Dia De Los Muertos
Mission: Shore Leave - An Internal Affair
Hel had rented a small space in a neighborhood center near New Orleans, Louisiana - the place her people originally came from before settling on Asphodel. There was always a subtle magical aura in the area, where voodoo, swamp magic and death were ever present, though seen in a friendly light.
The brief she had given Valeria was simple. She was going to set up a small dia De Los Muertos celebration, Day of the Dead. There was going to be a shrine to her and Valeria's ancestors. There were going to be flowers, music, drink and food. It was to be a celebration, just the two of them, and their ancestors.
She had told Valeria about the make-up, face paint and dress customs for Dia De Los Muertos, about the bright colors, and the habit of dressing up and using make-up to honor the dead. But most of all, she had told Valeria that this was to be a happy occasion, to talk to those she hadn't talked to in too long, and to make merry and show her ancestors that she was ok, doing well.
She had told Valeria about the Calaveras, sugar candy skulls to make and decorate to represent the ancestors. Also about the Offrendas, the offerings to the ancestors. But bringing replicated ones would be fine, in this case.
This was three hours ago. And the time was nearing for the doors to the small hall to open, to allow Valeria entry, where Hel would be waiting.
The doors would open on something of a schedule, allowing the rabbitess entry. True to form, she took Hel's briefing to heart, and joined in the festiveness of the moment. The fur of her face and ears was dyed black, with a white coloration applied to look like her skull would be visible.
Well, it wasn't white white, just a very very very light blue. Her hair was given a white washing, removing the color from the long strands. Woven into her hair were small blue flowers, similar to roses just of a different hue.
The dye job of her fur continued past her head, down her neck and along what soft fur she chose to show, which wasn't covered by a simple black dress decorated with cute little outlines of skulls. Human skulls, mind you. She wasn't comfortable enough to... oh wait, there was one: A skull depicted like those of her people. Rather than the white outline of the human cartoons, that particular one was drawn in a soft blue as well.
She tred into the room in simple sandals, the depiction of her skeleton continued down her calves, along the front of her ankles and down to her feet. "How do I look?" she inquired.
As Valeria entered Hel turned around from where she had been putting the final touches on the centerpiece display. "Absolutely spooky, my love. Which perfectly fits the occasion." She smiled, reaching a hand over to rest on Valeria's shoulder, not daring to risk going in for a kiss - human or Ts'usugi style - for fear of ruining either of their make up.
She herself had her entire face made up like a human skull, with a soft glistening shimmer to the white of her cheeks and forehead, blood red lips, teeth drawn around her mouth and going back half way up the cheeks, black and red markings around her eyes, and a heart design drawn up of small curved lines on her forehead.
The black and red motif continued on to her hair which was done up and partially hidden underneath large, blood red rose hairpieces. Her shoulders and upper torso dyed black, with white bones, leading to her low cut black and red dress.
"Welcome," she continued, as she stepped aside and motioned towards the display piece she'd also prepared. "to dia de los muertos; the day of the dead." she smiled.
Soft music played, rhythmic and upbeat, with an emphasis on brass instruments. Floating up against the ceiling - though some were a bit lower, balloons, of black and red and white, with skull motifs on them. And against the wall, several tables made up like shrines. The outside ones, with dishes and dishes again of delicious food and various drinks, one with Earth drinks and bacon pancakes, the other with Ts'usugi drinks and various Ts'usugi comfort foods, popular on the moon - Hel had done her homework.
And the center table, a shrine, with various caricature, almost cartoony skulls made of sugar candy, shimmering white, with chocolate and strawberry decorations, all smiling. Human skulls, Ts'usugi ones as well, amidst flower arrangements, beautiful and colorful.
Valeria's face told the tale of how amazed she was at Hel's makeup. "It's festive and beautiful. I don't know if the home moons are ready for it, but I love it already."
Walking into the shrine with her beloved, the Daughter of Ts'usu's glance was brought everywhere. The sights, the sounds, the smells. Her ears practically twitched when she smelled foods from the home moons.
"I don't know how you did it." she started with a widening smirk, "And I imagine I'll find my buoy rations a little thinner this month, but it's for a good cause."
"Tell me everything." she started, her attention drawn to the decorative skulls on the shrine. Morbid, but so fascinating.
Hel beamed, happy that her gamble had payed off and Valeria enjoyed the presentation. Truth be told she'd been very nervous. "I did use a small portion of your rations for the recipes, and some of the ingredients aren't available outside the moons so I had to improvise. I'm really glad you don't mind." she mused, walking to the table with the Ts'usugi meals.
"The idea is to have some of the ancestor's favorite meals prepared. I didn't quite know what your ancestor's favorite foods were so I had to improvise there as well, but I hope I got close enough, juggling some spices and ingredients." The meals were mostly seafood based, with fish, shellfish and other assorted ingredients.
"My mother used to make us bacon pancakes on Sundays as breakfast." she mused, heading over to the other table to show the spread of Human foods. Bacon pancakes were central, but there were other comfort foods as well. Hamburgers, fries, fast foods mostly. "The idea is to enjoy the food our ancestors loved, and offer some to them as well as we do, as we eat and drink, share stories, and tell the ancestors of our lives and our days."
As she spoke of ancestors she headed to the central table, to the main shrine. "These skulls represent my ancestors. And those, yours. I do not know much about them, but I'm sure I will learn a lot more today."
Valeria had a grand smile on her face as she walked with Hel, a smile wider than she usually wore, wider than any smile she shared with Hel previously. She was comfortable here. She was casual here. Here, she could relax.
"I'll let you know how close you were, but it smells almost right from home." she said, "My first real reminder of home since I left. It's.... " beat, "... it's a welcome memory."
She examined the representative skulls, and gave a nod. There'd be no nitpicking today. "I have a veteran of a border skirmish in my family line, though mother says I take after his wife. Always questioning, always thinking." she smirked.
"That's the best aspect about you." Hel chuckled. "I mean, this helps~" as she put her hands on Valeria's waist, smiling. "But it's your inquisitive and keen mind that I fell for. And that my father and mother love you for as well." she mused.
"But now I'm hungry. I need some fries." she added, heading to the appropriate table and collecting some on a plate. A bit of meat was added along with some sauce, and a similar but smaller meal on a smaller plate, the smaller one brought over to the center shrine table and placed down in front of the Ts'usugi sugar-skulls.
"I don't know you, but that just means I have a lot to look forward to." She smiled softly, speaking to the shrine. "These are called French Fries, with Hamburger, and Peanut Sauce. It's not the healthiest food there is, but it's quite tasty. Enjoy."
Valeria smiled softly at the compliment, giving her beloved a gentle nudge with her hip at the point. Though she followed suit at the end, bringing a bit of food on her own plate, and a selection on a smaller plate to bring to the shrine. She greeted the shrine, as though talking to the people there. Warm, friendly, tender. The language of the children of Ts'usu was mysterious. It could be so harsh, so cold... but at other times so warm and comforting. She introduced the departed to the food, as Hel had done, but in her native tongue before she made the transition to Terran Standard.
"We are who we are because of the lives you lived. I walk in the footsteps of history, and for this opportunity, I thank you." she gave the shrine a deep nod. "Enjoy this food, prepared with love from a heart from the stars. Someone who has yet to see the home moons, but is every bit a Daughter of Ts'usu in her soul."
"And she a daughter of Earth." Hel was quick to add, before starting to eat. She offered Valeria a taste of fries and hamburger of course. "You know, there's an old saying on earth. The exact origin is unknown but the final version of the quote is attributed to one of Earth's greatest scientists, Sir Isaac Newton."
"If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants."
Valeria had a fondness for the foodstuffs of Earth. The fact that high-quality meat and beef wasn't a luxury food was actually quite appreciated. Fabricated food or not, those teeth weren't just for greens.
A nibble here, a chomp where appropriate, and she managed to sample some of the Ts'usugi faire that Hel had conjured. An excellent facsimile. Not to mention pleasant to look at, something that even Dalacari fabricator units couldn't quite master.
At the compliment, at the designation, Valeria smiled. Not the usual hint, or the slim smirk she was famous for. For Hel, she smiled wide. "I enjoyed the visit to your moon. It's a shame its dead, but still life finds a way to grace is. As for Newton's admission, since you *haven't* shown me any giants in Earth's history, I presume it's a metaphor for basing his work on others. It's humbling of him to admit such." she complimented.
"You presume correctly. .. Correctly? Correct? One of those two." Hel mused. "What even is words," she added tasting another bite of 'Ts'usugi' food. Truth be told she'd tasted some while making it, and although she was no wizardess with cooking, she'd really done her best on this, and it showed. It helped that through the marvels of modern technology all the food was being kept warm on the tables as well, for the foods that needed to be.
"You know, normally Dia de los Muertos is a lot louder, with a lot more people celebrating it than just two." Hel chuckled, smiling warmly.
Valeria returned the smile, "I appreciate you introducing me to it in a more personal setting. I think if my first time was the actual event it might be hard to appreciate the festival." a pause, "Maybe one time, we can go to the actual festival, if that would be possible." she asked, as only a Ts'usugi could. "I understand if such a thing might be difficult."
"That would take some arranging. We'd have to visit Earth around the right time." Hel made a face. "We could try, though." She smiled softly, taking another bite of fries. "So, I'm sure the Ts'usugi have all sorts of festivals too, albeit likely much more structured and less freeform."
"Oh yes, there's forms to fill out and magistrates." she teased, all in good fun. "We have our own festivals. Some involve the deceased. Though it's less about visiting and spending time, and more about trying to guide them back to where they're supposed to be. The more urban sprawls have parades. On the farm, we'd light candles in kites and send them up to the heavens as something like beacons to guide their spirits." she said, getting a little nostalgic in her recollection.
"No real structure, but there was tradition. Now, folks in the city had parades, but when we let the beacons go, it'd light up the sky." she smiled softly, "Then we'd have food. Because what celebration doesn't have food?" she giggled. "We'd be careful not to have anything that the deceased were particularly fond of, out of the superstition that they'd be distracted from the beacons to come eat."
"Well, that makes sense, I think." Hel smiled, imagining the lanterns. "Computer, chinese paper sky lanterns, please. Ten pieces, with candles. And a lighter."
After a bleep of confirmation the ten requested lanterns materialized before the two, with the candles separate, and a lighter to light them. "They're not Ts'usugi beacons, but - well, maybe they'll do, in a pinch."
"They're perfect." she assured Hel, before looking up to the sky. "Ts'usu is a promise. Ts'usu is the jewel we treasure." then she looked back into Hel's eyes, framed by her skeletal make-up.
"But Ts'usu isn't here. You are."
"Yeah, well - ... I - but - ... That's - ... I mean - .... " Hel blinked, then chuckled, leaning in to put a small kiss on Valeria's nose. "It's not often I lose my words. Somehow every time I do it happens when you're there." she smirked.
"Lanterns now. Snuggling later." she added.
Valeria gave a smile at the nose kiss, and gave a little twitch after, "Lanterns now, snuggles later." she confirmed, before taking one of the paper lanterns and putting the little candle inside. Before she lit it, she looked to Hel and then she started to speak. Soft, melodic, the language of the children of Ts'usu.
"Now, you try." she offered, and coached her through. A simple phrase, easy to say once you got the hang of it. "It's what we say when we release the beacons, to guide the dead to their rest. Roughly translated, it's 'May you find the rest you seek'."
Ten lanterns. Ten souls. Two hearts.