Sunday, October 24, 2010

[RP] Dreams in Salt, Part 3

So, it turns out I overlooked an entire chunk of text when I posted what I thought was Part 3 of this segment. Awkward! So here's the REAL Part 3. Whoops.

Part 4 is here.

The apartment was quiet. Motes of dust floated through the bars of blue- and green-tinted afternoon sunshine that spilled over the room.

“I hate riddles,” Ambika said finally, looking small on the overstuffed couch with her knees drawn up to her chest.

There was another pause, during which the priestess stared blankly at an indeterminate point on the rug, then she spoke again before he could ask any questions. “I woke feeling like I’d lived a hundred lifetimes, expecting my hair to be white and my skin to be dried up like withered paper. Instead I found myself unchanged, only a few hours having passed while I slept. My sense of unease was heightened when I found that--” she pointed at the bowl on the table, “still wrapped around my hand.”

Zana’zua met Ambika’s eyes for a moment before turning his attention to the bowl. “What’s in it?”

“I’ll give you one guess.”

Zana’zua winked at the priestess. “Shrunken heads.”

She rolled her eyes. “I threw it in the corner, but after a week it was still alive so I decided I may as well give it some water.”

The death knight chuckled under his breath. “I would guess kelp.”

“Right.” She stood and walked over to the table. The kelp lay in a harmless coil at the bottom of the heavy bowl. The dreamy look that flooded her face when she looked at it was unmistakable, but he was pretty sure she had no idea it was there. She dipped her fingers in the water.

“I didn’t know if I could survive another dream like that. I don’t know if you understand what I mean, or if you ever could. I came so close to losing myself in there.” Her eyes never left the frond of green-brown kelp, and her hand crept closer through the water until it closed around it.

Zana’zua’s expression changed to one of seriousness. “Ambika. Have you spoken to the Loa of the sea?”

She nodded dreamily, leaning over the table with her arm half-submerged inside the bowl. “I feltI would be in serious danger if I did not and was not willing to risk it. I washed the salt from my clothes and went to Grom’gol as quickly as I could.”

“Salt?” He frowned.

“My bed still reeks of it. I was soaked from head to foot in ocean water--I had salt in my eyelashes.” She waved absently toward her bedroom door with her free hand, eyes never leaving the kelp in its bowl of salted water. “You are welcome to see for yourself, since we are being... open.”

Zana’zua shook his head. “I certainly believe you. That is a great sign of favor.”

“I went to a lonely length of shore and gave an offering. Then I slept. I feared it would be another like the one that sent me to seek Olokun’s wisdom, but my fears were largely unfounded.” She stroked the kelp. “My visions that night were frightening, but not dangerous to my sanity.”

“And they concerned speaking to the death god?”

Mention of Bwonsamdi seemed to pull her out of her trance. She withdrew her arm from the bowl, grimacing at her dripping sleeve. “Eventually. First I was permitted several reminders of my childhood and coming of age.” Her voice was positively thick with sarcasm.

“Pertinent reminders, I am assuming.”

“At the time I did not think so.” She pulled a white towel from a drawer and blotted water from her sleeve. “A long time ago, I exacted justice and in doing so, usurped the authority of Bwonsamdi himself. On his own sacred grounds, no less.”

The death knight’s forehead wrinkled. “That is a heavy burden.”

“I have borne worse.” A teakettle went on the tiny stove, then she disappeared into the bedroom, still speaking through the half-cracked door over the sound of rustling fabric. “At the time, I did not realize I committed such a serious offense. I was merely using my fledgling, self-taught abilities to contain my... problem.”

“And the death god was angered.”

She emerged from her room in a clean, dry dress. It smelled like the ocean. “So it seems. The rest of the dream is not very important. What matters is the penance I have been given, and whether I can perform it to the Loa’s liking.”

He grimaced. “I will admit, I did not understand Bwonsamdi’s words. I do not know what help I can give you.”

“I don’t know either.” The kettle steamed and she poured water in her cup. “He must have had a plan if he chose to single you out for the task. I am not reckless enough to think I can defy him directly to his face and escape punishment.” She looked at him from across the room with more than a little fear in her golden eyes. “And I assure you, it is a punishment I will do anything to avoid.”

“I shall provide whatever help an old fool can.” He smiled wryly.

“Don’t think me ungrateful--I am not--but I don’t understand your readiness to help, especially when your role is so woefully undefined.”

He shrugged his shoulders. “If it’s what I am meant to do, then I have no other choice. Perhaps the death god will finally claim me.”

“So you believe in fate.” Ambika sat at the table with her tea. Her attention slowly wandered to, then fixated on the kelp in its pottery.

“To a certain extent.”

She absently touched the side of the bowl and murmured, “Even kelp grows toward the sun.”

“And so does Ambika?”

“I don’t know.” She looked up at him with the ghost of a glower on her face and almost looked like her normal self. “It doesn’t matter. I think I know what needs to be done, I’m just going to need a lot of pearls.”

“Pearls for what?”

“You’ll see. Can you find a pair of sturdy shovels, a pickaxe and a jug of lye?” She pulled a heavy pouch from her belt and pushed it across the table without looking at him. It was fat with coins and gave off only the faintest of muffled jingles.

He eyed the pouch of gold warily for a moment, then nodded with resignation and picked it up. “Yes. When will you need them?”

“Not until I have all the pearls I will need, and then some. If I don’t bring enough, I will have to start over, and we will have to dig him up again.” Her fingers curved over the lip of the bowl and she forced herself to pull her hand back and clasp it tightly in her lap. She was not so successful in prying her eyes away from the water inside.

“Would you like me to bring them at the same time next week?”

“Mm.” She stared at the bowl and slowly got to her feet, leaving her tea untouched on the tabletop. “Do you have any questions before you go? I have some fishing to do.”

The death knight shook his head. “If you need me before then, I sleep in a hammock at the Filthy Animal.” He winked. “You might even still remember where it is.”


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