The Yaksha II
You take some time to ponder over the woman’s question for you – you can’t shake off the fact you have no idea what the heck she means exactly, although you hazard a guess that her ‘true self’ might end up looking completely inhuman. You don’t know, but, despite everything running through your head, you suck in a slow breath and choose…
“I… I’m fine with you being your true self,” you reply; it feels like the most proper response to give in the moment. “I’m guessing, um, that it isn’t… very human-like?”
The woman chuckles again and finally turns to face the three of you. At the moment, she does indeed look human – her facial features are no different from your own, and her clothing isn’t anything out of the ordinary, either. She’s wearing a sleeveless top and, interestingly, knee-length pants, yet no socks or shoes, leaving her feet bared.
“In a manner of speaking, yes,” she replies, and she smiles.
It’s not an unkind smile, nor does it come across as deceptive or threatening to you at a glance. But there is something about the way she smiles that makes a chill shoot up your spine, even if you don’t know why – you can better understand why this being makes Fia and Moirine unsettled, because just seeing her smile unsettles YOU, too.
“This,” she continues, gesturing to her body, “is the form I typically assume when I speak with humans that wander into this Shard.” She takes a few slow steps toward the three of you, her eyes remaining fixed on you. “Despite how it might seem, and despite what your selkie companions have said, I at least make an effort to be as approachable as is ‘humanly’ possible.” She stops and looks from you to Fia, then to Moirine, and nods. “My siblings, on the other hand, are admittedly more prone to purposefully taking on physical traits that often unnerve most humans, like animalistic eyes, for example.”
She shrugs after a beat. “They find it amusing. And, they like to ‘test’ the mortals that come here, to see how strong their mettle is. I don’t quite comprehend why, but, that’s neither here nor there.” She returns her gaze to you. “You don’t need to be afraid, pup.” She glances to your two companions. “None of you need to fear me, truly. I may cast an aura that leaves you nervous and unnerved, yet I have no ill intentions for any of you.”
None of you respond to the yaksha. You’re not entirely sure how to respond, anyways.
“Now, since you’re curious about my true appearance…” the yaksha says.
Without another word, her appearance suddenly changes, without any flashes of sparks or glowing energies or anything fancy; it’s instantaneous – her skin darkens into a vibrant shade of purple, while her hair brightens until it’s bone-white. In fact, her short, spiky hair seems to spring to life as the spikes at the ends begin to move to and fro, almost like her hair has transformed into white flames. The sclera of her eyes turn black, while her irises change to yellow, yet more shockingly to you, you blink and see that somehow she’s gained an additional iris and pupil in the same eye, only the second ones are smaller, meaning she now essentially has four eyes… but not four eyeballs.
Those aren’t the only physical traits that alter, either: her body grows slightly taller, and her neck and limbs all grow longer – it’s not that she suddenly towers over all three of you in her presence, but even so, it’s obvious that she’s bigger than she was mere moments before. And, you notice that what parts of her body are showing also gain what look like white vein-like patterns that emit a faint glow. You see them on her neck and collarbones, and they extend down to her fingertips and to the tips of her toes, too.
“Much better,” the yaksha says after the ‘transformation’ seemingly ends. “Pretending to be a human is an intriguing experience, I’ll say, but I do prefer my natural state more.”
You stare at this inhuman being looming in front of you, soaking in her ‘true’ appearance. You notice her eyebrows are gone, leaving only a small white dot above each eye that seems to glow like her fire-like hair, and you also realize her ears have extended downwards in sharp tips, like the opposite of elf ears in most fantasy things.
Holy shit… you think.
She isn’t fully ‘monstrous’ like you’d half-expected, but, there’s no denying the fact her appearance is vastly different from what she looked like barely even a minute ago.
“By the way,” the yaksha says. “Since I know your names already, I feel it’s only fair I give you a name. You may call me Rixia.” She bows her head, her smile never fading as she gazes at all three of you. “And before you ask… That is my genuine name and identity.” Her smile curls up into a smirk. “It is not the closest thing to a name because my language is incomprehensible to mortal ears and tongues, unlike some beings.”
You don’t speak still, though you do spare a brief glance at the two selkie.
Fia looks mildly unnerved with her lips pursed, yet her expression otherwise makes you feel like she’s seen this yaksha, Rixia, in her true form in the past, or maybe she’s seen one of the others – you feel this because she doesn’t appear surprised. Moirine, on the other hand, isn’t as uneasy as she was previously. Instead, she looks surprised similar to how you’re feeling, but there’s something else in her eyes that you can’t quite place.
“Thank you for the kind thoughts, Moirine,” Rixia says. “I am honored you feel that way.”
You blink a few times. Moirine says nothing, although she snaps out of her stare.
Rixia chortles. “At any rate, now that I am more comfortable,” her smirk returns to its previous friendly smile, “I summoned you here to speak with you regarding what you’ve learned from Maazi, the djinn. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that I am well-aware of what’s been going on, as are my siblings. We know, in essence, almost everything that Maazi has been up to, and that includes the identity and precise location of his Master.”
“Are… Are you telling us this because you’re willing to help us?” Moirine asks.
Rixia’s eyes seem to gleam as she responds. “I am, yes. I am quite willing to lend you aid in the form of filling in the blank pieces to this puzzle you’ve stumbled across.”
You swallow the lump in your throat. Something about her words, even though they ring as sincere, worry you – you’re not entirely sure why, however. It could just be the general unease her presence has, or it could be something else entirely; it sticks out to you and the feeling clings to your mind regardless, leaving you quiet and unsure.
“What’s the catch, though?” Fia asks after a breath. “No disrespect, but,” she folds her arms, “you didn’t seem too interested in doing much about the djinn himself when I spoke to you earlier. So, it makes me think there’s another part of your statement.”
Rixia’s smile widens. “Perceptive, and true, actually. I’m unsurprised a selkie would catch on, however – your kind is far wiser than most like the djinn tend to assume.” She chuckles. “But yes, there is a ‘catch,’ in that I have a request to make. Any of you may complete this request for me,” she waves a hand at all three of you, “so you needn’t worry there. Regardless, I desire aid with something in exchange for information.”
You and Moirine share a brief look once more. Her lips are pursed, and you get the feeling she likely expected a catch – you wonder if that was what you were feeling, too.
“What is it you want?” Moirine asks.
“My favor is simple, really,” Rixia replies, “I want you to find and speak to someone on my behalf, to ask them to come here to this Shard directly. Nothing more, nothing less.”
You furrow your brow. “…wait, but… then why can’t you…?”
Moirine nudges your arm before you finish.
Rixia, however, chuckles again. “No, no, it’s a valid question to ask, especially when you consider what I truly am.” She meets your gaze, her expression unfazed. “I could venture out to find this individual, that’s true. However, despite what it may appear like to your eyes, I am one-third of the party responsible for running this shop, and in maintaining authority over this Shard, pup.” Her features fall, surprisingly, as a flash of sadness plays in her eyes. “It is far more difficult than it seems, I promise you all.”
She sighs. “Be that as it may… Are you willing to do this favor for me? I understand if you decide not to,” she smiles again, nodding, “yet it would be greatly appreciated if you did. And yes, if you three all agree to accept my request,” she winks, “I’ll expand on it rather than continue being overly vague. I’m not as fond of vagueness as my kin are.”
She grows silent after, and now, you look to Moirine and Fia. What do you do?
Written by Hollowpages on 25 February 2022
The end (for now)