alsoquin Slowly, a groggy Zahara finds herself emerging to consciousness -- though very little information is available to her. Though her eyes open, she can see nothing, and though her limbs are intact, she cannot move.
Zahara keeps her eyes mostly shut, in case she is being watched, although anyone good would notice the movement anyway. She slowly tries to move each of her fingers and toes in turn, and casts her gaze around to see if she can spot anything of interest. The theft of her essence has severely irritated her.
alsoquin Zahara finds that her fingers and toes appear to be able to move -- it seems as if she is most likely bound tightly at the wrists and ankles.
alsoquin An attempt to tap into her reserves of Essence finds Zahara coming up dry, though it is not the oppressive, omnipresent feeling of the White Room....
Zahara closes her eyes and lays back to wait. She tests her methods of communication with the Circle idly, assuming they took the ring, but unsure of whether the Unity is still in effect.
alsoquin Sadly, it would appear that communication through the Unity requires tiny expenditures of Essence -- too small to easily notice normally, but enough to prevent Zahara from making use of it now.
Zahara nods to herself and attempts to sleep. Might as well.
alsoquin "Aaaaah. I notice that you are awake. Good." A scraggly, rough voice speaks from perhaps ten feet away; Zahara can understand it perfectly well. There is a slight shuffling, and then she feels the sack pulled off of her head violently, and light comes flooding back.
Zahara "Mmm. How kind of you to notice."
alsoquin As her eyes adjust, Zahara begins to take in her surroundings. The building is a cradle-house, built into the meeting of branches in a great Haltan forest, and beautiful green foliage sways peacefully outside the windows. The house is fairly decorated -- couches and tables are spread pleasantly throughout, and a traditional brazier sits with a low fire burning near the center. (...)
alsoquin Zee can feel that she is apparently shackled to a wall, probably with ropes. (...)
Zahara raises a brow as she looks around, "Lovely home you have here."
alsoquin Standing now perhaps five feet from Zahara's spot stands a tall man -- perhaps 6'6", with elegant but spiky, backswept bright silver hair and a matching beard. Sharp, tufted ears, exaggerated eyebrows, and the restrained predator's gaze that the man sets upon all he looks at gives away his nature. (...)
alsoquin He is dressed in an elegant dress uniform of silver and black, and wears understated silver rings on both hands as he sips a glass of red wine. Upon his lapel is a tiny but extremely visible stylized red blossom.
Zahara "Hmmm the demon could not be bound to *you*." she observes.
alsoquin "Hello Zahara." He speaks with an elegance that hides a deep fury, or perhaps a fury gently restrained by elegance -- much like her method of restraint, in another circumstance Zahara might find it almost appealing.
Zahara "I do appreciate that I am so well known."
alsoquin "Do not play at humilty, Empress. There are few who could ignore you in the face of your rather... public actions." He sips at the wine, gently.
Zahara smiles slightly. "It is difficult to hide greatness."
Zahara "So, I take it you brought me here for some purpose. Shall we get on with it?"
alsoquin The man swirls the wine in his glass a little. "Such bravado. I have heard that about you. No," he pauses, "we have taken the time to do this correctly. We will not be rushing anything."
Zahara "Ah, well then, I am honored that you have looked so forward to this moment that you will make it perfect, I'm sure, for both of us."
alsoquin He takes another small sip, and the golden-green animal tint of his eyes glows briefly. "Have you stopped to consider why you are unable to make use of your... God-given talents?"
Zahara laughs, "Oh, and here I was hoping you wouldn't notice. I know of many ways to do such a thing, but I am always eager to learn new methods."
alsoquin "Oddly enough, Zahara, it is thanks to your own work that you are in this position now." He gestures with his wine. "Take a look in the mirror, to your right."
Zahara obediently glances in the mirror.
alsoquin Zahara sees something she probably had never expected to see -- a thick, elaborately wrought collar, golden patterns of intricate vinework interlaced with gouts of fire running around its entire length, is clamped quite firmly around her neck.
Zahara tilts her head from side to side, admiring the workmanship. "Oh you *have* spent quite some time on this, haven't you? Are you the artist?"
alsoquin "Oh, no, no. There are others who are better suited to such things. I merely arranged to have you brought here so that we might make use of it." He drains his wine, and pours himself another glass from a bottle on a nearby table.
Zahara "Ahh, well, I should like to meet the artisan, when I have a chance."
alsoquin The silver-clad man chuckles. "You still maintain such a strong front. You do not realize quite what you have gotten into yet, I fear." He walks slowly around the room. "Not that it would offer much to you to help you cope with the time to come."
Zahara smiles in return, "You have not forgotten, of course, that it is a specialty of mine to break the strong-willed. I am nothing if not intrigued by the possibility of you teaching me something new."
alsoquin "Very well." He drains his second glass and places the goblet upon the table. "We will see how you feel shortly."
Zahara smiles slightly and watches him.
alsoquin He bends over and holds his face close in front of Zahara's. "I am known as Akuna. Remember that name, if you will." He pulls back and begins to walk towards the door. "For now, I thought that perhaps the surly mare might wish to meet the one who holds her reins."
alsoquin He turns back to face her and smiles, baring vicious, jagged canines. "Yes?"
Zahara "I'm sure I will be screaming it later, as they say. And yes, I would love to meet your master."
alsoquin "My master?" Akuna chuckles on his way out the door.
Zahara "Oh, was I supposed to call him mine?"
alsoquin A few minutes pass, and Zahara starts to wonder where this person is, as no one enters her room.
Zahara closes her eyes, knowing that waiting is part of the game.
alsoquin After a moment, a creak of the door and a heavy footfall tells her that someone has arrived.
Zahara opens one eye.
alsoquin The person standing in the doorway is sickeningly familiar to Zahara.
Zahara closes her eye again, keeping her breathing even. "I must admit, I had not expected to see you here."
alsoquin The Marku that stands before Zahara is much different from the one she last remembers. His hair is darker than she remembers, and slicked back; his beard is carefully trimmed and pointed, and similarly dark. A vast cloak of ebon fur hangs from his shoulders, though he still wears no shirt. (...)
alsoquin Marku's scars and tattoos are still quite visible, though a new one -- a large black circle with three cracks through it -- sits upon his breast. One one arm sits the Grim Reminder, the cruel soulsteel gauntlet that Marku built of Kiriath's coffin; on the other hand, a single golden ring, bearing a design not unlike the one on Zahara's new collar.
alsoquin A pair of dark, loose pants end in vicious soulsteel God-Kicking Boots, which make leaden footfalls as he advances towards where Zahara is his helpless prisoner.
alsoquin "No." He speaks slowly, deliberately. The voice is the same strange voice Zahara remembers from when Markuran assaulted everyone's minds through the telepathy rings. "You did not, I expect."
Zahara opens her eyes fully and smiles slightly. "You look a bit different. No doubt due to the millenia trapped in a soulsteel tomb."
alsoquin "You know that I have always prided myself on appearance, Zahara." He walks over towards her, the light from the brazier reflecting upon his dark accoutrements.
Zahara "Then you would not mind if I asked you to turn around so I could see your best attribute?"
Evil Marku laughs, though there is no mirth in it. "You wish to see a hint in me of the Markuran you once called friend, or brother." He continues stepping slowly closer.
Zahara "I have already acknowledged that you are the one who slept in the tomb. I assume your physical shell still has a fine ass, however."
Evil Marku "Perhaps." He continues the inexorable march closer.
Zahara jerks her chin to one side, "There is a fine mirror over there."
Evil Marku "Zahara, look at me." Marku is now standing almost within arm's reach.
Zahara looks at him, beginning with his feet, and ending with his eyes. The juxtaposition of the familiar and once-loved with the alien and hated is harsh on her eyes, but she does not flinch. At least not where it shows.
Evil Marku With an inhumanly quick motion, Markuran draws back his gauntleted hand and smashes it directly into Zahara's face. The Solar Empress can feel her nose crushed beneath the blow before the sickening crunch reaches her ears, and she is forced to restrain herself to avoid vomiting.
Zahara coughs, the sharp motion sending yet more splitting pain through her face, and spits up blood, gasping. Her vision blurs, and she takes a moment to let it clear slightly before looking up at him.
Evil Marku Marku holds the Grim Reminder, now slick with Zahara's blood, firmly at one side as his eyes -- which, she sees for the first time, are deepest red -- bore unflincingly into her.
Zahara spits out some more blood, "Did that feel good?"
Evil Marku "A part of me has wished to do that for a long, long time."
Zahara "I know." she smiles slightly. "I admire your control. Five degrees lower and you would have driven *Cough* it into my brain."
Evil Marku looks down at Zahara as even now, she tries to defend herself from the situation she has found herself in. "I would not destroy that yet. We will know all of what you hold within it, by the end." He steps away from Zahara, making no effort to stanch the still enthusiastic flow of blood from Zahara's shattered face.
Zahara "Somehow... I think I could tell you everything right...now...and you would cause me no..less..harm." She leans her head back against the wall.
Evil Marku This time when Marku laughs it is more enthusiastic. "In that, Zahara, you are entirely right." He steps over, puts out the brazier fire with a single massive hand, then continues to walk out of the room.