For a long moment, no one speaks or moves. You feel a sense of unease not unlike what Fia described to you not long ago, yet this one is more prominent, and it’s partly because you’re feeding off the two selkie’s unease, too. This must be a huge deal.
Still, while they seem uncertain, you cast your gaze to the shop once more.
“I… I think we should see what they want to say,” you remark eventually. You rub the back of your neck. “I know I don’t understand the yaksha at all, so I could be wrong, but, if they’re willing to help, maybe they can fill in the blanks for what we don’t know yet?”
“…maybe,” Fia replies. “Or maybe it could be a game to them, and we’re the pieces.”
Moirine sucks in a breath. “The pup has a point, Fia. To borrow a human phrase… nothing ventured, nothing gained, especially since we could use all the help possible.” She puts her hand on Fia’s shoulder. “Besides, they did let us use their shop to deal with the djinn. And you said yourself you were certain one of them made it so you two wouldn’t make a sound while you waited to appear in front of Maazi, aye?”
Fia gives a quiet nod. “True as that may be, it doesn’t change things. You know how the yaksha are, Moirine. They say one thing, think another thing, and mean a third, and you can scarcely be completely certain of which of those is genuine, if any of ‘em are.”
Moirine regards you then. “Just… be prepared when we go in there, pup. Dealing with a yaksha isn’t going to be like dealing with me or Fia or the Seamother, nor will it be like trying to speak to Maazi. You’re new to this world still, and I’m afraid nothing you’ve ever experienced has prepared you for how… unpredictable the yaksha can be.”
“I’ll do my best,” you say. There isn’t much else you can say.
Without another word, Moirine begins to walk back toward the shop, and you follow her. Fia walks behind you, this time – and you wonder what you’re getting yourself into now.
You don’t know what to expect since you’ve never heard of a yaksha before today, but you’re not about to ignore the comments made by Fia or Moirine; you steel yourself to the best of your ability, and you simply hope that this ends up being helpful for you all.
When you step back into the shop, you notice right away that the layout has changed; there isn’t an entryway that leads to a large room to your left as there had been previously – all there is currently is a single hallway that leads to a single door. You gawk at the sudden change, and even though Fia told you the yaksha could change the shop’s design to their liking, seeing it like this still comes across as a surprise to you.
It doesn’t take long for the three of you to reach the door at the end of the hall. Moirine hesitates as she reaches for the doorknob, but she grasps and turns it to open the door.
The door leads to another room of decent size, and to the right and left are long tables with a variety of different things like vases, pots, sculptures, and other miscellaneous knickknacks – there are different sized vials that seem to hold liquid in them, some of which you swear are glowing, and you even spot things like boots and gloves, oddly enough. But your focus shifts to the lone individual in the room, looming at the back.
At first glance, the woman standing further off from the three of you doesn’t strike you as inhuman in any form, although she has her back to you currently – you see that she has light-brown hair that appears to be cut rather short, and she’s wearing casual clothes that aren’t so different from the attire you and Moirine and Fia are wearing.
Still, you don’t jump to conclusions; you watch her as you stop behind Moirine.
The woman appears to be moving some items around on another table. She doesn’t look at you as she speaks, though her voice cuts through the silence in the room.
“Ah…” the woman says. “You’ve come in, I see.”
Her voice is calm and a little low in its pitch, but the tone isn’t unkind. She doesn’t sound bored or cold or aloof, either, and she speaks with… an accent. You don’t know what sort of accent it is, yet it’s definitely distinctive to your ears, even if you can’t place it.
“Aye, Miss,” Moirine replies. “We, er… We could use any aid you can provide us.”
“I noticed,” the woman replies. “I could hear the gears grinding away at your minds from where I stand, without needing to listen to your internal voices.” She chuckles. “I must admit… I’m a bit surprised you decided to swallow your collective fear of me given how potent it is. I half-expected you three to assume the worst and flee back to the ocean.”
You don’t say anything. You just look to Moirine.
Moirine licks her lips, likely because they’re dry. “F… forgive us for that, but…”
“No need for that,” the woman says, and she waves a pale hand about. “I am well-accustomed to many feeling such things of me – all three of us are.” She chuckles again. “Some days, it amuses me, truly. The thought that beings older than centuries could be reduced to little more than human children in our presence, frozen in place knowing what we’re capable of…” She shrugs. “Other days, though, it saddens me.”
She still hasn’t turned around yet. She seems busy arranging what’s on the table.
You don’t speak, as you feel it would be wrong to in this instance. You’d rather let Moirine and Fia be the ones to talk, at least until you believe that you’re comfortable in voicing something – there’s a definite sensation in the air around you that tells you it’s better to be extra polite in this instant, and you aren’t about to ignore that, no way.
“What is it you wanted to tell us?” Fia asks.
“Mm,” the woman says, and she chuckles rather than answer Fia right away. “Before we begin, I have a question for the young pup standing there, actually.” She turns her head the tiniest bit, as if to show you that she’s indicating you. “Tell me, human… Do you prefer to speak to me in a form more suitable for humans, as I am currently?” She pauses. “Or would you mind if I assume a form closer to that of my true self, hm?”
Your throat goes dry. Her… her true self?
You have no idea what a yaksha would look like, truth be told. From what you’ve gathered, they are similar to the djinn, but even so, you don’t have any djinn to think of other than Maazi. Whether or not Maazi’s appearance is how the djinn appear or not, you aren’t certain, though, which only means you have nothing to work with for this.
You blink a few times and glance at Moirine.
Moirine seems uncertain, however, and going off the expression on her face, you can tell that she’s obviously leery of the strange woman standing across from you.
“Don’t seek the selkie for advice,” the woman says. “This is not for them to decide, dear human – I have asked you, and you alone, and so I want the choice to come from you.” She chuckles again. “If it helps, I promise that whichever option you choose has no bearing on my mood, or on what I plan to say. I would simply like to know the answer.”
You grimace, but, you feel Moirine’s hand on your shoulder. She gives your shoulder a light squeeze and a look of encouragement; you can tell she’s mustering it for your sake despite the fact she seems wary of the yaksha’s question, yet you still appreciate it.
What do you want to do in response to her question: do you tell the yaksha that you’d prefer she stay in the human form she appears to be in? Or do you tell her you’re fine with her assuming what she says to be close to her ‘true’ form, whatever that may be?
You don’t know if your answer will change anything. She could do the opposite of what you say, after all, or she could easily do what she wants regardless since, well, this IS her Shard and her shop and there’s nothing you can do to stop her from it. Either way…
Written by Hollowpages on 24 February 2022