30 November 2004
The court of Iravati wanted absolutely everything. There were scribes working around the clock, between the process of translation and transcription. My notes were in German, and they wanted the end result to be their own local language as well as having a copy in the original German just in case; sadly, I was the only person present who would read German. So I would sit for hours each day, providing a shared Enochian translation of my notes, which they would then use to make their own translation. In the process, they would ask me for more information or clarification or personal experiences, and I would relate as much as I could. As my guide, Akshainie was required to be present for every word, and while the content seemed occasionally interesting to her, the activity itself was obviously wearing on her nerves.
When we were not doing that, however, all of her pent up energy needed to be spent. She gave me an exhaustive tour of Iravati, a lavish realm of gardens and flowing water and long, winding paths. I met almost every naga she knew, and her family had much to say and no desire to translate it for me. We would spend time each day sparring, as she taught me bits of her own fighting style and I taught her some of mine. Aside from the education, the discussion was always the same: she wanted to know absolutely everything I had experienced in my confrontations with the cult, especially the Barzai, and she was eager to tell me how the cult members she faced tried to stand against her. Then we would usually end up in a garden somewhere, laying in the cool grass and watching the sky, eating fruit unseen by mortal eyes for hundreds of generations, usually in silence. She asked, once, what it was like where I was from. By the end of trying to describe southern West Germany, she said she would like to see it someday, but in a manner that suggested the conversation was over. Some days later, she asked where I was really from; I told her I never lived there, at least not long enough to remember it, and we never spoke of my origins again.
I learned that time passed differently in Iravati, at the whim of the Great Naga, and that we had done months of work in the span of a couple weeks in the world of man. When I was finally called back before the Queen, the work of translating into Enochian was complete, and the scribes had made some significant progress in translating it from there. The Queen was given a brief, in Enochian, of all we had discussed.
"You provide a compelling case," she announced, as Akshainie and I stood in the center of her chamber. "Your descriptions of this Barzai are most concerning. And your role in creating him, no less so."
"It is a matter of some disturbance for me, as well," I replied.
"So it seems. Akshainie has testified to me already of your sincerity in this mission, and I see no alternative to such a threat but to offer the support of Iravati in your work."
"Thank you, your majesty. Might I ask what the nature of this support would be?"
"We will provide any information we gather on this Brood of Nachash, I have sent messengers to the waters of the world toward this end. More relevant to your own experiences, however, I have decided to task Akshainie with joining your quest." Akshainie tensed and straightened up. I glanced over and could see the surprise and a million questions forming behind her eyes, but she maintained her composure.
"If that is your wish, my queen," she answered.
"It is. Prepare for your journey, Akshainie. You are both to depart as soon as you are able." We both nodded and were escorted out of the room. Akshainie was silent, but visibly upset, as we made our way back to her chambers. I decided it was best not to press just yet. It was the work of an hour for her to gather her supplies and some food for the road, speak with her family, and take on a human appearance. As we made our way to the gate of the river, she finally turned her attention to me.
"Will I need to wear a human guise all the time?" she asked.
"Not all the time. But a lot of it," I answered.
"It is bothersome. These legs are impractical! How do you tolerate them?"
"I suppose I've never thought about it."
"It is going to be a great deal of effort to look human so often."
"You get used to it," I said, as the gate opened before us and the sunlight hit us.
"What is that supposed to mean?" I picked up my bag and walked forward.
"Come on, we have work to do."
"Benedict!" she yelled, grabbing her own bag. "You tell me what that means!"
"Are you coming?" She groaned and ran to me, tripping on a stone near the edge of the river. I caught her, and helped her back to her feet.
"Very impractical," she muttered, as we set off.
12 november 2004
As the first rays of daylight hit the water of the Ravi north of Lahore, Benedict waited on the south shore, watching the water. He carried his bag, filled with his notes and evidence, and was silently working out the most efficient way to hit the major points. The moment the light reached Benedict, the water before him began to churn. He took a deep breath and watched as the water began to swirl, then rise, until it formed an arched pathway that led down into a brightly-lit chamber. Two naga rushed to the doorway, pointing long spears at Benedict. One looked him over, then sneered.
"State your business, English," he said in a strong accent. Benedict raised his hands slowly.
"I have come by invitation, to discuss a shared enemy," Benedict replied. That guard spoke quickly to the other, in another language, and the other rushed back down the path. The two remaining men stood silent for a few minutes, before that guard returned and passed a message along. The first guard grumbled, then lowered his spear and waved for Benedict to step forward.
The river closed behind them and Benedict found himself in a large chamber that appeared to be constructed of clay bricks, painted with a limited but vibrant palate. He knew from the sense of the air that they were no longer in the physical realm, but very close to it. He was led down a long hall, with doorways dotting the walls. Various naga were bustling about, or peeking out of doorways, but all avoided him. The doors at the end of the hall were opened, and Benedict was led into a massive circular chamber. It had no visible ceiling, the walls just appeared to stretch up and support the night sky itself. It was full of stars, the Milky Way visible in extreme detail, stars completely invisible to the unaided human eye burning bright and shifting clouds of interstellar gas dispersing their light into the whole room.
Opposite the door was a throne, housing the Great Naga. There were two feminine humanoid forms emerging from a single serpentine body, which was itself at least twenty feet thick and circled the entire room multiple times. Benedict walked through a stone archway that lifted the coils up and allowed entrance to the room, and glanced up at the large scales as he passed. Every color seemed to shimmer from them, shifting as they caught the light in different ways, casting spots of color all around the room that moved in response to the restless body. An assortment of courtesans and servants were scattered through the chamber, some rushing on some task or another, others lounging and discussing some matter or another. Benedict was directed to the center of the room, where he stood silently and waited as the Great Naga continued whatever business they were doing when he arrived. Finally, another naga slid forward.
"Welcome to Iravati, Flameborn," he announced, in Enochian. "The Queen of Heaven will now hear you!" Benedict visibly flinched at the title, but straightened up and looked between the two large faces now fixed on him.
"I thank you for the welcome," he called out, using the same language and offering a shallow bow. "I am here on business concerning the Brood of Nachash, who have been active in your domain." The room fell silent and all eyes turned to him. One half of the Queen raised their hand to their chin, as if considering his words, while the other crossed their arms and glared at him.
"And what do you know of them?" they asked.
"I have been actively opposing them for nearly 30 years. I first encountered them on the other side of the world, in the United States, but have since been given reason to believe they do not originate there. Or, for that matter, here." The room erupted into shouts of surprise or arguments among bystanders, but neither Benedict nor the Great Naga averted their gaze to acknowledge it. After a minute of that, the contemplative half raised their hand and the room fell silent again.
"Call for Akshainie," they said to the page, who nodded and rushed out of the chamber. "And what is your name, again?"
"Father Benedict de Monte."
"'Father' is your title, I presume?" Benedict nodded. "Very well. Father, there has been speculation that this cult was an external force attempting to access Iravati, though we have not had solid evidence to support this idea until you arrived. Do you bring us anything of more consequence than a passing observation?"
"I do," he answered, offering his bag. "You will find here my collected notes on the Brood, details of my encounters with them, and the evidence I've collected of their ongoing activities." Another page came forward and accepted the bag, and just as he turned to carry it back Benedict said, "mind that I will need that back. With or without your input on the matter, I must resume hunting them when I leave this place." The Great Naga nodded, and Benedict turned to look when he heard another door open. Akshainie and the first page entered, and she slithered past the crowd to stand beside Benedict.
"You came at dawn. Truly a man of your word," she whispered, as they watched the second page take the bag to the side of the throne and begin talking to some scribes. The Great Naga was watching the page and scribes.
"I am a man of oath, Akshainie," he whispered back. "If I cannot keep my word about a simple meeting, how could I ever keep that oath?"
"What is this oath?"
"These records will take some time to review," the Great Naga announced. "Father, if it is not too much trouble, we would like to offer you accommodations here in Iravati as we process them." Akshainie raised an eyebrow and glanced over to him.
"Father?" she asked, still as a whisper. He smirked but did not look away from the throne.
"If it pleases you, O Queen, I would offer my services in compiling the information during my stay."
"It does. When you are not so occupied, I want you to spend time with Akshainie. She is our resident expert on this cult, perhaps you each may have some information and training that will benefit the other."
"As you wish, my queen," Akshainie replied with a bow.
"I will try not to impose," Benedict said.
"You are both dismissed. Akshainie, show him to some quarters. You will serve as his escort as long as he is within our realm." Both Akshainie and Benedict gave a bow, then headed for the door.
Evidence compiled for use during the trial of Father Benedict de Monte.