:01] <Minaplo> ["In there with him." Said Bahram.-
[13:02] <Minaplo> ["Mm. Oh, this is Mary Caine." Said Khan, gesturing carelessly at Mary. "Did you hear…?"-
[13:02] <Minaplo> ["Yes." Said Bahram, nodding. "I heard all about it- Holly was all too happy to tell me every detail. Another Star Prince…"-
[13:03] <Minaplo> ["Quite. Shame he's a boor." Said Mary with a smile. "How do you do?"-
[13:06] <Minaplo> [Bahram smiled. "I've seen better days, madame. I'm Bahram Shirazi, the temple priest."-
[13:07] <Minaplo> ["Bahram's a special man in Shangri-La." Said Khan. "He has the ability to sense events. Mostly past and present… Occasionally future."-
[13:07] * ZackSleep is now known as Zack
[13:07] <Minaplo> [Mary's eyebrows rose. "I see."-
[13:07] <Minaplo> ["I'll tell you more later." Said Khan. "For now… There's no trouble if we pay him a visit, Bahram?"-
[13:08] <Minaplo> [Bahram shook his head. "He always has time for you, Khan."-
[13:08] <Minaplo> [Khan nodded; he led Mary into the next room.-
[13:10] <Minaplo> [The room, surprisingly, was well-furnished. There was a long soft leather couch, a wooden dining table, and brilliant, decorated rugs on the ground. The walls were thick with bookcases. On one small round table sat a phonograph and a radio; beneath it was a stack of vinyl records, still in their sleeves.-
[13:11] <Minaplo> [Sitting on the couch were two young people.-
[13:18] <Minaplo> [One, the older one, was a girl; Mary guessed around fifteen or so. She was slender and petite, and wore her black hair in a jaw-length bobcut. She had very fair skin and delicate, soft features- a small nose, gentle almond eyes and a smooth jawline. Her eyes were a warm brown. She wore a knee-length blue dress under a thick black sweater.-
[13:18] <Minaplo> [She had her arm around a scrawny young boy.-
[13:22] <Minaplo> [This one would be lucky to be eight or nine years old, so thin, scrawny and short he was. He had scruffy, messy black hair, thick eyebrows and darker skin. His face had a gaunt, slightly hungry look about it with high cheekbones. He had grey eyes, although now they were rimmed red and puffy.-
[13:22] <Minaplo> [Like Bahram, he too wore a simple robe of undyed white linen.-
[13:23] <Minaplo> [As Khan and Mary entered, both girl and boy looked up. The girl moved to stand, but Khan quickly waved her back down. The boy didn't even bother with the effort; instead he just rested his head against the girl's shoulder.-
[13:24] <Minaplo> ["Kou, Holly." Said Khan. "I thought I'd come by to see how you were traveling…"-
[13:24] <Minaplo> [Holly gave Khan a small smile. "We're… Going, sir." She said hesitantly.-
[13:24] <Minaplo> [Kou remained silent. He affixed Mary with a deep, tense stare.-
[13:25] <Minaplo> ["Well… You know to call if you need anything." Said Khan.-
[13:25] <Minaplo> ["Thank you, sir." Said Holly quietly.-
[13:25] <Minaplo> [Khan nodded.-
[13:25] <Minaplo> ["Kou, Holly, this is Mary Caine." Said Khan. "She arrived here yesterday, from Germany."-
[13:26] <Minaplo> [Kou stared for a moment longer.-
[13:26] <Minaplo> ["The sad, lonely legacy of the dead." He said coolly.-
[13:26] <Minaplo> [The hairs on Mary's neck suddenly stiffened. "W-What?"-
[14:49] <Minaplo> [Silence.-
[14:54] <Minaplo> [Other sensations began to prickle at Mary's skin.-
[14:55] <Minaplo> [From the room behind she felt the stultifying, muggy feeling of weariness, a bone-deep exhaustion.-
[14:55] <Minaplo> [And from ahead…-
[14:56] <Minaplo> [She felt nothing but neutral calm from Khan. Holly was much easier to feel, radiating warmth.-
[14:57] <Minaplo> [That left Kou. The boy sat there, his eyes fixed unblinkingly on Mary, never deviating. It felt like…-
[14:58] <Minaplo> [Recognition. Expectation.-
[14:58] <Minaplo> [Kou's gaze broke; he curled his head away and burrowed it against Holly's shoulder.-
[15:00] <Minaplo> ["…" Mary shook her head for a moment. "But yes. I am Mary Caine. Just arrived yesterday, although you may not've heard." Said Mary. She smiled; Holly smiled back.-
[15:00] <Minaplo> ["Are you staying with us?" Asked Holly.-
[15:01] <Minaplo> ["For a little while. A few weeks." Said Mary. "Then I'm homeward bound. My brother and I both, in fact- he's here as well."-
[15:02] <Minaplo> ["Currently resting in the healing house." Said Khan with a wry smile. "I'm sure your mentor will be happy to give you the details later."-
[15:11] <Minaplo> ["Uh-huh." Said Holly. "Not many people just come and visit though."-
[15:26] <Minaplo> ["She's looking for something." Mumbled Kou. "They both are. Gayomard."-
[15:26] <Minaplo> [Mary frowned. "… You seem to have me at a disadvantage, Kou."-
[15:27] <Minaplo> [He squirmed a little, but kept his face hidden.-
[15:29] <Minaplo> ["You'd best get used to it." Said Khan; he smirked. "Kou, do you think you're ready to work?"-
[15:29] <Minaplo> [Silence.-
[15:30] <Minaplo> [Khan lifted his staff and gently prodded Kou in the shoulder with the butt end.-
[15:31] <Minaplo> [Kou didn't respond. After a second, Khan began to prod him again, a little firmer.-
[15:32] <Minaplo> [Kou squirmed; Mary felt a wave of irritation flow through her body.-
[15:35] <Minaplo> ["Khan." She said suddenly. "That's enough. Kou's just lost someone, he's in mourning, you ought to give him his space."-
[15:37] <Minaplo> ["That's not it!" Snapped Kou suddenly; he shoved Khan's staff away and leapt to his feet. Tears had filled his eyes; his hands were balled into fists. "Mama won't come back for twenty years, don't you get that?!"-
[15:38] <Minaplo> [Mary's frown deepened; she opened her mouth to ask a question, but Kou was already gone, leaping past her and through the doorway.-
[15:39] <Minaplo> [Holly jumped up, ready to follow, but Khan grasped her shoulder firmly. "No, leave him to me. Best we have a word alone, he and I."-
[15:39] <Minaplo> ["Yes, sir." Said Holly quietly, looking away.-
[15:40] <Minaplo> ["You shouldn't have agitated him, Khan." Said Mary firmly. "I don't-"-
[15:41] <Minaplo> ["- Give me orders." Said Khan shortly. "Listen to me- Kou's duty is important to Shangri-La. Very important. Do you think I prod crying children for fun?"-
[15:44] <Minaplo> [Khan shuffled closer until his face was a few inches from Mary's. There was a tangy, bitter odour on his breath- it reminded Mary of some sort of herb, although she couldn't think of the name. "I didn't enjoy it." He said darkly. "But Kou's always needed a firm hand. Don't involve yourself in things you know nothing about."-
[15:44] <Minaplo> ["…" Mary stared back coolly. "I see. My apologies, Khan." She said.-
[15:45] <Minaplo> ["Hmph." Khan pulled himself back. "Holly, you will be Ms. Caine's guide whilst she's here. Understood?"-
[15:45] <Minaplo> ["Yes, sir, but what about-"-
[15:46] <Minaplo> ["Never you mind. Come back tomorrow." Said Khan. "For now, I want you to show Ms. Caine around the city as best you can, then wherever she asks within the bounds of the fields and the town."-
[15:46] <Minaplo> ["… Yes, sir." Said Holly.-
[15:46] <Minaplo> [And then Khan was gone, giving Mary nothing but a sharp nod as he went.-
[15:47] <Minaplo> ["…"-
[15:48] <Minaplo> [Mary let out a sigh. "I should know better than to lose my temper around stubborn old men." Muttered Mary. "You must feel very awkward."-
[15:48] <Minaplo> ["A little." Said Holly with a tiny smile.-
[15:49] <Minaplo> ["Sorry. It won't happen again." Said Mary.-
[15:50] <Minaplo> ["Okay."-
[15:50] <Minaplo> ["…"-
[15:50] <Minaplo> ["So you're my guide, hm?" Said Mary, giving the girl a bright smile. "I'm sure you must know all sorts of little nooks and crannies."-
[15:51] <Minaplo> [Holly suddenly grinned. "Better than anyone. Do you wanna see?"-
[15:51] <Minaplo> ["Absolutely."-
[15:52] <Minaplo> [Holly grabbed a knapsack, hung it around her left shoulder, and then quickly skipped off, beckoning for Mary to follow.-
[15:52] <Minaplo> […-
[16:10] <Minaplo> ["This place is huge." Murmured Mary.-
[16:31] <Minaplo> [The city was nestled within a cavern, this one man-made. The ceiling had been cut back to about four storeys high, for the purposes of ventilation, and they walked down main paths of six metres and sidepaths of two. Like the reliefs in the gallery, the dwellings had been formed not through being built, but by cutting back at everything around it. The houses seemed to grow from the ground.-
[16:34] <Minaplo> [These houses varied from squat one-storeys to tall pillar-dwellings that merged with the ceiling. They had doorways and windows, although nearly every house Mary saw was missing an actual door; the only exceptions were those with stone doors, which were reserved for the largest and most elaborate of the dwellings.-
[16:35] <Minaplo> [Many of the walls were decorated: great patterned engravings had been cut into many of the walls, whilst reliefs and statues adorned the greater homes.-
[16:36] <Minaplo> [The staircases too had been cut out of the rock. Whoever had cut the staircases had grooved them as well, cutting criss-cross to give them a rougher texture and avoid making them too slippery- a very real danger in a city of stone.-
[16:41] <Minaplo> [Mary and Holly now stood atop the flat roof of a three-storey house, the perimeter edged with a metre-high wall. The wall had been engraved with images of plants, vines cunningly cut in to mimic the green veins.-
[16:42] <Minaplo> [Mary and Holly both held candles, but they didn't really need them outside; sunlight streamed into the city through vents cut through the ceiling, letting sunrays turn the white city gleaming.-
[16:44] <Minaplo> ["Aye." Said Holly. "There's four hundred and nineteen houses, and I know 'em all."-
[16:44] <Minaplo> ["All of them? Really?"-
[16:44] <Minaplo> ["Uh-huh!" Said Holly with a grin.-
[16:44] <Minaplo> ["That's incredible. I'm a little lost as is." Said Mary.-
[16:45] <Minaplo> [Holly laughed. "Oh, it's not too bad, you know! Besides, bet it's smaller than wherever you came from."-
[16:46] <Minaplo> ["Mmm, that's a good point." Said Mary with a smile. "So, four hundred and nineteen houses. Which one's yours?"-
[16:46] <Minaplo> ["Oh, I don't live in here." Said Holly with a giggle. "I live down in the town."-
[16:47] <Minaplo> ["Oh, pardon. You just seemed so familiar…"-
[16:49] <Minaplo> ["Tis because I'm always here." She said. "My folks died a few years ago. Kou's ma kept me ever since. Some nights I don't even go home at all."-
[16:49] <Minaplo> ["Oh, I see. Yes, you and Kou did seem close." Said Mary.-
[16:49] <Minaplo> [Holly grinned. "The closest. I knew him since he was a babe, you know."-
[16:50] <Minaplo> ["He's very fortunate, then." Said Mary with a smile. Holly blushed a little.-
[16:50] <Minaplo> ["… Did you wanna know about the houses?" Asked Holly. "I know about every single one of 'em."-
[16:51] <Minaplo> ["Every single one?"-
[17:07] <Minaplo> ["Every one." Said Holly. "See that one there on the plaza, with all the big windows?"-
[17:07] <Minaplo> ["Mmm?"-
[17:10] <Minaplo> ["That one was where they sold food." Said Holly.-
[17:10] <Minaplo> ["Impressive. What about that one?"-
[17:11] <Minaplo> ["Tis a house. Has a basement, though. Basements are cool."-
[17:11] <Minaplo> ["Mmm, my house has basements." Said Mary. "It's where we keep all the wine… Food… Ghosts."-
[17:11] <Minaplo> ["… Ghosts?" Said Holly, turning to look at her.-
[17:13] <Minaplo> ["Ghosts." Said Mary solemnly. "Under neath my house, many levels below… That's where we bury our dead. In the crypts of the Caines."-
[17:14] <Minaplo> ["But so many of our family have died… Violently." Said Mary, leaning toward Holly. "And so their spirits hunger for vengeance. They rise from the grave, shaking chains… And every so often, a maid vanishes."-
[17:14] <Minaplo> ["…" Holly stared at her with wide eyes…-
[17:14] <Minaplo> [Then began to giggle.-
[17:15] <Minaplo> ["… What? You're not frightened?" Said Mary with a smile.-
[17:15] <Minaplo> ["Ghosts don't exist." Said Holly.-
[17:16] <Minaplo> ["Hah! Says who?"-
[17:18] <Minaplo> ["Says Khan. And Kou." Said Holly matter-of-factly. "When people die, they return to Gayomard, and get reborn. That's how I know I'm gonna see my mam and pa again."-
[17:18] <Minaplo> ["Hah. He's clever, that old Khan of yours, isn't he?" Said Mary with a bright smile. "But that doesn't mean ghosts don't exist."-
[17:19] <Minaplo> ["In fact." Said Mary quietly, leaning closer. "I can hear them all right… Now."-
[17:19] <Minaplo> ["W-What?" Said Holly, quickly glancing around her. "No, you're just trying to frighten me."-
[17:20] <Minaplo> ["Hahaha. No, no. Not at all." Said Mary. "Ghosts can't hurt you. They can only tell you tales. Do you want me to show you?"-
[17:21] <Minaplo> ["… Aye, okay." Said Holly slowly.-
[17:21] <Minaplo> [Mary leaned down so she was Holly's height. "Close your eyes."-
[17:21] <Minaplo> [Holly did so; Mary placed her hands on Holly's shoulders.-
[17:21] <Minaplo> ["What can you hear?" Asked Mary.-
[17:22] <Minaplo> ["… Nothing." Said Holly. "You breathing."-
[17:22] <Minaplo> ["Hah. Just think for a moment. Picture the city around you. All the roads, the little alleys, the empty houses, with their basements and statues and engravings cut into rock walls."-
[17:23] <Minaplo> ["…" Holly nodded.-
[17:27] <Minaplo> ["Now imagine those houses as they might've been." Said Mary. "Picture the doors in the doorways, big, heavy wooden doors… The rugs on the floor, soft, bright… The basements full of sacks and urns."-
[17:27] <Minaplo> [Holly nodded slowly.-
[17:28] <Minaplo> ["What're the houses for?" Said Mary.-
[17:28] <Minaplo> ["… People." Said Holly.-
[17:28] <Minaplo> ["Tell me about them." Said Mary.-
[17:31] <Minaplo> ["… Um… There's a lot of them." Said Holly slowly. "And… They live in the houses. All of them, all of the houses full. They're walking around… They're wearing robes, and sandals. A lot of the men have big beards. They have caps on, or wraps…"-
[17:31] <Minaplo> [Mary remained silent.-
[17:33] <Minaplo> ["They're walking through the streets. They're talking a lot, stopping to talk… There's a whole lot of them near the market, you can hear some of them have animals. The people are laughing and talking, they sound… Happy." Holly smiled a little. "There's kids around, they keep running around the alleys and things, and the grown-ups are shouting at them but they keep doing it."-
[17:34] <Minaplo> ["What are they saying?" Asked Mary.-
[17:35] <Minaplo> ["… They're saying hello." Said Holly. "Or asking how they're going, or about things that are going on. They're talking about other people, too. People who aren't here. They're asking about food and… All kinds of things. There's a blacksmith, he's talking about tools with a little boy. Oh, and… There's a tailor, and she's making clothes for a wedding."-
[17:36] <Minaplo> ["Open your eyes." Said Mary softly.-
[17:37] <Minaplo> [Holly did. She blinked quickly several times before rubbing her knuckle against her lids.-
[17:38] <Minaplo> ["This city was built by people." Said Mary. "Every house, every road, every surface has seen stories, been shaped by those stories. So if you look long enough, and dig deep enough, and listen hard enough, you might just hear their ghosts speaking to you."-
[17:38] <Minaplo> ["…" Holly shuddered a little.-
[17:39] <Minaplo> [Mary smiled. "Just think. Most of this city's still buried in rubble. Imagine what stories could still be hidden away."-
[17:39] <Minaplo> [She straightened up and ruffled Holly's hair. "I think that's enough archaeology for today, Miss Holly. About time to head off home, hm?"-
[17:40] <Minaplo> ["Y-Yeah." Said Holly with a smile. She reached up to feel her hair for a moment, her eyes wide.-
[17:40] <Minaplo> ["Oh! Uh, do you want to have dinner with me tonight? Otherwise it's just me and myself." Said Holly.-
[17:41] <Minaplo> ["Oh, that sounds perfect. I'd be happy to."-
[17:41] <Minaplo> ["Great!"-
[17:41] <Minaplo> […-
[18:42] <Minaplo> ["… Nmgh."-
[18:43] <Minaplo> [Elisha Fontaine's return to consciousness was a bumpy one. His head felt foggy, his stomach was growling and his every joint and muscle felt stiff and rusted.-
[18:45] <Minaplo> [The unfamiliar room around him was lit in an orange, dusky glow. Sandstone walls and a rustic, yet comfortable bed beneath him.-
[18:45] <Minaplo> ["Oh, you're awake?" said someone, his voice unfamiliar.-
[18:46] <Minaplo> [Elisha sat up, slowly, his body seeming to creak with the effort.-
[18:47] <Minaplo> [Rising from a desk on the wall opposite the single door was a short, well-groomed brown-skinned man. "I'm impressed. You weren't expected to stir for a few days."-
[18:47] <Minaplo> ["I've taken a hit or two in my time. I'm pretty tough, it turns out." Said Elisha, swinging off the bed. "I take it you're the local medicine man or whatever?"-
[18:48] <Minaplo> ["Healer Ibrahim, at your service." Said Ibrahim, bowing lowly. "I healed your wounds."-
[18:48] <Minaplo> ["Really? Is that your gift, then?" Said Elisha, flexing his fingers, trying to work some energy into them.-
[18:48] <Minaplo> ["In a manner of speaking. How are you feeling?" Asked Ibrahim.-
[19:01] <Minaplo> ["Really stiff, tired… Hungry." Said Elisha. "Not hurting much. You must be pretty good at your thing."-
[19:03] <Minaplo> ["I have plenty of experience." Said Ibrahim; he smiled. "Do you think yourself the first person to be beaten near to death by Serafina?"-
[19:04] <Minaplo> ["She fought too well to be a newbie." Said Elisha, slowly rising to his feet. He stretched, wincing at the tightness and grudging acquiescence of his entire body. "It was a good lesson. What do I do now?"-
[19:05] <Minaplo> ["Actually, don't answer that. I'm going to get some food, then figure things out from there." Said Elisha. "Toodles."-
[19:05] <Minaplo> ["You should probably take it slow. Start with liquids-" began Ibrahim.-
[19:05] <Minaplo> ["Nope. Seeya."-
[19:07] <Minaplo> [The inhabitants of Shangri-La eyed Elisha with obvious caution.-
[19:08] <Minaplo> [Everywhere he went, they peered at him suspiciously or glanced at him from the corners of their eyes. Sometimes, conversations simply died as he walked past.-
[19:08] <Minaplo> [Elisha ignored them.-
[19:12] <Minaplo> [A gaggle of children- four boys and a girl- burst out around a corner just as he was walking past, only barely avoiding smacking into him en-masse. Instead they pulled to a stop and stared up at him, eyes wide.-
[19:12] <Minaplo> ["…"-
[19:12] <Minaplo> [Elisha frowned at all of them, then walked away. A moment later he was back.-
[19:12] <Minaplo> ["Hey, any of you got food?"-
[19:13] <Minaplo> [The kids promptly ran away.-
[19:13] <Minaplo> ["Little punks! Goddamnit!" Said Elisha. "Where does a man need to go to eat in this place?"-
[19:18] <Minaplo> [There was a quick flash of light above him.-
[19:18] <Minaplo> [He looked up. Sitting on the edge of a building was a girl of maybe thirteen with short black hair.-
[19:19] <Minaplo> ["That way." She said, gesturing down a road.-
[19:19] <Minaplo> ["Oh." He turned.-
[19:19] <Minaplo> [There was another flash; she had vanished into thin air.-
[19:21] <Minaplo> ["…"-
[19:21] <Minaplo> ["Weird-ass comic book bullshit place." Muttered Elisha. He followed the road.-
[19:31] <Minaplo> [Before long, he came to a market square. There were maybe a dozen stalls, each selling off various goods- clothes, pots, books, utensils…-
[19:32] <Minaplo> [He looked around. One stall- the only one run by a woman- was groaning beneath sausages and fresh loaves of bread whilst skinned fowl hung, drying, from the top of it.-
[19:34] <Minaplo> [Elisha grinned, and walked over. "Hiya." He grabbed a loaf of bread and a string of sausages. "How much do I owe you?"-
[19:34] <Minaplo> ["Free." She said in accented English.-
[19:34] <Minaplo> ["What? No." Elisha snorted. He put the food down and took out his wallet. "Come on, tell me."-
[19:35] <Minaplo> ["Free!"-
[19:36] <Minaplo> ["No, I get it, I'm special and uh… Pretty hot." Said Elisha; he flashed her a grin. "But you can't just give away your food to me. I'm not gonna cheat an honest woman out of the sweat of her brow. Come on. Will uh… Fifteen pounds do it?" He asked, holding out the bank notes.-
[19:36] <Minaplo> [The woman did not waver beneath the scowl of Queen Elizabeth. "Food is always free."-
[19:37] <Minaplo> ["Uh… Wow, you're really escalating the generosity, huh?" Said Elisha. "Is this a cultural thing? Please, just take the money, you're making me feel like an asshole."-
[19:37] <Minaplo> ["She's saying the food is free, idiot."-
[19:38] <Minaplo> [Elisha turned. Serafina stood behind him; she scowled at him.-
[19:38] <Minaplo> ["Uh, yeah, I got that part. She keeps saying it, and I'm saying I don't need any special treatment!" Said Elisha. "I'm very wealthy."-
[19:41] <Minaplo> [Serafina sighed. She walked over and smiled at the woman, and took a loaf. "You're not getting special treatment." Said Serafina. "Nobody pays for food here."-
[19:44] <Minaplo> ["What?" Said Elisha.-
[19:44] <Minaplo> ["We grow more than enough to feed ourselves three times a day." Said Serafina. "There's no reason to pay for food. We take what we need. It belongs to all of us."-
[19:45] <Minaplo> ["Oh."-
[19:46] <Minaplo> [Elisha stuffed the notes back into his wallet. "Well. Now I look like an idiot."-
[19:46] <Minaplo> [The stallholder laughed.-
[19:47] <Minaplo> ["Yeah, laugh it up, xlebkommissar. I got my eye on you." Muttered Elisha, taking his bread and sausages and walking away.-
[19:50] <Minaplo> [Serafina followed him. "You're new here. You shouldn't wander around by yourself."-
[19:50] <Minaplo> ["Why? Am I going to be mugged?" Asked Elisha.-
[19:50] <Minaplo> ["No, but you could embarrass yourself even more." Said Serafina.-
[19:51] <Minaplo> ["Alright, fine. I don't know how anything here works. I guess I can just take as many shirts as I want, too?" Said Elisha.-
[19:51] <Minaplo> ["Oh, no. Everyone gets some basic clothes at the start of the year, but if you want those clothes, you have to barter for them." Said Serafina, her tone clean and polite.-
[19:52] <Minaplo> ["Barter? You guys don't use money?" Said Elisha.-
[19:53] <Minaplo> ["Our merchants use money when trading with other communities, but we're not big enough to need currency. Besides, barter keeps us healthier." Said Serafina.-
[19:53] <Minaplo> ["Right."-
[19:53] <Minaplo> ["So… I'm going to eat this bread and these sausages." Said Elisha. "And then I'm going to… Find a place to sleep?"-
[19:54] <Minaplo> [He sat down at an empty table in the market square. Serafina sat opposite.-
[19:56] <Minaplo> ["Do you guys have a hostel or something? Where's my sister staying?" Asked Elisha.-
[19:56] <Minaplo> ["She's staying at a room they prepared for her years ago." Said Serafina.-
[19:56] <Minaplo> ["Oh. Okay. Weird."-
[19:56] <Minaplo> ["Do I have a creepy stalker room too, or is that ladies only?" Asked Elisha. Serafina sighed.-
[19:59] <Minaplo> ["No. You were unexpected." Said Serafina. "But you can stay at my house."-
[19:59] <Minaplo> ["Haha. Look, I'm flattered, young lady, but wouldn't your parents object?" Said Elisha.-
[20:00] <Minaplo> ["I don't have any parents."-
[20:01] <Minaplo> ["Oh." Elisha tore into a bread loaf. "Welp, take it from me, you're better off not having them."-
[20:01] <Minaplo> [He didn't have time to move; Serafina's slap tore across his cheek, sending his now-moist mouthful of masticated bread flying across the market square.-
[20:01] <Minaplo> ["Fuck!"-
[20:02] <Minaplo> [Elisha cradled his cheek, which was bright, bright, bright red. "Motherfucker!"-
[20:02] <Minaplo> ["Don't say that ever again." Said Serafina, her eyes burning bright.-
[20:02] <Minaplo> [Elisha shot her a foul look, ready to snap back- but then he relented, settling back down in his chair.-
[20:02] <Minaplo> ["…"-
[20:02] <Minaplo> ["…"-
[20:03] <Minaplo> ["Sorry." He said eventually. "I was being an asshole. I didn't mean it."-
[20:05] <Minaplo> ["It's okay." Said Serafina.-
[20:05] <Minaplo> ["I don't have very good parents." Said Elisha.-
[20:05] <Minaplo> ["You mustn't, if you swear like that all the time." Said Serafina.-
[20:07] <Minaplo> ["Heh."-
[20:07] <Minaplo> [He broke his loaf in half and offered it to Serafina. "Here."-
[20:07] <Minaplo> [She eyed it suspiciously. "I have bread at home, though."-
[20:13] <Minaplo> ["Yes, I get that, but it's symbolic. Breaking bread? Reconciliation?" Said Elisha. "Please eat my bread."-
[20:14] <Minaplo> ["Fine." Said Serafina grudgingly. She took the offered half and began biting into it.-
[20:21] <Minaplo> […-
[20:22] <Minaplo> [Serafina's house was a little larger than Elisha had been expecting. It was sandstone, like the other houses, and to Elisha's eye probably had two bedrooms.-
[20:23] <Minaplo> [But there was something else that caught his eye: Tengri Khan sat outside the door, idly passing his staff between his hands. "Good evening, Sera."-
[20:23] <Minaplo> ["Khan, sir." She gave him a bow. "How can I help you?"-
[20:24] <Minaplo> ["I simply came to drop off this one's luggage and to have a word with him." He hit Elisha's luggage with his staff. "Would you mind carrying it inside for me?"-
[20:24] <Minaplo> ["Not at all, sir." Serafina picked the luggage up, threw it over her shoulder and vanished into the house.-
[20:25] <Minaplo> [Elisha frowned. "That bag was pretty heavy. You're not as frail as you look, old man."-
[20:25] <Minaplo> ["Assuming that how we look has much bearing on what we can do is a bad habit in Shangri-La." Said Khan.-
[20:26] <Minaplo> ["Yes, I get it. My ribs got it, too." Said Elisha, easing himself onto the opposite edge of the bench from Khan. "I won't make that mistake again."-
[20:27] <Minaplo> [They sat in silence for a few seconds.-
[20:28] <Minaplo> ["Why are you here, Elisha Caine?" asked Khan.-
[20:28] <Minaplo> ["Like I said. I seek to learn." said Elisha.-
[20:28] <Minaplo> ["To learn about your gifts, that's what you said. But you don't need any help in understanding your gift." Said Khan. "It is not a hard one to use."-
[20:29] <Minaplo> ["But there can always be more to be learned-"-
[20:31] <Minaplo> ["You're looking for Lilith." Said Khan.-
[20:31] <Minaplo> [Elisha paused.-
[20:31] <Minaplo> ["How do you know that name-?"-
[20:31] <Minaplo> ["Mary told me." Said Khan.-
[20:31] <Minaplo> ["Fuck. Alright. But that doesn't mean we're here looking-"-
[20:31] <Minaplo> ["She also admitted that it was the reason." Said Khan.-
[20:31] <Minaplo> ["Goddamnit!"-
[20:32] <Minaplo> ["Why keep it a secret?" Said Khan.-
[20:33] <Minaplo> [Elisha sighed, and stopped grumbling about his sister. "Because… I mean, you guys seem real big on security. You weren't hot on letting me in unvetted. Looking for Lilith seems like a 'dangerous' thing to do, at least through the eyes of hermits like yourselves."-
[20:41] <Minaplo> ["A good argument. And you're right." Said Khan. "The location of Gayomard- or Lilith as you prefer- will remain a secret."-
[21:13] <Minaplo> ["You're going to forbid me from looking?" Asked Elisha, frowning.-
[21:14] <Minaplo> ["No, you can look all you like, you simply won't find it."-
[21:14] <Minaplo> [Khan stood. "I'll leave you in peace. You should get off that bench, though."-
[21:14] <Minaplo> [Elisha scowled. "Sorry. I just got comfortable."-
[21:14] <Minaplo> ["Suit yourself."-
[21:14] <Minaplo> [Khan walked away.-
[21:15] <Minaplo> [Elisha grumbled to himself for a minute.-
[21:15] <Minaplo> [Then he was interrupted by a sudden flash of light. The teleporting girl reappeared.-
[21:15] <Minaplo> [She stared at him. Elisha stared right back.-
[21:16] <Minaplo> [Then, without breaking eye contact, tapped the bench. It vanished in a flash of light, dropping Elisha to the ground.-
[21:16] <Minaplo> ["Ow! You little shit!"-
[21:16] <Minaplo> [Elisha swung for her, but a second before he could make contact, she'd vanished.-
[21:19] <Minaplo> ["Goddamnit! I hate this place! Fuck!"-
[21:19] <Minaplo> […-
[21:23] <Minaplo> [It was deep dusk by the time Mary and Holly arrived at the outskirts of the settlement.-
[21:25] <Minaplo> ["… And in any case, it was the last we saw of the deer, and my father's first wedding ring." Said Mary, laughing.-
[21:26] <Minaplo> [Holly was shaking violenty with breathless giggles. "Your dad got his butt kicked by a deer?!"-
[21:30] <Minaplo> ["Very much so." Said Mary; she closed her eyes, a blissful expression on her face. "That Christmas, I gave him a little deer hand puppet. I made it myself. I even put a little gold-thread ring on one of the antlers. Not only did he hate it, he also hates christmas, so it was a real snake eyes of a gift."-
[21:30] <Minaplo> ["That's horrible!" Said Holly.-
[21:31] <Minaplo> ["The best part was, I signed it 'love, Elisha'… Oh, happy times." Said Mary cheerfully. "We should hurry up, though, it's starting to get dark."-
[21:33] <Minaplo> ["Oh yeah, I need to pick up dinner first." Said Holly.-
[21:34] <Minaplo> [There were no street lights in Shangri-La; thus the creeping darkness cleared out much of the population. Those who did remain walked around with lit candles, giving the town an odd vigil-like atmosphere.-
[21:38] <Minaplo> ["It gets pretty dark, huh." Said Holly. "My dad told me the big cities in Europe and Asia are all lit up at night by street lamps, so people stay out until sunrise."-
[21:39] <Minaplo> ["More or less. Most people don't stay up that late, but plenty do." Said Mary.-
[21:39] <Minaplo> [Holly turned down a side road toward the market square. "How come?"-
[21:40] <Minaplo> ["All kinds of reasons. Plenty of people work at night, so some shops will cater for them by staying open 24/7. And of course, there's the nightlife: people go out at night to have a good time, you know, parties, bars, nightclubs- dancing and just relaxing." Said Mary.-
[21:40] <Minaplo> ["Ooh, I see." Said Holly. "What about stargazing? Sometimes, Kou will stargaze until sun-up."-
[21:43] <Minaplo> ["A few do." Said Mary. "But stargazing's harder in the big cities. All the light the cities produce goes up toward the sky then scatters back down, making the stars very faint and hard to see."-
[21:44] <Minaplo> ["Oh." Holly frowned. "Hmm. That's a bit crap."-
[21:45] <Minaplo> ["It is a bit crap, you're right." Said Mary. "I spent most of my childhood in a city. Then one week, when I was 14, we went on a trip to a pretty empty part of the country. There wasn't a cloud in the sky that night, and it was a small moon, so you could see the stars… So many of them, in a river right across the sky. I sat and stared up at it for hours; I thought it was so, so
[21:45] <Minaplo> beautiful."-
[21:51] <Minaplo> [Holly grinned. "Then you're really gonna love the night here."-
[21:57] <Minaplo> ["I'm sure I will." Said Mary.-
[21:58] <Minaplo> [Mary felt a sudden, sharp sensation. She halted.-
[22:00] <Minaplo> [The… Sense, the emotion she felt made her skin crawl. It was bitter and resentful, heavy with a grudge.-
[22:01] <Minaplo> [She carefully turned to look behind her.-
[22:02] <Minaplo> [A gaggle of men, all carrying candles, were walking down the road toward them. They didn't slow as they approached, but started to walk around.-
[22:03] <Minaplo> ["Alright there, Holly?" Asked one of them, a tall, pale white man with copper-brown hair and a wide-brim hat. "It's getting late."-
[22:03] <Minaplo> ["I'm alright, Aleksy, thanks." Said Holly cheerfully. "I'm just about to get dinner."-
[22:03] <Minaplo> ["Alright, then." Said the man, giving Mary a short nod. "You two take care of yourselves."-
[22:04] <Minaplo> [Mary focused her attention on the emotions radiating from the man and his group. Bitter, resentful, grudging, but something sour and rotted there too…-
[22:05] <Minaplo> [A sense of having been wronged. And… Lust. Thought Mary. But not for me. Then…?-
[22:05] <Minaplo> [Holly shuddered.-
[22:05] <Minaplo> [Mary put a hand on her shoulder. "Hey. Who was he?"-
[22:06] <Minaplo> ["That's Aleksy. He's one of the town guard." Said Holly. "He acts friendly, but he's got a temper, and sometimes I catch him giving me weird looks. He gives me the heebie-jeebies."-
[22:07] <Minaplo> ["… I find him unsettling, too." Said Mary.-
[22:07] <Minaplo> ["Really? Even though you just met?" Holly sounded strangely happy. "So I'm not just imagining it."-
[22:08] <Minaplo> ["No. I have a gift too, remember? I can sense the emotions of those around me. And that man's emotions are ones I'd rather not sense anytime soon."-
[22:08] <Minaplo> ["Ugh. Why can't he just be okay?" Muttered Holly. "C'mon, let's hurry up…"-
[22:31] <Minaplo> [The market was starting to shut up for the day. Mary and Holly paid a quick visit to the lone woman manning the food stand, where they loaded up with a bag of rice, half a dozen eggs and a duck.-
[22:34] <Minaplo> […-
[22:35] <Minaplo> [Holly's home was clean and comfortable, with a single bedroom and a living room, in which sat a couch, a well-stocked bookcase, dining room table and kitchen.-
[22:35] <Minaplo> ["Cozy." Said Mary. "I like it."-
[22:36] <Minaplo> ["Thanks." Said Holly happily, placing her food on the kitchen bench. To Mary's surprise, a little refrigerator was built into the bench, next to the sink.-
[22:36] <Minaplo> ["Is that a fridge? I didn't think…" Started Mary.-
[22:38] <Minaplo> ["We don't like to use a lot of electricity, but fridges are too useful, Mary." Said Holly. "I can handle dinner, so just relax."-
[22:38] <Minaplo> ["Haha. If you're sure." Said Mary.-
[22:39] <Minaplo> [And so Mary looked at the bookcase. There were both fiction and non-fiction here, the latter ones seeming to focus a lot on geography, history and law. The fictional ones were, Mary noted, of a mix of genres, although the most represented seemed to be detective fiction, sci-fi, and romance.-
[22:40] <Minaplo> [But it wasn't just books- one shelf was given over to trinkets and photographs. There was a little flute, an old smoking pipe… In the middle of the shelf sat a family photograph in a silver frame.-
[22:44] <Minaplo> [Two people, a man and a woman. The man was of average height, white-skinned with a mess of curly brown hair and large eyes. He had an easy, mischievous smile. The woman was petite, east asian with long black hair tied back in a ponytail. She had many of the same delicate features that Mary saw in Holly's own face. The woman was grinning, her brown eyes bright; they both wore graduation
[22:44] <Minaplo> gowns. These, then, must've been Holly's parents.-
[22:45] <Minaplo> [Mary looked back at Holly, and for a moment she considered saying something; however, she remained silent.-
[22:46] <Minaplo> [Holly worked at the food quickly and cleanly, chopping apart the duck and cleaning it of its bones. As she cut, however, the knife slipped and slashed the back of her hand.-
[22:46] <Minaplo> [Holly hissed quietly; Mary took a step forward, but stopped, a little puzzled. Holly's cut had already completely closed.-
[23:19] <Minaplo> [Mary's eyes widened.-
[23:20] <Minaplo> ["Was that your gift?" Asked Mary.-
[23:20] <Minaplo> [Holly blushed. "You saw that? Ugh, embarrassing. Yeah, it's my gift. My body heals itself real quick… And I can heal others by touching them."-
[23:22] <Minaplo> ["It's nothing really amazing. It's not like I can teleport or become super strong like Sera, or throw fire around…" She added.-
[23:22] <Minaplo> ["How powerful is your healing?" Asked Mary.-
[23:23] <Minaplo> ["It's pretty good, I guess… It takes a lot out of me, but… I could've saved Kou's mum if I'd been there." Said Holly. "And it's practically impossible for me to die in all but the really crazy ways. It still hurts a lot, though."-
[23:23] <Minaplo> ["How do you know-"-
[23:24] <Minaplo> ["Kou knows. I… Try not to ask too much." Said Holly. "I can go without knowing the really terrible ways past me died."-
[23:24] <Minaplo> ["Understandable." Said Mary.-
[23:27] <Minaplo> [After that, Mary grabbed a novel off the shelf and read whilst Holly cooked.-
[23:27] <Minaplo> [Dinner was spiced roast duck with egg fried rice.-
[23:28] <Minaplo> ["You should try first." Said Holly.-
[23:36] <Minaplo> ["Hm? Well, if you insist." Said Mary. She took a small mouthful.-
[23:36] <Minaplo> ["…"-
[23:36] <Minaplo> ["Holly, this is excellent." Said Mary.-
[23:37] <Minaplo> [Holly's whole face brightened. "Hehehe. I'm super proud of this here recipe. I've worked for years to get the duck and the rice just perfect… It's a little much to have every night, so I save it for special occasions, like tonight."-
[23:37] <Minaplo> ["Aw."-
[23:50] <Minaplo> [Mary suddenly realised just how little she'd eaten that day. "I'm going to be rude and just eat this for a full minute or two without speaking. I'm just- really hungry."-
[23:50] <Minaplo> ["Haha. I haven't eaten a lot either, don't worry."-
[23:59] <Minaplo> [And so the two spent a minute eating contentedly of a fresh, delicious meal.-
Session Time: Thu Dec 14 00:00:00 2017
[00:00] <Minaplo> ["So what book did you pick up?" Asked Holly.-
[00:01] <Minaplo> ["Hm. It's called Meeting at the Half Mast. Apparently it's about a war widow who meets with an old flame at her husband's funeral…?" Said Mary.-
[00:04] <Minaplo> ["Oh! That one's one of my favourites. It's actually really twisty." Said Holly. "Also, the actual romance is pretty cute too."-
[00:05] <Minaplo> ["Hmm. I might keep it with me during my stay- we can talk about it once I finish it." Said Mary.-
[00:05] <Minaplo> ["Sure. You're welcome to the other books, too. I know romance novels are a bit… Silly."-
[00:05] <Minaplo> ["Hmm."-
[00:09] <Minaplo> ["They don't really seem to interest anyone else." Said Holly. "My teacher thinks we should read more, but he doesn't seem to count these as reading…"-
[00:10] <Minaplo> [After they cleared their plates, Holly pulled a little foldout table out from under the couch and sat on the floor, her back to the couch whilst the table sat in her lap. Then she pulled out a series of exercise books and some sheets of paper.-
[00:10] <Minaplo> [Mary had settled on the couch itself; she peered over Holly's shoulder. "Is that homework?"-
[00:11] <Minaplo> ["Yeah." Said Holly; she yawned. "I have to have it in tomorrow. I'm so sleepy, though, and I've spent all day with Kou…"-
[00:11] <Minaplo> ["Can't you just explain that to him? I'm sure he'd give you a break if you said so." Said Mary.-
[00:12] <Minaplo> ["I wish." Said Holly, huffing. "But Mr. Pauli is strict. Super, super strict. He once scolded me in class because I was crying about mum and dad."-
[00:12] <Minaplo> ["…" Mary's face wrinkled with disgust. "Why doesn't Tengri Khan pull him into line? He sounds like he needs it."-
[00:20] <Minaplo> ["Khan's spoken to him a few times, but the Tengri Khan of Shangri-La doesn't… You know, have unlimited power. There's a… Separation of powers." She said, nodding to herself firmly. "Basically, anything to do with raising and teaching kids in Shangri-La goes through the Educators, and they support Mr. Pauli, so Khan can't do much except scold." Said Holly.-
[00:20] <Minaplo> ["This sounds like a pretty complicated system for a small town." Said Mary.-
[00:21] <Minaplo> [Holly glanced back at Mary. "I've heard Khan grumble about it too. But the system goes back years and years, so Khan can't change it unless everyone's on board."-
[00:21] <Minaplo> ["Hmm. I really did think Khan's word was law. This place keeps proving me wrong." Said Mary.-
[00:22] <Minaplo> ["Anyway, enough about that. Do you want me to help you with your homework?" Said Mary. "I don't mind at all."-
[00:22] <Minaplo> ["Oh, um. I can do most of it. Thanks, though." Said Holly, smiling cheerfully.-
[00:23] <Minaplo> ["Alright." Said Mary, giving Holly her own smile.-
[00:23] <Minaplo> [For about an hour, Holly worked away whilst Mary read and gave the odd tip or word of advice. Mostly, Holly used her as a proof-reader, checking her answers. It was a good instinct…-
[00:24] <Minaplo> ["… Right again." Said Mary. "I don't think you need a proofreader as much as you think."-
[00:24] <Minaplo> ["Maybe, but it's nice to have someone to check it against." Said Holly.-
[00:24] <Minaplo> ["Besides… Here comes the big bad wolf." She muttered, taking out her last exercise book. "Maths."-
[00:24] <Minaplo> ["You don't like maths?" Asked Mary.-
[00:26] <Minaplo> ["I'm not good at it." Said Holly. "Does anyone like maths?"-
[00:27] <Minaplo> ["I always liked maths. There's a beauty to it." Said Mary. "It's like figuring out the language of the universe."-
[00:28] <Minaplo> ["… Well, I've never heard anyone call it that before." Said Holly. "But that's surprising. Mr. Pauli says I shouldn't worry because girls are bad at maths, anyway."-
[00:28] <Minaplo> [There was a pause.-
[00:28] <Minaplo> ["Wow." Said Holly. "You can really grind your teeth, huh?"-
[00:29] <Minaplo> ["… Sorry." Said Mary, sighing. "It's a bad habit. I'm just very, very mad. This Mr. Pauli seems like a deplorable teacher."-
[00:39] <Minaplo> ["He's very smart. He used to be a professor." Said Holly.-
[00:51] <Minaplo> ["Professor he may be, but I've known countless very smart people who should never lead a school class." Said Mary. "My brother's a genius, but his temperament's rubbish. It takes more than smarts to be a teacher."-
[00:59] <Minaplo> [Mary slid down onto the ground next to Holly. "Holly, I've only spent half a day with you, so I can't claim to know you very well. But so far, you've shown me that you're a brilliant, gorgeous and enormously kind young lady who deserves some damned backup."-
[01:04] <Minaplo> ["Girls can be every bit as good at maths as anyone else. Women's maths took us to the Moon and started the coding boom." Said Mary. "I think healing is an incredible gift, much moreso than being able to set yourself on fire. Did you know the United States has two soldiers in its army for every doctor? The world could do with more healers and fewer warriors."-
[01:05] <Minaplo> ["And for the record, romance is as good as any other form of literature, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise." Said Mary. "If they try to, send them to me and I'll repay their sentiments with interest."-
[01:07] <Minaplo> ["Now, you don't have to do your maths homework." Said Mary. "But if you do, I'll help you, and if Mr. Pauli says anything stupid like that again, you send him to me."-
[01:07] <Minaplo> [Holly stared at Mary, wide-eyed, for a time just long enough to make Mary feel awkward.-
[01:12] <Minaplo> ["Wow." Said Holly. "That's… That's really, really nice."-
[01:13] <Minaplo> ["… B-But I couldn't ask you to do that. The Educators wouldn't have a bar of it."-
[01:16] <Minaplo> ["Let me tell you something." Said Mary. "When I was about your age, I had bad teachers. Do you know what I did? I took control of the school and had them fired."-
[01:16] <Minaplo> ["I'm not going to let a bunch of jumped-up small town jobsworths stop me from helping you."-
[01:18] <Minaplo> ["…"-
[01:18] <Minaplo> ["Thanks." Said Holly, swallowing tremulously. "Thank you…"-
[01:18] <Minaplo> ["… Can you help me with my maths homework, Mary?"-
[01:18] <Minaplo> ["Of course I can."]
[01:18] <Minaplo> [---—-]
[01:18] <Minaplo> [DAY TWO]
[18:05] <Minaplo> [Elisha had found Khan's house with little trouble- thanks to Sera.-
[18:06] <Minaplo> [This time Elisha had expected something like a mansion, but instead it was a house much like Serafina's, except a little larger. It sat just outside a plaza containing an amphitheatre dug into the ground itself.-
[18:07] <Minaplo> ["You should be right now." Said Sera. "I'll see you later, then."-
[18:07] <Minaplo> ["Yeah, seeya." Said Elisha, but Sera was already leaving.-
[18:09] <Minaplo> [And so Elisha turned and knocked repeatedly, and heavily, on Khan's front door. "Khan. Khaaaaaaaaan. Khan? Khan!"-
[18:09] <Minaplo> ["Let me in! Khan! Hello!"-
[18:10] <Minaplo> [This continued for 20 minutes, until Elisha heard a voice behind him-
[18:10] <Minaplo> ["I'm not home." Said Tengri Khan, walking towards him. "You will know if I am because I leave my staff above the door."-
[18:11] <Minaplo> ["Tch." Elisha rubbed his rather raw knuckles. "I came to talk to you."-
[18:11] <Minaplo> ["Joy."-
[18:12] <Minaplo> ["I want to learn about Lilith." Said Elisha. He turned towards Khan, front and centre. "Look, perhaps we didn't approach this topic properly. I'm not here trying to learn about Lilith for fun."-
[18:12] <Minaplo> ["No?" Said Khan.-
[18:13] <Minaplo> ["No. I want to learn about Lilith so we can prevent a catastrophe." Said Elisha.-
[18:13] <Minaplo> ["Indeed? A catastrophe?" Said Khan.-
[18:55] <Minaplo> ["That's right." Said Elisha.-
[18:55] <Minaplo> ["What kind of catastrophe?"-
[18:56] <Minaplo> ["Enough to spell the end of the entire human race." Said Elisha. He glanced around, a little nervously. "Can we speak about this elsewhere?"-
[18:56] <Minaplo> [Khan eyed him. He was silent for a few moments- then nodded. "Yes. Let's go to the City of Zoroaster."-
[18:56] <Minaplo> […-
[18:57] <Minaplo> [They were nearing the opening of the cave now.-
[18:57] <Minaplo> ["Your sister has already been inside." Said Khan. "I took her here yesterday."-
[19:27] <Minaplo> ["Interesting. Was this when the little tattletale blabbed about Lilith?" Said Elisha.-
[19:27] <Minaplo> ["More or less." Said Khan. "We can talk more inside."-
[19:32] <Minaplo> [They entered the cave of engravings, lit only by Khan's candle. Elisha silently took it all in, his eyes narrowed.-
[19:33] <Minaplo> [They came to the great stone doors at the end of the cave, which Khan had Elisha open. And then they stepped out onto the bridge which crossed the monumental cavern.-
[19:35] <Minaplo> ["Welcome, Elisha Caine, to the great grotto and rock-cut city of Zoroaster." Said Khan, raising his candle toward the great statues, illuminated by the array of polished mirrors.-
[19:35] <Minaplo> [Elisha kept walking; he stopped only after he realised Khan had.-
[19:35] <Minaplo> [He glanced back at Khan with irritation, then sighed, looking out at the statues.-
[19:35] <Minaplo> ["Neat."-
[19:36] <Minaplo> ["These statues have sat here for thousands of years, crafted by the first inhabitants of what would become Shangri La." Said Khan. "They-"-
[19:40] <Minaplo> ["I'm sure they are super interesting to my archaeologist sister or my persophile brother, but I really don't care about some giant statues or a bunch of reliefs." Said Elisha, scratching his forehead. "The early Zoroastrians definitely knew their stuff, I know that already. This is nothing new. Can we please hurry up?"-
[19:41] <Minaplo> [Khan's expression became truly sour. "For someone who came here seeking information from us, you are truly arrogant and disrespectful."-
[19:42] <Minaplo> ["And for someone who's supposed to be so wise, you sure don't seem to care about the end of the human race much." Said Elisha. "If I have a choice between solitude and wasting my time on pedants, then my choice is real easily made."-
[19:54] <Minaplo> ["…"-
[19:54] <Minaplo> [Khan brushed past Elisha, his expression flat. "Hurry up."-
[19:57] <Minaplo> [Elisha followed. "So why are we here? I thought we were just gonna talk."-
[19:59] <Minaplo> ["We're here so you can meet someone- the settlement's prodigy." Said Khan. "He can help you, maybe… If he wants to."-
[20:03] <Minaplo> ["Prodigy, huh?" Said Elisha. "Cool."-
[20:06] <Minaplo> [Khan led Elisha into the fire temple. This time, the fire chamber itself was occupied: Bahram was sweeping the floor whilst Kourosh sat in front of the fire, slowly filling up the oil and keeping it in check.-
[20:06] <Minaplo> ["Elisha Caine, meet Bahram Shirazi, the temple priest." Said Khan, gesturing to Bahram.-
[20:07] <Minaplo> ["Welcome, Elisha Caine." Said Bahram, bowing shortly.-
[20:07] <Minaplo> ["Thanks." Said Elisha, bowing a little in return.-
[20:07] <Minaplo> ["And this is Kourosh Rustami, our prodigy." Said Khan.-
[20:08] <Minaplo> ["Hey." Said Elisha, walking towards him- but as he got within a few metres, Elisha frowned and looked back at Khan.-
[20:08] <Minaplo> ["… He's a kid." Said Elisha. "He's got to be what, eight?"-
[20:09] <Minaplo> ["Yes, he's very young, but he's not a normal child. He knows his responsibilities. Like I said, he's a prodigy." Said Khan.-
[20:09] <Minaplo> ["…" Elisha rubbed the back of his neck and sighed. "No offense, but the world is full of so-called child prodigies, most of whom grow up to be extremely mediocre adults."-
[20:10] <Minaplo> ["You must've been a real wunderkind, then." Said Kourosh, finally looking up.-
[20:10] <Minaplo> [Elisha went red; behind him, Bahram disguised a snicker as a cough.-
[20:12] <Minaplo> ["I guess I'm the exception that proves the rule." Said Elisha, trying on a friendly smile. "That was rude of me. Let me try that again: hi, I'm Elisha Fontaine, despite what they keep saying. It's nice to meet you, Kourosh."-
[20:12] <Minaplo> [Elisha bent down and offered Kourosh a hand.-
[20:12] <Minaplo> [Kourosh eyed the hand, then looked up at Elisha.-
[20:13] <Minaplo> [The moment stretched out, the awkwardness increasing exponentially as Kourosh remained still.-
[20:13] <Minaplo> [Elisha waggled his hand. "C'mon, brother. Don't leave me hanging."-
[20:13] <Minaplo> ["I'm not gonna touch your hand." Said Kourosh. "I'm not an idiot, I know what you're doing."-
[20:15] <Minaplo> ["Smart." Said Elisha. He withdrew his hand with a chuckle and sat. "I guess you heard about my duel already."-
[20:16] <Minaplo> ["No, I just know who you are." Said Kourosh. "The Spirit Taker."-
[20:20] <Minaplo> ["…" Elisha glanced at Khan, then back to Kourosh. His expression grew a little more focused. "Alright, you seem to have me at a disadvantage. So… Kourosh. Do you mind telling me a little about what it is you do here?"-
[20:28] <Minaplo> [Kourosh turned back to the fire. After a minute of studiously ignoring Elisha, he turned back toward him. "I'm a matchmaker."-
[20:28] <Minaplo> ["… Pardon?"-
[20:29] <Minaplo> ["I'm a matchmaker." Said Kourosh, slower this time. "People come to me, and I tell them who to marry, or not to marry at all."-
[20:29] <Minaplo> ["… Why?"-
[20:36] <Minaplo> ["Knowing who to marry is important in Shangri La." Said Kourosh. "If people didn't know who to marry, they'd make the wrong choice, and we would all die."-
[20:37] <Minaplo> ["That seems a little dramatic." Said Elisha. "Do you decide who you're gonna marry, too?"-
[20:38] <Minaplo> ["Of course I do." Said Kourosh.-
[20:38] <Minaplo> ["Haha, nice." Said Elisha, grinning. "And your proper partner just so happens to be extremely cute, am I right, you little scoundrel?"-
[20:40] <Minaplo> [Kourosh frowned, but his cheeks burned pink. "Shut up. I didn't decide that, it just happened."-
[20:40] <Minaplo> ["Sure it did, kiddo. I won't tell anyone." He winked.-
[20:40] <Minaplo> ["What do you want?" Snapped Kourosh. "I'm not going to tell you about Gayomard."-
[20:42] <Minaplo> [Elisha's smirk fell from his face. "So you're more than just a matchmaker, then, huh?"-
[20:44] <Minaplo> ["Everyone here does their bit. I matchmake, but yeah, I do more than that." Said Kourosh. "I can construct probable futures in my head, all mapped out, months and years in advance."-
[20:47] <Minaplo> ["Not just futures, but people too. I can see how they're gonna act and think before they do. I can take a little bit of who they are and build around that, so even tiny bits of knowledge let me see things."-
[20:47] <Minaplo> ["I also know when and where they're gonna be born." Said Kourosh. "You know people reincarnate, right? Well, I can predict that. Especially the 4,000 special ones."-
[20:49] <Minaplo> ["And I know your dad's been murdering the Star Princes, over and over for years and years." Said Kourosh. "A lot of the time they're only kids if that."-
[20:50] <Minaplo> ["I'm not gonna trust anything to you or your murdering family."-
[20:51] <Minaplo> [A deep silence fell in the room for what felt like especially long minutes.-
[20:51] <Minaplo> [When Elisha eventually spoke, it was only after staring deep into the fire. "… You're right."-
[20:52] <Minaplo> ["My dad's been killing E-Types for decades." Said Elisha. "He spared me because he's super fine with violence right up until it's happening near him."-
[20:53] <Minaplo> ["I don't have any part in that." Said Elisha. "Do you think I'm here to do Jeremiah Caine's bidding? Hell no! I don't kill kids."-
[20:55] <Minaplo> ["I'm here for much bigger reasons." Said Elisha, pounding his fist into his palm. "I'm here to find out about- Gayomard- not to further his plans, but to save humanity."-
[20:58] <Minaplo> ["We found these obelisks- we call them the Dead Sea Scrolls." Said Elisha. "They store psychic memories in them, which overwhelm the minds of most. I can touch them without any problem. Those obelisks record human history, but they also predict human future, and they say humanity will be wiped out no later than 2018."-
[21:02] <Minaplo> ["There's all kinds of things it could be." Said Elisha. "Asteroid, nuclear war, a super-virus, sure, but we've done what we can to reduce the risks from those. No matter how we cut it, we're pretty sure Gayomard and the other Seed- Adam- are the most likely causes."-
[21:03] <Minaplo> ["That's why we want to find her, find Gayomard. We don't want to do anything but observe her, to monitor changes, to make sure she remains inert." Said Elisha. "Please. This is too important."-
[21:06] <Minaplo> [Kou and Khan thought about this for a moment- then finally, Khan sighed. "Every hundred years, the Tengri Khan makes a pilgrimage to your 'Scrolls' to update our texts and prevent drift. We have seen nothing about the end of humanity in 2018."-
[21:08] <Minaplo> ["R-Right. That's actually good news." Said Elisha. "It means that the obelisks' predictions aren't set in stone. When was the last time a Khan made a pilgrimage?"-
[21:08] <Minaplo> ["1902." Said Kourosh.-
[21:13] <Minaplo> ["Then it's possible something's changed since 1902 to endanger humanity." Said Elisha. "Like I said, nukes could definitely do it, but… We fear it might be something else."-
[21:14] <Minaplo> ["Gayomard." Said Kourosh. "You think she'll wake up? But she's been dormant forever."-
[21:30] <Minaplo> ["That's not what I think." Said Elisha. "Gayomard retains a sliver of awareness, and she uses it to 'nudge'. Nudges don't mean much, but a lot of nudges over time can change everything. We also know that we're not Gayomard's intended children: we're an accident. If she wakes up, she won't care that we're her 'children'. She'll look at us and simply decide we've got to go, to make room."-
[21:30] <Minaplo> ["When people die, they go to Gayomard, right?" Said Elisha.-
[21:31] <Minaplo> ["That's right." Said Kourosh. "They stay there for up to… To twenty years." He voice cracked for a moment; he squeezed his eyes shut.-
[21:32] <Minaplo> [Bahram stepped over, placing his hand gently on Kou's shoulder.-
[21:34] <Minaplo> ["I'm ok." Said Kou, patting Bahram's hand. "I'm ok."-
[21:35] <Minaplo> ["But… Yeah. Twenty years is the max, sometimes less." Said Kou.-
[21:36] <Minaplo> ["Right. And whilst those souls are inside Gayomard, she has access to their memories- she knows who they loved, what they did, how those people acted…" Said Elisha. "That's a lot of information she can use to maximise the efficacy of her 'nudges', especially since her consciousness is so limited."-
[21:37] <Minaplo> ["But furthermore… When an A-Type, or… Gifted, or whichever, dies, their power doesn't go to someone else. It stays with them. That's why you matchmake- to ensure only gifted children are born, right?" Said Elisha.-
[21:37] <Minaplo> [Kou frowned. "Yeah."-
[21:38] <Minaplo> ["So that power stays with Lilith- Gayomard- whatever- until they reincarnate." Said Elisha. "Every human has an AT Field- er, a sort of field around their souls-"-
[21:38] <Minaplo> ["The Light of the Soul." Said Kou. "Very weak in humans-"-
[22:27] <Minaplo> ["Yes, but if you had a million humans' worth of AT Field, you might be able to do something with it." Said Elisha. "Think about this, Kourosh: You said there's a max of twenty years on how long people stay before being reincarnated. But doesn't that seem strange? Lilith doesn't just go 'you! You're now gonna have a child'. She needs an empty vessel to put a soul in- a baby about a few
[22:27] <Minaplo> weeks before birth." He folded his hands together. "What if there aren't enough babies?"-
[22:28] <Minaplo> ["What do you mean?" Said Kou.-
[22:44] <Minaplo> ["Let's say something happened to the human population, and a third of it died overnight." Said Elisha. "And let's say it took more than twenty years for the population to reach pre-disaster levels. Somehow, somewhere, it's possible that someone would have to wait more than twenty years to be reincarnated, right?"-
[22:45] <Minaplo> ["Sounds about right…" Said Kou, frowning. "But in my lifetime, it's never gone past twenty."-
[22:52] <Minaplo> ["Exactly." Said Elisha. "That's because by the time someone's spent twenty years in Lilith, there's always a baby available… These days. The fact that people can spend up to twenty years in Lilith means she can deliberately hold people back. Otherwise, everyone would be reincarnated immediately after dying, because people are being born every second."-
[22:54] <Minaplo> ["So from that, we know she's choosing to create new souls when she could use old ones." Said Elisha. "Which means we can establish a logical order of events: A baby is ready to receive a soul. If there's a soul that has been waiting twenty years or more in Lilith, it is chosen, with the oldest being chosen. If there isn't, then Lilith either uses an old soul or makes a new one,
[22:54] <Minaplo> her choice."-
[22:54] <Minaplo> ["It's not an automated process. She's deliberately choosing who gets reincarnated and at what time. She's stacking the deck."-
[22:55] <Minaplo> [Kou frowned. "He's right," he said, looking up at Khan. "We've talked about this before, with the patterns amongst the gifted…"-
[22:55] <Minaplo> [Khan's expression was dark.-
[22:59] <Minaplo> ["But there's more to it than that." Said Elisha. "For most of human history, the human population's sat stable. It's grown sometimes, but gradually, and might remain at unchanged levels for centuries. But ever since the 1800s, the population's been growing geometrically."-
[23:15] <Minaplo> ["A max of twenty years, you said? Well twenty years ago, earth's population stood at around four billion. Today it's six billion. They say it'll be seven billion soon enough." Said Elisha. "That means more souls waiting in Lilith, giving her more knowledge and a greater pool of power. How long until we reach critical mass, and she can use it to revive herself?"-
[23:16] <Minaplo> [Kou, Khan and Bahram shared long looks.-
[23:27] <Minaplo> ["You make a good argument." Said Khan eventually. "Gayomard's strange activities regarding reincarnation have been noticed by us, and I admit that I don't think it bodes well."-
[23:35] <Minaplo> ["Good. Good. Then we're on the same page." Said Elisha. "You'll help me?"-
[23:35] <Minaplo> ["No."-
[23:38] <Minaplo> ["wh-" Elisha stared at Khan; his mouth hung open. Then he threw his hands helplessly into the air.-
[23:39] <Minaplo> ["Seriously?! What the hell!" Snapped Elisha. "This is important!"-
[23:46] <Minaplo> ["Yes, and that means we cannot trust the fate of the world to hasty action." Said Khan. "There's every possibility that you simply running off to find Gayomard might be exactly what Gayomard wants. So we need to be cautious, to assess our options carefully."-
[23:46] <Minaplo> ["We don't have time for that." Said Elisha.-
[23:47] <Minaplo> ["2018, you said? we should have at least a few years." Said Khan.-
[23:48] <Minaplo> ["But…" Elisha sighed.-
[23:48] <Minaplo> ["The best thing for me to do would be to make my pilgrimage early, and see what the Scrolls say myself." Said Khan.-
[23:49] <Minaplo> ["But Seele- my father's organisation- have the Scrolls now. You'd never be able to find them without my help." Said Elisha.-
[23:49] <Minaplo> ["Or Mary's help." Said Khan.-
[23:49] <Minaplo> ["You're an E-Type. You have to be." Said Elisha. "You and I are the only ones left. He'll kill you within weeks of entering Europe."-
[23:50] <Minaplo> ["He can try." Said Khan.-
[23:50] <Minaplo> ["You don't know how dangerous he is!" Shouted Elisha; he leapt to his feet. "He has eyes everywhere, an army of agents at his disposal…"-
[23:51] <Minaplo> ["I've destroyed armies before." Said Khan.-
[23:54] <Minaplo> ["Now who's being arrogant?" Said Elisha. "Ugh. Do what you want, then. I can't stop you. But at least let me look at your texts, your- scriptures- or whatever. I might be able to glean something from that."-
[23:56] <Minaplo> [Khan stared at him for a good long while, then finally sighed.-
[23:57] <Minaplo> ["You said your father is dangerous. His group is dangerous. Very well." Khan nodded. "I will give you the texts you seek, and more, if you can defeat me in a duel."-
[23:57] <Minaplo> ["What?"-
[23:59] <Minaplo> ["Traditionally, the Tengri Khan is not just a leader of Shangri La, but also the overseer of its protection." Said Khan. "If you can demonstrate that I am no longer worthy to protect the town, I'll surrender the title to you and do as you ask."-
[23:59] <Minaplo> ["What?"-
[00:00] <Minaplo> ["But if you lose, then you have to do as I ask, even if it means helping me find the Scrolls." Said Khan. "You will have until 10 AM tomorrow, and you may prepare any weapons, tools or strategies as you see fit. Do you accept?"-
[00:01] <Minaplo> ["W… What?"-
[00:01] <Minaplo> ["I said, do you accept?" Said Khan.-
[00:22] <Minaplo> ["The fate of the world hangs in the balance." Said Elisha. "I'm asking for access to information… And to get it, I need to kick your arse in public? Are you for real?"-
[00:23] <Minaplo> ["Demonstrate to me the danger a Caine poses to me." Said Khan. "If you all are as dangerous as you say… You shouldn't have any problems. No need to hold back, go all out. Everything is permitted, so long as it doesn't hurt anyone but you or I."-
[00:25] <Minaplo> ["Fine. I accept your challenge." Said Elisha.-
[00:26] <Minaplo> ["Done." Said Khan. "Now, if you will excuse me…"-
[00:26] <Minaplo> [Khan bowed shortly, turned and left.-
[00:27] <Minaplo> [Elisha fumed. He aimed a half-hearted kick at the nearest wall. "You people are ruled by morons."-
[00:27] <Minaplo> ["Ugh. We're the only E-Types left." Said Elisha. "We should be working together!"-
[00:27] <Minaplo> ["You're not." Said Kou, who also stood.-
[00:27] <Minaplo> ["I know we're not working together, thank you." Said Elisha. "Boy genius you are."-
[00:28] <Minaplo> ["I mean you're not the only Star Princes left." Said Kou. "There's a third."-
[00:28] <Minaplo> ["… What?" Elisha turned. "Really? No… My father's too thorough. And why are you telling me this? Aren't you afraid of us killing them?"-
[00:28] <Minaplo> [Kou laughed. "Oh, I hope you do, but you won't."-
[00:28] <Minaplo> ["No?"-
[00:29] <Minaplo> ["No." Said Kou. "The third Star Prince is your father, Jeremiah Caine."-
[00:29] <Minaplo> […-
[11:27] <Minaplo> [Khan left the temple just as Mary, Holly and Ephraim von Brandt were crossing the bridge.-
[11:27] <Minaplo> ["Good morning, Khan." Said Mary lightly.-
[11:28] <Minaplo> ["Good morning, Ms. Caine, Holly, Ephraim…" Khan nodded to them all in turn. "Pardon my rudeness."-
[11:28] <Minaplo> [He walked past them and left- followed soon by a pale Elisha.-
[11:28] <Minaplo> ["Oh, you're up!" Said Mary. "That's a surprise, but only a little one. How're you feeling?"-
[11:29] <Minaplo> ["Yeah, great." Said Elisha shortly. He grabbed Mary by the arm as he approached. "I'm going to duel Khan tomorrow morning. No holds barred. If I win, he makes me Khan."-
[11:29] <Minaplo> ["What?!" Ephraim shouted, his voice echoing off the grotto walls.-
[11:30] <Minaplo> ["But you're new!" Said Holly, hovering her hand over her mouth.-
[11:30] <Minaplo> ["He's not intending to lose, then." Said Mary. "You weren't able to defeat Serafina cleanly- I'm sure Khan will be able to drop you in a straight fight."-
[11:31] <Minaplo> ["That was my thought, but he wants me to demonstrate the danger of the Caine family. No holds barred, remember? I have 24 hours to prep weapons and tricks." Said Elisha. "Personally, I'm thinking a pair of AK-47s and a longsword should do it."-
[11:32] <Minaplo> ["But that could kill him." Said Holly.-
[11:32] <Minaplo> ["His rules, not mine, kiddo." Said Elisha. "Speaking of the danger of the Caines, we need to talk about father dearest later."-
[11:33] <Minaplo> ["I shall count the hours." Said Mary. "For now, though, we were going to have a picnic- did you want to come?"-
[11:34] <Minaplo> [The expression on Elisha's face was something to behold: for a moment it went slightly slack, as though dumbfounded. Then his eyes narrowed, his brows pulled together furiously and his mouth became thin and tight. "Picnic? Now?"-
[11:34] <Minaplo> ["It's a lovely day for it." Said Mary. "With lovely company!"-
[11:35] <Minaplo> [After a moment, Elisha's face relaxed. He sighed. "Fine. I'm going to trust that you know what you're doing better than I do. Just- don't leave me in the lurch when I need you, alright?"-
[11:35] <Minaplo> [Mary scoffed. "Please, little brother. I'd never do that."-
[11:36] <Minaplo> ["Sure." Elisha rolled his eyes. "Anyway, have fun. You two seem like cool people, but I'll have to talk to you both later. For now, I have a khanicide to plan." He clicked his fingers at Ephraim and Holly. "See you later."-
[12:06] <Minaplo> ["That was your brother?" Asked Holly after Elisha had left.-
[12:30] <Minaplo> ["Yes, it was. Elisha." Said Mary.-
[12:30] <Minaplo> ["He has your eyes, but he seemed kind of…"-
[12:31] <Minaplo> ["Yes, he's rather graceless." Said Mary.-

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