The Illusion Festival

Theres a celebration to be had, and an unusual guest to see

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The Diamond of Kalea is located on Kalea's extreme west coast and called as such because its completely made of a crystalline substance called Skyglass. Home of the Alvina of the Stars, cultural mecca of knowledge seekers, and rife with Ethaefal, this remote city shimmers with its own unique light.

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The Illusion Festival

Postby Madeira Craven on May 2nd, 2019, 3:07 am

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14th of Spring, 519


"Delivery for Miss Craven!"

A very serious faced boy stood dripping like his own personal rainstorm on the covered porch of the Infinity Manor. If he was at all taken aback by the scorched earth and spiked moat he had to cross to get there, he did not show it. From his messenger bag and from under his cloak he had thrust forward two small packages and a rather crumpled bouquet of flowers to the wreck of the woman that stood just inside the tall double doors.

Madeira might have been mistaken for one of the ghosts the sign on the door warned him about. The red rings around her pale eyes and the sallow colour of her faded bruises made her look hollow and haunted. Barefoot in a pink nightdress, a thick layer of linen bandages could be seen pressing against the silk as she breathed, and more was wrapped around the hand that held gingerly to the doorframe.

"Oh. Thank you for coming all this way in the rain", Madeira slipped into her practiced smile, but found the expression awkward and strained. "Could you bring those inside for me? On the table in the kitchen there would be fine."

The boy nodded once, sharply, and marched inside as Madeira stood aside to make room. His eyes flicked over the corroded black burn in the center of the large, round room, to the slightly bowed, splintered door that wouldn't quite close behind him and the busted windows that couldn't quite keep the rain out. But he didn't question it. Instead he lined the boxes neatly together, label up, and laid the bouquet beside them.

"Where are they from?" Madeira asked, passing behind the boy to put the kettle on a hook over the kitchen hearth. The fire below lit itself with a greedy womph. "Could I make you something hot to drink before going out there again?"

"No, Ma'am. But thank you, Ma'am" the boy bowed stiffly. "The flowers and small package are from the Dusk Tower, the bigger one came from the port two days ago, from somewhere called Alvadas. Please excuse me, I have other deliveries. Good day, ma'am."

And with a last stiff bow the boy was off, out through the bent door, down the steps, leaping over the rickety bridge that spanned the moat, and down the long path to the tall wrought-iron gate. Never once looking back at the strange ruined house. But the strange ruined house was watching him, and it prodded Madeira with its silent confusion as he left.

"I had forgotten", she spoke aloud, running her finger of the waxy, waterproof paper of the larger package, tracing the perfect inky calligraphy across its label. Alvadas. "It's my birthday."
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The Illusion Festival

Postby Madeira Craven on May 2nd, 2019, 3:16 am

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She stood at the kitchen table, looking down on that one package, tracing its fine ink lines for what felt like ages. She was touching something that once touched home, and in that moment she could think of nothing more important. Picking a pairing knife from the block, she carefully slid the tip beneath the paper. The house was watching with
a foggy, vapid kind of interest. The place had not spoken in weeks, not to her or the ghosts. The Architectrix was damaged, severely so, and she knew this. But there was something else too. Something that ran much deeper than smashed wood and depleted dijed. That colourful, bubbling diva of a house she was raising, that grew flowers in the dead of winter and demanded jaunty castle cottages, was wounded in its soul.

Swallowing the lump in her throat, Madeira put on a cheerful smile. Acting was not about wearing a mask. That would not fool the house that could read her mind, anyway. For it to believe her she had to believe it too. "Have I ever told you about where I'm from, house?" she asked, her voice light and meandering as if the thought was just spontaneously conjured. "See, there's this place, thousands of kilometers away, where the buildings move." She waited for a response, any stirring of emotion in the building, but was met with static silence.

Slicing through the last of the wax, she put down the knife and pulled out a wooden box from inside. Opening a silver latch, inside was a beautiful, polished amber orb sitting in a nest of black velvet. Underneath was an envelope sealed with red wax stamped with the family crest that contained a short note.


Miss Madeira Craven

As the new year begins, we know you are growing into a woman worthy of
her name. You are doing noble work, and we appreciate the great effort
you are putting forth to expand our influence. We wish you many
prosperous years to come on your journey.

This is a Spy Sphere, one of the few that survived the Valterrian. We
have kept it in this family for generations, and now pass this tool
onto you, to assist you in your endeavours. Simply concentrate on a
person you have once met in person, and you may observe them wherever
they may be.

Best Regards, Rune Cartif-Craven



"It's true", she continued into the quiet, continuing the conversation she was having alone as she put the note aside. "Nothing is ever rooted to the ground, nothing stays the same. But more than that, nothing is impossible. See, it is ruled by this trickster deity, Ionu. They're..." She swallowed hard, struggling to keep the deeper emotions out of her voice. "They're a genderless mischief maker, just like you! And they take care of its city and its people just like you take care of us. But they care by showing us how perceptions can change, and how limited our sense of reality really is. They weave masterful illusions that can bend and twist and shake the very core of us, make things so beautiful, horrific or wild..."

Homesickness was twisting in her gut like a rusty knife, opening wounds she had thought long healed. She remembered the crowded streets and the bizarre food and the impossible architecture. The street performers and the illusions and the madness. The place of her birth was so full of life. But like every person, there was a dark side to Ionu and its city. A dark underbelly with a red moon and haunted streets, where mystery prowled with dark intent. Her home was a place so dynamic, so achingly real, that it had made everything since seem flat, predictable and one note.

My children will never know where they come from, she knew. She looked to the ceiling, where two stories above her children were sleeping, and felt her heart break.
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The Illusion Festival

Postby Madeira Craven on May 2nd, 2019, 3:20 am

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At the very edges of her mind, she could feel a stirring of impatience. The Architectrix was wordlessly prodding her, dragging her attention back down. It was listening to her, it wanted her to continue.

The realization snapped her back to the present, where she was standing at the kitchen table, staring uncomprehending at a Valterrian artifact. The Spy Sphere... It was just like the Craven's to give their daughter such a nefarious tool. She stroked the orb in its velvet nest and pondered the words on the note. We wish you many prosperous years to come on your journey...

No, she couldn't think like that. She would go home one day, to her city and her god. She had to. Taking the knife again in her left hand she attacked the second parcel.

"Alvadas is known for its theater troupe, the Inverted. It's Ionu's cult and they travel the world spreading the work of their deity. That's where Bird comes from, did you know?" she pointed with the tip of her knife to the other side of the greatroom, were an electric blue pigeon was watching curiously from its gilded cage. "He was a gift to me from the Inverted, for succeeding in one of their games during the Illusion Festival." She laughed at the memory. "The illusion festival is this... This holy time, and the wildest party you will ever see. For two weeks we wear masks and dance and play and praise our god. You can be anything, do anything... As a child I'd wear a mask and I'd no longer be Madeira Craven, but some fantastical beast running wild in the streets" she laughed at the memory of chasing Leavou around the twists and turns, and all the trouble they'd get into together. "That's how you pray to a deity like Ionu. Not with penance but exuberance."

This parcel from Dusk came in a small blue velvet box. Inside was a
bizarre little ring with two bronze hands playing cat's cradle with
black string. It came with another note.

Miss Madeira Craven

A happy birthday to you and the new additions in your family! We wish you and yours a speedy recovery, and look forward to our bright future together. Please accept this gift in congratulations. It is called a Ring of Affiliation. With it you will know the organizations, religious orders and families a person may belong to with a single touch. It is our hope it will speed your familiarity with the people here, so you, like us, may truly call this home.

Yours truly, Aldgare Dusk



She picked the bronze ring from its box and slid it into her finger. It fit perfectly. What an amazing artifact, what a thoughtful gift. These people only wanted to make her feel at home.

But this would never be her home.

"I was born on the last day of the Illusion Festival. So today the celebration ends", Madeira slammed her good hand on the table, crumpling the note in
her palm. "I didn't celebrate last year, and I would hate to go
another year without it... Would you celebrate with me?" she touched
gently upon the independent mind that surrounded her, coaxing a
reaction from her damaged house. It was listening to her, for the first time in weeks it seemed interested in what happened around it. She held her breath and waited for a reaction.
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The Illusion Festival

Postby Madeira Craven on May 2nd, 2019, 3:30 am

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From the very edges of her mind came a little whisper of intent, a soundless breeze that brushed against her consciousness with a stirring that told her to move forward. The stiffness in her smile broke, and a flutter of genuine happiness winged across her tired eyes.

"Then we will celebrate! Oh Infinity, you beautiful creature. Thank you. This is a holy day, I mean to do it justice."

Was she just imagining it, or were her aches suddenly lessened as she half ran to the twisting iron stairs? There was a lightness in her feet as she rattled her way to the third floor, opening the trapdoor to her master bedroom with the flat of her forearm. This floor, at least, did not suffer much damage at all. Pitchers and bowls were put beneath the leaks in the roof from the missing tiles, but otherwise the sanctuary was unchanged. Except for one crucial thing. There were two bassinets beside her bed, rocking unaided in the quiet.

"I'm going to raise you right. All of you", she decaled aloud, throwing open her closet. From inside she retrieved her tall boots and magical cloak of golden feathers. A quick hunt around the floor also revealed Allister's purple crocodile skin pants. The Kelvic must be out in the nude again. Stepping out of her nightdress Madeira donned her strange pick of garments, and tied an extra wrap of linen around her swollen breasts to match the one around her ribs. The pants required much rolling of cuffs and tightening of belts, but will a little finessing, she was dressed.

The Architectrix hummed its confusion.

"I told you, we wear masks. Costumes. If we will celebrate we will do it properly." She held out her arms and twirled. The cloak shifted through half a hundred colours as it flared weightless from her shoulders like a pair of enormous wings. Beneath it her scaly purple legs and high heeled boots made her look like some kind of ugly heron or other long-legged bird. "Tonight I'm not Madeira, and you are not the Infinity Manor. We must use illusions, tricks and deceit and inhabit all we are not to expand what we are. I hear you, my dear. I know you're listening, and I know you're hurting. This is your chance to change things, to make them be whatever you want them to be." Her voice turned soft around the edges as she spoke, her words edged with pleading. Come back to me, she inwardly begged. Her poor house had suffered enough.

On a mirrored dresser were pots and little pans of powder and rouge she had brought up from the bathing room ages ago in her ill fated attempts at using cosmetics. She returned to these and scanned her options. With her fingers she dabbed a yellow eyeshadow powder across the entirety of her nose and ringed her eyes in a thick rough past she blended with her knuckles. Across her cheeks she stripped a waxy blue cream she thought could be lipstick. When she was done what looked back at her in the mirror could either be a rough representation of brightly plumed bird or a crazy person, depending how one squinted.

"How do I look?" She raised the corners of her cloak and prowled the room like a circling hawk. She felt a sparkling approval rising from the floor and walls like the bubbles in champagne.

Laughing like she hadn't laughed in a long time, Madeira laid her palm across the painted wall. She coaxed dijed from her battered soul, willing it to spread through her ruined hand and pass to her Architectrix with the contact of her body. The pull was draining, like she was wringing her poor soul of what was left, but the growing satisfaction it elicited from the house made it worth it. When she pulled away it touched upon her soul with a gentle caress of thanks.

"For fortune", she explained, smiling.

Only two weeks old, the twins looked closer to two months old. Madeira scooped Amelie, the girl with a shock of red hair poking from her white swaddling blanket, out of her bassinet and into a padded basket. Her brother Moritz quickly followed. The boy fussed grumpily at being moved, but was quieted with a shushing and a gentle rocking.

"I know, baby, I know", she whispered to the boy as he bounced in her feathery arms. "But your mama needs you to be part of our first ever Illusion Festival. I'm raising you with the gods of our people. All of you. Sush, baby." Once he was calm she carried the basket to the trapdoor for a noisy return as the iron stairs announced their decent with a rattle.

Once in the kitchen she put the Spy Sphere in its case safely aside and placed her children gently on the table to watch.

"Now, how shall we pray?" the Spiritist grabbed the bouquet off the table and brandished it like a rapier at the empty air, scattering a rain of petals to match the much wetter one outside. "Will you get up off your foundations and dance? Will you compose a sonnet, sing a ballad? What will you do to impress our god?" Her ribs creaked and her legs shook as she hunched her shoulders and extended her legs, taking long, ballerina steps. Her rough face paint looked goulish in the yellow light of the scones and hearthfire.

In answer, the walls took on a sickly greenish hue. The paint slowly, painfully, deepened in colour, eventually showing shadow and shades and definition. In a few chimes the greatroom was painted to look like a jungle floor. Enormous fronds of strange plants and colourful blooming flowers reached towards the ceiling, where slivers of blue could be seen in the tall leafy canopy of trees and vines.

The fire and the scones on the walls simmered down so the light took on a more shadowy presence. From the chimney came a sharp, whistley exhale as the wind was forced through the closed flue. Then there was a rattling of adjustment, and the whistle became cleaner and higher, like some sort of strange trilling bird.

The last of the surviving bouquet was thrown at the wall and exploded into fragments of colour as Madeira let lose a wild laugh that split her healing lip. "That's it! That's Alvadas, that's Ionu. Oh you wonderful thing!" The usually tight-laced Spiritist danced in a wide circle, looking half wild as she matched the whistle in the flue with a caw of her own.

Both children were awake and staring at the painted ceiling. They gurgled and wiggled in their cozy restraints, excited by the noise. Beneath their baskets the crushed notes laid forgotten, as this strange family celebrated the last few bells of madness with a city on the other side of the world.
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The Illusion Festival

Postby Gossamer on May 5th, 2019, 11:07 pm

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While Maderia was gathering the twins and rallying the house to her impromptu festival, a force was gathering in the front yard. It took the form of a swirl of leaves at first then morphed into a flock of birds. Circling the estate and chirping unhappily at the moat and finally transforming into something of a crowd at the front door, the group muttered among themselves.

At first the words were terse with the crowd of half dozen people. Females and males were all gathering at the front of the house arguing among themselves. There didn't seem to be one opinion, but rather a dozen assertions all trying to be forced upon the others - which was odd coming from only six individuals. The group finally turned at some unseen signal and the doors swung open to them. Marching through, they fanned out in the damaged room, all muttering under their breath.

They were dressed as workers, wearing toolbelts and some carrying ladders and large hammers. Some had paint cans and brushes, and one even had what looked like a set of sawhorses slung over their shoulders. A lone one had nothing but a clipboard - this one was male - and he seemed to be taking furious notes while the rest were all calling out directions and seemingly adding to what was starting to appear to be an endless list.

They ignored the house, the twins, and even the woman dressed up and masked. Instead, they quickly cleared out a place to set up a work station balanced on the saw horses which everyone started placing tools on. Then immediately they began to clear out the living room, pushing furnishings aside and even unhanging artwork and decor.

The one with the clipboard approached Maderia finally, frowning at her as if she posed a problem the man wasn't exactly willing to deal with at the moment. "This is far more than we were told.. the damage. I estimate about three full ten-days to get all the work done. And a moat? Really? Is that utterly necessary or just an unwanted tantrum?" He said. There were several mutters of agreement from the other workers in the room.

Workers which were.... regardless of sex... identical looking to the man who spoke to Maderia.

Two others, meanwhile, had teamed up to start cutting out the floor where the burn spot was. They seemed to be muttering about measurements for the pool and had paused multiple times to measure and remeasure.

"Frankly, I'm not sure I brought enough help. I might need to bring in more." The man said frankly, shaking his head in disgust. "Haven't seen a mess like this for a long time. Your Manor was acting more like a garden shed in this situation. Don't you teach it anything?" The man said tersely, shaking his head and pausing to make another note on the clipboard. He muttered in irritation as his quill broke and he had to put down his small bottle of ink to do a quick change of quills before he continued to write.

And quite honestly, the former hushed depressed mood of the room had changed into one of quiet industry. Maderia was inundated by the half dozen people - that had grown to eight with out her noticing anyone else entering the home - all measuring, marking, sawing and one even taking a sledge hammer to an internal wall.

They seemed to not have any trouble getting started on their mission... whatever that mission was.
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The Illusion Festival

Postby Madeira Craven on May 7th, 2019, 12:40 am

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The whistling was too loud, and Madeira was too wrapped up in the festive atmosphere she was trying to conjure, for her to notice the muttering from outside. But she did notice when the splintered front doors blew open unannounced, and half a dozen complete strangers bumbled into her house.

"Wha!" Madeira ducked just in time to avoid a sawhorse on the shoulders of a uniformed worker. If anybody even noticed the madwoman dancing alone in her living room they did not show it. There was a single minded purpose about the workers as they fanned out around the hexagonal room, clearing space and shouted directions to each other. Tools, ladders and cans of paint were passed around in a flurry of motion. And in the midst of all of it was a skinny little woman dressed in feathers and paint, trying to be heard above the babble.

"What? What is this?" she was forced to step aside as a worker with a measuring tape whipped around her, and jump out of the way as heavy paint cans were slung down around her knees. "Get out! What are you doing with that saw? Put down the hammer!" Ducking out of the madness she snatched the twins in their basket from off the table in the kitchen. "What the hai are you doing in my house?!" She finally shouted loud enough to rattle what was left of the windows. When nobody answered, she looked up at the ceiling. "Why the hai did you let them into my house?!"

Did they come from the Twuele? Did the government usually send people out to restore damaged buildings? In which case could they not have sent a note first?! But there was something wrong here. Some long dormant part of her mind was watching this flurry of people and lighting up like an alarm bell, telling her to look closer. But before she could stop to puzzle it out, the horde started removing furniture from the floor and art from the walls.

"Wait! Don't touch that!" Bounding across the room with twins in tow, intimately aware of every bruise and broken bone along the way, she snatched Raj from above the hearth before the workers could get to him. And like that, with a basket full of babies under one arm and a stuffed tiger head under the other, with makeup running down her face and dressed in leather pants and shimmering magic feathers, a man with a clipboard and a frown finally acknowledged she existed.

"This is far more than we were told.. the damage. I estimate about three full ten-days to get all the work done. And a moat? Really? Is that utterly necessary or just an unwanted tantrum?"

"I beg your pardon?" the tiny woman bristled immediately, showing a sliver of her old self as she stood straight and tall to stare this stranger down. "The house saved my life with that moat! How dare you waltz in here-" She stuttered to a stop as she realized what the man had just said. "Wait what did you mean by tantrum?"

The man paid her no mind, or else didn't even hear her. He verbally bowled through her, complaining about the damage, the work, and how the manor was acting 'like a garden shed'. "Don't you teach it anything?" he finished, cursing quietly as he snapped his quill with the speed of his frantic scribbling and swapped it for a fresh one.

He knew. He knew Infinity Manor was an Architectrix creation. How could he possibly know that? As far as she was aware there were only five people in all of Lhavit who knew the manor was sentient. Of them three were dead, two loved her, and all five wouldn't betray her on their (un)lives. Besides, she had never met anyone who'd even heard of Architectrix, much less practiced it.

Behind him workers were muttering about measurements and pools. The air was full of dust as a saw was taken to the damage wood and a sledgehammer to the wall to her workshop. In their basket the babies were wiggling excitedly, pumping their little arms like they were trying to swim through the air to see what was going on. And in her head, quiet and slightly puzzled, the Architectrix was alert to the chaos around them. It did not speak, or otherwise try to communicate with these people on its grounds, but the depression was being pushed aside from its mind as it mentally sat up to watch, more engaged than she had seen it in weeks.

Then it clicked. As Madeira mentally took a step back to process what was happening, she realized what was bothering her about this scene: every single person in the house, and there seemed to be more every chime, was the same. Every man and woman had identical faces to match their uniforms, and talked to each other in an identical voice that converged and overlapped and hummed through the air like the white noise in hell.

Huh.

"You're right, I have been negligent", she jumped tracks immediately as she turned back to Mr.Clipboard, her posture softening as if properly cowed by this idiot who just broke into her home and had the stones to lecture her. "But be kind to the house, it is young and doing its best. Truly, we could both stand to learn a thing or two, so, why don't you hire us?" She flinched at the sound of saws cutting into the floor, but smiled just the same. "We could use your guidance, and you said you need more workers, didn't you? An extra pair of hands and the power of a moldable, sentient structure would really help to speed... this... along. I mean, even if you won't put us to work we don't have anywhere else to go. So we'll be here regardless... Gosh, I'd hate to be underfoot..."

She blew out her cheeks theatrically, pondering into the middle distance. Since it looked like there was no stopping what was happening here, the least she could do was try and get inside it to figure out what exactly was going on. Inside her head her mind was turning slowly, clogged with a surprise she had long thought herself numb to. Something was telling her to play along with this, and it wasn't just the house and its encouraging signs of engagement. Well, this was a holy night, after all, maybe playing with chaos was exactly what they all needed.
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The Illusion Festival

Postby Gossamer on July 20th, 2019, 3:38 pm

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The man with the clipboard frankly looked relieved. “Better… that will make things better. Sure. You are hired. It’s 10 gm a day but we’ll double that fee if its cranky. Hazard pay, you know.” He said, and that was that. Mads felt her clothing, makeup, and even footwear transform around her. If she looked down, she’d note she suddenly was wearing what everyone else was wearing that was in the worker group. And while she still held the giant tiger’s head and the basket of squirming babies, if she caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror, she’d note that her face wasn’t her own anymore. It was the same face all the men and women wore in the work crew.

But that wasn’t the worst of it. The worst of it was the flood of voices in her head. The half dozen, that had strangely turned into eight, and then and grown when she was talking to the man to twelve (now thirteen if she counted herself) were all talking at once. But it wasn’t out loud… it was in her mind. And the ones not talking? They were humming the type of tune one heard in a market and couldn’t get out of their heads for days afterwards.

And weirdly enough, above all that, she could hear the voice of the house. It was a young curious voice, speaking above the others, uttering irritation that strangely reflected its mistresses irritation of a few moments ago. It complained too… ‘that tickled, ouch!, stop that!, no no no… oh yes!” Because some of the things the workers were doing were scaring it then making it feel better. It’s tiny commentary was everywhere at once.

But underlying that - all of that dialog that wouldn’t stop swirling around her head - was its sense of fascination that seemed to bleed through her link to it. It was thoroughly entertained in a way that it had rarely been before. Maderia and her families antics could keep it occupied for days and it loved them. But it was a magical sentient creature that was spread out over a lot of space and stimulation on this level gave it leaps and bounds of entertainment that kept it focused and fascinated.

Mads was busted out of her intense concentration by clipboard man shoving rolls and rolls and rolls of what looked like scrolls into her hands. This was a problem since she had tigers heads and babies in her arms already. The majority ended up on the ground rolling off in every direction. He then added buckets of paste, a thick heavy brush, and gestured. “Once the walls go up, are repaired, you pick the wall paper. Its definitely not old enough to know what looks good. Hopefully you are. Tack it up and convince it to copy it all over the room.” He said out loud, though in her head she could hear his mutterings of doubt. That told her the piles of wayward scrolls she stood in were hand painted papers that one pasted to the walls.

And she’d need to get started none-the sooner because this room already seemed to have been cleared out, the damaged wall surfaces repaired, and the hole in the floor patched seamlessly. The overlying stench of slightly burnt wood was gone. It looked… among the chaos of people everywhere… were there twenty now?... a lot better.

In the back of her mind, she could still hear the voices as she took in her surroundings and the scrolls of wallpaper all around her. There were mutterings of measurements for something they were calling a second story slide. Someone was ranting about fire safety in a nursery – which went from being a place of her choice in the floor plan to somewhere upstairs and expanded.

They were building an insidious slide from one of the windows in the back of Infinity to gently spiral down to somewhere behind the manor allowing adults but especially children to escape quickly in case of another ‘incident’. The building was excited by the thought, and was busy stealing wood from a pile that had manifested in its front yard to bend and shape it on its own into what the worker was sketching on the upper floor. What was a simple slide on the worker’s clipboard was becoming a long sinuous beautiful swirling wooden thing, designed for fun and safe passage, and the house was obsessed with it.

The others were congratulating the worker appointed to the slide for distracting the Architectrix long enough for them to make more repairs without its mutterings. Maderia was inundated. If she concentrated, she could pick apart the various projects going on. If she concentrated, she could reduce the cacophony of noise in her head to a dull roar of a background crowd at a festival or horse race. But she couldn’t get rid of it.

If she turned her attention to the task at hand, she’d note that parts of the paper could be seen due to some of the rolls being unraveled. One looked to be the colors of a burning hot desert. Sand was spilling from the wallpaper sheet that had been revealed an inch or two and the air shimmered around it like it was in fact hot. That wouldn’t have been too bad, but another roll seemed to have salt water leaking in a steady drip drop from it bringing the brine smell of the sea. A third was smoldering and while it was unrolled further than others, the paper looked like it showed portions of an erupting volcano.

There were maybe a dozen rolls laying around her feet, but even as she watched their number doubled and the doubled again. This multiplication theme was definitely persistent about the … project.

Suddenly, the man with the clipboard that shared a masculine version of her own current face, barked at her. “Well, don’t just stand there holding babies and tiger heads. Get to work!” He said, kicking a roll of what appeared to be steaming wallpaper her direction.
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The Illusion Festival

Postby Madeira Craven on September 9th, 2019, 8:33 pm

Image

Mister Clipboard hired her and Infinity on the spot. And somewhere amid the babbling that constantly poured from his mouth, Madeira felt something very central to her being bend under the weight. Paint and feathers and colour evaporated off her body, to be replaced with heavy brown boots and a starched grey uniform. She pushed mousy brown hair out of her face with the back of her rough, square hand, and a sense of vertigo hit her hard as her perspective changed by several centimeters. Even without a mirror she felt what had happened almost instinctively, and she felt her ego finally give way with a definitive snap.

To someone who strove to stand taller than everyone around her, it was a cruel joke. Her identity as a Craven washed away with her inherited pale eyes and her identity as an Avalad felt much looser without the clothes to prove it. In a single moment she was demoted from the center of her own universe to just one of the masses, and she wavered for a tick, feeling somehow untethered.

Then the voices started, and the sound these people made became much more annoying when it was emanating from within ones own head. And they were multiplying, one voice after another fitting smoothly into place like they'd been there all along, and her own internal voice, her most powerful tool, was lost amid the hum.

Except for one voice, that seemed to be floating above the noise like a duck over the worlds babbliest of the babbling brooks.

"Infinity?" she mumbled aloud, shocked, listening to it squawk and complain and sigh with a clarity she had never imagined. Its melancholy had been thoroughly pushed aside, and she could barely feel that blackness on the edge of its consciousness as it watched with rapt fascination the workers that crawled through it like industrious ants.

A new determination surged through Madeira, and she stood tall in her new body. This wasn't about her, this was about the house. She would do whatever it took to make sure Infinity recovered, and this pompous clipboard-holding asshole and this mysterious crew was the way to make that happen.

The revelation came just in time, as Mister Clipboard started shoving roll upon roll upon roll into her overladen arms. Moritz and Amelie burbled happily as they were bounced around, while Raj, being held precariously by one long tooth, looked rather put out as his snarling mouth was choked with paper. The question of where exactly the rolls came from seemed secondary to questions of why some of them were pouring water and/or smoking.

"Can- can we all stop thinking so loudly?" she hissed, spilling paper everywhere as she juggled everyone in her arms, only to be predictably verbally bulldozed aside.

“Once the walls go up, are repaired, you pick the wall paper. Its definitely not old enough to know what looks good. Hopefully you are. Tack it up and convince it to copy it all over the room.”

Right, she was no longer Madeira; she was Worker, and she had a job to do.

"Yes sir!", she nodded sharply, looking determined and stalwart and quite unlike herself.

Once mister Clipboard left she put the baby basket on the floor beside her, well out of the way. It seemed like while she wasn't looking her old, ruined house had quite the facelift. Their was fresh, expensive glass in the windows and fresh boards on the burned floor. The walls had been patched and brightened and the lingering stench of rot had been cleared out. It looked better than even the old, all but abandoned house she had bought seasons ago. The house looked great, and it felt happy. She heard something about a slide in the hum of her head, and felt the house's eager participation in the project, but put it aside for now. She had her work down here.

Despite having never made anything bigger than a brooch in her life, she looked at the wall before her and could pick out the rough measurements almost immediately. Or was that somebody else in her head? She looked over her shoulder spuriously, and was immediately yelled at by Mister Clipboard for slacking. It was hard to concentrate, as she heard talk of putting an observatory in her bedroom, a waterfall feature in her garden and gutting her lab to make room for a wine cellar. But with effort she found she could tune the circus into background noise, punctuated with the loud, buoyant thoughts of the house.

Infinity! I need your help.

Setting Raj down beside the twins she wielded the brush and paste and squared up like she was riding into battle with it.

I'm busy!, it chirped back distractedly. From out back she heard a worrying sawing noise and a great clatter.

Slapping paste across the wall Madeira got to work. Whoever she was now had great muscle tone, she was pleased to discover. Manual labour didn't feel quite so much like dying as she stretched to reach the hard spots.

Do you know what's happening?, she probed, not letting herself be ignored. She pushed aside scroll after scroll that she suddenly found herself ankle deep in.

I'm building a slide!

No, do you know what's happening here, right now, to us?

The house pondered this for a long moment, and she could feel the movement of its thoughts as it broke against the logic of it. This was madness, and it made no sense.

No, it finally decided. Underneath the definite answer she could feel another, more ambiguous thought, that it really didn't care. The answer to the mystery just attacked the mystery. It was fascinated, shaken to its very core, and was just along for the ride, reveling in the madness.

What an Avalad attitude to have, she hummed, a spark of joy alighting in her heart. Respecting its wishes, she kept her suspicion firmly to herself, but her soul moved with thoughts of miracles.

Once the paste was up she chose a scroll at random along the nearly knee deep pile she suddenly found herself in. She put the twins up upon the hearth to try and rescue them upon higher ground.

The scroll was frigidly cold to the touch, and upon opening it she was nearly blinded by the bright scene it displayed. It was a an enormous glacier floating in an aqua sea. The artist had rendered every sparkle upon the crystal ice in shocking detail, a rainbow of colour fracturing from the purest ice she had ever seen. Unrolling it fully the room became a little colder, and a sharp sea smell cut through the smell of sawdust.

"I need you to copy this, Infinity", Madeira demanded, dragging a chair over to her corner to stand upon. With a swipe of paste in the top corners she began the process of lining the paper up to the one of six corners.

I'm busy!, it huffed again, exasperated.

"I've got the dijed here that say's you'll make the time", she enticed, but it's attention had already turned away. She could feel its focus hovering around the people in the yard, while in her head she heard talk of redirecting a river before she forced herself to shut them out. "Infinity!"

What?

"Don't be dumb, I know you can do two things at once. Do this for me and I'll leave the spiders in basement alone. No dusting for a month."

The house studied her for a moment. A season.

"A season. And god help the spider the sticks one hairy leg into the kitchen. Deal?" She waited for the affirmative before lining up the lines and smoothing the wallpaper down in one quick motion, like she'd been doing it all her life. "Good. Now copy this around the entire floor, and don't skip the cracks!"

With slow, seeping effort the image of the ocean glacier began to infect the surrounding walls. Madeira followed behind it with a putty knife from a tool belt she was not wearing twenty chimes ago. Squinting into the bright new scene, she smoothed out any bubbles that may appear, wondering all the while if those waves far below were actually moving, or it all was just a trick of the light.
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Madeira Craven
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