RP:Time and Again
Part of the The End's Not Near Arc
Part of the What You Leave Behind Arc
Summary: Humiliated by her loss at the Second Battle for Chartsend, Jaize is summoned to distant Sarenoth, Kahran's foremost stronghold within the mystical Shadow Plane. There, she heeds a warlord's call to align her naga with his dark forces -- and not for the first time.
The Road to Alithrya
Jaize was alone. Completely and utterly alone. She'd transported at the tail end of the battle at chartsend. While her mages had gone ahead, presumably to Alithrya with Vestra in tow, Jaize had gone elsewhere. Here, to be exact. To be less exact, she couldn't be sure where her was. The air felt thick with sludge. Even with her chaotic magics and corrupted ways, this place lacked the comforts required of the living. Her lungs were heavy, the skin singed along her brow pulsed against her resurrected flesh. Just as her bones used to ache. Just as her skin used to bleed. The power was a curse, swirling in her veins and leaving her gasping for air in an endless miasma of night. The Queen snarled at nothing, spun around in concise circles to weed out attackers from all directions... And when this too failed to yield results, she pressed her back against a rotten, sticky trunk of some foreign tree and waited. Hopefully, she could gather her strength in time and move herself from this place back to the palace, to deal with Vestra's treacherous conspiring with her own pale hands.
The Shadow Plane
Lionel | The air thins but not pleasantly. The tree distorts, like a painting too wet to dry, and every bit of Jaize's skin will tingle and tremble with the sense of something wicked. Green streaks, weightless and pale, zip through the air from source unseen and coat the world of the naga's peripheral vision. It bends, the tree and the clouds and the field and all the rest of it, until a blur overwhelms her and a vivid chromatic light consumes it all. Bit by bit the light recedes and the blur gives way to a place out of hellscape. Jaize will be unharmed, intact and as sound of mind as her mind so chooses in the face of utter defeat and sudden transportation. But the world around her is destruction given form. The ground is cracked and swollen, and grave worms slither between the fallen impossibly-zigzagged trees that cover so much of the earth. Broken towers, black as night, float in the void panorama above; behind them, the sky is hollow and redder even than the sun on which Jaize's doomed spell lingered. Ghastly creatures stumble and fall on pathetic misshapen limbs in the distance. Some do not resume their wandering, but lie where they fall forever. Dominating the view less than a kilometer straight ahead is an obsidian castle with crimson torches and a drawbridge over a nebulous stark expanse that seems to yawn like a chasm without end. There are murder holes in the castle's balustrade, and shapes like orcs move in plentiful enough number to cast shadow even so far away. A pressure will build, a compulsion, a calling. The castle is calling to her.
Jaize | A throb snuck behind the naga’s eyes, the discomfort of which only escalates the longer she tries to ignore it. Crystal clear blues search the strange castle in the distance. She’s not unnerved by strange creatures or maggot filled forest that unfolded everywhither. The meurtrières cut a stark contrast to the torches that burned hungrily along the bastille. Her scales trace visible paths in the ichor that passed for the forest floor, paying no mind as she might have in life to the sludge-like substance that sank into the crevices between each individual scale. Travelling the path took little time, but the weight of the realm in which she found herself gave her the impression of traveling for an eternity. Her focus shifted, bobbing in and out of conscious or deliberate thought as she moved closer still to the orc strewn pathway ahead. The drawbridge seems too narrow, too thin to support her. Perhaps it’s the fear of falling into the pit that gives this impression to the disoriented Monarch. She swallows, exhales, and when the compulsion becomes more than she can bear, she continues on across the expanse with no memory of where she’d come from in the woods or how she’d arrived before the castle that had moment ago been a hazy silhouette.
Lionel | A massive door, the color of dried blood, swings open without a creak and slams soundlessly against the black stone walls. The summoning will take its target into a vast entry hall, pleasantly-scented with lilac and vanilla notes yet gruesome to behold. The floor is tiled, and each tile depicts its own unique vision of murder. The etchings are crude, and give oversized and eerie eyes to the misshapen creatures taking lives. The tiles seem to shift, subtly, over and over again, and the tools the killers use in the etchings shift with them. So, too, do the faces of the victims, so that in the final telling the floor is in fact an artist's massacre for all to see. Many lengthy paths branch out from the hall like causeways, but the gilded golden stairway is where Jaize will find herself next. The climb is long and the stairs wind in sharp spirals, but when she's reached the next floor she'll hear the pitiful screams of the tortured from behind a multitude of doors leading down a narrow stone walkway. There are no words between the screams, no sign of torturers demanding answers. There is only pain. What ghastly things are committed here, and for what possible purpose? The screams echo, and echo, and echo, and then fade behind Jaize as she finds herself ahead of one last door. Its ornate golden handle beckons, and beckons, and beckons, and then it swings open swiftly of its own volition, soundless like the castle's point of arrival.
Lionel | Ahead of her now is a chamber as decadent and sickly sweet as any she will ever see, for its rich red carpets and lavish porcelain accouterments and elegant banquet tables and great big crystal bowls of lush wine are at odds with the paintings on the wall, which tell stories of famine and blood frenzies and men and women destroyed in every way, and the whitestone and diamond statues of naked and debaucherous peoples from almost every race, and the hooked lances of the fully-cloaked guards beside an immaculate throne. Even the women tending tables are as unclad as those statues, and the men between them likewise, and the scars on their necks and shoulders and backs and cheeks and arms and legs are as vivid as the flowing wine.
Lionel | "Step forward, wounded child," an incisively bold and proud voice hails with command from upon the throne. A man in silver silks, with an almost outlandishly ornate jewel-studded crown upon his head, moves his hand only slightly. His eyes are like the eyes of scholars. His body is lithe like a predator's. "I am Kahran. And you will have your revenge."
Jaize followed this path with abandon. It was a dream world, surely. A delusion of her power, a calling home from the gods themselves. The prediction of Vakmatharas, Delisha, and the Spider Goddess was not far fetched. She had seen the triad in dreamscapes before. Fogged memories of what would come to pass and what had come before. The shifting images on the tile of murder and desecration of human life fell in line with Vakmatharas. The garbless servants, the risque statues...as if crafted by Delisha herself. The delight in suffering that lingered here, a heavy scent that only the Spider Goddess could conjure. Together, they formed this palace...knocked Jaize off her course home...and put this man in silks in her path to aid her for they believed the power they instilled in her rotting flesh. Here, the illusion provided by the gods shimmered and shook. Glimpses of an eyeless socket flickered behind one of her stunning eyes. The color of a frozen lake, glossed over with a white film to catch and redirect the sun’s envious gaze. A slacked, decrepit jaw with tangled flesh where her otherwise pristine pale cheeks now stood. A dim light in the darkness, where now a fire burned at the base of the throne, as far in as she’s allowed.
Jaize | Kahran. His name ran through her veins like new blood. His confidence flushed her of doubt. Her scarred flesh, now fused with the ancient crown, gleamed like melted wax in the flickering light of the hall. Her lips, dull and grey, cast in the truth, twisted into a smile. Who would call her child but the Dark Mother? Who would reach out their hand but the Father? Who was Kahran but another face for their blessings? Another weapon for their prize? The waves of power that ripple from this man are intoxicating. Her heart, long still, twitches to life so her cheeks might flush with envy. With desire. The power...gods, sweet...cleansing power. All she needs is a little more to take down her sister...and take her place as Alithrya’s Queen for now and always.
Jaize | “This is what I was born for…” Her words are dry but spoken with great purpose and passion. Feeling that never wavered. “This is my destiny…” A declaration and a plee. “Tell me how…” A child’s whisper, digits balls against her chest to stave tears of bottomless rage. How had they done it? Those Chartsend...insects. How had they stood against her at all? Slowly, she moves forward, as close to the man who calls her as his guards will allow. “Tell me how…”
Lionel | Kahran watches her with the interest a man of other means might harbor in a prize fish or a private dancer. The vanity in his studious gaze cannot be overlooked. He witnesses her revelation, sees the truth in her newfound scope. At Jaize's approach, his guards extend their pikes in his defense in one sharp, fluid blocking motion, but he waves his arm leisurely and they pull back their pikes and turn at once to face the walls. "You were born for ever greater plunder than your precious Alithrya. The naga are cunning in ways most others cannot, will not, comprehend. Your people would have consumed the world with your righteous animus, but cruelty can come at any hand, at any... time." Fluidly, gracefully, he rises from his throne and closes much of the distance between them. He steps gingerly down from his dais, his scholar's eyes watching Jaize ever more carefully now. "Time. Now, there's a word for the ages. Vuryal had ambition. But he overextended his reach. You were wise to align with him, but only an empire blessed with the conviction of the Dark Immortals can stand the test of time."
Lionel | He steps past her, but lingers beside her. His smile is venomously knowing. "There was a time," he continues, his emphasis on the word unwavering, "that I was but a man. I had ambitions, too," he breathes. "Khasad, Elazul, they saw them and I aligned. You do not know the powers I gained from their tutelage." One of the nearby portraits fades into flame and burning flesh. The scent of it permeates the room, but is accented by an overwhelming scent of victory. Green fields razed red. Beneath the image, two words: 'Vae victis'; woe to the vanquished. "But you will." He laughs shortly and turns to face the defeated naga straight-on. "One among the pack of cretins that stopped you from your rightful grasp of Chartsend knows that portrait personally. I set blaze to his full country from shore to shore. Catal was extinguished in one fell stroke. Next to that power, the cretins bide their time, but time waits for no one. Even your Vuryal learned that lesson harshly, and now so too shall your enemies. Align with me as you aligned with him. Take your place in revenge against those that deny your ascension. Stand as a general in my armies and you shall have more than fair Alithrya." Kahran's eyes shimmer alluringly. "The world shall know the cunning of the naga."
Jaize | The pikes do not startle her but give her pause. Her fangs were set, pressed against the back of her lips, ready to rip apart the guards when Kahran flicked his wrist with such sedated wave. Is it possible the atmosphere is increasing her blood lust? That the power radiating from this place is twisting her mind? Just as she’d done in the meeting with Vuryal, her eyes alight with the possibility of expanding her influence. Born for greater things? This man understood the value of the naga, understood their plight where most did not. To the rest of the realm, what are naga but monsters? Liars? Deceivers? But no, Kahran saw them as cunning - a valuable skill for any warrior or army. Vuryal. She snorts through her angular nose with disapproval. He’d done her no favors with his promises. The rapaciousness nature of his empire had been entirely self-serving. She had done her time! Put in her work and deserved, at long last, an ending to the struggle. To the birthright she claimed and the respect she desired. Her arms knot across her chest, gaze firmly locked on the scholar as he moves. An empire blessed by the Dark Immortals. Ah yes, she’d heard of this. After her previous reign. If the names were spoken now by common folk, they were whispered like curses. Khasad. Elazul. And this man was aligned with them before their end. The blood shed, the heroes born the ashes of cities and landscapes destroyed. The portrait shifts and lights her pale face. Her eyes widen with admiration at the beauty that unfolds; the sensory overload of factors that would quicken her still breath and flush her cheeks with adrenaline.
Jaize | “Rebirth by fire…” She whispered with a malicious tenderness, wanton benevolence. And what was she, but someone reborn in the blackened pits of the twisted ones? As Kahran talks of her failure in Chartsend and the destruction he wrought to a member of those who opposed her, goosebumps trailed her spine. Her eyes shone greedily, the portrait the burned expanded in her mind’s eye to an entire country! Cleansed, she imagined, in the lackadaisical way he’d waved off his guards. ‘Time waits for no one.’ “A well learned lesson of the naga…” A harder learned lesson for Jaize personally. “And I am quite done waiting.” Her arms unfold, palms latch onto either side of her hips, aslant to follow the position of her scales below. Kahran did not -appear- to be asking for anything but an ally in the fight against the same do gooders that continue to creep out of the shadows, a vermin infestation that needed to be dealt with. They had the same problem, why not align? Even if she wanted to, how could she deny the reflection of the flames as they glowed, sinisterly, in his direct attention? And for the second time in her history, Jaize places herself in the hands of a man with greater power than her own with the expectation that she will be victorious in the end.