the_visitor: (veil)
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It was still cold in the Hive as the veiled woman hurried to her work. There was a visitor to their planet, and the rooms she had rented must be kept clean, just as the guest herself must be kept away from the rest of the Hive as much as possible. So far, the veiled women had more luck with the former than the latter. It was perhaps best that only the veiled women - those outcast from Dinadh society - had dealt with their strange visitor; any other would have been punished severely for being unable to contain the strange dark skinned woman.

Still, the rules were quite clear with how a visitor should be treated, no matter there strange habits and dangerous questions. So Shellka moved through the Hive in the pre-dawn darkness, avoiding windows out of habit, adjusting her veil briefly before sneaking into their guests rooms to clean. She had grown accustomed to their visitors habits and knew, though she had yet to tell any other, that the visitor would not return to her rooms until after the Dawnsong ended. Shellka was not certain what such a habit indicated, other than extreme foolishness and perhaps a death-wish.

So it was a surprise when Shellka slipped past the inner door and found a man in the room. She embarrassed herself by stumbling back, shocked in equal parts by his very presence and by his strange costume.

The man was tall and wore only black garments, though at least they were in the style of the robes favored by her people. Still, the color, and the tight gloves and shoes, were clearly out of place in the dusty, aired, chasm the Dinadh called home. Stranger still was the silver mask he wore, or at least was attempting to wear. She had interrupted him putting the mask on, and by the crumpled bed covers, Shellka guessed she had narrowly missed waking him.

"You're the servant Lorrah was talking about, aren't you?" He said, starting her from her surprise. The fact that he spoke fluent Dihadhi was no more of a shock than anything else about the strange man. She nodded and shut the door behind her.

"Then you would you please help me with this? I believe the latch is caught."

Cautiously Shellka approached the man. "You are not supposed to be here, Sir. These are the visitors quarters."

He shrugged and turned to let her see the latch. "If I told you I was her...husband, would that allow me access?" He seemed to sense her distrust, and chuckled. "I will not be here long enough for your superiors to be suspicious, I assure you. Just long enough to -"

But he was interrupted as daylight hit the eastern tip of the gorge, and the whole earth rumbled. Someone seemed to be attempting to interrupt the Dawnsong again. Who ever that someone was, they did a good job of it, causing the whole Hive to shake and jitter, knocking both the man and the veiled woman to the ground. Only after the rumbling ended did the two attempt to pick themselves up.

The veiled woman was the first up, glancing around to find where the mask had fallen. Only after retrieving it did she glance at the man.

The mask clattered to the floor.

Karakael glanced up, finding the servant girl who had been helping him staring at him in horror. For a moment he was confused, remembering all too soon why she was so startled. He knelt to pick up the mask, then looked up again.

"I will still need your help..." But the girl had backed away, face white and eyes still wide. Darkness boiled for a moment, but he pushed the shame away, ignoring the pain her horror brought. "Or you may leave if you wish. I can -"

"What did you do?" She whispered, voice still trembling, yet with a hint of curiosity.

"I made a mistake." He moved to put the mask back on, but she caught his hand, holding it tight as she stared at him.

"Does it hurt?"

He shook his head, and moved to take the mask from her. "The damage has already been done."

"But you're just like - "

"Kaaree?" Shellka started back, and whirled to see her guest standing in the doorway. As the last notes of the Dawnsong faded, The Visitor stepped into the room, an amused smile on her face. "To what do I owe the pleasure of your company, Inquestor?"

Karakael smiled, and motioned for Shellka to leave. "You left behind a season of holidays when you came here, Lady. I thought I would bring you something to remind you of it."

The veiled woman bowed to the two foreigners and retreated back into the kitchen, mind still reeling from the revelation that a man could be scarred so badly. The Beautiful People did not eat men...did they? She touched her veil, still feeling the throbbing pain of punishment. No. There was a man could do to break taboo so drastically.

Her thoughts so occupied, Shellka nearly forgot to listen in upon the conversation her guests were having.

"A gift? Really, Kaaree? I am a bit to busy for such things at the moment." Secluded from the eyes of the natives, The Visitor let more of her true nature show through. Her form began to subtly shift and there were hints of phantom limbs as she moved about the room.

The Inquestor seemed not to notice, or was comfortable with the changes. "I believe you will enjoy this one, Lady Visitor. Did you not enjoy my last gift?"

She nodded, and took the offered package. It was a testament to how hard she had been working recently when she barely noticed the wrapping, and instead curiously opened the box. A small, buzzing insect flew out.

"A mosquito? I don't believe I understand." But a small smile played at her lips, hinting that she already knew his plan.

"You take great pains to ensure your creatures evolve naturally, Lorrah. But we have no such qualms. This little fellow - " he waved the insect away from his ear. " - feeds only on the blood of homo-sapiens. And has none of those silly problems with 'breeding only in water'."

"That sounds quite...dangerous."

"On a normal planet, yes. On a homo-normed planet..."

The Visitors grin lit up the room. Even from behind the thick kitchen door Shellka could feel her reaction. It had been a long, long times since the veiled woman had felt any joy, and far longer since she had dreamed of mischief with fondness. Yet the feeling washed over her, and she couldn't help but smile.

" - well, that would be quite terrible, wouldn't it, Kaaree? How thoughtful of you to place such a gift in my hands." The godlet chuckled, and another warm ripple spread across the hive. "But every gift requires another. That is how things go in human worlds, correct? Come here, Kaaree, and I shall thank you appropriately."

Shellka peeked around the door, and saw the guest reach up to touch the man. The visitor was difficult to look at directly, something the veiled woman realized only now, as she tried to read the expression on the woman's face. The mans face she could read; confusion and a little fear, but there was still trust in his stance and a relaxed acceptance that she rarely saw in men of her own people.

The Visitor stroked her friends face, looking sadly at the scars. They had grown worse after Karakael had fallen into Shadow over the summer. Had he been another man, he would have died. Yet instead, he struggled on, showing no sign of the darkness that engulfed him.

She had tried to heal him once before, but it had failed. Since then she had learned to do it properly and how to teach the technique to others. But by then she had been to busy to heal her assistant for the mission.

But now...now he leaned into her touch, letting her feel the despair that welled within him. Pain, despair, ennui...these were all monsters that he had fought before. Repression, too, was a powerful tool at his disposal, but it took its toll as well. She should not have let this go on so long, and it was with regret that she pulled the shadow from him and healed the damage.

Shellka saw nothing but a faint shadow receding from the mans face, yet she could tell there had been a change. The scars were not gone...yet they had faded and seemed almost a natural part of his face, rather than the glaring wrongness that she had first seen. Despite herself, she stumbled into the room with the two guests and caught her visitors hand.

"Lady! Please...please heal me as well." She unfastened the hooks that held her veil in place and tried not to cry. "Please. It hurts..."

But it was not the godlet who touched her. No, instead the man tilted her face towards his and looked at the mutilation. "What did they do to you, child?"

The Visitor snorted. "She insulted the Beautiful People some how. Am I right?" Shellka nodded. "Which means you are breaking taboo to ask this. What would your Songster say, hmm?"

There was no sympathy in the voice, only scorn. "This man helped me heal a world, veiled one. What have you done to deserve my thanks?"

"Lorrah..." Karakael sighed.

"Kaaree, her people chose this. They knew this would happen. Yet they did it anyways, thinking girls like her would be a worthy sacrifice for immortality. Why should I heal her?"

"I didn't choose this."

"What?"

"I didn't choose this." She whispered again, clutching the mans cloak.

"But you never resisted, did you?"

Shellka froze. No, she hadn't resisted. She'd ignored the veiled women, prayed it would not be her but...she had never once tried to escape.

"And if your daughter were to be veiled? Would you plead for her?" His voice was soft.

Her eyes widened. How did he know? "Oh Weaver Woman..." Then the tears came. No, she had not thought of her daughter, the one they had taken. "Sister darkness...she was raised away from my corruption. Surely she will not suffer the same fate..."

The two guests exchanged glances over the woman's shaking form.

"She remembers your name, at least. Do you not answer prayers in this universe?" Karakael held the woman as best he could, comforting her as they spoke.

"I do not answer prayers in any universe, much less this one. I offered them a choice once, and they chose this road. Should I ignore that choice for one woman?"

"You know very well you did not offer the choice to all. Certainly not girls like this one."

"Tch." The Visitor swore in an alien tongue. "Do not make pitiful looks at me, Inquestor. You know why we do these things."

"She would have fought for her daughter. You know that."

She sighed. "Yes. But she is one of the few. Gods do not make exceptions for the few."

"Since when have you followed rules?"

"This is my sisters purleu, Kaaree. I merely play a role here. There is little more I can do." She sighed again, and touched Shellka's shoulder.

"Child? Child, listen to me. I will do this one thing for you. There is an herb that grows close to here, one with a silver stem and purple roots. It will alleviate you and your sisters pain for a short while. But you must say a prayer to Sister Darkness each time you use it. If you forget her name the herb will not work."

"She was forgotten..."

"But you remember, do you not? Remember the names, child, and your pain will recede."

Her brow was touched again, and the veiled woman went limp in the Inquestors arms. He placed her in the bed.

"Rather dramatic, even for you, godlet."

The Visitor shook her head. "No, Kaare. They will need those names, should they ever get a second chance."

"Oh?" He looked skeptical. "Is that why you are here? Preparing for their second chance?"

She sighed. "Something like that." A pause, then she too shook herself free from Shadow. "Come now. We must leave before she wakes. And I still have some work to do on you..." She caught his hand, and they faded from the world of Dinadh.

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The Visitor

January 2011

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