Closed Finding the Woman in Blue

in which Ennisa asks Madeira to relieve her of lovely Emma

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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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Finding the Woman in Blue

Postby Ennisa on March 17th, 2020, 4:07 pm


"speech"
"others"


The little blue book that Madeira retrieved from the bookcase was slim but well-made in design. Ennisa, who had come to appreciate books and paper since working at the Cosmos Centre, flicked through the blank pages appreciatively but said nothing. She listened carefully to what Madeira had to say. She explained how malediction was wrought; circles, wine barrels, energy. Djed, a word with an arcane twist to it. She was a regular citizen, a normal person so to speak, and this brief but well-explained description of the magical fabric of reality was foreign and deeply fascinating. So fascinating that she temporarily forgot her distrust and dislike of her new teacher.

Right up until the Spiritist tapped her a couple of times on the forehead to demonstrate her point. Then, she remembered that she didn't really appreciate being talked down to, didn't appreciate being mocked. Was she being ridiculous? Probably. It was her right to be ridiculous if she wanted to be, wasn't it? Never mind that now.

Ennisa looked at Madeira's little red book filled with scribbles and circles. There didn't appear to be any rhyme or reason to the arrangement of the book, but she wondered if there was anything else that the Spiritist had written down, anything that she was hiding from her, perhaps on the back pages. The thought also reminded her of her own travelling notebook, full of her own scribbles and secrets, easily readable by anyone with any literary comprehension, which would be most people in Lhavit. She would need to do something about that.

Madeira's instruction rang out, and her teacher lent against the wall to watch her as she constructed her first malediction circle. Ennisa was a fairly confident young woman, but there was something about the blonde Spiritist that set her on edge. She commanded herself to ignore the lurking mage, and instead bent the first page of her new blue journal open. The charcoal was black and crumbly on her fingers, and it wouldn't have been her preferred writing material, but she supposed she'd bow to Madeira's way of doing things for now.

"Tell the djed your pulling from the bird what qualities you want from it with that image." She drew a circle slowly so as not to smudge or waver, but it ended up being more of a wonky oval anyway. Never mind. Presumably, that wasn't the main importance here. Once she'd finished the circle, she considered the crow's skull. It was a fragile thing, the mass of bone and once-working parts, but if she concentrated she could quite easily imagine the feathers the bird once wore, and the bright, intelligent eyes of the crow.

What qualities did she want to draw from such a creature? Flight immediately sprung to mind, but she knew flight would be achieved from this first go round. Intelligence? No, flight would be the better option, or more precisely, speed. In the centre of her wobbly circle, she wrote in small but not illegible writing, "As the crow flies". Next, she began to draw. Firstly, because she wasn't sure she would get the shape right, she drew on the outside of the circle as a practice. She sketched the rough shape of a wing outstretched, the fingers of the feathers, and the lines of the feather shafts. She did this a couple of times until she felt she had managed to portray some of the strength of a beating wing, and then loosely copied this sketch behind the words. Then, to finish off and make it look a little more decorative, she roughly drew two disembodied almond shaped eyes, and coloured these in black with the charcoal.

The circle was large, and in its current state would certainly not fit on the crow's skull, so before she called Madeira over, she tried to copy the whole thing, but a lot smaller. She wasn't quite so pleased with the result, as she had to squeeze everything in. To save space, she shortened the phrase to, "atcf", which made no sense out of context but at least she knew. Then, still slightly displeased with the final result, she beckoned the Spiritist over. "I've finished. Take a look. What next?" If this was seen to be impatient, well... Ennisa didn't give a petch.

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Finding the Woman in Blue

Postby Madeira Craven on March 26th, 2020, 6:05 pm

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    Madeira could be surprisingly patient when she needed to be. It came from growing up under the expectation of complete obedience. So she just folded her arms and waited, neither fidgeting nor tapping, as Sky tried to figure out her first circle on her own.

    When she was eventually called, she peeled herself off of the wall and looked over the woman's shoulder to see what she had wrought. It was... well, she wasn't entirely sure what it was. You should be able to read at least some sort of intention in every circle regardless of the artist, but Madeira had yet to really nail down that particular skill. Everything that was not her own looked crazy to her and her own stunted brand of logic.

    But unwilling to let her new apprentice on to just how amateur her teacher really was, Madeira only frowned thoughtfully and nodded. "That's good for a first try. Here, I'll add my circle to it." She shooed the taller woman off the chair and sat in her place.

    Now, what was she going to do to compliment Sky's circle? She took the blue book in hand and made another, larger circle around the first. There was very little surface area to deal with, so she had to be straight and to the point. What did she want to pull from the djed of the crow, and how could she convey it as succinctly as possible?

    Her first thought on crows was one of conformity. They moved in huge flocks, or murders, across all of Lhavit. All a mass of identical black birds, with the same croaking voices, lost in the shuffle of one another. So what if she pulled on that idea of social camouflage? It wouldn't be invisibility, but a way to go unnoticed in a crowed.

    Picking up her charcoal, she drew ten painfully straight parallel lines that she drew to suggest they continued behind Sky's circle, and through them she drew another line that wove through the others in a clockwise motion. Slipping in and out and under, she practised pressing the rather difficult intention of unremarkable into that one line, focusing how everything moved together just so, how nothing stood out... When she was done she pushed back from the table, and showed Sky their final sketch.

    "You can use anything you want to apply your circle to the object, but once the circle wears away the power is lost- so you must use permanent means whenever possible. We'll carve it."

    If it were any other sort of creature she would have suggested carving the symbols on the inside of the skull, but that would be impossible for the physiology a bird. They would have to use the outer dome of the skull, and cover the entirety of it to simply fit everything. It would be hard to disguise it as anything but a fetish. Still, that was a problem for later. Madeira reached across the table for a small wood handled veiner she had left there after her last project, and stood from her chair to hand Sky the tool.

    "You must go first and carve your circle. Animal djed is easier to work with than truly sentient creatures, since it's much less deep and complex, but it still requires a careful hand and focus." With her hand on Sky's shoulder she prompted her to sit, then wrapped her hand around the taller woman's grip on the carving tool. Guiding her she pressed the edge of the tool to the dome of the skull. "Malediction gives dead things a purpose", she recited, her mind half a world away and years ago, in a tiny cottage in Alvadas, where she had first heard the words. "The purpose is given through a circle. It is all in the circle. A circle of meaning." With gentle pressure they carved a circle onto the bone together. "You need to hold on to that meaning. Think of nothing else. You are giving this creatures death a new purpose, calling on everything it was in life. Focus on that. Let nothing distract you."

    Finally she stood back, and let Sky alone to carve her circle, returning to the shadow of the wall. "Go."
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    Finding the Woman in Blue

    Postby Ennisa on March 31st, 2020, 4:00 pm


    "speech"
    "others"


    She began to carve. It felt very much like writing, except that the tool was all wrong, and there was no ink to let flow, and no matter how she held the damned tool it never seemed to sit right. So... not like writing at all. Still, she was making progress. She could still feel the imprint of Madeira's hand on her own, surprisingly warm despite the mage's paler-than-pale skin colour. The unwarranted touch rankled, for no reason other than she hadn't been expecting it. Madeira was full of surprises, and Ennisa liked none of them.

    The carving took time, and during that time Ennisa realised with a snap that she hadn't been concentrating. She gathered her straying thoughts with an unuttered curse, and remembered what the Spiritist had said. It's all about the meaning. She drew a breath, held it for a moment, and released it. Yes. The meaning was speed, or rather... not quite speed, so to speak. Flight. Yes! The effortlessness of flight. That was what she wanted to portray. She pictured the crow soaring over the peaks, pictured dark wings against a pale blue sky.

    She kept carving, slowly but surely, with the image of that crow bright in her mind. The circle was beginning to take shape. Ennisa was beginning to realise that she could actually enjoy this process. She could use ink instead, or paint perhaps. It could be quite pretty, if you forgot you were creating art on a bit of a dead animal. Her mind untethered from its purpose and began to drift to all the endless possibilities. Then she stopped herself, as her thoughts were running away with themselves again. She paused, dragged the image of the crow back into the front of her brain, and continued.

    Flight. Swooping birds, and soaring height. The wings were almost done, and she only had the eyes left to carve now. Sharply, she remembered the crow she'd seen at the apartment earlier in autumn, and smiled involuntarily. The bright twinkle in his or her intelligent eyes. It was difficult to make swooping lines and patterns with the tool she'd been given, so instead she made two dimples, round dimples, rather than struggle to form the eyes in the same slightly oval shape she'd drawn. Satisfied with the result, and unable to hold onto the thoughts of flight and speed and carefreeness any longer, she set the tool down.

    "Madeira, I do believe it's your turn." Ennisa stood from the chair, and pulled out it for Madeira to sit upon. Now it was her turn to stand and watch. She hadn't benefited from an exacting parent or strict education, and her mind was prone to wandering. She fidgeted slightly, twiddling her fingers against her thigh in an abstract pattern as she watched Madeira's malediction. Then she cast her eyes once more around the room, weaselling out anything she thought fascinating or odd. There were a lot of fascinating and odd things, but by far the strangest was the house itself, which she'd suddenly once again remembered was alive. "Madeira, does the Infinity Manor speak?" She didn't have much to say in terms of small-talk, but information-talk, why that was always handy.

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    Finding the Woman in Blue

    Postby Madeira Craven on April 26th, 2020, 7:50 pm

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      Madeira sat down when the seat was offered, picking up the discarded veiner where it had been left. It was still warm from Sky's palm, even through her glove. Breathing long and deep, she took a moment to look at what Sky had carved while she did her best to centre herself. She swiped the pad of her thumb over the design, blowing bones dust from the wells. It was well composed, as far as she could tell, and raw. Still no meaning jumped to her mind, though she thought she could read freedom, or maybe flight, from the crude carving. Madeira had never had a partner in Malediction apart from her teacher, and hadn't had anyone she could talk with about the craft in years. Maybe that was why her reading of another's work was so stunted, when otherwise she had conceitedly considered herself a master of reading people themselves. She hated to admit it, but she was beginning to see the upside of this forced collaboration.

      Finally ready, she pressed the finest edge of the tool to the fragile skull, and dragged it over the curved dome. Unremarkable, her soul hummed, pressing meaning into her hands and the bone beneath. Featureless, colourless, one of the flock, lost in the crowd, she repeated in her mind like a mantra, imagining the words to be pulling the djed up from within the bones. She only glanced at her original design, otherwise recalling the structure of it from memory. She was so lost in the process that she forgot Sky was even in the room, until she spoke.

      "Madeira, does the Infinity Manor speak?"

      The quiet, industrious space the Spiritist occupied cracked, and her pale brow twitched in annoyance. She pulled back and cracked her knuckles, rolling her stiff neck from side to side. "Yes, but it can only speak verbally with me, and the ghosts to an extent. But if it wants to talk to you it'll make itself known the way houses do, if you can bring yourself to listen. Now be quiet."

      As she bent back to her task the iron stairs on the other side of the door gave a metallic pop as they settled. The sound softly cascaded, as one relining joint jostled the next, and it almost felt like footfalls descending from above. It stopped abruptly at the landing, and a watchful, haunted presence invaded laboratory. The disgruntled house letting the stranger know it was watching them.

      Madeira had dragged the carving tool lightly over the fragile skull, and now went back to deepen the design using the tracks she had already dug. She blew dust from the grooves every few chimes, bending low over her task until her seemingly unbreakable posture unraveled. She was a completely different person while working her modest Malediction, becoming completely absorbed in the task to the exclusion of everything else, her body hunched and undignified and her deadened hands holding claw-like to the subject and tool. After a few long chimes, running over the design again and again, making sure everything was perfect, Madeira finally straightened with a sigh. Her posture popped back into place like a puppeteer pulled on her string, and she pushed away from the table, motioning Sky forward to see when they had done.

      "Congratulations on your first maledicted fetish", Madeira smiled, her eyes bright in the dark room. "All that's left is its activation. This will require blood. Specifically your blood, the blood of the maker. Don't worry, a drop will do." She pulled her glove up and her sleeve back, revealing a ribbon of pale, scar thatched skin around her wrist. Wiping the veiner on her skirt, she carefully chose a patched of unmarked flesh and worked the tip inside until a ruby red bead of blood pushed up from beneath the metal. Holding her wrist over the crow skull, she waited for the blood to collect and fall, splattering over the tiny design and collecting in the grooves. Then she held the bloody tool out to Sky.

      "Your turn."
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