Title: Desert Palace
Description: Kuja's Hideout
Kuja - April 24, 2011 04:46 AM (GMT)
In the eastern stretches of the Zeklaus Desert, amidst the tumultuous sandstorms, is hidden a small fortification which is reminiscent of a palace. Its walls are made of a finely worked sandstone which has managed to survive the ages of weathering, and its entrance is two large wooden doors. Inside of the facility is but a main chamber - fashioned under order into an audience room - and three other areas. One is the private chamber of the adviser himself, another being the servants quarters where three subordinates sleep, and the last being a relatively large kitchen for preparing meals.
Service within the compound, however, is limited for most people to the cold death granted by an empty suit of armor. These automatons are posted in twos along the hallways and within the corners of the main chamber. They remain ever still and watchful until they sense a foreign presence which has not been admitted by the master. If one were lucky enough to be Kuja, or someone with legitimized access, the butler, chef and maid are waiting to take orders. The three of them being so well trained, in fact, that the palace is always clean and meals are prepared nightly; even if just to be wasted.
[Kuja (With Beatrix) from Imperial Hall]
When the silver dragon landed atop the palace it was immediately greeted by a tan young man in a royal blue turban. The young man also greeted his master, despite the fact that Kuja had fallen unconscious during the trip. Then, without a question or a pause, the boy hefted Kuja upon his back. When his master was secure the boy let out a sharp whistle which resonated through the surrounding desert like a storm. So fluidly was the action completed that the boy descended into the palace proper, without seeming to receive a response.
Yet on the roof, in only a delayed instant, arose a beautiful dancer girl. Behind a veil which covered her face grew a distinct grimace as she approached the dragon. It seemed that it was carrying a second passenger, and that she would be the one to carry them inside. With a timid pull at Beatrix's arm, the dancer managed to heft the warrior into her arms like a bride. A few heavy breaths later and the girl actually seemed grounded enough to carry the general inside.
Having no specific orders or particular interest in taking personal initiative, the young boy and the dancer merely did what seemed routine. Swiftly and carefully they cured the wounds of their two guests, laid them both on the excessively large bed in Kuja's chambers, and left the two to sleep so that they could inform the chef to rush dinner. This was actually the first time that Kuja had come here in bad condition, and most certainly the first time he had returned with a woman.
If they didn't fear the consequences of rumor both the boy and the dancer would be trading theories already.
Rosso - June 26, 2011 05:47 PM (GMT)
Beatrix expelled a breath from her throat with a gentle sound that was a hybrid of a whimper and a moan. Though she had been the target of several cure spells, her joints and muscles still throbbed with the exertion of the fight with Rosso. Her mind slowly rejoined the land of the living after a time spent unconscious, and her eye fluttered open.
The last thing she remembered was the shock of lightning through her system, piercing every scrap of skin. Her hands, numbed, ran across the expanse of her body. There were no tell-tale dips where a dart or bullet might bury itself inside her, no holes, and her fingers came up to her face without the residue of dry blood. She had been cured, then.
The room was unfamiliar to her. She did not lie against burning stone as before, but on a plush bed, the silken covers a caress against her flesh. The rest of the room was grand, reminiscent of a ballroom or something like it.
She turned her head slightly, only to freeze in shock when she realised that she was not alone on the bed.
None other than Kuja was beside her. The magician, she remembered, had arrived at Imperial Hall atop his silver dragon. Terror rippled through her organs, cold and unwelcome. He must have brought her here for a reason - did he mean to torture her?
The general struggled to a sitting position, leaning back on her hands. She could see Save the Queen - it was propped against the wall by the door on the far side of the room. She wondered if her body was rested enough so that she could sprint for it - she could kill the demon once and for all, and then make her escape.
She swung her legs from the bed, only for nausea to hit her instantly. She had never been good with fainting, probably because it happened so rarely. She threw another glance at Kuja, hoping that he had not felt the bed move.
Kuja - June 27, 2011 04:18 AM (GMT)
The door to the room seemed to bring itself open to allow a food cart to push itself inside. Following behind these mystical events was the young man in a blue mage's garb. His eyes fell onto Beatrix with no real regard for her shape, condition, or intent. No, he did not really care for any of those things. Perhaps the shape, as Beatrix had a very fine shape to her, but he had entered the room under order of the chef. "Waste no time! My meals are only perfect when they are steaming!" The voice was still fresh in his mind, and it mentioned nothing of curiosity.
"I hope the Master's guest is a fan of seafood. It is a beautiful irony to eat aquatic creatures in the desert, and the Master is something of a fanatic for beauty. I assume that is why you are here?"
It was definitely a question, but there wasn't a wait for a response. The young man left Beatrix to her devices, the door closing with the exit. Meanwhile it seemed that Kuja had not stirred a bit. The genome's face remained almost horribly peaceful, considering the things that should be devouring his conscience.
Rosso - July 3, 2011 09:28 PM (GMT)
Beatrix eyed the boy warily as he approached the bed with his cart of food. Her eye narrowed at him, almost daring him to come closer to her, but he paid her no mind; he barely seemed to register her, despite his speech. It was fish or something, then - and she had not had fish in a long time. Indeed, because of the hunt, her main provisions were the meagre rations she had packed for the trip. It was not good to fill oneself up with rich foods before a fight.
Her first thought about the food was that it was poisoned. Why else would Kuja treat her well? It was a cruel irony that would match his previous exploits. Though he was unconscious, and there was no way that the staff he must have here would know he would return with a hostage. Unless he had specifically traveled to Imperial Hall with the goal of capturing her.
The thought made her stomach curl in on itself.
Beatrix would not eat the food. She could not risk it. She flicked her eye back to Kuja, sound asleep.
With some difficulty, she struggled to her feet, and stretched her arms above her head, the metal plates of her armour clicking lightly.
It was easier to move after that. Her joints were still a little sore, but she would have to deal with it. She had fought with worse. During the war in which she lost her eye and almost her arm, she had carried on fighting for ten minutes more before losing consciousness.
She moved across the room to grasp Save the Queen, swinging it up to examine the blade. It was still flecked with blood from the fight.
She wondered if she should extinguish Kuja's life now whilst he was down and out, or whether she should take the opportunity to escape.
Kuja - July 4, 2011 03:52 AM (GMT)
The taste of shrimp, salmon, crab-cakes, and other delectable dishes made their way to Kuja's nose. First it tickled his dreams, causing him to roll to one side, but a moment later it tickled his body. The genome shot up from his rested position and made no hesitation to use magic on the food cart. Its position was always the same, and so Kuja's flare spell rocketed the cart in his direction. Calmly and while wiping sleep from his eyes, he caught the cart with the foot of his boot. Now that... was odd.
"I slept in my..." Kuja seemed to snap awake as he examined his own figure. His beautiful clothes from the other day, or was it week or month? Either way, they were still crusted with dried blood that the angel of death remembered losing. Losing to, annoyingly, some half-naked loser in a machine.
"This means that..." And in fact she was, Kuja had no choice but to accept as he scanned the room. There, on the other side of it, was Beatrix holding her sword.
"I'm glad you lived." Kuja's mouth curled into a very enthusiastic grin. Now he would see how much the throwaway would be worth to him, and the prospects were all delightful, "Please sit down and eat with me."
Rosso - July 4, 2011 02:37 PM (GMT)
Before Beatrix could actually put her plan into action - that was, to skewer Kuja and then flee - a spark of magic made her retreat further into the wall. Her pupil dilated with surprise and a little horror - he had woken up. He was sitting, having righted himself far quicker than she had been able to manage. She shifted her grip on Save the Queen, though she accepted that she would not be able to take him down herself whilst he was conscious.
He was smiling at her. She knew he would be able to attack her even from a distance with magic, but she did not lower her weapon. Instead she tilted her head, glaring at him from the corner of her eye.
"Do you jest, wizard?" she asked, her voice low and dangerous. She sidestepped closer to the door, hoping that he would not notice.
"You took me from my fight, from my clan and liege, to this place - if you mean to kill me, act fast. I will not converse and dine with the man who betrayed my queen and country," Beatrix told him. Her hands were shaking almost imperceptibly from anticipation and the sheer hatred she had for him. Because of him, she had almost helped kill Princess Garnet. Because her queen had been so enthralled by him, her orders had led her to commit genocide on the Cleyrans.
Her chin jerked upwards defiantly.
"Why did you bring me here?" she asked, demanding the information from him.
Kuja - July 4, 2011 04:46 PM (GMT)
"I believe it was to keep you from dying what would have been a most beautiful horrible death. But no, you are right to be suspicious, as there is always more than that, right?" Kuja's smile dulled a little as he lifted the lid from one of his prepared dishes.
"As for betraying your queen and your country," Kuja voice started calm, but after pausing for a breath it grew into a distinct snarl, "She is the one who sent her damnable summon at me! Just being in her presence was a betrayal of life itself!"
He coughed, giving time to return his emotions to normal, "Besides, you didn't seem to mind when you thought Brahne was right. Just like Ivalice doesn't seem to mind now, with me as a background puppeteer. It is all perspective, dear, and yours is by far the wrong one. Don't damn the methods; enjoy our peace for what it is."
"To look at a glorious sunset and see only the end of a day? That is also a betrayal," Kuja reached out and grabbed a plump shrimp from the open dish. His eyes examined it thoroughly, as if to probe it for ideas on continuing his speech, "I brought you here so that you may serve your new country. Consider it clan work, without those tedious marks getting in the way."
Rosso - July 11, 2011 09:43 PM (GMT)
Beatrix's resounding chuckle was not a pretty sound - it was low in her throat, and buzzed dryly. She wondered vaguely if she was dehydrated. Her tongue stuck only slightly to the roof of her mouth, which turned her concern to nothing for the moment.
"As you say, Kuja," she near spat his name, saying it to his face for the first time in what felt like an eternity, "it is a matter of perspective. Who is to say what is right or wrong when we debate only opinion?"
Her guard did not drop, even as she stepped closer to him. The food was making her mouth water. She cursed internally; she had passed a restaurant on her way back to Imperial Hall, and had considered dining there before her return. She found herself regretting her decision not to do so.
"I rather enjoyed the marks, in actuality. They posed a challenge I have not had in a long time. I liked the organisation and rank and file of the clan - it reminded me of home,"
Of better days, when she was just a fresh-faced recruit with an iron broadsword and no blood on her hands. When treachery and war were just scandalous rumours around the barracks. Almost the entirety of Alexandria's army had been comprised of teenage girls; gossip came as easily as riding chocobos.
"And yet - I wonder what it is you have in store for me,"
Beatrix would not bend to him. She would not betray Sephiroth for this man, nor Ivalice. A puppeteer he had called himself - was it just arrogance or something more? She filed the information away for later perusal. For now, she wanted more answers.
Kuja - July 11, 2011 10:09 PM (GMT)
Kuja had no way of hiding the sparkling grin on his face, but there was no reason to. Even if the genome gave his best performance, with a flawless script, Beatrix was much too sharp to fall for it. There was always a tension between the two of them, because of the Black Mages, and of course suspicions would arise. Little girls never like to play second place in their mother's eyes, metaphorical or otherwise. And now, like a bitter wine, Beatrix's distrust would always threaten to choke Kuja.
"Home?" The grin faded into a flat, unamused face. Kuja had a home once, but would take no blame for it being gone now. What happened to Terra was the fault of that fool Garland, "Your home is here now, as is mine. That is why I have use for you. This world needs you to protect it from rogue elements."
"This job would have fallen onto Sephiroth, but I fear he is more than likely dead now. Besides, he seemed to have no intention of coming forward to me at Imperial Hall." The genome cradled his face with his hands.
"You can go places that I cannot, have great strength, have the ability to lead, and..." Kuja tilted his head, with a small grin on his face, "Are quite beautiful. All the qualities I could want in an associate."
Rosso - July 12, 2011 10:33 AM (GMT)
Tilting her head, Beatrix found herself curious. She still kept her sword ready, should this be a ploy to get her feeling secure only to attack her. What he was saying was intriguing. Was he proposing an alliance? With her? It had happened once, of course, through convenience, with Brahne holding Kuja aloft like a prized heir, using Beatrix's sizeable army for mediocre tasks.
"Sephiroth will not be killed by those barbarians," she objected quietly. He was one of the most respectable people she had met in this place. They had forged the clan between them, with her swearing allegiance to him, and he taking his place at the head of the clan. He was inhumanly strong. Yes, Rosso and Weiss and their silver haired jackal had proven a challenge, but he was one of the most powerful men she had ever met.
"Senseless compliments will not get you anywhere," Beatrix told him. She had never really been considered beautiful by anybody, thanks to her defect and abrasiveness. Her sister had been the pretty one; she was used to being thought as plain, and had no qualms with others thinking that way too. Rose of May or not. The skalds made everyone sound enchanting.
"An associate. A protector. Pray tell, what exactly do you mean?"
She would hear him out, only if it were because complying with him would mean she could escape sooner.
Kuja - July 12, 2011 07:35 PM (GMT)
"I mean for you to be my associate, taking my orders to protect Ivalice. There are people who would tear this world apart, just because they are certain they can return home. Children, most certainly, as youth causes people to wish for things they can't have. To hope for things that will never be, no matter how much the little monkeys struggle to have it."
"Now," Kuja gestured for Beatrix to come closer to him, to sit next to him on the bed, "If you'd finally rest that blade I can discuss your first task."
"I need you to seek out those who wish to return home and convince them to stop. Not because the desire for home us unworthy or unappealing, but because it is impossible. If anyone were capable of leaving it would be me. I have tried, and I can't." Kuja gave a dramatic sigh, suddenly thinking of the wound suffered at Imperial hall.
"Though, of course, I need you in particular because some of these people are incredibly dangerous. This 'Weiss' and 'Rosso' are but two such characters, I'm sure. If anyone puts up particular resistance," Kuja pointed to Save the Queen with an inclined smile, "You will have to use force."
Rosso - July 12, 2011 08:03 PM (GMT)
Beatrix could see now how Kuja had managed to entrance her queen so. His words and his tone were both as enticing as those of a snake charmer, and it took willpower to not give in to him. She shut her eye briefly and remembered the look on her beloved princess' face as her eidolons were drawn from her. Steiner's expression as he begged her to see straight.
"You are clearly more deluded than I thought if you think I could bring down Rosso and Weiss alone," she snorted. Rosso had almost killed her in the last fight, and she had bore witness to Weiss' capabilities. Weiss, who had taken on Sephiroth himself, and had shown himself a skilled warrior. And Kuja thought she could defeat them singlehandedly?
The notion was flattering, but it was completely insane.
She took a few steps closer to him, lowering her sword even more. If he wanted her as an associate, she presumed he would not kill her. He sounded genuine, though she knew better than to trust the words of a magician.
"What if I were to flee after you freed me from this place? Or what if I were to refuse you?" she asked. Dry earth tickled the back of her throat. They were somewhere rather hot, she realised. She had yet to examine her surroundings beyond a simple scoping of what was in the room.
Kuja - July 12, 2011 08:25 PM (GMT)
"I never said you had to work alone, my dear. A play is compromised of many players, and the protagonist must have allies to interact with. Please don't fling insults at me because of your own assumptions." Kuja brow furrowed a little, but quickly returned to an inquisitive resting.
"As for you fleeing, is that really your desire? I suppose if you want to leave I have no reason to stop you. The show will go on, with or without you, I'm afraid. If you don't want an intricate part in the world's, and your own, fate that is fine." Kuja stretched his arms out before folding them in front of his chest. All of this sitting around was unappealing.
"I'm not the same person you used to contend with. When Zidane came back to save me..." Kuja's eyes fell to the floor, the legitimacy of his words uncertain, "Is it wrong of me now, enlightened as I am, to want allies? I could easily get any number of Ivalicians to dance on a string, but I need an autonomous partner."
Rosso - July 18, 2011 10:03 PM (GMT)
Beatrix lowered Save the Queen so that the tip of the blade touched the floor. She approached him further, stepping closer so that she was standing right in front of him, daring to believe that he would not cast her down as he could have done in the past few minutes.
"While I do not truly believe you to be changed," she told him, "as a coeurl cannot change it's spots, an allegiance might be the best way forwards. I endeavour to help those who need it,"
Now she was healed, she had the urge to return to the hall, to see how it fared amidst the fire and fighting. She had an idea - if she went along with Kuja's plan, even temporarily, starting back at the clan hall would be a good idea. It was the last place she had seen both Tsviets.
"I would ask that you return me to Imperial Hall, if we are to start immediately. Rosso and Weiss were both there during the fight, and it would be best to go now before they leave it far behind," she ventured cautiously.
Kuja - July 20, 2011 11:34 AM (GMT)
Dear Beatrix had lowered her blade. Of course she was still holding it, but at least it was lowered. Baby steps would be key in garnering the trust needed, and if anyone had the patience to accomplish such a task it was Kuja. It certainly wouldn't be a hero, as Beatrix had displayed on her own.
"Always on the verge of another immediate action, I see. If one could speak of nothing else, they could speak of your readiness to perform. Even on an empty stomach and tightrope relationship." Kuja praised honestly, with just a hint of caution in his voice.
"Follow me then, this way." Kuja stood up slowly, placing a hand on Beatrix's shoulder as he slipped by her. The genome's feet moved swiftly across the stone floor into the hallway just outside his room. There rest a staircase to the roof, with a door his servants had conveniently neglected to close.
Kuja noted this failure before hustling up the stairs, assuming Beatrix's follow. When he reached the roof, the genome let out an unusually loud whistle. Even against the sound of the surrounding sandstorm, it carried across the desert to its target. A large silver dragon, which could be seen circling high above, began its descent.
"The dragon will know where to go. When it lands just climb aboard and command it to leave," Kuja gave a delicate bow, "I won't force my company upon you, but I will follow if you wish it."
Rosso - July 20, 2011 08:48 PM (GMT)
Beatrix flinched away from Kuja's contact on her arm, saying nothing in response to his flattery. She wanted to get out of here - out of the place with fish and the cushy bed and servants - and back to Imperial Hall. If the battle still raged there, she might be able to kill Rosso and talk this out with Sephiroth, who was bound to ask questions.
She followed Kuja to the roof, surprised that she was to ride the magnificent reptile. She had never mounted one, though she had slain a fair few in her time as General and afterwards. She doubted it would be the same as riding a chocobo - a form that all soldiers of Alexandria were well practised in.
"I work best independently, and I am sure that you have other things to occupy yourself with. If I have need, I will return for your help," Beatrix told him, backing up a little as the dragon neared them.
It did not land with a great boom, as she had expected, but rather delicately, placing all four feet on the ground as lightly as if it were made of feathers. She eyed it slightly, offering a hand, in the way that one would to a wild animal. It did not seem at all bothered by her.
A little awkwardly, she climbed onto the broad back, settling herself just in front of the wings but behind the forelegs. She gripped it with her thighs, though it was certainly large enough that she felt stable.
"Farewell for now, Kuja," she nodded. With a deep breath, she squeezed her calves against the dragon's belly.
"Leave. For Imperial Hall," she told it. Without a second's hesitation, the dragon launched itself skyward with a strong beat of it's leathery wings carrying it up. It did not seem to need direction. In no time at all, they were above the sandstorm around the palace, and headed to Graszton.
[Beatrix --> Imperial Hall]