Confessions of a Herbalist
The Judge bade her sat down, and she did with no small amount of shaking. Perhaps the thing most noticeable about her was her hands; the long and slender fingers were peppered with a rainbow of colours. Deep blues and purples were the most numerous, along with streaks of green and brown. The unmistakable hands of a herbalist, marked by leaf and root and berry.
'Now, my child,' said the Judge as he took his own seat behind the desk. 'Tell me how you have sinned.'
The herbalist flinched, and stared for a moment into the distance as if some bright light had flickered. Following her gaze, the Judge frowned for a moment before dismissing it. This was a holy place. Perchance an angel or cherubim had fluttered in, though he had not seen it himself.
'I - I couldn't...the words, your Honour, they - I - surely not before you, could not admit...' she stammered in an unmistakable Delportian accent, though it lacked the usual poise and panache of that area.
'Of course, dear heart, I understand,' said the Judge mercifully. 'It is a credit to the purity of your soul that it is difficult to articulate your crimes. Yet we must know them, so that we can purge them from your otherwise untarnished soul.'
The young woman remained silent, staring at the inkblot patterns that berry juices had left on her palms. The Judge sighed. He had encountered situations like this before. Sometimes it was an indication that the Sin was great indeed, but at other times it was simply because they were shy. The Judge knew this young woman to be the latter, and so he decided a little gentle encouragement
'Now, I have to wonder where you fitted in time to commit these sins,' he said with a chuckle. 'After all, I understand you are barely seen at rest. Constantly scouring the Astral spheres for sparkleberry to power our armies!'
A small, rather odd sound emanated from the herbalist then. The Judge might have called it a peep, or a meep, or something similar.
'Did I say something wrong?' asked the Judge, though he was quite certain that he had not asked anything untoward.
It was at that moment that something altogether unexpected happened.
'Oh, shut up!' exclaimed the until then docile young woman, who leapt out of her seat. The Judge leant back and placed a hand on his holy symbol, a cautionary measure formed of shock more than anything else. After a moment of staring ferociously at the wall, the young woman turned and smiled placidly at the Judge. 'I'm sorry, I really am trying to pay attention. It's just that they
'They...won't stop?' asked the Judge, in a voice rather higher pitched than he had originally intended.
The herbalist sighed, and flopped back into the chair. 'It's just so addictive,' she enthused. 'I mean at first it was irritating, then after a while - it's like watching your very own play. A series of plays, even.'
'I'm sorry...what is?'
'The visions!' grinned the Herbalist, practically bouncing in her seat. 'I mean everyone calls them insanity but sometimes I think the things you see hit just a little too close to home. Or there's a pattern! There can't be a pattern in things that are chaotic, can there, and insanity is meant to be chaotic isn't it.'
'I suppose so?' said the Judge, his voice now perpetually stuck in a question and his face halfway between despair and terror.
'It all started when the Grandmaster of Discipline told me that the King was having a secret affair with the the Seneschal of Serenwilde -'
'He what??!' shrieked the Judge, forgetting himself for a moment, gripping the edge of his seat. 'I mean – that's preposterous. The King has been married for centuries.'
'Of course he has, but that's half the fun of it, isn't it? Not to mention what he's been doing with the feet of the fae. I mean I've heard of people having foot fetishes, but this is getting frankly silly.'
The Judge began to massage his temples with callused paws. This was clearly far more dire a situation than he could possibly have imagined. 'What you are saying, then, is -'
'Oh! And of course there was the time that my cousin wanted to take over the entire world by giving the Soulless Gods a jewelled needle...I never did quite work that one out. You learn to accept some of the plotlines being a bit skewiff, because the juicy ones are still so damn good!'
'I'm really not sure -'
'Come on, we need to go. Up! I'm getting sane again. I can astroglide, come on, follow me.'
Rising and standing to his full height, mane flared in warning, the Judge gave her an imperious look. 'Young lady, that is out of the question. I wish to help you, but I cannot do so -'
'...without understanding fully the maladies that affect us. Exactly! So come on. Let's go see what's going on.'
The moment of the Judge's dumbfoundedness gave the herbalist the time she needed to grab hold of his hand and begin the teleportation. Although he cried out in displeasure, they were whizzing through the aethers to the Astral plane before he could do anything about it. When they appeared the herbalist took out several of the creatures instantly. The Judge paused for a moment before assisting her, moving quickly around so that their blows would carry one to the other, never losing their rage.
'Now?' he asked, once all were dead and they were left wandering the sphere.
'Now we wait,' said the herbalist, turning to him with a grin and plucking one of the shiny iridescent berries from a nearby bush. Popping it into her mouth, she sat down next to the aslaran with a thud. 'Just watch and wait.'
As she continued to pluck the berries and pass them into the rift, the Judge sighed. Sitting down next to her, he ran a paw over his forehead and began to watch, just like she said. It took some time before he noticed anything, and when he did it was a vial that might have looked innocuous were it not dancing what resembled a jig (it was difficult to tell when the dancer in question had no legs). The Judge was mentally going over the many ways in which it would be appropriate to deal with this. Seeking a Healer was certainly high up on the list, but that was a short-term measure, and this seemed to be a much deeper issue than could be solved by a single curing. The greatest issue was that most of the solutions that came to his mind prevented the woman from following her craft, and she had clearly put a great deal of time into it.
Finally he had resolved himself that the situation required decisive action. The Judge heaved a last sigh and raised his head.
'Wait...is that...did you hear?' he asked suddenly, his ears perking up.
A small, understanding smile crossed the herbalist's face. 'Oh yes.'
'...with him?' continued the Judge quietly, a tiny and impish grin pinching at the corners of his lips.
'Very much so.'
Spearing a sparkleberry on one claw, the Judge tilted his head and began to consider the situation anew. Somehow, up here in the Astral winds, everything seemed to make so much more sense. It had been easy to dismiss the visions as just that, but now that he sat and watched and heard them play out in front of him...
Turning to the herbalist, the Judge gave her a look full of clarity and understanding. As the next part of the neverending story sounded in their ears, he couldn't help but exclaim.