A Question, Questions, Answers


Resident Witch
Staff member

Mikulass was alone. Mikulass was not usually alone. Today, he was alone. Today, he was traveling. He was scouting ahead, for his family and friends to join him at a new camp. They had to keep moving, or they might be found when they didn’t want to be. The area had to be suitable for them, yes, but also for the creatures they brought with them. They required certain kinds of land. Too rough, they would not be able to dig the pit needed. Too smooth, and it would be easy for them to escape.

Mikulass touched down and hopped around the area, cocking his head to look at it better. Yes, this should be fine. He decided to rest before flying back. He had flown very far this time, closer to the Heraldess’s exit than Her entrance, but their safety had been a priority of Hers. She had decreed they were not to be caught, and they were to survive. She had said that was all She cared about. So they had been trying to listen to Her word. She did not oft give orders or ask much of them, so they obeyed what little She did ask or command.

Mikulass stretched two of his long bird legs out and stood on them, drawing the other two up to his body. He nestled his head into the fluff of his chest and pointed his many eyes in different directions, keeping an eye out for anything that might hurt him. After a minute, those many eyes closed, and he sighed out, a soft sound signaling his contentedness.

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The Question was always alone, by day. She Knew this must be Day, in the Dark, because She had come by Night, in the dull red Light of the Sphere that Hated Her. Her and [font size="1"]HER[/font] and all else. And all else hated Her whom [font size="1"]SHE[/font] loved, some things more than other things.

She scuttled across the landscape, unlike any Other here. She wore not the Goddess-Shape, not because She was ungrateful to HER. She could never be ungrateful for this. But She Knew that there was more fear and hatred when She wore the shape of HER. How couldn’t She know? The answers swept over Her through the Sphere whenever any other came close. Fear and hate were dark emotions, and the fear was not of Her but of HER who loved Her.

Instead what crawled across the cracked flesh was something somewhat like a cuttlefish, eyes wide-set in trinities with pupils sidelong, body sprawling out in tendrils that swayed and swept but were covered not in smooth slickness but furred thickness somewhat like a cat, and not at all like a Kid like whose hooves the five scrambling legs were formed. And She was not quite the Question that had come, bound as She had been to release him and his dark heart. And so unlike the creatures of black that matched the darkened flesh of the sphere, the scuttling creature that was not Kid or Cuttlefish or Cat or the Question once asked was pale in the darkness to Her own sight, invisible in some sense to some senses of some denizens of the strange home She shared with them.

The white of Her fur was not as the white of Her fangs, also feline, behind lips that might open but were not made for Words, for the tongue of the Sphere was not one that required a tongue at all. Even if She wished to speak with the one She sought, to invoke the language of the Goddess was likely unwise given what She had learned of him, same as bearing Her Shape. So She had stripped it away and came as Her Self to seek him out.

She had a Name. She did not HAVE A NAME, but to hear a Name that was ultimately HERS was enough for Her to send out the question into the dark and seek the answer. He couldn’t be far from where She had met Dr. Elizabeth, and so She had spent several days (still sure they were days) scouring the area and finding only slight traces.

It was almost by accident as She came over a ridge and saw him. Or one as him, but SHE made all things different even as they were the same. The Lone Kid at once hid, bending back Her legs to crouch behind a stone as Her Eyes turned to the sleeping creature. Was he sleeping?

The Question came with a ripple of Curiosity before She could catch it. It was among the strongest of Her emotions, and She was learning how to pull back the feelings as they came, but from Her poor shelter the wind would catch the question and bring it to him, and there was nothing She could do to stop it, despite the breeze of desperate no that all at once followed it.

All She could then do was sit still and wait and see what the answer was to be.
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Mikulass was just starting to fall asleep when a Question brushed over him. It was quickly followed by a strong sensation that denied the Question. He opened all of his eyes and turned them in the direction it had come from, and almost immediately regretted it. Although the being before him was very different from the one that had presented itself to the Heraldess and himself before, it was undoubtedly the same one.

Just his luck, really.

He let his tired eyes meet hers and he sighed, the feeling of “of course” radiating out from him. He thought quietly for a moment before he nodded. If she had wanted to hurt him, she would have. Although he did not like her connection to the Goddess, Pepper seemed to trust her and had come several times over the last few cycles specifically to see the Goddess-who-wasn’t-a-Goddess.

For that alone, Mikulass would speak with her. He might not have trusted this she, but he trusted his She.

He parted his beak and sang. The Heraldess had said that to many of her own people it sounded like harsh screams, so he was curious to see what the Goddess-who-wasn’t-a-Goddess. He sang a song of curiosity back to the “girl”, one that spoke of more than words could convey. Curiosity at her presence, a willingness to cooperate, and a sense of spite, almost. One that specifically said, “I will do this to spite the Goddess, for she would not like to see you speaking with one such as I”. It was more than that, but that was the closest the emotion could translate to in words.

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Most important to the Curiosity was that he was not angry with her presence. She had curled Her Self under his gaze, crouched with back-bent legs pulled tight between Her body and the Sphere. Not one of Her eyes blinked as he considered, and then he sang. He did not sing as he sang, sweet warbles and harmonies, but a shriek and scream that set Her fur on end. Yet only part of Her had been him, and to something within much darker and deeper such cacophony was much nearer a hymn.

Her eyes blinked, all out of sync, and slowly She came back to Her feet. The Curiosity was shared between them, and in harmony with him She hummed at the back of Her left throat. It resonated then to Her right as the concept of spite washed through Her. To spite HER without care was a fool’s errand, but Curiosity was a fool’s blessing, and She was the one most blessed, so that made two of them.

But Her central mouth hummed a somewhat different tune, not in his voice but in one that matched, that resonated out to him and down into the Sphere. She would not begin with Her questions of him or Herald, but instead with something that was less harmful to learn. The sound rose and fell, harmonized with itself not in shrieks but in bubbling hums, and slowly climbed in flight, mixed all the while with that flood of How, unasked and unneeded, but impossible to leave unheeded.
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Mikulass chuckled, a strange croaking sound. He flapped his wings out, spreading all four of them wide. His many eyes were all fixed on the form of Eurydice. Then laughter was carried in a wave of humor, of some small joy and the sensation of rising. The feeling of the air as it rushed against his feathers quickly followed, and the sensation of the feathers moving, turning in the air to capture it and keep him afloat. There was a feeling of hollowness as well, but it wasn’t the emotional kind. It was physical hollowness, as though weighing of nothing.

Then, he flapped his wings into the air and flew the short distance between them, landing next to her. The form she was in was more pleasing than the previous one. At least this one didn’t make his feathers ruffle. Once he landed next to her, he reached out and quickly plucked a single feather from her body with his beak. He flipped it around in his beak before dropping it and shaking his head.

Wrongness this time filled the air, and he described as best he could how their weight was the issue. He sang a song that fell with its own weight, and then one that lifted with lightness. Then he ended the song with a new one. One of pure curiosity, curiosity at the presence of the Goddess-who-wasn’t-a-Goddess. Her presence was of more interest to him than anything else, so this song was insistent, more loud, and more vibrant than the previous songs had been.

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She had gotten the bones and feathers wrong! There was a delight in the knowing that She had known what the issue had been – even if She had not known how to repair it. She ran a quick circle to burn off some of the energy, a quick turn that would be awkward to any thing that was not accustomed to an odd number of appendages. Mixed with the joy derived from Mikulass’s joy, the Godling could even ignore the sting of losing a beakful of soft fur for the learning curve.

And she melted and flexed, the motion rooted in the physical form lent Her by [font size="1"]HER[/font], and stretched and darkened and rose. The eyes that opened along Her wings were still Her own, organized as before in triplicates, but besides that She had taken up his form with the idea of weight bearing heavy in mind, and the corrections all suddenly in connection.

The Curiosity came back, however, in a rushing pull like an undertow beneath the joy. A question was asked, and it must be answered, for such was Her nature. Although She appeared as he was, albeit in miniature, She was not as he. The question was not said, but felt, and then the one-throat took up a song like his screeched in sync with Her own question, none fully formed. A wave in its purity as thick and heavy as the grief he had heard from Her before.

And that was there, too, an undertone below the song by which She defined Her Self in this strange form. Fear returned in the softest ripple, and above that in the middle was the loneliness of One who had lost half Her Self to save it. Lost all She had ever known for [font size="1"]HER[/font], with the softest Note of love for [font size="1"]HER[/font] who did love Her by night when the Sphere was high and hated Her by day when the world grew dark. That question came, too, but it was not for Mikulass. It was not a question that would be answered, or even asked. It was not a good question. It was one of his questions, her mortal parent who was [font color="dimgray"]gone[/font] as that Half of Her had been.

And She, having grown used to being alone, for a moment forgot that Her feelings being godling may more affect the creature here beside Her as She let Her Self be lost among the questions that had no answer, and yet continued to sing, for that, too, was all She had left of him.
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The wave that returned to him was strong, and he braced himself for its impact as it rode over him in a wave of emotion. It was emotion he understood, however, and that made it all the more worse. A gentle joy started it off, rising high, but it quickly fell to a note of loneliness and grief that threatened to drag Mikulass under. When it rose again, it was to a high note of love followed in quick succession with a mid note of fear. They played in a discordant melody. And finally, it responded to his question with many more questions, too many for Mikulass to answer.

He bowed his head under the strain and sent out a wave of halting, the sensation of movement stopping. It was mixed with a low note of desperation, as he started to shake from the strain. It was as though she was yelling at him in her carelessness. He admonished her in a single note for having as much emotional control as a child before he began to sing back.

The spite was back, a little heavier than before, and this time it was accompanied by the sense of things breaking in half. He sent out a low whistle, a single note, as he asked for a single question to sift through the overflowing music of her curiosity. Bells rang out as he sang to the tune of companionship– he couldn’t offer much, but he could offer her sanctuary in his presence. Fear was not needed here, not where they stood. The Goddess never came out this way. It was why his people had been so safe, a low hum in the back of his throat.

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It was not the admonishment that caused the rolling flood to pull back in sudden silence. He could push it away from him, but beyond well and truly being a child – were they of the same kind, She would be far from fledged; hardly even hatched! – She spent too much time repressing some feelings so that the Goddess did not hear them. She’d become good at it, but feelings repressed did not go away, just built up like a dam that broke at the first crack –

Crack, came the break, and the song died. The dam was whole, even if She wasn’t.

Safe. This place was safe, a sanctuary, and She was in it, the liar’s daughter who could not lie here. She hummed idly, something shy and uncertain. If his people were safe here, this was a bad idea. She could leave, without learning anything that would bring them harm. But to leave without learning was against Her very being, and She knew it, and in the quiet She made sure Mikulass would know that, too, with sharp notes that always ended more softly than they began. Warnings, before She complied to the request for one Question.

Then a moment of quiet, as She considered. It would give Mikulass space to send Her away, or to leave himself, before any trouble could come to him and his. Almost as if for plausible deniability, the trinitarian Eyes along Her wings closed, one by one, until She was blind, alone with Her song.

It wasn’t… exactly, one of his songs, having come from Persephone. There were so many other songs. This one was important, and maybe the song itself was a question of why. A song that could be sung by meaning, without the lyrics, by force of will and Why.

By the time She was through with it, She wasn’t even sure what the question actually was. Maybe She was just relieved to have the freedom to share it, away from the Goddess. Maybe it was asking about HER, a question that would never pass between them. Maybe it was a question about Her Self, what She was meant to be, in Her fractured form.

Maybe, She would never tell HER that She missed him, and the only one who would ever know was this dark bird full of spite and hate and almost – well. Certainly something. One by one, the eyes reopened, and this time the song faded and died in due time, and nothing more followed it. Nothing at all more followed it.

One question at a time. She could abide by that.
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Mikulass listened to the song and seemed to soften beneath it’s weight. She wasn’t asking a question, not really. There was nothing in this song for him to answer, so instead he did what he could. He listened. He listened to the soft crests and pitfalls of her song. It left him feeling raw, in a strange way. It was clear that the young being was at odds with herself- not knowing what she was meant to be, not able to express this deep emotional well within her. Mikulass tilted his head to the side as her song ended. For a moment he let there be silence.

After almost a minute of silence and stillness, he ruffled his feathers and sighed. Then he sang a song of acceptance, warm and unrestrained. He would stay, and he would let her stay. He would answer her questions, and do what he could to ease her suffering. The song hit an upbeat, and he tried to echo an emotion he had only ever felt from Pepper before. He did not know what the word for it was, but it was the warmest and most pure feeling he had ever felt in his life. He wasn’t sure he was hitting the note quite right, but he wanted to fill this small creature full of this feeling. Both to signify that her emotions were safe to share in this space, and to encourage her to share what she needed to. Maybe the note would also remind the girl of his Goddess, the one who wasn’t her Goddess. His Heraldess.

Then, he spread his wings wide and inclined his head in a sincere bow. His song changed from that high clear note into an almost warbling sound, one that asked her what her first Question was. She had asked things, yes, but she had yet to ask him for anything. She had not asked him any questions of importance. He wanted to know what she wanted to know.

Enki listened, the picture of a perfect student, still and silent as stone. Even after the other sighed and sang a welcome, opened himself for the Why, she waited. She recalled how Her grief had flooded him, and out of respect would not risk such again. She waited to be in command of her Self before she took up the first crisp notes of her asking-song.

It was fairly clear, fairly personal, the first question, it was the question that she should’ve asked the stranger the moment she first met him. Mikulass, she knew that part of the answer, but the rest of the who – almost crooned like the word in the language of home, almost crooned like another kind of bird, which memory added a warble of amusement to the question that was quickly quenched – was looking for something deeper than a name and more personal than his Name.

And then, using an ear for accuracy that she had no right to have anymore, she echoed back the cautious notes of undiluted joy, with the slight of question at the end. Where on the Sphere had he ever heard this? It was wonderful, the most wonderful feeling she had experienced since coming here, since leaving the warmth of home behind to save her own life. She had been on the border of it once, when the girl who was from There was here, blinding light that she was, but Enki had been closed off to her feelings, to protect herself from oversharing. It had been balanced, when it mixed with her own grief, and had not been able to pierce her as perfectly as it had the others. It was familiar, and new. And nice. And different.

Why, she wondered, to Mikulass, to herself, to the winds, was it so strange?

Mikulass thought about the question as she mimicked the sound of Pepper’s happiness. The sound reached down in his core and he hummed, content. Then, the hum deepened and became a rumbling, a deep bass kicking up respect and the slightest twinge of fear. As the rumbling grew, so did a single pitch, one that sounded almost like a hymn, if she knew what that was. With the two conflicting notes, he raised his wings high into the sky and tilted his head back to watch the corpse of the Dead God, as it began to float into orbit over the horizon.

The note of praise became one of both love and desperation, twins that struck similar chords but had vastly different notes. Love for something that he’d initially viewed as great and terrible but had come to understand as something soft and gentle. Desperation for that very thing to be within his grasp, to share it’s grace with him.

He went quiet for a moment, but even the quiet was not silent, not really. Instead, it practically vibrated with the power of his reverence. Then, he lowered his wings and his head, extending his wing tips until they brushed the ground. In a movement as fluid as water and as graceful as a creature much smaller than he, he spun in a long and low circle, extending two of his legs out as he did. Then he twirled and hopped and kept spinning, and spinning, and hopping, and twirling until he backed away from what he had created. On the ground was a painting, a crude one as Mikulass was not an artist, but one of a face.

It was a face that Eurydice would recognize. It was the face of his Goddess. Rendered in softness, with beacons of light radiating out from her face, and then he sang again, that dual tone of reverence. This time he extended all six of his wings down and toward the cult imagery he had made, as deep a bow as someone like he could make. A God, once dead, but now alive again and in the form of one much softer and smaller. A more fitting vessel, in Mikulass's opinion.

When this had all begun, Mikulass had, at the time, expected the Dead god to overtake the girl, so he had tried to avoid forming an attachment to her. It had been an impossible task, one that he had failed miserably. But now, now he knew that she wasn’t just a host, a vessel, but the new incarnation of their God. And it was that attachment that he vibrated with then, as he boxed to the imagery before him.

How many hours in the heart of him had the Why heard the hum of hymn? Not hymns from him to her – or rather, he to it – but stories in the form of sound or sound alone in worshipful form. So Enki knew to listen to what music came in terror and reverence that evolved in equal parts respectful and respective to despair and love. As golden light glowed over the horizon, not the Sphere but certainly circular, her eyes, in their multiple triplicates, turned up to the body of Death in the sky, the terrible corpse of HER cruelty.

She curled up, wearing her Self and not her echo of him: furred not feathered, blanc, not black. Her own tendrils traced the twitch of tentacles eternally dying. The Beastie tucked her hooves beneath her belly as she allowed his adoration for Elizabeth washed over and through her. It was not adoration for the Corpse, although there was an undertone of such; but the two voices made one voice made one reverent note did not escape her note. The Corpse was something of death and darkness, terror and times past. With all her eyes she watched it fly as Mikulass might and she (as she was) could not across the self-same sky that bore the Sphere by brilliant night.

And then she brought those eyes back down to earth where even the air was tense with past and present, perfect intents and reverence. Mikulass turned music to dance and tuned and turned to turn up flesh and create other art. Worship required love required pain represented in blood – such was how the Why began, that first quivering query set to a HalF-Note rest. And again came that shift as drawn in blood was She or He whom Mikulass loved, face to face and face formed from rent memory as from the rent body of the Sphere and that body from which She had been rent in soul and spirit –

And spiral again, though no feeling fled her form as She once more shifted Her shape to that borrowed from him, face like HER if formed by HER, the same hand that tore the corpse into orbit and at whose knee the Why could learn.

To know HER was to love HER. To know HIM was to love HIM. She wanted to love again, couldn’t stave off that Note of desperation that he had shared. She loved HER! But SHE abode no love but that for HERSELF – or at least, after the sundering, Enki had feared any love but HERS too much to seek or spill it out.

But to love HER was to know HER, and gilt by association was the knowledge of HER whom She loved already. Elizabeth, or the Dead One, the Monster or the Maiden. Who was drawn as lines in the Sphere? Who was she, truly, or could she truly be HER?

The Question of Note came in a voice that could never be his, an almost human throat, not with Words as some might speak but in the universal tongueless tongue of hymns, hummed.

It was a broad question that returned to him. It was a question about his Goddess, not hers. For a moment, he was… guarded. He didn’t know how much he could really trust this little furred She. But… his Goddess trusted her. Enough to tell her where she had come from and a bit about who she was. Granted, She hadn’t used the name She normally was called and had instead used another one he had heard before. So, then, he wouldn’t share Her name, but certainly her gospel was fine.

A deep and melancholy note was where he began, allowing it to flow low around them in rivers. It was a note of despair, a chord of ending, although it was just the start. The chord jumped higher, and the song became less melancholy. Now there was growing hope. That undertow of ending was still present, maybe even more so than it had been before. The river began to rush as he poured more of himself into the song. It began to flood when he continued the arpeggio and jumped another chord. Gone was the undertow, replaced by something new. Something that the little Question would know well. Curiosity.

The Curiosity flowed and swirled, and the waters rose higher, becoming a pool. Their Curiosity became Questioning, as they began to realize their Goddess was not what they had expected. Was She to be something other than the End of all? Another chord rising from the deep– excitement. Change. A new perspective on an old concept. They could change. She could change them. Maybe what was wrong could be righted in other ways.

A final chord rose. One of new life, fresh air, a true breath of life breathed into a people who craved nothing more than death. It was like an ocean now, flooding out across the barren landscape as Mikulass continued to sing the highest note yet. He tapered off, allowing it to fall back into that clear and precise note of pure warmth and love. Maybe, the young She would understand what this meant.
Enki knew what death sounded like. The sound of stillness,silence, shadow. Silence had a sound, a sound that was unique to the place it resided. The sound of a soulless – deceased – cold and vacant. She had almost forgot what sound a corpse made, so brief was her sojourn in him, without him. It filled Her to the brim with more Questions, but she kept them quiet. Now was not the time for song, but silence. The still silence of answer.

Slowly, the heart of the music rose again, returned to life by the shift from the HIM to HER who had come after, who would not bring the death HER cult craved, because of HER kindness. And no more was the wall that had parted Death from Change, Life from the ancient Stillness.

As She, Herself, had been.

Death. There was a card called Death, in a game forgotten for the future-telling it sometimes held. Death did not mean dying, in that game; it meant instead a change. One, and the same, with no wall in between.

Enki was not death. She was revered by the creatures here, by command of the Goddess, as a sign of Continuance, an heir of sorts to SHE Undying. A sign that life, as it was, had changed, but would be as it was now until Eternity.

The same, and different. Heirs of the past, heirs of the last. Loved and lent power by those that came before. Difference and diffidence and youth and yearning.

Change, and Continuance. Enki expressed Her discomfort with that idea in a dischord from mouths in multiple musics. One was Her own nature – an outsider, entering, accidental Note that She was. One was the Goddess, who Loved liberally, whose hospitality held Her in a hold between their hearts, whose beats it boomed under the melody of misplacement. The last was perhaps not song by standard senses, a feral fugue whose fear and fury found themselves woven restless into the rest.

Enki liked Elizabeth, her gentle touch, her soft words. How well she took the grief of a lost child – Child, continuance was, unlike the researcher who was Change. But Enki had been hunted, and had survived one Goddess who seen Her as Challenge to how things had been and would always be unless the Change took hold over the darkness of the Sphere, gilding its red in the same light of the Dead.

Curiosity did not Know if She was truly a continuance; but if Change believed so, then She would not suffer the insult of being prey again.