No More Games

Mnemia stood at the tiller of a small cutter, the ship sliding through the water as the sun was starting to set in the west. The thin clouds snaking through the sky were starting to light up with color as the day ended.

But, other than making sure she kept the nearby island in sight to her left, most of her attention was focused on what was going on on deck.

Across from her Celeste stood at the bow of the ship, seeming to face the sunset, but practiced eyes never losing track of her charges. Nearby Aly and Kasi were moving constantly. They drifted from watching the sea to watching the sunset to watching Mnemia. In between they would return to Celeste to talk to her excitedly of everything they had seen in the last 60 seconds. The one novelty they didn’t seem to focus on was Zis. The woman had an odd affect on the twins. Hell, she had an odd affect on all of them.

The abyssal had been an interesting companion over the past several days. Celeste had taken up the mantle of distrust normally held by Zuko. She didn’t trust this woman bound by the deathlords, but at the same time she did trust her daughter when Mnemia said she could keep the quasi-prisoner under control if needed. Mnemia herself remained hopeful; wanting to believe that this woman who could walk in the valley of death could stand by her children when she could not. As for those very children, they clearly had some kind of connection with the abyssal. They were more at ease around her than any of the other Tya. But at the same time they seemed to sense that something was not quite… right about the woman. She was a curiosity, but something kept them from gawking at her as they did at Mnemia.

For her part Zis seemed simply content to no longer be imprisoned. She did little to arouse distrust, but at the same time it was clear even to Mnemia that there was a part of her nature she was making an effort to suppress. Just as Mnemia feared there were places her children would go that she could not, this world was one of the places Zis didn’t really belong. She seemed to be warring with herself at times. But whether or not that was an effort to bide her time until she could enact an escape or if it was a genuine desire to fight her dark masters was still a mystery.

Mnemia adjusted their course just a bit before locking down the tiller. She hadn’t been much of a sailor before now, her training focused on the coordination of several ships not piloting a single one, but recent events had forced her to adapt. And given the small window of free time available to her she had decided to formalize those skills. Stepping away from the controls Mnemia made a quick circuit around the boat, checking the sails and rigging in addition to dodging children before ending up next to Zis. With Mnemia this close to the abyssal Celeste visibly tensed, but other than that continued to make an effort to look disinterested.

“Better than the cell?”

“You know the answer to that.” Zis replied, her gaze directed towards the sunset.

At that Mnemia paused for a moment, nodding. “Before too long you are going to have to make a choice. You can be who your lord wants you to be, or you can be who you want to be.”

This time it was Zis that was silent. Before she responded she turned to face Mnemia. “How do you know that I haven’t made that choice already?”

“Because you still wear that collar.”

“The collar makes me a slave, but it doesn’t dictate my will.”

“True.” Mnemia said, turning her body towards Zis. “But this is the kind of choice you cannot prepare yourself for, despite how much you try. You can tell yourself night in and night out, I will do this thing. But when the moment comes, when you are finally empowered to make that choice and everything else falls away, your nightly vows will mean nothing. In that moment you will act as your heart dictates, not how your mind wills it.”

Now the abyssal moved to face Mnemia, her attention focused squarely on the solar before her. “And have you always been a philosopher poet?”

“No, just well versed in self deception.” As she said this Mnemia’s head finally fell, her shame preventing her from holding the other woman’s gaze.

The awkward silence held for a moment before Zis’ eyes moved to the children now standing hand in hand with Celeste, looking out over the sea. “This is why, isn’t it. Why you came to me in my cell those many months ago.”

“You know the answer to that.” Mnemia said as she turned to face Aly and Kasi as well.

“Yes, I suppose I do.” Zis responded before her eyes went back to watching the rapidly dropping sun.

“They may have been my motivation for approaching you, but I do not do this to use you. In this task you must be willing and I must trust you with that which is more precious to me than my life. If this is going to work you have to be my partner in this. If you cannot I will not hold it against you. But, I will destroy any that would do them harm.”

Part offer, part threat; Mnemia’s words hung on the crisp air between them for a time. It wasn’t until the sun had fully set, only the corona setting the sky ablaze, that Zis finally responded.

“And when will I be allowed to make my choice?”

“Soon, I think. The others may not approve, but time is a fleeting thing, and I would know your heart sooner rather than later. What Leviathan did to them…” The words caught in Mnemia’s throat. As she brought her emotions back under control her eyes found Zis’. “I need an ally in this, one who I can trust to protect them in their greatest time of need, but one who doesn’t walk the same path I do, who can go where I cannot, and I need that ally soon.”

Again, the silence stretched between them, neither one of them looking away. No answer was given, none expected.

“Mia, I think it’s time we headed home.”

As Mnemia turned to face her mother, the elder Tya’s words breaking the silent exchange between the two exalts, she realized she had a small audience. Stoic and unreadable, at least to Mnemia, both mother and daughters watched the two women. Mnemia had long since spoken to her mother about her thoughts regarding Zis, and both of them knew how dangerous of a gamble this could be and how rewarding it would be if it succeeded. As for Aly and Kasi, maybe they sensed the severity of the situation unfolding before them or maybe they were just mimicking Celeste. Mnemia wondered if she would ever know.

“Yes, time to go home.” Mnemia responded as she set about getting them headed back towards land.

No More Games

Sins of the First Age ChainsawXIV ChainsawXIV