Private Tales Of Sand & Dragonfire

A private roleplay only for those invited by the first writer
A Little Shop in Fal'Addas

Seteta

The Dragon's Beloved
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This was the farthest Seteta had ever been from home. Well, from Amol-Kalit, at least. It wasn't really home anymore, not since her tribe had disbanded and been absorbed into other tribes. She could have gone with any other number of her fellow Abtati, but none of the tribes willing to take her had felt like quite the right fit.

So she'd decided to see other parts of Arethil instead, but nothing she'd encountered so far--whether people or places--had felt quite right either.

Her mother had always said Seteta had a restlessness about her that was wilder than the desert wind, and a curiosity that needed to be tempered with wisdom.

It was certainly curiosity that had brought her into the heart of Falwood, to the massive and nearly overwhelming marketplace in Fal'Addas. While she'd been traveling for months now, she'd not been as surrounded by people--and quite as many other elves--ever in her life. The language of the elves here, though, was... strange. Melodic. Like the soft chatter of a brook. Sometimes Seteta thought she heard a word or phrase, that if twisted and sharpened, was very nearly something she could understand.

But at least the language of curiosity and coin was practically universal.

Later in the day, when she needed to worry about finding a place to sleep for the night, she would bother to find someone who spoke the Common tongue--surely someone would, after all, if her elven kin were as wise as legend said--but for now, she was curious.

She was familiar with many luxury goods and foods and spices, having helped to lead merchant caravans through the desert many times before. But this marketplace in Fal'Addas felt different. Even if she recognized many of the wares on display, Seteta saw many that she didn't know--things that simply couldn't survive the climate of Amol-Kalit.

The vast array was nearly overwhelming, and she found herself ducking to the side of the busy street to think.

Nervously, Seteta brushed her palms down the front of her short, tan linen abaya, then reached up to adjust the also tan but just a shade lighter headscarf covering her hair and the lower half of her face. Her garb--abaya, leggings, and headscarf all in muted shades of brown and cut far differently than anything else the elves of Falwood wore--had already drawn strange glances.

Falwood was... so different. So green, and the air was practically wet and nearly cold. Seteta had been stunned by the sheer waste of water all around her when she'd first left the desert, but it wasn't quite as shocking anymore.

She shivered just slightly, and made up her mind.

"Clothes," she whispered, self-conscious of the harshness of her native tongue, compared to the practically musical intonations around her. "Something warmer, and less... bland. That's what I need. Something where I don't stand out quite so much."

She stepped back out into the street, looked around until she spotted what she thought might be clothing, and headed in that direction.


Chaceledon
 

Chaceledon

The Draconian Diva
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Chaceledon was cleaning out his closet. Well, that might have been a gross misappropriation of the term. The wraith that fancied himself his captor had finally gotten sick of four different spare rooms taken up by clothing, shoes and accessories, and told Chaceledon to either sell it or he would burn it to the ground.

Chaceledon was an accomplished seamstress, and with nothing to do other than suffer the wraith’s attentions and keep the Volkers company, his creative mind had become quite an intimidating force.

He had rented out a store in Fal’Addas for the occasion, and it was already hitting critical mass. The storefront was a storm of silken bathrobes, expensive fur coats, intricate robes meant for ceremonies, dresses, suits, undergarments, gloves, hats, shoes, and experimental garb that didn’t quite fit into the above categories.

He’d conscripted Volker for help. As the other slave in Oor’s retinue, the quiet human had been raised by Chaceledon. He was plainly dressed, in a simple black shirt and pants, and spotted a terrifying array of blades in a roll around one leg. He was in his late sixties, with bright blue eyes and hair shaved short. A pragmatic creature, he was Chaceledon’s opposite. But he appreciated the break from contract killing. Sorting clothing was calmer.

Sort of.

Chaceledon had dressed in what Oor sarcastically dubbed the ‘Angry Outfit’. A needlessly complex white robe with a high collar of flawless mink fur. Gold chrysanthemums were painstakingly embroidered along the borders, with four accompanying layers of underrobes in various shades of deep golds and whites. A wide obi tied at the back in a subtle square bow completed the look. His makeup was an accompanying gold dust along his eyelids, with tiny crystals adorning each side of his nose. His glass nails, long and coffin shaped, were a matte milk glass with tiny flecks of gold paint.

Gods, what a simple outfit for slumming it.

“You have not worn this in years.” Volker lifted up a heavy black robe with beadwork in crimson.

“Dont you dare. Your father helped me with that.” Chaceledon fussed, standing in the middle of the mess like a white crane in a rainbow explosion.

Volker sighed and put the robe back in its paper box, lifting up another. “This?” A sky blue robe with accents of white and purples, featuring little birds the size of fingernails.

“I wore that to your swearing in ceremony, absolutely not.”

“This?”

“I wear that to dinner when I’m upset with your father.”

“This?”

“Vintage.”

“...This?”

“I wore that to your fiftieth birthday! How dare you.”

“Mother...you have to get rid of some of it.” Volker said sharply, and shifted through the boxes. “Here. You designed this five thousand years ago and it’s out of fashion.” He lifted a heavy cotton jacket with a painfully high collar.

Chaceledon turned to scrutinize it, and snapped his fingers. Volker just barely managed to drop it back into the box as purple flames consumed the garment. “The point is to earn gold for future endeavors.” Volker told him, stamping out the flames.


“And what if someone tells someone I designed that? I’ll never work again.” The dragon huffed and sat down on a bench. “This is hopeless. And don’t you put that on the floor! Those are my fawn leather boots! Your grandfather hunted for a week to find me white deer.”

“They are shoes. They are designed to go on the floor.”

“This floor is filthy.”

Volker set them on the counter, and the dragon sighed, brushing a strand of his copper hair over one shoulder. His violet eyes looked distressed. “...We need help don’t we?”

Seteta
 
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Seteta

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Seteta was feeling a little... lost. It was one thing to get glimpses of different wares being transported by the merchant caravans going hither and thither across the desert. Especially since survival in the desert often started with the garments one wore. So Seteta had always veered toward practical clothing rather than luxurious, except for ceremonial occasions that called for more.

There was little she'd seen so far that could be considered practical by desert standards, though, and she sighed, gnawing at her lip beneath the covering of her scarf. She didn't need desert-practical-clothing, but she had no idea where to start. She'd seen a few things that were pretty, and some lovely colors that caught her eyes, but she just wasn't used to dressing for more than function.

It was in this state of overwhelm that Seteta stumbled into a shop, just in time to see a most unusual creature push a strand of hair back over a shoulder, looking ill at ease, and she felt a little like she might have interrupted something. She wasn't asked to leave, though.

She glanced over at the other occupant of the shop, an older human male. She was still a young enough Abtati that the human was almost certainly older than her, and she warily made note of the weapons on him. She was armed herself, but preferred to be so more discreetly.

Seteta turned her attention back to the copper-haired one, the demeanor of the human clearly indicating that they were the one in charge. She wasn't quite sure what to make of the piles of... garments, but that wasn't quite her concern at this moment.

She felt positively plain in comparison to nearly everything else in the shop, but... that's what she'd come here to solve.

"Hello," she spoke up, a little nervously. She was fairly comfortable speaking the Common tongue and hoped either of these individuals would be also, and that her accent wasn't too thick. She'd been practicing her fluency on the road as she encountered other travelers. "I'm newly arrived in Fal'Addas, and desperately in need of garments more suitable to the place." Seteta gestured vaguely at her form, hoping that she was not about to be in far, far over her head.

Chaceledon
 

Chaceledon

The Draconian Diva
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Volker took immediate notice of her, his pale blue eyes locking on her like a tiger taking sudden notice of some small animal. He lowered his head on his shoulders slightly when she entered, protecting his throat.

Chaceledon looked up and then at Volker. “Hardy dear really. She doesn’t know we rented this just for the week. Be a love and get me something deep fried and smothered in sugar.” Chaceledon said with a sigh.

“A small box of fruit then.” Volker walked past the dragon and earned a nasty look.

“Yes, of course that’s what I meant.” Chaceledon straightened up a bit as Volker exited through the rear of the shop, and walked around the girl in a circle. They had similar slim figures. He was just taller, but he made the garments long anyway because he liked to hide his feet. It might work. He pursed his lips as he paced behind her, coming to stand in front of her and looking down his elegant nose at her.

“My dear you need...” he gestured with his nails. “...everything. Come here, sit at the counter.”

He sorted through several boxes. One held an exquisitely delicate pair of emerald earrings arranged in a tinkling square of scales. Chaceledon looked at it as though they were covered in cat shit. “Ergh. I don’t know what I was thinking. Squares? Really?” he flung the offending earrings away from him into the pile of clothing.

He withdrew a kit. Inside was a tiny bar of soap, a carved sponge, a pot of cream that smelled like lemon and ginger, and a tiny glass file. Chaceledon moved the insert to reveal a silver basin at the bottom of the box. He removed it and filled it with water from a flask.

“Hands.” Chaceledon held out his ornate nails for her hand.

Seteta
 

Seteta

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Seteta watched warily as the human exited the shop, and then felt her spine bristle a little as the... not-human circled around her almost like a predator.

This creature is definitely not human but I can't quite make out more than that, she thought to herself, trying to categorize what she was observing but unable to make it all fit into something she could quantify with her somewhat limited knowledge.

Her eyes narrowed when the shopkeeper drew up in front of her and she felt positively dwarf-like in comparison. A feisty spark glinted in her eye when it was declared that she needed "everything" but she simply sighed and jumped up onto the counter, watching curiously as the creature searched for several things and muttered quietly while throwing things about.

"What does this... everything entail?" Seteta asked, cautiously setting one hand in... and then her curiosity overcame her, and she blurted out, "And what are you, anyway? Male, female? Something other, or not at all, like Abtatu? And you're not human or elf, I can tell that much."

She blushed then, ashamed to have lost control of herself to quite that extent, and grateful for the headscarf still covering her face and hiding her embarrassment. The creature's hand was warm, though, almost like the desert that she'd left. It was... nice.

Chaceledon
 

Chaceledon

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Chaceledon looked at her, one eyebrow curling up and his lids falling halfway down in a look that was decidedly chagrinous. She needed more than he thought if she was going to go around asking questions about the equipment between his legs. I beg your pardon?” He sounded properly scandalized.

He flipped her hand over and wetted the sponge in the water, scrubbing her hands. They were filthy. He sighed and pitched the basin into a potted plant when he was done, refilling it. He repeated it until the water was clear, and lay her hands in. He scrubbed away rough skin with a small pumice stone carved to look like a bird, and shaped her nails with the file.


“You’re going to need some manners as well if you’re going to survive here. Though some of that scent is familiar. You come from the sands, as I do.” He told her, scrutinizing her dress. He hadn’t seen that style in a very, very long time. “But no, I’m not human nor elven. I’ve had human sons, however, for longer than most mountains were born.”

He looked at her scrubbed pink hands and dried them with a silk towel. Another box, with tiny pots of paint, in every color. Little tins of tiny dried flowers, gold leaf, and dust in gold and silver were there as well. “I should think something gold.” Chaceledon looked up from scrutinizing her nails.

Seteta
 

Seteta

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I beg your pardon?” He sounded properly scandalized.

Oops. Seteta bit her lip, but left her hands in the creature's care. "Sorry," she spoke softly as her hands were scrubbed--and scrubbed again, and again--and even she was appalled at how much dirt came off of them, then cringing when her manners were scolded. "This is not my mother tongue and I was more abrupt than I meant to be. It's also my first time away from the sands, and my curiosity got the best of me."

The phrase next used though, longer than most mountains were born, was unusual, and Seteta tucked it away to ponder. There were few species that lived longer than elves.

Seteta eyed the next box set on the counter a little dubiously as the shopkeeper looked up at her, saying something about gold. A nervous knot twisted itself into existence in her stomach.

"How... much is this going to cost?" she asked. "I need suitable clothing more than anything else, and my coin is... fairly limited."

She couldn't help but look at the little dried flowers with fascination, though. Flowers were rare in the desert, and she'd never seen such tiny ones.

Chaceledon
 

Chaceledon

The Draconian Diva
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“Hush.” Chaceledon was avoiding talks about money. “Rest assured you’re not costing me a dime and I’m quite possibly more destitute than you are.” He dabbed her nails dry and added a few drops of fragrant oil to the cuticles, wiping it away as well after a few minutes.

He painted her nails in a dusky metallic gold, adding complex rosettes of gold leaf he affixed in clear shellac. He reinforced them with tiny crystals, making them emerge from her nailbed. Metallic polish sands giving way to crystalline rock and gold leaf plants. He finished by rubbing a jasmine cream over her palms and arms. She had the hands of a noble now. Actually, hands most nobles would be jealous of. He set the kit away and brought out an array of small boxes, shell clasps, and pots.

“What exactly is it you’re wearing? Never mind, strip. I have to look at the rest of you. I get the feeling there will be a lot of hair removal.” he clicked his tongue. Mammals.”

Seteta
 

Seteta

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Seteta gnawed at her lip at the mention of coin, since her question hadn't really been answered. But she'd already made one major faux pas and she didn't want to risk offending the shopkeeper again and getting kicked out. She really had no idea what the customs were like in Fal'Addas and maybe it was completely normal to walk into a garment shop and have... this done. Whatever was happening to her hands.

A comfortable silence fell as she watched, if a bit warily, as her hands were transformed into something she barely recognized, but was relieved that she didn't end up with glass-looking claws, at least. She recognized the scent of jasmine, having often enjoyed cups of the tea when she was escorting a merchant caravan across the desert, but she'd never had someone rub the scent into her skin and as the warmth of the creature's hands her skin, she felt herself relaxing. She really hadn't expected to miss the desert's warmth as much as she did.

When it seemed the process was finally finished, she held out both her hands, fingers spread wide, gawking. She'd never seen such a frivolous thing before, and she was now hesitant to use her hands at all for fear of marring the craftsmanship.

Her stomach began fluttering nervously again when more boxes and things were set on the counter. Her eyes widened. There's more? she thought, slightly horrified. I just wanted some new clothes!

Though the shopkeeper's next words made her still, stunned, as her mind scrambled a bit to translate the words and make sense of them.

“What exactly is it you’re wearing? Never mind, strip. I have to look at the rest of you. I get the feeling there will be a lot of hair removal.” he clicked his tongue. “Mammals.”

Once Seteta put together that the word strip in this instance meant to disrobe and not to strip meat off bones, she was able to calm her suddenly pounding heart a little. However, hair removal--whatever that meant--was equally as concerning, and this was all rapidly becoming a little bit too much, and she held up a hand in warning.

"I do not, as you say, strip for strangers, so you're at least going to have to tell me your name first," Seteta's voice was firm. "And what, exactly, does hair removal mean?"

Chaceledon
 

Chaceledon

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Chaceledon gave her a look up and down. “Chaceledon of House Peridot.” he said, and gestured towards her. “Hair removal, dear, means I suspect you’ve wandered out of the wilds with wild hair under your arms, and on your legs and thighs. Believe me when I say I have no interest in you that way.”

He sighed and stood up, raising an eyebrow. He walked around her again, arms folded. “Don’t worry, we’ll burn all of this. It’s absolutely disgusting. I think...perhaps some of the things I brought from the sands.” the dragon mused. He gestured impatiently. “Strip, we’ll get you clothed again.”

Seteta
 

Seteta

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Chaceledon of House Peridot... Seteta tucked the name away in her thoughts, yet another clue to the creature's identity. She didn't quite know what to make of all this yet, but she was becoming fascinated and insanely curious, despite the... strange brusqueness of their interaction so far.

"You will not burn it, the clothing is still mine and I want to keep it," Seteta retorted. "I may stand out inappropriately in Fal'Addas in this garb, but there are other places where all this--" she gestured vaguely around the shop "--would get me robbed, at best, and I haven't yet decided if I will be staying in Fal'Addas. It's rather... cold here.

"You presume much to assume that I want you to be interested in me," she muttered with no small amount of bemused disbelief as she crouched down and began to unlace her soft leather moccasins from where they rose to just below her knees. So many merchants showed up in the desert wearing sandals on their first caravans, and the first thing Seteta had always done was get them into closed-toed shoes. Hot sand between the toes was not pleasant, and the sand often carried... other nuisances, as well.

When the moccasins were off, she fondly set them aside, and fixed Chaceledon with a stern glare as she rose to her full height again, even if it was diminutive compared to the shopkeeper's stature. "Especially do not burn those. They are broken in, and surely even you understand the comfort of shoes that fit like a glove."

Then, Seteta turned away slightly and reached down for the hem of her abaya, gracefully pulling the garment up over her head, careful not to disturb her headscarf. Beneath it, she wore a sleeveless, hip-length linen tunic--plain and undecorated in any way--and linen leggings. On top of the leggings on her right thigh, a knife was strapped in place in a leather sheath, and she carefully removed that and set it aside, though still within quick reach. The tunic and leggings she quickly stripped away, leaving her almost as naked as the day the sands caught her. She rarely bothered to bind her breasts. There wasn't really enough of them to cause her any nuisance.

She hesitated a moment before reaching for her headscarf. She had no religious or moral obligation for wearing it, but she'd learned fairly young that sometimes it was better to be mistaken as human rather than Abtati, especially if one was blessed with any small amount of beauty. But she suspected if she refused to remove it, Chaceledon might kick her out the door without any clothing at all. And Falwood was far too cold for that.

Slowly, she unwrapped the scarf, carefully folding it and draping it over her arm before she reached back and pulled the pins out of her coiled hair, shaking her head and letting the dark brown waves slide down her back. Then, she took a deep breath, turned back to face Chaceledon, reaching up to tuck her hair behind her pointed ears. She just barely flinched as a strand of hair snagged on her now-bejeweled fingernails, but she carefully pulled her hand away without any harm.

Her left ear had two golden studs, one in the lobe and one nestled in the curve just below the tip. Her right ear was lined, from lobe to tip, with delicate gold hoops, and yet another matching hoop through her septum. Her lips were not overly full, a natural shade of pale red that contrasted the bronze of her skin nicely.

Possibly to Chaceledon's disappointment, there was not an overabundance of bodily hair. She was more muscular than soft, and she held her poise with ease and grace. From head to toe, her coloration was even, except for across the right side of her body, where from ribs to ankle swirling, silvery scars looped and whirled over her skin as if reaching around from her back to her front in an attempt to embrace her.

"My name is Seteta," she said with a soft smile.

Chaceledon
 

Chaceledon

The Draconian Diva
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Chaceledon huffed at her stern refusal to burn anything. The clothing she wore was atrocious! He picked it up as she stripped, gingerly folding them and setting them aside. He made sure they didn’t touch any of his. Lord knew what she had brought in from the desert.

He did admire her figure. She was slender and graceful, built like a desert cat. Chaceledon was a naturally willowy creature. She may yet actually fit into some of the clothing he had to get rid of. He didn’t blink an eye; she was Abtati but that meant little to him. He had long been out of the loop in desert politics.

The dragon quietly increased the heat in the room. It wasn’t a spell he could maintain for days or weeks, nor to a level that would actually bring him comfort, but it would ease any shivering.

“Well at least you take care of yourself.” Chaceledon noted, and helped her with a slight frown when she got her nails caught. “Fingerpads, girl. Hold your nails ever so slightly aloft and think about where you put your hands before you do so.”

He demonstrated on his own hair, holding his fingertips up and using the pads to sweep hair back from one ear. He eyed her hair. That needed to be fixed. “Come with me.” he led her into the back and up the stairs, that looked twice as chaotic as the downstairs.

What was once a generous storage attic had been transformed into a bedroom, complete with a fluffy bed and chest of drawers. A table with small bins of crystals and gemstones sat ready for grading and polishing. Chaceledon led her away from all that though, to a copper tub that must have caused a team of servants quite the headache. It was long and deep, and filled with cooling water. An irritated touch, as though the properties of water were an inconvenience, and steam burst forth anew.

“I was planning on bathing but you clearly need it more.” He indicated a small table filled with enough bottles to qualify it as a very small bar. “Wash your hair with this one,” he indicated a bottle of blue glass that smelled faintly of oranges. “Then rinse and allow this oil to sit in,” he tapped a white bottle. “This soap is for your face, this one for your body, and this for your feet. Come down once you’re done.”

Chaceledon set a stack of towels next to the tub, and headed back downstairs. “Steal anything and Rheinhard will skin you alive.” he called back over one shoulder.

He went back downstairs in time for Volker to set a box of strawberries on the counter. “The woman is still here?” He asked, and eyed the nail box. “You gave her your bath.”

“I mean really. If I can’t help the less fortunate once in a while...” Chaceledon put away most of the primping boxes. “Rheinhard dear where are my hair scissors? The amount of dried out split ends on that woman...ergh! Like lice.”

Volker sniffed at the woman’s discarded clothing and snorted. “Lansom recognizes the scent.”

“Lansom was far too interested. Tell them to go away. I need you right now, not arguing with your ancestors. Though I’d much rather your father was here.” Chaceledon fussed, and came up with a pair of crystalline shears made entirely from carved quartz. “Ah-ha!”

“My father would have raped and skinned her for stepping in the door.” Volker frowned.

“But that embroidery of his was...oh, look who I’m talking to.” Chaceledon sighed and opened the strawberry box, settling the shears on the counter. He nibbled delicately at the fruit so as not to stain his clothing or muss his lip stain. “Let me have this. I’m enjoying myself. I used to do this for every client in Vhora. I used to have waiting lists three years long for the best social events of the season. Now look at me.”

Chaceledon sighed and tossed the strawberry down. “Eating peasant fruit out of a box.”

Seteta
 

Seteta

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As if in response to her own discomfort, the air around Seteta warmed a few degrees as Chaceledon helped her un-catch her fingernails from her hair. Magic, she noted. Chaceledon's definitely using some sort of magic.

“Well at least you take care of yourself.” Chaceledon noted, and helped her with a slight frown when she got her nails caught. “Fingerpads, girl. Hold your nails ever so slightly aloft and think about where you put your hands before you do so.”

Her face twisted a little, confused, as Chaceledon told her to how to use her hands like this, not certain how holding them over her head would make a difference, so it must mean something else. She watched the demonstration closely, huffing a little that she would have to be bothered by something so menial. It wasn't like she'd asked for... whatever all this was turning out to be. But she would, at least, try to be careful to not muss her nails. For now.

When ordered, which made her scowl just a little, she followed Chaceledon upstairs after setting her headscarf and loose hair pins on top of her now-folded clothes and retrieving her sheathed knife and carrying it casually at her side in a manner that denoted she was not planning to use it, only keep it near.

Once upstairs, her eyes widened at the sight of the gemstones on the table, but she only had a moment to boggle at them before she was led further into the clearly-private chambers to a tub of water. Her eyes widened again, watching as Chaceledon made the water steam with just a touch. Water was so very precious in the desert, and while she'd had the opportunity to fully bathe in rivers and streams, she'd never taken a hot bath. Water was difficult to transport and the effort would have never been wasted on something as trivial as a bath.

Chaceledon was still speaking, though, and she listened half-heartedly to the explanation of what each bottle contained and what to do with it, nearly mesmerized by the swirling steam. She just nodded at "come down when you're done."

Chaceledon set a stack of towels next to the tub, and headed back downstairs. “Steal anything and Rheinhard will skin you alive.” he called back over one shoulder.

She raised a brow, confused for a moment as to who Rheinhard was, and then recalled the human who'd been in the shop earlier. "He could certainly try to skin me alive," she muttered at Chaceledon's disappearing backside. "But I wouldn't deign to steal from a host, either way. That's just rude."

A host was what Chaceledon was now. Her Abtati tribe had strict customs for different types of relationships, and even if she did not live among them anymore, Seteta knew that certain parts of her culture would always be ingrained. Merchant and consumer relations were fairly fluid and casual, but as soon as Chaceledon had started bathing her hands, the relationship had begun to shift. And now, being invited into private chambers... the relationship wasn't an intimate one by any means, but there were just certain actions that would be incomprehensible now, like the theft of even the smallest grain of sand.

Cautiously, Seteta dipped her fingers into the bath to test the temperature. A giddy smile crossed her face at the utter warmth of it, and a moment later she was sinking into the water with a moan. While she was glad to have left the desert to sate her own curiosity about the world, she really hadn't anticipated how much she would miss the warmth of the sun-heated sand, how it could sink into one's bones like the comfort of a lover's embrace. And while the wet warmth of a hot bath was a new experience, the heat settling into her bones was a welcome comfort.

So she soaked for a short while, simply savoring the warmth and trying not to eavesdrop on the conversation below, but she couldn't help overhear some phrases here and there, tucking them away once more to ponder later. When the voices below ceased, Seteta took a breath and ducked her head below the water to wet her hair. She eyed the different glass bottles dubiously, then reached for what she hoped was the correct one. She'd been confused about the different soaps for different purposes.

"Soap is soap," she muttered to herself as she worked up a lather in her hands then dispersed it through her hair. Once rinsed, she applied the oil to her hair--that one, at least, had made sense and the sweet, bright scent of it made her smile--then twisted the length of her hair up into a knot on the top of her head to let the oil soak in. She progressed through the rest of the bottles in what she hoped was the correct order, though she waited till the end to wash her face. After that, she let her hair down and dunked beneath the water quickly once again to rinse out any excess oil before stepping out of the bath. Once she'd squeezed the excess water from her hair and towel-dried her skin, she wandered back downstairs without bothering to cover herself, sheathed knife held at her side once more. Some of the conversation she'd heard made her wary of the human Chaceledon had called Rheinhard, even more than the initial comment about skinning her alive. While she owed Chaceledon the courtesy due a host, she owed no such thing to Rheinhard, and would stay on her guard.

"I'm done," she announced, reentering the shop just as Chaceledon tossed down a strange red fruit.

Chaceledon
 
A Horrifying Truth

Chaceledon

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Chaceledon turned to look at her, covering his mouth with a delicate sweep of his hand as he swallowed. While dragons were content to let friends and family see them indisposed, guests and strangers were another matter. Seeing someone eating was akin to finding Chaceledon naked and rolling in grease. The very sight would be considered appalling. He pushed the box away and straightened up, regarding her.

He’d not thought to leave her a robe. He got up and began sifting through boxes. “Hardy dear...”

“The mink, rabbit or the shearling?” Volker asked.

“Shearling, the robe.” Chaceledon waited as Volker scanned the boxes and picked up one. Chaceledon shook free a beautifully dark brown robe, soft as a baby’s cheek. He brought it to her and wrapped her in it, tying the long sash that came with it. It was exquisitely soft against her skin, like a warm hug from some exotic animal. It wicked away moisture from her skin, and if she probed the fabric tiny golden threads were the source of the warmth. “I had a crochet phase.” Chaceledon flicked his wrist dismissively, and took her hair in hand.

Volker eyed her, suspicious, and sat down on the floor quietly. He closed his eyes, keeping himself occupied while Chaceledon worked. The dragon glanced over her shoulder. “Rheinhard don’t go too deep. I don’t need you letting anyone out.” he warned him, and brandished a comb with the intention of brushing out her hair. He set the quartz shears nearby. “The desert saps the strength out of your hair. Now that we’ve given it a bit of care, I’ll get it dry and clip off those disgusting split ends. Gods, maintenance. Maintenance, girl. How does one ever expect to find a husband like that?”

Volker opened one eye and gave him a look. “Don’t you dare. Your master kidnapped me, that’s entirely different and I have the scars to prove it.” he sniffed, lifting his chin as he examined her hair. Volker shut the eye. The dragon was right, anyway. Oor had practically put a knife to the fashionista’s throat to force the wedding. And everything that came after.

Seteta
 

Seteta

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Seteta quirked her head as Chaceledon quickly swallowed and pushed away the fruit, actions seeming more like embarrassment than anything else. It baffled her. Eating was... universal. Nearly every creature did so, in some way or another.

After a short conversation with the human male, Chaceledon turned back to her and Seteta found herself wrapped in a soft, brown robe a moment later. She'd never worn something so thick and soft before, and couldn't resist running her hand over the material. "Crochet?" she murmured softly, unsure of what type of craft that might be, but noticing the fiber of the garment was constructed in a way that wasn't woven. Her elven eyes were sharp enough to catch faint glimmers of gold in the robe, though, and she could feel the soft warmth radiating from them. More magic, she thought. Chaceledon seems to use magic easily, without any visible cost, so the creature is certainly powerful.

She kept her expression neutral as the human eyed her warily before taking a seat on the floor. Seteta remained standing as Chaceledon began doing something to her hair, keeping her sheathed knife in a relaxed grip in her hand. She puzzled over the comment to Rheinhard to not go too deep, but wasn't given long to ponder what it might mean when she heard Chaceledon speak again.

“The desert saps the strength out of your hair. Now that we’ve given it a bit of care, I’ll get it dry and clip off those disgusting split ends. Gods, maintenance. Maintenance, girl. How does one ever expect to find a husband like that?”

"Just keep it long enough that I can still put it up," Seteta stated, but her voice turned a bit snippish in response to the rest. "And if any potential mate of mine can't handle a few--what did you say?--split ends, then they're focused on entirely the wrong things about me."

Volker opened one eye and gave him a look. “Don’t you dare. Your master kidnapped me, that’s entirely different and I have the scars to prove it.”

"Kidnapped?" she murmured softly, a quiet rage awakening within her. If there was one thing she couldn't abide, it was kidnapping. She'd seen far too many of her childhood companions taken by force and sold into slavery by Kaliti humans. The younger they were the easier to be trained, the Kaliti believed, whether it was slaves for labor or slaves for pleasure. Few of her tribe members had been recovered, and the majority who had were never the same afterward.

Chaceledon
 

Chaceledon

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Chaceledon rolled his eyes and combed out her hair. The comb was curved, like the claws of a great cat, but they gently parted any knots or tangles. Chaceledon grasped the shears, and with delicate little snips, cut away the split ends. His shears moved at a steep angle, so that the new, healthy ends flowed naturally down her back as though she hadn’t cut it at all. He did look up when she mentioned his kidnapping.

“Rheinhard and I both.” he said.

“Chaceledon.” Volker’s tone was warning.

“Oh stop it, I tell my story to whomever I please. I’ve earned that after seventeen thousand years and six hundred generations of your slavery, thank you.” Chaceledon said with a particularly stern snip of the quartz shears. “Anyway. I used to be one of the Fae court’s most famous designers. Men and women of all stripes would come to me for clothing, particularly jewelry. Ah, the wedding bands on some of them...anyway. I was at a party, and I was...young, and arrogant, and full of myself. I slept with a wraith to spite my parents. They always had fancies of a dowry from a richer dragon. I woke up underground, and cold. I couldn’t change to myself anymore, nor see the sun or sands.”

Chaceledon sighed as he clipped. “I believe it was Lansom and Nestor who saw me first. Nestor being...oh, at the end of his lead I should think. Lansom ready to take the Well. Oor was less than a gentleman. I raised his killers for him, and...” he took in a short, angry breath. “...tolerated his attentions. He ruined my perfect legs. I’ll never forgive him for that alive or dead. Anyway, the Volkers have been trying to murder him for the better part of an ice age and I’m always too cold to help.”

“A long war of attrition we are both losing. You are aging, and the cycle will begin again soon at my age. Either way, it is none of this woman’s business unless you are trying to get Oor to kill her.” Volker said sharply. “It is the reason we are here. Oor is tired of the amount of things. So we are here to downsize.”

Chaceledon brushed her hair again and began to braid it. Despite the glass nails his deft fingers made a good, sturdy, and complex braid that hugged the base of her neck and kept it out of her eyes. He added a long brass pin to keep it in place, and nodded to himself.
Seteta
 

Seteta

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Seteta listened quietly as Chaceledon told a short but horrifying tale that surely spanned all the ages of the world. To be imprisoned for seventeen thousand years... she felt ill at the thought. And the types of legendary creatures mentioned, so casually...

But she finally learned the answer of what type of creature Chaceledon was--dragon. The realization sent a chill curling around her spine that even the warmth of the robe couldn't quell, dredging up memories of her initiation rite into her tribe as an adult, and the part of the desert she'd stumbled into that no other Abtati could recall ever seeing. Where sand dunes had crystallized into waves of glass, and the shamaness she'd encountered had told her it was done by dragonfire.

Without thought, Seteta's left hand rose to slide over her right side, where the scars lay. She owed her life to that shamaness. Seteta had been caught without shelter in a sandstorm, and hunted by a starving Zephyr wolf separated from its pack. She'd had to resort to magic to kill the wolf, but the cost had been greater than she could maintain in the moment of desperation and the spell had backfired.

There were other things the shamaness had told her, and part of it was why Seteta had left her tribe as it slowly dissolved rather than merging with another, but she would wait to ponder those things, to see how this incident might fit into it all, it it did fit at all. But to meet a dragon here... it couldn't be coincidence, not completely.

Seteta turned her attention back to Chaceledon's words.

Chaceledon sighed as he clipped. “I believe it was Lansom and Nestor who saw me first. Nestor being...oh, at the end of his lead I should think. Lansom ready to take the Well. Oor was less than a gentleman. I raised his killers for him, and...” he took in a short, angry breath. “...tolerated his attentions. He ruined my perfect legs. I’ll never forgive him for that alive or dead. Anyway, the Volkers have been trying to murder him for the better part of an ice age and I’m always too cold to help.”

It was all a little disjointed, but she deduced that Lansom and Nestor were names, though she wasn't sure how they related to it all, and that Oor was the name of the wraith. She was about to ask who the Volkers were when the one Chaceledon had been calling Rheinhard spoke.

“A long war of attrition we are both losing. You are aging, and the cycle will begin again soon at my age. Either way, it is none of this woman’s business unless you are trying to get Oor to kill her.” Volker said sharply. “It is the reason we are here. Oor is tired of the amount of things. So we are here to downsize.”

"You are one of these... Volkers, then?" Seteta addressed Rheinhard directly for the first time, and she would have turned back to face Chaceledon for her next question but the dragon's warm hands began weaving and twisting through her hair then, deftly plaiting it into a style she knew she could never accomplish on her own. "What cycle repeating do you speak off? And what is this... Well?"

Chaceledon
 

Chaceledon

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Chaceledon cleared his throat. “I apologize. When you only have so few people to talk to...” he sighed and gestured toward Volker. “My adopted son, Rheinhard Volker. What ghastly title did the easterners give you? Ochresand? Ergh. Oor had enslaved his family long before I. Each Volker serves until old age, then he will sire a single son. That son inherits both his father’s soul and every man to come before him. They’re all up in there, like Arethil’s worst dinner party.”

“Along with all of their memories. I learn, improve, and kill better.” Volker told her.

Chaceledon clicked his tongue.
“Fortunately Oor hasn’t quite selected a breeding partner for you dear, but he and Persian are in negotiations. Again. Slavers do love to bitch and moan at each other. This time Persian is demanding several pregnancies from you. Expecting the same gameness from some primped up pet. Hah. You’re safe for a bit dear.”


“Enough.” Volker stood and headed upstairs.

“I suppose he’ll have to get used to the idea. One doesn’t tell our captor no. Slavery is as slavery does. Anyway dear, our mutual imprisonment is no concern of yours. Except perhaps that I’m wasting time here, enraging Oor.” He giggled and playfully slapped her shoulder. “So then. What pallet are we going with?”


Seteta
 

Seteta

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Seteta blinked a bit owlishly as it was all explained to her, and though her gaze turned back to Rheinhard with no small amount of sympathy, she couldn't help but tighten the grip on her knife. "It sounds as if your mind is quite a noisy place," she said. "That can't be an easy burden."

She a bit of an unwilling voyeur as Chaceledon brought up what could only be the worst alternative to an arranged marriage for Rheinhard, and at that moment she felt the greatest compassion she could offer was utterly ignoring Rheinhard's departure from the room. She could only imagine the helplessness and mortification he must be feeling.

"If you're a slave, then why are you here?" Seteta asked.

She'd never encountered a slave that was not supervised in some way, though she supposed that Rheinhard might be that supervision. However, despite Rheinhard's mention of downsizing, something was strange, and she chose to ignore Chaceledon's statement that the situation was no concern of hers. Maybe it was, and maybe it wasn't. That was something only she could determine with more information, unless either of them specifically told her they did not wish help of any kind. But parts of the story were... odd.

"You seem to have an abundance of luxury and freedom of movement. Perhaps Rheinhard Volker is the one who needs saving from you." She didn't truly believe that last bit she said. There was something about the human male that told her to not let down her guard, regardless of the allegiances he might have or claim to have. Even if he was loyal to Chaceledon, and trying to escape the control of Oor, she didn't doubt that at an order from the wraith, Rheinhard wouldn't hesitate to attempt to kill her.

But she'd perhaps been a bit too unassuming with this dragon. All of this might be some elaborate trap to ensnare her, and if it was, she wanted to determine that sooner rather than later, provided it wasn't already too late.

"Also... I do not know what you mean by palette," Seteta admitted.

Chaceledon
 

Chaceledon

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“Bless you. This isn’t freedom. Oor watches me through Rheinhard. Even when he doesn’t, there are some in that Well that are loyal to him. Poor abused boys still looking for his approval after all these centuries. And me? Where would I go? He has too many connections on the sands. I could never reach the desert. I could never go home again.” He shook his head a bit and finished her hair, coming to stand in front of her. “Rheinhard and the others....need me. I’m the only halfway kind hand they’ve ever known that doesn’t want something from them. And loosen the grip on the knife, before you break a nail.”

The dragon knew she couldn’t see the vast network of scars on his body. The evidence he’d suffered more than most men could take and still breathe. “As for my luxury, well. I will say the man is wealthy, and I’ve trained him to shut me up with fabrics as opposed to just smashing me across the mouth. Now, a color palette is several colors or shades in harmony with one another. Like, oh, I’m wearing white. I accented it with creams and golds. They all meld together without clashing.”

Seteta
 

Seteta

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Seteta listened closely to Chaceledon's reply, hearing a similarity in how the dragon spoke to tribe members she'd encountered after they'd spent years in captivity. Almost a reluctance to actually fight to be free, but she also couldn't comprehend being held captive for 16,000 years. She might be elven, but Abtati often died sooner than most elves. She'd probably greatly lengthened her own lifespan simply by leaving Amol-Kalit.

"Do they need you, or do you want them to need you?" Seteta asked softly, closely watching Chaceledon's face, but loosening her grip on the knife as ordered. She couldn't care less about whether she broke a nail or not, though. "Or is that simply something you've tried to convince yourself of, to make what you've gone through have some meaning?"

When the color palette was explained, she gave it some thought even as she continued speaking on the other things Chaceledon had mentioned. "On the matter of your wraith master..." she hesitated just a moment, because she didn't want to give false hope or make undue promises, "if you and your family were from the deserts of Amol-Kalit, then I can say that I have never heard of a creature called Oor, so I would doubt that his power runs as deep as he tries to convince you. However, my tribe was small and secluded, and often stayed out of desert politics unless absolutely necessary, so there may be much I do not know. But a new power has begun to take shape there, someone many Abtati worship as a god. The sands are shifting, and perhaps you can make it work in your favor."

She sighed then, and broke her gaze away from Chaceledon's face to look around the shop instead. Colors... she thought, catching glimpses of hues here and there that made her pause, inspiring wonder. "I've always loved vivid sunsets," she confessed. "The transition from orange to pink and purples to deep blue. Maybe something like that?"

Chaceledon
 

Chaceledon

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Chaceledon gave her a stony look. “These boys grow up with nothing but a father who hates them, and a master who will use them until he tires of them. My Rheinhard was found as a toddler after three days of watching his mother swing from the rafters of a barn. He was so frightened, and alone, and had men in his head trying to bully him and take away his control. It’s like a pit of drowning men clawing for light, and sound, and touch. He was always going to turn out a killer; madness was bred into them. But it’s up to me whether they become unhinged messes or...something somewhat tame.” He turned his attention back to the clothes, lifting box lids and casting things aside he definitely knew he wouldn’t use. “As much as I would love for Rheinhard to get married to a man who can understand him...just not in the cards.”

He appeared not to be listening as she spoke of the sands, setting aside boxes. He withdrew a robe of soft creamy orange, lined in white rabbit fur. Where were the under robes for this? He sifted through the boxes as she spoke. “When I say connections, I mean Persian. Not so much the tribes, but the slavers. Men who are used to finding bits and baubles of humanity to sell off. Not to say...I can’t reach the sands being this cold. Not alone.” He withdrew a beautifully rich deeper orange, and a simple layer of white. Small accents in yellows and pinks gave off the appearance of a soft sunset. The type one would see in high summer.

“Besides, it’s a long way to go. Rheinhard would need to come with us which means getting the boys to agree. Oh Ferenzi and Nestor would agree for sure but Aluid still has dreams of Oor, the poor thing. Not to mention Klaus would- why am I talking like this? It’s not as if you’re about to whisk me back to the sands and my family.”

Chaceledon offered her the pale under robe. “Layer them neatly, and make sure the collar lays flat against your neck.” he instructed. There were four layers. White, pale pink, the darker orange, and the creamsicle color for the top.

Seteta
 
Negotiations Begin

Seteta

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She wasn't trying to be obnoxious in her questions, truly. But Seteta felt like there was something more going on here, something she'd stumbled into that was far over her head, but yet Chaceledon seemed to desperately need to be... seen. At least, that's what her instincts were telling her, and they hadn't led her wrong yet when she actually listened to them.

Seteta watched quietly as Chaceledon continued to speak while digging through boxes and pulling out luxurious, vivid garments. The types of things she'd only seen on royalty before. The thought of wearing some of them made her a little nervous. What if she ruined something beyond repair?

She didn't miss any a single thing Chaceledon said, though.

"It’s not as if you’re about to whisk me back to the sands and my family.”

She could hear it, the silent, almost hopeless plea that the dragon must have uttered countless times over the years. The plea for a rescuer. To be saved. Seteta wasn't sure which prospect horrified her more: that many had tried to act upon it and died for it, or that no one had even tried, not once.

Chaceledon offered her the pale under robe. “Layer them neatly, and make sure the collar lays flat against your neck.” he instructed. There were four layers. White, pale pink, the darker orange, and the creamsicle color for the top.

Seteta set aside her knife and shed the warm, merino robe with a bit of reluctance and took the under robe from Chaceledon's hands. She carefully lifted the garment and slid it over her head, careful not to muss her hair. They were definitely garments originally made for Chaceledon, she noted, giggling softly as the hem of the robe pooled at her feet. The dragon was quite a bit taller than her.

"I wouldn't whisk you back to the sands or your family," Seteta murmured after the fourth layer settled into place and she adjusted the collar. "At least not right away. That's the first place Oor would come looking for you. You'd have to go where he'd never think you'd run."

Chaceledon
 

Chaceledon

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Chaceledon knelt at her feet and opened a small crystal box, sliding pins between his lips. Pins with diamonds the size of fish eyes on them. It seemed he did nothing unless it was perfectly fancy. He began the process of pinning and setting out a line for a hem, listening to her. Pin, then add another layer and hem it to fit the first. On and on until she had all four layers pinned at the bottom and sleeve hems.

He adjusted a few of the pins at her wrist, looking down at her. You’re right I suppose. We could go colder. It’s the opposite of what I would do. But...I would lose any ability to help you or Rheinhard if you got into trouble. If you got me back to the sands, far away from here, then I would only grow stronger. My power would rival his at this point. I could burn him to cinders if he ever tries touching me again. I’ve had enough of feeling weak, girl.” he pursed his lips and finished, standing back to look at her. She looked exquisite. She smelled like jasmine and orange blossoms, and the sunset color suited her perfectly. Her nails glittered in the light. She looked like a noble, as though she’d simply come in for the fitting of her latest collection.

“Damn, I’m good.” Chaceledon curled a hand under his chin and gave a very soft smile. Casually he strode to a full length mirror and turned it toward her.

Seteta
 

Seteta

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"I'm not completely defenseless," Seteta murmured, watching as Chaceledon pinned up the four layers of hems with a speed and precision that was impressive, then repeated the same with each of the sleeve cuffs. "I'm skilled with more than just a knife."

"If you got me back to the sands, far away from here, then I would only grow stronger. My power would rival his at this point. I could burn him to cinders if he ever tries touching me again. I’ve had enough of feeling weak, girl.”

That she could understand. She'd had a few moments in her life when she felt utterly helpless, and it had not been for near as long as Chaceledon had been enslaved.

"How does he track you, when you're not with him?" Seteta asked quietly. That would make all the difference in whether they could run straight for the desert, or take a detour. "How quickly would you need to get there?"

Chaceledon stood then, eyeing her, and when the dragon smiled she felt her stomach flip. Seteta was grateful Chaceledon turned away then for a moment, and she pressed the back of her hand to her cheek--carefully, so as not to scratch her face with a pin--as warmth flushed over her face. She was just lowering her hand when the mirror was flipped toward her, and for a moment her reflection left her breathless.

"That's... me?" she whispered with disbelief. She'd most often seen her own reflection in puddles of water, rarely having access to any sort of mirror, and never one that was large enough to capture all of her. Many people had told her she was beautiful, but this... to see herself like this was something else entirely.

Chaceledon