An improbable favor was owed by Tor to Jade from the Come As You Aren't Auction. Her request was rather unusual. She asked Tor for an Unforgettable Experience. During this time, Tor had spent a lot of time exploring caves underground with a lantern given to him by Zolotisty. They begin their caving adventure in Tor's cottage in CyberCity 404.
[05/05 11:21pm] <DICE> Questor Tor NaGoth appears through a door that's not there. He's carying the lantern Z gave him, and a small parcel of cloth and leather.
[05/05 11:22pm] <DICE> Enigmatic Jade XXIV knocks softly on the door before using her key to let herself in. "Hello?"
[05/05 11:23pm] <DICE> Questor Tor NaGoth looks up and smiles, "Ready then?"
[05/05 11:24pm] <DICE> Enigmatic Jade XXIV nods firmly. "Absolutely."
[05/05 11:27pm] <DICE> Questor Tor NaGoth nods, "First things first. It's actually fairly cool down there, so.." he hands her the parcel, it turns out to be a sturdy, but extremely soft woolen scarf, a pair of long leather gloves. . .
[05/05 11:28pm] <DICE> Questor Tor NaGoth hands her the last item, a padded leather helmet, not unlike those worn by ironman football players back when all the photos were black and white.
[05/05 11:30pm] <DICE> Enigmatic Jade XXIV listens to him intently as she winds the scarf around her neck. Not scratchy at all. She smiles, pulling on the leather gloves. Grimacing a little at the helmet, she asks, "Do I have to?"
[05/05 11:30pm] <DICE> Enigmatic Jade XXIV takes off her hat, leaving it on the kitchen table and combs her fingers through her hair while eyeing the not very attractive leather helmet being offered to her.
[05/05 11:31pm] <DICE> Questor Tor NaGoth shimmers, and his own Victorian attire is replaced by sturdy canvas trousers, a form fitting jacket of heavy leather, a similar scarf and cap, and a pair of antique looking goggles.
[05/05 11:32pm] <DICE> Questor Tor NaGoth shrugs, "It's your head, but the ceiling does get low. . . there are occasional drips, rock falls, and bats. Better than a hard hat, if you ask me."
[05/05 11:32pm] <DICE> Enigmatic Jade XXIV sighs and slips on the helmet, all the while trying not to notice how well that jacket fits across his shoulders.
[05/05 11:34pm] <DICE> Enigmatic Jade XXIV instantly forgets about the helmet as she anticipates what lies ahead.
[05/05 11:35pm] <DICE> Questor Tor NaGoth confides, "eBoy recommended some god-awful looking neoprene and styrofoam jobs in safety yellow. I much prefer the distressed leather look."
[05/05 11:37pm] <DICE> Enigmatic Jade XXIV smiles, touching the leather up by his shoulders. Thick, but supple. "It suits you well."
[05/05 11:37pm] <DICE> Questor Tor NaGoth thinks the overall effect looks good on Jade - in a Laura Croft meets Anime - sort of way. He opens the cellar door, and leads her down into darkness. . .
[05/05 11:38pm] <DICE> Enigmatic Jade XXIV feels a cool blast of air rush past her as he opens the door. She follows him in, eyes trying to adjust to the sudden gloom.
[05/05 11:45pm] The door closes softly on its own, leaving the cottage empty and silent.
Tor pauses at the bottom of the stairs, and does something with Z's lantern, leaving it affixed to the front of his right shoulder, but still unlit. He turns to Jade in the relative dim still lit by the open cellar door, and winks.
The Door swings shut of its own accord with a soft creak, and the soft green glow of Tor's eyes is the only only light for a moment. Odd. His pupils are white in the darkness here.
Jade follows behind Tor, her steps tentative. The light from the cellar door has gone and her eyes have yet to adjust to the gloom. She sees his oddly white eyes, catches his wink and judges right about where his arm should be. She reaches out and her fingers close around the leather of his sleeve.
Even her whisper echoes slightly. "Now what?"
Tor smiles, his white teeth appearing faintly luminous green in the reflected light of her own eyes, and she feels his free hand on the fingers gripping his sleeve as he transfers her grip down to his hand, "Wait a moment for our eyes to adjust, and you'll see." he says, and sure enough, after just a few moments, more faint light becomes visible.
The first thing she notices is the floor, as gradually the outline of his feet and legs become clear in silhouette. A careful look around reveals that the floor extends much further behind him then in any other direction. About the time her gaze reaches that point, he nods, and his eyes turn away as he moves into that distance, towing her gently behind him. "I've smoothed the floor for this first part, so we don't need the light. It actually gets brighter as we go here for a little while." he explains as the luminous stretch of floor begins to narrow, and Jade can feel the cool stone closing in from the sides as they enter a passage.
She giggles when she suddenly sees teeth flashing back at her then closes her mouth abruptly when she realizes hers is probably doing the same thing. Feeling his hand reach for hers, she gently squeezes back against his fingers, nodding when she hears him tell her to let her eyes adjust. She laughs again "I just nodded back at you and you can't even see me."
She quiets as her gaze travels around the cool darkness of the cave, finally noticing shapes here and there and the strange luminosity of the floor. She grips his hand tighter, following him into the narrowing passage ahead.
They follow the twisting passage for maybe a hundred yards, almost straight into the heart of the snow capped mountain from what Jade can tell, and downward at a slight angle.
At first, the only sound is the faint scuffle of their shoes against the stone floor, then there is a faint trickling, and they round a corner into relative brightness. A cool rush of air accompanies the sudden appearance of a stream of blue glowing water. It flows down a rift in the left wall, and across the floor of the passage, where Tor has carefully placed a series of floating stones for the path. The stream flows into a deep pool on the right, where wig-rocks can be seen as if seated in a grand stadium. Deep below, glowing figures dance and swirl across the bottom of the pool like some grand theater for the coiffured spectators.
Jade shivers a bit as the temperature changes, glad for the leather jacket and other warm garments that Tor provided. Tor seems to be quite used to the cold damp air down here.
When she spies the blue water, she stops for a bit to gawk in amazement at the glowing cobalt hue. Spotting the little wig rocks, she tugs at his hand. "I recognize those. How did they get here?" Her eyes are pulled to the soft glow of figures seemingly dancing. Lingering there for quite a while watching the graceful twinings, she finally whispers. "That is so beautiful." Enough light is pooled here that she can see the strong curve of his jaw as she looks back at him.
Tor's gaze is drawn to the figures in the distant depths as well, and his profile is clearly visible as he answers softly, "The Improbability seems to concentrate in the water up above, and seep down through the bedrock. I recognized the wig-rocks as well, the first time I saw this, and thought that there must be more to them than we could imagine. I've watched this pool for hours on end, and never grow weary of it's beauty. I wonder, sometimes, what would happen if I dived in, but I dare not risk losing this, if I were to damage it somehow."
Jade listens to the rhythms of his speech, his voice strong despite its quietness. She stares at the rocks as Tor continues his explanation, sneaking glances at his face out of the corner of her eye from time to time. He knows how to sit still and just behold the beauty within this dark cavern.
When he stops speaking, she waits for a while. . .lets the emptiness settle around once more.
A soft creak of her leather jacket can be heard as she shifts in her stance. A husky whisper cuts through the silence. "I think it's wise of you not to venture down there. I read once that the wonders in a cave are quite fragile and take quite a long time to form. It would be a pity to lose all of this." She silently wonders how long he sits here by himself.
Tor looks up from the entrancing display, his odd gaze meeting hers as he smiles, "I enjoy beauty in all its forms. I found when I was growing up, that I was very easily distracted, so I had to teach myself a few things. Focus, for one, but even more important, I've learned to be still. It's simply amazing how much more there is to be seen and heard when we don't move or speak ourselves."
Jade holds his gaze with a frank directness. Her lips curve upwards into a smile. "And I admire a person who can seek out beauty and simply behold it because it exists in front of him, Tor NaGoth. So few people learn how to be still. A dancer learns that there is as much to be said in the moments of stillness as there is in each movement she makes."
Tor chuckles softly, and nods, his smile becoming more of a wry grin, "Fewer still, who understand so well." he turns abruptly, and leads her on across the stepping stones, "There's more to be seen." he says as the trail closes down to a narrow passage once more.
As the blue glow from the pool chamber fades behind them, the luminescence of the floor begins to fade as well. It is drier here, and Tor finally lights Z's lantern with a touch of improbable flame. The floor here is a rough jumble of broken rock with a narrow trail woven through and the walls are sheer with the ceiling invisible in the vast darkness above. The descent is steeper here as well, sometimes as much as 45 degrees as the passage twists downward into the darkness.
Jade crosses the stones that Tor laid down as a path, her steps light and agile behind him. She welcomes the closeness of the walls as they both navigate the narrow fissure. Despite the broadness of his shoulders, he manages the tighter spots along the way. Clearly, he spends much of his time down this passage. She can tell by the way his movements anticipate the outcroppings of rock on each side.
When they reach the rockier part of the trail, she peers into the darkness ahead. As she glances back at him, an eagerness lights her face. "What's through there?"
As they come to a sharp turning, Tor looks back at her, and smiles then asks, "Do you trust me?"
Jade smiles back. "Always."
Tor chuckles, and turns out the light. Unlike the cellar, here the darkness is absolute, and Tor is either looking away, or has his eyes closed, because not even that faint green glow is visible. Only his gloved hand still holding hers is there to reassure her of his presence as he guides her gently forward and around the corner. The character of the floor changes, becoming glassy smooth under her feet, and no longer producing even the faintest of scuffles. Tor guides her forward with steady pressure, and the reassuring presence of the close pressing walls disappears.
Jade's eyes struggle to adjust to the darkness, and Tor's dim shape is just barely visible in the reflected light of her gaze, a faint light patch directly ahead of her, pulling her onward. Just about the time she realizes he is walking backwards, he stops, and opens his eyes. There is the faint glow of his smile as he says, "Look up." and directs his gaze upwards.
At first, everything still seems pitch black, especially after the brightness of his eyes, then tiny twinkling lights begin to appear, like stars in a moonless sky. Her eyes continue to adjust, and the scope of the reflections becomes more apparent for it is nothing more than the light from their own eyes reflected from millions upon millions of crystalline facets. Trying to find the edges of the vast field of Stars, Jade abruptly becomes aware that there is no edge. The reflections are not just above, but below as well, and far distant.
Jade feels a momentary sense of panic as the last of the light is swallowed up by the gloom. She steadies her breathing aware that Tor still has a firm grip on her hand. Stepping slowly due to the gloom she follows as he continues to urge her onward.
The currents of air around her change, letting her know that the space around them widened greatly. She follows the faint dim lights of his eyes and his smile. Toe to toe with him now, she stops when he asks and looks up.
A faint glint then a slow shimmer. One by one she sees the lights bouncing off the crystal covered ceiling. Around them, endless and eternal, glimmer upon tiny glimmer winking and shimmering all around them. Her breath catches in her throat as she stares. She hopes the gloom is enough so he doesn't see a tear that slips past her lashes. Squeezing his hand she tells him quietly. "So much beauty. It almost hurts to look at it."
Swiveling her neck to the left then to the right she looks around. "I wonder what it's like to fly in here? It must be amazing. Or even to dance in such a magical place?" She knows how lucky she is to be standing here next to him surrounded by ethereal lights.
Tor's eyes flash brighter for a moment, and the edges of the plane of air they are standing on begin to glow faintly, defining the limits of the vast cavern, and sending more shimmering spots of light aglow, "Then dance." he says softly as he steps back to give her room.
Jade stares at him for a long moment, aware of the sudden glow at the edges of her vision. She nods, knowing that this is a stage, this is her stage and this is her dance - her moment with him. Shedding the thick jacket, scarf and gloves, kicking off her boots, she turns away from Tor to walk barefoot to the middle of the softly glowing sheet of air. Gone is the chill from the air directly around her.
Facing him again, she rises up on her toes. Enough of his improbability is here that she doesn't even need the shoes that he made for her. Bringing one leg up, higher and higher behind her she starts the dance in an arabesque. Her arms dip gracefully towards the floor, wishing she could touch the lights she sees below her. Her leg comes back down again, arms moving in unison to form a delicate ellipse in front of her.
Rising on her toes, she spins lightly over the floor in a circular path around her makeshift stage stopping in front of him. She goes en pointe on one foot, the other traces a line from her ankle to her inner leg before pirouetting quickly. Three spins, each starting and stopping with her eyes locking into his before she leaps away. Her jumps are long and high, both legs scissor outwards, a picture of grace and strength combined. With each jump she lands lightly before springing into the next, her arms held in line with each powerful grand jete.
After the fifth leap she brings an arm up, her wrist twirls gracefully catching a thin sheet of air. She pulls, lifting herself up for an aerial dance. The column winds around her, first supporting her at the waist as she flies around the room. Tor watches from below as she tumbles, spinning horizontally ever lower until she stops herself right before she hits the bottom. She runs fast, holding on to the edge of the invisible fabric. With feline grace she pulls herself up again, arm over arm and winds two twists of air around her. The momentum from her running sets her flying about in a circle and laughing as the glow around her blurs into tiny glimmering streaks - minute shooting stars are she whizzes by.
She throws a column of air down towards him and watches in fascination as he mimics her climbing. His strong arms make short work of the distance from the bottom to the height she's at. She weaves more air below him, allowing him to sit in the middle as she continues to spin around him. The column holding her twines with his and she feels it go slower and slower until it comes to a swaying stop in front of him, their faces even. She holds on to his arm to steady the swaying. Leaning into him, she whispers. "There is no one else I'd rather do this with than you, Tor NaGoth. I always knew you were special. This just proves it." She closes the scant distance between the two of them and kisses him softly on his lips.
Tor becomes still as Jade begins. His eyes following her every movement with rapt attention the only part of him that moves. A faint gasp of wonder as she takes to the air betrays the depths of his emotion as he watches her soar, blending art and improbability.
He has to catch himself as she starts her long fall, his protective instincts threatening to interrupt the dance, but he barely twitches before his conscious mind registers her complete control and mastery here. He smiles when she comes to rest at the bottom, then grins wider as she begins to run.
He climbs with restrained grace to the platform of air she weaves, and his entranced gaze never leaves her as the columns of air twine together. His arms enfold her gently as he returns the kiss in kind, parting after far too brief a time with a whisper, "Beautiful. Simply, beautiful."
Tor's strong arms continue to hold her as the column of air shifts, twisting the pair in a circle. Light blossoms somewhere far below, and the star-like twinkling is suddenly replaced by a fiery radiance that grows steadily into cascades of color like a sunrise in time lapse. In the growing light, the walls of the cavern aren't just crystalline, but jeweled. Columns and curtains of ruby, emerald, and sapphire reflect the light with dazzling variety.
The speed of their rotation increases slightly as they begin to move, upwards, at first, then tilting over into a headlong flight around the magnificent gemstone gallery.
All the beauty surrounding Jade fades with the touch of his kiss, the only reality that exists in the span of those few heartbeats. She smiles up at Tor when she hears him whisper to her. Slowly they move once more, entwined, the chill kept at bay by his warmth wrapped around her, his arms strong yet gentle. Slowly, so slowly as to not stir the gentle aura woven around them, Jade shifts her head to rest on his shoulder. She sighs deeply as her eyes wander towards the lights growing brighter with each revolution they complete. The walls start to glow with a fierce pulsating light.
As they glide above the sparkling cavern the lights are no longer stars but xanthic swaths of color. An aurora borealis hidden amidst the gloaming. She lifts her head to look back at him, flashes of cobalt, vermillion, cerulean and viridian lights illuminate the planes of his face. She gently traces the rugged line of his cheekbone with her fingertips. She moistens lips suddenly gone dry. A whisper after a long held breath. "All this..." Her eyes flick to the colored lights, the sparkling jewels before returning to meet his, "I think it only exists here because of you." She gazes into his eyes, now green, now white, now all the colors of the walls of jewels encircling them.
Tor's answer leaves no room for argument, "It exists because I am sharing it with you."
Their speed increases as they suddenly dive headfirst towards the floor, then sideways into a dark tunnel not visible from above. A teardrop of luminous air forms around them and another glowing ball of light is suddenly visible far below, rushing up at them as they fall headlong into it's path.
Jade nods her head, an affirmation to his response. Tor's words echo in her head as they plummet downwards together. She doesn't flinch at the sudden twists and turns, her trust in him complete. The air rushes past both of them. She turns to him, eyes flashing before a laugh of pure delight escapes from her lips. "I love this!" She loses herself in the thrill of the ride then quiets when the bubble of glowing air surrounds them. Peering at the ever increasing cobalt light in front of them, she remembers to quiet her breathing, to feel him next to her and just be.
Just before impact, it becomes clear that the other ball of light is a reflection, and they plunge in to the still black waters of a subterranean sea leaving a trail of phosphorescent bubbles in their wake.
Tor shifts his position, and the air supporting them shifts as well, leaving them seated, and side by side within their Improbable bubble. He lets the darkness last for a few moments, so she can enjoy the the glow of the dissipating bubbles, then lights the lantern once more, focusing it into a narrow beam to illuminate their passage.
In the darkness off to the sides, strange shapes begin to appear, as glowing denizens of the deep come to investigate the strange intruders.
Jade's eyes almost close as their bubble of air hits the water. A loud splash then a low gurgling murmur follow them in their descent, the stillness within belies the force of their impact as they sink lower into the depths. Tor watches her crane her neck upwards as she watches the smaller bubbles slip past their enclosure and float freely towards the surface farther and farther above them.
She feels him shift beside her. Even with her back turned to him, Jade can feel him smiling as she presses up against the thin walls surrounding them. Her fingers touch the inside of the bubble. Cold water lies beyond the thinnest film of air. Dozens of phosphorescent beings sense the shift in the water and crowd around her hand. There, a blue glowing creature the color of arctic ice. Beyond it, a being resembling a squid as transparent as a ghost slipping along the deep waters. Another one with mighty fangs, clearly blind from being in the dark for so long. It shies away from the lantern's beam.
Jade tugs at his arm and points to a constellation of tiny phosphorescent points schooling together. "Look at them, Tor. They seem to all move together in unison." A coordinated dance of the deep. She draws patterns around them, sliding her hands across the interior and drawing the tiny ghost-like fish into a graceful, luminescent chase.
Tor chuckles softly, and the school fish dash off as the bubble plunges through a cloud of gigantic jellyfish, and the water grows warm to her touch as they approach another section of their underground sea.
Orange magma oozes up from a vent, creating snake-like rivulets of black and orange along with copious bubbles of steam. Their improbable submarine pitches violently as the warm current carries it upwards, but Tor smiles reassuringly, and soon the bubble bursts through the surface, and bobs gently toward a sandy shore, just visible in the light of the lantern.
Jade spies the expanse of sand just beyond the shaft of lantern light getting closer and closer. Impatient to reach it, she steps outside their bubble. She sinks into waist deep water. She grins at Tor, still seated inside their bubble and waves. "The water is really warm. You should come in, it's perfect." She walks the rest of the way to the beach, her progress hindered by the gentle waves. Here where it's warm, colorful fishes dart in the bubbles' bright path of light.
A hurried shifting of sand catches her eye. Ghost crabs dot the surface of the sand, skimming over the fine grains like lightning before disappearing into the tiniest holes. She makes a game of trying to catch them, feet flying over the sand as she pounces on one then another, testing her timing. She cups one gently in her hand finally. Before it can leap free, she encloses it in a tiny sphere of air. Held in this way, she can easily show off her catch to Tor.
Tor laughs out loud at Jade's antics, but elects to glide into shore on the remaining sheet of air. They can always swim some other time.
Her captive crab earns a nod of approval as he says, "We're not far from where I found your nightlight." and points to a lone set of boot tracks leading up the beach, and into another crevice like passage. "We can stay here for a little while if you like, though."
Jade crouches down, gently setting the crab back on the sand. The sphere around it dissipating as its pointed legs touch the ground once more. She watches it skirt past Tor's boot and down one of the multitude of holes the crabs seem to leave all over. She eyes the passage following the line of his finger, then turns back to look at the dark water. She closes her eyes and listens to the waves lapping against the shore. Her voice carries above the shushing of the water. "Let's stay for a while. Will you sit and watch with me?"
She walks a few steps, close to where the water flattens the sand into a smooth palette. Barefoot still, she sits where the sand is dry and digs her toes in, feeling the leftover warmth. She looks back at him still standing a few steps behind her before turning her gaze towards the sea, so unexpected here.
Tor nods, and sits beside her, taking off his boots and socks to feel the sand between his toes. The beach itself is pleasantly warm from proximity to the the steam vent, but the constant updraft brings cooler air in from across the waters. He adjusts the shutters on the lantern, and the beam becomes diffuse as the light spreads to illuminate a wide area in all directions. An Island of light on the shores of a dark sea. The ghost crabs emerge once more at the edges of their island, and can be seen harvesting glowing lichen and fluorescent algae from the rocks and sand along the water's edge.
Tor draws his knees up towards his chest and leans on them as he stares out over the dark water. "I expected bats in the passage before we reached the Gemstone Gallery. They were there last time. Hopefully they were just out hunting, and I didn't frighten them off for good." he says, conversationally.
Jade imitates his pose and draws her knees up too, hugging them to her chest as she observes the frantic scurryings of the ghost crabs. Claws pinch at green glowing bits carrying them off like tiny luminous torches towards their respective burrows. She turns her gaze back towards him after a few quiet minutes.
"I don't know how far you've explored the passages. It's always good to follow every barest whisper of air that you feel. There could be another cavern just beyond a narrow passage. With your handle on Improbability you could easily widen the passage just enough without destroying what lies beyond." She stares at the darkness beyond the lantern's pool of light, then back towards Tor. "I wouldn't worry about the bats. It's hard to tell time down here. You're probably right, they may just be out hunting."
Tor chuckles, "Actually, I've found it easier to alter myself. After sampling one too many of Dan's transformation potions, Ooozing through cracks like a gelatinous blob isn't all that difficult. I could spend an entire lifetime down here, and not explore it all." he sighs, his gaze picking out bits of fluorescence out in the water. "It's all interesting, of course, but most of it is rather plain. Passages worn by water, or formed by shifting stone. I found most of this gradually, after entering through an ice cave up in the glacier pack above Cyber City. I knew I was near the Village when I found the Wig-Rock Colosseum, so I spoke with Horatio about it, and the next time I went into my cellar, the passage was there." he shakes his head.
"I'm not all powerful, no matter what you might think. I have my darker moments, too. I don't think you were here the last time I started doing things in my sleep. Hajen stopped me then. Barely."
Jade smiles as she realizes he's named the various rooms they've been to. Wig-Rock Colosseum. Gemstone Gallery. From the way the wind shifts inside the cave she knows that there must be thousands of passages still to be found. She plays with the sand, sifting it through her fingers, letting it trickle down slowly here and there. "I know that some parts can be plain, but I think that's what makes finding a wonderful surprise lying just beyond a turn that much more beautiful, sweeter." She tries to keep the longing out of her voice.
Her head lifts up once more when she hears him speak about darker moments. Her brow furrows. "No, I wasn't here. What happened?" A hint of steel comes back with that last query. She softens her tone before adding, "I didn't say you were all powerful, just the most powerful. The most interesting."
Tor chuffs slightly, "I stand corrected, and flattered as well." he says with a self depreciating grin. "As to what happened.. I'm not entirely sure. It began with dreams. I'd twitch in my sleep, and everyone in Kittania would grow an extra tail.. or something similar. Then it was violent urges. Even my friends weren't safe. When I started shredding newbies with chrome plated Joker Claws.. Well. I knew Hajen was tough, but the PVP rankings are a better indicator of her abilities. After she defeated me, I went to Zolo for advice. I'd spent over a hundred Drive Kills as a GoBot, and never learned to control my joker powers, while Zolo. . .well, she's Z. You've met her."
Jade looks puzzled. She reaches into her shirt and pulls out a long chain. At the end of it is the jade pendant that Tor made to go with her croquet outfit. She shows it to him, the milky green jade glowing from within between her fingers.
"Remember when you made this and everything that went with it? And this whole adventure that we're on. I've never seen anything this beautiful before. That tells me you do have control and plenty of it. As for the violent urges - if it comes to that, you have enough friends here that care about you that would be more than willing to help you. I know I would. With everything I have." She nods firmly, her face a mask of seriousness.
"And if I lost control completely?",he asks. "I don't doubt that my friends would be there to aid me, But what if they couldn't? What if I were to hurt one of them? One of you, rather? since I'm happy to count you as a friend."
Jade gaze is piercing. "We'll be there. So many people care too much about what happens to you to not be there. None of them are slouches either." She squeezes his arm reassuringly, to take the edge off her voice. She knows this is one fight she won't sit in the sidelines for if it comes to pass.
Tor's features look haunted in the dim light, and he knows his next words aren't fair, just as he knows he will say them anyway. Fair or not.
". . . and if I hurt you the way Gorbert did?"
Jade's head jerks back as if she'd been slapped but her gaze doesn't leave his. The silence stretches. Her eyes travel over his face, twisted by his thoughts. She runs a palm cross his cheek slowly, so warm against her cool hand. Her voice doesn't waver as she waits for him to look back at her.
"I'll take my chances." Firm, as though she no longer has a choice in the matter.
Tor's eyes are filled with pain as he meets her gaze, but he nods. "I've hurt you already. I'm sorry."
Jade's grin is fierce as she tries to will away the pain she sees in him. Her voice is barely above a whisper. "Pain and hurt is nothing new to me. Some people are worth it. You are worth it to me."
Tor's answering smile is almost as fierce, "Enough of this brooding in the Dark, then." he says as he rises, pulling her to her feet, "You asked for unforgettable, an I've saved the best for last."
Jade's smile softens as they agree to continue their adventure. She quickly brushes wayward sand with one hand and lets him keep the other in his. Before they continue she tugs at his hand, waits for him to look back. "I'm looking forward to whatever lies ahead. But make no mistake, it has already been unforgettable."
Tor's only reply is a nod, and an eager smile. He leaves his boots behind on the beach as he leads her along the sand and into the narrow opening.
The passage winds for less than a hundred feet before it opens up slightly at a sheer wall. About ten feet over head, there is a ledge with another opening. Without pausing, Tor simply steps up to the top, carrying Jade along with him. With a gesture, he urges her through the opening ahead of him.
While far from being bright, the chamber beyond is certainly colorfully lit. Enormous Fungi of varying shapes sizes and color glow from their places along the walls and floor of the cavern, Fern-like fronds glowing a pale blue-green are interspersed among them, and small game trails crisscross the floor of the cavern. A magnificent waterfall cascades from a high ledge along one wall, and splashes into a deep pool before running off into a rocky area and disappearing into some deeper chamber.
Squicky, or at least one of his many relatives, appears briefly along one of the trails, and peers at Jade inquisitively for a moment before vanishing into the glowing underbrush, and Moth like creatures as big as paired hands flutter through the air. Snails and slugs of varying sizes, obvious kin to Jade's 'nightlight' creep slowly along the walls and ledges, lending their own patterned glows to the dim illumination. A veritable rainbow locked into perpetual twilight.
Jade marvels at how easily Tor carries her up ten feet as if it was nothing more than a step of mere inches. No sooner had the thought formed in her head when she finds themselves in a lush environment of sound, scent and light. The air here is thick and moisture-laden. Walking barefoot, Jade feels the droplets of water clinging to the feathery tops of ferns brush against her legs. The blue light from the fronds sways and parts as she passes.
Tor follows behind her as she heads for the waterfall. Fine mist floats their way, leaving a cool, moist film that reflects the light surrounding them. She marvels at the perfect veil of water falling into a mysterious pool. Dipping her hand in the water, she contemplates how wonderful it would be to swim amidst all the muted colors surrounding them. She draws her hand back and steps slowly around in a circle, taking in all the glowing creatures and plants packed into this place.
She speaks, eyes on the waterfall, breath stirring the tiny moisture droplets in the air. "This place, being here with you, all of it. It's magical. I don't know how else to put it. Just - magical." She smiles back at him, happiness evident on her face. "When I asked for a favor, I couldn't even begin to imagine that it could be like this, like all of this." Her hand moves in a sweeping gesture to encompass everything she's seen. Overcome, she strides up to him and pulls him in with her arms. A tight hug before she whispers in his ear. "In case I forget to tell you later, Tor, thank you so very much."
"The pleasure is all mine, of course." he replies easily as he leads her to a large flat-topped Mushroom not far from the water fall. "Have a seat." He indicates a smaller growth conveniently placed for using as a chair.
Tor then reaches down beneath a group of ferns, and pulls out a Picnic basket. The first thing out is a gingham tablecloth, which he places over the Mushroom table with a flourish, then two wine glasses, and a bottle of sweet zinfandel from some obscure winery in the Napa valley. Next is a large round loaf, along with a bread knife, and a carving board. He cuts out a wedge shaped piece, revealing the center already removed, and replaced with a thick stack of coldcuts, cheese, lettuce and tomato. He profers the slice along with an assortment of mustards and sandwich dressings in small crocks and bottles. "I thought you might be hungry by the time we got here."
Jade moves towards the squat mushroom and can't help but smile up at him as he seats her. A whole scene befitting the wonderland that they're in. The ends of her hair fly about as he settles the tablecloth on their gargantuan portobello of a table.
"I should have known there would be a picnic on any trip with you," she remarks as Tor hands her a wedge of bread stuffed with the makings of a grand sandwich. She slathers some grainy mustard and a bit of creamy sandwich spread from a small blue crock. While he makes up his own sandwich, she pours them each a liberal portion of the zinfandel. She sniffs it appreciatively before raising her glass towards him in a toast. "To paths yet to be explored and finding the beauty that lies beyond."
Tor raises his glass in response, and adds, "To Improbable favors, and unique experiences." The next several minutes pass in companionable silence, as they each stuff themselves with the chewy bread, and flavorful fillings. The sweet red wine is a perfect complement, and Tor reaches for the bottle to refill both of their glasses.
"The Twilight Grotto, here is actually quite close to our Clan Hall, or at least, it is /now/. On my last visit with Horatio he agreed to connect my hedge maze to the back side of the waterfall. We can get back whenever we wish, and you are welcome to return here at any time."
Jade nods, quiet for a few moments as she sips at her wine. She stares at the waterfall again, mentally counting the water smoothened rocks jutting out around the pool. Only the slightest hesitance slips through her voice as she picks at some crumbs on the table with the pads of her fingers. "I'd love to come back sometime. I'd love it even more if you were here too." She knows deep down that the wonders in this place is tied to him.
Tor chuckles and swirls his wine in his glass as he answers, "I'm quite certain that could be arranged. Perhaps we can visit the Gallery, too. Your dance there was exquisite."
Jade slowly drains her wineglass as she listens to him. She sets the glass down and smiles, it grows from a slight tilt of her lips to one that lights up her entire face as he talks about the Gallery. "That would be wonderful. I'm quite happy that you liked the dance. Some dances come about in just that way, born from a mingling of feeling and circumstance, and from having someone worth dancing for."
He nods, and they pass the remainder of the meal in pleasant conversation. Dessert is a light confection of fresh strawberries and angelfood cake mixed with whipped cream, followed by a cup of dark roasted coffee from a thermos.
Between bites of the deliciously light confection and sips of aromatic coffee, they talk. They smile. They laugh, enjoying their time together. She watches every nuance, every pull of his cheekbone when he grins and she grins back.
When Tor finally rises to his feet once more, it is with a wistful sigh. "We should probably be headed back. Half the Island is probably wondering what we've been up to." he says as he offers his hand, the table setting will be here when he comes back later.
Jade lets out a breath she'd been holding for a while. But she smiles and places her hand in his, unfolding to her full height. "I guess we should." She takes on last look around, then a lingering look at him, tucking everything away in her memory.
There is a narrow ledge leading up one bank to the waterfall, but Tor forgoes that route on this one occasion, and makes a simple gesture. A rainbow colored bridge of light springs forth from the center of the waterfall to the shore at their feet, and the falling spray parts to either side, revealing a dark opening with green hedges visible beyond.
Jade steps on the multihued bridge, mumbling "Perfect." before stepping through the curtain of water tumbling down on either side towards the hedges beyond.
Tor follows close on her heels, pausing at the top of the bridge, and looking back through the falling water as he catches up and turns her back for one last look. His expression is tender as he gazes into her eyes, "I can't promise you my Heart, Jade. It's not mine to give. But I can't withhold what you've already taken, either."
Jade lifts her chin up, her eyes meeting his. Her breath catches in her throat when she sees the tenderness clearly reflected in them. Her voice when it comes out is low but steady. "I know that. But how I feel towards you isn't something that I chose. It just is."
Tor pulls her close, and kisses her softly. It's all he has to offer, but he can give her that much.
Jade lingers in his arms, returning his kiss with one born of all the emotions she has for him. Time is measured in the length of heartbeats. She pulls away first with a soft sigh. She touches his face once more, gently, before turning around and striding out of his ethereal cave, her chin held high.
[05/09 08:47pm] <DICE> Enigmatic Jade XXIV walks out of the hedgemaze accompanied by Tor. She smiles at him one last time right where the hedges stop. Barefoot, she quietly slips out of clan halls.
[05/09 10:38pm] <DICE> Questor Tor NaGoth smiles with a wistful expression as she goes, then turns and heads back into the maze.