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Author Topic: The art of pruning: to move forward you must let go  (Read 423 times)

Description: attn: Aahad

Offline Elenor al-Sabbah

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The art of pruning: to move forward you must let go
« on: Apr 22, 18, 10:03:44 PM »
There were figures moving in the dark. Elenor could smell their sour breath, the sound of their clothes and footsteps, the way the air moved around them, but she couldn’t see them. Her pulse thundered in her ears, sweat trickled down her brow, and no matter how wide she opened her eyes, everything was dark.

A hand brushed her neck, calloused and sticky. Elenor jumped, pulling away only to have another pair grabbed her arms, fingers digging in until they bruised. She tried to pull away, but a boot to the back of her knee made fall to the ground with a yelp of pain.

“Who are you? Where am I?” She yelled, trying to flail her arms but finding her wrists securely tied.   

A voice replied, said words that were incomprehensible to the Queen. Some part of her knew they were words she knew, but it was like they were a different language, just beyond her understanding. She whimpered as another kick landed on her thigh, curling in on herself, or trying to before hands tangled in her hair to yank her back to her feet, more incomprehensible words and a spray of saliva beating into her cheek. Elenor squeezed her eyes shut, not that it made any difference, lips moving in silent please.

“Don’t hurt me. Don’t hurt me. I don’t want to go with you. I don’t want… I don’t want… please…”

More incomprehensible words, then a cloth being forced between her teeth, the gag rough and tasting of mud and sweat. It made her stomach turn and she could feel hot tears sliding down her cheeks, but no matter how much she struggled and jerked her head away, the hand in her hair yanked her back into place while the gag was tied.

A barked order, the rope around her wrist tightening as it was jerked forward. Elenor still couldn't see, but her bare feet could feel. Moss, decomposing leaves, the slimy feeling of a bug underfoot. She knew that ground, knew but just like the speech, could not comprehend it. Her nose flared as her ears picked up the sound of flowing water a moment before she was yanked into a shallow stream, the water cool and stones slippery. Arms caught hers, assisting her across with little care that their nails were digging painfully into her skin or that her shorter legs didn’t move as fast. The arm started shaking her, shaking her and…


“Elenor. Elenor, wake up.” Shadya’s voice and a flick of nails against her forehead had the Queen jerking out of her sleep, arms flailing and trying to push the Black Widow away. Fin’s niece simply sat back, eyebrows going up and up as Elenor’s heavy breath stopped and then left her in a hiss. “Another dream?”

“Maybe?” Elenor replied, relaxing back onto the bed and looking around. “Where’s Judiah?”

“She came and got me when you started whimpering. This is starting to become a habit, and one I don’t like.” Shadya crossed her arms, eyes still fixed on Elenor, who shrunk back under her prickly gaze.

“I’m sorr-”

“Why the fuck are you apologizing? I said I didn’t like it, not that it was your fault.”

“But-”

“What was it this time?” Shadya asked, interrupting her again. Ah, for the days when she gave Elenor the cold shoulder instead of barging into her tent every few days to deliver yet another scathing lecture about how Elenor should have been under a Black Widow’s care since the day she arrived in Pruul, and how incomprehensibly idiotic it had been to put it off until after her Chalice cracked when Shadya had been RIGHT THERE.

Elenor sat up, rubbing her eyes only to realize that there were tear tracks on her cheeks. Fuck. Wasting water again. Great.

“I’m not sure. I couldn’t see anything. My eyes were open and my other senses worked, but I couldn’t see or understand what I was hearing and feeling. It’s already fading. I think I was being taken somewhere by force, but it wasn’t the attack on me as a child or from right before my trials… Or maybe it was. I don’t know, Shadya. It felt real but I think this time it might have just been a nightmare.” She pulled her knees to her chest, nightgown sticking to her back and damp with sweat.

“I told you, these don’t sound like normal dream or nightmares. I’m concerned that something might still be wrong with your Chalice but Prince Abaddon isn’t here to check and I can’t see anything under all his spellwork. Is the crack was misaligned or…” Shadya trailed off, shaking her head. “The truth, Lady, is that I’m not sure. Mind Healing is not my specialty. If you were a child I would be concerned that you were manifesting the first signs of my Caste, but you’re older than dirt.”

“I’m not even two hundred!”

“As I said, older than dirt.” They exchanged a hesitant smile. “When this meeting is over with the Priest, I want to take another look inside your head. Maybe I just missed something.” Elenor could feel the frustration radiating from the young woman. She could understand. It was Shadya’s job to tend to the needs of Elenor’s Court in all the ways only a Black Widow could. That she had been unable, up until now, to find any answer must only be compounding on her fears for her uncle. If Elenor had thought that it would help she would have tried to not to tell Shadya about the dreams, but she had the distinct impression that if she tried anything like that she’d end up getting shouted at not just by her Seer but by every member of her court: lined up, in order, with itemized lists of grievances. “I’ll leave you to get ready.”

Shadya retreated and Judiah returned, worry clear on her face though she didn’t say anything. Elenor dressed for the day with her lover’s help to do up her hair, choosing a simple dress in light earth tones over riding pants since they were still a few hours away from Arnadeth Temple.

Those hours in the saddle passed quickly enough, riding Meera now a thoughtless habit instead of a scary prospect. The Jinan mare had been particularly affectionate this morning, nuzzling into Elenor’s neck as if she, too, was worried for her. Elenor had responded by sneaking her a sugar cube, which seemed to satisfy the horse that all was well in the world.

The path up towards Arnadeth temple gave Elenor plenty of time to absorb the sheer scope of the hilltop complex. It had tall walls of light yellow stone, buildings peeking over those barriers to the world. The main convoy of Sabbah stopped outside the walls to set up camp and Elenor and a small group of escorts continued on towards the gates. She had sent a message ahead before leaving, taking Vera’s suggestion to reach out to Master Situla. Because it was Vera who had suggested they meet, Elenor’s usual nerves upon meeting a member of the Priestess/Priest Caste was eased… a little. Still, as a temple initiate led them down the beautiful walkways, graceful arches and gardens, Elenor’s palms were sweating, heart racing wildly in her chest.

She found him with a pair of clippers in his hands by the banks of the oasis, trimming back a kumquat tree. Elenor took a moment to look around at the vegetation, impressed and pleased after the starkness of the desert. Her fingers itched to touch the green, growing things, and since the Priest was alone, Elenor gestured her escorts to stay back as she approached the final few meters.

“Master Situla,” she said, quietly, approaching and picking up the smaller pair of gardening scissors that were sitting on a nearby bench, “may I be of assistance?” She stepped up to the same little tree, fingers brushing over the white petals before finding the a branch with a few too many suckers and snipping a few off to better allow the fruits and flowers that were there to have the space they needed to grow. “Lady Adavera al-Jinan suggested I stop here to speak to you, I hope it’s not an inconvenient time.”

Offline Aahad al-Situla

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Re: The art of pruning: to move forward you must let go
« Reply #1 on: Apr 23, 18, 03:22:15 AM »
Breathe....Just....Breathe....

The hot air of the desert stung in his nose when he breathed. It was a fond feeling and one that when it didn't exist felt odd to him. It wasn't a painful sting. So minute that he was sure most didn't even realize it happened. It always happened to Aahad whenever he meditated. Clearing one's head let in so many stimulations that he took for granted. The sting in his nose being one. He could feel the subtle heat coming off of him and magnified by the high sun. Yet as soon as he felt that light layer of heat it would be balmed away from a soothing wind cascading down the mountains onto the dunes and greater desert beyond.

He simply existed, a state of being that acknowledged it's own existence and little else. The moment was what his mind captured. Just be. The thought echoed in his mind like a faint whisper. Not focusing on emptying his thoughts. No stress. No worries of past days. No fretting over this or that. It was a calming ritual he went through every morning and night and maintained ever since his discipleship. His breathing was even and his body still. Oneness with his surroundings. Peace of mind. Then, he opened his eyes.

And forgot that he was 20 feet up in the air.

Ardeth al-Bali was considered the only one to have ever mastered the Stillness. Within the mountains of Arnadeth was a pillar of rock whose apex was no wider than a foot. Yet Ardeth would sit atop it for hours, even days in what he called 'The Stillness'. An absence of active thought and a synergy with all things to the point where the implausible was easily obtainable. Like sitting atop a twenty-foot tall stalagmite with such a small top and not fall off. To Aahad's credit he had only done it for about twenty minutes. Still, when one opens their eyes and suddenly comes to the rationalization that there is nothing around you? It can take anyone aback.

So Aahad fell and managed to gracefully tumble onto the ground before cascading on his back. So much for 'one with the universe' today. He decided to do something more tangible. He checked the sun. The Serpents will be here soon. He considered. I might have time for a little field work before they arrive. Aahad vehemently believed that no matter one's station, one should always take a moment to till the soil and reap the grain. Personally he found it just as grounding as meditation. Beyond that it kept him sensible. No one was beyond the rigors of labor, no matter their station. So he grabbed a few of the gardeners tools he had fixed up and attended the Oasis field. A land of rich green that quickly faded to desert before the marble tiles of the temple covered the sand.

So Aahad went to work on the Oasis. He was no Queen but the energy of the earth was visible to him like a vein pulsing out of the ground. A slow breath, a moment's concentration and then he opened his eyes to See the Oasis. All things, Aahad learned, had energy. If one had the right mind to sense it, one could see it. He had no green thumb, nor was he a Queen. Any preening would be terrible in comparison to a Queen's elegant hand. It is why the land grows under their touch. Aahad simply allows them to breathe, but they will always grow on their own.

He was still working when he was notified of the Sabbah encampment outside. As with anyone who visits the Temple he made sure that the others in residence assured the Sabbah of their welcome, hospitality and hearth to provide rest on their journey and a moment's peace for the journey ahead. Bathhouses, Hammam, food and water. Tools that could be bartered, as all places in Pruul are willing to barter if one has something they need. Even Sanctuary services should one require such. Strange. He considered to himself as he went back to pruning. When was the last time the Sabbah came through Arnadeth?

He thought to himself as he worked. He never saw the Sabbah during his discipleship unless he was outside Arnadeth. They never came. Not even the infamous Spider himself. He had always assumed that the Sabbah had their own K'miar among them and thus did not require the specific services Arnadeth offered or, his Master used to say, 'the Sabbah are too busy in tomorrow to consider what to do today. The Serpents plan long and miss the moment'. A busy-minded tribe, Shahab would tell him. It was the source of their wealth and fortune. Not just the Mines or whatever else they did. It was the mindset. Of the Clans and Tribes it was the Serpents who seemed the most like the Blood outside of the dunes. Flooded with coin and riches and wealth. Far different from the Situla whose only barter was water. No better water scout in the dunes than a Situla. He rubbed the water ring tattoo on his wrist, his proof of kinship as he considered it.

"Master Situla," came a voice from behind him. He turned and saw....

Water.

Her skin rippled, like someone had just poked their finger in still waters. Each ripple carried with it jagged edges, a touch of frost at their tips that looked dangerous to touch. The jagged ripples would bore open flesh and what emerged was...

Air.

A dizzying sensation hit his nose. A confounding mixture of scents of no rhyme or reason. It would vanish the moment the odd nature of her skin would return to a smooth normalcy before the ripples began once more to travel gently down her skin in their sharp angled movements.

...Fear. Aahad had seen the chilled waters in many people before. This one was different though. It glided over her form like a cloak whose obfuscation kept it from eyes and ears and worn like a second skin to his eyes more than permeating from her being. The sensation of air in her emotional being put him off for a moment. ...glamour? No. He considered the sensation carefully before it's very nature hit him like a 'duh' hammer. Confusion. The inter-change between the two would have to wait. The Serpent Queen was speaking to him.

"...and you must be Queen Elenor Lirion al-Sabbah." Aahad slowly got to his feet and gave a respectful bow. "Welcome to Arnadeth Temple, may you and yours be welcome here and find peace during your journey." When she offered assistance and hoped she was not interrupting him at a bad time he waved a hand dismissively. "No no. Besides. A Queen's touch will be far better than mine. Besides, if it is all the same to you Lady Sabbah I would much rather discuss while I work if that is alright with you?"

He then knelt back down onto the ground. "The Lady Jinan sent you did she?" That narrowed down the reasons to two things really. Adavera was a political lady, being a Voice and all and it could be political stuff that was far beyond his capacity to fathom. Only the knowledge that Adavera knows Aahad has no vested political interests, nor really has political power especially given the new council he heard of being voted in, canceled that idea out in his thoughts. Perhaps it was the fear and confusion that brought her here? A personal calling? Save the Serpent Queen was a Serpent. Don't they always plan for tomorrow? It would be unwise to predict the Serpent and so Aahad decided to go with the flow instead and just be. "I'm honored she'd consider me a figure to seek out."

"I must say however Lady Sabbah...that I am quite surprised to find the Serpent visiting Arnadeth." He said in casual conversation. In truth Aahad was fishing. To get the fearful, confused Queen talking. They were in privacy, even more so by her honor guard and expected no ill glares for small talk. "It has been many years since the Sabbah came to this place. The reason for your coming must be of vital importance. How can I serve?"

*clip clip*


Offline Elenor al-Sabbah

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Re: The art of pruning: to move forward you must let go
« Reply #2 on: Apr 23, 18, 12:41:43 PM »
Normally, when people from Pruul saw the fair-haired, light-skinned, gold-eyed Queen for the first time, there was some reaction. In this case there was, it just wasn't the one Elenor had been expecting. He seemed to study her for a moment, then just go back to pruning as if nothing at all was wrong in the world, or at least not more-wrong because of Elenor’s existence. That worked just fine for her.

"Thank you for your welcome. I'm afraid our visit can't be long since we were delayed awhile by a sandstorm and are expected in the north, but I’m very happy to have been able to stop here. This temple is amazing! How long has it been here?” It was genuine curiosity. Elenor had never seen a place quite like it, and had she found it during her unattached years would probably have tried to get a kitchen or menial job for a few months simply to bask in its beauty and calm. Now though, she’d have a day or two at the most. Perhaps in the future she would have to see about a longer visit… If she was still in possession of her head, something that definitely was not a given these days.

"I prefer to have my hands busy when I talk as well, and it's been a few weeks since I left my own gardens." She said, studying a branch, then snipping off a shoot. "Yes, lady.Jinan sent me. Vera and I are good friends and she has great respect for your wisdom."

The sun was beating down on them where they stood, the heat soothing when paired with the breeze coming off the oasis. Elenor brushed a stray strand of hair from her forehead then went back to working on the kumquat tree. The fruits were not yet ripe but the blossoms were beautiful, the smell filling the air with a sweet citrus scent. This whole place smelled like growing things. It was something that was often lost in the desert, a sense of life that Pruul seem to lack for no fault of its own. Life simply required water. Water, of course, was the one thing Pruul did not have in abundance. It was something Elenor very much hoped this trip would begin to chance. She was not vain enough to believe that she was the only one to ever look beyond her borders for water. Had Queens of the past tried and failed? Was she destined for the same?

"A serpent?" The symbol of the Hague tribe was a serpent. The Sabbah where the Salt of the Earth, though she supposed Matin was a bit snake-like. Not that she ever say it to her First Escort, but Elenor had always had a deep respect for snakes. In Shalador they were they were an ever-present danger, both smart and stealthy. The Queen didn't think she was much like that, but many of her Clan were. If she was like any reptile, it would be a lizard: able to lose part of themselves and still survive. Sort of. Maybe. Perhaps a cockroach was a better analogy.

"I haven't been here long, but that surprises me. Then again, I suppose the Sabbah haven't been known for seeking out guidance or asking for help. I'm new to this job though and could use any help I can get." Her fingers trailed over one of the small leaves, the waxy texture smooth against her skin. She had always had a soft spot for citrus trees. She loved the way they smelled, the fruit they made, the color of their blossoms and the fact that some of them had spikes. As a girl in Dena Nehele oranges had been a treat, something to be enjoyed during winter and the only good thing about Winsol. They were a rarity here as well since they took a lot of water to grow. It made them all the more precious. "I'm not sure what qualifies as vital importance. It feels that way to me, but Queens can be very myopic when it comes to matters of their people. What I'm hoping for is a fresh pair of eyes, unaffiliated with my clan or any other. I'm embarking on a journey that I believe will do much good. I worry though, that I'm too close to it am not seeing the potential harm." She paused there, trying to decide how to tell him about the mine project. She had gone over her plan so many times by now. Each time the reaction had been different. Vera had been shocked then thoughtful, Zadi appalled then helpful, half a Court thought her mad, and Omid…

Each conversation had made her question herself. Was she only doing this to see if she could? Elenor didn't think it was based on greed, but did anyone ever see greed within themselves? So many followed lady Zhaleh; were they right to follow tradition? Too many questions. Elenor had always been plagued with doubts. Centuries of solitude and having most of her conversations with herself had left her fears plenty of space to grow, tumbling head over and until they were a tangled ball of inaction. The Sabbah though, cannot afford to be paralyzed with indecision right now, and neither could they afford a Queen who didn’t check herself against those wiser than she.

So she told him. Her hands remained busy as her lips moved, bringing the Priest up-to-date with the mines, with the division within the Sabbah, the Geiba children, Izil's rehabilitation project for the slaves and finally her plan to use water for mining, which was something that went against the very foundation of Pruulian tradition. She never raised her voice or her eyes from her task. The life beneath her fingers kept her centered and grounded even as her heart raced. Sometimes Elenor wondered if being a Queen was the only thing keeping her from madness. So many times her insecurities, her fears, everything that plagued her mind had only been kept in check by her connection with the land. It was that way now, though a single plant could only do so much. Why had she worn shoes again?

Oh, right. Meeting important people.

“What I have planned flies in the name of tradition. It will anger many and might cause my people to split, but if I don’t do it I fear the harm might be greater still. I could use any guidance you have to offer, Master Situla.”

Offline Aahad al-Situla

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Re: The art of pruning: to move forward you must let go
« Reply #3 on: Apr 24, 18, 05:14:28 PM »
Aahad smiled as she spoke of the scenery of the temple. The temple did, all things considered, have a quiet pulse to it that Aahad didn't often feel elsewhere in Pruul. It was soothing. Maybe that is what Elenor was sensing. "How long?....eh? The rough estimate is about 7,000 years. Ardeth al-Bali constructed it, a migrant from Hayll and indoctrinated into the Bali Clan some 8,000 or so thousand years ago. Needless to say it's very old. Perhaps not so in the eyes of the long-lived."

*clip clip*

What she spoke of did not answer the growing fear that seemed to ripple along her skin and the winds of confoundation that scented her voice. It would be akin to a Warlord Prince in the grip of the Killing Edge saying talking about the weather. It felt wrong. The questions felt like probes than they were issues of concern. Aahad went with it however to see where things would lead.

"That's a lot to have on the mind." He said with a light sarcastic humor. "It sounds like your issue has to do with Change." He observed. "And how people are responding to it." He stepped aside from where he was working and with a faint hint of power the ground under his feet lifted into a rock-cropping that he stood on to reach higher into the tree. "Change is good. A life without change is one of stagnation which inevitably decays the self. We evolve. We change. It's part of our lives. What we believe one day may not be what we believe the next day. Or the day after that. The world is far too complex for any woman or man to remain crystallized forever."

*clip clip*

"People don't like what they know to be challenged. Any change, from mass culture down to the simple things of the individual makes people fidgety. Concerned. Even threatened. What that norm means is under threat. The reasons why we should invoke change is just as important as the change itself because to invoke change also changes it's meaning. So Lady Sabbah. Tell me. Why change?"

Aahad of course had his own opinions where it counted. He remembered his time as a youth and the mines were operational. It was a fact of life. Slaves were there. Slaves worked them. Slaves died in them. It happened. It was only when he dove into his training did he realize the nuance of the mines. The absence of self. The robbery of enrichment. The fact that there would no tasting the fruit of their labor because the slaves were, by agents not of their choosing, made them labor. Change to the mines was good. What she described of course sounded no better to his mind.

"As for the Geiba children..." *clip clip* "There was an old addage my Master use to say to me when it came to meeting someone different for the first time." Different was emphasized. "Should the sins of their mother be theirs to carry forever?" He eyed Elenor through the tree branches. "What do you think?"

Offline Elenor al-Sabbah

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Re: The art of pruning: to move forward you must let go
« Reply #4 on: Apr 24, 18, 07:05:51 PM »
Seven thousand years. Elenor undestood, in theory, how long that was, but even though she knew people, at least at a distance, who were close to that age, to her it was still mind-boggling. She was long-lived, but only in part. She’d see a thousand years at best, assuming she was not beheaded or sent out into the desert to get eaten by a Worm for the crime of trying to do some good in the world.

Wow, bitter much?

The whole situation with the True Sabbah was starting to grate even at her patience, and for a woman who had actually memorized encyclopedias for fun, that was saying something. People kept telling her to strike, to wipe out at least the leadership of the faction who opposed her, and while more, and more frequently she wanted to, the Queen still couldn’t make peace with the notion of solving her problems with violence. There HAD to be another option. There just had to be.

“Change? Yes, that is at the core of all of it, I suppose. Whether to change and whether I, who am so new here, have a right to make those changes.” It was a dilemma and one that Elenor had been chewing over since the very beginning. When he asked why change, though, she cocked her head to the side, giving it the thought it deserved.

“Because change is upon us no matter what and holding fast against it isn’t possible anymore, I think. Years ago I was in a Landen village in Shalador during a flood. It had been raining for weeks, and the river overflowed the bank. I tried to brace against it, but the effort was beyond my capacity for long. I knew that if I failed lives would be lost, but there was simply no way to make the water go away. In the end we solved the problem by digging furrows in the earth. We didn’t try to hold the water back anymore, just gave it a place to flow where the destruction wouldn’t be so great.” She watched him do some sort of Craft as she spoke, moving the very earth beneath his feet and her brow furrowed for a moment with curiosity. Well, she had just been talking about moving earth, and here was a clear example of someone who knew how in a much less heavy-handed and power-draining manner than Elenor had ever figured out. “It feels that way again here. Pushing back against the changes that have come to Pruul since the Mineborn arose seems untenable and catastrophic, but simply allowing that change to flood over us could be equally destructive. The only way I can see to survive is to choose which way the water will flow and try to give it a path where it will do good instead of harm. Yet my people see me digging holes and furrows, as it were, and think that I’m dooming them by not putting up stronger walls instead. I refuse to help them; they refuse to help me because both see the other as wrong and ours as the only way that ensures our survival. But because we can’t cooperate neither side has the resources needed to actually forge ahead and the water keeps rising.”

Elenor bent down and knelt by the roots of the little tree. Calling in a needle, she poked the very tip of her finger and let a small drop of her blood fall on the roots of the tree, then closed the wound. Giving her power to the land here did nothing, but she and Mehdi had found good results in gifting it directly to plants through contact with their roots. A hand against the bark and she allowed a little Rose power to flow outward. Her Jewels were full, almost painfully so, from the desert crossing, so it was a relief to give some of that power over to something that would nourish people and make this already beautiful place even more so.

Should the sins of their mother be theirs to carry forever?

She opened her mouth to answer, then stopped before she blurted out an emphatic no. Of course, children were not responsible for the atrocities others committed, it didn’t pollute their blood or any of the other fucked up nonsense she had heard, and yet…

Witch is something else altogether.  Her choices are not a reflection on you, or your Caste, nor even her, really. Abaddon had said, and Elenor had spent a lot of time processing that interpretation. She was still processing it, but in her heart, she still had trouble distancing herself from the base assumption that had shaped so much of her existence over the last two hundred years.

“I want to say no, and I do, because they are children and I don’t think evil runs in the blood, but I’d be lying if I said I’d never thought of blame that way. I’ve struggled for a very long time with the concept of justice. The atrocities in the mines were discovered, and they were truly horrendous. Then the Geiba were killed. It was not a matter of individual justice but rather a larger Price extracted. Once I thought that fair but looking deeper… It’s a pattern that keeps repeating and repeating: The Purge for the War, the Geiba for the Mineborn. It’s the same story that boils down to choosing vengeance over justice, destruction over growth, thoroughness over casualties. Very Price leaves another debt, and there is no doubt that the Geiba children are owed for their pain, for if they were deemed innocents, then they did not deserve to have their families, their culture, and their way of life stolen from them. It wasn’t just the evils of the Geiba that were erased. That was the surface, the way they had operated for the last few decades, but there were centuries of tradition before that which were simply destroyed with a single decree.” She had veered off topic a little, but it was hard not to when this particular subject was brought up. “I’m a Queen. The Geiba children are part of my people, if nothing else because no one else wants them. It is my right to invoke a Price for their suffering, and yet if I did so, what greater horror would I unleash? What other families would I tear apart? What makes me capable of making those choices other than a random accident of birth? If you tally the harm Queens have done over the good, do the numbers justify our continued leadership?” That question, of course, was why she had voted for the Council, because Elenor had no answers and anything other than a vehement yes was unacceptable.

She looked up at him, still kneeling by the roots of the tree. “So no, I do not think the Geiba are responsible for the sins of their parents, but I’m not sure that my Caste isn’t responsible for the mess that created those sins to begin with, or the cascade of debts and Prices that seems never-ending. And if that is the case, then I’m not sure that following my instincts in how I lead the Sabbah is truly the best course.”

Offline Aahad al-Situla

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Re: The art of pruning: to move forward you must let go
« Reply #5 on: Apr 24, 18, 09:02:44 PM »
Aahad was patient. He listened as he leaned into the tree deeper to get at branches that were curling and choking others. Where the clippers didn't work he used Craft instead and then pulled out the freed branch and tossed it aside. The Lady Elenor was a philosophical one to be sure and it took him a minute to work out her metaphors and put them into context. Things were changing, whether Pruul liked it or not. Clinging to tradition, in her view, was folly. Best help guide the current than fight it. He supposed that was partially true. Change for change sake was stupid and the meaning was what was most important. Being able to point where to change things would be a very powerful position to be in. One could easily change things for themselves. He thought the Spider was proof of that enough.

He waited until the end so that he could wrap up the conversations into one stream-line of thought. He stepped off of his rock-stool and the rocks slid back into the sand like water pouring back into it's basin. He took out a cloth from his belt and wiped his hands. "I hate that addage." He shook his head. "Everything has a price, they say. Says who? Whoever coined the term also was unkind enough to not supply a spreadsheet either." He tucked the cloth back in his belt. "Prices and tolls are subjective, Lady Elenor. It is to Those Who Lead, or Those with Power, who make such important decisions and demand whether there is a Price to be paid in the first place." He looked over to Elenor.

"Do the Geiba children carry the sins of their Mother?"

He set aside the clippers and offered his cloth to Elenor for her to wipe her hand from the grit and dirt of the earth. He picked up the excess branches. "Wanna see something cool?" He smirked and tilted his head. "This way." He suggested.

He left the oases basin and entered the temple proper, passing through one building and entering the courtyard before entering another building. The walk gave plenty of time to talk and Aahad stopped in front of a lit brazier that crackled and sparked.

"This is the Atun." He gestured to the brazier aflame. He took the branches and put them under the brazier to retain the fuel. "History has no better teacher than the Atun. It has never been extinguished since Ardeth al-Bali lit it over 7,000 years ago." He let out a breath, giving a light dip to the brazier before stepping away. "Fire is an element of transformation. It can melt ice, vaporize water or shape stone. Unfortunately it is not an agent of change, simply a force that can."

"How is it that Pruul has changed, Lady Sabbah?" He turned to regard Elenor with the light of the Atun sparking in his dark eyes. "You speak of a flood. That is no small thing."

Offline Elenor al-Sabbah

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Re: The art of pruning: to move forward you must let go
« Reply #6 on: Apr 24, 18, 09:42:50 PM »
She smiled as Aahad took a moment to all but bitch about that adage that Elenor also hated so. Everything has a Price. Fuck that. Maybe: everything has a consequence, which was likely the intended meaning, but people took it far too literally. Prices were things set on objects, not people's lives, and like most things in commerce, could be negotiated.

“In my mind, no. The only sins they carry are their own, as with everyone… Even when that is hard to remember and harder still to believe… at least I think… I haven’t had much guidance other than my own thoughts on this matter, and my own thoughts have been… not always ones I trust.” She said, feeling a pang of guilt at how often she blamed Matin for the crimes and attitudes of his family, a an equivalent one of worry. The dreams were coming more often of late, the sense of once more sliding, like she had before her Chalice had cracked. Something was still wrong with her mind, she could feel it, but without Abaddon here Elenor wasn’t sure what she could do about it.

Wanna see something cool?"

Her head popped up and she found herself grinning, fear momentarily forgotten. “Always.” Chasing away boredom had been her main passtime for two centuries. Something cool might as well be a flame and she a moth. How many times had she lost herself in a book, an idea, a new and unusual sight or sound? They were what made life brilliant and vibrant!

She brushed off the knees of her pants then followed, unable to keep from looking up and around as they passed through the Temple complex, each new room and courtyard a new delight to her senses. Everything was so calm yet so alive, as if it were the very representation of what it felt like for the Queen to touch the Land. How this had been made by a male Elenor was not sure, but damn, it was IMPRESSIVE!

When they reached the hall that held the large brazier, Elenor inhaled deeply. There was a sense of...something here, something she had only really felt when she had touched Adel’s mind and felt his own connection the the Darkness. As Aahad explained what this fire was and what it represented, Elenor could swear the hair on her arms and at the back of her neck rose. She looked into the flames, dancing red and yellow and white in the darkness around them and pondered his question.

“Every Territory changed after the War. Pruul seems to move slower than most. Maybe it’s the lack of winds or just the stubbornness of a people who make their home in a desert where everything is trying to constantly kill you, but the fact is, there has been change. Almost everyone in a position of leadership right now is at least part long-lived, something that brings with it a different scale of time. When Queens were plentiful before the Purge, having a Mother lead us made sense, but now they have become so scarce that we needed something else, we needed the Mineborn. Yet they come with their own agendas and priorities.” She took a breath, “But that’s all politics, it’s important but superficial. There are other things changing too though. The Worms are becoming more active every day. Caravans are being attacked all over Pruul and there are those who say this is because of how the Rains were brought. I don’t think they’re entirely wrong. I felt the Land breathe in when the Rains came, but now it seems to be asleep again, and yet that doesn’t feel...right. I…” She ran her fingers through her hair, frustrated. “I feel like this horrible, wonderful, momentus thing is coming, but I can’t even express why…”

Flashes of something just beyond memory made her stumble standing still. She braced herself on the low wall around the brasier and stared across it at Aahad. “I’m sorry. I haven’t been sleeping well. Do you mind if we sit down?”

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Re: The art of pruning: to move forward you must let go
« Reply #7 on: Apr 24, 18, 10:42:10 PM »
There in the light of the Atun did Aahad finally get to a bit more of what was happening with the Queen of the Sabbah. When she spoke of what she was seeing, of how her mind was going everywhere at once and could not be trusted he understood the ripples and tears opening orifices in her skin where the jagged ripples refused to be smooth. Had she seen something that she was afraid of? A phantom menace she couldn't peg down? Or was it the weight of the world that she seemed adamant to carry on her own shoulders?

"Before you sit down." He said to her sudden weariness of needing to sit down. "I would suggest that perhaps you consider submitting to Hammam." He said, his words cautious as if her words triggered something he had already been expecting. "I do not believe you are here for advice, Lady Sabbah. I believe you are here for answers. Answers that trying to find them is tearing you apart in the search to find them. If you would permit me, I would be honored to offer such for you. And! As it happens, Hammam may help you find the answers you need."

"If you have not been here before, I can offer the five minute selling pitch if you like but what it can offer you is a chance to breathe, and just be. If only for a moment in time." It was a sincere offer and while he was one of the K'miar, giving people ritual baths was not the only thing he offered.

Offline Elenor al-Sabbah

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Re: The art of pruning: to move forward you must let go
« Reply #8 on: Apr 24, 18, 11:47:17 PM »
Hammam? She had heard of it, of course, but no one had seemed to be able to give her a satisfactory level of detail. Something about elements and cleansing and… Well, honestly she hadn’t really dug. Ther had been bigger troubles weighing her down and spiritual things weren’t exactly her cup of tea.

It wasn’t that she didn’t believe in the Darkness or Mother Night…

It was that if the Darkness existed it was a force of nature like any other, and if there was a Mother Night she was an unfeeling creature who didn’t make any sense. That and Elenor didn’t like Priestesses.

One had tried to sell her into slavery.

One had tried to have her raped, drugged and killed.

One had… No, wait, there were definitely just two, so why had she just counted three? Her head ached in a way she was sure it hadn’t a moment ago. Elenor’s hand drifted up to her temple and she rubbed a circle there. “Is Hammam like Communion with the Darkness, because I’ve never really done that…” Normally that wasn’t something she brought up, but she felt momentarily dazed enough to lose her filters. “I’ve had some bad experiences with members of your Caste -well, both of them but I have since developed a soft spot for Warlords- and it never felt like a priority and…”

And then she had felt it, not through her own Communion, but through that of her Blood Bonded, Adel. He had let her into his mind, and through his memories and self she had felt it: that touch of more, of oneness with something beyond the mundane world, or even that of thought that Elenor knew so well. “Yes.” The word slipped out, pulled from deep beneath her topmost thoughts. Then hurriedly she added. “No sales pitch. I think in five minutes I’ll lose my nerve completely if you do. I know it’s nothing bad, it’s just a fear that won’t control me once it’s been faces. If there even might be answers on the other side, then it’s worth facing some fears to get them. If you are willing to take me through it, then I would accept.”

Elenor might never have been brave, in the traditional sense of the word, but she was coming to see what people said when they called her bold. “If Vera trusts you, I do too.”

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Re: The art of pruning: to move forward you must let go
« Reply #9 on: Apr 25, 18, 12:15:34 AM »
If she was expecting Aahad to faint because she had never partaken in Communion then she was mistaken. Aahad simply smiled. "If I had your experiences with the Caste, I wouldn't either. Please, follow me."

Aahad explained the process in simple terms. No nonsense or foreplay. The main thing was to relax. She would be prepped in a steam room where she could sit, relax and let the steam room do it's work. Aahad would get her and bring her into the Hammam chamber and again...all she had to do was relax. Aahad would hand-hold the rest of the way. There was no forcing, at least for Aahad though the term 'submit' may seem a touch heavy-handed.

And if people thought Arnadeth didn't have steam rooms ALWAYS running? Ha. They were mistaken. Elenor was led elsewhere in the temple, outside of a room where he gestured her in and asked her to disrobe and then sit and relax. The steam room was very much what Aahad said it would be. A quiet little room who let out hot steam when the door was open.  When she entered Aahad dropped a privacy shield around the room just to make sure everything was legit, considering Elenor he now knew...had never performed a Communion or Hammam or anything before. The steam would open her pores and let the body breathe for the first time in a long time. After about ten minutes, Aahad would get her from what looked like out of the Wall opposite the door (it was in fact a door of its own) and brought her to the Hammam Chamber. Don't worry, Aahad gave no appreciative eye to her form.

The room was dark. No. To call it dark made it sound like there wasn't light in the room. There was. But it was black. Black everywhere save for the tiniest dots of white that looked like stars. Extreme inspection would see that the walls were black tile so close together that the white mortar were little pricks to the eye. Everything from the floor to the semi-circular walls to the ceiling looked like the night sky. Save a marble bench in the center which he guided her to and had her sit.

"I want you to close your eyes and breathe. Do not think. Just take a moment and breathe." He said as he went to work. He harnessed his senses, not simply looking at her emotions but sensing and seeing the pulse of her energy. Water and Air dominated all things, drowning fire in water and carrying the earth away forever. He let out a slow breath, opened his eyes and began to, well, give her a bath with a course brush that would scrape skin and with water and soap. It was a bath sure but for Aahad they were tools. "I want you to listen to my voice, it is the only thing that enter your thoughts now. I want you to focus inward, as if you were turning to look at yourself. Nothing more necessary than that. Open your mind and yourself." Basic meditation.

The brush would warm and shave away those jagged edges of her watery skin so that her body no longer ripped itself open. The steam opened her body to release the confusion and let fresh ideas and consciousness take hold again. The body had to be sealed first though. Once she relaxed enough and let go, and just was, Aahad touched upon her thoughts but only barely. Not enough to take by the hand but enough to guide from without.

As for Elenor, everything melted away. Into the Abyss she went, the Abyss-of-Her-Soul. Aahad felt her as he cleaned, a guiding hand whose bath-giving was more a way for him to manipulate the energy of herself. To find what she feared, what she saw in confusion and resolve it. To bring her harmony of the self. Ascend, for a moment in time, and See.

So the first thing he asked, as he cleaned, echoed in her thoughts as if a phantom echo.

"Who are you?"

Offline Elenor al-Sabbah

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Re: The art of pruning: to move forward you must let go
« Reply #10 on: Apr 25, 18, 01:04:50 AM »
The entire way to the steam room, Elenor tensed further and further. She had just undergone a rough Mind Healing, had come off a year that definitely counted as the most momentous of her life and was filled with fear and worry. She wasn’t sure she was ready to *feel* all the things she had been pushing down, and if this was anything like the dive into the Self that Abaddon had prompted her to go on, or what it had felt like at the start of her Offering, then Elenor was sure she’d have to face all the things she had been steadfastly ignoring.

But she needed to do something about those and soon because Abaddon and Shadya were right to worry. Her chalice, even held together by Abaddon, was so very fragile, and the weight kept piling on and on. Maybe this would her. Please let this help.

She stripped, a little awkward but getting increasingly unaffected about being naked around people. After all, she had stomped around with no clothes while covered in Blood within minutes of becoming Sabbah… what were a few more sets of eyes after that whole mess? The steam room was tiled, but even these were warm against her skin. She had let her hair down and now it stuck to her back and sides, gold strands hanging down to nearly her waist. It was lighter than it ever had been, after a month out in the sun of central Pruul, though her skin was several shades darker for the same reason. Not bright red anymore every time it encountered the sun, it, like the rest of her were adapting. As the heat rose her hand reached up to the little Gold flower at her neck and hesitated, then with a long breath vanished that too.

The steam soothed her body. Three weeks in the saddle and of heavy travel after a year or more in the comforts of Onn had reminded Elenor how out of shape she had gotten. As those muscles relaxed, her breath came easier too, the steam warming her lungs and chest. There was no one around. When had the last time she had been alone in a room be? She really thought about it but couldn’t remember. Queens were so rarely alone, and a Queen with six (or seven, depending on how one counted Adel) Bonded, a lover and a Court with over three Circles, solitude was just… untenable.

And it felt good. Elenor’s posture slouched, then she lay down on the bench, hands flung up above her head as she had on so many tree branches, in so many Territories, over so many years of lying alone, pondering the universe.

Honestly, it was over too soon. She was just starting to drift of into the semi-wakeful slumber of midday relaxation when the wall on the other side of the steam-room opened and Aahad gestured her through. The warm air of Pruul felt pleasantly cool against her skin as she followed him, the dark and moment of relaxation allowing the Queen not to feel quite as awkward as she might have. She just kept reminding herself that this was normal, as much a part of Aahad and his Caste as Gifting the Land was part of hers.

The bench was hard and cool, but smooth. She sat cross-legged, the position she generally found most comfortable for long stillness and closed her eyes upon his direction. Nerves returned now but she tried to push them away. A shiver ran down her entire spine as the brush touched her skin, then a strange hum of unexpected pain.

Not at the physical sensation, but at the brush of censing energy against skin and defenses so tight and bruised that the slightest brush ached.

Breathe.

She did. Breath in, breath out. Like she had first done with Judiah, she let the world fall away one layer at a time. First the rest of the Realm, then Pruul, then Arnadeth, the Sabbah, this room, Aahad, all the way down to the very air and water touching her skin. Her focus turned inward, and as she had been learning to do so well of late, she felt for her own inner barriers. Unlike with Shadya, with whom Elenor had to engage in the terrifying, slightly traumatic process of lowering her barriers until the Black Widow could glimpse her Chalice, this time it was merely sinking down around them. Aahad wasn’t trying to penetrate the mind, but rather lead her down to the depths of the Jewels and soul. Not separate, but not the same either.

It was far from quiet there. Her mind struggled to quiet, to join the peace and tranquility that the body was enjoying as she sat motionless on the bench, water and bristles smoothing over her skin. The pounding in her temples was still there, keeping rhythm like a drum. thud, thud, thud.

Breathe.

Elenor had found this calm before. There had been poison in her system then, filling her mind with things that weren’t there and the only things that had been real were the earth and her breath. Now like then, her hands flexed against the stone, her senses extending down through stone to rock beneath. Not an active probe cut simply a center.

Breathe.
 
The dark behind her eyes became more. She drifted now, aware of her body, IN her body, but also beyond it. In the shadows of this place, where she could feel eternity stretched out beyond the sphere of light cast by her Opal Jewel.

Who are you?”[/b] The words did not come from within but also did, as if the Priest asked but the soul did too in echo.

Elenor opened her lips, then let them fall shut, choosing instead to speak into the swirling dark of the Abyss. Here, there was no habit to fall back on, no automatic answers that were no longer worth pondering. So instead of giving her name or her title, Elenor simply said, “I don’t know. I’ve been too many people and spent too much time as nobody at all. I think I’m becoming someone though.”

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Re: The art of pruning: to move forward you must let go
« Reply #11 on: Apr 25, 18, 01:56:19 AM »
Aahad waited for her to sink down, his connection within her inner barriers strong but disconnected enough to perform the ritual. It was a tenuous juggling act, the act of Communion with Hammam. Aahad had done it several times in the past and found that it was more fulfilling for the supplicant than the simple rejuvenation Hammam offered.

Aahad tilted her head and cleaned behind her head and her scalp. A massage and then a vapid scrub. So much Water he thought to himself. It was little wonder Elenor was practically swimming in question marks. How deep did it go? Down to her Chalice? He hoped not, though his fears would be realized if someone told him.

The tactic didn't seem to be working. Too much confusion. Too little ground to stand on. So instead Aahad focused on the energies of the earth within her, the emotions of resolve, of courage and resilience. The foundation of the Self. The earth would offset the air of confusion within her. Lets try this way. He thought.

*Don't think. Feel. Trust your feelings. Let go the confusion and follow where the heart guides. Center yourself and listen.* The words came to her. Then other words came to her. Her own, echoing just like Aahad's were as if the confusion came alive.

Who am I?

Am I impotent?

Am I strong?

Should I be here?

What am I doing?

I DONT KNOW

Am I right?

*Let go and just be. Listen to what your heart tells you and answer. Who are you? Thoughts echoed in the darkness like the room was only inches wide, echoing off each other as Aahad touched upon her confusion in Hammam.

The words soon turned visible, floating across her vision as if flies had found a dead carcass as if they were taunting her.

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Re: The art of pruning: to move forward you must let go
« Reply #12 on: Apr 25, 18, 02:57:41 AM »
Elenor squeezed her eyes shut but it did no good. The words, the questions, they were inside her, where they had always been. It made her skin crawl on the inside, her Self pull back from each invisible blow. They were all howling, teasing demons created to fight this descent into the Self, to keep Elenor from touching upon the pain deep at the heart of it all.

Who are you?

Who am I?

In stories when the protagonist looked into themselves wisdom popped up. Elenor waited, but none did, there was no easy revelation or poetic words drawn from a font of truth buried deep. There was, instead, an awkward voice saying, what answer does he want? What answer is right?

The questions kept pelting her like raindrops. Let go of her confusion? How, everything here was confusing and scary! She didn’t know enough not to be confused even though she had worked so hard to learn. Study, ask questions, memorize, learn, and all of it for nothing because it didn’t seem to matter how much information she acquired, there was always something missing, something she ought to...ought to know...and…

Her head throbbed and her chest ached, fingers flexing as if to reach for something no longer there as her chest constricted, a fond tightening around her and…

Breathe.

The inhale was sharp. Air filled her lungs and throat, diaphragm expanding to hold it, then contracting again as it left. Her heartbeat there, in her chest, in her Self. They matched at that point and that point only, it seemed. Elenor could feel the disconnect like the time one of her joints had slid out of place. Painful, jarring, wrong. Three pieces, all neglected in their way.

A body allowed to suffer and starve for food and touch and still be asked for more.

A mind expected to come up with answers to questions that had none.

A soul that had no grounding, no anchor or care put into why it was hurting.

The Heart was the only thing that bound the three. Flesh and Blood that powered Mind that housed Soul that gave purpose to Body. Solid, grounded, sure.

The heart had no questions, it knew, but were there words for the truths it held? They didn’t seem the sort of things that had words. They were too concrete and deep for words, and as she focused in on that feeling housed there, let it open and unfurl from long slumber…

Pain.

The sheer intensity of it made her gasp, her chest aching as she felt the wave crash through her, out her parted lips and down her cheeks as tears.

Carried on that wave was…everything

Who are you?

Abaddon had given her part of that answer.

I am a Queen

Compassion hit her first. The compassion she had been forced to put away the first time she stared at a rabbit and snapped its neck so she could eat. Every living thing she touched that had sung to her over all the long years, calling for her, yearning for the touch of a woman who wasn’t just a guardian of the Land but a part of it. The pain there was of innocence lost. It was the sense of the harm done with her every deed began to be stacked for a reckoning that had never come on a scale that she could never hope to balance because of anger-

It hit her next, like fire racing over each of her nerves, setting them alight with that new pain, though it was cleansing. Fury, also visceral and innate just like the compassion had been, a part of her that was not name or memory but primordial instinct, a rabid, feral protectiveness and myopic short-sightedness. That too she had stuffed away, scared at what she had seen another Queen do with that rage. 

Those two conflicting emotions spiraled together within, light and dark, the desire to protect and the desire to destroy, neither given a target but rather just coiled together tighter and tighter until the compassion had turned to stone and the fury melted to sludge, neither able to be true to itself and to her.

“I’m me, there’s nothing more.”

That truth slipped out in another wave of tears. There was nothing more, just these broken, mismatched pieces that should have fit together so easily had each of them not been the anathema of each of the others. Except that wasn’t true, was it?

“I’m a body. I’m here. It’s just me and that scares me.”

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Re: The art of pruning: to move forward you must let go
« Reply #13 on: Apr 25, 18, 03:55:41 AM »
The acknowledgement came over Aahad like a heat wave. The sight of her with his senses turned those jagged edges, bitten with frost cold to the point of burning. He bit back a curse as Fire grew inside her while the Air of her soul diminished. One down. Two to go. He had to be careful to guide her the right way. The detrius of the Hammam sloughing off of her like mud from her skin but the body remained rippled with fear.

Elenor needing grounding. Some form of firmament. Earth. It was the most important of the energies of the soul. That of resilience, of courage. Practicality. Most importantly for her: Prudence. The anchor the soul needed to remain grounded as everything else shifted around it.

Compassion and Destruction, like coiled rope, appeared in her consciousness. They appeared as strands to which looking at them recalled feelings and thoughts of times past. The things that brought warmth, or when she gave it were found in one. The other, the reckless abandonment of open destruction. The thrill of unbridled anger. When compassion turned to stone and destruction melted away to emptiness leaving nothing behind but the empty void, Aahad's voice could be heard now farther away as she sank deeper into herself.

*There is no conflict.* The echo came to her. *Compassion tempers our urges. To maim or to kill or to harm. Our primal nature makes us aware, and tempers our compassion so as not to be weak. To feel trapped in-between will make one lose themselves forever in the struggle. You see them as enemies. Let me show you another way.*

The strands returned. Compassion and anger that were made of thoughts and sights and sounds that evoked those feelings more than having a form. This time however they did not touch. Like a mobius strip, the two conflicting natures were separated by thin translucent strands. Looking upon them evoked the same feeling as when Elenor was in the steam room. A brief moment of pause, to collect herself, the chance to look to the way of compassion or anger. The feeling of light restraint when anger overwhelms you keeping you from the edge of the cliff and flinging yourself into it's embrace. The same that keeps you from being vulnerable. A skepticism that kept the heart from being so easily wounded. A proctectiveness. Yet throughout it all, staring into the center strands...there was no one or the other. They were both there but after thoughts. Like how anger can appear phantasmal when one is not angry or how compassion only emerges when the heart calls to it. Otherwise one is simply friendly.

*Accept them as part of yourself. Reconcile the conflict and see where it takes you. Have no fear. Your soul will never betray you.*

Offline Elenor al-Sabbah

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Re: The art of pruning: to move forward you must let go
« Reply #14 on: Apr 25, 18, 11:20:09 AM »
She sank deeper, or perhaps drifted was a better term. It wasn’t the free-fall she had engaged in so often each time she sought relief for the pain in her soul by harming the body, the quick turnabout that soothed but did not mend. It was also not the brush against the Abyss that came from drawing power from her Jewels. It was something else entirely, and in this place there was just so...much.

Two hundred years without care left this space overgrown with brambles. They kept snagging at her, drawing blood that was memories and pain to the surface, but they let her through. It reminded her, in a way, of the first time Leila had tended to her body after her Trials, the touch of a Healer an unfamiliar intrusion and a welcome relief. The same could be said for Abaddon, as she poked and prodded her consciousness until it relaxed from the knot of contradictions she had tightened around her chalice. There were contradiction here, too, or at least she had thought, but Aahad showed her another way to look at them.

An infinite loop.

Compassion tempering Anger, Anger fueling Compassion.

Elenor’s instinct was to draw away from both. Succumbing to those emotions was at the heart of her Caste, the most basic nature of Queens, or at least, hers. Yet, fighting them had done her no good, right? If it had, she wouldn’t be in this mess, wouldn’t feel so unsettled right now. With a deep, her self in the Abyss reached out to touch the slowly spinning strip of intuitions, memories, and fears, then stepped into it. Surrounding her now, the pain lessened. She watched in fascination as anger sliced away the thorns that had reached for her, dismissing the overabundant guilt and Elenor’s tendency to take on the cares of others. Then compassion came through, compassion for herself, for the choices she had made that haunted her and even for the people who had harmed her, dismissing the impact they still had over her life. Where one failed, the other came to the rescue, down and down  and down until…

She felt it, her inner web. She could not see it at first, but then there, like stars coming out, each strand of Opal came into view. She found herself kneeling in the midst of them, shocked at how unfrayed and untarnished they were. Elenor had honestly half expected tatters, but each strand pulsed with power and with… grounding.

Her fingers reached down to touch and it was like touching the land or her Bonded but a thousand times more. Her wonder echoed back to her twice as strong, forming an ever growing loop of serenity as she curled up against the web she had always considered something to protect instead of something to draw strength from.

In this place, there was quiet.

She could feel the Priest only like a thread she could pull on if lost, but she wasn’t lost.

It was not the quiet of isolation that Elenor knew so well. It was not the silence before a storm or the stillness of a held breath.

It was the momentary pause before laughter, the inhale before tears, the peace of growing things as the sun began to rise and the patience of roots buried in loam. The thoughts that always screamed in her head became still, the tension in her muscles lessened, and once more

Breathe

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Re: The art of pruning: to move forward you must let go
« Reply #15 on: Apr 26, 18, 05:15:03 PM »
When Elenor tapped into those memories, Aahad could feel the change simply by touching her. Soapy and lathered as her body was with grime and dirt encircling the bench of times and pains past the reverie that rippled through her balmed those jagged edges. No longer was she ripping herself apart at that moment in time. Now her body simply lapped like eddies, seen under the litany of bubbles and soap suds.

*Do not think. Just be.* He said to her as her body went slack in his hands, her back pressed gently against him as he pulled a clean basin to drowse her with. *Just be.* He said again as he tilted her head back to look down at her and slowly poured the blessed water down over her body. The bubbles flowed down her figure to join the dirt and grime on the floor and with it that feeling of peace, balance and center found a place in her heart and latched there. The worry, the fear, the confusion, the questions and the struggle bled away like the water washed the suds away. The power of her jewels, tainted by the feelings within her bled away too until the body was light as a feather both psychically and emotionally. Then, as he gently rubbed the water over her skin to saturate it and give life back to that which had been covered in filth, the energy of the water guided him to her Jewels. Empty vessels that he fed the Abyss into. Clean energy for a clean body and a clean heart. All of which lead to a clean mind.

Now drenched, he placed his hands on her shoulders and tilted her head back to rest against his chest. He didn't want her slumping or falling as he *Now, come back. Like rising from your bed on a new day.* He said as he simply stood there, nude as she was nudging her back to the real. When she finally started to emerge from the meditation he took the now used cisterns and put them off to the side confident that she wouldn't slack over onto the floor. She smelled faintly of jasmine, just enough to give a pleasant scent to the air without overpowering it. Most importantly was that the fear, anxiety, worry, and trepidation was gone. There was no fear of the self, no shadows that lurked in the mind or in the heart or vision. A clarity of sight and mind that made things more vivid. The world seemed, strangely, more real than it had when she came in. Even the air, hot and dry as the Pruulian desert to which it came, was refreshing. Like taking the first breath in the woods. The heat and dryness of it was there, it simply didn't matter. Focus.

When she was out of it fully Aahad had taken the liberty of slipping out to fetch her clothing and returned. He brought his own as well, for privacy's sake. "Welcome back to the land of the living." He said with a smile. "How do you feel?"

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Re: The art of pruning: to move forward you must let go
« Reply #16 on: Apr 26, 18, 05:46:58 PM »
Elenor had always turned to the land to find peace and grounding. Now, she did so within herself and it was a revelation. She had spent so long looking outward that to discover that serenity had been just under her skin the whole time was world altering, like the shifting of continental plates: deep, powerful, momentus and yet in some ways too large for the naked eye to catch.

She floated, limp and calm, her mind empty save for the quiet beat of her heart and matching pulse of her Jewels. Distantly she could feel water flowing over her skin and hair, washing the body clean. That was good. The vessel not being cleansed would be grating to return to. Instead, when he bade her rise from the Abyss it was like slipping into freshly washed silk sheets after a bath. She could feel the warmth of the Priest at her back, supporting her as she blinked a few times, then moving away as Elenor managed to get control of her body again.

The dark of the room was peaceful, the scent mild and pleasant, the air warm. The Queen basked in those simple sensations, each a caress to her senses. Her worries were still there, but they didn’t feel as urgent. A neat to-do list instead of demons battering at the doors of her mind. She was able to just set them aside for a while without it feeling like her whole existence would come crumbling down. Around her neck she could feel her Opal’s quiet pulse, a breathing reminder of that place in the Abyss where Aahad had shown her to go. Her fingers brushed over it, a smile turning her lips.

When the Priest returned with her clothes -a new set, probably thanks to her escorts and Judiah- he found her still sitting where she had been. She looked up and accepted the light linen dress with a nod of thanks. "The land of the living? That's a relief. Wouldn't want to end up in the other place after a bath. That would be such an unlikely way to go, living in Pruul and all..

WHen asked how she was feeling, she replied with, “lighter.” slipping from the bench and pulling the dress over her head, then tying the corded belt in place, each motion slow and deliberate. Then she glance over at Aahad again and reached out to take one of his hands between both of hers. “Thank you,” she imbued that mundane touch with a single drop of more, a Queen giving thanks to someone who had brought her relief from pain she had not even had a name for.

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Re: The art of pruning: to move forward you must let go
« Reply #17 on: Apr 26, 18, 06:17:39 PM »
Aahad got a handshake and...and...odd. Was this the Queen's Touch? Aahad had never felt such a power before. He had no Queen to had gotten it from. His caravan did not even have a Queen, just Clan elders. The feeling was...unexplainable. It wasn't anything like Hammam, the re-centering of the Soul and cleansing it. It was like it though. A calming sensation of a tension that he didn't know existed. A subtle relaxation that made his legs not as stiff or his posture quite as rigid. It was it's own balm and freely offered. That in itself was more than enough.

"I would point out that you did most of the work but..." His smile returned, his other hand clasping over both of hers. A token of warmth returned. "You are welcome. I am glad to have helped." The words sincere and plain. "As you will be heading to Dar al-Salaam simply remember. Breathe. There is no struggle that cannot be overcome." He gestured out to her, letting her move ahead back into the temple proper.

"Should you however find yourself at a crossroads once again though feel free to come back at anytime." He said. Aahad, as a matter of principle, never demanded payment. The Temple, through offerings, always had enough to survive. Perhaps not comfortably, but life in the caravans proved to be a resilient teacher. Aahad, nor even the others of Arnadeth demanded comfort. Just certainty. That was enough. The soul was too important to put a price tag on.

"And feel free to come back and help prune the oases too. You do a far better job than I ever could. A touch selfish I know but I have man hands." He held his hands up for emphasis. "Not exactly the best suited for such tender labors." Tell that to the eyesight that is the oasis.

"The bathhouses in the temple are open to you and yours in preparation for the continuation of your journey. I would suggest that you take the evening to relax. Hammam is one thing. Communion is another. You did both. Take the day. Unwind. Let what you saw and felt sink in a bit before you continue on. You have said you are in a hurry, but take care to give yourself time too. There is a difference between living and existing between problems."

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Re: The art of pruning: to move forward you must let go
« Reply #18 on: Apr 26, 18, 11:13:44 PM »
Elenor spoke little as he led her back out into the Temple, preferring to listen in silence, but when he invited her to come back one day to help with the oasis, Elenor stopped him with a hand on his arm.

“If you don’t mind, Master Situla, I wouldn’t be opposed to spending a few hours doing so now. I know of no more soothing and restful thing to do than be with the land and work with my hands. I wouldn’t need company or to take up more of your time if you have other duties, but I miss my gardens in Onn.” She made the request with a shy smile, but no hesitation. Easy gardening wouldn’t put pressure on her body or her mind and after weeks in the desert the chance to touch things that were green and growing was something she couldn’t pass up.

She was sure her companions, particularly Judiah, would take advantage of the offer of hospitality, and Elenor would have to consult with Matin as to what was a respectful donation to make the the temple… then double it, because why not. If she was going to be hated for her Clan’s wealth she might as well spend it where she thought it would do some good. From what she had heard of the woman, she somehow doubted she would have quite as good an experience with the Head Aubdina.

“I hate to ask more of you than I already have,” she asked after another moment of comfortable silence, “but do you have suggestion on daily meditation practice? The Black Widow whose care I am under after I got a crack in my Chalice suggested it, but I’m not sure I’m doing it right because I’m still having very odd dreams. I thought maybe you might have some tips, given all… this,” she said, gesturing helplessly at the temple and most of all the Priest. Even through her current calm, the memory of last night’s nightmare was a pinprick of worry.

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Re: The art of pruning: to move forward you must let go
« Reply #19 on: Apr 27, 18, 01:36:09 AM »
"By all means." He said to the request to tend to the oasis. "As I said. Man hands." He smiled. He grew a bit more cautious though as she spoke of her dealings with a Black Widow. Not due to the caste but that a subtle worry was proven true. The Chalice was cracked and learning it helped understand a bit more of what she was suffering from.

He nodded at her request to ask for more than what had already been done and thought on it for a moment. "For a cracked Chalice?" He pursed his lips. "To help with the dreams, unfortunately I cannot do. As far as meditation however, that I can help with I think." He spoke as he walked. "Take a moment alone, get comfortable and close your eyes. Think of it like...turning your internal noisebox down to zero for a bit. Don't focus on anything, don't ponder over something. Not even about yourself. Just relax, breathe and be in the moment."

"There is a method that helps when people are new or having difficulty with meditation." When they stepped out onto the oasis he looked around and seeing an oblong rock sticking out at the edge of the lake he pointed to it. "See that rock there? At some point while your gardening sit in the shade, relax and focus on that rock there. The only that exists is you and that rock. When your mind starts racing like it's bored and has something to do? Focus on the rock. Your mind will quiet. See if that helps. When you leave you can simply substitute any marker to focus on or feel free to imagine the rock if there isn't." He hoped the advice would work.

"As for myself I have no real duties as of the moment so I am free as a bird. The only real thing I had planned for today was tending the oasis."

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Re: The art of pruning: to move forward you must let go
« Reply #20 on: May 08, 18, 11:47:21 AM »
Well that was definitely easier to understand than when Abaddon had explained it. Not that he hadn’t done a good job, but he had been speaking from the point of view of someone who spent so much of his time dealing with thoughts and the inner landscape. Elenor...was a more tactile person, and the idea of just focusing in on an object, especially one tied with the land, was much easier to wrap her mind around.

“Thank you, I’ll try that.” They had arrived at the Oasis by now, and Elenor took a moment to look around at all the carefully cultivated vegetation and how it seamlessly wove into the buildings of the Temple complex. It was beautiful. There was no other word to really describe it. It made Elenor’s heart ache in a manner she did not fully comprehend, but that felt the way a long day of exercise did on the muscles. Good, clean, wholesome.

“This place is very special. I can feel how much love has gone into it. Most of Pruul…” she struggled to find the right words, “when I touch my hand to the ground in other Territories, there is a heartbeat. It’s like an ocean current: powerful, strong, deep. Pruul doesn’t have that. There’s still something but it’s more like the sleeping breath of a giant. It’s so slow and deep that sometimes I can’t feel it at all, and it’s hungry but giving it power is like pouring water through a colander. Some places though feel a little more alive, and this is definitely one of them.” She sighed, then looked over at him, her cheeks coloring a pale rose. “I’m sorry, I ramble at times.

Spotting a bucket by the shore of the oasis, she pulled off her shoes and picked it up, walking into the water a few feet and enjoying the feel of it on her toes as she filled the pale and carried it back to shore. Kneeling next to it, Elenor called in a small ceremonial knife and pricked the tip of one of her fingers. As she allowed a trickle of blood to drop into the water, she infused it with the power of her Jewels, both Rose and Opal and it was like… like…

There were no words. Clean was the closest. Easy and effortless in a way Craft had not been for her...ever. A smile lifted the corners of her lips and she let just a little more power flow into the water before sealing up the cut with a touch of Craft. “The Queen’s Gift doesn’t work when applied to the land, or not well enough to matter, but plant roots still take it fine. If you have any trees or plants that are struggling this should help.”

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Re: The art of pruning: to move forward you must let go
« Reply #21 on: May 08, 18, 06:36:50 PM »
It was special to Aahad also. For more reasons of course than Elenor described and partially because Aahad couldn't feel the land like a Queen could. He could mold it, shape it, sense it's presence but a Queen had a bond several layers deeper than anything Aahad could ever hope to access. It was the way of things and the way of things was never anything Aahad despised. Quite the contrary. It made perfect sense.

When Elenor began to speak of how the land of Pruul was so different from other lands he smiled. Only a foreigner would compare. He didn't mind it however. "Among the Sayyadina they speak of a time when Pruul was one of the more fertile lands of Terreille. At some point in history, it wasn't anymore. They refer to it as the 'Cataclysm', due in part to the transition between desert and great fertility requiring...wait for it, cataclysmic change, and is sort of a fad to study it because there is nothing about it." He shrugged, still smiling. "Either the oral history died away or it is what it is: a fable. People seek to study it and find nothing. People seek to learn of the time where trees outnumbered the grains of sand and find nothing. No ancient landmarks to study, no shrines to visit. Either the sand whittled them away to nothing or they never existed. It is as you say...putting one's efforts into a colander." Aahad tucked his hands away into pockets in his robes. "Pruul is the friendly desert. Inhospitable to most life but if one is resilient, one can happiness between the grains of sand."

Aahad watched as Elenor waded into the oases and performed another token of the Queen's Gift. He didn't interrupt, though his lips twitched at the corners. He certainly didn't hope that the other Sabbah would be as forward as shambling their dirty, dust-ridden bodies into the oasis without asking first. Thankfully Aahad purified the waters regularly and so any tomfoolery wasn't that big of an issue. "Thank you for that." He squinted when he looked at the surrounding trees and shrubs. "I am sure the green would enjoy a taste of the Queen's touch. It's been a while since a Queen has given such here. No doubt they appreciate the attention." Insert man-hands comment.

"In regards to the reason why you came, Lady Sabbah. I must remind you that the K'miar have no real political power to help you. We are neither enjoined to the Sayyadina nor hold seat on the newly elected Council so I don't exactly know what we could do for you." He shrugged. "But I see no reason why your plan is faulty or somehow deviant. Taking nothing and making something from it is what Pruul has done for thousands of years. " He gave an abologetic frown. "I wish I could do more for you." There wasn't much Aahad could do, politically, about her situation. Arnadeth, nor the K'miar, were 'political' beings. No matter how much Aahad said it was alright it wouldn't do much.

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Re: The art of pruning: to move forward you must let go
« Reply #22 on: Jun 13, 18, 11:25:16 AM »
Elenor listed, entranced as he spoke of a time when Pruul was fertile and abundant and how it had just… changed. Her curiosity was spiked and part of her wanted to ask if he had anything more on the subject, but she had to remind herself that rabbit holes like this weren’t in the books for her for awhile. She had to stay focused on the job at hand: to get water and save the mines. Anything else would have to wait. It was just so haaaaard after centuries of just following her interests and pursuing any tangent that caught her eye to put all her energy into a single task. It grated at her nature but… it was what the Sabbah needed, and that had to come first.

That was what it meant to rule.

“One day, I’d love to hear more about this Cataclysm. I’d love to come back here at a time I have, well, more time. I think I’d enjoy spending a few days or weeks just helping in the gardens here and listening to what stories you have to tell of Pruul. I would love to know more about the land I rule in. So far my education has mostly been practical, but it’s nice to sometimes know the why of a tradition, not just the how.”

"Pruul is the friendly desert. Inhospitable to most life but if one is resilient, one can happiness between the grains of sand."

She chuckled at that. “You know, that’t always the way i thought of it too. I would go to Raej and get irritated by the very ground, but Pruul… it always struck me as just so… sunny and warm. There are hardships -lots of them- but they are all out in the open. It’s a very honest place, straightforward in a way that I find endearing.” Had a Worm not tried to make her his lunch, she might have even stayed here after her Offering. Alas, she had run, but Pruul had always called to her to come back.

The water of the oasis was cool against her skin that had been scrubbed clean of both physical and psychic dust by the Priest. When he gave her no specific instruction she decided to start with the fruit trees and other plants that would feed the Temple. At the base of each she put frown her bucket, knelt, cupped her hands and gave a handful of water infused with her power directly on the roots of the plants. She could feel them drink it up through her fingers, could feel the gratitude of a living thing to an unexpected boon. It warmed her.

So much so that when Aahad admitted there was little he could do for her, Elenor just shrugged. “Just knowing I have another ally is good. You are a respected man. If your acceptance of my plan keeps just one person from outright hostility long enough for them to actually consider the matter, then it will be plenty.”

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Re: The art of pruning: to move forward you must let go
« Reply #23 on: Jul 06, 18, 10:54:35 PM »
Aahad gave a brief chuckle when she asked to hear more of the Cataclysm. How many stories were there regarding why the depth of Pruul's desert never breached the mountains or is a dead zone of the magic of the Blood or that any long-term spiritual presence turned into months before vanishing without a trace? Aahad didn't know, he only knew four of them.

"When you have time." Aahad agreed. "I would be happy to regal with what stories I know." He scratched at the base of his beard.

Elenor was travelling to Dar al-Salaam. That would put her in the direction of the Northern Ranges and Aahad, personally, had business there. Perhaps this would be a good time to make that trip after all?

"Since you are going to Dar al-Salaam, Lady Elenor perhaps, with your permission, I may join your caravan for a time?" He looked toward the direction of her encampment and then back to her. "I have something I need to do in the Northern Ranges. I am eager to work and am a decent scavenger and water scout." He better be. He was Situla. "And I wouldn't mind giving you random pointers along the way as you try to figure out how to meditate."

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Re: The art of pruning: to move forward you must let go
« Reply #24 on: Jul 06, 18, 11:53:47 PM »
“Random pointers and stories? How would any sane woman refuse such an offer?” Elenor beamed at him with absolutely zero sarcasm in her words. That sounded wonderful! “I would be delighted to have you as my guest until you reach your destination, just be aware that we won’t be coming back the same way. As long as that is acceptable to you, we can delay a day or two so that you can prepare and not have to run out the door without even so much as a pocket handkerchief.”

She looked up from the lemon tree she was tending to and added, “is your business at Dar-el-Salaam as well or somewhere else? Not that you have to tell me, of course. I’m a naturally curious person so if the questions ever bother you feel free to tell me to shut up. I won’t be offended.” Pity people rarely believed that. They saw Queen and assumed so much. It made just having frank, nerdy discussions so much more difficult. It was one of the many reasons she liked Zadi.

Perhaps whatever stories he might recount on the trip would help her understand Pruul a bit better… and perhaps not. Either way, Elenor was sure they would be interesting and she looked forward to getting to know the Priest a little better. He seemed like a genuinely nice and thoughtful man and after all the xenophobic asses she had met in Pruul, he was quite the breath of fresh air. It made her hopeful that maybe there might be more like him out there.

Hope was a good thing to have.

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Re: The art of pruning: to move forward you must let go
« Reply #25 on: Jul 07, 18, 01:13:51 AM »
Aahad smiled at her retort. You are SO not from Pruul. He thought to himself. "Well then. I have plenty of stories to tell." He offered. "Oh don't worry about the return trip. That has also been taken care of. It is simply a matter of my compatriot and I have two different lives. Crossing paths at Dar al-Salaam is far easier than him making the trek to Arnadeth is all."

"Oh no. Not at Dar al-Salaam specifically." Aahad shook his head. "I am taking a field trip to the Northern Range. There is a place that is special to me that I made a promise to return to. I'm meeting a friend at Dar al-Salaam to make the trek. The mountains aren't as dangerous as the dunes but still..it's dangerous to go alone." So take an Eyrien with you. "I suspect it will be a relatively short excursion. A few days tops."

"I'll be sure to finalize my belongings so I will be ready to depart when your caravan is. Until then please call upon me or the resident K'miar if you or yours need anything." He offered a respectful nod and light bow to the Queen before stepping backwards and away to give the Queen her time of peace among the land.

 

 

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