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Tempest Spire: Outer Ring <Crown's Refuge>

As intimidating yet beautiful as its name suggests, Tempest Spire tests the eye's strength with a strenuous squint into the lofty heavens with its height. The interior of the base is fairly vast itself and divided into two pillar-partitioned chambers - an inner and outer. The stone of walls and floor is radiantly pure, a snowy white marble inset with slender, gold veins which, if studied closely, seem to all creep towards the center of the Inner Ring.
Upon entry into the Spire, one has four choices: to turn and go hence from which they came, turn to left and pace the dark pillar-lined corridors, turn right and mount the black marble staircase which spirals up into the abyss, or step forward into the illusory shining light of the inner ring. The latter option will bear you through four black marble pillars, two on either side, and into the mist-veiled glory of the Inner Ring.
The Outer Ring is lit by gold sconces on the wall, each designed to look like human hands. Eventually, this ring leads to the opposite side of the entrance (north) where a small alcove has been dug into the marble. In this alcove, measuring roughtly five feet in height, a white marble statue of a dragon stands, surrounded by stout candles in obsidian sconces.

All is rather quiet in the Spire, since the last foreboding message to echo through the winds. The heaviness of its implications weighs the air with dread, for the hand in demand? As equally mysterious and unknown as this "Eliare" who commands the barter. In efforts to bolster a better sense of security to those too ignorant to know better, the blood guard numbers have increased - especially in and around the Temple.

Their charge remains hidden away, and has, for some days now, shut up in the tower chambers. Threats to the Archmage's life and station have not been taken lightly - a forminable attempt had been made before by shadow, though thankfully cost little more than her horns.

Blackfox steps out from the inner circle where her great wolf Velvel was lying in wait for her partner's return, the lupine padding silently at the huntress's side. Both woman and wolf pause, glancing up the spiral stairs before looking to one of the guards, "Would Tshepsi deign to speak with me tonight? It is urgent, I think."

"Ssshe's capable of ssspeaking, yesss," hisses the Syladris male, clanking his armor with a wave of the arm. "But ssshe only sssays two wordsss. 'Deep Fear'."

The other, human, narrows his eyes over Blackfox. "We don't want her ladyship overwhelmed, what with the latest incident. But...I do remember your face from the last lots to run through lookin' for her. Do those words mean anything to you? "Deep Fear?" She's been prone for over a night now, whispering it to herself. I mean, I know she sees things'n'all, but..." He exchanges a glance with his Syladris comrade. "It's getting a little queer of late."

"Nay, I am sorry," Blackfox replies, looking even more troubled than when she had first come in, "I was hoping she might shed insight on what it is he searches for or how we might find it. I do not know where to look and...and there might be a problem with the ambassador."

"We can take you up if you wantsss..." The Syladris offers, stiffening a bit at his comrade's "queer" description of his lady. "And you can lisssten for yourssself. Maybe sssomething ssshe sssays will be of aid." Swerving aside to offer a thin way of room for her to ascend, he extends a long-fingered arm in offering.

Blackfox turns to Velvel, "Stay here, please," she asks, not orders the wolf who lies down to patiently wait while the huntress takes the offered arm. "I hope I might be of some help," she says with a worried frown.

Tempest Spire: Residence <Crown's Refuge>

This chamber is more elaborate than the first beneath, but not much larger. The white marble floor is covered in rugs made from ebony silk with gold embroidery.
A wide, bench-like bed moves with the curvature of the wall, just adjacent to a glass, arched doorway leading onto a balcony. A white oak desk rests opposite the bed, over which stands a rather burlesque mirror framed with thickly-cast metal.

"Lady Tssshepsssi," He calls softly upon opening the door. The room is dark, just as the stairwell, lit by just a few candles, but the pale, serpentine mass that writhes slowly on the 'bed' is easily identifiable against the black of shadow. "You have a visssitor. Ssshe bringsss word of the ambasssador."

The only answer to come from the Archmage is the same low, repetative muttering that has haunted the Spire walls for twenty or so hours. A pair of crimson eyes does turn towards them, however, to acknowledge the presence...or see through them.

Blackfox swallows uneasily, taking a deep breath before hesitantly venturing forward, "Tshepsi?" she calls out quietly, "We...we need your help..."

"Do not ssstand too closssely," The guard warns, weaving his fingers nervously. "Ssshe knocked the pauldronsss off the lassst one of usss sssent to check on her. With her tail. Ssshe didn't mean to, I don't think. I think ssshe wasss trying to ssscare away the....whatever it isss ssshe sssees."

On the bed, Tshepsi lays with an arched back, head craned to one side and a hand in her hair, holding fast to a fistfull of hair. The other hand draws blindly and aimlessly with her fingers on the cushions behind. Her tail flexes every now and again, the tip swaying to and fro where it drapes to the floor, but doesn't seem to be in a whipping sort of stance. "Fear...deeply..." She hisses thinly.

"Aye," Blackfox says, looking even more worried as she draws closer, "But...but she might hurt herself." She watches the tail, trying to approach from the other side, moving quickly to get to the archmage's side.

Shining moon-silver and gold links of chainmail against black scales - Aeseyri, clad in that shining half-plate, his helm under his arm, is shown upstairs by one of the Blood Guard from below. A few whispers, and a nod from the syladris - and he moves into the room, offering a gentle smile and a quiet greeting first - "Blackfoxss." And then looking past her to Tshepsi, head tilting to one side.

While she might not look lucid, a part of Tshepsi at least has recognized the voices now present. And, for the first time since yesterday morning, she says something else. "Handsss..."

The one doodling make believe pictures in the lush cushioning behind abandons the task and joins its partner in writhing through her mane. It grasps hold of a partially regrown horn and stays there, shielding it from ... something. "Hand for the handsss. Hand for the handsss to keep the handsss away, away be joined asss two and one." 'Whump' goes the tail rather halfheartedly against the wall this time. A bit of dust is shaken into the air, but other than that, no harm done.

"Aeseyri," Blackfox says, her voice filled with worry as she looks over at the other Syladris, "Tshepsi...she is not well...." she looks from him back to the archmage, reaching for one of Tshepsi's hands, "You will pull your own hair out...hurt yourself...can you hear me?" she asks.

Aeseyri slowly moves forward - "... ssshe doesss not sssee asss you and I, Blackfoxsss - there issss much..." He trails off for a moment, then thoughtful and quiet, he hisses - a reassuring sound - "it isss well. I will not let them hurt you." That to the Archmage, firm and worried and serious. And.. frankly, just the smallest bit lost.

"Peace by the hand isss conditional..." Tshepsi murmurs, rolling her eyes towards Blackfox with a creepy grin, then on to Aeseyri. Her left hand rises to the air before them, joints contorting, fingers writhing to give the image of arthritic age. "Deep fear...deep fear."

The guards at the door shift noisily to remind those inside of their presence, both watching with a mixture of rapture and tension. "Careful, I sssaid. It ssshall not be on my handsss if your blood ssspills," The Syladris male hisses, then slithers out of the room, closing the door...but using his tail as a doorstop to keep it open a smidge for evesdropping sake.

"I do not know..." again Blackfox looks between Aeseyri and Tshepsi, "I do not understand..."

"... It isss odd, but I think perhapsss I do." Aeseyri sets that shining helm aside, moving up next to Fox - utterly ignoring the warning, in fact. He puts a gentle hand on the hunter's shoulder ... then says, simply - "to give what isss wanted comesss at a pricsse - it isss not peacsse. All elssse assside, it isss. .. bowing? It isss fear." He holds his hand out to Tshepsi - "And at what cossst? But perhapsss it isss that it wantsss thisss thing because it fearsss it? I do not know."

"Deepfeardeepfeardeepfear," Tshepsi breathes rapidly on exhale, then head jerks back to stare at the ceiling again, body twitching with the jolt. Her hands come together now, clenching into fists, knuckles resting against knuckles. The spasm is then reversed, her hands darting forward to grasp at the two visitors while her eyes glare deeply back at them. "Sssurrender it..." she hissses fertively. "Deep fear demandsss."

"But where is it?" Blackfox asks, worried and desperate, "How can we surrender that which we do not have and cannot find?"

Aes actuually squeaks a bit as he's grabbed - a bit unexpected understates that sudden wide-eyed expression - but he is oddly and uncustomarially certain, though his voice wavers. "No." And his eyes close, then - and strangely, he shivers.

It is as though the words come from behind a great pressure, something he wars against - the rings of that chainmail jingling as he forces out, "Becaussse it isss that y.. you will be attacked either... either way, yess? And it musst not be."

"You mussst..."

And suddenly the tone changes from one of nightmarish authority to a clarity-clear, softer than soft plea. "Eliare wantsss it. It sssaysss....'deep fear'," as she lifts one finger and gently traces it over Aeseyri's knuckles. "Handsss ssspeak of deep fear. It wantsss the one bessside it - the woman'sss hand ssso old..."

And she withdrawals. Perplexed, it would seem. Her tail gathers itself near to her torso, shoulders curling forward to sit up and stare through them both...and around the room with a look of wonder.

"Tshepsi?" Blackfox asks, her voice hushed and worried, "Are you well?" She looks again between the two Syladris, eyes coming to rest on Aeseyri this time, "You are right. We cannot give him what he wants, but...what then do we do?"

"I do not know." Aes sounds truly pained - covering Tshepsi's hand in his free one - crimson eyes firmly locked on the Archmage. "it isss not ourss to give - it isss not here, regardlesss, yess? Ssso it isss that the choicssse of evilsss isss made for usss. But /ssshe/ isss here - and there isss hope." A slight shrug. "what elssse isss there?"

Silent, Tshepsi closes her eyes, rising fully from the bed and slithering free to 'stand' in front of the mirror. The translucent hairs on her arms begin to rise. "There you are...." she whispers, "I sssee you..." That pointer finger goes to work again, nail hissing over the glass as she traces seven vertical lines. "Ssseven fingersss point to the sssky, within they hold the hand."

"Seven fingers?" Blackfox asks, "Pointing to the sky?" Her questions are quietly asked in confusion, "But....where?"

Aeseyri's eyes narrow. "Ssseven fingersss..." He mulls that over, coiling, piling coil on coil there to try to sort all of this through, looking to Fox, then, expectant. "It isss more likely you would know, yess?"

"Ssseven fingersss of ssstone...like my Ssspire." Tshepsi answers, caressing the mirror. "I count ssseven. It whissspers from there. There it can be found. Hidden away...sssafe. Deep fear...to sssurrender."

And that's the extent of the visions for now, it seems, the train of shadowed thought ended and sealed till its whim would will it again. And thusly, Tshepsi's purpose, for now, has ended. "Ssseven," she hisses a final time and then, with a sway, wilts back into the stupor she possessed before.

Blackfox shakes her head, "I cannot think of any place..." she replies, brow furrowed as she tries to focus, "None where there are seven mountains or spires or towers, at least none that come to mind right now."

Aes moves forward, then - tentatively reaching out to support the Archmage - presuming, perhaps, but it seems important to him to guide her, to move her back to that divan of hers. Whether it his his nature to worry so, well - it matters little. He does what he can, murmering to Fox as he does - "Then it isss that it isss that which we will ssseek. If you do not remember where it isss.. then we know where it isss not." Gently, to Tshepsi - "thisss way - it isss not far. And it will be sssofter."

Tshepsi’s body follows the lead complacently, expression limp, mind and quite possibly soul someplace else entirely at the moment. The moment they reach the divan, however, her lashes flutter once, and lips mumble a rather intelligible “Sssrrvn,” And a pair of empty looking eyes open to let a pair of not so empty tears trickle forth.

Blackfox moves with the two, her expression pained as she sees the archmage brought to tears, "We will find a way, Tshepsi..." she says softly, determined even if she had no true idea what to do next.

"I am not he - I am sssorry - " And the male syladris does sound regretful, vaguely hopeless. Regardless, he gently guides Tshepsi up and onto that bit of furinture, "I have tried to find him, but I have not. I am ssssory - I do not know how ... but no one hasss ssstopped looking." He does his best to get her settled, in fact, looking back to Fox, worried.

The snowy lashes seal together once more, hiding away the betrayed expression of self and condemning her again into a night of darkness. Across the chamber, the door swings heavily open again and the guards enter more fully to stare firmly at the visitors within. "Come," they speak in unison. "She has spoken more this hour than in days. Let us leave our Lady in peace to rest and restore her strength. Without a doubt she will need it all too soon."

Blackfox steps away, offering a hand to Aeseyri, "Let her rest, da? We can speak more with her on the morrow."

Aes moves for the door - reluctant, but, he does move. "Yess. I .. I will ssstay below." He even remembers his helm on the way.

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