RP:Fascination, Fancy, Fate
Part of the The God of Undeath Arc
Summary: Yozenra enlists Muzo to examine the Queen. Neither Muzo nor the Queen agree to meet up willing, after their fresh separation. Reginae's growing isolation and obsession with the snail given to her by Yozenra's late wife Pilar. They witness a scene from a dream, rogue black smog, and a way forward.
Mad Scientist's Lab
Yozenra'd approached Muzo several days ago. Reginae's been having intense conversations with one of her snails. The snail Pilar gave her after Reginald died, in fact. She told Muzo something wasn't right. That she thought the Queen might be possessed or worse, mad. Broken by the hardship of Alithrya and her own personal tribulations. Regi's gone mad, Muzo, she won't talk to anyone but her snail. She needs your help. That's how Reginae came to be here, in Muzo's lab, watching her snail encased in a dense glass tank. The naga looks at it anxiously, nose pressed against the glass and flinching any time the snail moves. Yozenra'd snatch it, knowing Reginae wouldn't come here of her own free will. Regi and Muzo were not...on personal speaking terms. The snail looks disinterested and indifferent to it's confinement while Reginae, for reasons unknown, slithers around the cage in a visible panic. The cage is chained to the table, locked by some magic pure strength and her abilities couldn't break. "Just let me hold him..." She begs Yozenra, who is still in the lab with both of them, if only to keep the peace. Reginae's eyes are wide with panic, pressing her hands to the glass with need. The sugar portion to the process was nearly over. The Queen's guard could tell her anger was mounting, churning below the surface. Another reason to stay - so the Queen didn't devour Muzo alive. "What's wrong with her...?" Yozenra leans over to Muzo, trying to watch whatever he's doing with anxious interest.
Muzo put up marginal resistance when Yozenra first proposed that she should bring Reginae here. To his lab. You know, where Muzo spends all his time. The one place he could expect her not to be. Alas, duty calls. As is his manner, Muzo sets aside his personal attachments to make room for professional responsibilities. Worse than I thought, yes, she isn't well. Bring her in. The lab is tidy. Muzo's grooming and attire is pristine, and his manner is subdued. His scales gleam in the lamplight as he works meticulously with the odd, bubbling, humming, twinkling array of alchemical accoutrements on his work bench. One of the burbling pipes gives a cough and sputters out a plume of smoke that congeals into... a sword? A fish? The image is hazy and ill-defined, like it wants to be too many things at once. Muzo waves it away with a grimace. "Yozenra, I want..." He lowers his voice and beckons the guard closer. "That snail, can we..." Muzo whispers confidentially. He dares to peek past Yozenra at the mad queen. Reginae must not overhear what he says next. "Get it out?" Slyly, he picks up a scalpel and gently taps the dull end on his workbench. But Muzo's scaly brows raise. "Examine it?" The scientist has to admit to himself that, yes, from a few feet away it looks like an ordinary snail. Ordinary except that it's magically locked in a terrarium and commands the obsessed, manic attention of a woman whose ordinary demeanor is downright stately. "Something... foreign going on here. I don't have many leads." The scalpel glints brightly as he begins slowly twirling it over his fingers. He avoids looking at the snail tank.
In the moment, Yozenra hesitates. The snail was a gift from her wife, Pilar, and Reginae happened to love it more than all her other snails. Except there was one time the queen brought home a new, oddly colored snail (Muzo) but it vanished quickly and the Queen’s guard didn’t question it. Maybe it had a disease that was spreading to the other snails, causing Reginae’s unreasonable (motherly?) panic. Regi didn’t react to Muzo’s presence in the room or the mistress lab in general. All her attention is focused on circling the tank to find weak spots. She’s done asking ‘politely’. So Muzo’s question brings Yozenra’s focus back to the circling Reginae. “You won’t be able to take it out if she’s in here…and she’s going to try and break that barrier if we keep this up much longer.” The naga’s tail shakes nervously, afraid of what Reginae might do if pushed. “If we’re honest…I’m worried it has nothing to do with the snail.” Yozenra frowns as Reginae frantically pushes her snowy hair away from her face. “Annoying, annoying…” She chanted, swaying back and forth as if hypnotized. Then, Reginae stills and stares, pupils dilated, at the encased snail. The snail is not impressive or doing anything unusually. It just exists as it had been moments prior. “No, you’re right but…” She pauses; face twisting in thought during the extended silence. Like she's having a conversation. Yozenra wraps her arms around herself and slithers back a human pace or two. If it was possible for snakes to break out in goosebumps, she’d be covered in them. “This is your area, not mine.”
Muzo frowns. His tongue flicks. He sets down the scalpel with a troubled sigh and looks back over his material analysis. "Can do it your way," his tone is singed compliance. "Tables please," the scientist holds out his open hand expectantly. Obediently, Formulae leaps from Muzo's belt, lands in his palm, and flips noisily open to a double page spread of charts and astronomical diagrams. "Ran hair samples through the flue matrix," he points to a diminuitive set of clay, pot-belly chimneys that sit nearby in the bench, all of them buzzing and sputtering and trembling in neat rows, like a little army of disgruntled chihuahuas. With tongs, Muzo picks one out of the middle and sets it aside where Yozenra can see. Unlike the other grumpy little chimneys, this one is serene; its tiny hearth glows blood red. A little tonuge of rusty red fire pokes out the top, waving and curling about. The way it tapers and writhes almost resembles a tentacle. "Blood red in flue thirteen is," Muzo buries his nose in the charts and squints his good eye, "lunar influence. Arh'Nuk, but, ah, tsk-tsk," his tongue flicks, "no, nothing about the writhing flame. Anomaly. Peculiar anomaly. Right, the queen." The reality of Reginae's mounting agitation is pressing. Muzo stands, tosses Formulae (the spellbook jumps into a vacant spot on the bookshelf), and slithers over to his potion cabinet. "Suggest chemical intervention," as is his way, "for her, ah, nerves." The bottles gently clink as his claws dance over their labels. "Sedative... tranquilizer... knock-out powder... hmm..." He grabs a large bottle of amber-colored liquid by the neck and gives it a swirl. "Brandy?"
Yozenra squints at Muzo. He's eerily calm about the situation now that it's upon them. Before he'd been very much against having the Queen here. Now he moves around and ponders like a caricature of a creature. Like a thing more book than sentient. Sorry Formulae. Reginae is tugging at the chains now, fist pounding on the thick glass. Yozenra can't figure out how these two thought they'd be a good fit. They are completely self absorbed. Muzo's examining his tinctures while Reginae becomes increasingly frantic. Useless. What does that moon have to do with snails? This science was bogus. They're both insane. "She's not going to drink Brandy?" Was that an actual solution he's offering? "Tranquilizer is fine!" Yozenra suggests, reaching for the oddly shaped tube. It takes her all of ten seconds to figure out how it should work. Reginae's given up on using her fists and is lashing the tank with her tail in teeth grinding thumps. "One moment, I'll retrieve him." It's a him, how Yozenra knows is beyond her. The Queen's guard's promise is a trap. The moment Reginae stop she flailing, Yozenra takes the tube and finds a healthy square of skin to jab it into. Reginae looks at Muzo, eyes narrowing suspiciously, like he'd planned this. The black ichor that previously swamped the lab begins to bubble up from the floor. This time, there's no sting associated with it unless the participants in the room remember that detail. Reginae doesn't so the illusion isn't cast with that in mind. Smog starts to thin the air but just as suddenly as it starts, it stops. Yozenra helps lower Regi to the floor as her body struggles against what the Queen's guard hoped was a harmless sedative. Yozenra looks at Muzo in frustration. "You're the doctor! You should be doing this!" She hisses in a low whisper. The snail, unchanged in it's passive existence, continues to exist in it's safe habitat.
Muzo sets the bottle back on the shelf just in time. He might have dropped it at the sound of Regi's crashing tail. It's definitely enough to make him flinch. "Something stronger than brandy, then," he reaches for a hypodermic tranquilizer only to have Yozenra reach past. "Watch it!" Muzo jerks his hand away in time to avoid the needle as she snatches it. "Wouldn't question your qualifications, queensguard," the ground trembles every time Regi slams the terrarium, and Muzo must close his medicine cabinet before any of the bottles can rattle off the narrow shelves, "but have you ever even administered..." Ah, well, fair enough. She seems to have gotten the gist of it. The smog dances around their tails, and Muzo briefly, silently panics. What's doing it this time?! With frantic eyes, he looks around the lab trying to spot the source and, sure enough, he sees Reginae, sees the accusation in her eyes, and sees the smog vanish along with the queen's struggling. "It WAS you!" Muzo murmurs aloud in wonder. He'd blamed the last smoggy incident on a smoking crucible. Implications whir through Muzo's mind, but before he can fully consider them, Yozenra snaps him back to the here-and-now. "Most doctors have assistants..." He hisses back. The scientist shuts his eye and rubs his temples. "...not hired muscle. Tss!" The queen may be tranquil, but apparently there can be no peace in this lab, because Muzo's raw nerves are showing. He slithers back to his busy, bubbling work bench and begins mixing reagents. Dull flashes and small plumes of smoke accompany his hurried work. At one point, Yozenra distinctly tastes yellow. How the taste got there (and how yellow would have a taste) are mysteries to a layman such as she. "No more objections from you." Muzo turns back around, tongs in hand. He holds a violently fizzing potion that twitches, jerks, and spits tiny fireballs of sapphire and magenta. "Pry her eyes open. Hold her still. Very still!" Carefully, Muzo begins slithering forward. "Should induce perceptual inversion on contact," he explains, lest the uppity Yozenra rebel outright, "make her, ah, dreams shine out through her eyes and onto the ceiling. Might find a clue there." If Yozenra complies, Muzo begins to dribble the volatile potion directly into Reginae's eye. "Still. Very still! Staighten up! Straight at the ceiling."
Yozenra trusts Muzo but he's been different since he'd come back with that glass eye. He had a temper she'd never seen before. Before, she'd peg him as soft. In most instances, actually. Now, she's tasting yellow and being directed with a sureness that clashes with Muzo's normal mannerisms. Hesitantly, Yozenra complies, tilting the Queen's head back and exposing her grey eye to the drops and ceiling. The image projected on the ceiling is fuzzy, waiting for the drops to roll away. When it clears, Reginae is in a forest covered in smog. In the distance is a castle and thought they can't tell, she has the distinct feeling that she's been here before. Only, she hasn't. It was her sister's memory. The dream jumps to Reginae's entrance into the foreign castle. Overhead, in the empty ballroom, a large moon hangs, the only source of illumination. A distant voice, wise and welcoming, whispers. "Come." Below the moon, shadows of naga bleed out of the floor, solidifying and bowing in it's light. One of the shadow approaches the Queen, detailed in the light to be her dead sister. Jaize claps Regi's shoulders, pushing her down towards the floor. Without resistance Reginae, too, falls to her knees and bows before the fixture. When she does, the moon glows brighter and cracks overhead. It had been hollow and inside was the snail locked in the terrarium. Yozenra looks urgently at Muzo, then back to the levitating snail all the shadow naga are bowing to on the ceiling.
Muzo keep a steady trickle running, lets it pool Reginae's eye before he eases up and cuts the flow. The potion is still fizzing, foaming, and tossing live sparks, but somewhere beneath the chaos, Yozenra can already tell that the stuff is seeping in. The dream soon comes into focus on the ceiling. Muzo watches in confused, enraptured fascination. "Reginae... a castle... Ah yes, lunar influence," he mutters, feeling affirmed in his flue matrix analysis. "Our snail, being... worshipped?" Muzo tilts his head to one side, pondering; unfortunately, in his absentmindedness, the tongs and potion tilt with it. Tiny fireballs shoot across the dream scene. Yozenra feels a bit of the potion spill onto her fingers. It tingles, and there's a numbness. For a moment, it seems like she can't feel her fingers, but as the potion takes hold, she might realize that it's because her fingers are feeling her instead. Muzo startles, realizes what he's done, and quickly tips the vial upright, though it's a little late now. Hard telling if the queensguard will be able to keep Regi's eyes steady in the ceiling. "Fiddlesticks," Muzo curses, "no antidote, sorry, should wear off momentarily." Rather than help her, he looks back up to the dream. "Bowing... to the snail. Bizarre. Sheer insanity." Muzo's tongue flicks. "And you don't think," he steals a glance at Yozenra, "the snail played a part in this somehow? Could have... bitten her?"
Yozenra hates Muzo’s lab a little more every time she’s here. Bringing Reginae here had been a last resort. Taking her to a real doctor could have set off alarms so here she was, prying her eye open and being felt by her own fingers while also being unable to feel...herself with the same fingers that could...feel her? She doesn’t understand and wants to leave immediately. “Watch it!” She barks but Muzo’s off to the races without her. Regi’s dreams aren't the only insane thing in this lab. Yozenra glares at Muzo through skeptical, narrowed eyes before shooing the scientist and his potions away from the Queen. “Enough.” She sees her hands are wagging but it feels more like she’s rubbing her elbows together. Muzo’s question gives her pause. “What...no. That’s ridiculous.” Reginae mumbles vowel heavy sounds and the snail in question continues to exist without malice or even awareness of it’s surroundings. While Muzo and Yozenra wax poetic over the dream’s meaning, a sedated Reginae continues to dream about the moon and the snail and the shadow nagas. “If you’re going to poke anything else, poke the damn snail!” The Queensguard is done playing nice. His methods were madness. Calm someone down? Get them drunk. Mental health issue? Cut apart the object of fascination. What did he enjoy about science? It wasn’t helping people, clearly. His wonky logic indeed felt ‘mad’; impulsive curiosity devoid of logical or moral considerations. Yozerna’s fingers still feel like herself when she lets the Queen’s eyelid go and takes full possession of her head’s weight. If only Pilar was here. She could splash more acid on this goon’s face. Just kidding, Yozenra doesn’t know Pilar did that. But she does wish Pilar was here. She always knew what to do, maybe not with Muzo but with tense situations and matters of the heart. Or mind. Both these snakes are crazy.
Muzo's expression hardens as Yozenra's patience finally fails. "Regret coming here?" She doesn't have to answer. The scientist's tail flows behind himself in undulating waves as he glides back to his bench yet again. In a nearby a glass bowl of sorts (made complicated by the addition of stems, inlets, and thrumming equipment), a yellow toad floats and spins helplessly in clear, pinkish serum. Unceremoniously, Muzo plucks the toad out and gulps it down in one, two snaps of his jaw. "Mmm. The queen, set her down. Book for a pillow. Formulae!" Obedient as ever, the sentient spellbook leaps off the shelf and flutters over to Yozenra. "Will you," he pauses for cold emphasis, "please, Yozenra, the chains. The tank." He dumps the rest of the perception-inverting potion into the bowl where a toad once was. "Open them. The snail. I'm inspired. Bring it." The serum swirls, and flashes dance through it like shooting stars. "Aren't you curious, Yozenra?" He looks to her expectantly. "Don't you want to know what's on our snail's mind?" It's a rhetorical question. Muzo aims to find out whether she wants to or not.
Yozenra won’t answer because as much as she dislikes the situation, she needs Muzo’s help. Oh how she hates that she does but she does. She watches as Muzo swallows a random toad and before she can ask where a pillow was, the book flies over to her obediently. Reginae, lost in a dream state, reaches out for Formulae, sensing it’s comforting familiarity. Yozenra wonders if the drops on her hands and the tasting yellow were clues that it was actually the Queensguard that was asleep so Muzo could cut apart the snail in spite of her earlier protests. His chilly demands don’t earn him any points but the Queen seems stable and comfortable curled against this random book so she obliges him by unlocking the tank. The snail is obedient and sluggishly tries to comprehend the vastness of life outside a tank but cannot. Yozenra, not wanting to contribute to the snail’s untimely demise, hands the snail to Muzo. When she does, though, the creature looks up at him expectantly. He’ll hear a voice, whispering low in the back of his mind creating doubt about his experiment. If he wanted answers, the snail would provide them but only to him. There are no tangible words but the implications are that Muzo was chosen, Reginae was supposed to deliver the snail to him but failed. Now that they were together, they could begin to unlock all the doors closed to Muzo before. Whatever fascination or fancy he sought, the snail could provide. But not if it’s dipped in the liquid. Muzo cannot tell –anyone- about it’s sentience or he’ll risk endangering them all. Lie to the Queensguard. Tell her you need more time. Yozenra watches Muzo, the snail, and then the swirling liquid below. “Is it going to kill the snail? Are snails even smart enough to think?” She looks pale.
Muzo watches and must suppress his sense of anticipation. The locks clink, the chain rattles, and yet for all Yozenra's misgivings, the snail is finally in Muzo's grasp. He plucks it up by the shell, turns it this way and that, then goes ominously still. The queensguard can tell that something's seriously spooked the scatterbrained scientist. His jaw falls open, and he takes a measured breath. Very slowly, very carefully, he picks up a plain steel probe off the bench and taps on the underside of the snail with it, prompting the foot to curl and sending the snail to hide in its shell. "As I suspected." Muzo's voice squeaks, and he must clear his throat. "GahEHM. Excuse me. Yes. Snail is, ah, venomous. Sting barb, very small." Rather than set the snail back in its tank, he hurriedly closes it away in a clay jar. "Need to develop," he tucks the jar under his arm, "an antivenom. Shouldn't take long." All this has left Muzo's throat a little dry, and he swallows stickily. "Mm, ah, the queen. Reginae. Not sure when this will wear off. The snail sting. Could take uhm, several treatments. Over several days. Hard telling with poisons. Yes," he nods quickly. "Impossible to tell. Ah, in the meanwhile, uhm," without relinquishing the snail, Muzo slithers over to the medicine cabinet and fishes through it for something, anything generally harmless and inert. A placebo. Painkiller, laxative, hiccup drops, aha, scale vitamin tonic. I wouldn't hurt the queen any to have a good, strong coat would it? Put a little shine on her scales? A dash of tonic, a bit of alcohol, a splash of jasmine--and voila, genuine snake oil. He shakes it all up hands it to Yozenra. "Detox cleanser. Return her to her quarters. Massage it into her scales. Should uhm," inwardly, he cringes, but he's committed to the lie now, "draw out some of the toxins." At least it will make her look healthier. "Temporary fix. Buy me some time. Go, take this, take the queen." Muzo urgently offers Yozenra the little flask. Take it. Go. Get out. Get out of my laboratory.
Yozerna’s visibly relieved Muzo didn’t butcher the snail. His explanation is brief and scattered. She can’t help but think something was wrong. Eh, she’s overthinking. The scientist has always been a boggled mystery of inconsistencies. He was trustworthy enough to help the Queen.She takes the bottle, gaze flickering at Reginae wrapped around Muzo’s book in the floor. Frowning, Yozenra slithers over to gather her employer’s body and Formulae with it. Sorry Muzo, you’ll have to work without it for now. Yozenra waits for Muzo to open the lab door, after clearing her throat twice for him to notice she needed his assistance. He didn’t spare her a glance as she left him to his work. Antivenom. Hmph. Reginae continued to dream of the snail, latched onto Formulae for dear life. She’ll wake several hours, still clutching the enchanted tome. She sighs it’s name, eyes foggy with sleep, before rolling over and drifting back off for the rest of the day.
Muzo sees Formulae in Reginae's arms. For a moment, the scientist considers calling the spellbook back to his side, but something in Reginae's posture prevents him. "Oh, yes!" Yozenra calls him back to the moment, and he breaks his stare away from Regi to hurry over and hold the door for her trusty guard. As soon as the door is safely clear of tails, Muzo bolts it firmly shut