eight_or_eleven: (Windy)
Upon arrival, they felt it.

It wasn't just the chill and the fog and other odd things. It was more.

Ominous. Fell. Possibly even malicious.

They didn't waste time; they immediately began to seek it out. Whatever it was. And wherever it was coming from.

Before it sought them out. Being caught unawares by anything is just not done.

After examining the interior of Milliways [making note of the patrons who seemed to be feeling the cold that seemed to weigh down on them], they turned to head out back.

"Strength. Look. More of them. Just like the ones in the bar."

Wheel pointed to a boulder by the lake. Carved into it were several crossed-out circles. About six or seven in total. Small. But there regardless.

"Got any ideas what they are?"

"Unfortunately, Wheel, I don't."

"Think it's connected to all this cold and fog?"

"That's a possibility."

From there they continue on in silence. In the cold. In the fog. Counting yet more symbols from time to time.

Eventually they make their way into the forest, where the fog seems especially thick and oppresive. Shujaa and Utani immediately go on the alert, growls getting louder the further they go in.

It makes it hard to notice that the only sounds in the forest are the leaves crunching under their feet, and the angry warnings from the lions. But Wheel notices first.

"Shujaa, please," he admonishes as he stops to look about him. "We should have seen something by now."

"Seen what? What do you mean?"

"Animals. Birds. Creatures. Ever since we entered this forest the only animals I've seen are your lions."

Strength began to look about the forest too. Nothing.

"I don't hear anything either. Nothing made by wildlife that is."

It was like the only other living things in the forest besides themselves was the vegetation.

They are afraid, said Utani. They are in hiding.

Utani would know. She was afraid too.

Animals feel these things more than humans do.

"Maybe it's just me," Wheel said thoughtfully, "But it almost looks as though even the trees are frightened." He looked at Strength then shook his head. Perhaps he was imagining things. "Think we should keep going? Find more clues?"

"Not today. We'd be better off going back to the bar. I'm up for a nice drink. Whatever all this is can be best analysed over a hot apple cider."

"Sounds good to me," Wheel agreed. "Let's go." He began to walk forward, then stopped. "Shujaa?"

The lion had his back turned to them, and he growled low, his gaze sweeping the undergrowth.

"Shujaa, come on. We're going inside." Strength this time.

One more growl, and he fell into step behind Strength and Wheel.

He was sure something was watching them...

The gift.

Jul. 17th, 2011 10:08 pm
eight_or_eleven: (Thoughtful)
Skill had prepared quite the feast.

Rarely did the castle where Strength sometimes lived have so many guests.

Most of the cards were home, and as was to be expected, there were spirited debates being volleyed back and forth between those cards who sat next to each other.

But they were not the only ones present.

No, tonight the castle was open to all the divinatories, and those who were able to come, did.

Numbers.

Signs.

Constellations.

Stars.

And, of course, a few of the sentient races who had come to the castle for help.

The dining hall was full of beings both of supernatural nature and mundane.

It made Strength glad duty had not called her away. Or for that matter, the rest of the immediate and extended family.

But one was not there. He was still away on duty.

Justice.

She missed him. Missed him when he was away.

Stirring her food idly, her fork began to trace outlines and then pictures on the plate. And she sighed. He should be here, to attend.

This soon bored her, and so she began to stare out the window, lost in thought. Through the paned glass she could make out [or thought she could] Utani's brothers and sister, out stalking the stellar kingdom with their mother. Chasing prey amongst the galaxies. Soon perhaps they would have mates and children of their own to guide until they too became stars themselves.

She sighed again. The voices of the guests seemed to fade away.

Until she sat upright. Set her fork down. Got up with a minimum of attention.

And turned towards the door.

"I missed you too," said a familiar voice, and Strength's heart began to beat fast.

Shujaa and Utani got up quickly and made their way over to give greetings.

"I thought you were on duty."

"I am," said Justice. "I came here to see what all the fuss was about."

"Oh, we've had parties like this one before. You're not missing much," Strength teased.

In reply Justice placed a hand on her arm and motioned her away.

"I'd like to stay longer, but I can't."

"Duty."

"But I did stop by long enough to bring you this," he said as he took her hand, palm up.

A small box covered in fine silks and velvets was placed in it.

"Open it."

Inside was a golden torque bracelet, with lion's heads on each end.

"Oh, Justice, this is lovely!" She took it out and placed it on her wrist. "But I don't think you took time out from duty just to give me this."

"I didn't."

"What then—" she began, then gasped. Whispered. "Oh, Justice..."

A smile tugged at her mouth, while an identical one took its place on Justice's face.

"I'm taking that to be a yes?"

Strength fought for words for several minutes. She barely noticed that Passage and Misery were standing in the doorway, exchanging conspiratorial grins.

"Is it?"

"Of course it is love," she said, and flung herself into an embrace which left Passage and Misery to tittering.

"I must go now," Justice said as he let her go. "But I will return. By then I expect the news to have reached everyone," he added with a wink.

"I'll be waiting," she said, before returning to the feast.

Misery and Passage were already chattering excitedly to Seven and Cuauhtli when she returned to her seat.
eight_or_eleven: (Tarot)
Stories end, and stories begin.

One chapter in the endless saga was over, to make way for the next.

Flanked on each side by her lions, Strength looked out at a sky that seemed to be both gold and purple, as if someone had been playing with this world's gradient settings.

It amused her, in a way. The sky was not always like this.

But it was pretty.

A nice change to the usual, even if the usual was always changing.

Change.

Ah, yes. Change.

It had come to one of them, and now, she thought, it was coming to her.

She remembered the meeting where they all gathered to discuss and argue the matters set before them. There she'd made a personal choice.

She would go back to him, if he asked her to.

He had, and she did.

Just like old times, she mused, mind drifting back to that night.

It was like time had not passed at all.

A sound of sand whispering as footsteps disturbed the grains. All but silent, but she heard it, and knew without looking who was making their way over.

Justice.

He had decided to come out here to be with her. And she welcomed his presence.

"How does it feel?" he asked her, as Shujaa moved away from his mistress to allow Justice to stand next to her, to put a hand on her. If she welcomed it, he welcomed it.

Strength provided the other half of the gesture by leaning against the other card.

"I think you know," she teased.

He did know.

"I want to say 'as good as before'," she began, then added, "and some part of me wishes to say 'better'. But I don't think either response is fitting. Neither is truly adequate enough."

Justice moved his hand from her arm to her waist, his arm crossing her back.

The familiar touch caused an old and very familiar feeling to rise, and with it, old and familiar anxieties.

"Because this time, we start anew. Truly anew. We walk a path together that is being repaved as well as being discovered for the first time. Unlike before, we are given liberty to love."

Love. Yes.

This time there was the freedom to truly face and feel love without any hesitation or fear to barricade the door to their hearts with.

It was strange, and yet welcoming.

Strength was going to discover just what courage meant, and what it meant to be courage.

"I am not sure if this time it will last," Strength said. "It may be as it was before. A time to enjoy, not for its permanency but for what it gave us."

"Permanency is not why you came back. Nor is it something you promised me the night you did come back. I will not lament if it is not permanent. I will enjoy what I have for however long I have it. That, I think, will do. And if it does become permanent? Then I shall have a reason to rejoice."

"I think you did quite a bit of rejoicing that night," Strength teased her returned lover. "Enough that the others knew what had transpired between us even without having to tap into the network that connects us all."

Justice coughed. She knew he was blushing. It made her laugh.

"You had reason to," she added. "And you still do. This time, whatever happens between us, it will be for and because of love. That, more than anything else, is cause to rejoice. Because the cards are at last beginning the next stage of their evolution. I for one will welcome this change."

"And what about the others? Do you think those that object will change their minds?"

"If they do, I will be happy. If not? I will wish them well whatever they decide to do. I will not begrudge them that."

Justice nodded, and silence fell about them, as they watched the gold and purple tones swirl and shift in a slow and subtle dance over the ocean. As though it intended to reflect the ever-shifting state of affairs below it, the ever-shifting state of affairs in the lives of the cards.

They stayed like that for what felt like hours. Or was it days? Time meant nothing here.

"We should get back to the castle," Strength said after the lengthy pause. "I think it's time for a little more rejoicing."

This time, it was Justice's turn to laugh...
eight_or_eleven: (Looking down)
All things must come to an end.

Looking at the four white lions—two male and two female—she knew that this time had come to its own end. Leo Minor desired that her children should return home, to take their proper place amongst the stars.

Some of them older siblings, likely.

A tear slid down her cheek. She'd come to know and to love them all. Fundisho, Ndia, Utani, Nuru. They'd grown from tottering cubs to majestic adults, white as the first snows of winter.

By the gods, she was going to miss them all.

Unless. Leo Minor had decided that Strength had done a commendable job and permitted one of her children to stay behind.

I hope so, she thought to herself, as Shujaa nudged his muzzle into her hand.

We must go; she does not wish to wait.

"I know. I just..."

She sighed. This would be their last day at the castle, and she wanted it to last.

Remain this way forever.

"Forever" isn't something we get to enjoy much of, even if we do last forever.

"Right."

We go. She waits.

Once again summoning the bridge connecting all the worlds of the divinatories, she stepped out into that vast star field, feeling as though it were only yesterday that she was here last.

Welcome, Strength of the tarot, Leo Minor said in her resonating voice. Strength could swear that the light of several stars seemed to flutter and dim before restoring themselves. Much time has passed.

"And yet, very little has," was Strength's reply. "For us."

Indeed.

Leo Minor seated herself down, though there was nothing about that seemed to be supporting her body.

Come forth, my children, the lioness said without preamble. Let me see you.

All but one of the lions Strength had with her strode up to their mother.

Ah. You are all big and strong and well. I approve.

Stength felt some of her anxiety and her bittersweet sadness abate, but only a little. There was still the verdict to be delivered.

The verdict she hoped would be delievered in her favour, but, from the look on Leo Minor's face, and the ones on the cubs...

You have done well, Strength, but alas, what it is you seek is not to be. I am sorry. Leo Minor spoke again, and though Strength had a resolved expression, there was a hint of sadness about her.

Leo Minor continued on.

The time has come for you to take your place in the heavens, to watch over and guide all those who seek it from the celestial kingdom.

Suddenly, the cubs began to glow, their bodies shrouded in luminosity.

Was this how they became stars?

Curiosity overrode her sadness—this was not something she had ever born witness to before in all her life.

Ndia strode up to his mother first. There was a nod from him towards Leo Minor, and the glow that surrounded him became blinding, as it swallowed his corporeal form, and he shot up and away towards a cluster that gathered together to welcome him.

One more to light the way; one more to blow away the darkness.

Fundisho stepped foreward, and like his brother, was transformed and sent to take his place in the starscape, quickly followed by Nuru.

Only Utani seemed to hesitate. Strength wondered why she did. Did she not wish to become a star herself?

Surely there is no greater honour? Strength silently wondered.

Star daughter, Leo Minor said, also having noticed the reluctance. What causes your hesitation?

Beloved mother, Utani said, voice full of respect, Brothers, sister...

The lioness' voice trailed off. Her siblings were all calling to her, telling her to come forth and join them.

No, she said. No. No. I wish to stay here. Not in the playground of the Stellar People, but here, with the one who has nurtured me until this moment.

You desire to stay with Strength?

Beloved mother, yes I do.

Utani turned to look at Strength who was trying not to appear too hopeful, lest Leo Minor overturn her daughter's choice.

But free will was the law everywhere in the Divinatories' world, and it was no less true in the Star Kingdom.

Very well then, but know that your choice is permanent. You will not be able to join your brothers and sisters, even if you desired to. You will walk the terrestrial worlds, a wandering star unable to ascend to the heavens above.

Utani did not look as though she regretted her choice.

You may speak to them, and they to you, but you will always be apart.

And lonely? Strength silently said.

Never lonely, Shujaa assured. She has us, now.

Us.

Thank you, beloved mother.

The pair was now officially a trio.

Names.

Mar. 11th, 2008 07:22 pm
eight_or_eleven: (Tail tug!)
Like all the other days in the last fortnight, the cubs had been sequestered away in another part of the castle. It was their request, once they had found their voices, after all. They needed the time alone to deliberate their names.

After all, now that they had voices, they would also need identities. Something to distinguish them from each other.

Strength sat at the ocean's edge, watching the waves lap lazily against the shore; Shujaa lying behind her. Against the near-white sand, he was hard to pick out.

How do stars and star-children choose their names? she wondered. Was it the way some races did it? Was it a matter of coming into the knowledge of what it always was, and you simply needed to wait long enough for the awareness to be realised? Or was it something you chose after deliberation? Or did their mother tell them what the name was, and that was that?

Well. They had all the time they needed; she just had to wait.


It would not be long.


Though time seems to be more anomaly than anything else here, it does pass. And in the space of what humans would call "a day", the cubs came out of the castle and down to the shore.

"You have names now?" A simple question that allowed the cubs to tell Strength how the naming was done.

Yes, we do, said one of the males. Our mother had to awaken that part of us that would allow us to access our names.

So that was how it was done...

"And what names were revealled to you?"

If the cubs could smile, they would.

Strength had that "don't keep me in the dark" look.

The other male stepped forward. I am Fundisho.

The male who had spoken added, And I am Ndia.

"And you two? What names did you recieve?"

Utani, said one of the females, and the other said, Nuru.

Strength grinned. "'Direction', 'path', 'kinship' and 'radiance'. They are all good names."

We're glad you approve, said Fundisho. As is our mother.

There was a nod from Strength. "Well. Now that you are named, what say we have a little celebration for the six of us?"
eight_or_eleven: (Windswept)
She stood in the middle of a vast star field, speckled with stars and galaxies and nebulae of all kinds. It was strange, really. Here in the depths of space there was nothing to stand on. Rather, she looked like she was standing on something very invisible to the eyes of all.

Suspended in space.

Even the lion, who paced a little, awaiting the arrival of Leo Minor.

The Great Lioness would know they were there. All the Star People knew whenever someone entered their world.

Strength just had to be patient. Like Earthen cats Leo Minor liked to take her time in matters.

And given the immortality of the divinatories and their kin, well, Strength had time to wait too.

A stellar wind picked up, ruffling the lion's mane and blowing Strength's hair every which way, creating an odd sort of halo about her head.

"She'll come Shujaa. And then we'll know if she has cubs."
eight_or_eleven: (Windswept)
Sometime after the journey of Draco to the Tarot's world and his return to Milliways...


Some time had passed since Strength had set foot in her home world. In fact, not since Mary Anne had been crowned the Queen of Swords [with the appropriate festivities of course]. That wasn't what had brought her here today. Nor was it the boy Draco Malfoy. She was old enough to understand that what's done is done; there is nothing to do except wait and see if he passed through her sphere of influence.

She figured he would, eventually. He'd need to find his inner strength to face this trying time, but that day wasn't today.

No. She came here because she wanted to come here. She'd developed a habit of spending far too much time in the Bar at the End of the Universe that she was neglecting her true home.

So that was why she stood on the shoreline looking out at the now-turquois ocean playing about under a topaz sky. It was mid-morning, with a nice wind brought in from the ocean. Just the kind of weather to simply do a whole lot of nothing, or to enjoy being home.

Not far from her sat a pile of stones. Flat. About the size of a man's palm. Perfect for skipping. She picked one up, pulled her arm back, and gave it a throw. It hopped several times before landing in the water with a satisfying "plop". This action was repeated until all the stones were gone. She didn't worry though. If she or someone else here wanted them to return to where they were they'd reappear, just as they were when they were found.

Which they promptly did, if a touch wet from their dunking in the water. And were subsequently tossed back into the water.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

It was good to be home.

It's never too late to start coming back on a regular basis. This family might not be the easiest to get along with but they still miss you.

"I have spent centuries coming in and out of this place," she points out to the lion. "It's nothing new."

"He has a point," said an all-too-familiar voice. Justice's. Of all the cards Justice was the one she held closest to her heart. Some even said it was because the two cards were the only ones known to switch places in the decks the sentients used.

"He does. I've just become fond of the bar."

"To the point where you're starting to neglect visiting our world?"

A stone flew out towards the ocean, bouncing off the surface and then disappearing.

"We're beginning to wonder if you'll ever come back. If you'll ever call this place 'home' ever again."

"It is always home. I might spend a century away from it but it's still home."

"Then come back to it. Come back here."

His tone said, "Come back to me." And she understood the unspoken words.

"Justice I can't. We can't. That was in the past. Things ... change. We grow. We're not static any more than the people we serve are." She turns around to face the blindfolded man. "I'm not Misery who desires normalcy for the sake of normalcy. Chasing after sentients in the vain hope that this time, this time it'll 'work out'."

Despite the blindfold Justice looked saddened.

"You're dearer to me than anyone else, but we have to move on."

"So you can spend more time mingling amongst the sentients in the hopes that one will fulfill your interest for as long as he lives?"

"Justice when did you start harbouring resentments? We drifted apart; that's all there is to say. Whether I'm looking for a mortal to spend time with isn't important. Especially when I have not, and am not currently looking either."

Justice sighed. They'd drifted apart more than two hundred years ago, yet it was still fresh in his mind.

"Maybe one day our paths will cross again but right now they've diverged. And as much as I wish to stay there are places I need to go to."

"Not the bar?"

"No silly; not the bar," she laughed. "I am to visit the Star Kingdom to see if Leo Minor has had cubs recently. It's a rare event when she does, but if she's had any..."

Strength has considered giving me a companion of my own to spend time with, the lion says.

"Yes. And if we find that Leo Minor has had cubs, and if she's willing to give one to me... Well. We'll just have to give you a name so you know who I'm talking to."

I already know who you are speaking to and as for a name I have chosen one.

"You have?" said Justice. The animal companions of the cards did not always have names, but those that do were either named by their card companions or chose their names themselves. "What is it?"

I am to be called "Shujaa", the lion—Shujaa—said simply.

"'Brave one', in the language of one of the sentients. It suits you," Justice approved.

It should. I am after all an embodiment of courage.

"I thought you were the embodiment of animal passions tamed," joked Strength, and the lion hrumphed. "Well. Shujaa. I believe it is time we made our way to see Leo Minor. To see if she has cubs." She turned to Justice once again and placed a kiss on his cheek. It made him feel as though they were back three hundred years in the past.

"There's always the future," she said, promising nothing but leaving things open to possibility.

And then she summoned the bridge that linked all the worlds together: Tarot. Zodiac. Numbers. Constellations.

And left.

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