RP She Had To Learn It For Herself

illirica

Breaker of Forums
Staff member
[div style="border-top: 4px #cccccc solid; border-bottom: 4px #cccccc solid; border-left: 4px #1e6649 solid; border-right: 4px #1e6649 solid;"][div style="border-right: 4px #cccccc solid; border-left: 4px #cccccc solid; border-bottom: 4px #1e6649 solid; border-top: 4px #1e6649 solid;padding:8px; background-color:white;color:black;font-family:'courier new';"]Date: August, 2023
Time: 4:58 p.m. local time
Location: L-9
Personnel: Gail Weber, "Duet," A-Class-E; Nic Gutierrez, "Damsel," A-Class-C
Anomalies Present: ACF-1003-B (Nomenclature Pending), Unknown: Anima (Nomenclature Pending)
Purpose: Co-Incidental



A Creation was stirring. It had been two weeks with nothing of interest from the offshoot of the Locusts' mission out in L-14, but since the thing had been mostly dead - or entirely dead - until Cait had threaded it back to life, that was not entirely surprising. Perhaps it was more surprising that the thing wasn't still actually dead or hadn't turned into a plethora of frogs.

Then again, perhaps it wasn't. Gail wasn't here to research the existential crisis of a potentially dead god. She was here, in fact, to [expletive] around and find out, as the saying went. Since she happened to have charge of another potential godling - albeit a rather small one - Gail had figured throwing them together and seeing what happened was a terrible idea, which was why that was she was about to do.

She'd left Cait doing other things, though. She wasn't that insane yet.

Little Anima was hand in hand with Nic, or skipping along in front of Nic, or dawdling behind Nic, or perhaps all of those things or perhaps none of those things or perhaps something else entirely, and all at once and always had been. Gail wasn't bothered by any of this - you learned to have a flexible mentality, at L-9.

Nic seemed to like the little one, though, and he was good with her in a different way than Cait was. Gail was hoping this would keep the little one interested for a while, and maybe give her a few things to think about. Mostly, Gail wanted to keep her from getting bored. Boredom was generally problematic infant deities - and since Strings wasn't around to keep her suitably entertained, the team was doing what they could to pick up the slack.

Gail had no idea if baby's first lesson in putting anomalous reborn gods in a bucket and keeping them there was what Strings would have had in mind for all of this, but if he had any objections...

...Well, if he had any objections, they would only be that she'd done it without him. The corridor looped back on itself as they walked, a twisted mobius strip of hallway that had doors leading off on both sides on both sides, as it were, and getting to the other side required dropping through the floor, which was mostly just a matter of thinking about it improperly and realizing that you had always been on the other side to begin with, or perhaps that there was no other side and all the sides were the same and it was only you who needed to begin.

The interns usually got the hang of it after a few weeks.

Gail paused before one of the doors, which obligingly paused as well from where it had been calmly meandering down the corridor. Pushing it open revealed Nothing, of course, and stepping inside resulted in tumbling down into a little glass bottle. There was a bit of liquid at the bottom, which might have been a metaphor for the waters of creation, or perhaps it was just all tears in reality as usual.

[font color="1e6649"]"Good morning,"[/font] she said courteously, to the anomaly contained therein. It was the wrong sort of court to be courteous about, but then again, Gail had been a lawyer. [font color="1e6649"]"Are you coherent?"[/font]
 
[div style="background-color:ghostwhite;border-top:#be2868 2px outset;border-left:#77777a 2px inset;border-right:#be2868 2px outset;border-bottom:#77777a 2px inset;"][div style="border-top:#77777a 2px inset;border-left:#be2868 2px outset;border-right:#77777a 2px inset;border-bottom:#be2868 2px outset;"][div style="background:ghostwhite;padding:15px;color:#77777a;font-family:courier new;"]Anima clung to Nic’s hand[div align="center"]–as she dragged her feet behind him–[/div][div align="right"]–bounced like a skippingstone–[/div][div align="center"]–tripped behind Gail–[/div]He was safe, after all, and so was she.

But the little mockingbird had also recently discovered the fluidity of potential at L-9, and she’d also recently learned that it was all about intent, and when she’d learned that she’d discovered multiplicity, which she’d had someone explain at their earliest convenience (which had not been early enough to fully satisfy Curiosity but was enough in her circumstances).

Whatever the case she stepped in rhythm with herself, even if it was doubletime sometimes and half time othertimes or perhaps all the time in a swirl of grey patterned dresses and hair that did not quite seem solid but curled idly at the ends, and hummed in wonderful tune as she went:

[font color="be2868"]“Cottleston, Cottleston, Cottleston Pie~[font color="d74282"][div align="center"]A fly can't bird, but a bird can fly~[/div][/font][font color="dc5790"][div align="right"]~Why does a chicken? I don't know why~[/div][/font][font color="d32d74"]Ask me a riddle and I reply~[div align="center"]~A fish can't whistle and neither can I~[/div][/font]Cottleston, Cottleston, Cottleston Pie.”[/font]

In a certain sense the song was senseless, although in other senses it made perfect sense, and still more senses it pleased and disrupted all the senses at once. She laughed in quadruple, harmonizing with herself only sometimes, which caused more laughter that echoed between the four of her, and then all came together in the one as Gail stopped. Her hand was in Nic’s hand, as it well and truly always had been, and she watched the door stop for Gail and Gail went down the rabbit hole.

She didn’t laugh this time, and instead warbled despite her lyric, and she let go of Nic to tumble after in something between a swoop and a stumble. She splashed as she struck bottom, nowhere near the grace that Gail had, and she announced her delight with a whistle and giggle. As she turned herself over in the glass she began to rise, and followed Gail’s eyes to the –

She froze, and the water might’ve echoed her or might’ve always just been glass or been a different sort of tear altogether. The twin eyes, bird-black and ruby-red, came into sharpened focus against her face – not his face, but the face of her choosing. She stared at the girl – Goddess – ghoul in the glass, and did not move a muscle, like a songbird in the bushes when it spotted a cat.

Did it know her? Would it recognize the Curiosity behind those eyes? Would it hunt her again and give chase and force her to split from the greater Dream and leave her Self behind?

She didn’t know which she felt with more intensity, the fear or the fury, but she wished she hadn’t left Nic at the door. He was very good for hiding behind, which was the next best thing now that she couldn’t hide inside any longer.
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[div style="background-color:deepskyblue;border-top:darkred 4px outset;border-left:deepskyblue 4px inset;border-right:darkred 4px outset;border-bottom:deepskyblue 4px inset;"][div style="border-top:deepskyblue 4px inset;border-left:darkred 4px outset;border-right:deepskyblue 4px inset;border-bottom:darkred 4px outset;"][div style="background-color:black;color:white;padding:15px;"][font face="courier new"]It did not know where It was, only that It was, for a while, alone.

It did not like that.

It sat up in Its bed, attempting to recall memories in order to gain direction. It knew, innately, of only two things.

ONE- It was a hunter.

TWO- It was not supposed to be alive.

This troubled It. Memories did not spring forth at Its call, in fact, nothing sprung forth. It could not remember anything at all, yet It knew of Its designation. Alone, and directionless, It waited and recovered until something new was introduced into Its environment. Three beings, like Its body but not It. Sitting up in the bed, then standing in the water, It looked closed at the three. It knew, innately, two things.

ONE- The older beings were strong.

TWO- The younger being was stronger.

Cleverness, this was required, or so It believed. Difficult when cleverness was a skill gained through experience and, currently, It had none. It looked at the younger being first, then to the glassy water below. It noticed, perhaps for the first time, that It had features. It did not recognize Itself, but It knew what It was, and It was looking upon Itself. Black hair, long, black eyes, pale skin, black fingernails. Its form felt wrong, It did not like it, but It could not shapeshift yet.

No, focus. It looked up, directly into the two eyes of the younger being. Black and Red, Its favorite colors. It loved them immediately, and It recognized not the emotions behind them. It was not clever, not yet. So It did what It knew.

It bent to one knee. It bowed Its head. It spoke aloud.

[font color="8699eb"]"Greatness, honor, reverence. Given freely. How might It serve?"[/font][/font][/div][/div][/div]
 
[div style="border-top: 4px #cccccc solid; border-bottom: 4px #cccccc solid; border-left: 4px #ff4d00 solid; border-right: 4px #ff4d00 solid;"][div style="border-right: 4px #cccccc solid; border-left: 4px #cccccc solid; border-bottom: 4px #ff4d00 solid; border-top: 4px #ff4d00 solid;padding:8px; background-color:white;color:black;font-family:'courier new';"]Nic had taught her that.

Sure, the little squirt had gotten the lines all mixed up all on her own - mixed up in one of those weird ways that wasn't really replicable unless you were occasionally a y'all, that was - so he gave her credit for creativity and making it her own, but he'd been the one who'd gotten her into Pooh. Gail had offered other books, of course, and Cait kept trying to drag the kid into watching anime, but he'd been the one who'd thought about Pooh.

It just seemed like the sort of thing a kid needed. And maybe she wasn't really a kid, and he knew that, but she was still a little squirt, and a little Winnie-the-Pooh rarely hurt anyone. He'd dropped into the bottle with a weighty splash that wasn't nearly as fun as he'd have liked to be - occasionally the liquid level got deep enough for a good cannonball, but it was just a couple inches today. The little squirt was looking concerned, so he extended an arm that she could either take hold of or hide behind or... both at the same time or neither and never had been, however she preferred it.

The un-dead thing from before seemed like it was still taking stock of things, which was fair. It chose to address the little squirt, of course, which was all sorts of problematic. Nic caught Gail's eye above both their heads, but she just shrugged, in a let's see what happens sort of way.

So he knelt down too, beside the little squirt or behind her or in front of her, and whispered in her ear: [font color="ff4d00"]"Well... what do you think of that?"[/font]
 
[div style="background-color:ghostwhite;border-top:#be2868 2px outset;border-left:#77777a 2px inset;border-right:#be2868 2px outset;border-bottom:#77777a 2px inset;"][div style="border-top:#77777a 2px inset;border-left:#be2868 2px outset;border-right:#77777a 2px inset;border-bottom:#be2868 2px outset;"][div style="background:ghostwhite;padding:15px;color:#77777a;font-family:courier new;"]The thing noticed her – had met her mismatched Eyes and stood and came now. She knew those features, dark hair, black claws, white as a ghost. SHE looked upon HER Self and seemed pleased.

And why not? Hadn’t It promised? [font color="8682eb"]Burrow, little worm, so that I might follow you home.[/font] She had no other home but here, after Him. He wasn’t here. He had been home but after She had split he had let her go. Was he afraid of HER? – no, She Knew; if he were afraid he would have held her closer. She needed to learn, to spread her wings, to breathe and whistle and sing free, and she was grateful. A debt owed that could never be repaid.

He was not here. But Nic was there. She took his hand and pulled herself to her feet, and hid halfway behind him as SHE approached. She bit her tongue to suppress the tide of questions as It stopped, much too close. Anyhere, anywhere was too close; but It came closer and closer and while Gail and Nic didn’t seem concerned Anima was prepared to give a warning whistle –

And It knelt, as though she were She were more than SHE that knelt.

The alarm died on her lips, replaced by questions. Was this a trick? It had to be a trick. The Story-Goddess, The All-Consuming Goddess, The All-Knowing Goddess, The Inescapable-Goddess – this was not a serving Goddess. No mirror neurons, no guilt, no fear.

Yet… It was not lying. So far as she could tell, It was not lying. She heard nothing in Its voice, saw nothing in its face. Maybe someone else with more experience could tell. She looked to Gail, but found no help there. She Knew, then, that this was one of those things that she was supposed to figure out. At her core she was still a Why, although now she was also a What and a Whom. She was not an – an It but an I. An I and a She. A smaller piece of something greater, that had been her Dream-self, half of which was left behind.

She had questions, of course. Gail was here, and Nic was here, and he knelt, too, with a question that she immediately shared.

What did she think?

That wasn’t the question that had a right answer, but it did have wrong answers, and “this is a trick” was a wrong sort of answer, because she wasn’t sure and the sorts of creatures that played tricks didn’t like to be told when they were recognized. She was cleverer than that, and wasn’t she cleverer than It? She had after all come home; and It was contained, a Goddess in a bottle.

She had to test the waters. They rippled under her bare feet as she stepped out from halfway behind Nic. She was after all thirteen and two weeks and too Big to rely on his Bigness, although she did not let his hand go. Her heart quickened but breathing counted, slow and steady, kept in time. Despite Her terror she determined that it was right to smile, a clever little smile, not the wolfish smile that He and Gail could share but the wry tricky smile she had seen on Ghost before the others stopped her from doing something.

And maybe it wasn’t so hard to smile, and it was almost genuine, even if it wasn’t a splitting grin, because even though her face was not his face she was no worm. She was Why. She was at her center the same and greater Questions.

[font color="be2868"]“Why would you serve?”[/font]

She asked it in that sort of cadence that could have been a question of Her or a simpler question of self. Why would any serve? Would it serve Why? They were silly questions, perhaps, or just l’Estrange as she was. She did not blink as she waited for answer, even if the ends of her hair curled at the possibilities. She would See what It did next, what It chose to do, if It would truly give Its Self away or if SHE would give HERself away in the answer that SHE chose.
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[div style="background-color:deepskyblue;border-top:darkred 4px outset;border-left:deepskyblue 4px inset;border-right:darkred 4px outset;border-bottom:deepskyblue 4px inset;"][div style="border-top:deepskyblue 4px inset;border-left:darkred 4px outset;border-right:deepskyblue 4px inset;border-bottom:darkred 4px outset;"][div style="background-color:black;color:white;padding:15px;"][font face="courier new"]Cleverness. This It knew, innately, was required of It. Yet, It knew It had none. This was disappointing. But It was not without instincts, and instinct had led It to Its first reaction. Then, the One-Whom-Deserved-All, this too felt innately known, asked It a question. Was It even worthy to answer? It could not stay silent, refusal to answer was just as disrespectful as speaking out of turn.

This all, It knew innately.

It knew it as innately as a spider knew how to spin a web of silk the moment they were born. It was as innate as a seed sprouting roots and leaves. It was as innate as breathing the moment you were born. Yet, when It wondered why It knew this, Its memory came up empty. So when the question came -an easy question- that It knew innately that It should know the answer, It opened Its mouth to answer. But...

[font color="8699eb"]"I- know not why. I know what I am, I know what I must do. I know not why."[/font] Bowing Its head, It added, [font color="8699eb"]"Please, forgive my ignorance."[/font]

It looked at Itself in the water once more and Its face curled in confusion. It did not recognize Its own face still, though It knew to be looking back at Itself. It could look down no longer and turned Its head up to look upon the things that stood before It. They were small, at least compared to Itself, as It would stand more than a foot taller than them if It were not kneeling. But their presences were large, It could tell that. It had the eyes of a hunter. It had to be able to size up prey instantly.

The greatest of the three may have been the most prey-like in behavior, but It knew It was the further from prey of the three. It would not dare hunt her.[/font][/div][/div][/div]
 
[div style="border-top: 4px #cccccc solid; border-bottom: 4px #cccccc solid; border-left: 4px #1e6649 solid; border-right: 4px #1e6649 solid;"][div style="border-right: 4px #cccccc solid; border-left: 4px #cccccc solid; border-bottom: 4px #1e6649 solid; border-top: 4px #1e6649 solid;padding:8px; background-color:white;color:black;font-family:'courier new';"]Sometimes, one of the most important things to say was nothing at all. Strings had always been good at that - not silence, no, never silence - but when to hum or strum and let whoever or whatever he was dealing with tie itself in knots. Gail didn't know if she could quite measure up to that, but she still had a good feeling for when to hold her objections.

Strings' God-Child was growing up fast, tackling existential questions and all the rest of it. Nic stayed by her, a relatively solid presence in a place that was hardly solid at all. He was something to hold on to, a point to explore from and return to. Good with kids. Gail had never claimed to be good with children, but deities she could handle. Pitting two of them against each other was a time-honored tradition, going back through all the stories and legends of all the peoples.

So she didn't say much, instead just watching with a catty smile at the question of why to serve. Of course no one asked who to serve; it would be a rather pointless question as neither of them seemed to have figured themselves out just yet. This would inevitably result in the question of Who are you, and from there it was caterpillars all the way down.

And what do you think of that?
 
[div style="background-color:ghostwhite;border-top:#be2868 2px outset;border-left:#77777a 2px inset;border-right:#be2868 2px outset;border-bottom:#77777a 2px inset;"][div style="border-top:#77777a 2px inset;border-left:#be2868 2px outset;border-right:#77777a 2px inset;border-bottom:#be2868 2px outset;"][div style="background:ghostwhite;padding:15px;color:#77777a;font-family:courier new;"]It wasn’t HER.

She knew, not in the answer, but in the apology. SHE would not deign to apologize, no matter her guise; SHE was Goddess above all, and even if SHE bent HER Self SHE would not deign to offer apology, no, beg forgiveness, not so easily.

So it was not HER, and then she began to dare to understand. She listened to its answer as a goddess or adolescent or child could, and in its answer She understood.

It served for the same reason she asked. It was as it was, tuned to a different note but driven to march a certain path set by– no, not by its choices. She was set by her choices. Could it make choices?

And a more important question: Could it ask?

She frowned at it, not displeased, but the twisting frown of a puzzle that refused to be solved. The benefit here was that now, at least, the puzzle could be asked to start to solve itself.

[font color="be2868"]“Your ignorance is forgiven,”[/font] she decided, in the ponderous way only available to a teenager or a child or a goddess, [font color="be2868"]“but only if you try to resolve it. If you want to serve, then you’ll ask. Uh– I, decree it.”[/font]

That sounded sufficiently imperious, she decided. There were questions wiggling, competing to free themselves, but she kept them down for now. Now wasn’t the time to figure her out, now was the time to let her-it ask. She wasn’t its teacher, although perhaps that was what a master could become. Was she master? She didn’t want to be master. She’d have to find another word, or maybe just another Aspect, another role.

So she was – this, and This was that, was less than her and definitely now not HER. It had to be HERs, though, because there was no way this was coincidence. She didn’t know where it was from, or what it wanted from her, or what she was supposed to do with it, or even what it was, even if it knew, but that was an easy question, not as easy as–

And, there it was, maybe all her whys could be wrapped up into one.

[font color="be2868"]“You know what you are. I have a more important Question.”[/font] Her head turned, birdlike, and she blinked. Then another sidelong glance at Gail, as if understanding the momentary harmonic in thought. She didn’t yet let go of Nic, but this was a little more advanced than Pooh Bear.

When She felt secure, She intoned, in a deep croon, [font color="be2868"]“Who are you?”[/font]
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[div style="background-color:deepskyblue;border-top:darkred 4px outset;border-left:deepskyblue 4px inset;border-right:darkred 4px outset;border-bottom:deepskyblue 4px inset;"][div style="border-top:deepskyblue 4px inset;border-left:darkred 4px outset;border-right:deepskyblue 4px inset;border-bottom:darkred 4px outset;"][div style="background-color:black;color:white;padding:15px;"][font face="courier new"]It was forgiven, It sighed in relief. It had not been tense-? Or It had been but did not think It had been. But It was not forgiven unconditionally, of course, It was not. It would need to resolve this ignorance, of course. Whether Anima knew it or not, She was creating new, permanent truths in the head of the being before Her. Two things, It had known innately, became Three things.

ONE- It was a hunter.

TWO- It was not supposed to be alive.

THREE- It must ask questions.

It stood then and made no sound. Nothing, not even the water, made noise as It moved. Its body, innately, stalked with every motion and hunted with every breath. It did not raise Its head, but It was still taller than all else in the room without doing so. Long hair about Its face, covering Its eyes, prevented It from looking Anima in the eyes. It-was-NOT-worthy. But even in Its unworthiness, the great one lowered Herself to speak to It. She deigns her presence with Its, and It knew It must do all It could to serve.

Another decree, a declaration of knowledge; a declaration of Its knowledge. Then a question -noted 'IMPORTANT.' It listened closely. It needed to answer. It could not fail again. But She asked a question so intensely complex, a question unimaginably hard, 'Who are you?' It lifted Its arms, holding them before Itself and examining the muscles. Well toned, It tensed and untensed them to watch the veins bulge for a moment. It was strong, this would influence Its answer, but-

[font color="8699eb"]"Who is It? Who is It..."[/font] It spoke slowly, thinking hard before articulating what was swirling about Its skull, [font color="8699eb"]"It is a hunter. It is a being of war and destruction. It is not supposed to be alive... But- no, not what It is. It knows what I am. Who It is-? Who I am...?"[/font] It hesitated, unsure of how to proceed, until a thought was finally processed in Its head. The great one had taught it one innate truth already. It now knew three things. [font color="8699eb"]"It- no- I must question- Who am I? It is a asker of questions? I am an asker of questions."[/font]

Resolved, It finally addressed Anima, though It still dared not look Her in the eyes again, [font color="8699eb"]"I ask, humbly- Who shall I be, for you?"[/font][/font][/div][/div][/div]
 
[div style="border-top: 4px #cccccc solid; border-bottom: 4px #cccccc solid; border-left: 4px #1e6649 solid; border-right: 4px #1e6649 solid;"][div style="border-right: 4px #cccccc solid; border-left: 4px #cccccc solid; border-bottom: 4px #1e6649 solid; border-top: 4px #1e6649 solid;padding:8px; background-color:white;color:black;font-family:'courier new';"]Now, wasn't that interesting?

The newcomer knew what it was, and knew enough to discern the what from the who, at least with a little self-reflection on the matter. Reflection seemed to be the most important word there, because it was picking up whatever Anima put down. The who shall I be for you was hardly even necessary, but Gail still appreciated the extra hint of clarity on the matter, inasmuch as anything here was ever clear.

She moved a hand to Anima's shoulder - not a threat, not even really holding her back, because that wouldn't be any fun. It was just a way of getting her attention, maybe a subtle little look before you leap - and then if you want to, leap anyway, but at least you'll have a better idea of what you're getting into.

[font color="1e6649"]"I wonder-"[/font] This wasn't exactly an order, because Anima wasn't exactly under the ACF's control. Maybe that was just the way she was, or maybe a few things had gotten lost in the paperwork - or maybe they'd just never been in there in the first place, because the paperwork was as perfect as she was.

So Gail didn't really command so much as prompt, in a way that encouraged the little girl to do what she did best: ask questions.

[font color="1e6649"]"I wonder what would happen... if it had to decide for itself?"[/font]
 
[div style="background-color:ghostwhite;border-top:#be2868 2px outset;border-left:#77777a 2px inset;border-right:#be2868 2px outset;border-bottom:#77777a 2px inset;"][div style="border-top:#77777a 2px inset;border-left:#be2868 2px outset;border-right:#77777a 2px inset;border-bottom:#be2868 2px outset;"][div style="background:ghostwhite;padding:15px;color:#77777a;font-family:courier new;"]It Wondered, and Gail wondered, and, of course, Anima wondered. Her head tilted as the creature rose, her gaze following it up and up and up. It was silent in its movements, and that made her uneasy, but she did not now let that deter her. Not with Gail’s hand upon her shoulder, or her own hand curled in Nic’s. Not as it obeyed her, and asked. It studied itself, its form, and then its mind, and then its self, the Who and the It and the I and the What. She rocked forward as much as she could, without losing the familiar touch, tilting her head to see the man – woman – creature behind the curtain.

And It asked her a question. A smile crept across her face, but Gail spoke first, wondering. She wondered, too, and mused it out loud, now in only one voice:

[font color="be2868"]“On Monday, when the sun is hot[div align="center"]I wonder to myself a lot:[/div][div align="right"]Now is it true or is it not,[/div][div align="center"]That what is which and which is what?[/div]
On Tuesday, when it hails and snows,[div align="center"]The feeling on me grows and grows[/div][div align="right"]That hardly anybody knows[/div][div align="center"]If those are these or these are those.[/div]
On Wednesday, when the sky is blue,[div align="center"]And I have nothing else to do,[/div][div align="right"]I sometimes wonder if it’s true[/div][div align="center"]That who is what and what is who.[/div]
On Thursday, when it starts to freeze[div align="center"]And hoar-frost twinkles on the trees,[/div][div align="right"]How very readily one sees[/div][div align="center"]That these are whose–but whose are these?[/div]
On Friday–”[/font]

And then she paused, realizing she’d lost the thread. The smile faded, and she tilted her head the other way, like the creature would make more sense at a different angle. She then glanced back, up at Gail, then even-more-up at Nic.

It’s hard to be brave, when you’re only a Very Small Creature. Still, she could try.

[font color="be2868"]“ ‘By the way,’ he said, ‘you are quite sure what you said about the winter months? – Yes, only being Fierce in the Winter Months.’ ”[/font]

She looked even-more-up back at it-her, obviously deep in thought again.

Gail was right, it was time to spread her wings. Gail was usually right, of course, but it wasn’t right to leave such a question unanswered.

She folded herself up. After a few failed attempts, she had asked Joshua about birds, and what made them different from people, and his answer had kept her busy for a whole day between listening and reviewing and reforming. The secret, she found, had been in the bones. There was very little difference between hollow and hallow – only a letter – and he had never let the Why forget its roots. But roots would only hold her down, and an oh was far better than an ah, anyway. And so she let go of the roots, although she gave Nic a smile that lied and said she knew what she was about, or at least, what she was and who this was about.

She folded and the folds became feathers and the feathers stretched to wings, the same gray-black-white of the dress she wore but of course no longer wore because mockingbirds were delightfully dressed without such clumsiness as clothing. And never once did the feet touch the ground – the moment the wings came to be they lifted, and a flurry of feathers brought her up-and-up-and-up the the Creature’s shoulder, where she planted them securely. And now closer she poked her head through the curtain, seeking out the servant’s dark eyes, for she wished to have her attention for this.

Succeed or fail, she would un-fold, her legs about the creature’s shoulders, never once doubting that it could hold her. Her arms would rest upon its head, her head upon her arms, distracted.

[font color="be2868"]“I’ll give you a starting-self,”[/font] she decided, as her fingers stroked the Hunter’s hair, [font color="be2868"]“and a little name you may go by. In return you must never stop seeking a Self that fits better, and when you have found your Name you must hold it close, and it’ll be yours. Deal?”[/font]
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[div style="background-color:deepskyblue;border-top:darkred 4px outset;border-left:deepskyblue 4px inset;border-right:darkred 4px outset;border-bottom:deepskyblue 4px inset;"][div style="border-top:deepskyblue 4px inset;border-left:darkred 4px outset;border-right:deepskyblue 4px inset;border-bottom:darkred 4px outset;"][div style="background-color:black;color:white;padding:15px;"][font face="courier new"]It was very still for the entirety of Anima's poem, and ever stiller as the great one shifted Her form and alighted upon the shoulder of It. It did not even seem to register the weight, strength and power abounding from the hunter's body. It took everything happening around It in stride, as if the songs and shape-changing were all entirely normal expressions of the self.

And where Its bones were from, it was entirely normal.

The only movement that could be noticed was a quick tensing of the muscles as Anima ran Her fingers through Its hair. It was not preparing to fight, though the motion could be easily misinterpreted as such. Rather, it was a primal fear reaction. But at the gentleness of the touch and the kindness of the words, It slowly began to relax. With Its full focus, It listened to Anima as She spoke, every word being written down in the very foundations of the Husk's psyche. Nodding gently as Anima finished, It made a final adjustment to Its innate truths.

For now, it had four.

FOUR- Seek personal improvement.

Quietly, It spoke, [font color="8699eb"]"Yes. I understand." [/font]Then, even quieter, it whispered to Anima and Anima alone, [font color="8699eb"]"If I may be so bold, may I request something of you? In your greatness, I plea, would you bend yourself low for me every now and then? Your poems are beautiful. I would hear more, if it pleased you to speak them."[/font]

It dared not raise her head with this request, and Its eyes sought to look anywhere except at Anima's. It knew It was not worthy, not to look at Her in the eyes nor ask any requests. Yet, It knew It would be filled with naught but regret for all time if It did not ask. It HAD to ask. [/font][/div][/div][/div]
 
[div style="border-top: 4px #cccccc solid; border-bottom: 4px #cccccc solid; border-left: 4px #ff4d00 solid; border-right: 4px #ff4d00 solid;"][div style="border-right: 4px #cccccc solid; border-left: 4px #cccccc solid; border-bottom: 4px #ff4d00 solid; border-top: 4px #ff4d00 solid;padding:8px; background-color:white;color:black;font-family:'courier new';"]This was going... well?

Nic wasn't sure. Either it was going well or it was going horribly wrong. Sometimes, it was hard to tell the difference. He always felt more comfortable when things went a little bit wrong, because it felt less like playing into someone else's hands. Sure, about ninety percent of the time the hands they were playing into were Gail's, but that didn't always make it better. She was just as terrifying as anything else here, in her own way.

He was well aware that really, he should have been terrified of Anima, but... well, she was cute. And little. And maybe that was going to get him killed some day, but he was going to get killed some day anyway, and was it really worse to get killed by a hulking monster than a little girl? Even if the little girl was kind of also a monster. And kind of also a bird.

She'd decided to spread her wings and fly up up up to rest on the shoulder of the giant. Nic started forward, an arm extended, just in case she fell. [font color="ff4d00"]"Nimsy-"[/font]

It was a warning, or maybe it was just a worry, that she needed to be safe. It wasn't a Name, but it was a Nickname, and they'd all been calling her that. Cait had started it, which was no surprise, because Cait was always starting things. Still, it suited her, or it did for a while. It was a good thing to call the little squirt when she didn't need such a big name as Anima.

Except she wasn't just a little squirt any more. She was a big girl now, when she wanted to be, and she didn't really need that. Nic lowered his hand and shook his head in sort of an I know, I know, you've got this kind of manner. Better to let her fly on her own, and not hold her back. Unless they had to hold her back, because the world would end. They all knew how that story went, and maybe some would have said it wasn't personal, but Nic kind of thought that it was the most personal of all. If that day ever came, it wasn't right now - right now she was sitting up on someone else's shoulder and inspiring others to be Curious.
 
[div style="background-color:ghostwhite;border-top:#be2868 2px outset;border-left:#77777a 2px inset;border-right:#be2868 2px outset;border-bottom:#77777a 2px inset;"][div style="border-top:#77777a 2px inset;border-left:#be2868 2px outset;border-right:#77777a 2px inset;border-bottom:#be2868 2px outset;"][div style="background:ghostwhite;padding:15px;color:#77777a;font-family:courier new;"]Nic called her by her little name. They all had little names, of course, but she was the littlest, and she was trying not to feel little right now. It was very hard, given she was resting on the shoulders of a giant, but the giant was still, and had only been too still for just a moment. Yet on her shoulders, with Her fingers in her hair – here she was She, and it was she – She sensed the faintest fear until Her words soothed her.

Maybe it wasn’t such a bad thing, to be a little thing, not threatening. Perhaps that would help to convince her that she needed to find her own way, choose her own adventure.

The creature said she wanted to hear more poetry – which almost made Her change the name She’d chosen, until She remembered it was a name that was not supposed to fit perfectly. It would do well enough for now, until the creature Became herself.

She did hmm softly – not his tuning Note but something small and thoughtful as She determined what to tell the creature She had named, and maybe a little Curious as She considered the implications of her suggestion. Then she nodded to herself, still running her fingers down to the end of its hair.

[font color="be2868"]“They’re not my poems,”[/font] she admitted. [font color="be2868"]“I just try to remember them. I might try to write poems. Later, though. I’ll recite them for you again, all you need to do is ask. I can sing and tell stories, too.”[/font] Quite the little winged monkey, full of tricks, this one.

She smiled at Nic, an impish smile, and a sincere one, like he was going to be in on a little joke but only a little one, like a little name and a little god, as She decided something serious. Today this was not a godling full of rage or hunger or any of the other terrible feelings Her dark Kin held against humanity. This was a Child, given the power of a thousand darkened suns, and She simply did not seem to Know that.

She did, of course, Know some of Her power. He had never let Her forget. Those roots would remain, even when pulled from the ground, and she pulled on them now, gently, with the same smile. Not fully-binding, and perhaps a little uncomfortable to that-which-heard-Her, but still laden with magics few sanities survived studying as Anima bent toward the Creature’s ear, and titled her.

[font color="be2868"]“Your name will be [font color="8B572D"]Kanga[/font].”[/font]

A Fierce Beast, but only in the Winter, in the cold and the dark, and only fierce when protecting its young, and who did not quite like poetry, but it wasn’t a perfect Name, as She had decided. She had thought of someone else as Kanga, but now She needed this one to be that for Her. Just for a little, while She was A Very Small Creature, just until she Became. Maybe until they were both ready to Become.
[/div][/div][/div]
 
[div style="background-color:deepskyblue;border-top:darkred 4px outset;border-left:deepskyblue 4px inset;border-right:darkred 4px outset;border-bottom:deepskyblue 4px inset;"][div style="border-top:deepskyblue 4px inset;border-left:darkred 4px outset;border-right:deepskyblue 4px inset;border-bottom:darkred 4px outset;"][div style="background-color:black;color:white;padding:15px;"][font face="courier new"][font color="#6D712E"]"Kanga..."[/font] It, no not an It anymore, It was a she was a Kanga- it would remember this. She turned the name over in her mind as she spoke it, listening to how it sounded on her tongue as the sound played to her ears. Her voice, changing and vibrating deeper, became just a hint more sinister. It was not that she was becoming terrible or transforming at the first chance into a monster, not at all. Rather, the name gave her focus, allowed her to become her own person in the moment between them.

And the person she was asked questions, she was a hunter, for answers... Something like that.

Kanga nodded and, careful not to jostle She upon her shoulder, began to walk toward the other two beings in the room. Her tall and powerful form made no sound as she moved, a hunter never did, but she endeavored to approach slowly and non-threateningly if possible. Upon reaching arm's length of them, she nodded a greeting and addressed them, [font color="6d712e"]"Hello. I am Kanga. I am immensely pleased to meet you. I have many questions that I must ask now. Who are you? May I know your names? Where am I?"[/font] Kanga wasn't sure if any of these questions would upset the two visitors who came with the great She, but Kanga hoped they would not.

And the great She, Kanga had not acquired Her name. Would it be appropriate to ask? One of them had called Her Nimsy, but that was not a Name Kanga had been given. So Kanga did not feel worthy of using it, not without permission. Looking to her shoulder, she asked quietly, [font color="6d712e"]"And, if I may be so bold, what shall I address you as? Great She?"[/font][/font]
 
[div style="border-top: 4px #cccccc solid; border-bottom: 4px #cccccc solid; border-left: 4px #1e6649 solid; border-right: 4px #1e6649 solid;"][div style="border-right: 4px #cccccc solid; border-left: 4px #cccccc solid; border-bottom: 4px #1e6649 solid; border-top: 4px #1e6649 solid;padding:8px; background-color:white;color:black;font-family:'courier new';"]Kanga, was it? It wasn't the worst choice it could have been. It wasn't even the worst choice from that particular reference. It could have been Jagular, for example. Kanga was a bit off. Gail appreciated that. Sometimes it was important for things to be a bit wrong: Names, adventures, Councilmen...

The list could have gone on, but there were introductions to be made. Gail accepted the one offered to them with reasonable solemnity, not at all surprised that the next thing to follow was questions: who are you, may I know your names, where am I? So many questions.

She returned a smile, or something somewhat like one, or perhaps the smile was the only thing that was there. [font color="1e6649"]"I knew who I was this morning, but I've changed a few times since then. Names will not be Known, but if you need something to call us, Duet works."[/font] That had been an us-herselves, not an us-encompassing. [font color="1e6649"]"That one's Damsel."[/font] And he was only one, which was how he was supposed to be.

[font color="1e6649"]"And you are in a place where things go while we figure out what they are, or they figure out what they are, or perhaps both or perhaps neither. But at least there's generally an effort in that direction. Do you like poetry, then?"[/font] It was a good question. If the now-named Kanga had an affinity for it, then Gail would probably need to work poetry into whatever contracts she wrote up, but that was a future problem.

First the finding, then the binding, as it were.
 
[div style="background-color:deepskyblue;border-top:darkred 4px outset;border-left:deepskyblue 4px inset;border-right:darkred 4px outset;border-bottom:deepskyblue 4px inset;"][div style="border-top:deepskyblue 4px inset;border-left:darkred 4px outset;border-right:deepskyblue 4px inset;border-bottom:darkred 4px outset;"][div style="background-color:black;color:white;padding:15px;"][font face="courier new"]Kanga nodded and nodded again as Duet spoke, first a nod acknowledging Duet's name then another acknowledging Damsel's. Duet was smiling at Kanga, or so it looked to Kanga at the very least so the giant woman smiled right back. With her hands, she drew her long black hair back and away from her face and eyes -very careful not to brush the Great She-. With the raising of her head, finally raising her head, Kanga's neck cracked something awful and she smiled even wider.

Looking down on Duet with joy as her questions were answered with yet more questions, Kanga responded with newfound excitement, [font color="6D712E"]"Duet, Damsel, I am overjoyed to know things that I might call you by, even if they are not names. I admit I am all at once overwhelmed right now, so please forgive me as I might say something I have not entirely thought through! Ha! Where I am you say is a place where you figure things out about other things, and you ask questions? So perhaps you and I are the same? I would be honored to be similar to you in any way."[/font]

Kanga waited for a second, as if she wanted to hear a response, but then could not stop herself from continuing to speak. She had more questions to ask! [font color="6d712e"]"Oh, do you need to know what I am? I certainly do know what I am, and now I know who I am- at least for a time. And yes, poetry, it is a much-beloved thing. Though I would lie if I said I understood any of it, I do not. But the sounds of it invoke feelings, and the invocation of feelings is a thing very well known and comforting to me. I don't know why- but I want to find out. I will ask more questions."[/font]

And again, Kanga kept grinning. It might have been unnerving if her face didn't look so happy and silly. [/font][/div][/div][/div]
 
[div style="border-top: 4px #cccccc solid; border-bottom: 4px #cccccc solid; border-left: 4px #ff4d00 solid; border-right: 4px #ff4d00 solid;"][div style="border-right: 4px #cccccc solid; border-left: 4px #cccccc solid; border-bottom: 4px #ff4d00 solid; border-top: 4px #ff4d00 solid;padding:8px; background-color:white;color:black;font-family:'courier new';"]Poetry, huh?

Nic felt like he better take over the conversation, before Gail came out swinging with The Walrus and the Carpenter or Jabberwock or Hey There C'Thulu or whatever else she had stored in the back of her mind that would just confuse the situation. He gave her a Look, and she gave him a nod, because they both knew enough about each other that conversations didn't need to happen out loud.

[font color="ff4d00"]"Nice to meet you, too. Here, let's see if we can give you one to get you started..."[/font]

Nic's collection of memorized poetry was very different from Gail's. He could do a pretty decent Goodnight Moon as long as no one minded if he went off script for a few lines, and he had a rather excellent rendition of I'm A Little Teapot, at least in his opinion. Cait had offered to enhance the performance when he'd taught it to Nimsy, but he had not-so-politely declined. Nimsy, of course, could enhance it all on her own.

But he had a few others in there, from things he'd been reading to her now and then. They were meant for kids, and Cait had been quick to point out that this was probably why Nic liked them so much, but thankfully she was not here.

Not the one about the cows. Not right now, anyway.

[font color="ff4d00"]"How about...[/font]

[div style="width: 90%;margin:auto;"][font color="ff4d00"]Halfway down the stairs
is a stair
where i sit.
there isn't any
other stair
quite like
it.
i'm not at the bottom,
i'm not at the top;
so this is the stair
where
I always
stop.

Halfway up the stairs
Isn't up
And it isn't down.
It isn't in the nursery,
It isn't in town.
And all sorts of funny thoughts
Run round my head.
It isn't really
Anywhere!
It's somewhere else
Instead!
"[/font][/div]

It was by the same writer as Pooh, so it hopefully went well with Kangas. And it was thought provoking, in its own little way, at least if the thought you wanted to provoke was huh? - but less so than some of Gail's favorites, where the huh?? usually lasted well into the next week and long after you'd forgotten what you were so confused about in the first place.

Kanga was still figuring herself out, after all. He supposed they'd probably confuse her later.[/div]
 
[div style="background-color:ghostwhite;border-top:#be2868 2px outset;border-left:#77777a 2px inset;border-right:#be2868 2px outset;border-bottom:#77777a 2px inset;"][div style="border-top:#77777a 2px inset;border-left:#be2868 2px outset;border-right:#77777a 2px inset;border-bottom:#be2868 2px outset;"][div style="background:ghostwhite;padding:15px;color:#77777a;font-family:courier new;"]Kanga spoke her own name ponderously. It was a good way to say a name, even if it wasn’t a Name, even if it was in the gravel tone that made Anima shift in her otherwhat silence. And Kanga asked, as was her nature, and what she asked beyond some self-reflection was after Names.

Anima was not afraid of Names. The others had made sure of it. But Kanga was still afraid of Her, in a sense She couldn’t quite comprehend nor question–she was She, of course, but Great She? No. Great and Small. There was a time for questions, and there was a time for quiet, and right now Du~et were talking to Kanga was asking questions Nic was answering with a poem.

Sometimes the learning was in the listening. She already Knew the answers to Kanga’s questions, of course, and over the course of Nic’s answer She took her hair and began to draw it back, combing through to the ends with fingertips that might not have always been as sharp as talons but now met tangles with attentive touch. Between stairs and stares maybe there was a little too much attention away from Anima, but that was alright. It was okay to be a Very Small Creature, so as not to frighten creatures that could be Fierce, and it was okay to choose quiet over query when others were already answering.

[font color="be2868"]“That’s one of my favorites,”[/font] She told Kanga, when Nic was done, from Her seat that was a strong shoulder and not a sturdy stair. She knew that one by heart, but other thoughts had been running ’round Her head as he recited. She was not afraid of Names, and She was not afraid of Kanga, but Anima was the name that rested not in Her head but closest to Her heart.

And so more softly, closer still to Kanga’s ear, She offered, [font color="be2868"]“You can call me Nimsy.”[/font]

It was a halfway-name like the halfway-stair, and maybe it wasn’t altogether There. But, to be fair, neither were Kanga or Duet or Damsel. It was a Little Name, and while She liked the idea of Great-She, that placed too much pressure for Her to keep spreading Her wings. It was alright to be a very small creature, whether grinning girl or folded feathers. At least for now.
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[div style="background-color:deepskyblue;border-top:darkred 4px outset;border-left:deepskyblue 4px inset;border-right:darkred 4px outset;border-bottom:deepskyblue 4px inset;"][div style="border-top:deepskyblue 4px inset;border-left:darkred 4px outset;border-right:deepskyblue 4px inset;border-bottom:darkred 4px outset;"][div style="background-color:black;color:white;padding:15px;"][font face="courier new"]Kanga listened carefully as the one identified as Damsel spoke poetry to her. A smile lit up her face beneath her black hair as she danced her fingers along to the cadence of the poem. Once it finished, and, of course, once Nimsy finished speaking as well, Kanga nodded and spoke, [font color="6D712E"]"Thank you. I think I desire for that to be a favorite of mine, too. If I may be so bold. It was pleasing to the ear and soft to the heart."[/font]

Then, ever so gently, Kanga leaned toward Nimsy and smiled. [font color="6d712e"]"Nimsy is, quite a name. Soft and small and beautiful, thank you.~"[/font] After a moment of this, Kanga stood up straight -careful not to upset Nimsy from her shoulder- and asked, [font color="6d712e"]"So! We may go now? I have questions to ask! This is very important, the questions and where I can ask them, of course."[/font] She took a single step forward, then stopped. Looking all around, Kanga paused to take in her surroundings once more.

Then, as if finally noticing that 'where she was' was not 'anywhere at all' really, Kanga asked,[font color="6d712e"] "I don't have very good memory yet, but I feel as though this is not what the outside looks like. Can we go from here to out there? Wherever here is and wherever out there might be-?"[/font][/font][/div][/div][/div]
 
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