Blood Secrets

Imperial palace
Previously: Royal Storms

Skarlet was a strong, muscled creature with pale skin and blood red hair. Her form-fitting black and red armor was a gift from the Emperor himself, and she went nowhere without her twin kodachi blades he'd given her as well.

She was not the chatty sort and preferred to let others do the talking. As the new ambassador moved into her quarters, Skarlet's dark eyes watched her from the door, unsure of out how to approach her.

The ambassador was a short, dark-skinned woman of breathtaking beauty. Her hair was white as a ghost, pulled back from her face in a ponytail wrapped in a large braid. She wore a long, sweeping dress of crimson linen, with high slights up the sides. Princess Kitana had approved a small contingent of slave girls to tend the ambassador, who was only allowed to bring with her a single bodyguard from Netherrealm.

The ambassador was seated in front of a large bronze-rimmed mirrored set above a vanity of dark aged wood, while all around her slaves carried in her chests and trunks. The Emperor had granted her spacious rooms, but like the rest of the palace, everything in them was ancient, made from either wood or stone.

Skarlet realized that to a demoness from the Netherrealm, these were likely very luxurious indeed.

"You must be Skarlet," the ambassador suddenly remarked, without looking towards the door.

The red-haired warrior was briefly caught off guard before gathering herself. She had a low, raspy voice when she replied.

"You know me, madam?"

"I know of you," the ambassador replied. "You're not as famous as the other Edenians, but you are known."

Skarlet was confused. "Other...Edenians?"

The ambassador finally turned to face her. "I smelled it from all the way down the hall," she smirked. "It's buried beneath all that blood magic you've harvested, but it's definitely there." Her eyes lit up at Skarlet's stunned expression. "You didn't know?"

Skarlet's voice was tight, her whole body stiff. "I'm an orphan. The Kahn rescued me from the streets of the capital many years ago."

"Your family likely died during the annexation of Edenia," the ambassador nodded, turning back to her mirror. Apparently, she was mixing water into a very white powdered clay. "He probably smelled it too; he always did favor the Edenian girls.

"I am Jataaka," she finally introduced herself. "I know everyone wants to know; they all gossip so loudly in this palace." She began painting her face with a bone-handled brush, starting with small, evenly spaced dots above her eyebrows. "When am I to be presented to the Kahn?"

"This evening, Madam Ambassador, after sunset," Skarlet replied, slowly entering the room, as if spellbound. She'd met all sorts of characters and creatures in Outworld, but nothing like this woman. She wasn't even sure if Jataaka really was a woman. "Princess Kitana wanted you to have time to relax and refresh yourself. She sent me to ensure you have everything you need."

"You mean spy," Jataaka chuckled lowly. When Skarlet shook her head and was about to protest, the ambassador cut her off, "There's nothing wrong with that," she assured the redhead. "Had any of you come to Netherrealm it would be the same."

A slave suddenly dropped a medium-sized chest on a dresser nearby. Dark gems spilled forth and glittered in the candlelight. Skarlet heard herself gasped; she'd never seen riches like these before. There were flawless pearls, black as night, and uncut diamonds that glowed reddish black in the fire light.

"Careful!" Jataaka admonished her, dropping her amused demeanor. The trembling young girl bowed in apology before picking up the gems.

Out of another room, the tall bodyguard suddenly emerged from the shadows, footsteps as silent as the grave. Clad in black and gold armor, Skarlet recognized Scorpion at once.

"I trust you know each other?" Jataaka asked, less humorous now as she resumed her makeup.

"Unfortunately, we do," Skarlet grimly bit out.

The demon warrior's all-white gaze fell upon her as his eyes narrowed. "The memory of you has long faded into dust."

Skarlet gripped the handles of the kodachis strapped to her sides.

"Children," Jataaka piped up, before they could come to blows, "don't make me have to separate you. Scorpion, we are guests of the Kahn." She flashed him an unreadable look. "Behave."

"Is there anything else you need, Madam Ambassador?" Skarlet asked tightly.

"I want my own carriage," Jataaka stated almost primly. "And a tour of the capital in the morning. I haven't visited Outworld in centuries; I'm sure everything's pretty much the same, but I'm still curious."

"You have breakfast in the morning with the Kahn and his daughters," Skarlet reminded her.

"Lucky me," came the neutral reply. "Very well, a tour in the afternoon then."  She suddenly turned away from her mirror. "And you. I want you as well."

Skarlet was surprised. "Me?"

"The Princess sent you to spy on me, but no doubt her father will summon you back to his side," the ambassador said. "Tell the Emperor I want you as my liaison, not one of his half-wit generals." She turned back to her mirror.

"Why me?"

Perhaps it was an answer--or merely a sign--that the ambassador's left forearm rippled slightly, as though something beneath her skin was trying to push its way out. Jataaka dropped her brush and clamped down on the rippling with her right hand.

She snickered softly, waiting for her flesh to calm. "We're more alike than you realize, Skarlet," she said. "It is not just blood, but also time that changes us." She turned slightly, lips rolling back into a wry grin.

"For even Shao Kahn himself was once a handsome man."