Location: Stark Academy and Stark Castle
Timeline: November 28, 2011 - 0200 am local
Summer skipped through the barely lit stone corridor like as if she were a young girl, her tresses and the streamers of her springtime shift fluttering silently behind her in a fey quality; as if captured in water and affected by buoyancy and drag at the same time. She hopped to a halt before a door, both feet together on her bare toes and leaned close to it, cupping her mouth with one hand as if calling yet whispered, only the exhalation of breath producing any sound at all.
Cat sat up slowly as she heard Summer’s voice. She really wasn't the most eager of risers but something told her that this was important. She put on her standard tight halter top and cargo pants, she tugged on her boots and pulled her hair into a ponytail before slipping her bracers on and looking over at Angel. She didn't want to speak, something about how it felt seemed like a spell and she just knew talking would ruin it.
Angel dropped down from the bunk on silent feet shooting a smile at Cat as she went to her closet and pushed aside all her winter clothes. At the back was an impressive collection of sun dresses in every shade imaginable, she poked through them until she found the one she wanted. It was ankle length, pastel purple with eyelet edges and narrow bands for sleeves that left most of her back open. If they were doing anything in this other world and her clothes didn't change she would need the room. She slipped on strappy leather sandals with no heel and a matching belt and headband to keep her curls pushed back.
Zach hopped down from his top bunk quietly without a word. He walked over and pulled on clothes. Dark colored jeans with a camouflage t-shirt. There was a white start with a whit circle on the left side of his chest. He pulled on a dark brown and black hiking tennis shoes. He pulled a leather side satchel so it sat left to right from his shoulder He waited expectantly for the Boulder before opening the door.
Brann started awake. He heard Summer as if she spoke directly in his ear. He lay with Maus spooned against his back, one arm around his waist. Zach turned to face him, "You hear that?"
Brann drew on a pair of black pants, his climbing boots, and a crimson tank top with black fanged teeth bared to bite emblazoned on the front, and He combed his fingers through his short red hair before following Maus into the hall, blinking owlishly at the light. He spotted Summer exactly as he dreamed but how did he hear her through solid stone walls? He thought to ask but then felt a strong instinct to remain quiet. He crept stealthily to join Maus at her side.
Once Angel was ready Cat opened the door to their room. The entire building seemed still, like it was holding it’s breath waiting for something. The silent fury of the snowstorm outside lent an extra other worldly feel to everything. She could feel question burning on the tip of her tongue but still she remained silent.
Summer skipped on, repeating her arrival and hop and whisper at two more doors, before skipping away and into a shadow disappearing as if she had merged with it and were no longer a flesh and blood creature at all.
Zach stepped out to the hall and turned toward the first floor without question. He knew the touch of Ms Summer's and new that request, however polite, should be accommodated immediately.
He did not bother to look back knowing Pike was behind him.
As they emerged from the dungeons onto the main level and wandered down to the front hall, they came across summer and Jericho standing waiting for them. Summer wore a muted rainbow shift of opaque layers that seemed to hide her lithe frame and yet if she moved would press itself against her, showing the body underneath in profile. From the shift hung fabric streamers in pastels that spanned the palette of the rainbow and as usual, she went barefoot. She motioned for them to approach and placed her finger of her smiling lips, her long pointed ears poking up through her long straight blond
Jericho was smiling as well and unlike her normal black and typical formalized dress, corset, bell shoulders Victorian lady’s finery. She wore her laced boots and a skirt of gray with a tight bodice and a high-necked black lace neckline over a gray underlinen tunic. The long sleeves of the tunic emerged from the bodice-vest and fell, starched at the cuffs, to the back of her hands. And of course, she towered over all of them in her heeled boots.
Between them, on the floor, lay a picnic basket with a piece of fabric over it done in a pattern of charcoal with white snowflakes that were in fact made of skulls and bones.
Zach nodded to Jericho and Ms. Summer. He noticed the basket with the cleverly themed blanket. His head tilted to the right, interested in what was about.
Brann took in Summer's pointed ears with a smile. He caught the change in Jericho and decided that he liked it. An adventure lay ahead if he knew their looks and he could hardly contain his excitement. He signed, :What's up?:
:We’ll be taking a short trip to take in a show and have a picnic lunch and to spend some time with other children and faculty: Jericho signed :So if you’re all ready to go, we should be off to get good seats before the rules are set:
Cat cocked her head to the side in curiosity but she simply nodded, acknowledging that she was ready to go as soon as Jericho and the others were.
Maus nodded solemnly but Pike seemed excited, his eye glinting, though he remained still.
Zach looked at Pike and shook his head in his version of mock derision. He looked at Jericho and nodded that he was ready to go off to "seats" unknown.
Brann paused, thinking that it was awfully late to take in a show and if with other orphans, why the tip-toeing secrecy? Still, they raised him to fall in line during important moments and he felt no compelling need to speak up, yet. Rather, he looked forward to finding out what the ladies held up their sleeves. He nodded in acceptance, waiting for their lead.
Jericho and Summer moved to stand on opposite sides of them and ushered them to get closer. Once fairly close, the two raised their arms and extended them around the sides of the knot of students and silently moved something, a single word which Angel realized from her prior experience and the others read clearly on their lips 'import'.
The castle around them melted away and as it faded new surroundings seem to pushed its way into view, superseding what they had been seeing. The hall was thirty feet to the apex of the arched ceiling with hanging crystal lamps that lit the hall warmly from above. The ceiling was paneled in warm golden woods and darker beams in a stained brown oak. Below those but high on the wall hung long pictures of people of various of the races in armor or robes or even fairly plain clothing, some of it earth-modern but a lot of it medieval finery and/or fantastical armor.
In between each of these a vertical beam ran into the stone floor, marble, with a long single rug running down the middle of the corridor. The beams held a single crystalline lamp just above head height that projected warm clean light that seemed to be flame but one didn’t have to be Cat to instantly know it wasn’t.
Behind them wide-open doors through which they could see forests and mountains and deep fog. Snow fell gently in a light sheet and young people ran around and threw wads of it at one another and laughed, the noise of their play was strangely muted until the space in the doorway rippled slightly, betraying some sort of invisible barrier.
And as they looked around, they realized that they had been sorted out a bit for this place.
Summer’s Fae nature was plain to see, her long ears were prominent as was her inhumanly ethereal and sharp features. Her dress remained the same but she had gained two feet of height and nearly that in the shoulders.
Jericho remained almost the same though she had also grown, now standing closer to eight feet tall than her typical five. Her entire body was now proportionately grown, so with height came wider dimensions in every direction, and her clothing, like Summer’s, had adapted with her. And as Angel had described, the red lightning bolt-like scars that ran over her eyes and down the tops of her cheekbones were present.
Angel, one of the most obviously altered was the same as she had been in her prior experience; her wings and crimson ribbon-wrappings had appeared, her long hair was braided and held against her head with gold rings affixed with a cross-work of crimson ribbons and her long curve-bladed knives were in their sheathed on her forearms. Her bow and quiver weren’t present but this Celestial also wore no halo.
Brann wasn’t overly changed, though there seemed to be an unseen aura around him that made him brighter somehow. It was as if there were no longer any shadowed places on his body and truly, on the floor, he didn’t cast one either.
Maus, however, was different with his hair being longer and wilder and spikier than it had been; it stood up and leaned back on its own, his goggles still in place. Pointed ears poked sideways from his head slightly and then swept back instead of up and his cheekbones had pale blue slash-marks that came to a point aimed at his nose, two shorter smaller ones came out of his hair under his eyes and three on his forehead with one coming straight down from his hairline to just above the center of his brow where a tiny blue oval cabochon gem floated, untouched by his body. As they noticed it occasionally threw off tiny electrical foxfire-like sparks to his skin behind it. Maus’ hair seemed constantly in motion, as if some faint breeze constantly ruffled it though standing so close, nobody felt it.
Cat also was changed and like Maus, her ears had pointed but were more ‘up’ than ‘out’ like his. Too her hair was also up and in motion, far more actively than his was, curling and flowing like streamers of solidified flames as they danced on her head. Tiny licks of flame thrilled up through her hair leaving it untouched and without the smell of burnt hair, her eyes glowed like lanterns. Her skin had deepened a shade and everything that had been ‘pert’ before made ‘pert’ look ‘droopy’. Before she had been magnetic, now she was simply fascinating.
Pike’s changed were thoroughly cosmetic, his height unchanged but his body had gone from round to powerful. If anyone had wondered how a youth who at best and charitably had been called ‘pudgy’ had managed to pick up pretty much whatever he decided he needed to, one merely had to see his Truself now and know how that had worked out. Pike was made of slabs of rock, literally granite formed his body and where he may have been pudgy in his Guise, he was built with broad shoulders and heavily thick arms, with a thick core and thick legs. His hair looked like moss or a patch of discoloration and his eyes were onyx beads in deep sockets under a heavy brow.
Zach, of all of them, looked hardly changed at all.
Except for one thing; the lines of his body were demarcated with a thin black line that went everywhere, unbroken, lines meeting and parting smoothly and organically.
Zach looked at himself and the others. He noticed that Brann was not showing his armor with power underneath. He nodded to himself understanding that there was no need. He looked at the lines on his arms and smiled inwardly. This seemed to make more sense to him. He looked over at Pike and signed ~Is it you holding back or Jericho?~ Asking about the fact that Pike was not 10 feet tall.
:Me: he twitched.
Cat reached out and flicked one of Angel's feathers. "Does this mean I can call you bird brain?" She asked with a laugh.
"I wouldn’t," a new voice replied chuckling as a young man with owl-like wings wearing gold ribbons and a silver scaled breastplate descended from deeper into the castle. He immediately went to one knee before them, "Princess Jericho, Lady Sapphire, I bid you welcome."
:Shotgun,: Brann signed surreptitiously to Maus, using the term for grabbing the choice seat in a car while smiling at the pretty Owl-boy.
:Have it: Maus snorted in response :too pretty:
"Drat," Jericho cursed with a small laugh, "I had thought to arrive without anyone knowing."
"I feel it would be deleterious to my existence to remind you why that's impossible anywhere in this demesne Princess," he replied with a grin, rising from his kneel unbidden. His blond hair was worn in a short cap on his head in tight curls, this under a helm made of loose tiny silver chains that sat on rather than held down his hair. His eyes were a lambent silver and a sprinkle of freckles across his nose and cheeks gave him a boyish quality if you ignored the wings, the well-made body and the claws. He turned to Angel, "Its good to finally meet you in person Harbinger."
Angel stretched her wings, the muscles not as foreign as they had been, the balance easier to get used to. She was glad she had chosen to wear something backless, feeling that the dress fit around her wings perfectly, the belt low on her hips and out of the way. Looking up she smiled at the young man with the beautiful wings and for once was at a total loss for words. She blinked, her smile fading as a blush crept up her cheeks, she was supposed to be the talker of the group! Finally she managed, "In person? You've heard of me?"
"Oh," he paused and looked a little crestfallen, looking at "Princess" Jericho, "I believe I have said something embarrassing again."
"It's alright Oriel," Jericho chuckled, "you were appointed guide and it's their first trip as a group so there's a great deal for them to learn and get used to."
"As you say," he smiled and knocked his bare heels together as he gave her a short bow and turned back to Angel. "Yes, actually, we’ve been observing you for..." he glanced at Jericho and then finished, "some time. Just as you’re learning how to see across the veil between worlds, we can see you too. So we’ve been watching you, learning about you some, so we could help you out when you finally got to come over and spend time with us. As you might image, the lower-classmen are very eager to learn about you, since they’ve been blocked from scrying you and those few of us who have earned the right to help you train, have been observing you as duty permitted."
“So that girl Brann saw…?” Maus asked.
Oriel nodded with a frown, "Desinora, yes. Brann saw her through her Veil and nearly scared her wits from her. She’s really quite brilliant but she's a bit shy and retiring."
"Kinda scared the wits from me too," Brann laughed.
Cat's cheeks flamed bright red, matching the sparks of fire in her hair. "Just how often are you guys 'scrying' us?" She asked, with a suspicious certainty that at least one of her forge baths had probably been witnessed.
Oriel took a step back and grew pale raising his hands in a warding gesture and turned his head slightly to one side, "As soon as it appears something inappropriate is about to happen, we cease scrying. If we were to look at you during intimate times, that would be highly inappropriate and could result in a duel," he turned his face back to them and spread his hands palm up, "And none of us wants to duel any of you."
Cat's brow wrinkled, his response was way more fearful than she had expected. "Why not?" She cocked her head to the side as she studied him.
"Because it would be detrimental to the Academy," Oriel explained with another glance at Jericho.
Zach spoke up, "I do not understand, how are we dangerous to anyone with more training, which if I understand this right, is everyone here, ummm in this....dimension?" Staring at Oriel noticing every detail, measuring everything he could with his senses.
"'Layer’," Oriel corrected him first and explained both, "the different Worlds are layers of the same world, reflections of the primary world yet simultaneously in existence side-by-side. And as the further they are from the primary, the more vastly different they become though," he paused again and gestured to make a circle with his right index finger, leaving a faint trail of silver light, "there are always elements in them that are the same, such as monuments that are part of race-memory or cultural identity. As far as why we with more training would prefer not to duel those of you with less is because it would be dishonorable. A duel is not a fistfight in the dirt between children who have no idea what the concept of honor is. A duel is combat to prove a point when words fail, when only humiliation will suffice or when a lesson must be pounded in with fists because words have failed. Lastly, duels have been used to prevent wars, as the Lords of various Peoples or Worlds have fought to decide the issue of a war and save the thousands of lives that would otherwise be lost. A duel is war, controlled and managed by rules so that it has meaning and value and purpose other than Chaos, which is what the Dark Ones represent." He paused and bent his head, his face literally darkening with grim intent and his eyes burned like lamps with passion, “It is only the Dark Ones who don’t recognize the Duel and must be fought, every time, to the bitter end."
"So," Maus said, drawing Oriel’s attention to him and forcing the Celestial to calm himself and return to his sunny disposition, "what you've not said is that we're more powerful than you are and you're concerned about collateral damage." It wasn't a question nor was he asking for confirmation; he was stating a fact.
Oriel looked plaintively at Jericho and she sighed.
"Yes Maus," Jericho said, "that's part of it. It goes back to your families. You're part of long bloodlines and you're the culmination, the rarity of the traits from those bloodlines. The results can be unpredictable but as a rule, they're powerful. And while skill can defeat power in those who have very little skill, at a certain point power overwhelms skill entirely."
"Like a pen knife in hands of a Payer," replied Zach at no one as he rubbed the scar on his face.
"So what you’re saying is that we're the things that the bogeymen tell stories about to give their children nightmares." Cat said with a raised brow. "Or rather we have the potential to become that."
"Perhaps," Jericho replied. "We’re still not sure. But to show you about that is why we're here today." She paused just then as a soft but permeating bong sounded throughout the castle, the vibration traveling through the floor and walls. The snow-flingers immediately stopped what they were doing and dropped their snowballs and dashed away. “We need to hurry,” she informed them. "Oriel?"
"I can handle this many," he nodded firmly, "once, perhaps twice."
"We appreciate your assistance," Jericho replied softly.
Brann smirked knowingly at Maus, signing, :he can 'handle' this many?:
:Remind me to take care of you when we get a minute: Maus twitched at him.
"Handle?" Angel asked, finally getting over the shyness that had inexplicably struck her and smiling at Oriel.
He blushed at her.
Oriel stepped amongst them until he was standing in the middle and with quick gestures moved people close around him with Summer and Jericho on the outside. He raised his hands straight up, palms turned outward and arms extended all the way and looked upwards, shutting his eyes. A silver circle flew out from his feet across the floor as if projected there filled with symbols and swirling curving lines that looked like the orbits of planets; some of them actually moved slowly around him at the center. Then he spoke a single word, executing his Consecration.