Private Tales Of Sand & Dragonfire

  • Distant lands call to you, Guest. The next world event coming soon.

    A land once ruled by Dragons and Gods opens, but not every secret of Arethil's past is safe to uncover.

    Titanfall

A private roleplay only for those invited by the first writer

Seteta

Wooing a Fabulous Dragon
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Seteta retrieved the shovel and vanished into the trees again. It wasn't long before she returned from burying the offal. When she returned, she saw Chaceledon reaching into the fire, barehanded, and turning the meat that was cooking, and if she'd doubted his claims to be a dragon before, that would've quelled any remaining doubts.

For a few minutes, she lingered at the tree line, just watching the interaction between Rheinhard and Chaceledon. It was clear that Rheinhard was the more competent of the two, even if Chaceledon was--possibly, though she wouldn't wager her life on it--the more trustworthy.

She emerged from the shadows quietly, then, and returned the shovel to the cart. The rest of the evening went quickly as she helped Rheinhard with whatever tasks he directed her to, rolling her eyes whenever Chaceledon warned her to watch her nails. She kept startling whenever they glinted in the firelight.

Finally, they sat down to eat, and Seteta unwrapped her headscarf, looping it around her neck.

"Are we leaving at dawn, or aiming to be up at dawn?" she asked after swallowing her first bite of the venison.

Chaceledon
 

Chaceledon

The Draconian Diva
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Chaceledon felt so out of place. Rheinhard at least took charge, curing the deer hide with the dragon’s help. Normally it would take days of drying, but Chaceledon was able to apply high and gentle heat to give them jerky and leather. Volker spent the rest of the evening scraping the hide and finishing the cure. He set the new hide in the back of the wagon, which would provide Chaceledon some cushion, and began making pine boughs for his own bed.

“I rise with the dawn, and will wake you.” Rheinhard told Seteta. He arranged the pine boughs in a rough circle, and began padding it with moss from the nearby trees. Chaceledon watched him, picking gingerly at the venison. Even he had to admit it was good.

“I’m sorry you had to live like this Hardy dear,” Chaceledon said quietly.

“Do not be. It wasn’t a choice for either of us.” Volker told him, and gestured at the tent. “You will share with her. I need to be able to rise quickly if something goes amiss.”

The dragon nodded, and glanced at Seteta. He hadn’t really planned on sharing a bed but he couldn’t turn her out to sleep next to the fire either. He almost didn’t have the heart to let Rheinhard do it, but for the fact that the man looked perfectly comfortable curling up in his tree nest like a cat. Chaceledon wrapped up their jerky, giving the girl a half-hearted smile. “Only my son would add to supplies on a trip.” he said fondly, and tucked the deer away in their cart.

With that Chaceledon prepared for bed. He switched out his nails for a plain milk glass pair that barely extended beyond his natural finger. The opulent nails were placed in a case with the rest, and if Seteta noticed, Chaceledon had no natural nails. There was mere scar tissue under the glass. He tucked the case away and pulled out small tins of cream for his eyes, hairline, ears, and face. Another small pot for his arms and hands, and a third tin for his feet. He brushed his hair with a boar bristle brush, added a few drops of jasmine oil, and brushed it through again with a pick comb. Finally, he brushed his teeth with yet another tin of tooth powder, and settled down with a tin cup of the pine tea they’d made.

By the time he was done Rheinhard was dead asleep. “I think I have a few extra toothbrushes if you like.” he offered to Seteta. “And we really ought to take your braids out and comb your hair.”

Seteta
 

Seteta

Wooing a Fabulous Dragon
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“I rise with the dawn, and will wake you.” Rheinhard told Seteta.

Seteta nodded, and continued to eat at her portion of the venison while Chaceledon and Rheinhard conversed quietly. She was surprised when Rheinhard stood and began assembling a bed of tree boughs. The tent seemed plenty big enough for the three of them, but if he preferred to sleep under the stars, then she would leave him be.

“Only my son would add to supplies on a trip.” he said fondly, and tucked the deer away in their cart.

She smiled back and chuckled. "It's smart," she said. "It's a long enough journey, and if we want to reduce the ways Oor might be able to track us, then building up stores from what we can hunt and preserve on the road is better than stopping at every town or village and buying supplies."

Having finished her venison, Seteta stood and placed her satchel inside the tent, then took a moment to roll out the bedrolls inside. She fetched a couple of tin cups, and dipped out some of the pine tea from the pot over the fire. She set one next to Chaceledon, who was busy doing something with his nails, and she flinched just a little as she caught sight of the scar tissue at the tips of his fingers.

Seteta turned back to the fire then, and filled her own cup with pine tea--the scent was fragrant and luxurious, reminiscent of some of the dried herbs she'd smelled from merchants in the past--before setting the pot aside and banking the fire for the night. Between gathering the coals and scooping up ashes, she kept glancing over at Chaceledon, a bit in awe of the whole... beauty routine he seemed to have going.

By the time he finished, she was settled down nearby with her cup of pine tea. Rheinhard appeared to be asleep, and she could smell the soft scent of jasmine oil that Chaceledon had combed through his hair.

“I think I have a few extra toothbrushes if you like.” he offered to Seteta. “And we really ought to take your braids out and comb your hair.”

"Toothbrush?" she asked with a curious tone.

Chaceledon
 

Chaceledon

The Draconian Diva
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Chaceledon blinked at her. She didn’t...? “Oh dear gods...” he said, as though she’d suddenly admitted to having a taste for infant blood. His hand flew to his mouth and he appeared to be fighting down sick, though in reality he was far from it. The horror of such an implication couldn’t be understated. Chaceledon’s teeth were perfect. Volker’s teeth were...adequate, the man seemed to brush on a maintenance basis. But having never touched a toothbrush? At her age?

Chaceledon dug into his bag and pulled out a finely carved brush. It was tiny, no longer than the last joint of a thumb, and made of tiny bunches of boar bristles carefully woven through the end of the ivory handle. The hairs were trimmed into a neat rectangle shape. Chaceledon had carved images of eagles in flight along the grip. He dipped the end of the brush into his tea, enough to wet it, and gently dabbed the tips of the bristles into his small metal tin of tooth powder.

“You scrub your teeth. Like so.” Chaceledon offered it to her, then picked up his own. He wetted it in the tea, then dabbed it in the tooth powder. He lifted his lips to show his pearly teeth, and showed her the brush strokes. Up and down across top and bottom, side to side in and out. For a full two minutes. Then he took a mouthful of tea, swished, and delicately spat into the grass behind him. He washed his brush, and dumped out the tea where he’d spat. “And now my breath smells like mint leaves and cleanliness...not rotting venison.”

Seteta
 

Seteta

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Seteta could barely hold back a laugh, biting the inside of her lip, when Chaceledon's horror became evident. She almost ended the joke then and there, but when he began to dig through his bag, she quietly took a deep breath and brought her nearly-bursting-forth laughter under control.

She was the picture of curious innocence when he turned back, and began his demonstration. She took the proffered toothbrush, though she didn't have to hide her awe at the carved ivory handle. But she just sat there, watching as he brushed his teeth again, this time with exaggerated motions, and holding onto what was clearly now her own toothbrush with feigned naivety.

“And now my breath smells like mint leaves and cleanliness...not rotting venison.”

A very unladylike snort finally escaped Seteta, followed by quiet giggling as she stuck the toothbrush she held into her mouth and began scrubbing with practiced ease. She watched Chaceledon with amusement as she brushed and rinsed and spat, though she grimaced a little at the combined flavor of the mint and pine tea. After rinsing the brush off, she dumped her own tea out as well, and stood as she finally let soft laughter escape, but made sure it wasn't so loud as to disturb Rheinhard's sleep.

"Since none of us consumed rotting venison tonight, we wouldn't be smelling like that anyway," she said with a grin as she stood over him.

Then, clutching her tin cup and toothbrush in one hand, she bent down so her face was near his and drew in a deep breath. "But yes, you do smell minty and clean now," she said with a smile, pausing for a moment to let her eyes meet his before she leaned in and pressed a gentle kiss to his mouth.

She pulled away after just a short moment, though, and turned around and sat in front of him. "I don't know where you put all the pins in my hair," she said, pretending as though her face wasn't flushed with heat in the darkness. "But if you'll pull them out, I can comb my own hair after that."

Chaceledon
 

Chaceledon

The Draconian Diva
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Chaceledon gave her a look when she took the brush and scrubbed her own teeth as though she’d been doing it for years. She had been teasing him. He raised one plucked eyebrow at her. Well, at least she wasn’t entirely barbaric. She at least knew what tooth powder was and how to use it. Perhaps he’d pegged her culture a bit wrongly, but he was used to dealing with the Volkers after so long, who ranged from gentlemen to out and out barbarians.

Chaceledon set down his cup with a sigh as she leaned down to smell his breath. Yes, he supposed he deserved a bit of mockery for his erroneous assumption. The kiss caught him entirely by surprise. His back stiffened and his eyes widened, blinking a bit as she withdrew and sat down in front of him.

What in the gods’ names had that been about? He touched his lips a moment, a blush creeping across his cheeks. Her voice mentioning the pins brought him back. He cleared his throat and schooled his face back into its normal air of superior coldness, gently plucking the pins from her braids.

“...I always pin in a pattern. Never randomly. There are five pins here, and you can do most anything with them. Don’t lose them.” he told her, though his voice was a bit softer. He offered her the pins, and got up to change into his sleeping attire. Of course, he’d packed a sleeping gown of deep red silk. It was comfortable, and had no ornamentation but for complex gold chrysanthemums splashed across his legs. He settled down on the bed roll, sighing when he saw Volker had been kind enough to pack a bear skin. He was always so cold.

Chaceledon curled up on his side, resting his cheek on the neck roll. Ergh, he’d have to find a way to wash this or he’d get blemishes.

Seteta
 

Seteta

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Seteta almost startled when Chaceledon cleared his throat behind her, the receding warmth flushing over her face again, but a moment later she felt his fingers gently tugging the pins out of her hair.

“...I always pin in a pattern. Never randomly. There are five pins here, and you can do most anything with them. Don’t lose them.” he told her, though his voice was a bit softer.

She held her hand out for the pins. "I won't lose them," she promised quietly, then watched as Chaceledon vanished into the tent. Her fingers clenched around the hair pins as she twisted back to fire, gazing into the glowing coals as she tried to calm her thoughts--and heart--enough for sleep.

She hadn't planned to kiss him. Sure, she'd been attracted to him since he'd smiled at her in the shop earlier, but well... kissing wasn't a big deal, but to him it might be. Or perhaps he wasn't at all interested in any sort of physical relationship, after... well, he'd not blatantly said what the wraith had done with him over the years, but Seteta wasn't a complete idiot. Or maybe he just wasn't interested in her. She'd gotten caught up in the moment, though, and if it backfired it was her own fault.

With a sigh, she tipped her head back to look up at the starry sky. If anything, if for some reason Rheinhard had woken and seen that, she'd at least given credibility for the assumption Oor would hopefully make--that she was a foolish girl smitten by the dragon.

After a few more quiet moments, she set the pins in her lap and reached up and unbraided her hair before softly combing her fingers through the length of it, then running her fingers over her scalp as she shook her head. Then she gathered the hair pins, the toothbrush, and her tin cup, and stood. She bit her lip for a moment as she eyed the tent.

Chaceledon was quiet when she ducked inside, though she couldn't tell if he was asleep or not. She raised an eyebrow when she caught sight of a bit of red beyond the bearskin fur. Of course he'd changed. Seteta had a feeling he would change his clothes ten times a day if given the opportunity.

Quietly, she tucked the hair pins inside her satchel, and set the cup and toothbrush next to it. She unbuttoned her coat and draped it over the satchel, then sat down on her bedroll and began to unlace her boots and set them within easy reach as she slipped them off. Without the coat, the night air was a little chilled, and with a shiver she slipped under the woolen blanket resting on top of the bedding. The ground here was harder than the desert sand, but she had a pillow, and after a few moments squirming to find the most comfortable spot and position, she closed her eyes, and tried to rest.

Chaceledon
 

Chaceledon

The Draconian Diva
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Chaceledon heard her come in, and get ready for bed. She took her boots off in the tent, which made his skin crawl, but he saw her cuddle down and squirm for comfort and warmth. Being of the desert himself, he knew what that horrific bitter cold felt like. The sands grew freezing at night, so much so that frost might grow atop it, and his dahn had curled up with big fluffy blankets that were thrown off irritably come morning.

Chaceledon settled closer to her and shared the bear skin with her, and warmth bled from his side of the bed to hers. He closed his eyes, and slept.

He woke in the morning with a sharp breath, sitting up and rapping his forehead on the top of the tent. Gods! For a moment he thought he was back in Witherhold...but there was no chill here. No smell of papery death or dampness. Just fresh air, sunlight, and cold.

Snow had moved in the night. Snow! Chaceledon shivered and curled up behind Seteta for warmth. Lord no. He needed lip balms, hand cream, and a rabbit jacket to even think of going out in this mess! He saw Rheinhard through the opening in the tent, already feeding his bed to the fire and cooking bird’s eggs for breakfast. Bread? Where the hell had he found fresh bread? And coffee?

He sighed when he saw Rheinhard adding scraps of bloodstained clothing to the fire, and the rack of suspiciously pink meat drying. They also had a new horse, who seemed half-insane with terror and was shivering in a daze next to their cart horse.

Chaceledon got up and began dressing for the day. He kept the milk-glass nails; something told him they’d be better for traveling. His hair was brushed and done up, and he pulled out a small mirror to apply kohl around his eyes. He had a palette of tiny powder jars in a thousand colors, mixed carefully with the barest hint of water and spread over his eyelids.

Seteta
 

Seteta

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Seteta had nearly been drifted off to sleep, curled up into a tight little ball beneath her woolen blanket and while not comfortably warm she'd at least not been cold. She'd been surprised, though, when Chaceledon quietly shifted in her direction and spread the bearskin over her. As his warmth began to suffuse her, her breathing gently slowed and sleep crept over her as her body relaxed.

Rheinhard woke her at dawn, as promised, before he slunk away out of the camp. After combing her hair back with her fingers and pinning it up by feel, she wrapped the same blue headscarf she'd worn the day before around her face and head. She put her boots on, pulled on her coat, and grabbed her satchel before quietly slipping out of the tent without disturbing Chaceledon.

The sight of the world took her breath away. She'd seen snow before, of course. On the distant peaks of the Seret mountains, and even snow falling from the sky in the desert, especially if she was near the coast. But she'd never seen a blanket of snow across the earth like this, and it while it was nearly blinding in the way it reflected and refracted the morning light, it was beautiful.

While Rheinhard was away doing... whatever he was doing, Seteta stirred up the banked coals and got the fire going again. She retrieved fresh water in the pot again, and left it setting over the fire. Since Rheinhard had still not returned at that point, she took the opportunity to clean the freshly fallen snow out of the wagon and neatly organize the supplies there so she had an idea of what they had. After that, unsure of what breakfast was going to entail since Rheinhard seemed to have mostly taken charge of the supplies, she retrieved her soiled clothing that she'd worn from Amol-Kalit and headed back to the stream.

The water was cold and her fingers quickly went numb, but she was able to wash most of the grime out of the linen garments with just some elbow grease. She carefully wrung as much moisture out of them as she cold and folded each one, though the items were still damp. Despite the snow that had fallen overnight, the air was quickly warming as the sun came up, and the wet garments weren't turning into ice.

Seteta returned to the camp, but hesitated for a moment when she noticed an extra horse. She quietly skirted around through the tree line, but didn't see anyone unfamiliar. A moment later, though, she did spot Rheinhard, and as she watched him drop a pile of bloody clothes next the fire then begin to lay strips of flesh on the drying rack that had been used for the venison jerky the night before. Her stomach twisted a little, recalling one of the things Rheinhard had said to her the day before.

"Do not worry yourself about preparing for Oor. He will either destroy every memory of us, or he will command me to eat you alive for the inconvenience.”

Quietly, she stepped back into the camp, near the wagon. When Rheinhard looked up, she briefly met his eyes, but said nothing. A moment later, she turned away and began to drape her damp clothing over the edge of the horse cart. Once finished, she ducked back inside the tent.

Chaceledon was still asleep, so far as she could tell, and it seemed that Rheinhard would be busy for a time. She was thoroughly chilled from the time spent washing her clothes at the river, though, and so she unlaced her boots again, took off her coat, unwrapped her headscarf, and slipped back under the bear skin.

She listened as Rheinhard shuffled back and forth around the camp, shivering just a little both from the realization of what he had done, and also because she was just cold.

"Get a grip, Seteta,"
she whispered to herself in Abtat. "You're flirting with a dragon, and traveling with a nearly-insane man with hundreds of souls trapped in his head. The chances are high that you're the only one here besides the horses that hasn't eaten man-flesh."

Clutching her still-frozen hands into her chest, Seteta curled back up, and closed her eyes again for just a little bit.

She didn't really fall back asleep, but at some point she did drift into that state somewhere between sleeping and waking, where one was aware of the world but time seemed to slip by a little faster. She was pulled out of it, though, when Chaceledon stirred behind her. For a brief moment, he almost curled around her, and her heart started going thud-thud! so loudly that she thought he would be able to hear it.

But then he was up, and sighing, and she laid still for several moments before peeking out from under the blankets and bear skin. She couldn't help but smile and laugh softly when she saw Chaceledon carefully color to his eyelids.

She ducked back under the bedding before he looked her way.

Chaceledon
 

Chaceledon

The Draconian Diva
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Chaceledon heard the snicker and pursed his lips, looking at her. He was a vision in red, with his copper hair against the white snow outside, those violet eyes giving her a slightly disapproving look. He couldn’t help it. He finished with a single red stripe of lip stain down his bottom lip, and put his things away. He...wanted to look prettier for her. He didn’t know what that kiss meant, but he didn’t want to look ugly around her anymore.

Chaceledon dressed in warm layers. Dark black wool, a crimson overcoat he’d pulled along with a fur ruff. He settled on the log, arranging his robe around his feet elegantly. He had cut the outfit to suit his long neck and frame his slender figure. Yes, this was suitably impressive.

“We are traveling west, not to a party. You are going to run out of outfits by day five.” Volker told Chaceledon sternly, packaging up the extra meat and offering him a tin plate with an egg cooked neatly in a piece of toast. Chaceledon cleared his throat. How to...dragons didn’t eat around anyone. Especially people...he glanced back at the tent.

Well, if he had to eat he was equipped. He opened the pocket dimension and rooted around for a tiny wooden box. The brass finger sheaths within had long, sharp protrusions. One could cut with the narrow edge, and spear delicate bites. That was what Chaceledon did, as gracefully as though he were painting or writing calligraphy.

Volker gave him a look. “Again, this is not a ball.” He said, a bit sharper.

“I just felt like dressing up a bit this morning.” Chaceledon said defensively.

“Red in a snow covered forest. You are a torch, mother. Dress down.” Volker told him as he carried the last of the meat to the wagon. Thankfully, it would freeze.

Seteta
 

Seteta

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Seteta left her hair loose and headscarf looped around her neck when she left the tent a few minutes after Chaceledon after having put her boots and coat on again. It was too cold to run around in just stockinged feet.

She laughed silently as she heard Rheinhard's comments on Chaceledon's outfit, and stopped to check her drying clothes on the cart before heading over to sit by the fire, hesitating just a moment as she and Rheinhard crossed paths as he carried the... meat over.

As she stretched out her hands to warm them by the flames, Seteta looked over at Chaceledon's plate. For a moment, she noted the odd utensils Chaceledon was using, but her thoughts were quickly pulled back to the... other matter.

To her relief, at least for now it seemed breakfast was just bread and egg, and while the egg could have come from a late nest Rheinhard found in the forest, it only took a glance over at the new, still-frightened horse for her to put together where the bread had come from.

Her stomach twisted again, just a little, but she shoved the sensation aside. There's no reason I should feel guilt, she told herself. And it's not like I've never killed anyone or anything myself.

"Good morning," she murmured, giving Chaceledon a smile as she poured herself a cup of the coffee and wrapping her cold hands around the tin cup with a sigh. She took a cautious sip, testing the temperature on her tongue.

Rheinhard returned a moment later, and Seteta broke the awkward silence between them.

"Is there a dry blanket I can use for the new horse?" she asked. "I think it's calmed down enough now that I can dry it off before it catches a chill."

Chaceledon
 

Chaceledon

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Chaceledon ate only about a third of the egg and maybe a quarter of the meal. It would be indelicate to eat more. He offered the plate to Rheinhard. “Thank you dear, it was lovely.” Chaceledon said with a small smile. Rheinhard took the plate and shoveled the rest into his mouth, making eye contact with Chaceledon. He was in a diet mood because of the girl, Volker was sure of it.

“What exactly are you doing?” He asked, cleaning the plate. Chaceledon lifted his chin slightly.

“I don’t understand the question, and I won’t respond to it.” Chaceledon sniffed, standing up. He flounced to the back of the wagon and perched like an exotic bird, putting away his utensils and splaying his robes just so.

Volker sighed and began to pack up camp, offering Seteta another egg and a blanket for the new horse. “He will tag along behind us. We will need barter, and something to cut loose if we are chased.” Volker told her.

Seteta
 

Seteta

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Seteta wasn't sure what she'd just witnessed as Chaceledon handed his barely-touched food back to Rheinhard, made some smart-aleck remarks, and then perched on the wagon. She scarfed down the egg Rheinhard offered, then took the blanket and went to check on the additional horse.

She eyed Chaceledon dubiously as she walked over to the wagon, draping the blanket over the edge before she slowly approached the spooked horse. It was no longer trembling, but she could see the fear in its eyes, and she began to make soothing, nonsensical sounds. From time to time, she would glance over at Chaceledon, trying to gauge his behavior. He was at times exceedingly simple to read, or infuriatingly impossible. Right now, it was the latter, and with a scowl she turned her attention back to the horse.

Only when the horse would take her touch without flinching did she begin to unsaddle the horse. She carefully wiped away the residual moisture, drying and warming the horse. It was a gelding, she noted, a pretty bay color. It reminded her of a Sereti horse, almost, but the build was all wrong.

At the last, when the horse was calm again and dry and warm, she swapped its bit and bridle out for a rope halter, and staked it out with her own mare until it was time to leave. Rheinhard was already breaking camp, and she went to pack up the belongings inside the tent. She shook out all the bedding and then reassembled the bedrolls, packed her satchel, combed her hair with her fingers again and pinned it up, and replaced her headscarf.

As she carried her satchel, the bedrolls, and the bearskin back to the wagon, she noticed that Rheinhard had the fire out and was packing up the dishes and water pot. She would go back in a moment to help tear down the tent, and then worry about saddling her own mare.

As she tossed the bear skin up to Chaceledon, she sighed. She wasn't sure if he was pouting or preening in the wagon.

"You know," she commented, "Fresh food will be hard to come by once we're in the desert. It's wasteful to not eat everything Rheinhard makes for you while it's available. And you need to eat, because it's cold."

Chaceledon
 

Chaceledon

The Draconian Diva
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Volker could see the disconnect between what Chaceledon was trying to do and what Seteta saw. Dragon culture was exceedingly complex and difficult, and she was misreading him. What Chaceledon was trying to portray was a man of dignity, poise and restraint. A man who did not drink or eat himself to excess, cared about his appearance, and didn’t slouch. For a dragon to flirt everything was staged, from how much one drank during dinner to how one walked or sat. Seteta was misinterpreting Chaceledon’s attempt to be perfect as arrogant or obtuse.

Consequently, throwing the bear skin at him was sending a message. Volker watched the pair with a shake of his head as Chaceledon calmly picked up the bear skin, folded it, and set it aside. Testing potential mates wasn’t uncommon either. As the Volkers had learned, it was exceedingly common for one side of the flirtatious pair to strike, annoy, or purposefully ruin the perfect image of the other to see their reaction or see them recover. It was considered rude to over or underreact to these tests.

Pointing out how much or little someone ate, however, was a grave insult.

Chaceledon glared at her. “I don’t over eat.” he said coldly.

Volker met her at her mare, ignoring the animal’s snort and hurried side step. “He is attempting to woo you, girl.” He said quietly, under his breath. “Being delicate is seen as desirable among dragons. He will purposefully restrict his diet around you, dress impeccably, even move consciously. Make it clear you are not interested and he will be back to normal.”

Seteta
 

Seteta

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Seteta was about to open her mouth and clarify that she wasn't worried about Chaceledon overeating. She was concerned that he wasn't eating enough. Rheinhard caught her attention and gestured to the horses, though, so she just shook her head and sighed and headed over to Rheinhard.

As the mare snorted and dodged, Seteta grabbed for her halter before either of them got stepped on, bristling only slightly when Rheinhard stepped close.

“He is attempting to woo you, girl.” He said quietly, under his breath. “Being delicate is seen as desirable among dragons. He will purposefully restrict his diet around you, dress impeccably, even move consciously. Make it clear you are not interested and he will be back to normal.”

Seteta's mind went blank for just a moment, and then a rather coarse Abtat expletive escaped her as a bright red flush crept up her face, all the way past the edges of her headscarf, to the point Rheinhard would have to be blind to not see it.

"What would be the alternative?" she blurted out. "If I... If I were to make an interest known for certain, would it... help settle him? Make him more amenable to... listening to suggestions? Taking advice?"

She glanced back at Chaceledon still sitting in the wagon. You are a fool, she silently scolded herself. She looked back at Rheinhard. "It... might be my fault," she confessed. "I kissed him last night."

Chaceledon
 

Chaceledon

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Volker saw her blush, his stony expression unmoving. So she was interested in Chaceledon. He was a beautiful creature, Rheinhard would have to be a fool not to see that. But a random desert girl? With his mother? Before they were fully out from under Oor’s thumb? They’d barely traveled a day and she had already kissed him? This was going too far, too fast.

“You kissed him.” Volker said flatly. “I have no interest in my mother’s love life beyond this; he is the only thing I have that is family. Hurt him, and I will make sure you live through most of what I do to you.”

He turned and climbed onto the wagon, taking up the reins and waiting for Seteta to mount her mare. The gelding he’d picked up would be allowed to amble along behind them on his halter. The spare tack would have to be stored next to Chaceledon, which he wasn’t particularly happy about. The dragon eventually tossed the bear skin over the saddle and leaned against it, chin up and looking very much like a deposed king.

“Well?”

Rheinhard sighed. “Well what?”

“Is she looking?”

“I really do not want to be involved in this.”

Seteta
 

Seteta

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Rheinhard stalked away without actually answering any of her questions, and the glare he sent in her direction sent Seteta scrambling to finish saddling her mare before she was left in the dust of the wagon wheels.

When she mounted the dapple grey mare, wishing for some gloves to protect her hands from the chilled air. Between washing her clothes in the stream earlier that morning and the illusion spell she'd used on Chaceledon's facial scars the afternoon before, her hands were aching.

She didn't say anything, though. Didn't complain, because overall while the pain was an inconvenience, it wasn't something that would last. When she brought the mare around to face the wagon, though, she almost choked at the sight of Chaceledon lounging against the bear skin. Before her blush could betray her again, she nudged at the mare's side with her heels and trotted past the wagon without making eye contact with either man or dragon.

Seteta rode ahead of the wagon for most of the day, only rejoining them when they paused to distribute food for the midday meal. She refilled her waterskin and took some venison jerky--making sure it was the venison kind and not... the other--then rode off ahead again, though staying within sight, barely. Hopefully Chaceledon would eat heartily if she wasn't there, and while she told herself she was scouting ahead some to get the lay of the land, she also needed to think.

She didn't blame Rheinhard for his threats. Chaceledon had said he was the only stabilizing force that any of the Volkers had ever experienced, and Rheinhard had all of those memories, if everything she'd been told was to be believed. She probably had been hasty, and the timing was... very, very inconvenient.

She tossed those thoughts back and forth for nearly the whole day, but as the sun began to set, she forced her thoughts away from the dynamic with these two creatures, and began to keep an eye out for a suitable camping spot.

Soon, she found a clearing, set off from the road quite a ways in a copse of trees, with plenty of fallen limbs and dry brush that would make getting another fire going a simple matter. The same as with last night, she could hear the trickle of water nearby, though it didn't sound as much like a flowing stream. Probably a small spring-fed pond, in this case.

Seteta galloped the mare back to the wagon, trying to beat the dying light. She could see just fine in the dark, but the horses couldn't. She didn't so much as glance at Chaceledon as she pointed out the potential campsite to Rheinhard, describing its appearance.

She wanted to talk to Rheinhard, alone, before she approached Chaceledon again. But she wasn't sure how to get him alone.

Chaceledon
 

Chaceledon

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Chaceledon did his best to pretend he didn’t notice that she blushed and rushed ahead. If anything it made him lounge a little more provocatively. She didn’t return, however, preferring to scout ahead. Ah, so that was it. She knew how to play this game did she? He wondered; did the humans in the desert court like this as well? He made a note to ask her. Volker made a point of saying nothing, breaking for midday meal to rest the horses like his mother wasn’t completely distracted toying around with the desert woman.

Chaceledon approached Seteta when they stopped for a meal and handed her a pair of calfskin gloves. “I noticed you keep touching your hands.” he told her, and settled down to eat. He shredded his jerky, tearing off delicate little filaments and taking them off his fingers with the barest of lip touches. Volker shook his head watching them, and checked their supplies until they set off again.

It was a long day. Chaceledon primping to get her attention and Seteta riding ahead, with Volker ignoring them both. They made a good pace despite the distractions, and when Seteta returned with news of a good campsite, Volker steered them off the road toward it. Chaceledon got down to help him start the fire, and Rheinhard grabbed their pot for more water. The dragon staked out the horses, who were suspicious of him but didn’t have as violent a reaction as they did to Rheinhard. Chaceledon’s perfumes helped cover his scent.

“We are still in good hunting grounds. I am going to see what trails I can pick up.” Volker told them once he had the tent up.

Chaceledon nodded. “Perhaps some rabbit or squab? We have enough deer to last us a week.” he pointed out. Volker agreed. A change of pace would be nice. Chaceledon found an onion in their wagon, and some potatoes. There were a few cakes of dried buillion, and he snapped off a bit to add to the water and make broth. He did know how to cook...a bit. Either way the experiment would be fun. “Keep your eye out for carrots would you? They’re dormant, but there might still be some about.”

Volker nodded, and headed off into the trees. He moved swiftly and quietly for a man of his age.
Seteta
 

Seteta

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Seteta started gathering wood for the fire once they all arrived at the campsite, and she couldn't help but smile every time she reached down and caught sight of the gloves Chaceledon had given her earlier. Rheinhard put the tent up, and Chaceledon put the horses out to graze. Once the fire was roaring, and Rheinhard was hunting their dinner, she groomed the horses for the night, continuing to (mostly) ignore Chaceledon. He was messing with the foodstuffs, so far as she could tell, and once the horses were settled, she slunk off into the trees out of sight.

She crouched down and pulled off a glove, pressing a hand to the earth. This type of magic was painless, and nearly effortless, for Seteta. She closed her eyes, and let her awareness spread through the earth, until she felt the thing that was unnatural. The presence of strange, dangerous magic that could only be Volker. Pinpointing the location, she broke her connection, stood, and headed in that direction.

He'd managed to kill two rabbits by the time she reached him, and she cleared her throat as she approached and held out her hand for one of them, pulling out her knife as well. She worked quickly and silently to skin and gut the rabbit--after removing her other glove and tucking both into her coat pocket--then began to speak.

"I don't want to hurt Chaceledon," she said plainly. "And I'll be honest, I hadn't realized how different things might be between how he does things, and how my people did things. So this will be the one and only time I ask for your advice. Please, tell me what he expects. Tell me how to not accidentally reject him irrevocably.

"And I know... I know that it might all seem idiotic to you. That it's foolish to even think about pursuing something with him right now, but I'm also the one who might die because of this venture, and I'll be damned if I don't at least make an attempt at something that I might enjoy when it might be one of the last things I get to enjoy.

"But I will promise you this: I will not hurt him intentionally, and I will let him set the pace and tone of things. Last night was just... well, I realized that I liked him enough to let him know, so I did."

Chaceledon
 

Chaceledon

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Volker tilted his head a bit, listening to Seteta approach him. They weren’t the hesitant footsteps of an attack, but he kept a blade ready regardless. She merely took one of the rabbits and began to clean it. Volker returned to his task, doing the same. He skinned the rabbit with one easy, long pull, twisted off the head, and tossed it into the bushes. Most of the entrails went as well, save for heart and liver, which were placed on the upturned skin.

He seemed deaf to her talk at first. He simply wrapped up the rabbit in its skin, and looked over to make sure she had done the same. He set his next to hers, and watched the trees. He saw movement. A knife was in his hand just as fast, and he stood up and flung it toward the target. A woodcock dropped to the ground with the blade firmly lodged in its skull. Volker stood and went to retrieve it, beginning the process of plucking the bird.

He considered her words. Chaceledon was clearly interested, as was Seteta. Volker didn’t know how to feel about it. She was asking a sixty five year old virgin for advice on dating?

“I will say this. Dragon culture prizes restraint, in everything but vicious attack.” Volker told her. “Chaceledon once told me his mother Peridot won his father by refusing to eat for more than a month, and his father by making glass flowers until sunrise.” He looked up at her. “If you are serious about pursuing my mother, we all wish to speak to you.”

Seteta
 

Seteta

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"Maybe I should just take the vicious attack route," Seteta mumbled as she watched Rheinhard pluck the bird, but the scathing glance he gave her nixed that idea. "Or not."

He looked up at her. “If you are serious about pursuing my mother, we all wish to speak to you.”

"We all?" she repeated, her stomach suddenly churning, and she sat down on a nearby fallen log. "As in... all what was it, six hundred of you Volkers?" She motioned vaguely up at her own head. "How... would that work? If you swapped places over and over, I'd still have to talk to over twenty of you every day for the rest of our journey."

His mother refused to eat for more than a month? she thought, more than a little aghast. And I don't have any skills that could compare to making glass flowers.

Chaceledon
 

Chaceledon

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Volker shook his head. “I mean entering the Well. You may speak to all of us directly. I disapprove of you pursuing my mother, but others may feel differently. We attempt to work together. Aluid, however, seems to be firmly on your side.” He said. He set the bird aside and looked at Seteta. “This will require trust on your part. My father is occupied elsewhere, it is a good time to speak with you. Some of them are curious.”

He squatted in front of her, face uncomfortably close to hers. He leaned in, and closed his mouth gently over her eyes.

Seteta would feel a sharp pull, as though the ground had fallen out from under her. The sensation of falling, down, through a swirling vortex of shattered mirror pieces turning listlessly in a circle, like fish in a well.

The Well itself, once she hit the bottom, was pitch blackness. There wasn’t the feeling of blindness, however. Seteta could easily see doors arranged in a semi circle around her. One seemed to be pages of a book, fluttering open slightly to reveal another room. Another was a sandstone arch, revealing a brightly lit pit of sand that resembled a gladiatorial arena. A third was a forbidding gap betwixt tree trunks, and a fourth a pair of French doors. The last was a black door of polished wood that seemed to be locked.

Volker stepped in behind her, arms over his chest. “Wait.” He told her.

Aluid came bouncing out of the arena. “Hey! We met before. Aluid, remember?” He grinned widely. He was a boy of around twelve, with bright blue eyes and freckles across his nose. An unkept mop of brown hair was flipped over one eye. “Ferenzi and Nestor are fighting again over something.”

As if on que, a taller man with dark hair and narrow features stormed out of the library, snapping a book shut. He had the same bright blue eyes Aluid and Rheinhard shared, but they weren’t at all kind. “I’ve had it with you and your blatant refusal to engage in good faith on any front!” The man snarled behind him.

A white haired man followed close on his heels. He was dressed in deep orange robes, with his eyes painted similarly to how Chaceledon might (admittedly with more restraint). “Nestor for the gods’ sake if you would listen for five minutes..!” Ferenzi growled at him.

“I think I’ve had enough of uneducated idiots for one evening.” Nestor bristled, and caught sight of Seteta. “Oh wonderful. You brought her in here. I don’t know why you didn’t just let me poison the tea and be done with it.”

Because it wasn’t necessary.” Ferenzi growled.

“I don’t recall asking for your opinion. If I want the opinion of a painted fop who killed with kitty claws I’ll ask for it.” Nestor sneered. “Girl, you have no business with a dragon. You aren’t even in the same league and the dahn will tear you to shreds.”

“Nestor Volker, and Ferenzi Volker.” Rheinhard explained to Seteta. Ferenzi, for all his exasperation, came over at least to bow and kiss the back of her hand.

“Don’t listen to Nestor. Seteta, was it?” Ferenzi asked with a smile.

“I am quite literally the smartest one here, but please, ignore me.” Nestor seethed.

Seteta
 

Seteta

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All Seteta could do was nod, and then Rheinhard was crouching before her, his breath hot on her face. Then she was transported... elsewhere. That was the only way she could describe it.

Once she'd found her bearings and feet again, she looked around without moving from her spot. She saw the five doors, wondering at the differences between them all. Then Rheinhard was behind her, and nodded when he told her to wait.

She didn't dare wander around in here. She didn't want to get lost in the Volker's Well forever.

Seteta smiled behind her headscarf when a young boy bounced out and greeted her,. She would have recognized Aluid just by his mannerisms. "I remember," she said. "Hello again."

She watched silently as the two older gentlemen--perhaps that term was generous, though--had their little tiff, and made no comment on either the remark about poisoning her tea or that she had no business with a dragon.

When Ferenzi came over and kissed the back of her hand in greeting, she simply nodded. "Yes, my name is Seteta," she confirmed.

Her gaze shifted between the gathered men--and boy--as she took a deep, steadying breath, though she wasn't sure if it actually helped her at all here in this place. "I'm sorry to barge in unannounced," she said. "But Rheinhard suggested I speak with you all. I'll be honest and admit that I've probably been a bit hasty in... initiating a relationship with Chaceledon. I was just... expressing interest, and I didn't realize how seriously he would take it.

"I realize now that his background is very different than mine, regardless of the disparity in our ages. Even though I'm Abtati, desert life is hard on everyone, whether they're elven or not. I am young, especially compared to most elves, yet I probably can't expect to live more than a couple hundred years, and I know that seems... incredibly short compared to a dragon. And... now, with the risk I'm taking for him, perhaps I'm only down to a matter of weeks to live."

I'm not honestly sure if I should be more concerned about dying by Oor's orders or Rheinhard's vengeful hand, she thought to herself, clenching her fists nervously at her side.

"I don't know if Chaceledon and I belong together," Seteta said, meeting Nestor's gaze, and then each of the other men's, and Aluid's. "Ultimately, I think that's up to him and me. What I want to know is what he expects, and how to not accidentally convey disinterest or rejection, because I had no idea how nuanced dragon courtship was until Rheinhard... explained a few things.

"I know none of you have any reason to trust me, except maybe that I suspect I'm the first person in a long while--if not the only person ever--to actually do something when Chaceledon asked for help. So please, help me do this right."

Chaceledon
 
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Chaceledon

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Ferenzi smiled warmly at her, glancing at Rheinhard. “Well, I don’t mind it to be honest. Chaceledon could use a relationship even if it is casual. Dragons are rather xenophobic people at heart...at best, befriending humans and elves is seen to be adopting a rather fancy pet. At worst, a mammalian blemish. Chaceledon’s shed a lot of those misconceptions with us.” He told her. “But it’s a bit dark to be having these sorts of conversations. Come with me.”

Rheinhard and Ferenzi moved toward the French doors, and Aluid grabbed her hand. “It’s the crafting room. We’re supposed to practice survival stuff like fishing, and making traps but it’s a nice room!” He told her excitedly.

It was indeed, as Aluid put it, a nice room. The glass paned doors opened up to a room drenched in evening sun. It was huge, enough for a good fifty people to lounge in comfort, with one large central window providing soft light. There were broad tables for small crafts, and the walls were one large library. In light of most of the Volkers being illiterate, opening a book would begin a verbal explanation of the contents in a low, boring voice.

Ferenzi claimed a seat among a pile of pillows at the window. Aluid unceremoniously leapt into them, and Rheinhard settled down quietly. “Much better.” Ferenzi said with a nod.

“Whats Abtati? And why do you wear the head towel? Is it so you don’t want people to see your face? Are you scarred?” Aluid launched into a small barrage of questions until Ferenzi unceremoniously biffed him in the face with a smaller pillow.

“Sorry about him. Death at twelve was not kind to him.” Ferenzi informed Seteta.

“You’re only two generations older than me and he’s the youngest one here!” Aluid protested with an accusatory finger at Rheinhard.

“Nestor is actually the closest thing we’ve got to a cultural expert. His lifespan, much like mine, was extended by Oor. A Volker is only limited in how useful we are to our captor, so he had quite a lot of time on his hands.” Ferenzi explained. “A dahn is a dragon family. Dragons are usually headed up by a mated pair, the adahn or father, and sitahn, or mother. Their children, and their children’s children are part of that dahn until they wander off on their own.”

Rheinhard clearly didn’t approve much of the conversation, but her willingness to come into the Well had earned a little respect from him. These men were all seasoned killers.

“When dragons express interest it’s...more of an advertisement.” Rheinhard explained. “He is trying to show why he is worthy of you. By ignoring him today, you were saying you were above petty appearances. You are worth more than just a pretty outfit and a few looks. You were essentially flirting back.”

“It’s a strange style of courtship to be sure.” Ferenzi chuckled. “Attraction is based on little things like the graceful turn of a wrist to pick up a teacup or a sideways glance. Everything has a purpose. You might show how skilled at cooking you are by making a small but exquisite meal. A proper response would be to throw that meal away immediately, to preserve your figure for the chef. It quite honestly makes no sense.”

Nestor came in and set his book back on the shelf, eyeing them. “Please. Of course an elegant form of courtship would never appeal to you.” He sniffed, going to sit at one of the tables. Aluid stuck his tongue out at Nestor.

“Physical touch is a game as well. Basically, whomever begins slavering over the other is the one who loses. You put him on his back feet with that surprise kiss. So point to you. You also blushed in front of him. Point to him. There is one thing you must keep in mind....Chaceledon was once the most eligible bachelor of his dahn. But dragons, as much as they like to think of themselves above physical appearance, prize it immensely. Things like blemishes, scars... to other desert dragons, Chaceledon is the ugliest dragon alive and Oor has made him that way.” Ferenzi said. “So try and be a little delicate with him.”

“It’s like a big game of hard to get.” Aluid snickered. “I play that with Oor sometimes when he comes to vis-“ Rheinhard elbowed the boy sharply in the face. “-ow!”

“Honestly Aluid no one wants to hear the details of why you’re awake.” Ferenzi said in disgust.

“You guys are just jealous I’m the only one who can get off-“

The next strike was purposeful. Rheinhard grabbed Aluid’s head in his hands, and twisted with a loud crack. The boy collapsed in his lap with a broken neck. Rheinhard shoved him onto the floor, where he sank through the patterned carpet as though sinking into sand.

“He can’t die here.” Ferenzi reassured Seteta. “We’re already dead.”

Fuck you Rheinhard that hurt!” Came the shout from outside.

“See? He’s fine.” Ferenzi patted her.

Seteta
 

Seteta

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Seteta was led into the 'crafting room' as Aluid put it, happy to see light again instead of the empty darkness that made up the entry way of the Well. As Ferenzi, Aluid, and Rheinhard settled comfortably onto the pillows, Seteta sat cross-legged on the floor in front of them.

She laughed softly at the barrage of questions that poured forth from Aluid, but before she could answer a genuinely heart-warming rapport was struck up between... well, she supposed they were all fathers and sons, now that she thought about what Chaceledon had explained about the Well. She made note of the questions Aluid had asked to return to them later, then listened closely as Ferenzi explained the dynamics of a dragon family.

Her face heated again as Rheinhard then explained how exactly Chaceledon had been flirting with her today, but when Ferenzi broke down the actions that had taken place between her and Chaceledon, she quirked her head. When Chaceledon's scars were brought up, though, her eyes became serious, though she stiffened when Rheinhard snapped Aluid's neck without hesitation at a small annoyance, then laughed weakly at Ferenzi's reassurance.

After another--probably useless--deep breath to steady herself, and then turned her focus back to the matter at hand.

"So... can everyone in here" --Seteta gestured vaguely around the 'room'-- "see what's happening through Rheinhard's eyes, then? All the time? Or is it... a conscious effort?"

She would like to know how closely she was being observed, and also how much of what she did might be reported back to Oor at any time, but she wasn't going to outright say that in this mixed crowd where she knew some would take her side, but others would betray her without a moment's thought.

"As for... the courtship..." Seteta rubbed her hands across her thighs, nervously clutching at her knees. "If at some point I'm going to have to win him over with a show of skill, I honestly have no idea where to even start. He already knows I'm utterly hopeless when it comes to fashion or beauty--but" --she laughed softly here-- "not brushing my teeth. I'm really good at surviving in the desert, but for some reason I doubt that will be impressive to Chaceledon.

"I am willing to learn about what he expects so that I know best how to approach him," she clarified. "But I'm not going to completely transform myself into something I'm not or can't be, either. There's simply no way I could ever do something like throw away a meal that was made for me. To me, it would be wasteful to the point of dishonor. I may not be among my tribe at the moment, but there are certain principles I just... cannot abandon. Even for this."

When Aluid finally wandered back in, Seteta turned to him. Even if he had died a child, and was probably even still considered a child by most of the other men in this Well, he was one who had a vested interest in Chaceledon's well being, and she wouldn't ignore his questions from earlier.

"The Abtati are the elves who live in the desert of Amol-Kalit," she said. "The headscarf is more practical than anything else. In the desert, it shaded me from the sun during the day, shielded my mouth and nose--or sometimes even my eyes--during sandstorms, and at night it kept the chill away. Now it's mostly just... a habit to wear it. Though the weather has been cold enough lately that I've been grateful for its warmth. Falwood is so damp and chilled compared to Amol-Kalit!"

Chaceledon