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: (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.

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