Forgileill attempts to find Kcasamenzay
The Visir Arcana’s hut looked like most of the other huts in Eagle’s Reach. That is, it was not the sort of place that one would expect to find a Blackrobe with such a fearsome reputation. The hut was like the all the others and if anything, showed a little more neglect. A wooden frame supported woven walls daubed with mud. Thin smoke leaked out through the thatch. The coops and other enclosures which around other huts contained chickens, goats or small vegetable gardens were dry and dusty.
The low doorway led to a step down to a low beamed room. The interior was dark and a little smoky. The fire was tended by a filthy young Mura girl. She was about six years old and naked aside from strings of crude amulets and rough fetishes. She glanced up, unspeaking and nodded her head towards a curtain that hung over a doorway to one of the end ‘rooms’ of the hut.
Forgileill ducked and weaved about the hanging bunches of herbs, dried lizards and fish that festooned the low beams. She had to move around sacks full of brightly coloured parrot feathers, chillies and cocoa. The dirty leather curtain was overhung with a silk and beadwork hanging of a fierce looking baboon in a red collar. Gingerly, she pushed the curtain aside and made her way through.
Finding herself in a hall in a very different place. The hall she was in could easily have swallowed the entire hut the other side of the curtain. And it was a cool light grey, not dark at all, despite not having any windows or any discernible light source. Looking behind her there was the dirty leather curtain, a bronze door set with opals and etchings of the Celebrinoth and a third door, which appeared to be covered in lumpy black leather. She wasn’t keen on looking at it as it made her feel a bit queasy, as if it was writhing somehow.
She pulled aside the leather curtain and looked through. Sure enough it appeared to lead through to the small hut in Eagle’s Reach. She saw the small girl Kcasamenzay kept as a servant there. Only from here the small girl was quite obviously some form of Nereid (a creature partly from the elemental plane of water, and partly human). The creature looked at Forgileill with the same blank expression as its human charade wore. Pouting, it turned its attention back to its kitchen chores. Forgileill let the curtain fall back into place.
She walked to the bronze portal and slowly reached out, her fingers paused a hairs breadth from the handle. There was a noise behind her and she turned around again, to see four small figures tumbling and cavorting down into the large empty chamber from a stair well.
The four figures danced, leapt and shoved each other in a pantomime manner as they chattered loudly. The winged monkeys pulled each others tails and furiously flapped their wings at one another. Small hands tugged their fellows back by their little red jackets and deftly removed and threw away each others hats as the comedic procession made its jumbled way across the floor. They appeared to have not even noticed her, coming up short as if surprised when they finally came within arms reach of where Forgileill was standing.
There was a single moment when they were all there together, staring up at her in silence with wide open eyes. For a long moment, all four winged monkeys held their breath. So did Forgileill. Then with chatter and chaos resumed, they ushered, escorted, dragged and pushed her towards the stairs.
Climbing the winding staircase, she found herself in the study where she had met Kcasamenzay and Jadhrim after her first brush with death. The four ushers, who fell silent as they reached the chamber, skittered back off down the stairs. She moved to the centre of the deep blue woven carpet and stood facing the huge desk, resisting the urge to sidle over and go through the papers, or even light the candle atop the draconic skull. Forgileill closed her eyes, breathed deeply and cleared her mind. She put out all her thoughts and concerns one at a time until she felt utterly at peace.
Kcasamenzay entered, immaculate in formal gown (black, of course, with yellow silk kimono showing from under the heavy brocade).
Forgileill sank to her knees in third obedience, the lacquered scales of her yicduroh rasping gently as they slid across each other. Forgileill kept her face down and her fists on her knees. Kcasamenzay had kept her like this for hours at a time, during her education. There was no reason to think that anything might have changed.
“I’m busy. What is it?”
Hesitantly, she looked up. Kcasamenzay was sat at her desk, eyes down, reading something and making notes. Forgileill ran her tongue around the inside of her mouth, and ilin’s trick to forestall a yawn or prevent an incautious word. “I have fallen out with my brother. My home is gifted to the Irien, My father is dead.” Kcasamenzay was now on her feet and walking slowly over to where Forgileill knelt.
“You stupid child!” The heel of Kcasamenzay’s hand stuck a blow across the back of her head. Forgileill bowed low, forearms pressed to the carpet and forehead down, keeping her shoulders (adorned with large cuir bouli plates covered in lacquered lamellae) hunched.
“I spend years violating imperial law and risking expulsion from the Assembly (or worse); all to give you a head start and you go and make yourself Lyio.” There was no sense of loss of temper in the scalding. In the eighty years she’d known her cousin, she’d never heard her raise her voice.
“How, pray tell, will you feed your ilin? How, pray tell, will you feed your rocca? Where, in the world, prey tell, do you think to establish your Wilya?”
Forgileill felt fingers run through her hair and grasp it, using it to lift her head and pull her back up to third obedience. She bit her lip to avoid crying out. Her eyes watered as she fought to hold back any stray tear that might escape and betray her in front of her mentor.
“The Lominlindi have strung out the marriage of their daughter in the hope that Nearamur might reform his ways or meet with some kind of premature fate. It would be best if your Lominlindi ilin did not meet him either. Your demeanour and protocols must be perfect, all must appear to be ilin, nothing more and certainly nothing less.” Kcasamenzay let out a long, exasperated sigh.
“You missed Glordin’s Jukpûdhar. It was rushed, as a Clan we lost much face. And you, his youngest daughter, were nowhere to be found. This is not damage that can be repaired with gifts and alliances; it is damage to our reputation. Do not fail, either as ilin or gwen, to be in the appropriate place in the future.” This was the same voice as had taught her the arcane arts of the nightblade. It was one that still chilled her. “There were still gauroth at large, there still are. Beware their bite little bird, they will kill you if they can. They have us marked. Make no mistake, ancient enmities are what drive them.”
The elf-witch returned to her desk and sat down.
“So, then. What have you learned on your travels?”
Forgileill then went back through everything she had seen and done, as she had been taught to do from childhood, surprising her self with the seemingly obscure detail that came to mind. Conditioning to regurgitate sights and other pieces of information had been her lot as a child, even as her contemporaries played, she was being taught to remember.
Torendra’s relationship with Danu, Brakki the Midguarder, the teeth of the Moon Sow, all was relived for Kcasamenzay’s minute inspection. The details of Arutha’s betrayal of her companions, her manoeuvring to save them and their subsequent voyage with the Moken were swiftly done. The details of their travails on Vog Mur were of no interest, beyond a contemptuous snort when Forgileill described how Gart the Wright had almost slain her. What did arouse her cousin’s interest were the details of the library and the items she had recovered from Ardneró.
When she’d finished, the items were laid out on the carpet before them and Kcasamenzay examined them as best she could without the bother of getting up.
“I’ll try and get you into a school (i.e., of magic, within the Assembly) Forgileill. But you should know that your taking on the mantle of Lyio will make it just that little bit harder to arrange. Perhaps you should set out to find the last stand of the Cáma army soon; it might keep you, as a bandit, out of reach of the empire for a short while. And your cousin Gyrnwyn is one of those who lie at Húrin’s side.” There was an almost palpable sense of loss in Kcasamenzay’s voice.
“And of course it would greatly enhance your status if you managed to restore one or two of the scions of the empire who are there as well to their respective Clans.” She took the rod of spell storing and did something with it, Forgileill felt and heard the rush of essence as something unlocked. The rod was handed back. Forgileill could feel that it was now somehow bigger than it had been. “Success on the plateau would be not only good for you but also good for the Clan, little one. Keep the satchel; it will doubtless be of great help to you.”
Forgileill looked up and asked “What of the Kenku?”
Long ago they were raven and crow cultists. Driven by war and disease, this sect formed up one huge flock and cried out something, anything, to save them from their unrelenting enemies and seemingly incurable disease. They were saved by the Demon Prince of the Lower Aerial Kingdoms. But he betrayed them in time and they are now cursed as a race to walk the earth in the shape of birds, but with arms instead of wings, forever exiled from the sky that was their freedom.”
Kcasamenzay looked Forgileill in the eye for a long moment. Then relented and carried on as her younger protégé obviously wanted. “Their powers of mimicry are excellent and they lust after the forbidden. They are thumb and fist, skilled at the creation of poisons and traps. Some have managed to engage individuals as assassins or spies. Expect them to double cross their allies, but not members of their own flock. As far as I know they are more or less limited to Eastern Aerdy.”
Forgileill nodded. Kcasamenzay indicated that she was dismissed and she unfolded herself from her kneeling position ready to return whence she came.