1228.etc: Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da

[color=blue]"Cumhachd has mostly kept to herself since she arrived, hasn't she? Her and her mystery men? But I can imagine having your mater show up unexpectedly would be more stressful for a Tytalus than for most."

Her eyes narrow. [color=blue]"And what, pray tell, does Alexei claim is your 'true' place here?"

She takes a sip of her whiskey. [color=blue]"With this storm, my maidservant and I haven't been as abreast of the goings-on as we normally would be. What's going on with Tranquillina?"

"It wasn't a verbal claim. More of a demonstration, really." Stultus takes another small sip of his whiskey. "Cumhachd had just showed up, and stuck something in Tranquillina's face which knocked the woman on her keister. Vis, I assume. So I'm standing there, talking to Cumhachd, trying to get her attention away from Tranquillina, when Alexei teleports in and starts ordering the grogs around."

"First of all, he didn't need to do that. I was handling the situation just fine, and neither of us were in any danger. But that's understandable -- he doesn't know Cumhachd from Adam, didn't know that she was my mater, didn't know whether she was a threat, and a shield grog or two never hurts. So he gets a pass on that part. But the order he gave was 'Protect Tranquillina'. Not 'protect the magi'. Not 'protect Tranquillina -- oh, and the ugly dwarf too'. Just Tranquillina."

"Now, the man knows I'm about as far from a combat magus as it's possible to get. I told him so, in so many words. As if my stunning physique wasn't enough of a clue. One good sword blow and it's finita la commedia." Stultus grows pale and shivers, hugging his shoulders for a moment -- it's fairly obvious that his last words are not just a figure of speech. "So, the only thing I can conclude is that his first gut reaction was 'it's Tranquillina who's truly valuable here. Bugger the dwarf, he can fend for himself.'"

He reaches for his goblet again, swirling the amber liquid and staring at it moodily. "I should have expected it, in retrospect. Tranquillina has three things I do not possess -- a pretty face and a pair of tits -- and this IS Alexei we're talking about here. But it still hurts, you know?"

"Tranquillina is dancing." Another sip of whiskey, a smaller one this time. "Ever seen a marionette? Cumhachd is yanking on the girl's strings just as hard as she can, and Tranquillina is jerking in response, dancing to Cumhachd's tune. It's infuriating. I see it all so clearly -- I see the strings, I know what they are, I know how they got attached in the first place -- and I want to help. On her own Tranquillina might not ever figure out what Cumhachd wants, what the purpose is behind the manipulation, because she understands so damn little of my House." Stultus is talking rather quickly, a waterfall of words pouring out of his mouth. "All that's needed is the tiniest hint, a little push -- the woman's brilliant, she'll figure it out on her own if she sees the problem in the right light -- but any time I try to help she spits in my face. I can't blame her for any of it -- it's Eskil's problems, Eskil's unresolved issues that are leaping up and slapping her in the face, lessons that Eskil never learned -- but... but... eh." He deflates, abruptly, and takes another swig with a 'bugger it all' expression on his face. "Just... frustrating."

Fiona shakes her head. As fond as she is of the Flambeau, she's still surprised at the way he deals with people sometimes.

Fiona rolls her eyes. [color=blue]"Trust me, Alexei is not swayed by a pretty face and nice pair of tits."

Fiona purses her lips thoughtfully. [color=blue]"Perhaps if she heard it from someone who...weren't so closely associated with her... former domina?"

"The welfare of the child is not in question, Avigail", the man responds in the same language, in an unexpectedly resonant voice. "What we are discussing is the concept of hakarat ha-chet[sup][1][/sup], which you persist in..." He breaks off in mid-word as he realizes that there isn't another portal to pass through. "Oh. We have arrived, then."
(( [sup][1][/sup] -- literally, "a recognition of having sinned". However, it is worth noting that the word used denotes the least offensive category of sin: it literally means 'miss', as in 'missing the mark'. ))
(( I spent the last hour or so crawling around Judaic websites, attempting to understand fully the views on pre-marital sex and children born out of wedlock. The results were ... rather surprising.))

"Let us go see your teacher then, by all means."

Abigail counters, "So you would prefer I were more like Azura? That I performed the daily rituals, observed Shabbat, but not feel the joy of it in my heart? That it is better to lie to myself and G-d?"

"Very well, I'll take you to him.". They go to Korvin's quarters, "wait here, while I get him. I will not presume to invite you in, I have no right to do so.".

Abigail goes to Korvin, "Master, I'm back. But I have a guest with me. Father is wishing to enforce the part of the contract where it indicates I have access to a rabbi.". She appears embarrassed by this, not because she's concerned of what Korvin thinks about her religion, just that it's being forced...

((Azura was played a bit in Phoenix, the player was Jewish, but chose the flaw Dutybound, as it more accurately reflected her character's feeling, since she took no joy in the practice of her religion.))

"And what on earth would be the point of that? A mitzvah done without joy is no mitzvah at all. Only when you are joyous is your soul complete and whole. Does not the hundredth Psalm say 'Serve G-d with joy, come before Him with song'?" Pinchas smiles at Abigail as he walks beside the young woman. "Are those the only two options you feel are open to you? To observe the form yet miss the inner meaning, like Azura -- or to discard the form entirely and abandon the meaning along with it?"

"Yes he is," contradicts Stultus. "He may not admit to it, but he is. Besides, he's swallowed the whole knightly chivalry thing -- the Chretien de Troyes malarkey -- hook, line, and sinker. At some deep level, beneath the surface, to him women are something to be cherished and protected, no matter what the woman herself wishes."

"Yeah, that would work. Problem is, there isn't such a person. No one in this covenant knows Cumhachd at all, no one except Marcus possesses the requisite understanding of the Tytalus mindset, and Marcus is too smart to interfere in what is essentially a private Tytalus matter. And I can't explain what Cumhachd is doing in the necessary level of detail without betraying confidences." Stultus stares glumly into his cup.

Alexei was on the run, he'd never been so hard pressed in his life. His grogs were all left behind. He'd been teleporting almost blindly once he lost the arcane connections to Mons Electi and his sanctum. His tabbard was tattered and spattered with mud and muck. His armour looked like he'd been mauled by a great beast. His staff had the spear tip torn from it and Alexei looked exhausted. He crouched behind a great oak tree and tried to calm his heart beat and breathing. He just needed a few moments rest, but the beast was relentless!

How did it come to this? He was the great Alexei von Kroitsau! Slayer of monsters! Scourge of the battlefield! Champion on the Milites! He shivered in exhaustion at the base of the tree hoping he'd finally lost the ceature he'd roused. He took quiet breaths now as he listened for any sound of the determined beast. Just when it seemed he could say he may have lost it he heard the snapping of branches, the creak of trees and a lumbering tread he'd become all too familiar with of late. The noise stopped abruptly and with a frightened twitch in his head Alexei carefully crept around the tree to get a better look. Nothing. The forest was empty. He took a long shuddering breath before he was suddenly yanked off his feet by an unstoppable pull on his cloak. Struggling to breathe Alexei was dragged several paces by a monstrous form in brown fur, bigger than a French warhorse. It had Alexei's cloak in its mouth and was pulling it and shaking its head furiously as Alexei was pulled along despite his best efforts. Finally the clasp snapped and the cloak was torn free and Alexei got up as quickly as he could manage, one hand on his staff and the other on his throat as he turned to face the beast...that was now happily rolling its enormous back into Alexei's muddy cloak and making contented growls and rumbles.

The dog was gigantic, but judging by the ears and tails in proportion to its bulky size it was still a puppy. A tawny brown mastiff hound bigger than a horse, with a black mask of fur over its eyes and partway down its blunt muzzle. A smile came over Alexei as he watched the young beast roll around in his cloak like a favorite blanket.

"Found me again Donner! Good boy." Alexei said as he walked up to it. The dog suddenly looked up attentitvely at the sound of Alexei's voice and dropped a slobbery jowl and barked, a great throaty woof, as deep as if it eminated from a cave. "No...Donner...no..." it barked again and hopped up on its haunches. "No Donner! No! We do not jump on Alexei! DONNER!" the dog leapt and pounced, placing its massive paws on Alexei's shoulders, completely ignoring his attempts at warding him off with his staff. Alexei was down in a heartbeat with Donner pinning him and licking his face with a tongue the colour of a summer ham, and breath as fresh as a rotten carcass.

"No! No stop! Ye Gods! Your breath could drop a fly off a dung heap! Here, here! Get the stick. Get the stick!" Alexei actually clunked the dog on its enormous head with his staff to get its attention and then flung the staff as far as he could. Donner made a delighted bark and got off of Alexei, chasing after the staff. Once he had it, he didn't return with it but lay down and began to chew and worry at it contentedly, making low growl noises as he bit into the unyielding wood. Alexei once again struggled to get up. "Is that dog going to be my familiar or my death?" he wondered aloud, and not for the first time.

"Exactly my point, rabbi. I have no strong sense of faith like my father, mother and sister. I do not lie, and when I am in their home, I observe more to promote harmony with my family than out of a sense of obligation. I do not work on the Sabbath here, mostly so that my Master can honestly report to my father that he does not force me to do so. I recognize their rights to worship as they choose. My choice is not to worship, but not be disruptive. I don't engage in Korvin's heathen rituals, and my father probably had a greater sense of House Mercere's pagan nature than I gave him credit for. My father once told me, that when G-d comes calling, I'll know how to answer. I have not yet heard G-d. I recognize the meaning and form of the rituals I grew up with, and my decision to not practice is more out of respect for G-d, than anything. I do not lie to myself, nor do I lie to my family, and I believe I have never lied to G-d, if he should exist. I may break the Law, but I do have a code of conduct. You would seek to guide me back to being observant, perhaps at my father's insistence, but the truth is, since the demons were chased from Phoenix, you've sought deeper meaning in your own life, and you're here for yourself, much more than for me, or you wouldn't have agreed so willingly."

"Of course I am here for myself. And for you. And for Ra'am. And for any other Jew who might be living in the area who has no rabbi to tend to his needs. If there was a rabbi easily available, you wouldn't have had to import me, neh? The Torah tells us to love our neighbor as ourselves. Serving you, and Ra'am, and other Jews -- serving my community -- is my place in the world, my expression of tikkun olam. It is through service to others that I find my fulfillment.

As to your earlier comment, about answering when G-d speaks... mmm. Hold on a moment." Pinchas stops, stepping to the side of the hallway, and crouches down on one knee, digging through his travel pack. He extracts a water-skin, handing it to Abigail, and a simple metal cup. "I find myself thirsty from the trip. Could you pour me a drink of water, please?"

He holds the cup out to Abigail with a smile. Only problem is, he's holding the cup upside down.

Alexei sent all his grogs and assistants back to his post while he struggled with the new member of his entourage. A leash did almost nothing, the dog managed to uproot trees as they brought it back from the giant's Regio and seemed to think it was a game. Alexei basically had to keep the dog following him and pay attention lest its curious eyes led it astray. When they were finally within sight of the halls of Mons Electi Alexei let out a sigh.

"C'mon Donner, almost home." the giant puppy followed happily until they reached the foot of a bridge, Alexei walked with a tired step up its familiar boards with Donner a few steps behind. Suddenly he stopped short as if running into an invisible wall. He sat up and looked at the nothing in ront of him, wondering why he couldn't follow his new friend. Alexei didn't notice and was almost across the bridge. Donner puffed out his chest and ducked his head and bowled forward and again was rebuffed.

Alexei stopped when he heard the sad and mournful howl of Donner, looking back he saw the sad dog whining at the other side of the bridge. "What? Donner, come! Come! What's wrong...oh...that is my fault. The Aegis." Alexei hurried back as Donner flopped onto his belly in sadness, wondering if Alexei had tricked him or something. Once Alexei was there he stood tall and addressed the dog, who looked up at him plaintively. "Donner, the Giant's Dog, I invite you into the Aegis of Mons Electi. You will be a good dog and a friend and guardian to all within. You may now enter." Alexei looked down at him. "Donner, come! Come Donner!"

The huge dog looked incomprehending at Alexei and then the bridge as well as the invible wall that had stopped him before. Tentatively it reached a paw forward until it touched the wood and was unimpeded. [size=150]"Rowr?"[/size] he asked and took a faltering step, and then another before he was confidently on the bridge and standing tall. [size=150]"Rowf!"[/size] and then lifted a leg and watered the nearest post while Alexei slapped himself in the forehead.

"Yes, well go ahead and do that I suppose, better here than in my sanctum." When Donner finished and briskly wiped his feet behind him he barked again indicating he was ready. "Right...well on we go. Maybe we'll say hi to Fiona."

Abigail smiles, "I'd be happy to." Abigail takes water skin and pours the water out, apparently on to the ground, but as she does so, she speaks a few words in Latin. Base 1: Control Liquid in a gentle way. R:Voice +2, D:Conc +1 T:Ind for a level of 4. She has Re 5 +Aq 0 + Sta 1 + Aura 10=16, so success on anything except a botch.
She smiles winsomely at Pinchas as the water is held in his cup being held upside down.

Fiona looks thoughtful at this insight into Alexei's personality. So that's what's holding him back, she thinks. He wants a woman he thinks he has to protect. After a minute, she smiles. [color=blue]"I suppose I'll have to be content with teasing him until he comes to his senses."

[color=blue]"She and I do have a bit of a rapport, born of us both being Scots. If it won't betray any confidences, maybe you can coach me on how to try to nudge her in the right direction." Fiona gestures to the cup with the bottle.

Once Fiona realizes what Cumhachd has gifted her with, she gasps, sighs, and feels a little wobbly-kneed for a minute. She then takes a few minutes to decide where to store the peat and barley so that it doesn't freeze during the winter, then takes off for Tribunal City with a girlish grin on her face. If she passes any of the workers en route, she will ask them to send a couple of men to her cottage after lunch.

Once she gets to where Cumhachd has set up shop, she knocks politely on the door.

The door to Cumhachd's villa is opened by Loys. He calls out, "It's the maga Fiona, Cumhachd"
"Bring her in Loys. We must show courtesy to our hosts." Loys escorts Fiona into the villa, and Fiona recognizes her as the maga who led the ritual at Founder's Fane during Grand Tribunal.
"Welcome, Fiona. Have a seat."

Fiona is somewhat surprised to see Loys here; it's the first time she can remember seeing him when he wasn't either with Tranquillina or running errands for her. Perhaps he's here at her request she thinks. She glances at Loys out of the corner of her eye as he escorts her back to Cumhachd, and can definitely tell what Tranquillina sees in the lad, with a hint of a smile of appreciation.

She shows no sign of recognition when she sees Cumhachd.

[color=blue]"Thank you, sodalis," Fiona says as she gingerly sits down. [color=blue]"I simply came to try to express my gratitude for your gift. It was not only most unexpected, but exceedingly generous and incredibly thoughtful. Thank you very much."

Pinchas smiles back with genuine fondness, reversing his wrist so that the cup is the right way up. "Just so. Thank you." He takes a sip, and shoulders his pack again. "As I was saying... G-d speaks to everyone. All the time. His love is poured out like water upon the earth. Only problem is, most of the time His voice is a gentle whisper, no louder than the sound of rain.

You saw yourself how difficult it is to pour water into an inverted cup." (Abigail did lose a fatigue level, after all... unless that was a Formulaic ReAq spell called 'Hoist Annoying Rabbi With Own Petard'? No? Didn't think so.) "If your cup is inverted -- if your soul is closed to G-d's words -- you do not hear the whisper. Not unless He chooses, for His purposes, to yell."

"That's one of the purposes of halakha, Abigail. That is how we set our cups the right way up. That is how we listen for His whispers. That is why Azura's practices, though joyless, have some merit -- she is opening her soul to G-d's whisper, even though her inner turmoil drowns it out." His voice is still gentle and smooth, but there's a core of unbending steel within it. "And that is why I will teach you. And that is why, while I am here, you will observe halakha --so that before you say 'I have not heard His call', you can say with perfect honesty 'I have listened'."

"I cannot prevent you from turning your back on our heritage, Avigail, if that is what you choose. That is why Hashem gave us free will. But before you do so, you will understand -- not with a child's limited comprehension, not with a teenager's rebelliousness, but with an adult's mature consideration -- you will understand exactly what it is you are turning your back on, and why."

"Tell her... um. Um. You could say... no, that wouldn't work..." Stultus is obviously struggling to think through the haze of alcohol: it takes very little to get him drunk. "Try ... try to help her see that Eskil is the key to the whole thing. That Eskil is a scared little brat who's been bullied so much that she turned into a bully herself so no one else could hurt her, and that whenever Cumhachd shows up, the sight of her throws Tranquillina right back into that dark place, and she doesn't have to go back there, she really doesn't."

"Yes, it is difficult for me, but it is not impossible. And it isn't impossible for G-d's voice to make it into my closed soul."

"You presume much. I will not. You cannot force me to do so. I will give up my privileges I enjoy and seek the refuge of Korvin's sanctum, full time. Enter a magus's sanctum uninvited to enforce your will, not G-d's will upon me."

I am a woman of 20 and more years. I have given it an adult's consideration. I have observed Azura, and she lives a lie. She and Etienne carrying on as they do. She does her duty to her House and engages in sexual congress as many as she might to get pregnant and satisfy the demands of the House. And she observes the law just enough to assuage her guilt. The difference is I don't have any guilt, I have made a choice. And so to, you must make a choice. Try and haul me back to my father, or serve as an example, as a Rabbi should, and not as an enforcer. If I need you, I will call upon you. But do not try and force me to follow the halakha. I listened and followed for 16 years, as a child, and as a woman, and now I am an apprentice to a magus of the Order of Hermes, House Mercere. You are here because the fight with my father wasn't worth it. If I must I will write to him and tell him what I have told you. I have no fear of the truth, I just don't push it into his face."

Pinhas spocks an eyebrow. She's just threatened to hide within her master's sanctum, and then threatened to tell her daddy on me. What adult, reasoned negotiation tactic will she try next -- holding her breath till she turns blue?

"Clarify something for me, please. Azura observes the law just enough to assuage her guilt over... having sexual congress? Is that what you're saying?"