zahara "Maybe you shouldn't ask her, though" she says on reflection
Riordan "Oh, I'm sure it would be alright, Zahara," he says. "Mistress Neshi is a wonderful ruler."
Adagio "This is the Wyld, Zahara, no need to be shy." He makes an abrurpt gesture and a beating heart fall from his sleeve into the palm of his hand! "Everyone wears their hearts on their sleeves." He gifts the middle girl with his 'heart'.
zahara waves them on, "As you wish."
Riordan "Oooooh!" say the girls in unison, and they each look closely at it with bulging eyes.
Adagio The heart, made of the Mars orb, throbs.
Riordan "Would you care to accompany your friend here to visit my majestic queen, Empress, or should we linger a while here and talk?"
zahara "Mmm I would like to meet your queen - perhaps we can speak again afterwards, though. You are," she laughs, "much better company than I had expected."
Adagio "Come on, leavin' the girl? What, you afraid of her?"
Riordan grins. "I have hoped for this moment for some time," he says. "Let us go to the throne room, then." He gestures broadly both to Zahara and the three faerie women who have latched themselves to Adagio. "After you, ladies?"
Adagio "Aaaaallll together, now." He takes one step foward, then stops, "Waitwaitwait, I don't even know the names of the chicks who hold my heart."
zahara starts off, then pauses to regard the three"
Riordan "Oh," say the girls in unison. "We are the Sisters of Empty Sand," they say, giggling. "You'll have to work harder to get more than that out of us."
Adagio resumes walking lockstep with Zahara, "I LOVE a good dare."
zahara shakes her head a little, grins, and moves on in the indicated direction
Riordan The Sisters move forward, leading the group through the shifting landscape, until suddenly they stand in front of a portcullised doorway, its iron grating shining like mother of pearl. One of the sisters knocks on the gateway, and it slides out of the way, leading the way into an ill-lit chamber beyond.
zahara walks on through!
Adagio steps in, a pleasant gesture to the helpful sister
Riordan The chamber is cavernous and largely empty; blackness stretches out in every direction, from which a faint, non-directional light filters in. In the center, on top of a vast pile of sumptuous cushions, lies Neshi, her beauteous face veiled, her great blue wings draped out behind her -- and five glazed-eyed human youths lounging around her sharp feet talons.
Adagio spreads his arms, "NESHI!"
zahara takes another drink from the wineskin as she takes in the scene, then, sweeps a reasonably graceful bow towards the queen.
Neshi looks at Adagio with a raised eyebrow over her veil. "Welcome to the Lapis Court," she says, her voice slinky and yet hard as steel.
Adagio "You can call me Adagio today, fair maiden of veils. This is Zahara Zhan, I believe you heard about her? Zahara, this is Neshi of the Double Whips, and I believe she is in charge of this place nowdays! Nice place, by the way. Love the paintings."
Neshi nods. "Aaaah, yes, Zahara. The grand Empress. I have... heard of you."
zahara giggles. "Ah, and my story continues to grow."
Neshi It's hard to tell, precisely, but the movement of her veil suggests that Neshi is smiling.
zahara "Will you end it, Neshi of the Double Whips? Or add to it?"
Neshi "I do not think I could end it today if I chose," she said. "And why would I, when the news of your uninvited visit will draw attention to my court for a season to come?" She stands up and walks down off of her pile of pillows, while the glassy-eyed children reach after her briefly before returning to their somatic slumber. (...)
Neshi "No, I welcome you here to the Lapis Court today, Dreambreaker. I hope you have been... enjoying our glorious entertainments."
Adagio "I'll bet on the latter. Killing on the first date's so pass?... see?"
zahara 's eyes flicker to the children for a second as they reach for Neshi, and part of her aches. But she looks back at the queen and her approach, "I have been enjoying them quite a bit, in fact. I can see why there are mortals drawn to you and your court." A razor gleam edges her smile, her eyes unreadable. "Thank you for your welcome."
Neshi nods. "Of course." She tightens her claws around the two whip handles. "So what has brought you on this unprecedented visit to our court? What wind blows you from the shaped lands out to our shifting hold?"
Adagio "We wanted to get high."
zahara twists her fingers through the air, pulling free a shining lump of silvery metal, which she rapidly fashions into several pristine goblets, finely etched with several stylized events from her life. (...)
zahara A water-enchanted sword appears from the air, the blade widening and turning to be horizontal. She sets the goblets upon it. "Indeed, and exceedingly drunk." Sunlit ale follows, pouring from her fingers into them, and with a small gesture, the blade proceeds smoothly to Neshi. "Adagio said you had the best parties."
Neshi takes a cup and lifts her veil, just a bit. "Indeed. We have always prided ourselves on the great quality of our entertainments." She takes a deep draught from the cup with closed, satisfied eyes.
zahara smiles again, and the sword proceeds to Adagio, then Rio, the three girls, and back to her.
Neshi The others also accept the wine and drink heartily of it, not even displaying the slight restraint of their queen.
Adagio picks a crushed note from his pocket, reading its contents as if to remind himself of something, picking his goblet "Hmmm, Zahara-brand. Fit for an empress." He finishes reading the note, "I got a few questions for ya later, oh mistress of veils."
zahara takes the final goblet and drinks deeply as well, what sharpness in her eyes there was mellows again, and she banishes the sword with an impatient wave. It hesitates for a second as if not quite believing her, before disappearing.
Neshi smiles again. "We can take a moment for that, before you go." She sips the wine again. "So now that you are the most powerful woman in Creation, Empress.... how will you treat with those who lie outside it?"
zahara "mmmm" she blinks a bit, trying to focus properly on the fae queen.
zahara "Perhaps I shall invite some of them to tea."
Adagio "Y'know, ya CAN move Freeholds. We could put this on ya backyard, if we put some wyld there."
zahara "Oh," she claps, "that would be lovely, if for nothing more than the sheer irony."
Neshi Riordan looks back and forth between the two Solars. "I suspect that the neighbors might not approve," he says.
Adagio points at Zahara. "That's the point! She's gotta do something they don't approve of!"
zahara "I do?"
Adagio nods. "Yes! You need to feel... free."
zahara "freedom... it does sound lovely."
Adagio grins. "Neshi, luv... Give the Empress a taste of freedom."
Neshi Without waiting for permission, Neshi turns and places a single thumb on Zahara's forehead.
zahara makes no move to resist, simply closing her eyes at the touch.
Neshi Zahara feels something... unusual. Her burdens and stresses, her concerns and needs, all the difficulties and challenges that she faces... for a moment, they all seem to melt away.
Neshi A warm wave cascades down Zahara's body from the point of contact on her forehead, flowing through her very muscles and veins, out into her extremities... (...)
Neshi She feels her mind wobble for a moment, and it almost feels like she is about to slip into some sort of unconscious state, but then she stabilizes one more and she is just standing, once again, before Adagio and the faeries.
zahara sighs softly and sags a little towards the queen of the faerie, half-regretting that she is still standing. "mmmm. Must learn how to do that."
Neshi Though she is outwardly quite harsh, Neshi is surprisingly soft as she interposes one of her supple, downy wings for Zahara to lean against.
zahara "Ah, won't this make a fine tale," she murmurs.
Adagio "And y'see, m'ladies," He points out, "All the rulers want, is release."
zahara "Adagio," she runs her finger through the feathers in Neshi's wing, "You are a ter'ble influence."
Neshi The ladies giggle and play with Adagio's clothing.
Adagio "'Course." He grins, tickling the right sister! "That's the POINT."
Neshi Riordan takes another sip of the wine. "Careful, Empress. Neshi is an intoxicating personality."
zahara "Indeed, Rio." She pulls away slowly, righting her goblet and refilling it and any others that are near her. "But sometimes..." she trails off and shakes her head, tipping back the goblet and drinking the golden, softly glowing liquid within.
Neshi watches Zahara's reaction carefully over the top of her veil and the rim of her glass.
Neshi The wine is as glorious and delicious as Zahara could desire, and it seems like all those present are enjoying it as well.
Adagio lets his goblet be refilled before drowning almost all of it in one go, turning to the sisters, pointing and going... "Serina! Safira! Tsukiko! Astarte! Lara! Tara! Mnemon! Vestal! Serena! Hestia!" He stops. "Hot? Cold?"
Neshi The girls giggle. "You're still cold," they say together in a teasing sing-song.
zahara steps away from the others, to lean up against the wall. She rubs her forehead, "I should go before I do something I regret."
Neshi nods. "I am glad you have come to enjoy my hospitality tonight, Empress. I... hope you will remember this night well." Her eyes grow harsher than they were a moment before.
Adagio "A sec," He whispers to the girls, "I gotta make sure my friend won't turn into a pumpkin."
zahara looks up at Neshi, a hint of sadness in her eyes. "I will, though it would be better for me to forget."
Adagio turns to Zahara, stepping closer to her. "Why?"
zahara "Because..." she starts to say, and then somehow has the presence of mind to switch to speaking to him directly ::Because the thought of losing myself here, forgetting everything, ceasing to care again... it calls to me. ::
Neshi Riordan looks at Zahara for a moment, and then turns to Neshi. "I wish to entreat you for a small favor, if I might, my queen."
Adagio takes a deep breath, and his mien, his posture, everything changes
Lucent walks to Zahara, hugging her. ::I could never do that when I was tiny.:: He laughs in her mind. ::Zahara... he can look out for you, and allow you to let go. He will not let you go. He can drag you back. And whatever they can do... I can undo. So if you wish to let go, here... I will be here. To catch you. Think of Cerin. That is your bound. Everything else... be free.::
Neshi Neshi looks over her subject with an inquisitive eye. "You may ask."
zahara wraps her arms around Luc, leaning her head on his shoulder, ::I... can't. Not here. I have been too soft in front of them already. They... cannot know my weakness. Not truly.::
Neshi Riordan drops to one knee. "I wish to accompany Zahara, when she departs this court," he says, and glances over at the Empress. "If she would let me travel with her."
Lucent ::You can walk away, from anything, I believe. But if you want to stop now, do. I will be here for you either way.:: He comforts her, solid as a mountain, a sheltering cliff. Like a Zenith should be. ::That is what friends are for, right?::
zahara ::Yes. Thank you... Lucent. And Adagio. :: She pulls back from him after a moment, and looks up. She seems more clearheaded, stands straighter, her bearing once again regal. Her eyes wary and fierce. "You may join me at my court, Riordan."
Neshi looks over at Zahara, and at her subject, once more with almost unreadable eyes. Then, after a very long pause: "...very well. Zahara, Riordan will accompany you back to the Sunlands."
Lucent adjusts his cloak, "You going now, Zahara?"
zahara "I would walk a while with Riordan, if you wish to entertain the Sisters." She is enunciating quite carefully.
Lucent "Oh, I do. I must know their names before I leave here. But first, as you walk with Adagio..." Hands in his pockets, he turns to the queen of little ones, "The queen and I have bussiness to take care of."