Friday, November 30, 2012

Chapter 26: The Song of the Waterfall

The summer nights are hot, so they they hold their meeting outdoors, in the Hawksquills' backyard.

"The location Suchandra says Misrakesi is being held is not a laboratory," Pearl says, "It's the Landgraab Estate in Brooklyn Heights. And, it's currently unoccupied. The Landgraab family haven't used that house as their primary residence in decades. The only people going in and out of that house are housekeeping services, and security."

"Why would they be keeping Misrakesi in an unoccupied estate?" Farrell asks, "Wouldn't they be running tests on her, or whatever they do? What is she exactly?"

"Misrakesi is the cloud who rains joy, she is the dance of light on the river, the perfume of the lotus, the song of the waterfall. When she shakes her hips, even the greatest ascetics feel the burning in their loins..." Suchandra answers.

"Not to interrupt," Farrell interrupts, "But I was hoping for something less poetic and more informative."

Ariel chuckles lightly, "He was being informative, in his way," he says, "He's telling you his wife is an apsara. Just as the gandharva are celestial musicians, the apsaras are celestial dancers, a kind of water nymph, known for tempting ascetics from their meditations."

"The water spirits are especially fond of using seduction to being mortal men to their doom," Noelle adds.

"If she had appeared in her true form to them, the mortals who took us would have fallen to their knees before her beauty," Suchandra says, "But I was engaged in battle when the weakness got hold of me, and the strange mortals brought me to their white prison. Misrakesi had taken the form of the notes of my lyre strings, to sing battle songs to me as I fought. In the white prison, we had no power against the mortals, nor could she reveal her true form. And so, she is trapped in my lyre, which they took from me. I have not seen it, or her, these many year, but I hear her song, calling for me."

"The estate as been fitted with the same alloy they use in their labs, to weaken and fae who come near it," Pearl says, "So if they brought the lyre there. Misrakesi would still be trapped inside, and MorcuCorp may not even realize what they have."

"So they might just have this instrument on display in the house?" Farrell asks, "That would certainly make getting it easier, with the estate unoccupied."

As they confer over how to break into the estate, they are joined by a man who appears in their group in a column of light.

"You!" Ariel exclaims, jumping from his chair, "I thought you were dead?"

"I've spent more years amongst the dead than I have in the world of the living. But I've only truly died once," the newcomer says, "I had great difficulty coming here, the wards have been strengthened."

"If you've come here now, you must know what we protect," Ariel says, frowning as he realizes he'll have to do some major editing of the history his family keeps. "Your wife still lives?" he asks.

"Yes, of course, but I haven't come to correct your records, Keeper," the man laughs.

"I've come to see for myself this other relic of the past, the last of my sister's line," he continues, turning toward Aouregan, "You were already gone when I came back," he says, "And it saddened me greatly  when I was told our line was lost. Yet here you are, back amongst the living."

"Who are you?" Aouregan asks, trying to make sense of hi speech, "I know of no other kin than my brother, and our parents..."

"No, you wouldn't know me, my time was long before yours. And then, my time came again after you had been taken. But fate has brought us together again, here and now. I am Kvornan. You mean to break into the Landgraab Estate in Brooklyn Heights, yes? But it's not the house itself you must infiltrate. Below the ground, they have a cellar, full of things. Magical things. That's where you need to go."

"A storage facility, shielded by their anti-fae alloy," Farrell muses. Someday, he's going to discover a way to counter-act that. But in the meantime, "Aouregan and I aren't fae, we can get in."

"I can take you there, as far as their gates," Kvornan says, "But I can go no further. I'm no fairy, but they've put up very powerful wards against me in particular. And that's why I must ask you to retrieve something for me, something the Landgraabs took from me."

"A golden key?" Aouregan asks, thinking of the turtle in her dream.

"I suppose it is a key, in a way," Kvornan says with an odd smile, "It's my grimoire, and it holds many secrets, the key to great power, for those who have the power to use it. I left in my family's care when we last...disappeared...for my descendants. But the traitor Cecilia somehow got it from them, and it's been in Landgraab hands ever since. If she had known how to make use of it, she could have done much more damage than she actually did. But as she did not, it became another forgotten treasure, one of the many the Landgraabs keep locked up in their cellar."

Just as he had appeared out of nowhere, Kvornan was able to transport Aouregan, Farrell and Suchandra right to the front of the Landgraab Estate in Brooklyn Heights in a matter of seconds.

"This is as far as I can go, the wards prevent me from stepping any closer to their lands," Kvornan says.

"For me as well," Suchandra says, "I fell the ill effect of their weakening spell even this close; any closer and I will be drained of all power."

"So, it's up to you two, now," Kvornan continues, "In their garden you'll find a well; dive into it and you'll surface inside their hidden cellar. You'll know my grimoire easily once you come close enough to it, it's magic will speak to you, my kin."

"Misrakesi still sings her song, she cannot stop until she is released," Suchandra says, "You'll know my lyre when she sings to you."

Farrell and Aouregan run to the back of the grand estate, and find the well just as Kvornan described.

"Just like my dream," Aouregan observes.

"I'll go first," Farrell, "Kiss me for luck."

"Is it good luck to kiss a witch?" Aouregan asks.

"I wouldn't know," Farrell says, "But kissing you is always a good thing for me."

Farrell dives into the well, swims to its bottom and coms out again inside a cellar. It doesn't make sense, he thinks, swimming down and then coming up again in another spot beneath the first well. But he's where he needs to be, that's the important thing. He can try to figure it out later.

Aouregan follows him moments later.

"This is a nectar cellar," Farrell says as she climbs out of the well, "I don't see anything here but bottles."

"Maybe they've hidden the treasures the bottles," Aouregan muses, browsing the racks.

"Or maybe there's a secret entrance to their real storage facility hidden in these walls," Farrell says, tapping on the stones, listening for the tell-tale hollow sound of a secret chamber.

Farrell's search quickly reveals the secret door. "This must not get used much," he groans as he pushes the stubborn stone door, "I should have brought Elliot along..."

Even without his brother's muscle, Farrell gets the door open, revealing a far more industrial corridor, and probably a much newer addition to the estate's old nectar cellar.

Just one door lies at the end of the corridor, and through its window Farrell sees one lone security guard.

"It looks like he's dozed off," Farrell says, "But I don't suppose we can just count on him sleeping through our robbery."

"I have a flask of angry bees," Aouregan whispers as they quietly enter, "That would keep him busy."

"Busy, yes, but also very aware of our presence here. And it would leave injuries that would alert MorcuCorp to the fact that we'd been here. Can you just put some kind of sleeping spell on him so he doesn't wake until we've left?"

"That's a fairy curse," Aouregan answers, "I don't have that kind of power."

"Maybe I could trick him into drinking this flask of Bladder Flow," Farrell muses, "Though that's so powerful he might not make it to the bathroom. That would just be messy, and get us nowhere..."

"Bwuh..." The guard snorts, waking to find the two intruders.

"Hey!" he cries, rising from behind his desk and drawing his tazer.

With no time left for planning, Aouregan casts the first a spell that comes to mind on him.

"Toadifcation," she says to Farrell as they watch the guard transform in front of them, "For the next few hours, he'll have all the awareness of toad. When it wears off, he'll believe he'd had a very strange dream."

"That's probably the coolest power ever," Farrell says, "You better wait to teach that one to the twins until after they've graduated high school, though. Okay, so these terminals are probably some kind of catalog of what they've got here."

"Got it," Farrell says after a few moments searching the system, "Kvornan's grimoire is in the same cell as a something labeled 'The Magic Harp', which may very well be Suchandra's lyre. It's also the only musical instrument catalogued here."

"Clever," Aouregan says, caressing him appreciatively.

Farrell shrugs, "It's just a glorified card catalog. Anyone could use, even a child. Well, our children could, anyway."

"Imagine all the the things they must have down here," Aouregan says, awestruck by the long corridor lined with cages full of relics and treasures.

"It's too bad we don't have time to investigate it more," Farrell agrees, "But we need to get what we came for before the frog prince turns back into man."

"Oh," Aouregan gasps as they pass by a familiar image, "They brought her here, and keep her locked in the darkness."

"I'm sorry," Farrell says quietly, "She's too heavy for us to lift..."

"I know," Aouregan says, turning away, "It's just a statue, after all. The Landgraabs have buried much more than just her image..."

The cell they need is just another few feet away.

"There's the grimoire," Aouregan says, "Kvornan was right, I feel its power, calling to me. Oh, and is that a dragon's tooth?"

"I think it is," Farrell says, "We found one in the Landgraab castle when we were looking for you. Maybe it's the same one."

"The Landgraabs were known as dragon hunters before they even came to village," Aouregan says, "I'm sure they have more trophies than this."

"That's not creepy," Farrell observes as they come upon a statue of a woman, apparently made of ice, but not cold to the touch, "But there's the lyre."

"That statue is no statue," Aouregan says, "It has an energy, like its alive...maybe I should try to revive her."

"We don't know what it is, and we don't have a lot of time," Farrell says, "Let's get the book and the lyre, and go."

The sun is just starting to rise when they return to Suchandra and Kvornan, waiting for them by the driveway. The song the lyre they carry plays grows more excited as they near the gandharva, and when they finally get out of range the alloys fae-weakening radiation, Misrakesi returns to her natural form, and is at last reunited with her Suchandra.

"Your grimoire," Aouregan says, trying to hand the ancient tome to Kvornan, but he just shakes his head and pushes it back towards her.

"It is yours now, last of my sisters descendants. Take it, and give it to your children."


This chapter makes references to and ties together storylines from both my Roman legacy and my Summerdream story. I actually shot the Landgraab estate scenes in the Landgraab's house in my last Brooklyn Heights save from that legacy. And it was just as laggy as I remember it, lol.

I should be getting back to normal legacy stuff again next chapter, to see what Elliot and the kids are up to.

Since I haven't gone into huge detail about gandharvas and apsaras, I guess I should say something here.
Gandharvas are nature spirits, sometimes appearing in the form of animals like birds or horses. They are celestial musicians and always male. They are also often depicted as warriors, and are frequently engaged in battle in stories.
Their female counterparts are apsaras, the celestial dancers, who are associated with water, and are often appear in stories as temptresses harassing ascetics. They are also shapeshifters and have been known to cast powerful curses at humans who piss them off.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Chapter 25: The Falcon and the Turtle

"Wake up, mistress."

"Mist?" Aouregan murmurs, opening her eyes, "What is it?"

"You have a visitor."

Aouregan dresses herself and goes down to the door.

"Sir Falcon," she greets her visitor, "What can I do for you?"

"The giants have locked my wife in their castle," the falcon says, hopping up onto Aouregan's extended arm, "You must help me rescue her."

"Of course I will help you, good falcon," Aouregan answers, and together the woman, her cat and the bird set off on their mission.

"The castle is well guarded," Mist remarks, "You won't be able to get in through the front door."

"I know another way in," the falcon promises.

The falcon leads them deeper into the woods, to a stone well.

"To get to the Land-Under-Waves, we must go through the water," Aouregan says as she takes Mist in her arms, "Your fur will get wet. Are you sure you want to come with me?"

"I will follow you anywhere you go, mistress," the cat assures her.

"But I cannot go with you to the Land-Under-Waves," the falcon says, "For I am a creature of air. I cannot go myself, but I can give you my keen eyesight, so that you might see what needs to be done."

"Thank you, good Falcon," Aouregan says, "I will bring your wife back to you."

Aouregan steps up the edge of the well, and dives into its depths, with Mist right behind her.

After a long swim, they arrive on the shore of the Land-Under-Waves.

"Here we are, mistress," Mist says, shaking the water from his fur, "Now, which way do we go?"

"If you mean to reach the castle of the giants, you'll need to swim across the sea to the Isle of Winter," a  deep, slow voice says.

Looking down, Aouregan sees a spotted turtle at her feet.

"It's long way to swim, good Sir Turtle," she says, taking him into her hands. 

"Maybe for you," the turtle says, "But for me it is nothing. Here, take my shell, it will carry you across the sea in no time. All I ask in return is that you bring me the golden key the giants stole from me."

"I will do as you ask, Sir Turtle," Aouregan promises, and takes the offered shell.

"Come, Mist," Aouregan calls to her faithful cat, "We must sail to the Isle of Winter to rescue the falcon's wife, and retrieve the golden key."

"I had a strange dream," Aouregan says as her husband wakes beside her, "Mist and I were going to rescue the wife of a falcon from a castle owned by giants."

"I used to have dreams like that, when MorcuCorp had you," Farrell says, "Nightmares of searching for you, and never being able to find you. Or finally getting to where they had you, only to find you'd been moved..."

"My poor darling, you must have suffered so much, " she sighs, caressing him, "This wasn't a nightmare born of anxiety, like yours were. It was like the tales my mother used to tell when I was a child. This dream was a message, I was being given instructions..."

"Sometimes, when you've thought too long on a problem, your unconscious mind continues to work on it. That's what your dream was, Aouregan."

"No, this was no ordinary dream," Aouregan insists, "Nor was it a vision of the future. But it was important, a message I need to decipher...I wish you could believe me," she finishes, recognizing the look in his eyes.

"I can't help being skeptical," Farrel says, "It's my nature to question everything. But I believe in you, Aouregan. And if this dream leads you somewhere, you know I will come with you. I'll follow you anywhere you go."

Aouregan smiles as he speaks his last sentence, his words oddly echoing Mist's statement to her before she jumped into the well in her dream.

"If you're the cat, then the falcon must be Suchandra," she muses, "But who was the turtle, and what is his golden key? And where is the Land-Under-Waves and the Isle of Winter?" Farrell doesn't answer, his lips too busy kissing her neck to speak, and Aouregan follows him down the path of desire, forgetting, for the moment, her dream and the puzzle it presents.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Chapter 24: Serious Works of Non-Fiction

Shadow's birthday brings a whole shelf full of books, all for himself. What could be more awesome than that?

"In 'The Warlock of Palladia', the witches have green skin and ride brooms to their secret meetings. But they use their magic to look normal to regular humans. Does mom secretly have green skin?"

"No," Farrell answers with a laugh.

"But, how do you know? She could have put a spell on you so you couldn't see what she really looks like," Shadow says.

Farrell laughs, "'The Warlock of Palladia' is fiction. You'll have to ask your mother about what real witches can do."

Aurora has inherited her father's genius, and prefers historical books over the fictional tales her brother favors.

Aouregan tries to teach her daughter some of the basics of alchemy, but Aurora's attention is on her father's workbench.

"Go ahead," Aouregan says with a smile, "See what you can make with your father's scrap."

Aurora doesn't need to be told twice.

While Aouregan mixes her potions, Farrell has been busy with his, still trying to come up with a formula to neutralize the effect of the radioactive alloy MorcuCorp created to keep their fae prisoners from escaping or using their magic against their captors.

Cassidy drifted off while reading in bed, and sleeps with her book tucked under her arm, and dreams of the characters in herstory.

It's Saturrday! No school, all play for the kids in the Brannon household.

Aurora challenges Delaney to a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors.

Delaney does not handle defeat well.

But the cousins quickly hug and make up.

In the afternoon, the whole family heads out to Le Cirque Park, where a neighborhood party is starting.

Shadow seeks out his new school friend, Iola Hawksquill right away.

Iola is terrified that the circus themed park might attract clowns. Clowns!

Elliot busts out his costume and make up, and performs some of his mime and juggling routines that don't put too much stress on hi back.

"Someone putafreezespell on him!" Moth gasps as he encounter's Elliot's Human Statue act.

Tansy brushes some dirt off her pants, hiding her amusement from her gullible mate, "It's not a spell," she explains, "He's performing."

"I've been looking forward to meeting you," Tansy greets Aouregan, "Moth has been worried about you for as long as I've known him. My father and my sister have been concerned as well, though they were always confident you'd be rescued eventually."

"Your father and sister?" Aouregan asks, not sure who she means.

"Auberon and Evenfall. My sister says you knew her in your own time, and you've met my father in the dream realm. Thy send you their regards, but they don't like to appear around so many mortals, not even here, where the people are more accepting."

"This is the only place I've been since awaking in this time," Aouregan says, "What is it like elsewhere?"

"It's not much different, really," Tansy says, "But because this town has been touched so deeply by magic, the people who live here are more ready to accept it's reality than they are in most other places."

Cassidy rules at skeeball. Delaney is disappointed to score lower than her bookish twin. Games are her domain, she should naturally be better at them.

The grown ups are all secretly playing 'Guess who Scarlet Prynne's new babydaddy is'. Single mother Scarlet is pregnant again and has been keeping s silent about this one's father as she did about her first. But while everyone in town knew about Nathaniel Hawthorne's 'secret' affair with the young schoolteacher, no one has yet sussed out who her latest flame might be.

It's like these games have all conspired against Delaney, she just can't get a high score on anything!

Cassidy tries her hand at the claw machine.

The claw picks up a robot toy and dangles it in front of her. Will it drop?

Yes! Victory! The prize is Cassidy's.

"Here, I won this for you," Cassidy says, handing the toy robot to her sister, hoping to cheer her up.

Shadow is not as successful in his attempt to win a prize for Iola.

But Iola doesn't care, she's just happy to have a friend who'll be there to protect her if the clowns ever show up.

Aurora is far too serious to enjoy the frivolities of arcade games, a trait she shares with the town doctor, Ariel Hawksquill. They sit together for a game of chess, while he recommends some good, serious works of non-fiction for her to read.

Kyle has spent his afternoon schmoozing with the other children, including Amanda Rivers, a girl in his class.

While he's chatting with neighbor Stacey Meadows, whose son Philip is the same age as his twins, Farrell notices a newcomer to the neighborhood gathering, someone he never expected to see again.

"Suchandra," Farrell says as the gandharva approaches him, "What brings you to Drake's Hollow?" he asks, though he suspects he already knows the answer to his own question.

"I was looking for you," Suchandra answers, confirming Farrell's suspicion, "You rescued us from the white prison. They still have Misrakesi, and I cannot rescue her alone."

"So you need my help," Farrell sighs.

"I would grant you any boon in my power, if you could bring her back to me," Suchandra promises.

"I'll do what I can" Farrell promises, "There's no need to pay me. Stopping MorcuCorp's plans is reward enough. Do you know where they have her?"

Suchandra nods, and says he take Farrell there.

Another rescue from MorcuCorp's labs will require careful planning, so Farrell enlists his mother's aid.

"When we went after Aouregan, it was a trap," Pearl warns her son, "Can you be sure this Suchandra isn't an agent of MorcuCorp?"

"Nothing is ever certain," Farrell answers, "But it seems unlikely."

Pearl frown, but nods, "We'll need a different plan this time,MorcuCorp won't fall for the same tricks twice. Let's meet tomorrow night to work out what we need to do."

Claire shows up to the gathering later in the afternoon. "I wasn't sure I should come," she admits, blushing as Elliot takes her hands in greeting.

"Why not? It's a neighborhood party."

"I thought you might not want to see me in front of your kids..."

"Well, it's not like we're gong to be making out in front of them," Elliot says, "It's okay for them to see me talking to you."

The sky grows dark, and after their picnic dinner is done, it's time for the family to go home.

Cassidy and Delaney brought home a souvenir from their day at the park, and hang it on their bedroom wall.

It's past bedtime, but the girls are too wound p to go to sleep right away.

"You better check under your bed for monsters," Cassidy suggests as she prepares to climb into her own bed.

As if Delaney would ever be scared of monsters.

Still it can't hurt to look, right?

"I was just kidding, silly," Cassidy says as her twin runs screaming from the room, "There's no such thing as bed monsters."

"What are you doing still up?" Elliot asks, coming upstairs to go to bed himself,  nd finding Delaney playing on her rocking horse, "It's way past your bed time."

"There was a monster under my bed," Delaney explains, "It's not safe to sleep in there."

"You know I'm stronger than any monster, right?" Elliot says, "They wouldn't dare try to hurt you while I'm around."

Her dad is pretty strong, Delaney agrees, and no monster would be any match for him. With a hug goodnight, she scampers back to her room for the night.