Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Chapter 50: Selket Receives More Than A Message

Tues, November 24, 2074 6:31 pm: Ethelden Palace- Amhurst, Veronaville


She could go no farther. A cold and all-consuming energy terminated directly in front of Selket's face, barring the way. It permeated the skin at the tip of her nose and tugged on the hem of her gown. It was divine energy but with movement and boundaries- A living wall that Selket dared not transverse. It churned like the silt in a gold miner's tin.

"What are you waiting for, Auntie?" Maya locked arms with Selket, prodding her forward. Selket stared wide-eyed and speechless. She was not waiting for anything. She was meant to observe and leave. She didn't need to see the creature in her brother's office if she could sense him from where she stood. She had come to her purpose. Maya rolled her eyes and reached for the doorknob but the door flew open before she'd achieved a firm hold.


Selket averted her gaze instinctively. She focused instead on the winding curves and sharp folds of her niece's right ear while Maya herself looked the creature dead in the eye.

"Good evening. I'm Jack Dalton, Pleasantview Grocery Delivery Services." His tone was cordially upbeat. He extended a hand for Maya to shake and then quickly revoked it, remembering that he was not to touch a lady unbidden. Selket hazarded a glance at his face.


He was young and human to the marrow. The air around him shimmered just faintly. His being was essentially new but his magic was as old as creation. And Selket stood shrouded beneath its diaphanous wings.

"Good evening. I am Maya Redding, Daughter of Atum and this is my aunt Selket Redding, Daughter of Kama." Maya's English was formal and heavily accented. She took Selket's elbow with both hands, forcibly leading her into the lion's den.

Jack brought his heels together sharply and bowed at the waist, allowing them to pass. From what Selket could tell, the boy-creature had learned fae manners by watching the palace guards.


"Ah, there you are," Atum said, peeking at Selket from behind the lamp on his desk. "I was beginning to think that my invitation had gotten lost in the ether. Sit down, the two of you. Can I offer you a drink?" The question never reached Maya, who was staring transfixed at the boy-creature. Selket shook her head slowly, giving her brother a slight smile. She had brought Maya along thinking that her beauty would be a sufficient distraction for the visitor while Selket investigated his energy but she had not considered the possibility that Maya might find the visitor distracting.


Maya glided through her father's office and sat on the long row of cushions adjacent to his desk. The room fell into silence as Maya adjusted her skirts discreetly. The creature did not stir and Selket sensed that he was looking rather intently at her. She cleared her mind completely, repelling him.

Having spent half of her life behind a veil, Selket was used to being gawked at. But she could live with those stares. Those had always been the result of either wonderment at the appearance of a Covered Lady or lust born of speculation about what woman could be so tempting that she would need to be hidden. It wasn't personal.

But that was many years ago and Selket was naked to the world now. Jack could not have known how his stare smoldered inside of her like live coals but that did not stop it from burning. And she could not forgive him that.


"Varil marev ur-plache, kiena." Atum directed Selket with a swooping wave of his hand and her concentration was broken. She did not know how long she had been standing there.


Selket extended her hand to Jack as she took a seat and he accepted it gratefully. She then tossed the fabric of her skirt around, using it as a pretense for needing Jack to help her onto the cushions. Really, she was only hoping to make contact so that she might have a better look into his thoughts and essence. She discovered, not surprisingly, that he was impassible.


"Daddy, whenever did you get that freakish painting," Maya asked, giggling airily. Maya was as always, a universe unto herself, not at all interested in what went on around her. Selket and Jack looked upwards disinterestedly.


The painting in question was odd to say the least. It featured a hyper-realistic place setting with a cartoon pig wallowing in something that might have been sauce or mud or worse in a soup bowl. Mahadeva will have his little jokes.


"Not too long ago. I commissioned the Artist in Residence to do a still-life for the office and well, he gave me one."

"Does it have a title," Jack asked, peering at the thing with his head cocked to the side.

"Yes, but I'm afraid that it does not translate into English well." Selket turned to Jack, eager to get the conversation away from the vampire Sheut.


"So what brings you to Veronaville, Mr. Dalton? You work for Addison London, yes?"

"Yes. Well, I'm his foster son. He asks me to run small errands for him at times. I'm just here delivering a letter."


"Do you know what the contents of that letter were," Atum asked. Jack snorted, evidently unconcerned.

"I'm certain that I don't," Jack said. Atum leaned forward across his desk.

"It said, 'Ni tiella ken-balth.' Do you know what that means?" Jack shook his head and Atum continued. "It means, 'Don't shoot the messenger.'"


Jack crossed his legs at the ankles and narrowed his eyes. Though he was looking at Atum, his expression did not seem entirely meant for him.

"London means himself, you realize. He's the messenger. I haven't really brought you anything. Trust me on this. I know how he thinks. I'm the message."


"And are you good news or bad, Mr. Dalton," Selket asked. Jack raised his eyebrows, slowly tilting his head towards her.

"That depends on your interpretation. I was sent, I'm sure, because I can do this." Jack flicked his left hand in Atum's direction, thereby causing his entire desk to rise up from the floor. Atum fretfully pushed his chair back towards the wall as though he feared that his desk posed a threat. Jack carefully lowered the desk. "But I suspect you knew that considering the number of times that you've tried to pick me apart in the past few minutes," he added bitterly. Atum wheeled his chair back over to his desk.


"Who taught you to do that," he asked, straightening the pens that had rolled under his keyboard and trying to seem casual.

"I'm self-taught. Why?" Jack was easing himself into the corner and Selket could see by the look on his face that he realized the unusualness of what he was saying.


"But how did you know how to summon your energy? Or how to focus and sustain it," Maya asked, lazily kicking her feet and smiling like a child enthralled by a game.

"I intuit it. I make mistakes sometimes but for the most part, it just comes as second nature."


When Jack spoke, he looked to Selket as though he were speaking to her alone. She didn't know what it was about her that was forcing him to cling to her so but she wished that he wouldn't.

"There's something else that I should probably show you," he said quietly. "But don't be alarmed. It's not dangerous, as far as I can tell." Atum nodded permissively and Jack stood. Breathing in deeply, the boy-creature closed his eyes. When he re-opened them, the room was flooding with light.


It was like nothing that Selket could find the words to describe. There were great clouds of color moving in all directions. It was like sitting at the heart of Aurora Borealis. Selket's eyes brimmed over with tears but whether it was the brightness or from emotion, she could not say. She knew that she was seeing something that she was never meant to. She was seeing what heaven sees.

"What is it," Maya asked excitedly.

"It's energy. All of the energy in the room. I realized a few weeks ago that there had to be a way to make it actually, physically visible. This is it."


And sure enough, he was right. There were Atum's white lights and Maya's blue. There was Selket's own pink. And at the heart of it was a cold and smokeless flame. Selket's throat constricted painfully. She had forgotten how to breathe. This was fire that she knew and fire that she would not soon forget. She had given-up her communion with God to protect this fire. By it, she was forever unmasked.


Jack extinguished the lights in a fraction of a second. Atum rubbed his eyes.

"So what do you think," Jack said softly, bearing down upon her more now than ever. Selket found the bravery to meet his stare. He looked nothing like what she might have imagined but he could be no other. If she cried now, there would be no question about whether or not it was to do with emotion. His very existence gave her hope and vindicated her crimes. He was ever so much more than a message. He was a gift.


"I think I know what you are," Selket replied huskily.

November 20, 2054 8:25 am: Vajra Maximum Security Penitentiary- Mantua, Veronaville (Twenty Years earlier)


"Keep up, Selket! I do not wish to lose you," Ahriman called. His voice bounced off of the sandstone walls, onward into infinity. Selket followed the trail of its lingering vibrations but she could have found him just as easily in silence. Such was her sensitivity for distinguishing magical energies.

Selket padded down the corridor on the soft leather soles of her slippers. Sometimes she knew that she must look like a well-trained dog, dashing after him the way that she did. But she did not mind feeling foolish for his sake. He was a genius, the first halfling in recorded history to be named Magister Templi. If Selket needed only to run to stand by his side then she would gladly run.


Selket found him at the end of a narrow colonnade. His expression was grave. He whispered when he spoke.

"If the prisoner addresses you, do not engage him. He will try to confuse you. Ignore anything he says that does not answer your questions."

"What prisoner," Selket asked, looking around. The room was empty.

Ahriman turned his head to the blank wall in front of them and at once it fell away like plunging drapery. Behind it was a small jail cell and all at once, Selket was assaulted by a freezing, violently sparking energy. She was in the wake of something terrible.


The prisoner's breath rattled inside his chest and each time he inhaled, Selket got a clear view of his ribcage. His sunken cheeks blushed to a pale shade of jaundice. His shoulders shook. He was dying.

Despite the nagging in her brain that warned her against it, Selket drew nearer to the bars. She did not know how to curb her desire to help someone in suffering nor did she want to. The incarcerated man lifted his head and released a monstrous growl.


"Come any closer and I will turn that pretty face of yours inside out," he snapped. Selket gasped and took a step back. The prisoner's eyes gleamed from orange to brown as he spoke, fading like autumn leaves.

"He's bluffing. He has no power here," Ahriman said soothingly. The prisoner did not confirm or deny Ahriman's statement but stared angrily at the pair of them. He pushed himself up from the floor on unsteady limbs. Ahriman watched him in quiet awe.


"His name is Orion Specter," Ahriman explained, shooting a quick glance at Selket. "He is twenty-six years old. His parents were Olive and Ichabod Specter of LaPlatta, Strangetown. His father died shortly before he was born and his mother sent him off to the LaPlatta Orphanage. He was adopted at the age of six by Circe and Loki Beaker, a pair of scientists who specialized in the paranormal. You can see why little Orion might have interested them."

Orion leaned his weight against the bars and took a foothold on one of the lower rails. He bent his left knee, balancing on one leg like a stork. Selket thought he might be injured.

"How do you know all of this," she asked quietly.


"I was granted an interview with Loki Beaker a few nights ago. Between what he was able to tell me, what Orion himself has told me and the legal documents that I have managed to procure, his life story has not been difficult to piece together. The Beakers kept him locked in their basement for the majority of his life. Their friends and family had no knowledge of his existence. According to Loki, he was a nervous, docile and mentally handicapped boy right up until two weeks ago when Circe found him in his room tattooing himself. He used sewing needles and several ballpoint pens to do the work. The Beakers could not explain how he had gotten hold of these items. Do you recognize his markings, Magus?"


Selket's eyes roamed over the tattoo that consumed almost half of Orion's emaciated frame. She could make out the head of a swan, the body of a snake and some sort of foliage but the symbolism, if there was any, was lost on her. She shook her head.

"This was the tattoo worn by fae soldiers in the at the battle of Arbormoor."

"Why does he wear it?"

"Your guess is as good as mine. But to continue, Orion spent the days that followed mumbling to himself and rearranging the basement furniture. Then on the afternoon of the twelfth, he broke free of the basement, killed Circe Beaker and set fire to the house. Loki and his son were out shopping when the events unfolded. It took thirty-three human and fae special operatives to restrain him. I was called upon to create the magical wards that bind him. When I asked him what he was, he said that he would speak with no one but you."

"He knew me by name?"

"He did."


Selket cautiously approached the bars and Ahriman placed a hand on her shoulder to stop her. She delicately brushed him away. She would not pretend that her heart was not pounding, that her sides were not sweating, that her entire body was not trembling but she would confront the prisoner in spite of these things. Orion rolled his head on his shoulders as if stretching and Selket heard his voice echoing in her thoughts.

Welcome, Magus. I am Lotan, He Who Twists.

Orion was now dangling from the bars, supported only by his skeletal arms. Selket shivered beneath her many layers of clothing. This man, this creature was a daemon. And an old one. She focused her thoughts.


How is it that you came to inhabit a human body, she asked. Orion growled audibly.

Estanatlehi gave me body and Samael gave me breath. As if to demonstrate the latter, Orion breathed in deep. Selket took another step closer.

You were dormant in this body for many years. What summoned you? The creature bowed his head thoughtfully and the tip of his hair brushed the bars.


Duty to whom? Selket's inquiry was met with silence. The daemon dropped down from the bars. His eyes flashed in warning but Selket pressed on. What is your purpose? Orion laughed mirthlessly. His teeth were unusually sharp and flat.

"My purpose? Good lady, I am a hunter! Here is my quiver," he said, slapping his tattooed flank. "And here is my bow."


With that, his entire torso burst into flames. Selket screamed and Ahriman pulled her behind him. In the confusion, Selket failed to notice that the flames gave no heat or smoke or even scent. Clinging to Ahriman's robes, Selket was not convinced that Orion's magic was impaired in his cell. She placed a hand over her mouth, through the beaded veil that branded the women of her calling.


"And what do you hunt, Mr. Specter," Ahriman asked sternly. Orion's lips curled.

"Wolves. Devils. Filth," he spat. "I seek the vampire with the life force of a Sheut. He will corrupt the Ib and the world will fall into ruin. Your choice is simple, Magister Templi. Let me go or hell rot you all."


Selket peered at Orion over Ahriman's shoulder, shaking uncontrollably. She was desperate to master her fear and conduct herself like a Magus but there was nothing that she could do to still her body. Their situation was dire if things had come to this. By sending an assassin, Deus Rex was making one last ditch attempt to fix the vampire Sheut, proving to Selket that he was not only imperfect but profane. It was the will of God to see Kvornan Tricou eliminated. And fate had enlisted Selket's help.


  1. Ha! Sorry, I posted these notes and forgot to add the tags. *face palm*

    A few notes on this chapter:

    1) This was the visit to Veronaville that London arranged for Jack way back in this chapter. It was also mentioned again in this chapter.

    2)Samael is of course, this guy and Estanatlehi, you have never seen before. Or have you? :o

    3) For those of you who are not Maxis inclined, yes Orion Specter is Strangetown's Nervous Subject.

    About Nervous Subject's Sim:

    Ordinarily, I have one rule when using Maxis characters and that is that I don't change the facial structure of the sim PERIOD. But I had to make an exception with Nervous Subject. He was just too inhuman. I made an effort to keep his general look- the sunken, malnourished face; the pointed jaw-line; the protruding chin; the mohawk- but I downplayed a lot of it and straightened his freakishly crooked eyes.

    4) I've started to section Pleasantview and Veronaville off into burrows so you'll notice that my locations are going to get a little more specific. I plan on going back into old chapters and adding to the locations of those as well.

    5) I hope to never do another chapter this long ever again.

    6) And finally, I leave you with this photo.

  2. Oh wow!! First off your costumes are gorgeous!! And secondly, holy crap Jack!!!!! If he knows this much being self-taught what is he going to be like when he's taught by other Fae's? Geez!! He's sort of, kind of scary!

    And the plot thickens around Kvornan. That's going to be a wicked fight! This was a stunning chapter. Seriously! I can see why it took you a minute to put it out! Wow!

  3. Interestingly, this chapter only took me 3 nights to write. The rest of that time was eaten-up by a combination of RL kicking my butt and the new Random Chapter button over at KoL. Curse that magnificent button!

    Thanks Phoenix! Sometimes I go into my neighborhood just to throw together costumes for fae women. It's too much fun.


    Kvornan-vs-the Dissenters (people who think that Kvornan's divinity is corrupted by his vampirism and in some cases, people who aren't convinced that Kvornan was even the Sheut to begin with) won't come to a knockdown drag-out fight for a very long time but until then, there will be many smaller exchanges beginning soon.

  4. Oooooo, the photo. Very interesting...

    I can't wait to learn more about the Sheut/Ib business. It's getting more intriguing by the minute :D

  5. Eh, it's officially not a secret anymore.

    In other news, Van you're vacationing and you STILL couldn't stay away. *teehee*

    There is much Sheut/Ib business to come. And Jack business. And every sort of business really since the next nine chapters are a good mix of story lines.

  6. YAY :D

    Well, I'm back tomorrow. Plus I'm not really vacationing per se, I'm touring campuses (campi?), so I've got some time. This second hotel has free internet, so that's good.

    But yes, I kept thinking about all the updates I might be missing while in the last, internetless hotel and... argh!! I'm glad I can catch up now :)

  7. Jack is skeery in this chapter. But still very intriguing.

    BTW, I like how blogger lets you comment from an outside journal, but I hate how I always have to submit my comment at least twice. *kicks blogger*

  8. hehehe Campi...

    Ach, in this day and age, every hotel should have free wifi! But sadly, that just isn't the case.

  9. I have the same problem, Lisa. And this is my blog! *shakes fist at Blogger* Blogger has a lot of issues but sadly, it's the way to go if you're like me and you're not tech savvy but you are anal about your layout.

    And now you see why Kvornan very rarely uses his magic. It's just too freaky. Jack has really embraced it though and is teaching himself to do things that it took Kvornan many many years to learn.

  10. Oh wow... O_O

    This was an awesome chapter Penelope. And gorgeous! The addition of visible energy was so cool, and so well done. Personally, I've been so intimidated by actually showing energy because I've been afraid that it would overwhelm the shot, but you frickin' nailed it!

    And the costumes were spot on. They set the scene soooo well, and added so much to the characters.

    I completely feel you on the lengthy chapters. They suck to make. But holy crap this was awesome.

    Okay, I'm going on and and on, last thing. It can't be so easy to teach yourself harness energy. Is Jack a little something extra? *Cringes*

  11. Hey, thanks Veron. ;) We'll be seeing more visible energy in the story later on since I only recently discovered those deco objects from TSR that look like electricity or sparkly magical powers or what-have-you. And the act of putting strange headgear on sims is fun times for me so there will be more of that to come as well.

    Argh, even just posting this chapter with all the cutting and the pasting was tedious! That's the main reason why I never want to do it again. :p But of course, your definition of a long chapter and mine are slightly different (like a difference of 50 images) so maybe I'm just a whiny so-and-so. I think most people do chapters that are 30 images and 7 pages of text but I don't know how they manage.

    Jack is potentially, in some people's line of reasoning, Kvornan's future replacement as Death (the Sheut). And you have to wake-up pretty early in the morning if you're going to replace someone with that kind of power. But yes, Jack is a creature that is so unique that the faes don't have a name for what he is. Part human, part demon, part Deus Rex.

  12. Ooh, this chapter is very interesting! Love the energy shot and of course your costume and make ups, they look gorgeous!

  13. I have to admit, you've got a flair for using all the richness of colour in your pictures. And even though I thought Jack was cute, why do I suddenly feel a chill? I'm not sure what I make of him really. He is such an intensive character.

  14. Overall, Jack is not necessarily someone to be afraid of but Selket thinks he's creepy and that's why he comes off that way in this chapter. She knows what he is and how powerful he is- Both of which freak her out. Also, he kept staring at her. I know that he was only staring at her because he thinks she's pretty but Selket couldn't have known that. It is as difficult to get into Jack's head as it is easy to get into Ermengarde's, if that makes any sense. And even if Selket did know why he was staring, she just can't stand people looking at her.

    But yeah, Jack has never been smooth with the ladies. And he's the first one to admit it. Girls think that he's kinda weird.

  15. Wow. I am blown away! The depth of your creation, the detail, the uniqueness of the characters, and the incredible shots -- just gorgeous!

    I don't know who everyone is yet, but I will definitely get there!

  16. Thanks, Beth!

    South Beach is on my agenda tonight after I get home from work. Man, you have so many stories going! I can't even keep up with the one story I have. :p

  17. Yeah all caught up... I started last night and only made it to 41, but boy am I glad I did finish it!

    This is an excellent and intriguing tale, I love your costumes, your screens and of course your magnificent and imaginative writing... Cant wait for more. 80)

  18. Yay, I'm glad you liked it, Cheri!

    If I play my cards right, then I should have an update tonight for y'all. Then I'll work on Corrine. :)

  19. I'm all caught up!!!!
    WOW!!! it took two weeks, but finally I got here!!!
    the world you have created is just fantastic, unbelievable and the characters!!! WOW!!! what a great imagination you have!
    Great job! this is so engrossing and fascinating! the customs are lovely! Jack is a very intriguing character, he is a powerful one, everything he knows is self taught, imagine what will happen when he gets a real teacher!!!
    Orion is scary!!! I wouldn't want to be near him, he looks very powerful too!!!
    Selket is interesting to say the least!!!
    Wonderful story you have going on!!!

  20. confetti burst* Glad you made it through, Sandy! AND that you had fun reading. :)

    I have a very good idea of what Jack's magical training is going to be like but sometimes these things take turns that I'm not expecting.

    For now, Jack is going to go back home to Pleasantview and contemplate what his next course of action should be. Does he try to go on and have a normal life? Does he move to Ethelden? And what will his relationship with London be like now that he knows that London has not always been entirely honest with him?

    Orion is nothing to mess with. Ahriman was able to subdue him but even Ahriman suspects that Orion let him win that fight.

    Selket intrigues me. My original plan for this chapter was not to have her be as important to the plot as she is but as I was taking the photos, it occurred to me that she has quite possibly changed the course of history. And that she is in a position to do it again.

  21. *reads previous comment*

    Yes, Selket is definitely an intriguing character. I was captivated by her from the first moment, so you really got something there. ;)

    So it's possible that the murders around the House of the Hidden Leaves were comissioned by the Faes, no?

  22. Hunh. I wonder where I gave off that impression. Kvornan killed Jennicor and Rainelle. That's a certain, you're going home with that. The Townie teenagers that were murdered are still a mystery. Three other Tricous and a maid were in a house fire (which may or may not have been an accident). The only other death that happened was Jennail Tricou but she died away from the House, starving herself to death in a mental institution. But the Faes had nothing do to with the deaths. Unless you count Jennicor.

    The events of this chapter were years and years after the House of Fallen Trees. Kvornan is a vampire and living in Pleasantview while Selket is talking to Orion.

  23. Heh, and when I say, "Unless you count Jennicor" I don't mean unless you count her death. I mean unless you count her as a fae.

  24. Oooh. Ok, I think I got it now. It's difficult to keep track of all the murders and timelines and so on.

    And for some reason, I keep saying "Leaves" instead of "Trees", no matter how many times I read it correctly. If I can't even keep the name straight, you can't expect much from me, lol.

  25. Ah! Well there are only 3 years that are really important:

    1997 - This was when the fire at the House of Fallen Trees happened. Kvornan lost it and became a vampire the following year.

    2050 - Bella Goth goes missing. Kvornan and Alexei meet on a dredger ship.

    2074 - Present day.

    If you can remember those dates, then it is easy to hang the rest of the story on that framework. Often, it's key to relate the year back to what Kvornan might be doing on a certain date or at the very least, where he is living. Not that I won't spell it out later but the dates can serve as hints.

    Oh, everyone makes that error at some point, Maruutsu! You are not alone. I have no idea why Maxis chose that name.