A talk with the queen (Sins of the Father II)

Summary:
November 1, 2014: Lorna meets her long-lost sister, Zala. It happens she is not the crazier of the pair.

The Savage Land

Ancient Atlantean weather-control tower in the middle of the Great Swamp


Characters

NPCs

  • Zaladane
  • Gaza

Mood Music:


Flying mounted in giant winged beast that is halfway between a reptile and a bird is certainly different to what Lorna would be used. Fortunately in about twenty minutes the riders reach the place Gaza said was the 'Ancient Tower'. This is an interesting building to say the least.

It is a cylinder of stone about forty feet tall and equally broad set on a small hill. It seems to be made of granite blocks, finely crafted and neatly placed without mortar of any kind. Around this building there is a wooden palisade, obviously. But on one side, there is a breach on the stone and the truth of the tower is revealed. The 'granite is just about two inches deep, and the metal underneath is high grade steel alloy. It wasn't made with the medieval technology of the Swamp Men. In fact, it is doubtful modern technology is up to the task.

The flying beasts land within the palisade, but keep well at bay of the tower itself. The Swamp Men seem equally unwilling to come close, all except Gaza, who leads Polaris to the breach. Guarding the hole in the structure there are a pair of armored spearmen. They stand taller than the Swamp men, the bronze armors polished to shine almost like gold. Before Lorna gets there, they straighten and hit the stone floor with the spears in salute. Not for Lorna or Gaza, but for the brunette woman in a blue tunic that appears between them.

Zala looks pretty much like the picture Lorna got from her. Long, curly dark hair, dark blue eyes and a proud, serious expression in her face. She is also wearing gold jewelry that must be worth a fortune. Crown jewels, probably.

People have told Lorna she should be open to new experiences, however she's fairly sure that none of them have experienced air travel by reptile. It doesn't feel the least bit safe and secure, and Lorna's only comfort comes in the fact that she knows she can catch herself if she happens to fall off. The view from the reptile's back doesn't do much to lift Lorna's spirits. Sure, it's impressive enough, but there's no sign of much civilization, and with it, no obvious way out of… wherever the hell she is. And there's no sign of the Blackbird either. While that's better than a smoking crater and a load of black debris, it's still something she has to worry about.

As soon as they near the 'Ancient Tower', Lorna knows it's anything BUT ancient - in terms of how it's constructed, at least. She can feel the presence of the metal long before she sees it, and if her pilot notices the quiet smile that's suddenly gracing her lips, Lorna doesn't volunteer an explanation.

As they arrive within the fortifications, Lorna has a stronger feeling than ever that she's walking into the lion's den. She doesn't miss the guard-types snapping to attention, and she has a feeling who she's about to see next… and she's proven right only a moment later. Lorna has to hide a grimace as she gets her first look at Zala in the flesh. The other woman is regal and poised, and Lorna is covered in half the swamp. It shouldn't be a hugely important point, given everything else that's happened today, but somehow… it is. "Hello Zala." Lorna offers, remembering Gaza's warning, and appreciating the respect shown by the guards, but still unable to stretch to 'your majesty'. "The trip was rough, but I guess I made it." It's the other woman's move now.

Zala looks at Lorna for a few instant, and then smiles faintly. “Lorna, welcome. I have waited for years to meet you… oh, I am sorry you had a difficult trip. It is not easy to reach this land. I should have warned you… but you needed to be tested.”

Her English is better than Gaza’s, but the strange accent is still there. “Please, come inside. There is much you should know.” She gestures Lorna to step into the tower, and when she does she can feel the magnetic field of the other woman. Very much like her own.

Lorna notes the pause before Zala replies, and somehow she doesn't think it's because the other woman is surprised to see her. She seems far too in control to be fazed by Lorna's arrival, even if it really was unexpected. Lorna doesn't look away, waiting until Zala smiles and breaks the tension. She cocks her head to one side, curious, at Zala's choice of words. Tested, indeed. "Did I pass?" Lorna asks, as casually as she can. "And if I did, do I win a shower? I'm going to be tracking swamp all over your tower if not." She's determinedly trying to keep things light until she figures out what's going on. An impossible tower in an impossible land, and an impossible sister on top of it all.

Despite all her unasked questions, Lorna nods in agreement and follows Zala inside as she's bidden, glancing sharply at her as she gets a good 'read' on her with her magnetic senses. "Tell me about it." She says quietly, then puts on a brighter tone. "Maybe you should start at the beginning, because it sounds like you've got all the answers."

Zala glances back at Lorna as if realizing now how much mud she has on her. “Of course. I have been waiting for so long I got impatient. I can wait a little longer, I will prepare some food while I wait. You must be hungry.” Inside the tower there is a strange blend of alien technology and dark ages decor. There are lights, but they are not electric, and half are missing. Powerful machines hmm and rumble, but they are deep underground, hundreds of feet.

The tower, it seems, is the tip of a cylinder that is over a hundred yards long. Zala takes Lorna to what seems an area that has been arranged for living quarters, the walls covered with tapestries and furniture. A small chamber works as bathroom, someone even installed copper plumbing. The system is not very advanced, though, and no hot water.

Lorna gets the distinct impression that Zala considers granting her request to be something of an imposition, as if she's not used to being denied, even for a few minutes… which given the jewels and the army that apparently serves her, probably isn't far from the truth. Lorna's becoming very much aware that she's in a long way over her head. "Thank you." She says with a nod. "That's very kind."

As Lorna follows Zala through the tower, she reaches out with her magnetic senses, trying to get a feel for the size - which is considerable - and layout of the tower, as well as any clue from the shape, or from whatever electromagnetic fields the machinery might be putting out, exactly what the tower /is/. Because it's clearly not the medieval-style keep that it's being used as.

In truth, Lorna's grateful to have the bathroom to herself, if only for a few minutes, just for a chance to think. Unfortunately, playing along is still the best idea that she can come up with. The lack of hot water isn't a deal-breaker - she's been on plenty of very basic camping trips during her studies, so she gratefully peels her costume off and gets herself as clean as she possibly can in the shortest possible time, before washing the swamp off her costume as best she can. She's tempted to put it back on, but since replacement clothes are on offer, she decides it's better not to offend. Tying her still-damp hair back, she slips into a tunic that's a much plainer relative of the one Zala's wearing. She smirks a bit that it, and the slippers she found with it, fit her perfectly. "OK. Can't hide in here forever." She tells herself quietly, but sternly, and walks back out into the living area. "Much better. Thank you."

Zala is waiting in the room ahead, at the head of a wooden table. There is some cold food on dishes and glass jars with water and what must be wine. Cutlery seems definitely middle-ages.

"You are welcome, sister. Please, sit down." Offers the brunette. "I imagine you must be wondering about this place. It is Atlantean, from the times Atlantis was a surface kingdom. About twenty thousand years ago. The technology to keep this land warm and full of live is truly ancient, and yet still functional."

Lorna has to wonder, as she takes in the sight of the food and drink, whether Zala prepared it herself, or whether she missed the servants being shooed out while she was washing. Lorna knows better than to ask, that's for sure. Lorna does as she's bidden and sits down, tucking her feet under her chair and crossing her ankles as if she's quite comfortable with the entire situation. Her eyes, however, don't leave Zala. "You could say that." Lorna acknowledges, waving a hand to take in the tower, rather than the chamber. "It's… honestly, NONE of this is what I was expecting." She thinks that over for a moment. "Not that I had any idea WHAT to expect, if I'm honest." She listens to the explanation, not letting her expression betray any disbelief she might be feeling. "That's… something else." She says. "Who maintains it?" She asks, without thinking, since people who haven't mastered hot water clearly aren't doing so, but she shakes her head to cover her slip. "Never mind, I have a million questions, but all of them start with you." She tries a disarming smile. "How did you end up here?" She asks, reaching out to pick up a glass and take a sip.

“I was chosen before birth,” replies Zala. “Some… factions, including the Sun City priesthood, keep some faint contacts with the outside world. When I was born, an agent was dispatched to retrieve me and to make people forget my existence. As you might suspect, the agent was not familiar with the outside world technology, so he left evidence, some… er, paper trail? Is that the right expression?”

Well, despite her attempts to keep a neutral, politely interested and non-judgmental expression, Zala's first words cause Lorna's eyebrows to make for her hairline and she nearly chokes on her water. Getting control of herself, she asks, only faintly incredulous, "Chosen before birth? OK, just so you know, that's something else I wasn't expecting." Lorna's eyes narrow a bit, and she shrugs. "OK, I have to ask. Why you and not me?" She's not sure she's buying ANY of this, but… she feels oddly slighted. Almost forgetting, she adds a quick nod. "Paper trail is right." She confirms, looking at Zala over the rim of her glass as she takes another sip. The right phrase, but… Lorna knows from her own digging that that 'paper trail' isn't all that it seems.

"Perhaps because I have talent for the Art, and you do not," replies Zala, again with that faint smile. "But you have other valuable talents inherited from our father. You wouldn't have made a good priestess, sister, but I believe you would make a good queen yourself. You have true power. Tell me, would you like to rule?"

Lorna's quite aware that she hasn't asked any of the most pressing questions that she has, but something tells her it's wiser to let Zala control the conversation for a little while yet… even if everything she says just adds more questions to Lorna's list. "The Art?" Lorna asks with a faint frown of puzzlement. She heard the emphasis on that 'A'. That question, though, is quickly replaced in importance by what Zala says next. "Our father? I don't know what these priesthood guys told you, but my father was Arnold Dane. And as far as I know…" Lorna smiles. "He didn't have green hair. Or any other talents that were particularly out of the ordinary." Lorna smiles a little more broadly, and shakes her head. "And I've never been much interested in ruling people."

“Sorcery, sister,” explains Zala. “The sun priests that server Garokk need talent in the Art to fulfill the role. It is uncommon to seek… wait. You truly do not know?” Zala chuckles. She seems to enjoy to surprise Lorna, but apparently she didn’t expect this part to be a surprise.

“I know no Arnoldane,” says the dark-haired woman. “I know our true father is a man of great power. His true name I don’t know, but I know he calls himself Magneto, and he is rightfully feared in the outer world. You have his powers, sister! So great he was the Swamp Men thought he was a god when he came here. To this very tower. He was the one that gave Gaza and many others his powers.”

Sorcery? Well, Lorna's seen a lot. She's not going to dismiss that entirely out of hand, but… she knows a lot of so-called magicians are nothing more than ordinary men and women with a gift for hoodwinking their audience at best, and at worst… well, a lot of cults have come to bad ends. But still, she'll worry about where Zala fits on that scale later, if she gets the chance. Right now that chuckle has her nerves suddenly on edge. "Don't know /what/?" She asks, suspiciously…

But when the answer's given, it's Lorna's turn to laugh. "Magneto? Seriously? Like I haven't heard THAT one before." Lorna shakes her head. "Sorry, Zala. Magneto's not my father. He /might/ be the swamp men's God, I'll give you that much, but people have been trying to either worship me or murder me for being the Second Coming of Magneto all my life." Lorna snorts. "Unless you can show me a picture of him as a young man with green hair, I'm not buying it." And I might not even then, she doesn't add aloud.

Zala frowns faintly, then sips some wine. “There are genetic testing, right? Have you ever bothered? I did.” She sighs and stands. “Lorna, you are my sister. I never had family, and so I think I wanted you to be like me. We could have shared so much…” the woman shakes her head. “But you are not. Perhaps you will change in time. For now I have need of your powers. Garokk needs your powers. And… I am sorry.” She wrinkles her nose, as if bothered by being ‘sorry’. She might be unfamiliar with the concept of being sorry.

Lorna moves to stand as soon as Zala does. She felt the shift in the conversation and knows that thinks are coming to a head. She ignores the question of genetic testing. She knows who her father is… doesn't she? She's been an X-Man for long enough that, if this were true, she can't imagine that the Professor wouldn't have known. And he'd have told her… wouldn't he?

She pushes the questions away, even as she keeps the table between herself and Zala. "So am I." She replies. "Because you're right, I'm NOT like you, and I DO have powers, and you - and Garokk - can't have them. Do the sensible thing, Zala - don't try to stop me leaving."

“Ah, I already did it,” she moves to the table and picks up the half-full water jar Lorna was using, “I poisoned you. A simple illusion made it tasteless. I doubt you can use your powers right now, and you will faint in a few minutes.” She smiles humorlessly. “But I won’t let you die, so do not worry about it. You might be feeling weak already, but you still have time for some more questions, if you are curious.”

The oldest trick in the book, and she fell for it - or did she? Is this another mind-game of Zala's, like telling her that Magneto's her father? Lorna's eyes, having widened in surprise, narrow again. There's only one way to find out. She tries to reach out with her powers, and feels, for a moment, nothing at all. Adrenaline, and, if she's honest, fear, surge through her, and she tries to fight her way past the foggy dullness that seems to meet any attempt to call on her powers. For a moment, she manages to focus past the effects of the drug - and all the cutlery on the table is suddenly forming an inward-pointing ring of steel at Zala's throat. "I've got a better… idea…" Lorna suddenly sways, and the metal implements first wobble in mid-air, and then clatter to the floor. The fear, and the effort, all of it made her heart beat faster, pumped the poison around her body that much quicker, and now it has her in it's grip. "What… why… my powers… what are you going to do?" Lorna doesn't get to hear any reply that might be coming, for the darkness swallows her up, and she crumples to the floor.

Those knives never come close to Zala, she raises her own magnetic field to keep them at bay. Lorna can sense her gathering power, but since her own strength fail, the other woman lets it go.

But she definitely has the same magnetic powers. Why does she need Lorna?

"I am going to do Garokk's will and fulfill my destiny," she moves to help Lorna up and back to her chair. "We will shatter the world, sister. And then we will rule it. My lord Garokk and me."

(emits by Magneto)


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