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Observations and Annotations (a study of Keris's hair)

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a Malefactor’s journal

Volume 4, Entry 393
4th Resplendent Fire, RY 769
Another study of Keris Dulmeadokht. In this entry; the peculiarities of her hair.

Having known Keris personally for almost two years now (3:67, 5th D. Air) and carried on an intimate relationship with her for much of that time, I am perhaps one of those who know her best outside of her own hierarchy of souls. This has given me ample opportunity to observe perhaps the most memorable, recognisable and visibly striking of the changes Exaltation has wrought upon her; a change that occurred shortly after our second meeting (3:75, 12th D. Air). I speak, of course, of her hair.

It is difficult to overlook Keris’s hair. She describes it as an inheritance from her coadjutor and self-proclaimed mother; the once-angyalka Dulmea (4:326, 26th R. Wood). Three yards long, blood-red and fully prehensile, it certainly resembles that of a harpist, though in both length, strength and dexterity it far surpasses that of most demons. Such is its length that it would trail along the floor were it not prehensile, for when fully straightened it is more than twice as long as Keris herself. In general she keeps it off the ground either by tying it back in one or more thick, complex, thigh-to-ankle-length braids, holding it a few centimetres above the floor in the style of a cathedral train, or letting it fall to her waist before curling it back up in mimicry of a scorpion’s tail.

I can personally attest to her hair’s strength, for it is as disconcertingly strong as Keris herself. Observed feats include effortlessly lifting and supporting her own body weight, holding a fully-grown adult (both taller and heavier than her) up against a wall with only three or four tendrils, leaving deep indentations in steel vessels with her grip and splintering stone with a whip-like strike. Her range with thrown objects is equivalent to that of a slingshot even before she enhances herself with magic, and cutting or damaging her hair is of comparable difficulty to breaking steel wire.

While I have seen Keris range from using a single tendril for casual gestures to separating several locks into innumerable fine strands for delicate work, in general she seems most comfortable using two to four extra ‘limbs’ in addition to her hands, though this number rises to as many as six when she is multitasking heavily or wishes to look impressive. She is equally dexterous with any limb of hair or flesh, though her ability to split her attention does not seem to have expanded in equal proportion. Much like my own Pyrian limbs, she tends to make active use of only one or two at a time unless exerting considerable effort to multitask, reserving the rest for simple repetitive rote actions or holding objects for later use.

Keris is extremely proud of her hair. She cares for it meticulously; using enormous amounts of hair product when she bathes - happily, with her newfound alchemical expertise (4:224, 14th R. Earth), she can now produce such shampoos and oils herself instead of stealing them or asking me to transmute water. She has a penchant for decorating it in magpie fashion, though she has moved on from the days where anything sharp and glittery would do. Now her hair ornaments are often silver pieces from her own work, gold wires tied into her scalp piercings, beads and hoops of glass, carved coral or shell and the occasional flower.

This is not to say her hair is harmless. Her hair is no exception to her habits when it comes to concealed weapons (3:418, 27th R. Fire); it often contains poisoned needles, narrow blades or barbed hooks threaded on the ends of thin braids, along with the occasional knife hidden among sheer volume. Not only that, but it can bite; fanged mouths forming anywhere in the many locks by the gifts of the All-Hunger Blossom to bite and devour food or foes.

She has, thanks be to the Makers, at least ceased poisoning the entire mass with the venoms of the Great Mother. Mostly.

More innocent uses abound. Though she is careful to act naturally around mortals, I suspect that Keris is often more comfortable using her hair as a manipulator than her hands - though perhaps this is merely a result of having more of it and being able to reach further. Certainly, when in trusted company - on her ship (K:3, the Memory of Baisha) or in her townhouse (3:444, 24th D. Fire) - she is entirely casual in making constant and frequent use of it, and her hair often moves constantly at these times as if freed from the burden of holding still to avoid suspicion. She makes use of it in her crafting and artwork - using a hair tendril as a brush for paint or acid, for instance - and can reform it into Metagaoiyn roots that can mould and reshape flesh. Her reliance on her hair in combat has been referenced elsewhere (3:422, 5th D. Fire), as have the more carnal uses it can be put to (3:396, 4th R. Fire).

Her last two common behaviours are perhaps the most interesting. She frequently uses “plugs” of hair to block excessive noise from reaching her sensitive ears (3:390, 25th A. Fire), and extends it towards any food within reach to eat with Metagaoiyn mouths. In both cases, however, she often seems entirely unaware of its movement. So intriguing was this that yesterday I sought to test it by taking on my shadow-form and removing an apple from my Devil-Domain as she was absorbed in painting. As I had half-expected, her hair was drawn to the fruit and downed it in short order without any reaction from Keris herself. In fact, not ten minutes later did she look up and declare a desire for a snack. My tentative theory is that a substantial fraction of her hair’s actions are subconsciously driven - perhaps the flavour, while skirting below her awareness, triggered her appetite to make further demands.

Supporting this theory are the reactions of Keris’s hair to her emotional state. Not only does she have a pronounced tendency to chew it when nervous, agitated or deep in thought, it also responds with motion. Bar a few aggravating and inexplicable successes (4:1, 1st A. Air), Keris has little skill in keeping her feelings from her face, and her hair is no exception to this. Affection, pleasure and happiness make her hair ripple and coil around the things she loves. Frustration, nervousness and excitement cause it to twist and tie itself into knots. Fear, anger and hatred see it puff out like a cat’s fur or lash from side to side. In cases of true rage, it will rear over her head as though she were a many-tailed scorpion; often revealing the weapons hidden within. In this last case, I have found it advisable to leave the area, or at least to direct her attention to less provocative matters.

Keris wears her hair in a variety of styles. As mentioned above, her most common states are to have it loose and hold it up off the ground, or to construct thick, elaborate braids that take her several minutes to create - even with her extreme dexterity and fully prehensile hair. For a mortal, such styles would be utterly impractical, not to mention difficult to support as a simple question of neck strength. While at times she wears it up in impossible styles that require hair that can support itself independently, such contortions tire her after a time and cause headaches. Similarly, when her hair is wet - a frequent occurrence given how often she swims - its weight is a strain on her neck and scalp. She alleviates this to some extent by wringing it dry and sucking the remaining water out of it with hunger-mouths, but there is a limit to how much she can drink at a time, leaving her hair slower than usual after a dip in the ocean. During these times she tends to leave it relaxed and unbraided, often winding it around her waist or arms to shift the weight.

The last oddity of Keris’s hair is that it appears to be an internalised - or perhaps inherited - trait. She claims that not only her coadjutor, but all of her souls (K:1, souls of Keris Dulmeadokht) share it; a claim borne out by what I have seen of her Fifth Soul and Eighth Souls and the letters I have exchanged with Haneyl. Indeed, even the szelkeruby created by her Fifth Soul share the trait, though they are the only keruby breed (K:2, serfs of Keris Dulmeadokht) who have something approximating long hair. It is possible - perhaps likely - that her children will be born with prehensile hair as well, though we will not find out for some time yet.

Why she has so internalised this feature of her coadjutor to the point that every one of her souls shares it is something I cannot ascertain. Undoubtedly it has its roots in her adoption of Dulmea as a mother and her desire for a concrete mark of family (3:211, 2nd A. Earth), but I feel there may be more to it than that. Certainly it has swiftly become impossible to imagine her without it, despite knowing her prior to its development. Keris is not the only Infernal to have such an obvious mark of her coadjutor stamped on her features (3:468, Cal 3), and it might be interesting to make a deeper investigation of their similarities in the future, should time permit.