🎨
Neena was the one sending the invitations, of course. Vidrio and Crystal both needed help that even her skills weren't up to handling; Crystal wanted something that was anatomically impossible, and Vidrio's shapeshifting power wasn't like anything else she'd ever seen. So she called in a specialist the Corps had been keeping an eye on for a while but never had a reason to contact before - Maĵah the Centipede, seen here two days ago. Śina is back on the Delyria side of the portal, keeping watch to make sure nothing slips through to or from Annex. It takes a place with a little looser rules than Elseways proper to get things like this done.

They'll tell you you belong there even if your heart thinks not
And deep, deep down you feel like you've been seen and judged and caught
When all the paths lead nowhere, and when all the doors are shut
I need to fill the void somehow, but fill the void with _what_?

🛅, mh (-) 

🛅, mh (-) 

🎨
Vidrio's been invited to Annex to meet up with Crystal, but neither of them are sure who sent the invitation. It was on Cosmos Corps letterhead, though, and when Vid went to headquarters to ask about it, they gave him a boat ride up the coast. Vidrio's been trying to learn how to use the shapeshifting abilities he apparently has, and Crystal's got her own questions, too, but what do they have in common with each other that would make sense for someone to want to meet them both?

🎨
Maĵah is another Jadean, although you can tell by her body shape she's pretty different. She's of the Centipede clan, and is also the person who hired Śina to take her into a remote spot in the wilderness where she's seen signs that something like a portal to another world is calling her. This isn't some random hunch; Maĵah is a powerful mage and well-attuned to the flow of chroma through her part of the world. She was one of Professor Vassa's earliest and most devoted students, and took her studies of transformation spells to all kinds of unusual and sometimes grotesque places. Her own body, though - that's how she is naturally. The Centipede clan is just like that, no extra magic needed.

That was also the first time I can remember waking up from a dream not because it was scary or jarring, but because the story was over. Like 4 hours before I usually wake up, which is kind of annoying. Back to sleep, I guess.

💤

Dreamt of a series of comics. Parts 1 through 6 were in bound volumes that got smaller and smaller, and then parts 7 through 12 were the same volumes flipped upside-down so you were reading the opposite sides of the pages. The story was the same; Earth gets destroyed by a group of godlike beings in 1 through 6 and then remade in 7 through 12 with apparently no one the wiser in the end except the heroes who'd undone all the damage. Somehow it all hinges on -something- surviving the senseless destruction, that being the reader of the story. As long as there's something left to care, the story went, the world would go on, and that made the destructive gods lose some kind of wager,

As you through the æther swim
Feel the waves along each limb
Feel the warmth upon your skin
Feathers, fur, and scales your kin

Feel your muscles, feel your joints
Softest curves or sharpest points
Paws or hands or claws or feet
Feel your shape become complete

Feel the thousand things you tried
Feel your failure to decide
Everything your mind confronts:
Every Species, All At Once

I really need to get that random generator online somewhere. If you want to move to Elseways, you should know what kind of neighbors to expect.

Cheq has a younger sister named Lina (short for Rosalina, but she doesn't like her full name much). She lives in Makeshift Junction, a region of Elseways with a steampunk/Western feel. Makeshift Junction is unusual in that it's colocated with Wyrmsborough, which is medieval-themed and full of castles and dragons and such. This only works because Wyrmsborough is entirely underground, and all the less-decorative-than-they-look lava pits and dramatic fire and water features all feed the steam tanks that pipe pressure up to Makeshift's many mechanisms.

Songs Cheq Lopez has covered:
• "Losing Touch", the Killers
• "Prisencolinensinainciusol", Adriano Celentano
• "Piano Lessons", Porcupine Tree
• "The Great Curve", Talking Heads
• "Birdhouse in your Soul", They Might Be Giants
• "Heaven's Open", Mike Oldfield

This is a pretty representative list, if that gives you any idea what his voice and singing style are like.

More stray thoughts about Śina. She's from Jadea, which is a cluster of islands in Delyria that are hundreds of miles from anywhere else. Jadeans aren't seen much outside their homelands, but Śina made the long trek for the sake of seeing more of the world. Jadeans have roughly insect-inspired shapes, although they're still mammals underneath (if very androgynous ones; there's a bit of cetacean-style smoothness to them). Śina is actually part of the Cricket clan - it's why her hind legs are turned like that - but she has another pair of front legs from some Scorpion ancestry. Jadeans always have at least six limbs and often more; her particular shape isn't anything special at home. It's another story abroad, though, where she comes across as exotic and fascinating.

🎨
Śina Long — mercenary, bodyguard-for-hire, occasional jewelry designer — takes a break in a local tavern on her way home from an assignment only to learn that there might be something else for her to do if she's willing to go for it. It's a risky bet, but she's in a good mood and she knows Zika will understand if it takes a little longer to get home.

Small side note - I call him a griffin, but he's only feline as far as his tigerlike coloration. He's a blend of bird and human on the inside, just like Delyria's Aulians (in fact, he's descended from them, but isn't entirely aware of that).

Is it cheating to finish Fanart February with "fan art" of my own character? The fact is, Vid's been with me for a long time. Over 60% of my life, in fact, since I came up with him in high school. This is the kind of fan art I wish I could send back in time to a kid who had just discovered this whole massive community of interesting people with even more interesting characters but who wasn't sure his ideas were any good. Maybe you don't see me, but I'm watching from the future, and that tiger-striped griffin guy is still here too. So are a whole city of others.

The Wandering Mind song is nearly as old as Vidrio is and is based on a melody I kept humming to myself one night. I ought to make a new arrangement of it one of these days.

🎨
V:
So, this is me. I've been through a whole lot this past month, but now that I'm back on my own, I feel a lot better. I still have runs of bad luck sometimes, but who doesn't? I'm not inherently hapless. And now I can fly through the space between worlds - I don't know where I'll end up next, but I know I can always come back home to Elseways. I've got a class of kids back on Lamppost Island to teach, and I know I'll have a lot to show them, too.


Always remember, wherever you go
There's more to the world than one person can know
So go your own way, 'cause whatever you find
You'll be on the path of the wandering mind

🎨
V: Hi there. I'm Vidrio - just visiting here, but you've got a really pretty island. Kinda reminds me of home.

L: Shiela? Do you think we should invite him to join the Corps?
Σ: I'm not sure he wants to. Carefree wandering seems to be more his style.

V: Oh, I didn't realize names were such a big deal here. Don't worry, I'll remember yours.

L: A wandering mind, huh? He did lead us here, after all. I'm not even sure where this is. The Corps hasn't found it yet.
Σ: An island of bright colorful winds and strange denizens... and yet, there's a sadness here somehow.

V: We shouldn't stay after the sun sets, huh? Why not?

L: I'll make sure we log it properly later. For now, I think we can relax.

V: Thanks for the advice. And I'll take good care of these weird rocks.

🎨
V: This isn't Elseways, exactly, but I thought it'd be good to go somewhere you could see how everything fit together. With labels and stuff.
L: You brought me here on your own?
V: I'm not so helpless anymore. I've been places.
L: I can tell. The music was very relaxing. And the bread… is it normal to have visions of floating miles in the air looking down?
V: That's what it's for! Whad'ja think?
L: I can guess what you're showing me, but tell me anyway.
V: Lillian — you and the whole Corps — it's not about who you saved or didn't, it's about what you've built. Elseways has half a million people, all living their lives. There are worlds where they died, but you gave them somewhere to live.
L: We put a lot of thought into it, too.
V: And you should be proud of that.

If the smallest mustelid is the least weasel.

Then perhaps the giant otter ought to be named the Most Weasel?
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