High atop an endless void sits the throne of the universe. The center of the Kingdom of Zeal where the almighty Queen overlooks all of existence. The throne itself is elaborately carved in red and gold, and much like the fabled kingdom, the platform on which it rests hovers over that ghastly darkness below it. To give the illusion of walls, large woven tapestries hang from the high ceiling and tie to the rear of the floating platform. Leading away from the throne is what appears to be a long red carpet suspended on nothing, and quite sturdy to the touch. Behind the throne is a small set of floating steps leading down to the only other platform allowed over the void... [Exits : (A)cross the Void, and Down the (S)teps ]
Staring vacantly from her throne, the Queen idly watches the dozens of orbs she always summons to watch the goings on around the kingdom. Clearly, the normaly paranoid leader seems a bit bored... With a startled blink, she glances around in confusion as a rampant thought springs to mind. Pushing herself to her feet she dashes to the edge of her floating platform and looks over the side. After several minutes she drops down to one knee and continues to look for something. With a slight "hmmm..." she places both hands on the edges of the platform and appears to be preparing to jump...
Something shifts in the darkness, the sensation of nearby movement flickering through the air...
"Mother?" The voice is soft, caring and yet curiously emotionless. It's a coldness of tone that Zeal will be used to from her daughter, who seems to melt into being a few feet behind the tensed woman's right shoulder. Lifting robe-covered hands before her, the Princess Royal drifts forward with a frown digging into her pale brow, dark eyes casting a gaze upon her lifegiver that is part concern and part detachment. "Mother, what's wrong? What do you feel?"
Queen Zeal peers franticly over her shoulder without seeming to recognise or even care who stands behind her. She simply holds up a hand and flexes her fingers as if shooing something away and then returns to her odd pose. "Shhhhhh! Can't you hear it? Down below... they're planning something." Of course the only sound echoing up from the abyss below them is that of silence. But clearly the Queen hears otherwise, "Those ingratefull monsters, after all I've done for them they-!" Straining closer she listens intently to the silence and then screams, "I'LL CUT OPEN YOUR THROATS YOU HORRIBLE THINGS!" Yes, the slave quarters are down there, as are several labratories, but the only living things that might have been there to hear her are far too afraid to respond and go about their buisness as though nothing happend.
Schala flinches upon meeting the gaze of her mother. There is a pain within this relationship's threads that only grows with the passing weeks, time's flow bringing a slow and steady realisation that all may not be well in this kingdom. The young sorceress feels somehow responsible, like this gulf between the generations is in some way her fault alone - but she must remember that Zeal can only triumph through union. She will not run. She may lurk in the shadows, linger in the passageways and act the spy where she deems necessary, but Schala will never allow perfection to leave her grasping fingertips. They have too much power to abandon, and this is what spurs the concern through her trained mask of chill. Listening to her mother's ravings, those that are in turn the ravings of the very kingdom itself, she finds it almost too much to bear. Almost.
A dainty hand is lifted from within gloomy folds, the whisper of fine material brushing across Schala's skin the only sound that answers the Queen's screams. Fingers splayed, the princess reaches out as if to lay a comforting hand upon the woman she respects and fears... but then stops, instead giving a shake of her head and re-ordering herself within her robe. "They will not answer, mother. Leave it be... all shall be grateful one day. This world and any other we see within our path... all of them will bow to Zeal and know that we are their salvation." She recites into the darkness, her eyes fixed at a distant point, before looking down at her mother again. The frown had faded for a moment, but it returns now, and insistently the girl pursues an answer to her next question, "You believe this, don't you mother?"
Queen Zeal stands up abruptly as if this final word where enough to brake the trance on her. Giving Schala the same look you'd give someone you hadn't seen in years, a slight smile creeps accross her face. "Yes... yes dear... salvation yes..." And with that, the emotion is gone and again the distant expression returns. "Those fools need but to realise our goals, or very nature, is to protect the will of Lavos. Without him our species would surely have perished in the cold distant past. We are the attendents to the great provider, and all who wish to prosper must obey him." Begining her traditional pace of the floor before her throne she casts her eyes at the various viewing orbs and continues her rant as if it where some form of montra, "...the weak must give way to the stronger. Our people must not be extinguished, for if the great one where to be extingushed surly the rest of our world would fall with it. We must... we must find him food. His dopilganger must be brought to justice... it's pressence beyond the gates of our world unsettles him and for that it must perish..."
Schala actually deigns to return the slight smile, her constantly down-turned lips now twitching upward a little. It's well-meant.. though disturbed by the look she reads within her mother's eyes. No recognition. But as long as they both believe, everything can be made right. Can it not? It seems so wrong not to have faith in this, not to truly and completely trust that all will be made right. Once this disturbance has been dealt with. Once another world has been saved by the alliance Zeal holds to the provider. An alliance that costs life... lives irreplaceable, but so frail that were they not to give themselves to Him they would surely perish without the defenses that the kingdom can offer. Without that all-encompassing security.
Schala believes all of this. Despite her need for constant reassessment, the Princess Royal holds certainty in this most righteous of ways. And as her mother begins to stalk the floor, she turns to watch her with a once-more impassive expression, listening in mute half-recognition of the words. It sounds so.. violent, so dominating.. the way her single parent speaks. No little wonder that it used to disturb Schala so deeply, at a time she dimly recalls. But she learned well enough that to read between those invisible lines is to read the true message underneath. Zeal may be zealous, but it is accounted for with the underlying purity in her passion. That a way should be so seemingly impure and yet so utterly perfect, so untouched by other hands, is another contradiction in itself - nothing is black and white though. This Schala also knows.
"You are right, mother." She speaks at last when she can, giving a slow nod. Her hands tighten around each other and she turns herself to gaze over the void again, speaking into its depths. "I continue to search for the correct path in my meditations. But I know what we must do - this other world must find our salvation, join our cause and be given the security they need from the hideous mutation of Lavos that they store within their earth's bowels. There is only one... one provider. And his will is ours."
Queen Zeal turns towards Scahala with a nod of her head, "Yes... yes, his will... we must... we must find out what we can. Has your, um..." Very briefly her eyes gaze down at the floor as if searching for the word before looking up again and continuing, "Has your brother returned with any news of the blind ones? Perhaps they are already prepared for our coming and have set plans into motion for our lord to claim them." Our lord? That's a first... but it's hold on her is becoming stronger as her mind continues to fade away.
'Our lord'. Schala shivers to think such a phrase accurate... while surely Lavos' power is endless, the power that Zeal possesses now is incredibly dominating in its own right. With but her own hands, the youthful sorceress knows herself strong enough to tear apart legions of mere mortals. She would never do so unless it became necessary, but the power... the power is there, a well of force from which she can draw at will and manipulate to the kingdom's required purpose. Her fingers curl reflexively beneath their concealing sleeves, clawing gently at the darkness. Thoughts of rulership are brushed aside - if her mother believes Lavos to be such, then her daughter will endeavour to entertain this. So difficult to believe though, that in His current situation the provider could be a threat to Zeal herself. Does she not control him, then? Can it really be?
Another shiver coursing down her spine, Schala fights back physical signs of this and instead shakes her head briskly. Her brother.. there's another complex subject. But she spares thought for now. There is so much to do and achieve, so many matters to resolve as part of the whole... she has no time to tease the ember of warmth in her soul. Not today. "Janus has not returned yet, mother. I'm sure he will come to me when he does... you know, that if you need me to make a similar excursion you need only ask." Here a slight quiver creeps into her tone as she presses the matter, "You will, won't you? If a matter needs my attentions...?" Is this.. desire for recognition, for acknowledgement? Perhaps it is. But the ember must be allowed to die. She must not graze its warmth with her touch. To this end, she adds: "For Zeal."
Queen Zeal paces before the throne a good deal before responding to that. Her fractured mind trying to do what she feels is right, trying to comprehend the emotions Lavos is feeding her, and struggling to her own sanity are all at times too much for her. But something about Schala's words seem to have some clarity within her scatteredn thoughts. Finaly she lets out a brief sigh, "...you might be right. We might need to send another to this blind world. Janus seems quite lax in his duties, I'm begining to believe he's enjoying his visit a bit too much. But if I where to send you, how might I know your pressence wouldn't drive his rebelious actions further and push him away from our glorious plans? Hmmm... so much to do, if the providers troubled mind didn't plauge me so...." Standing straight she turns towards her own throne and hisses at it. "Your foul corruption is but a guise for your truer intentions! HOW DARE YOU MOCK ME??" Stepping closer as though intending to strike at the inattimate object she strains her eyes a bit further. "Yes... I see, good point. I shall allow you to continue as you do not speak of this outburst." With a nod of her head she turns and half-smiles at her daughter, "Why Schala! Did I summon you today? What mattter requires my attention?" Yep... and she's gone again.
When the reply comes, Schala does not smile as such... but her gloomy veil lifts, just enough to display some small pleasure in the news. She finds herself in need of the solitude that only strangeness can bring - a break from the corridors of the palace, a break from Zeal itself. But not from its teachings... only from the more physically restrictive aspects, the eyes that follow every movement such that even her own chambers are not constructive to pure meditation. The constant plottings and plannings, and most of all - the imagined screams from below. Her mother is not the only one to hear those, at least in a metaphorical sense. Always Schala labours under some long-remembered ache within her heart, one that spreads to her very bones, and her nights can be haunted with these screams. The screams of a broken world. How does one find solace from this? The answer, is simple...
For these are the cries of other worlds. Those yet to be saved.
"I-" Beginning to reply to her mother's judgement, the princess stops with an abrupt gasp, spinning on her heel with rare speed of movement to look toward the maddened Queen. Gliding forward a pace, her robe settling around her fluidly, Schala shakes her head as she watches, and listens. Sadness creeps into her eyes, the hint of moisture shining within before it can be fully suppressed. Oddly, it is the finale to this that settles the tears back within their restrictive ducts. This... is an ordinary madness, one she has adjusted to. Her head bows, slim body bending at the waist in a brief gesture of respect to her royal parent. "It was nothing, mother. I merely desired to see you, and confer as to our current situation. Perhaps.. perhaps you would like me to follow Janus before the week's end?"
Queen Zeal shakes her head as she attempts to think such thoughts over. "Yes... Janus..." What is it about that name that upsets her? "He's been absent again, has he? Yes, well perhaps that wouldn't be such a prudent idea. Yes, yes... just, be sure your careful. It would do the provider no good if his subjects where harmed in some foolish fashon upon an alien world. Yes, see what you can learn and return to me..." Hesitiating in mid sentence she stares off into the darkness below them and in a very calm, and surprisingly sane voice she adds, "But beware the man in black. He corrupts us..." Her voice returning to it's normal pitch once more she scans a nearby orb and glares, "...foolish insects. Scurring to and from as though they could make more than a diffrence in their pitiful lives. NOTHING IS IMPORTANT TO THE WILL OF LAVOS! Soon they shall all know this... soon they shall understand..."
'The man in black?' Schala mouths this in silent query of her mother, lips phrasing the words without sound. Her voice was so different then, such a change from her manner in recent times... and the Princess Royal stands confused as to whether this is a sign. Prophecy, perhaps? It has been some time since such has been made, so many facts and complex ravings but so little destiny within her mother's words beside that already noted. She will be watching for such a figure, anyway. A figure of darkness. And if it comes as a threat to her person? Then it shall feel the light of Zeal from her hand...
"Yes, mother. They shall, and I will ensure to make sure everything can be executed smoothly.. I will move quietly though. Should my purpose be discovered by this dark figure you speak of, I'll return with news immediately." Speaking in the clipped, careful tones of her royal training, Schala then swiftly reaffirms her bow, before straightening and half-turning away, dark eyes scanning Zeal now from across her right shoulder. "And if I do meet my brother, should we join forces or must I despatch him here?" 'Must I...' She knows well the option she would prefer, not denying her heart this one nod to its desires. But as always, her abidance by set guidelines shall be perfection itself. A princess is by her very nature a servant to her people, to the kingdom she might stand to inherit...
Queen Zeal distractedly glances towards Schala, her attitude similar to that of annoyance. "Your brother? Dear girl, your brother isn't here. We had him visit the other world we discovered, don't you recall?" With a shake of her head she sighs, "No of course you don't recall. Your memory isn't what it used to be." Firmly believing whatever random thought crosses her mind she takes a step closer and continues, "I'm not sure what to think of the arrogant fool just yet. Perhaps he is doing as we asked, and perhaps not. Reguardless if you did cross paths with him, I'd expect you to simply ignore him. Deal with your matters at hand and if possible don't announce your pressence. We shall see if he attempts to do what is right by Lavos, or if he falls prey to the dopilganger in his own foolishness." Walking away she returns to her throne to stare off into her magical orbs once more, perhaps seeking a reason for her own disjointed thoughts...
Schala's jaw sets quite visibly as her brother's good name is defaced before her... the memory issues she can cope with, but the way her hands again curl halfway to fists within the safety of her robe reminds the sorceress only too well that her faculties are not perfectly under control. There is a sore point here. But somehow she knows it is not the cause of the passionless gulf.. the distance between mother and daughter is something far deeper and more mysterious.
When an answers comes, it comes belated, the Princess Royal watching her now-throned mother with hardened eyes. Janus is no fool... not dear, sweet Janus. Not her brother with so much potential and wisdom... not he. "Yes, mother." The answer comes curt as expected, a short but fierce nod from the girl punctuating this. She turns fully then, her robe's hue already seeming to fade into the shadow of the chamber as she takes a single step away. Her pace continues after a brief, uncertain pause... the time it takes for Schala to force herself away from the issues. Control. Such an important thing, like no other. "I shall return and make my report in due time, then.. I can only hope I will not be the only one. Farewell, mother..." Her voice fades with her form then, the whispers of a soft breeze drifting back to the throne remaining as the only indication of Schala's passing...