Private Tales Of Sand & Dragonfire

A private roleplay only for those invited by the first writer

Chaceledon

The Draconian Diva
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Nestor eyed her and approached her, walking in a circle. “Good. You’re already starting underwater because of that thing with Artis. You keep a civil tongue in your skull. I can count on Rheinhard to keep quiet or I’ll throttle him with such a headache. You I worry about. You’ve sassed wraiths and Klaus with nary a blink.” He sighed and gestured. “Right. You get up only when you’re allowed to. Show me how you do it properly. And one motion. Fluidly.”

The grilling continued for as much as Seteta would allow. The redecorating even involved the kitchen, which enraged Rheinhard to no end. The servants were cooking a feast meant for a king, none of which Peridot would actually touch. Volker hated waste, and seeing piles of chickens, geese, huge sacks of rice and chili’s, fresh vegetables, gallons of water, and bags of spices being wasted on something she had no intention of eating made him furious.

“Why are we tolerating this invasion into our home? Theyre in your kitchen wasting food that would take me a decade to eat all so the place smells like spices just in case she’s tempted!” Rheinhard raged in the wine cellar. “Not like we don’t have mouths of our own to feed!”

Chaceledon was nervously chewing on the end of a nail, and Rheinhard’s frustrations seemed to fall on deaf ears. “It’s midday. Are we all ready? We have to be up there waiting for her on the dias.” he said nervously, looking over his outfit. He was dressed in plainer clothing, so as not to upstage his mother. Rheinhard and Seteta were dressed simply, in soft grey robes. They were quite pretty, and embroidered well, but it was subtle and not meant to be eye catching. Rheinhard had to admit, at least it was comfortable.

Chaceledon nodded to the stairs, and the three made their way to the stone rise theyd first landed on. Chaceledon waited for Rheinhard and Seteta to sink into a bow, then did so himself. They had to wait.

It was at least ten minutes in the burning sun before a distinctive rush of air was felt. Peridot landed on the platform, a gigantic swirling mass of pale green and gold. She was lighter built than Hokkaido had been, but no less powerful. She eyed the three on the platform, and shifted. As a human, she was a tall creature with long brown hair and bright green eyes. She wasn’t dressed simply in the slightest. She wore extraordinarily heavy robes weighted down with cloth of gold and teardrop-cut gemstones of her namesake.

“Chaceledon!” she rushed to pull him up and into a hug. “You poor stupid boy how ever did this happen?! You knew better!” she squeezed him, right enough to make him cough. “You have to tell me everything. My god. How did you get portly while being captured? Well, no worry, Ive brought some things for you. We’ll have your clothes fitting again. A wraith! Awful creatures.”

Chaceledon hugged her back. “I missed you too.” he said softly. He hadn’t seen her in so long. His eyes welled up, but she tutted and lightly swept the tears away with the ball of her thumb.

“Hush now, don’t ruin that lovely paint you did just for me. Come, let’s go inside.”

Chaceledon looked at Rheinhard and Seteta. “I think they’d appreciate the chance to get out of the sun…can they follow?”

“What? Oh. Yes, actually. Girl, I’d appreciate if you’d follow behind us and fetch some jasmine tea.” Peridot ordered Seteta. She grabbed Chaceledon’s arm and led him down to the parlour. “Your father was saying you were getting the estate back into shape. It looks lovely. Though you really have to watch your servants. Artis said there was some old creature hanging about with a nasty temper. You were such a strict disciplinarian with yours. Maybe you still feel a bit ill.”
 

Seteta

The Dragon's Betrothed
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"I didn't sass Klaus," Seteta muttered. "I defended myself. He snuck up behind me and tried to drag me into the forest by my hair so he could kill me."

She heard Nestor's sharp inhale, knew he was about scold her again for the sass. "Just let me get it out now!" she whined, still on the floor. "So I can actually hold my tongue in front of Peridot."

Fortunately, it wasn't long this time before he ordered her to rise. She reversed the process, which was much harder than moving into the bow. She smoothly pulled her arms back to her forehead as she shifted back on her heels to rise, keeping her hands to her forehead in that odd triangle as she gracefully rolled back to a standing position. She kept her head lowered and hands raised until she stood straight, then bowed once more from the waist before she lowered her hands to her sides again.

Seteta didn't have much to do around the manor, so she focused her efforts on working with Nestor, only pulling out of the Well when she was exhausted and about to snap at him.

Rheinhard had a more difficult time than she expected, watching as his kitchen--because truly, so far in every place they'd stayed with a kitchen, the man had quickly made it clear it was his domain--was turned upside down and backwards, and filled with more food than Seteta had ever seen at one time in her life.

Chaceledon was a nervous wreck, though, and so Seteta did her best to console Rheinhard. "Do you remember what you told me when we met Hokkaido? That if we want to change anything, we're going to have to play along for a while? This is like that."

She patted Rheinhard's arm gently. "Besides, surely we can repurpose some of the leftovers. We won't let it all go to waste. Perhaps you can win Peridot over with some of your own cooking."

Seteta stepped over to Chaceledon then, and tugged his hand away from his mouth so he stopped chewing on his nail, and gently kissed his palm before she reached up and softly stroked his cheek. "Everything will be fine, sehejib," she murmured before he was distracted again and fretting over his outfit.

And then it was time.

The soft grey robe didn't phase her at all. She was used to simple, plain clothing, after all... although she wasn't quite sure this qualified. The embroidery might have been subtle, but it was elegant and intricate. She still wore Chaceledon's engagement ring, and the bracelet he'd given her for her birthday, though. The only times she removed the bracelet was to bathe and sleep.

She followed Chaceledon up to the landing platform, and gave him a reassuring smile before she sank into the bow next to Rheinhard.

The sun was hot, but Seteta was as much a creature of the desert as the dragons were, and she found herself nearly basking in the heat as they waited. It had been a while since she'd gotten to just... sit outside in the sun. The grey robe wasn't the best garment for this, but for a little while, it would be more than bearable.

She was a mammal though, and so when the rush of wind passed over them that signaled Peridot's arrival, she still sighed with relief. The sun was nice, but she was still starting to sweat.

Seteta risked a glance up when she heard Chaceledon cough, a slight smile crossing her lips as she saw them embracing, but lowered her head before anyone noticed. As she listened to them speak, she tugged at the bond with Rheinhard.

There's no way she knows, Seteta told him, that Hokkaido arranged for Oor to take him. No matter what opinions I have about dragon culture... there are certain things that are always true, like the love of a mother for a son.

When Peridot ordered her to bring tea, though, Seteta stiffened, not rising until Chaceledon and his mother were heading back inside.

"TEA?!" she screeched in a whisper, turning to Rheinhard with panic in her eyes. "Nestor didn't teach me how to serve tea."

Chaceledon
 

Chaceledon

The Draconian Diva
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Or she’s had over a thousand years to prepare a reaction. Rheinhard replied. Keep your head. She’s not an ally yet. He stayed still as Seteta was commanded to rise, and panic flooded down the bond. He felt a twinge of answering panic in Nestor. There were a thousand rules to serving tea in dragon culture! Where did one even begin?

Go. We’ll talk later. I’ll do what I can through Nestor. He did read a book on dragon tea ceremonies. Rheinhard attempted to calm her, nodding his head to the dragons. Lagging behind was infinitely worse than messing up the tea.

Chaceledon pulled out a cushion for his mother in the parlour, and one for himself next to a long, low table. On the table was a large tray with slots in the top, and tiny clay figurines. They were meant to represent the family; a grizzled pit bull for Rheinhard, a sleek lizard for Seteta, and a dragon for himself. Peridot raised an eyebrow and stroked a finger over the lizard and dog.

“These are new.” she noted. Chaceledon settled next to her.

The tea things were set up. A hot kettle of water kept hot by a glass disc that Chaceledon picked up and blew flame over. It had a stone coaster to protect the table, and kept the water warm for tea. The tea was in a small jar with a spoon. The tea brewer was unlike anything else in Arethil; it was a desert antelope, seated with its horns holding a delicate glass jar with a lid, and a screened hole in its bottom. On its back, it had another glass pouring vessel.

Hot water in upper chamber, add tea leaves and let them open. There’s a tiny bead on the top spigot. You’ll need to touch the handle to it to lure the bead away and let the tea flow down into the bottom cup. Pour the first steep over the clay figurines; its to honor what the figurines represent. My guess is the members of the dahn. Nestor instructed. The servants took Chaceledon’s tea things out of his room and down there; I never got to see the set up.
 

Seteta

The Dragon's Betrothed
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He read a book on dragon tea ceremonies once?! Seteta nearly screeched aloud, her hands trembling as she picked up her skirt and hurried behind the two dragons before they were out of sight. I'm dead. I'm going to be eaten alive by Chaceledon's mother before I even get the chance to talk to her.

She paused outside the parlor for just a second to take a breath and calm her racing heart. It wouldn't do to serve the tea with trembling hands, no matter how poor her actual technique was. Peridot was seated when she entered, and Chaceledon was settling next to her.

She bit back a momentary smile as she saw the tiny figurines on the tray, heard Peridot comment on them. This was the first she was seeing of Chaceledon's tea set, but Seteta could tell at a glance what the figures represented. It was them.

As Chaceledon picked up a glass disc and blew flame over it, Seteta quickly perused the room. The dragons were seated next to each other on one side of the low table. The tea tray was on the table. So she would have to be on the opposite side to be able to pour tea and offer it to them. But she didn't dare... seat herself comfortably, and so she quietly approached, bowing her head momentarily, hands clasped before her. Then she knelt on the opposite side of the table, staying on her knees, and trying not to let panic show in her eyes as she took in everything on the table.

Hot water in upper chamber, add tea leaves and let them open. There’s a tiny bead on the top spigot. You’ll need to touch the handle to it to lure the bead away and let the tea flow down into the bottom cup. Pour the first steep over the clay figurines; its to honor what the figurines represent. My guess is the members of the dahn. Nestor instructed. The servants took Chaceledon’s tea things out of his room and down there; I never got to see the set up.

She began to follow Nestor's instructions, pouring the hot water and then adding the leaves, careful to place each item back on the tray in the exact same configuration it had been in when she picked it up. Rheinhard had said it was a ceremony after all, and if it was as elaborate as their bows, then any wrong movement or direction could be a grave mistake on her part.

How long? Seteta asked as she set the jar of tea leaves back in its place on the tray, then set the delicate lid on top of the brewing chamber. Do I use new leaves for the second steep?

Three minutes,
Nestor answered. Woman, it’s green tea! How have you never made green tea?! You rebrew the same leaves.

The Inizae mostly drink spiced black tea with camel milk, if we make tea at all,
Seteta retorted. Now hush so I can keep count or the tea will get over done.

It was a long, awkward three minutes. At least to Seteta. And when it finally ended, she fumbled a little to get the spigot to flow, biting at the insider of her lip at the delay. When the little serving pot was filled, she carefully pulled it out, making sure not to spill a drop. She poured it over the clay figures. Chaceledon's first, then Rheinhard's, and last her own. She had no idea of there was a proper order for it, but that was what felt right to her in the moment.

The second steep seemed to drag on longer than the first, but she kept her breathing soft and steady, and her eyes down. When the time finally lapsed, and the tea had filled the pot once more, she very, very carefully filled one of the small glass cups. She didn't want to overfill it, and she knew that dragons didn't believe in excess--though wanton waste was apparently fine--and filling the cup halfway seemed like it would be skimping, so she let it reach about two-thirds of the way and then stopped pouring.

She offered that one to Peridot first, praying to every god she knew of that she wasn't putting it down with the handle in the wrong direction or her wrist at the wrong angle. Then she poured a cup and offered it to Chaceledon, her eyes briefly flickering up to his, the slightest amount of strain visible at the corners of her mouth.

Then she settled back on her knees on the other side of the table, hands clasped in front of her, and waited, eyes lowered again. She didn't dare to serve herself a cup.

Chaceledon
 
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Chaceledon

The Draconian Diva
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Peridot watched her, and reached out with a hand. Her claws were long, and tough as iron. Whereas Chaceledon’s glass ones were often shaped not to cut or bruise, Peridot’s were bone. They were slightly curved, and there was a bladed edge to them that she used the flat of to tap Seteta’s chin up.

“Don’t presume to tell me how much to drink.” Peridot said. She picked up her cup, withdrawing her talons from Seteta, and covered her lower face with one sleeve, sipping with the other hand behind the discreet curtain of her sleeve.

“Chaceledon, you must tell me everything. What happened? The wraith must have lured you somewhere cold, that’s the only way I can think of for a…corpse to defeat a dragon. Then to be chained for that long! And I never got any word of where you were. Little snatches here and there but unreliable sources. After a time I thought I was being played with. I lost hope.”

Chaceledon sipped his own tea, mimicking her. “I met a woman. Someone who stood up to the wraith. She freed me and another that the wraith was holding.” he hid a smile as he looked at Seteta.

Peridot laughed. “Leave it to my son to charm a girl into freeing him! Well, no matter. You won’t be alone in this empty house for long. I’ve got a few suitors asking after you. We just have to get you to drop that weight.” she took another sip of tea.

Chaceledon smiled and set his hand on her knee. “You know I love you, and I’m happy you’re here and worried about me…but the girl who freed me, I intend to marry.”

Peridot took his hand. “So? Where is this brave dragoness? Where are you hiding her?”

Chaceledon poured the rest of his tea over the pets, and inverted the cup on the table. He offered his hand to Seteta. “She’s here. This is Seteta of the Inizae. She…is the bravest woman I know. Shes faced down incredible dangers on my account. I fell in love with her.” he smiled at Seteta.

Peridot sighed, and poured out her cup as well. “Sweetling, you know you can have any girl you want…but she can’t be your wife. Seteta, surely you understand. After losing a daughter and having one son who’s struggling to find a suitable match, Chaceledon is the best chance I’ve got for this dahn.” she switched to heavily accented Common when addressing Seteta, her eyes hopeful. Marriage was a business agreement, surely she could see that?
 

Seteta

The Dragon's Betrothed
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Seteta managed, somehow, to not flinch as Peridot's claw tapped at her chin. She managed to pick out most of the dragoness' words... she thought. The note of displeasure was obvious, and it seemed to be over the amount of tea. She had no idea what she'd done wrong, but attempted to look properly chastened as Peridot turned her attention back to her son.

Nestor had been working with her on learning Draconian, but... to follow a rapidly moving conversation between two native speakers... It was a bit much. She'd had less than a week of study.

At most, Seteta caught... impressions. It was clear that Peridot was questioning Chaceledon about where he'd been. It was also clear, from the brevity of his replies, that he wasn't telling her much, and Seteta couldn't really blame him. The things he'd endured for all those millennia... what son would want to tell his mother?

But he was glancing toward her now, and Seteta bit the inside of her lip nervously, knowing that he was beginning to speak of her. Then he mentioned her name, and held out his hand to her, and Seteta couldn't help but smile softly as she met his gaze. Slid her hand into his.

No matter how nervous she was, his touch would always soothe her, and she didn't let go of it as she turned to Peridot.

"Seteta, surely you understand. After losing a daughter and having one son who’s struggling to find a suitable match, Chaceledon is the best chance I’ve got for this dahn.”

Seteta made a genuine effort not to huff. She wasn't sure what, exactly, the issue was, but it was clear that Peridot was trying to dissuade her from marrying Chaceledon. It was the only thing that Peridot had... thoughtfully switched languages for, to make certain that Seteta understood.

She wanted to mention Carnelia, force Peridot to acknowledge that utterly false loss, but now was definitely not the time.

"Chaceledon is the one who proposed to me," Seteta answered, also in Common because she didnt' trust her meager Draconic vocabulary not to fail her. She steadily me Peridot's gaze, but kept her expression respectful. "And unless he rescinds it, of his own free will, then I will not withdraw my acceptance.

"Hokkaido has already issued my challenge for his hand, as well," she state firmly, though her voice remained soft.

Her fingers twitched anxiously in Chaceledon's hand.

Chaceledon
 

Chaceledon

The Draconian Diva
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Peridot smiled tolerantly, and rose. Seteta, was it? If you would join me. I think the tea was a bit strong, and I could use a walk outside. Won’t you?” her voice was polite enough. Chaceledon knew better. His mother hadn’t gotten to where she was by being a woman who took no for an answer. He kissed Seteta’s fingers, but let her go and settled back on the cushion.

“Be gentle with her, mother.” he told Peridot, again in a playful voice that wasn’t all that playful. A silent warning that if Peridot decided to take care of the problem on her own there would be trouble. He didn’t think she would hurt Seteta, but…well…she also didn’t see her as someone deserving personhood.

“Just a little constitutional. Ladies have to talk, after all.” Peridot waved away his concerns, and gently took Seteta’s hand in the crook of an arm. “Show me around the gardens? I haven’t been here in a long time.”
 

Seteta

The Dragon's Betrothed
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Seteta smiled tightly, not missing the subtle jabs in Peridot's words or tone. "Of course," she murmured as Chaceledon kissed her fingers reassuringly.

Though her lover's tone as he clearly warned his mother, subtly, was not reassuring at all.

But Peridot was a little more gentle as she took Seteta's hand and tucked into her arm, and Seteta gave her a small, but friendlier, smile as she led the dragon out of the parlour and toward the gardens, glancing back at Chaceledon only once.

"I'm afraid I'm not overly familiar with the layout of the gardens yet myself," Seteta spoke as they stepped back out into the afternoon heat. "I've been busy studying, most of the time, since we arrived here."

The gardens, though, were in much better shape than when they arrived. The cacti had been trimmed back from the paths, the water features cleaned and refilled, and at least the dead plants removed. Some areas seemed sparse, but it would take time for them to fill in. As they rounded a corner, the sight of the sandy clearing where they'd celebrated her birthday made her smile, her eyes going soft and fond.

Even on a strange dragon's arm, though, Seteta could feel the quiet thrum of the earth beneath her feet, its presence an eternal comfort.

"I'm sure you have many questions," Seteta said as they continued through the meandering paths. "I will answer whatever you ask."

Chaceledon
 

Chaceledon

The Draconian Diva
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Peridot walked calmly into the gardens, and looked down at Seteta as they strolled. “I’ll get right to the point, for your sake. I’m happy you rescued my son, though I haven’t the faintest clue how you defeated a wraith. Dragons don’t marry for love, my dear. We marry to keep our dahns, families, in power. Now I think you’re a sharp little thing but you don’t help the dahn at all. I was hoping to marry Chaceledon off to a few of the suitors Hokkaido has found for him…I sense he gave you that challenge in the hopes of buying time.”

She sighed heavily. “Please understand the position it puts all of us in. We’ve lost Carnelia, and his brother’s only had male suitors…which he claims not to be interested in. But since when have men been picky about anything when it comes to the bedroom? Good gods, the boy is impossible. I was cursed with obstinate sons. So you see, it’s up to Chaceledon to carry the family forward and he can’t do that with you as a wife.” She stopped briefly and looked at Seteta, expectantly waiting for her. Of course, she hoped the girl would get some sense and back off her son. Chaceledon had to marry a son or daughter from another dahn, not an elvish woman. Not to mention an Abtati! Dirty desert folk fleeing like rats from pet collars.
 

Seteta

The Dragon's Betrothed
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The calm that settled over Seteta as Peridot spoke was... unnatural, and wherever it asserted itself from the depths of her soul, she was grateful, because otherwise rage would overtake her.

The desert sand brushed against her toes, and Seteta barely even noticed when she reached out for its magic. Not to make any kind of show or statement, but simply for its strength.

She listened to Peridot's words, but didn't respond to them directly, immediately. Seteta led the dragoness a little further into the gardens, thoughtfulness settling over her.

"I met Chaceledon in Fal'Addas," she said when she finally began to speak. "It was early last autumn, so I won't deny that we've known each other for only a short time.

"It was my first time traveling outside the desert. I was... poorly dressed for the change in climate. Chaceledon was attempting to sell of some of his older clothing, and I walked into that shop and the first thing he made me do was strip naked."

She couldn't help but chuckle a little at the memory now.

"He gave me his already drawn bath, in the living quarters over the shop. Then he fixed my nails and trimmed my hair, before finally dressing me in the finest garments I'd ever seen or worn.

"And as he did all of that, he slowly talked of himself. Until at least, with... an almost hopeless hesitation, he spoke of his captivity to the wraith."

Seteta's footsteps faltered then. If she hadn't... If she'd made a different choice, or even hesitated a day or two...

"I could tell by the look in his eyes that this was only the latest in thousands--perhaps millions--of attempts to get someone to see him. To take his request seriously.

"And I could also see that he was very near to giving up all hope entirely. It was likely incredibly foolish, but I took the chance. The wraith did not expect him back immediately, and even if Chaceledon wandered off, he had a way to track him down. So we began to flee straight for Amol-Kalit, although there were some unfortunate complications along the way.

"But the closer we got to the sands, the more he came back to life. And by the time we were close enough to smell the desert on the wind, I was completely in love with him.

"And that was when the wraith tracked us down, and took me."

Her eyes glimmered slightly as she recalled the next part of the story. And perhaps Peridot had heard it already, since her performance in Maraan. But she wondered if Hokkaido had hidden it from her, somehow.

"Chaceledon came for me," Seteta whispered, her voice filling with the awe that she still felt. "Rather than leave me in the wraith's clutches, he came back to the place he despised most, in an effort to save me.

"But while I was there, I managed to find the marriage robes that had been forced on Chaceledon, and I burned them with my own hands."

Seteta stopped walking then, and turned to look up at Peridot.

"Before you stake the hopes you have for your dahn on Chaceledon, you should get to know your son for who he is now," she cautioned. "Regardless of my presence at his side, I do not think you will find someone who idly submits to your will without question.

"And as for whether or not I can contribute anything to the future of your dahn... that is not something you can determine at a mere glance. And I would counter that I have already made the greatest contribution, and earned recompense of equal worth: your son has returned, has he not? Without me, that would have been unlikely."

Her gaze was steady and unwavering, despite having to crane her neck with Peridot's height. She had no doubt that she spoke true at the end. Hokkaido may have sent Chaceledon into Oor's clutches, but he'd underestimated the wraith's cruelty, and Chaceledon's tenderness. Even if the 'punishment' had been drawing to an end without her interference... Seteta doubted that Chaceledon would have made it to the end. Especially if anything had happened to Rheinhard.

Chaceledon
 
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Chaceledon

The Draconian Diva
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Peridot listened to her with a cool expression on her face. Young people were so dramatic. She saw in Seteta all the love and youth she once had. Like Seteta she’d once fawned over a man, someone who had her heart. Hokkaido had completed the challenge, and was a better match for her and her dahn politically…so love had been put on the back burner.

Then again, could it not help to be patient? Abtati were notoriously sterile, and Seteta would be dead by the time they completed negotiations with other dahns. She studied her as she talked. Perhaps she could give this gift to Chaceledon. Indulge him. Give him a little of the love she’d never had, before he was expected to mature and settle down. There would be no heartbreak since Seteta would just fade naturally as all elves did. Her son was middle aged, and matching would be difficult…she could find someone, surely.

Seteta did make a point that niggled at her. Chaceledon wouldn’t have come back without her. Peridot sighed and tossed her hair. “I’ve become so sentimental in my old age…I suppose a few hundred years wouldn’t do anyone any harm. As a thank you for bringing my son back to me. But you are not a part of this dahn, child, so don’t get any ideas. I’ve had brunches that last longer than your family line.” The freezing look she gave Seteta lasted but a moment. “Now tell me, who is the ancient brute Artis was telling me about? He said the man actually threatened to eat him.”
 

Seteta

The Dragon's Betrothed
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The long moments of silence dragged on, but Seteta didn't let her nervousness show, despite how much she wanted to wring her hands. She just kept her toes in the sand, the solidity of the earth and its magic grounding her as she kept her gaze steadily fixed on Peridot.

Her heart was threatening to pound its way out of her chest by the time Peridot finally sighed and tossed her back, and Seteta bit back a grin at the utterly familiar gesture. Chaceledon really was his mother's son. And as Peridot spoke, the tension visibly eased from Seteta's shoulders.

It was enough. Seteta didn't care a damn about being accepted into the dahn, and there was plenty of time to win Peridot over. What was most important was being able to remain at Chaceledon's side.

At the comment about brunches (whatever those were) that lasted longer than her family line, though, the corner of Seteta's mouth quirked upward into an amused smile. That was... doubtful. But it wasn't a discussion that mattered now. She still needed to talk to her own mother about what she'd... surmised from Amphetrion.

“Now tell me, who is the ancient brute Artis was telling me about? He said the man actually threatened to eat him.”

Seteta did actually chuckle then, her smile making the corners of her eyes crinkle. She returned to Peridot's side then, and this time offered the dragoness the crook of her elbow to continue leading her through the gardens.

"His name is Rheinhard Volker," Seteta answered, debating how much about that situation she should actually reveal. For now, probably, something similar to what Chaceledon had told Hokkaido. "The wraith made Chaceledon raise assassins for him. They are... very fond of each other, and Rheinhard chose to leave with Chaceledon."

Seteta did sigh quietly then, the smile fading from her lips. "Even though I burned the marriage robes, I don't trust the wraith to not come after them--or me--and attempt to reclaim what he believes was stolen from him. I don't think Chaceledon has considered that yet."

Oor wasn't dead, after all. And even if he might begrudgingly give up his supposed claim to Chaceledon, especially if Hokkaido intervened... it was unlikely he would do so with the Volkers.

Chaceledon
 

Chaceledon

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Peridot wrinkled her nose. “Of course he would pick up a wraith’s leavings. He’s always had a weakness for picking up pets like that, you know. First it was that little kitten when he was a hatchling, then ye gods. The orphans he would pick up working in those ugly human cities. It was hopeless. Every other week there would be some little creature down on its luck he’d let soil the couches.” he clicked her tongue in disappointment. “I suppose there’s no chance of turning the old thing loose. He gets so attached to lesser creatures.”

Peridot walked idly around the garden with Seteta, thinking quietly to herself. They were called in for dinner soon enough, and the spread was incredible. It could have fed a table of fifty, instead of four. Rheinhard looked visibly distressed at the amount of food, and Chaceledon looked strangely neutral. Peridot took her place at the head of the table, being the eldest, and looked at the dishes.

“Thank goodness I brought my own dishes.” Peridot said proudly, and filled a bowl barely the size of her palm with rice. She indulged herself in a little chili sauce, for special occasions, and had a glass of water. Chaceledon ate even less, filling his bowl half the size of hers. Rheinhard knew better than to force him to eat more, not here.

He did, however, take a generous helping of rice, meat and vegetables for himself. No matter how nervous it made the servants he was messing up their plating. He hated waste.

“Good, Chaceledon. You’ll be presentable before you know it.”
 

Seteta

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"A kitten, hm?" Seteta murmured with a soft smile. As they continued walking through the gardens, Seteta didn't force a conversation. She wouldn't call the silence comfortable but it wasn't awkward either. It was the first opportunity she'd had to actually see the place as well, and she couldn't help but quietly marvel at the water features and the abundance of green plants. The entire estate was extensive, but it wasn't quite as large as most of the oases. Long ago, it had probably been an oasis of its own before the dragons claimed it.

When they were called for dinner, Seteta was almost reluctant to leave the gardens. It had been so long since she'd just... had time to wander, with her feet in the sand, soaking up the sights and the magic of the earth. The only thing that would have made it better would have been Chaceledon at her side.

And she was happy to settle at his side at the table once Peridot was seated, and she quietly clasped his hand under the table for a moment. Later. She would tell him everything that happened later.

She bit her tongue at Chaceledon's meager amount of food. Seteta ate more like Rheinhard, though even she didn't have an appetite quite as voracious. Rheinhard was far more physically active than her, most days.

But still, at Peridot's comment, Seteta edged just a little closer to Chaceledon and let her leg rest against his.

"What is something you'd like to do, now that you're back home?" Seteta asked, at least making an attempt to steer the subject to something else.

Chaceledon
 

Chaceledon

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Chaceledon pressed his leg up against Seteta’s. Peridot was looking at her, with her full plate, and Chaceledon knew what was coming.

“If you’re trying to fit in with dragon culture…dragon men like their women restrained, and slender.” Peridot said cuttingly, taking a small sip of her water. Another old trick. Fill up on water and one didn’t feel as hungry. Tasting the rice, Chaceledon realized it had been brewed with chalk to give it extra weight. That was further confirmed when Rheinhard spat a mouthful into a napkin. He immediately put a hand over Chaceledon’s bowl.

“Don’t eat that.” He said coldly.

“Nonsense, it’s made perfectly.” Peridot delicately nibbled a bite.

“It’s full of talc. You can’t eat that. Even dragons cannot digest rock.” Rheinhard moved to take the bowl away. He’d get him some fruit, and a tiny bit of meat. Something.


“Touch his food again and I’ll ram the lot of it down your throat.” Peridot’s tone hadn’t changed, but she was watching Rheinhard like a Hawk eyes a field mouse. Rheinhard made a growl of frustration, but released Chaceledon’s dish. Like it or not, Peridot was a dragon fully capable of killing him…and more than willing.

“I think it’s time we visit your family, anyway.” Chaceledon told Seteta, steepling his hands. He couldn’t help but think he would much prefer the company of Abtati to the way Peridot and Rheinhard were looking at each other.
 

Seteta

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Seteta arched a brow. Peridot's words might bother Chaceledon--and Seteta knew she'd have her hands full intervening over the upcoming years--but it would take far more than that to make the Inizae female be ashamed of her body.

"I stay slender by actually using my body," Seteta smiled sweetly, lifting up a generous bite of meat. "And your son has not had a single complaint about it so far. I think Artis can attest to that. I don't give a damn what any other dragon male thinks of me."

She was a little startled, though, when Rheinhard made a fuss over the rice. "Rock?" she murmured, eyeing Chaceledon's bowl of rice, then plucking it away from Rheinhard.

Peridot might have no qualms threatening Rheinhard, but Seteta felt a little more confident now about making a small challenge, and she shoved her fingers into the rice.

If it was rock, even ground up and boiled in, she could pull it out. And she did, a pile of fine white powder resting in her palm when she handed the bowl of rice back to Chaceledon. "It's not enough food," she whispered to him, "but at least it won't irritate your stomach now."

“I think it’s time we visit your family, anyway.” Chaceledon told Seteta, steepling his hands.

"I can check after dinner," she answered while quickly performing the same extraction on the rice that both she and Rheinhard had dished up, "and see if anyone has arrived at the meeting spot yet. I'm sure some have, but it's best just to make sure."

Seteta emptied her handfuls of talc powder onto the table, then fixed her gaze on Peridot. "I know I still have much to learn about dragon culture," she spoke, keeping her tone even and her face docile, "but Chaceledon has been kept half-frozen and nearly starved for the entire time that he was captive to the wraith. There's already been one incident where his health has been in crisis since returning to the desert. He can't handle too many irritants right now while his digestion is still recovering."

There was so much more that she wanted to say. But it would wait. This, at least, might keep Peridot from adding things to his food needlessly.

Chaceledon
 

Chaceledon

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“Slender. What an adorable use of that word I wasn’t previously aware of.” Peridot smiled thinly. She watched Seteta pull the talc from the rice, with an arched eyebrow. This little girl was going to become a problem. She said nothing, but ate very little and spent most of her time sipping water. Chaceledon did the same.

Rheinhard ate his rice but didn’t stop glaring at Peridot. He hated her. Oor kidnapped the wrong dragon. He told Seteta icily. He would not have shed a tear for her suffering, watching what she did to her son willingly.

I think what he means is he wants to head there whether anyone is there or not. Let Peridot rest for a few days and give himself some space. Rheinhard told her, then fell silent. The rest of the meal was quiet, though Chaceledon made small talk with Peridot.

After dinner, Rheinhard’s anxiety spiked seeing the servants clear away the food as though it were trash. Weeks of rations even! He was disturbed by it, and claimed the majority of the meat for himself to preserve or salt. He didn’t want to waste it.
 

Seteta

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"I'm a mammal," Seteta grinned back at Peridot, not even cowed in the slightest as she ate her own food. "My body is different than yours and I know what it needs."

Oor kidnapped the wrong dragon. He told Seteta icily.

Things are definitely going to be... challenging, Seteta answered. We'll have to sneak food to him here, and keep Peridot distracted.

Seteta's Draconian was not advanced enough yet to keep up with Peridot and Chaceledon's small talk throughout the meal, so she just observed the interactions between the two of them, and focused on picking out the words she did recognize and trying to figure out context.

I think what he means is he wants to head there whether anyone is there or not. Let Peridot rest for a few days and give himself some space. Rheinhard told her, then fell silent

Ah, Seteta answered. We can do that. Though I still want to see if anyone's there yet. If not, we'll need to bring some supplies.

Seteta finished her plate of food completely, but did not take seconds, even though some of them were tempting. While she knew Chaceledon didn't care what or how much she ate, she had eaten a sufficient amount and she wasn't going to give Peridot anymore things to complain about. Not yet.

After scooping up her last bite of food and swallowing it, Seteta rose from her seat and respectfully bowed her head to Peridot. "I have some things to tend to, so I will go now," she said in stuttering draconian. "Good night."

She leaned down and pressed a quick kiss to Chaceledon's cheek, her hand gently squeezing his shoulder. "When you're finished here, have Rheinhard bring you to me," she told him, unsure if she'd be out on the sands or back in their room by then. "We can leave tonight, or tomorrow morning, whichever you prefer."

Keep an eye on him, she told Rheinhard as she left the room. Let me know if something happens. And when you've both excused yourselves, let me know. I'm going to go check and see how many of the Inizae have arrived, and I'll let you know what we need to bring.

Once out of the dining room, Seteta hiked up the skirt on her robe and moved quickly through the house. She found house pet they'd saved in Pedeo, and told her to send Hassani to meet her outside the gardens. Then she sprinted quickly through the halls and to the smaller suite they'd been placed in at Peridot's arrival. She changed out of the gray robe and into the white abaya Chaceledon had made for her birthday, then set aside a few other things for Chaceledon to pack for her when he did his own clothing.

Less than ten minutes later, she was traipsing barefoot through the estate toward the gardens, and smiled slightly when she saw Hassani waiting. She quietly gestured for him to follow, and then she led him through the estate and out, westward until she felt the thick, cloying magic in the air that they'd felt on their arrival. The sun was setting, and the sky was clear.

"I sent out a call to my people, when we left Pedeo," she told Hassani. "You likely felt it, because it's a specific type of earth magic that has been attuned to the Inizae bloodline. The stronger an Inizae is bonded to the earth, the further they can send out the call. Any Inizae who pick it up--which will be any Inizae whose feet are on the ground--then relay it, until the call has been sent out through the entire desert."

She leveled her gaze at Hassani. "It will be a very long time before you can even think of attempting something like this, and the ability won't be taught to you until you are accepted into the tribe. When and if you are accepted is not up to me."

Seteta had no need to crouch this time as she reached out for the magic in the sands, since her feet were bare. Unlike the call, though, she didn't need to send out the magic in all directions. Just to the meeting location.

But she didn't trust Persian. Didn't trust that Hassani wasn't a spy, even if Hassani himself may not know it yet, and she would protect her people. Hassani's abilities wouldn't be great enough yet to see what she was doing differently from outside the city.

So she sent out her magic in a radius around them, through the earth, all the way to the meeting place, and then a little further beyond. She didn't try to sense what was in the earth and upon it, but simply waited to see if another Inizae answered to the magic--which held her own unique signature--and where they answered from.

She smiled slightly as she felt a gentle, ephemeral tug from beside her. Hassani had no practiced control of his magic, but the feel of hers made his respond. Any earth magic, especially by an Abtati, would get that response out of him.

After several quiet moments--an observer would think them just companions quietly observing a sunset--Seteta got the answer she was seeking, and pulled her magic back in with a smile on her face.

There are at least a few Inizae there, she sent to Rheinhard through the bond. But we'll need to bring a couple of tents, bedding for all of us, and extra food would be good as well. Plan for Hassani to be coming with us as well. Even if he doesn't, the extra we take will be used by someone. Unless you say otherwise, I'll head back to the house in a few minutes.

"The location we're going to is a closely guarded secret among the Inizae," she told Hassani. "If you will consent to be blindfolded for the flight, then I will allow you to come. Otherwise you can stay here and continue to work alongside the other pets until we return."

Chaceledon
 

Chaceledon

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Hassani bowed slightly to Seteta, and followed her. He was grateful to get away from the estate. The female dragon that had arrived was quite possibly one of the most frightening creatures he’d ever encountered. He was happier once they were out on the sands, and he reflexively dug his toes into the sands. He missed Pedeo deeply. He missed his friends, his pet house, even the collar around his neck. He still had a light band of skin around his throat from it. But even so, being outside was nice.

He felt it again. That rush of magic coming from Seteta that flooded the sand around him. He felt his own magic answering in kind, unconsciously and unbidden. “Blindfolded? Are you really that terrified I’m going to betray you?” Hassani asked quietly, folding his arms across his chest. He pursed his lips and nodded. “Fine. I’ll do my best to earn the tribe’s trust…but Persian isn’t the enemy. He isn’t going to hunt your people down. He’s a changed man. They’re born in Pedeo now, not snatched from mothers.”

I’ve left the table to begin packing. If I stay in a room with that woman any longer I’ll strangle her. Nestor already wants to make her into a runner carpet. Rheinhard told her over the bond. She’s pulled Chaceledon away for tea and a chat.

Hassani looked out across the sands, and tried to reach out. He could feel his magic reaching, but it was a tendril that died off quickly. It didn’t get further than a yard or two. He gave up quickly, looking at his feet. “I want to know more about my tribe, but you’re going to have to start trusting me. I’m not a pet anymore. I’m not on the registry. I’m alone.”
 

Seteta

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Seteta snorted softly at Rheinhard's response, pressing a knuckle to the stretch of skin between her eyes. Hopefully she won't say anything too... damaging. I was just getting him to the point of not cringing at food. I left some clothing and supplies laid out on our bed, if you could pack those up as well. And bring something for Chaceledon to eat before he flies. We'll be in the air for a few hours, and he hasn't had enough food the last few days.

Then she sighed, and sat down on the ground, patting the sand next to her, gesturing for Hassani to sit. She wasn't ignoring his words, just... contemplating them.

Eventually, Seteta gave Hassani a sad smile. "I don't think you will betray us on purpose," she answered. "And if it makes you feel better, I would have asked Rheinhard to be blindfolded as well if he was still under Oor's control. But I control the Well now, and even if he wanted to give away the location, he wouldn't be able to."

She sighed again, looking up at the sky as the first lights began to show. "A few weeks into my journey with Chaceledon and Rheinhard, Oor took me captive, held me at Witherhold for several days. I first met Persian there. I didn't have to say that I was Inizae. He could tell just by looking at me, and even then I could see a glimmer of greed in his eyes.

"How many generations of pets has he bred from the Inizae he captured those many years ago?" she asked quietly. "The only reason he doesn't hunt us down anymore is because Abtatu gave us a blessing disguised as a curse: we can only bear children when we've taken a bonded mate. But I accidentally told him that, and now that he knows about it, he will be eager to figure out how to lift that curse. He will want--need--new blood to further strengthen the magic he's been honing in his pets.

"And when I spoke with him at Auction, after you were freed, I asked him why he freed you, when I'd been told that..." she hesitated there, her voice hitching for a moment, "told that the Inizae who were overbid were traditionally slaughtered. Persian told me that he was curious. That he wanted to see how an Inizae raised in Pedeo, cut off from the sands, would do when suddenly put back in their intended environment. And that if you... didn't cope with it well, he would put you out of your misery."

Seteta looked from the sky to Hassani then, her eyes somber. "How could he say any of that if he didn't have a way to keep eyes on you?"

She reached over and gently patted his shoulder, then. "But, even if you're not a pet anymore, and even if you're not on a registry, and even if, for some reason, you are not accepted into the tribe, I promise: you are not alone. Wherever Chaceledon and I are, you will be welcome."

Seteta smiled and laughed softly then. She'd felt Hassani try to extend his magic through the sands, but it was like trying to use a muscle he'd never exercised, and she'd felt it fade and diminish rapidly. She scooped up some sand, and tugged at Hassani's hand, then poured it into his palm.

"The desert is too big for you right now," she said. "Start with just a handful of sand. Don't try to send your magic into it, just... become one with it. When you can make the sand in your hand move at your command, with ease not effort, then we'll begin with the desert. But be patient. It may not come to you as easily as you hope."

As they waited for Chaceledon and Rheinhard to join them, Seteta coached Hassani through some basic exercises with his magic. His magic, at least, wasn't completely unused--he'd exercised it with the crystal singing bowls--but this was different. The bowls had each been one solid piece. The sand was thousands--millions--of little pieces, and each had to be connected together through a web of magic. That was always the hardest thing for someone to grasp at first.

After a little while, she would erect a half-dome of sand around them, to keep the heat in as the desert began to chill for the night. Without daylight, the heat rapidly dissipated. Hopefully Chaceledon would be able to break away soon.

Chaceledon
 

Chaceledon

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Hassani settled onto the sand beside her. He took a deep breath. “Persian is ambitious, and he’s always been curious. He kills the Inizae because he fears what would happen if we were recaptured. There just isn’t enough time, and he can’t give us preferential treatment. I know some of us who would have rather died than leave the city masterless.” He ran his fingers through the sand around his legs. He loved the feel of the sand, of the chasm of magic under his body. It was as natural to him as flight was to Chaceledon.

“I…I don’t think Persian is an evil person. I think creatures like himself live so long it’s hard to see other people as equals. Persian has bred dozens of generations of Inizae but were protected. We don’t have to experience the harsh world until a master brings us home.” Hassani said carefully. “He probably does have a way to keep an eye on us. We’ve long suspected it. But he won’t go after your Inizae. Especially with the curse.”

Hassani devoted his time to learning how to control the sand. It was easier to control a small handful than to reach out across the oceanic expanse of Amol Khalit with just his magic. He watched when she erected a dome to keep them warm, near effortlessly. He was just barely managing a column of sand in his palm. “The fae are strange creatures who won’t play by anyone’s rules but their own. Maybe you’ll understand better if Chaceledon brings you to the Summer Court one day.” He said softly.

Rheinhard came out soon enough, plunking their bags down beside Seteta. Three tents, clothing for Seteta, Hassani, himself and of course…Chaceledon taking the lion’s share of the baggage.

“Life was easier when he was forced to live without beauty routines. Gods help us if we run out of face soap.” Rheinhard muttered, sitting down next to Seteta. He gave Hassani a look. “And we are never going to Vhora. I’d sooner Floiland than that nest of spiders.”

“Maybe you just don’t know how to navigate a Fae city-“ Hassani’s suggestion died in his throat at Volker’s look, and he became focused on the sand pile at his feet.

Chaceledon came out an hour or so later, looking tired and harried. “Sorry, Artis had me running ragged locking doors I don’t want Peridot poking her nose into.” he raked his fingers through his hair, and began stripping. Rheinhard took his clothing, and Chaceledon shifted. He stretched out his massive form, bunching his coils around his haunches and stretching forward like a slinky cat.
 

Seteta

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"Even good people can commit evil actions," Seteta countered Hassani gently, though her eyes sparkled as he began to get the hang of working with the sand. "But I think it's a little presumptuous to assume that Persian won't come after the Inizae now that he knows why all the latest ones he's taken over the last few millennia were... unfertile?" She wasn't sure what the right word was in Common.

"You just said it yourself: Persian is ambitious and curious. Now that he knows why he's been unable to breed Inizae from outside Pedeo, he will try to undo it."

She wished she'd known when she left Amol Kalit. She could understand why her tribe had kept that information secret, but if she'd known, then she wouldn't have told Persian, even just as an off-handed comment to Kennedi.

"I doubt I will ever understand the fae and their ways," Seteta murmured, perking up a little as she felt Rheinhard's presence through the sand.

She chuckled a little as he dropped the luggage nearby then sat next to her, on the other side from Hassani. "The Inizae have their own beauty routines that I'm sure will help placate Chaceledon a little, even if just through sheer fascination," she told her not-quite-stepson.

Seteta bit her lip to hold back a laugh, though, when Hassani accused Rheinhard of not knowing how to navigate a fae city. At least the Inizae was not as frightened of Rheinhard as he had been in Pedeo.

She pulled her knees up to her chest, resting her chin on them as she wrapped her arms around her legs. "Keep practicing with the sand," she told Hassani, then let a comfortable silence fall as the sky continued to darken, stars slowly appearing and twinkling overhead.

When Chaceledon came out, Seteta let the dome of sand fall away. Once he'd shifted, Seteta quickly dug through her packed bag for the scarf she'd set aside for Hassani's blindfold. Once the other elf was situated securely on Chaceledon's back, she briefly climbed up behind him to tie the scarf around his eyes.

"Make sure he doesn't fall off," she told Rheinhard before slipping down and stepping up to Chaceledon's head.

"Are you all right, sehejib?" she murmured softly, pressing a kiss to his snout. "Are you warm enough? You're not feeling weak or dizzy at all? We're going to be flying for a few hours."

Then she lowered her voice, as low as she could pitch it so that Hassani wouldn't overhear, ducked low to Chaceledon's ear, and murmured the directions to him. She told him to circle around the estate a couple of times, then to head first west toward the forbidden city, then to veer northward. They would land a few miles from the meeting location and walk the rest of the way. Seteta didn't want to risk sending the Inizae into a fright at the sight of a dragon soaring overhead.

Chaceledon
 

Chaceledon

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Hassani looked down. She was right. Now that Persian knew there was a solution to the problem there would be no stopping him from chewing on it. That was what made Persian such a good tradesman and architect. He would never give up. He would never stop. He got onto Chaceledon, helped by Rheinhard and blindfolded, and clung to the dragon like a squirrel. Rheinhard was noticeably nervous, especially as they took off from the sands.

Chaceledon’s ear cocked back to listen to his fiancé, and they made for the deep sands. I’ll be fine. Between mother fussing about me eating too much and you too little, I might have the two of you weigh all my meals. Chaceledon chuckled. He kept low to the sand, traveling at a pace that felt comfortable to him. He loved being out in the sun, even though he could sense Rheinhard’s terror. The other man relaxed slowly the longer they flew, but it was clear he was no fan of heights. Chaceledon followed her directions, and delighted in her company.

He was so much more relaxed when he didn’t have to put on airs, and didnt object to landing a good mile away from her destination. Rheinhard packed on their things without a word, and helped Hassani to do his own. Chaceledon packed lightly but fussed a bit about having to walk so damn far. He sighed, and put his arm around Seteta as they approached.

“Now that I’m not terrifying the local populace…where do we set up?” he whispered with a cheeky kiss to her neck.
 

Seteta

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"Weigh your meals?" Seteta murmured, cocking her own head curiously as she climbed on his back. Sometimes Chaceledon said the strangest things. "What purpose would that serve?"

The flight went smoothly, fortunately. She could practically feel Chaceledon's contentment radiating off of him as he lazily coasted over the sands. Seteta relaxed, taking the opportunity to sit at his brow as the pet had done, and let herself get used to the sensation. With only the starlight and moonlight, it forced her to actually feel what Chaceledon was doing, to adjust her balance based on how he moved. And it also helped that if she tumbled off, the ground was not quite as far away as it usually was when they flew.

She let him know when it was time to land, sending her magic out through the sand again to let those at the encampment know she was approaching. Then Seteta took up a fair amount of the luggage herself, and took the scarf back from Hassani, tucking it into her bag. She was fairly vibrating with excitement by the time they approached the outer perimeter of firelight, though she melted into Chaceledon's side when he snuck his arm around her and kissed her neck.

"Any open space between the other tents is fair game," she answered. "Once my parents arrive, we'll be staying with them in their tent."

It was hard to see in the dark, but half a dozen Inizae tents were already set up on the sands. The tents used by Supti's caravan were similar in style, but nowhere near as large. Made of black goat hair and stretched over tall poles, at night they blended in with the horizon, and in the day they offered a deep, cooling shade within. But while the exterior of the tent was dark, the insides were lined with brightly colored rugs and curtains, with glittering lanterns hanging from the poles for light, and glowing braziers on the ground to keep the night's chill away.

The camp was mostly quiet, since it was after midnight, but there were guards stationed around, and Seteta could hear a few Inizae laughing and conversing at the fires. The guards stood to attention as they approached, but she rattled off a series of phrases in fluent Abtat and they relaxed and let them all through with a just a greeting.

After a moment's perusal, she led them over to a large space between some of the tents and set down the luggage she'd carried. Before Rheinhard could start setting up the tents, though, she pulled them all away toward the fire.

"Let me introduce you first," she said in Common for Hassani's sake. "So no one mistakes you for intruders."

As they entered the bright light of the fires, a squeal was heard, and a moment later Seteta was swallowed up in the embrace of a generously curvaceous elf. Possibly the most rotund elf that had ever existed. There was some Abtat rapidly fired back and forth between her and Seteta, and they kissed each others cheeks before turning back to the others.

"Keket," Seteta said in Abtat, gesturing to each male as she introduce them, "this is Chaceledon, Rheinhard Volker, and Hassani. Hassani is an Inizae descendent of Pedeo, and he doesn't speak much Abtat yet."

Her eyes softened, and a wistful smile crossed her face as she squeezed Keket's hand. "Chaceledon is sehejib."

She switched back to Common for a moment. "This is Keket, a dear friend of mine. She speaks some Common, but isn't quite fluent."

Chaceledon
 

Chaceledon

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Chaceledon gratefully put down his luggage, but gave Seteta a pained look. He couldn’t even get properly changed into something a bit more impressive first? He wasn’t even wearing jewelry! Rheinhard sighed and set down their burden, and looked around the camp. He couldn’t help but feel strange here. Like a fox let into the hen house. He’d stalked desert tribes like this, picking off individuals at the edges of camp. To be invited in to sleep was a new feeling.

Hassani looked around nervously, picking at his nails until Chaceledon slapped his hands down. He smiled politely at Keket, and bowed at her. Chaceledon gave Rheinhard a sidelong look. As much as the Volkers were slowly becoming accustomed to being social, he knew what Rheinhard was thinking. Defensible area to set up, hunting ground a bit outside the camp, and targets. It was in his blood, really, but he couldn’t be allowed to hunt here. Ever. Both of them knew it. It didn’t stop Rheinhard looking.

“It’s good to meet you, Keket.” Chaceledon told her warmly.