A Happy Serpent III?
|Title||A Happy Serpent (Part the Third)|
|Date of Log||April 22, 2021|
|Summary||In which the elaborate prank/quest to help Sehrasil takes a somewhat less fanciful turn, and the bitter orange grove flourishes, if just for a little while.|
Orange Field Ellischester 05:58 PM 22 April 1489 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Some trees here have managed to stand the test of time, while others have either lost limbs or snapped entirely in half from the buffeting storms. Many still produce fruit that's quickly stripped clean by the locals when in season. Beyond the tree line is a magnificent view of the land below, a sheer drop preventing a route of approach or escape. Only a small swath of land below is free of Sagcoln's corruption, the beast's territory curving around the majority of the land that Ellischester was settled on.
The wind blows, chilly for spring in Ellischester. It blows strong enough to whip the cape around Tade's torso, precursor to a storm no doubt, as he sways gently from left to right at the tree line, looking out across the horizon. His staff is elsewhere - in his room, surely - while Syvis is draped over a branch that looks as though it's straining to hold her considerable weight. Humming to himself, the tune is discordant on his lips not because the melody deems it to be so, but because he's really that bad at keeping a note.
"What in the bloody blazes be that r-- oh," Kalixi rasps, as she crests the hill into the orchard. "Ye. I should have known. Good afternoon, then, Great Wizard." She untucks a reed basket from under her fuzzy arm and waddles over to the foot of a tree, nudging around the undergrowth for herbs, heedless of burrs, thorns, and anything that would deter a softer-skinned mammal.
The humming continues, and anyone with half a mind towards music could tell it'd be a nice tune if anyone else had been humming it. Tade's hand raises to wave as he turns on a heel to regard Kalixi, his cape whishing this way and that and momentarily getting twisted around his legs before the wind caught it again. It's all very dramatic, "Hiiii." He chirps, a fast smile on his lips and reflected in ruby eyes. For the moment he simply watches Kalixi, his lips both pursed and smiling all at once to give him the curious look of one both mischievous and thoughtful, "Say, Kali." He inquires, awaiting the appropriate and expected response.
"Kali," says Kalixi's fuzzy hind end, as her front end is presently wedged into a shrubbery. It seems, indeed, she is, and has been, searching for the tenderest bits of meadowsweet to dry, as she had been previously instructed by the mage/sage/of indeterminate age. At least, that's what occasionally rustles out of the brush to land in the reed basket. Was she... being humorous? Sarcastic? Probably sarcastic.
Presumed sarcasm is met with clapping and tittering as if humour had been the intention all along. How naturally he slithers into his own sarcasm suits the serpentine nature suggested by his eyes and his familiars, "Good girl, Kali!" Tee hee. Clapping hands are calmed and tucked behind his back, clasped together to keep from fidgeting, though the rest of him doesn't stop on behalf of those clasped hands, his swaying promptly resuming, "You know about magic with plants, don't you?" His smile cracks wide again, and it's unclear if this is a genuine inquiry or a display that he'd paid attention.
Can one -hear- an eyeroll? There seems to be an eyeroll happening, even though most of Kali is still buried in shrubbery. One hind foot raises off of the ground as she leeeeans in to get a particular sprig; the best, of course, being buried where most hands, paws, or beaks cannot reach. True to her word, despite all of her grumbling, complaining, and colorful commentary, she is taking the quest seriously. There is a short pause, a small, rusty noise of inquiry, soft chomping, and a seemingly pleased grunt. More leaves cascade into the basket. "Aye," comes the answer, finally.
Perhaps one had the perception to feel the way Tade's eyes narrow and his stare intensifies, just that little bit, "Hmm." Ushers softly from pursed lips, and his head cants thoughtfully. The wind gushes, his cape whips up, and the trees frame him against a backdrop of startlingly blue sky, "You can do the one that helps plants grow, right?" The dry grass rustles beneath his feet as he moves closer to where Kalixi has buried herself in shrubbery, eventually coming to stand leaning over her wiggling rear. Perhaps he's trying to see what she's digging about for.
From what's in the basket, Kalixi's mostly digging for meadowsweet, and only the nicest aerial parts of them. There are also a couple of sprigs of something minty-looking, because no enterprising Ellischester resident would turn up something desirable even if it were not presently being sought. "Aye, I can do tha one what helps the plants grow," she rasps, and adds, with a small amount of pride, "It's why there be so many oranges, like."
From above, the slight hiss of Syvis' flickering tongue tasting the air is soon overpowered by the creak of straining wood as she shifts her weight on the branch. Tade nods his head as if she'd said something, though the serpent was only looking at him. A few 'uh huh' and 'hm hm' sounds escape him before he kneels down and pokes Kalixi gently in lower back, "Wanna see the orange trees the way they were before everything went to ruin?"
Kalixi's tail goes straight up like an exclamation point when she's poked, and the entire shrub rustles at the sheer force of a fully grown sea Vydra's fur going a-bristle all at once. It is such that she has significant trouble backing OUT of the shrub, and instead has to slide forward, vanishing completely before tumbling out from beneath like a vengeful avatar of brambles. There is an air-frizzing moment where there is obviously a rusty clang of a protest incoming, and then his words sort of collide with it, slowly, the way time goes all molasses when someone is unseated from their horse. Tick. Tick. Tick. Ears swivel. Whiskers brush. "...how do ye mean, -see- the orange trees from before?"
Tade rests his arms on his knees and lets his hands hang down carelessly, fingers occasionally wiggling. His smile widens a bit more, and one hand extends towards Kalixi, expecting her paw in return to come to rest in it's palm, "We'll give them the strength to be true again." He offers, as if it were just as simple as that. The fingers of his outstretched hand beckon.
There is, as to be expected, a long, long, long otter side-eye from Kalixi, the kind of side-eye that exposes just a little of the white that borders the olive-darkness of her eyes. "Will we now?" She says, in her little rusty-bucket voice, trying to look stern despite the serious negative modifiers being provided by her current light coating of leaves, twigs, and little chunks of thornbush. She grooms a few bits off, reflexively. "How?" Clearly, son-in-law is going to have to be a bit more specific.
"We will!" Tade chirps in response, those fingers of his still a-beckoning. Whatever state Kalixi was in while attempting to be stern towards him, it never seemed to work. He was, apparently, immune to such parental ways, "It's easy." Really. Truly! "You'll just cast the spell through me so you can use my magic instead of yours." Indeed it sounded simple, in theory at least. Tade seemed confident it'd be easy as can be.
Kalixi sneezes. A small cascade of twigs falls from her fur. She plunks down on the ground with a solid *whump*, and busily starts grooming the rest out while she mulls this over. Twig, twig, burr, leaf, leaf, thorn, burr, a seed gets a curious sniff and then gets dropped in the basket, leaf, leaf, twig. "...how long will it stay that way, an' what be the cost of it?"
"Probably not as long as you could hope. It can't, with that miasma so close." Syvis' tongue flickers. Tade cants his head slightly towards her, but nothing more. A gentle chuckle bubbles softly in his throat, "Oh Kali, nothing you could cast could ever have prices like you're worried about. You'll be a bit tired, i'll be a bit tired. Really mostly me - it's my magic you're using up, after all."
A few moments pass. While Kalixi seems to be nonchalantly grooming her ridiculously thick coat free of underbrush, her brow ridges and ears are busily twitching in thought. Her tail lashes. Tade's apparently lack of japing about during this admission has obviously caught her attention and is being busily processed. "So... it will be like ye be the well from which I draws the water an' feeds the trees?"
Tade's smile burgeons, pleased that Kalixi seemed to understand so readily when she was often stubborn. At least to his perception, "Yes!" He bobs his head, nodding to reinforce that she's correct, "Just like that!" While the extended hand remains extended, he gives that arm a shake since he's held it out for a minute or two now, "It'll probably take a few tries to get the hang of it, but that's ok!"
Epic poems could be writ of Kalixi's stubbornness, but who would expect anything less from a grey-whiskered fuzz barrel? She thinks about it for a bit more, rustily rumbling and grumbling to herself. With a tremendous shake, she sheds a few last bits of vegetation and stands up. She looks at the offered hand and huffs gently before thrusting her own calloused paw at it. "All right, then. We shall give it a try, but if anything go wrong, ye'll be painting the devil seam with that moppy head of yers."
Tade closes his fingers around that very calloused paw and draws Kalixi closer with a soft tug upon it, "I don't think you can harm the grass much more." Shifting, he flops down from his kneeling position to sit, shuffling his legs to be folded beneath him. He motions for her to sit too, "It'll probably seem like you can't do it at first. Like nothing's happening." He seems immune to the threat of using his head to mop up any disasters as he continues, "But cast like you're mmm- like direct it through my hands instead."
Kalixi's rumored snuggliness is of course reserved for the young, the injured, and the suffering. Her fur fluffs again when she is drawn closer, but she lowers herself to the ground with a rattling grunt. "All right. So. Ye be the barrel, an' I needs to tap yer an water the trees. I understands this." His caveat about it not working at first gets a shrug. "Be honest, now, would we both be more surprised if it -did- work the first time?"
Tade was neither young, despite appearances, injured, nor by any indication was he suffering, so that left him out of the Kalixi snuggliness index, "Probably!" He responds with positive affirmation, "But sometimes it happens." His other hand offers up for her to take, to make one more point of contact to focus through.
Kalixi takes the other paw, er, hand, and settles herself down to concentrate. She closes her olive-dark eyes, taking slow, deep breath as she grounds and centers herself between the earth and the sky, feeling the life flowing through her surroundings. But... how to direct that... through... Hrrrum. She can connect with a stone, she can connect with a growing potato, she can connect with a tree, but... how to connect with Tade?? "Ain't feeling nothing," she announces, without opening her eyes.
Branches creak and groan as Syvis slithers her way down the tree and to the ground. Grass rustles as she snakes her way across and over to the pair of them, the weight of her body coming to rest half across Kalixi's lap, and half across Tade's. The self proclaimed greatest wizard smiles, "She's telling you to stop thinking so much and relax." A titter follows, and his thumbs brush over the back of Kalixi's paws.
"Awrf, it be that easy then," Kalixi whispers, rustily, clearly concentrating very intently upon how to get hands/paws around the frothing waterfall that is the power possibly barely contained within the ostentatious wizard. To just turn it loose now would belikely to grow a jungle out of cobblestones and shop walls. Her ears and nostrils seal shut, trying to block out everything outside for enough time to focus on diverting that power to the right place.
Yet, strangely there's a sense that this frothing waterfall is only touching the surface, as if there's more *locked* away much deeper within. Syvis settles with her head resting on Kalixi's knee, tongue flickering at the air, "You know how when you're being carried away by the undertow you're supposed to relax instead of fighting against it?" Tade inquires, heedless of the fact Kalixi is trying to shut everything around her out, "Just flow with it for a bit first."
Kalixi takes instruction about as well as one would expect her to. "Could yer stop yammerin' fer half a moment," she gruffs, like an old wagon creaking down a dirt road. "This be more'n an undertow, it be a mountain's height fall. Less the doors of Ellischester wants to start sproutin' fresh branches an' leaf, I needs to have a caution." Her tail twitches. Muttergrumble. "Rowboat over a whirlpool."
True to the metaphor, the power contained within Tade washes over Kalixi like a rushing tide threatening to drown her and everything around them. It is not the only thing that Kalixi touches though, for in that torrent were thoughts and memories, just as intrinsic to him as the very blood in his veins. Small flashes. Happy words in a language she can't understand. Images of a child who could only Tade playing in a temple courtyard with a Vedmid with eyes just like Tade's. Of a human woman as pale as a ghost, with long black hair and those same serpentine eyes, glittering like jewels in the torchlight. They were flashes. Mere seconds in all the time that passes, but they are there regardless. For his part, Tade is quiet for the moment.
Kalixi sputters, gently, then a bit more loudly, the little memories whacking her metaphorically in the face like a continuing barrage of upstream obstacles. "By the bloody Hunt," she curses, raking her lower lip with her upper fangs. How does an otter NOT swim? There is always floating, but one floats in still water, not the running, and this water is RUNNING. Huff. Mutter. Her tail lashes, crunching through the stiff, sharp edged crab grass. What slows a flow of water? Curves. Curves like a snake, to and fro instead of straight as an arrow. Up and down, left and right. Exhale. Is that what Syvis was trying to say, or was she just trying to be a conduit between the two most polar of polar opposites? Inhale. Curves. Curves like the track of one's tail in wet sand. Like the scoop of a pup's first seashell toy. Exhale.
That song Tade was humming comes clearly to Kalixi's ears, but rather than by his discordant notes, it comes with the image of that pale woman cradling a young Tade and singing it to him to lull him to sleep. The torrent continues, but as Kalixi avails herself of a more serpentine approach, what seemed like crushing waves to fight against now seem to flow more pleasantly.
The mother's song draws the old mother in as though by a winch, metaphorically swimming through this metaphorical deluge. Kalixi breathes, slowly and deeply, a rough echo in her throat forming of the more tuneful notes. Hmmm hmmm hmmm, water flowing between rocks and under logs. Hmm hmm hmm, a wind-frothed wave breaking into gentleness across the tangled roots of sea grasses. Awash and aweigh, to guide the powers of nature, not force them, is the only way to succeed. Up into the shallows, down into the depths. There is light and there is dark. There is pressure and there is release. Empty lungs, full lungs. The push of a root through soil, seeking water. The push of a sprout through soil, seeking light. Inhale, exhale.
How deep does the water go? For Kalixi it could not be said, the well running deep and beyond anything she could have possibly thought to encounter in anything besides the very beasts they all revered as gods. But Tade was not a beast, and by all appearances save the curiosity of his eyes and the endlessness of his youth to be nothing more than human, but the tides ran high and the depths seemed endless. As Kalixi begins to find her metaphorical stride, the grass around them starts to become awash with new life, the pale yellows and muddy browns springing to life with greens and the smatterings of wildflowers.
Kalixi's dark little nostrils flare out, catching the scent of fresh grass and the buds of wildflowers. She does not open her eyes, as much as curiosity would pull. The tides were timeless and ageless but they could be studied, understood, predicted, and harnessed. Inhale, feel the breezes that bring the rain. Exhale, feel the flow of the water through the earth. Inhale, flowers and leaves unfurl to the sun. Exhale, roots pull the water into the stem. Invite the scattered motes of life to gather here, to drink of this fathomless well and thrive.
Perhaps if Kalixi lingered long enough she'd learn many things, but then again who knew what would happen to someone lingering in another's magic for too long. Once life has tasted of the well, it slurps greedily - and while Tade could handle that, and shut it off if need be, he was letting Kalixi guide this boat. That metaphorical boat was steady, for now but it was teetering on being overwhelmed by the torrent and the motes drawing on it.
Despite the obvious temptation of power, Kalixi is old, and stubborn, and not at all curious to see what lies deeper in the kaleidoscopic waterspout that is the questionable deity known as Tade. She paddles the boat, carefully, carefully, as one familiar with the capriciousness of waterways tends heavily towards, guiding the little motes of power and life towards the roots and rootlets, towards dried tendrils and parched trees. A gentle sprinkle, a watering can, not a bucket, not a bilge pump, just water and water and the life water brings.
All around them the grass and wildflowers grow, that life giving vitae creeping up the trunks of trees and starting to spread out onto the branches. Little white flowers burst across the boughs, intermingling with verdant leaves as the trees speed towards peak production and ripeness even out of season like this. The air is filled with the scent of orange blossoms.
Kalixi's ears swivel. Obviously, one doesn't want to open one's eyes and break the 'spell,' as it were, but... "Awright, when ought we ta stop, then?" she finally whispers, like a rasp being drawn over the edge of a rusty bucket. Her tail is twitching, and her toes have instinctively dug into the green-smelling earth just to feel and smell and experience a spring long-absent.
"Probably before the oranges start to rot." Tade offers with a hint of mirth to his voice as he gives Kalixi's paws a little squeeze. He takes a deep breath, inhaling all the unnatural scents and offerings that had long since left this place to become hollow, stale and weighted heavily with sea air, "See! Isn't this much nicer?"
"Smartarse," Kali rasps, and after one last deep breath, she lets go. It takes a bit for her to open her eyes. Her nose, apparently, demands the most of the sensory input first. She sniffs, lightly at first, and then more deeply, before sealing her nose and swiveling her ears to catch every scrap of the sounds of fresh green grass and leaves. Then all bets are off, and she opens her eyes, ears, and nose. There is a long, long silence. "Well turn me inside out and lay me dead ass 'fore the hearth," she says, her voice cracking ever so slightly.
Tade was definitely a smartarse, there was no point in even denying it. It simply was as it was. He smiles, as he always does, but at this very moment there seems a bit of something else present there. Though to pinpoint what would prove to be more difficult. Kalixi's paws are released and he gathers Syvis up so she's no longer weighing down Kalixi's lap, the great serpent settled half over his shoulders and half in his lap still. A deep breath is exhaled in a sigh, "Ellischester used to be such a nice place."
Another long, long moment passes, during which the grizzled old ottermom would very much insist that she is NOT at all crying. Kalixi gives Tade a silent, thoughtful side-eye. Something is being very very carefully contemplated. Risk versus reward, perhaps? Her whiskers bristle. Her ears swivel. Her brow ridges knit, and finally she gives her reputation and dignity a hearty rude gesture and lets herself just sprawl, face and belly down, into the springy grass. Flat as a rug, limbs to the four winds, face in a tuft of clover. There's a muffled response. Perhaps a noise of agreement?
Speaking of risk vs reward, Tade leans forwards once Kalixi has flopped into a sprawl and extends his hand to brush over the top of her head like a parent soothing a child. Only for a moment though before he shifts Syvis again to leave her to her own devices on the ground. The wizard stands, sparing a moment to stretch before lackadaisically wandering back towards the tree line Kalixi had found him standing near, "What do you believe in, Kali?"
A bristle of fur runs from the crown of Kalixi's head, down her spine, and all the way to the tip of her tail, when Tade goes and pats her like a child, but apparently she is far more interested in being face first in the Song of Spring than giving anyone the sharp side of her teeth today. There is a gravelly, querulous noise, muffled by the clover patch, before she rolls onto her side with the grace of an untethered barrel. "Eh? What d'yer mean? I believes in... well. This, mostly. Sun, sky, mornin', evenin', the tide, the seasons, yer knows." She gestures with a clawed paw before picking a sprig of clover and chewing on it blissfully.
"No, no... not that." Tade murmurs, casting his gaze beyond the now green boughs towards the sky above that has started to sink from bright blues into a mixture of blues and greys, "What about your ancestors, and Veselka? You're so distrustful of serpents even when you're meant to revere one." Syvis in the meantime, has once again climbed her way up a tree, though this time the emboldened branch doesn't creak under her weight. Her tongue flickers out and she boops her snoot at an orange to loosen it. It tumbles down and rolls up to bump into Kalixi's belly.
"Well, that's ONE serpent, ain't like yer all are the same," Kalixi rasps, instinctively rolling the completely out of season orange around in the grass with her paw. "Sides, I trusts -her- all right, now that I gots ter know her," a claw is pointed at Syvis. "Also the little bright one be fine. If ye mean yerself, lad, ye be chaos. A red sky in the mornin, a cloudburst mid-sunny day." The orange is rolled to and fro. "Also me ancesters be in all the things I said, aye. We come from all what be, and we go to all that will be." Pause. "If ye plans on havin' Veselka herself vouch for ye, ye must know I will still gives yer a shit because a Captain don't suffer fools. I trusts yer ENOUGH, anywise. Enough to follow yer a bit inter the fog. A bit." Lest he get a full head, and all.
Tade didn't need Kalixi to help him with a full head, if appearances meant anything anywise, "You can't trust mothers to vouch for their children, can you? They'll always say the best." He murmurs to himself, less likely that Kalixi would hear. A huff and he covers up anything he might've said to himself with a boisterous titter, "Who said duty couldn't be fun!" Was that really it? What duty was he even referring to? Into the fog indeed.
Kalixi just eyeballs Tade like he's a hyperactive child, that is to say, perhaps a touch warmer than previously, but not enough so as to damage her reputation. She curls around the orange, bracing it against her hind paws to give her forepaws more freedom to ease the peel off in as few long, curling strips as she can get. There is another period of rumbly thought before she gets up to deposit the peel, followed by shreds of the white under pith, into her harvest basket. "All right, curse me blind fer lookin, I'll bite. What duty be ye talkin' about? Outreach ter the disadvantaged, like our Count?"
"There's so much I can't tell you, Kali." Tade gently begins to sway again, the notes rising from his throat in words instead, the tune familiar, "Waking from the dream, resonates a whisper from within. Warnings from afar." He drifts off into humming once more, a few bars passing before he fades into momentary silence, "There are things in this world that are broken, Kali, and if they're left to rot then we'll all suffer."
Kalixi's brow ridges arch upwards, and she thoughtfully rasps her tongue across her teeth before neatly stripping the orange into sections, pith, and a small pile of seeds. "Fair enough," she finally says. "I be helpin' ye already though, so, yer knows, no needs to get complicated otherwise. Makes a fair bit of sense to me." There's a little shrug, before she goes to rummage through the new sprouts for any of the necessary herbs. "Most folks'd ask yer, why start here, aye? Why in the armpit? Well, 'cause it be well broken here, ain't it? Any idiot what needs further convincin' be, well, an idiot."
"Well... I didn't start here." Tade offers, his shoulders raising in a soft shrug. The breeze that picks up his cape is mild for the moment, gently swaying it to favour his left side, "I can't be everywhere at once, and things just... keep breaking." There is no doubt his vagaries are meant to simplify something he either can't or won't speak at length about, "There's nothing I can do to keep Ellischester from breaking again, until I know how to heal Sagcoln." A lopsided smile is thrown to Kalixi over his shoulder; he'd already espoused his poor skill with healing.
The old ottermom smiles back, a little bit, although hers is more lopsided just from the fact that she has a massively fuzzy and partially scarred face. "All right, all right, ain't no need to get all interspective an' suchlike, I already said I be helpin' ye," Kalixi rasps, waving a calloused paw dismissively. "Who knows what sort o' trouble ye'd get inter if I weren't." She puffs out her fuzzy chest a bit. "Yer shoulda -started- here, though. Mebbe if I was younger I coulda kept up with yer caperin' better." Haw, haw.
Something about what Kalixi says prompts a bout of boisterous tittering, Tade's shoulders jostling with the exertion of heaving breaths to support his mirth, "Oh." Clearing his throat, Tade manages to settle himself into a composed demeanor once more before he turns to regard Kalixi with merry scrutiny, serpentine eyes squinched cheerfully at the corners, "How old do you think I am?"
"Somewhere between sixteen summers an' a hundred times that, seems like," Kalixi says in her little rusty voice, sinking with a gravelly groan back down into the soft grass. She dredges a little wooden pipe out of her forelimb pouch, and chews the stem, unlit. "Don't deny it, now, the caperin', we all seen ye do it." Absent-mindedly, she pets the grass with her free paw, watching the blades of grass bend and spring back up. "Fret yer not, I won't tell, and yer can keep on bandyin' about like a spring-mazed buck to yer heart's content."
Tade flutters as if he was a preening pavloas, reveling in the fact that he'll forever look young. Another titter escapes him and he throws his arms out wide, dramatically tossing his cape back in the process. He intended for that to happen, "More than a hundred times that, but I guess it's close enough. Well, not really but oh well."
Kalixi just lets Tade have his hilarity, because it's not hurting anyone and he's having a good time. There are a few creaks and groans, as she gets back to her feet and adjusts her little gardening apron. "All right, now, caper on over here and help me pick s'more meadowsweet."