Private Tales Of Sand & Dragonfire

A private roleplay only for those invited by the first writer

Seteta

The Dragon's Betrothed
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Even as she smiled and gave introductions, Seteta could feel the predatory instincts flowing through Rheinhard. As Chaceledon greeted Keket, Seteta fixed her gaze on Rheinhard.

If any of the Inizae threaten you, I will not stop you from defending yourself, she said, but then the timbre of her thoughts turned to warning. But if I find you hunting my people for any other reason, I don't know what I will do.

She had told him when she took the Well that she would respect his autonomy. His privacy. And she wanted to keep that promise. But... if he hunted her friends, her relatives, for sport? Seteta feared there were lines that even she would cross, in that case.

Keket, fortunately, broke through the quiet intensity of the moment, dropping Seteta's hand with another squeal and crossing over to grab Chaceledon by the shoulders and tug him down to kiss both his cheeks.

"Oh, I have long wondered who would worm their way into Seteta's heart," Keket gushed, beaming up at Chaceledon before she let go of him and stepped back, looking him over him from head to toe. "Blessed Abtatu, I certainly tried. But how did you all get here so fast? You were at least two days out, I thought."

"We flew,"
Seteta answered. "Chaceledon's a dragon."

Keket arched a brow at her. "You always were the adventurous one."

Seteta blushed from collarbone to hairline, then cleared her throat.

"Hassani wants to learn more about his people," she changed the subject, once more speaking in Common. "He hopes to join the tribe. Until mut arrives, would you mind helping me teach him the basics of Abtat? They aren't allowed to learn it in Pedeo."

"Of course!" Keket said in slightly awkward Common, reaching over to pat Hassani's cheek. "Poor chuma. You'll be speaking Abtat as if it were your born tongue in no time."

There was a little more conversation, and then Keket shooed them off to finish setting up their tents and retire for the night.

When Seteta was finally crawling into Chaceledon's arms inside their tent, she softly kissed him, then nuzzled her face into the side of his neck.

"I don't know if your mother told you," she murmured, her fingers softly stroking over his chest, "but she gave me permission to stay with you. But she explicitly said I am not part of the dahn."

It... made her a little sad, but ultimately, it wouldn't bother her. So long as her own parents accepted their relationship--and she had little doubt they wouldn't--everything would be all right.

"Also..." she said hesitatingly. "Do you remember what I told you about the ah... how the Inizae take their first lovers? Keket was mine."

Chaceledon
 

Chaceledon

The Draconian Diva
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You do have the right to command me to stop. I cannot disobey a direct command from someone who holds the Well. If you tell me not to, I won’t, but the instinct remains. Rheinhard replied. He did take a step back from Keket, not wanting to get the same treatment when she suddenly flung her arms around Chaceledon and kissed his cheeks. I cannot say I won’t bite her if she attempts that with me.

Chaceledon embraced Keket uneasily. “Yes well, it’s a long story. She’s technically already got a stepson, as well.” He nodded to Rheinhard. “I’d be lying if I didn’t say it was an odd family she’s joining.”

Hassani smiled politely. “I’m eager to learn. Persian didn’t really feel it was necessary for us to learn it as much as we do our other skills.” He pointed out. He resented the idea that he was some prisoner. Seteta always worded in a way that made Pedeo sound like the most awful thing in the world.

He was grateful when they set up their tents for the night, and Rheinhard fell asleep rather quickly. Chaceledon cuddled up with Seteta, smirking and toying with her hair.
“Mother’s just defensive. Cassius is her last real hope for an heir and he’s always been an ass. Without me taking a dragon for a mate it’ll be hard for her to justify us to the other dahns. Think of it from her perspective, koiros. She never wanted this marriage. She never really wanted children. Social standing is all she has now that love and freedom are too far away.” he kissed her hair. “Give her some time.”
 

Seteta

The Dragon's Betrothed
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Don't worry, Seteta told Rheinhard, bemused. Keket is good at reading people. She won't touch you.

Seteta promised to tell the whole story the next day before finally escaping from Keket.


As Chaceledon stroked her hair and spoke of his brother, she snorted lightly. "So far, my impression has been that all dragons are bit of an ass, though I'll put up with yours gladly."

She yawned then and settled sleepily against his shoulder as he kissed her hair, her hand settling over his heart. "I feel sorry for her," she murmured, her eyes heavy and voice softly fading. "But I won't let her force you into that life. Or our children."


It would be a few days yet before her parents arrived, though a dozen other Inizae families arrived during that time, many whom Seteta knew. Keket spent a fair amount of time with them, beginning to tutor Hassani with their language and teaching him of Inizae culture. Seteta found time to sneak away for a few hours each day and continue her lessons with Nestor and help Rheinhard find some good non-Inizae hunting grounds well outside the camp.

Refrain from going after any Abtati, even non-Inizae, unless they attack you, she told him. But any humans wandering out here... they are likely to be hostile. The Kaliti tribes have always hunted us for sport. They're fair game.

The Inizae used this location because it had a hidden water source. Not an oasis, but a cave. The entrance was usually hidden by sand, but clearing it was no problem for even the children in the tribe, with their gifting for earth magic. Inside the cave was a thermal spring. Water was drawn up from it each evening to cool overnight for drinking, but otherwise it was open for any to swim or bathe or soak.


It was midday on the third day after their arrival that the first of Seteta's family arrived. She was returning to camp with Rheinhard after being in the Well. Keket had distracted Chaceledon with a discussion of cosmetics--an interest it turned out that they shared. The camp was fairly buzzing with conversation and activity as they made their way back, and when Seteta spotted a familiar face, she let out a whoop and tugged Rheinhard through the gathered Inizae before darting across the clearing in the center of the camp.

Before she got a chance to greet the elder female Inizae, though, Seteta felt a surge of magic beneath her feet.

"Seteta! Get behind me now!"

Horror washed through her as she realized where that magic was aiming.

Rheinhard, move! Now! Seteta's warning reverberated through the bond as she sent her own magic out, trying to intercept the other and put a barrier between it and Rheinhard.

"Muti stop!" she cried, her hands latching onto her grandmother's arms and tugging her away. "He's not here to hurt anyone."

"That is a Volker!"
the woman hissed. "If he is here, we are no longer safe anywhere."

"We are, muti,"
Seteta gasped, her heart pounding. She hadn't thought any of the Inizae would know him. "It's... a long story, but he answers to me now. Even if he wanted to, he can't hurt us or betray us. Please, trust me. At least until you've heard it all."

Chaceledon
 

Chaceledon

The Draconian Diva
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The days passed quietly. Nestor spent his time teaching Seteta draconian, and some parts of dragon culture. She needed to keep from having incidents, even if there were dragons like Peridot who treated her like an animal. He knew it was hard to be patient with dragons, but she had to try.

Rheinhard spent his time watching. There were several handsome men among the Inizae, and…well, he was single, not dead. He found small tasks to do near them, watching them chop firewood or haul supplies in. He breathed a word to no one, and kept his distance, but Chaceledon caught him admiring from afar several times.

The dragon wanted him to be happy, but he couldn’t push him. Rheinhard was used to having his interest mocked. Oor had caught him wistfully staring and had humiliated him every time. It hurt Chaceledon to watch the quiet war between Rheinhard’s shattered self esteem and his clear desire to have someone’s arms around him.

It couldn’t be helped, and Chaceledon engaged Keket in discussions about fashion. That he could talk about for hours. He even crafted her a set of glass nails, far shorter than his own so she could be practical, and adhered with a little white pitch from the firewood.

Rheinhard and Seteta were walking back from another lesson. Nestor was satisfied they were making headway into etiquette and verb conjugation, and not entirely paying attention. Rheinhard was. He leapt away from the spot and drew his long blade, his heels up and head down to protect his throat. He couldn’t sense where the magic was. She could attack from anywhere! He gently tugged at the bond. While it wasn’t used often, the bond was a two way street. He could faintly sense the magic the elderly Inizae was putting out, if he concentrated on pulling that skill from Seteta.

Chaceledon was chatting away with Keket when he heard Seteta shout and Rheinhard’s very familiar warning snarl. Oh ye gods I knew it was only a matter of time…excuse me!” He told Keket in hurried Abtat, and scrambled up to find Seteta.

Rheinhard bared his teeth at the elder woman. He was emitting long, low growls at her, warning her not to come after him. She was well within throwing range.
 

Seteta

The Dragon's Betrothed
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"Please, muti," Seteta begged, forcing her grandmother to look at her and not Rheinhard baring his teeth and growling. Her magic barely held her grandmother's at bay. She felt Rheinhard tugging at the bond and let him through. So far as she knew, Rheinhard had no magical ability of his own beyond the presence of the Well, and he would be at a great disadvantage if he couldn't even sense where the magic might come from. "I gave him permission to defend himself, but I don't want it to be against you."

"You gave him permission?" her grandmother repeated, her neck craning around to try and spot Rheinhard through the crowd. "What do you mean?"

"It's part of what I need to tell you," Seteta said. "But trust me, Rheinhard cannot hurt any of you. He won't."

Her grandmother's magic, at least, stopped ramming against hers, and Seteta sighed with relief.

"His actions will be judged at the cost of your blood," her grandmother said, and Seteta bowed her head in submission. It was the elder Inizae's right, both as matriarch of her family and one of the elders of the tribe to demand such.


"Yes, muti."

The magic receded then, and Seteta released her own, her shoulders visibly relaxing. Her hands loosened where they gripped her grandmother's arms. She looked around then, and spotted Chaceledon.

"I have someone to introduce you to, muti," Seteta murmured, turning and tucking her grandmother's hand into her elbow and leading her across the rapidly cleared area.

Seteta's face was a little more delicate than her grandmother's, but the family resemblance was still apparent. When they stood before Chaceledon and Rheinhard, Seteta gave Rheinhard an apologetic grimace.


"Muti, this is Chaceledon," she said first. "He is a dragon, like the ones in the tales of old. And..." she smiled softly there, "he is sehejib."

Then she turned to Rheinhard then. "And this is Rheinhard Volker. He is Chaceledon's adopted son, as most of the Volkers have been."

Chaceledon
 

Chaceledon

The Draconian Diva
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Rheinhard made sure to head to the outskirts of the camp, and settled into the sand some distance away. He didn’t care for this woman who had blindly attacked him, but he also couldn’t blame her. She knew what he was. Chaceledon hurried to his side, touching his shoulder. Rheinhard didnt sheathe the knife, but watched the elder Inizae closely as they approached.

Chaceledon relaxed slightly as Seteta made introductions, and bent his head. It’s good to meet you, madam.” He waved Rheinhard forward. His son sheathed his knife, but his heels didn’t yet meet sand. He was ready to put distance between himself and the elf as fast as he could. “Rheinhard isn’t under the influence of the wraith any longer. I won’t deny what he is but he won’t hunt here.” Chaceledon reassured her.

Good looks must run in the family. Seteta’s grandmother was barely going gray at the temples. Chaceledon smiled at her.
“If this is how good Seteta will look when she ages, I look forward to growing old together.”
 

Seteta

The Dragon's Betrothed
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The elder Inizae gave Chaceledon a tight smile. "You may call me Mesi," she said, though she kept one eye on Rheinhard, only settling a little when his knife was sheathed again.

Seteta, though, grimaced again when Chaceledon started... smooth talking her grandmother, shaking her head subtly. Muti did not like flattery. She barely tolerated compliments.

"We shall see," Mesi said sharply. "If I remember from the old legends properly, you're quite long-lived compared to the Abtati. Are you going to be able to watch her grow old while you remain young?"

Seteta bit her lip. They'd barely discussed her age, let alone dying. "Muti... come and sit. Wouldn't you like some tea? We brought some lovely tea from Chaceledon's estate."

Her nervousness was clear from her stiff and fumbling movements as Seteta stepped away and unwound her headscarf, spreading it across the sand for her muti to sit on. Mesi barely even glanced her way as she did so, fixing her gaze on Chaceledon.

"Yes, I would like some tea. Bring me a cup of your favorite," she said, and then her gaze shifted to Rheinhard. "You, Volker. Tell me what Chaceledon means by you not being under the influence of 'the wraith' any longer."

Seteta tried to step away to help Chaceledon, but her grandmother's hand latched around her ankle. "He will fix the tea," she said quietly. "You will stay."

"Yes, muti,"
Seteta sighed, shrugging helplessly at Chaceledon while she mouthed an apology.

This had all started off wrong.

Chaceledon
 

Chaceledon

The Draconian Diva
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“Does one enjoy flowers any less with the knowledge of winter?” Chaceledon smiled, and looked at Seteta. As for myself, I lie content under the petals as the sky grows cold, and feel no poorer for their fading.”

The dragon smiled politely at her. Serving tea would be far different than in his own home. There was much less ceremony here, he imagined, but the brew would need to be perfect. The first steep he would offer to the sand in thanks, in lieu of any tea pets. Rheinhard sat, but kept his distance. “It is as Chaceledon said. Seteta holds the leash now, not the wraith who once controlled me.” He said simply. He wasn’t going to tell her more than he deemed necessary.

It was likely Mesi may have known Klaus, or even Ferenzi if she was that old. Both of which had hunted Inizae for sport. Some fae viewed it like fox hunting, flushing them from the sands and keeping them moving until they could be dispatched. Regardless, Rheinhard didn’t trust her enough to volunteer information.
 

Seteta

The Dragon's Betrothed
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"One does not devote their heart to a wildflower in a field, though," Mesi stated, then she shifted and muttered to Seteta, "he had better treasure you more than even the rarest bloom in the world."

"He does, muti,"
Seteta answered reassuringly as she sat down beside Rheinhard. "When mit and mut get here, I'll tell you the full story."

“It is as Chaceledon said. Seteta holds the leash now, not the wraith who once controlled me.” He said simply.

Mesi stayed silent for a few moments, scrutinizing the human. She couldn't deny that she was distrusting of him, of the whole situation. But if Seteta was willing to lay her life on the line, then Mesi would wait and watch. Her granddaughter was it no fool.

"Tell me," Mesi said said to Rheinhard, changing the subject, "what you think of this relationship between this dragon and Seteta."

Chaceledon
 

Chaceledon

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Rheinhard looked at the old woman. What did he think of their relationship? His first knee jerk reaction was jealousy. Deep, black jealousy. Hurt. He had clearly planned on healing quietly with Chaceledon once they had escaped, and Seteta’s romance had thrown a wrench into that. They’d been running all over creation for months, with very little rest, and very little time for him to bond with his mother. He used to be the only one in Chaceledon’s world. They hadn’t played cards in…what felt like months.

He knew he and Chaceledon would begin to drift apart once Oor no longer kept them together. They were too different. But he hadn’t expected it to be so soon, nor to feel like such a third wheel. With everyone asleep in the Well but Nestor, his head was quieter than ever. The Well felt less like an escape and more like another empty room.

Then again, he was happy for Chaceledon. He was happy his mother had fallen so deeply in love. He liked Seteta as a person.

I am happy they have found one another.” Rheinhard said carefully.

Chaceledon returned with the tea, offering Mesi her cup first, Seteta second, Rheinhard third and settling down into the sand with the fourth. Rheinhard had an oddly pensive look on his face.
 

Seteta

The Dragon's Betrothed
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Mesi saw the flicker of heartache in Rheinhard's eyes as he carefully considered his answer and spoke. Seteta felt an echo of it down the bond, as well as the jealousy. The loneliness.

I'm sorry, she told him. I didn't mean to monopolize his time. Or yours. Everything has just... happened so quickly. You should talk with Chaceledon. Let him know. If he's an ass about it, I'll set him straight.

Mesi sighed quietly. Even if this Volker was a dangerous man, it was clear his soul had been crushed many times over.

"Seteta's mother, my daughter, is better skilled at soothing soul-hurts than I ever tried to be," Mesi said. "It comes as a part of her spiritual gifts as a priestess of Abtatu. You should spend some time with her when she arrives."

Seteta honestly wanted to get her mother's opinion of the Well, especially if she was willing to be taken into it by Rheinhard. Chaceledon and Rheinhard and Persian all seemed to think of it as a complex spell--Nestor as well--but after she'd found the heart of it... she wasn't sure what to make of it, completely. Her mother knew souls in a way Seteta had never seen another do so.

Mesi was continuing to speak, though. "Beyond Seteta and Chaceledon's personal compatibility, though, do you think that their lives and cultures will mesh well together? Or will it be too much of a strain for each of them? You know dragons far better than either of us, and I know Seteta is headstrong. I would not see her spirit crushed.

"Your dragon is on his way back, though,"
Mesi stated. Seteta knew she'd put up a web of magic through the ground, similar to how she did to keep watch. Since Mesi was the elder, it would have been rude for Seteta to add her own to it as well, or to tap into it. "We can continue this conversation later."

When Chaceledon arrived with the four cups of tea, Seteta gave him a slightly strained smile. Mesi had brought up things that were relevant, but more bluntly than she would have herself. And she knew that Mesi would be relating it all to her parents, and while they would make their own advisements without bias, ultimately, Mesi's observations would be carefully considered as well.

As Mesi took the cup Chaceledon offered, she brought it up and carefully inhaled the fragrance without drinking.

"Tell me about this tea," Mesi ordered as Chaceledon seated himself on the sand. "Where it comes from, how you brewed it, and why it's your favorite."

Chaceledon
 

Chaceledon

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“No.” Volker’s answer was simple but final. He was learning to open up, but he was still an intensely private man. Spiritual journeys with women he didn’t know wasn’t on the list, especially considering Mesi’s first reaction. I will be fine. He told Seteta simply. The forewords of a man shoving his feelings back into a bottle. He would talk to Chaceledon later about it.

Mesi’s question was surprisingly probing. “Their personalities mesh. Their cultures will not. You are a weak and dying nation that will blink out of existence due to harsh environment and hunting. The dragons are old, and arrogant, and bored with their own wealth. Culturally, you and Dahn Peridot could not be further away from one another. What they waste in an afternoon you eat in a year. But as I have also learned…that is not his culture anymore.” Rheinhard told her, baldly and truthfully. He wasn’t in the business of sparing anyone’s feelings.

He fell silent when Chaceledon settled with them. “Butterfly peaflower tea. We grow it in my greenhouses, and I had my pets dry great jars of it. Thankfully I was protective of my tea and it was one of the few things my Dahn kept well supplied.” Chaceledon said with a smile. “It’s a blue purple that turns pink with lemon. You steep it with water at exactly one hundred seventy five degrees for five minutes. First steep goes to the earth.”
 

Seteta

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Mesi made no response to Rheinhard's blunt refusal. At the least, the idea had been brought forward. He was not the one interested in Seteta, even if there was some sort of strange relationship between them. Mesi would broach the idea with her daughter herself, and let her decide if building that sort of rapport with the Volker was necessary in the long run.

She was a little puzzled by what the Volker said of dragon culture not being Chaceledon's culture anymore, but she could find out more about that later. But he spoke somewhat truthfully of the Abtati and the Inizae. They were not a weak culture--the fact that they still existed was proof enough of that--but they were certainly dying. Or at least, it was important that everyone believed they were, for now. But they were learning things the dragons had not, it seemed, if the dragons were still arrogant.

As Chaceledon spoke of the tea, Mesi carefully swirled it in her cup. It was a lovely blue, and she raised the cup to carefully sip at it. Fortunately, it was not overly hot anymore, and the elder Inizae smiled at the delicate floral taste.

"What did you think of as you offered the first steep to the earth? Do you have lemon?" she asked. "I would like to see this color change."

Once muti had tasted her tea, Seteta finally raised her own cup to her lips. Her nose wrinkled a little at the flowery taste. It wasn't bad, necessarily, but Seteta decided she liked the smell of it better than the taste, herself.

Chaceledon
 

Chaceledon

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Chaceledon smiled tolerantly. “The first steep of year is traditionally poured over clay representations of things the Dahn sees as important. Money, trade. This place is important to Seteta, so I poured it into the soil.” he said, and withdrew a small vial of lemon juice. He dropped a few drops into Mesi’s tea, so she could watch the hot pink coloring stain the blue violet. He sipped his own tea after Seteta, and Rheinhard drank his down without a thought. He was dehydrated after the journey and more than willing to put up with some sulking from Chaceledon. He wasn’t a tea party creature.

Hassani was content to speak with Keket. He had an innate sense of belonging, even if he didn’t speak the language. Even if he wasn’t called here specifically. He touched the brighter band of skin along his throat. Maybe Persian had been wise to show him his culture. He was grateful to the man for sparing his hide so he could see this. “Persian would be fascinated by all this.” He told Keket haltingly. “He likes…other people. He likes learning.”
 

Seteta

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A contented smile teased at Mesi's mouth at Chaceledon's answer. She was pleased to see that he was thoughtful and considerate, even if the Volker had said dragons were arrogant and dissatisfied. When he dripped the lemon juice into her tea, an almost childlike fascination crossed her face as she watched the tea turn a vibrant pink. It was almost as vibrant as Chaceledon's hair.

She sipped at the tea leisurely, watching the dynamics between Chaceledon, Seteta, and the Volker in the silence. Seteta's gaze was clearly fond, though in different ways, when it landed on either of the males, and the same for when it landed on Mesi. The Volker seemed utterly uncomfortable, though he hid it well. Chaceledon was... nearly demure. Not even the most refined of the Inizae possessed his poise.

When Mesi finished her tea, she set the cup down in front of Chaceledon. "Thank you," she said. "I would enjoy having tea with you again."

Then she reached over and took Seteta's hand in hers, patting it gently. "It has been quite some time since we last saw each other," she smiled. "Come tell me of the places you've seen while you help me set up my tent."

Seteta hurriedly swallowed the last of her tea, returning the empty cup to Chaceledon. "Of course, muti."

Seteta stood and brushed the sand from her abaya, then held out her arm to help muti rise. Mesi took it, allowing Seteta to steady her.

"You two are welcome to join us," Mesi said to Chaceledon and Volker as she stood. "But you do not have to."


Hassani's Abtat was coming along well. He was intelligent and determined to learn, and Keket was more than happy to teach him, but there were some aspects of Inizae culture that were clearly going to be harder for him to grasp.

"Fascination can become an obsession," Keket pointed out, taking the time to have the conversation in both Abtat and Common so that Hassani could continue to learn. "Our past experiences with Persian have not been that he wishes to learn about our people and our culture in order to respect us, but rather to simply possess that knowledge, and in turn eventually possess us."

Keket paused, giving Hassani a chance to ask any questions about the language itself, before continuing. "Someone can exist in different ways to different people," she said. "Persian is such for you. You have lived your whole life in Pedeo, and in order to survive and thrive, you've had to accept his rule. But not every place in the world functions like that city. Most places do not even need to.

"I do not wish to make you despise Persian, or to despise the life you've head before. But if you wish to truly be Inizae, you will have to recognize that for us... Persian has not been a curious bystander. He has been the instigator of some of the most painful parts of our history."

Chaceledon
 

Chaceledon

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Chaceledon got up and smiled at Mesi. Volker rose and gathered their cups, setting them aside neatly. He would come to gather them later. Setting up tents he was rather used to, anyway. He could help. Chaceledon was more there for conversation and helping Mesi unpack her things.

Hassani frowned. “He is not like you say. He was once. Not now.” He struggled with the vocabulary, but he was trying. Eventually he sighed and switched to common; this was too difficult in Abtati. “I’m sure you can come to some sort of agreement. I know he has hurt your people. But it’s all I’ve ever known. There’s so much I don’t know about the Inizae but there’s so much the Inizae don’t know about Pedeo. Technology, art, science. You have the potential to be so much more than just…people who survive.” He ran his hand along the back of his neck. “I don’t know what I’m saying. He’s fae. You can’t make a wolf into a dog no matter how hard you try.”

Rheinhard helped Seteta set up the main poles of the tent. Is everything an interrogation with her? He asked as they set the poles and began setting up the tent. Chaceledon was chatting with her about Inizae dress.
 

Seteta

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Mesi tilted her head curiously as Volker gathered the cups and set them aside. She turned to Chaceledon, disappointment on her face. "Is he a son or a servant?" she chastened. "I requested for you to bring the tea, therefore you should be the one to also clean it up. Leaving it for later is negligent. Volker, come with us. Chaceledon, take care of the tea cups."

Mesi then turned a critical eye on Seteta, and the younger Inizae winced.

"You have neglected teaching him about our ways, I see," her muti scolded as they headed back into the Inizae camp. "See that you do so before your parents arrive."

"Yes, muti,"
Seteta murmured, gesturing with her free hand behind her back for Chaceledon to do as muti expected. "However, you shouldn't let Chaceledon help with setting up the tent. Rheinhard and I learned that the hard way on our travels."

Mesi snorted, and patted Seteta's arm. "I shall heed your words."


The Inizae tents were a far more complex affair than the smaller tent that they'd had leaving Fal'Addas. Mesi had a couple of servants that would help them as well, but it still wasn't long before Rheinhard and Seteta were grunting and sweating as they anchored the poles and began stretching the goat hair fabric them.

She's protective, Seteta answered Rheinhard. She led our tribe for a time, and still feels responsible for the safety of the Inizae whenever they gather together. My mother also miscarried several times before I was born, and so muti became even more protective of me. She was disappointed when I left to travel instead of following my family into one of the other tribes. I doubt she expected me to come back with a potential husband, let alone a Volker as a son.

Seteta hesitated there, stepping away from the tent for a moment to catch her breath and wipe the sweat from her brow. I didn't know... that she'd encountered your family before.


"Come, sit with me,"
Mesi said to Chaceledon, patting the empty spot beside her. She sat on a trunk of her clothes as she watched the tent's assembly. "Tell me about the things that interest you, and your skills. Are you not overly warm in those layered robes?


Keket waited patiently as Hassani spoke, his defense of Persian's ways clearly born of fondness and likely a bit of desperation. She'd seen it before, in Inizae slaves that they'd rescued after years of captivity. A way to justify some of the things they'd seen and experienced, so that it didn't hurt as much.

"Perhaps we can come to some sort of agreement in the future," Keket said softly when Hassani finished. "But the Inizae will never make that first step. Persian has always been the aggressor, and if he wishes to do more than enslave us and steal our children, he must be the first to act, in a manner that is respectful and non-threatening."

She pushed some sweets across the table to him where they sat. Molded shortbreads filled with date paste and nuts. Pistachio cakes topped with thick cream flavored with orange and rosewater. Warm spicy tea lightly sweetened with honey.

"Survival being first and foremost is not a trait possessed solely by the Inizae," she continued. "All the Abtati, and the Kaliti, are subject to the whims of the desert, and she is a harsh mistress. But you barely know us yet. It is a bit too soon for you to say that we only exist to survive.

"And it's not like none of us have never stepped foot in Pedeo. We just take many, many precautions before we do so."

Chaceledon
 

Chaceledon

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Volker gave Mesi a look. Chaceledon had never rolled up his sleeves and scrubbed a dish in his life even when living in Witherhold. They’d had servants and the Volkers to do the work, and Oor generated very little dirt himself. That was not a fight Mesi was going to win today or any other day. Chaceledon ignored the order with a sort of helpless indifference. Dishes? A dragon clean teacups? She was a madwoman for suggesting it and Rheinhard took care of it regardless.

“I’m not that awful at putting up tents.” Chaceledon fussed as he followed them. Volker wisely decided to stay quiet, helping the servants put up the tent.

I am not surprised Mesi had encountered my father. Volker told her. It explains her reaction to me. Klaus delighted in the hunts Oor put on.

Chaceledon settled next to Mesi and smiled at her. “I design and make clothing and jewelry. And weaponry! Rheinhard, come here and give me your knives.” he held out his hand expectantly and a sweaty Rheinhard set them in his palm. The only man who could request his weapon so blithely. “Look but don’t touch.” He withdrew the longest blade and held it in his palms so Mesi could look.

Hassani sighed and took a little sweet cake, nibbling at it. “Maybe you have a point, but I had no idea the Inizae got anywhere near Pedeo.” He shrugged. “Trading, I assume?”
 

Seteta

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Seteta followed when Chaceledon called Rheinhard over, curious about the conversation. She chewed at her lip thoughtfully as Rheinhard's knives were brought out, the longest one displayed across Chaceledon's palms.

Did I ever tell you what I felt, when I held your blade as we butchered that gazelle when we fled from Oor from Annuakat? she sent to Rheinhard over the bond. It was as if your mother stood beside me, her hand resting on my shoulder. I don't know if it's because I'm the steward of the Well, or because I'm a female steward of it. But I think, perhaps, that just as the male Volkers are bound to the Well itself in an eternal undeath, your mothers are bound to your weapons also.


Mesi looked over the blade, and had no desire to touch it. She could appreciate the craftsmanship of it, but still found it horrifying in nature. "The other Volker, he had bone-hilted blades as well," Mesi murmured. "Is the bone itself of some significance?"

But she still turned a scathing eye on Chaceledon. She hadn't missed that the Volker had still been the one to tend to the tea cups. "So you can dirty your hands to make weaponry, from human bone no less, but you can't handle washing a tea cup? Tell me why, exactly, you think you should gain the blessing of the Inizae to wed an Inizae bride when you can't even handle so simple a task? You seem incapable of properly caring for her."

Seteta bit her tongue to keep from swearing under her breath. Of course muti would fixate on that.


Keket sipped at some cooled mint tea, and selected several of the cakes for herself, shivering in delight as she took a bite of one.

"My dear boy," Keket giggled--he would always be a boy to her, not in a demeaning way, but simply because he was so naive--at his words, "If you need a guide through the desert, there is none better than an Inizae. We may not advertise ourselves as Inizae, but all the merchants in Amol-Kalit--Abtati or Kaliti, or any other creature--knows to look for the caravan guides with the lizard banner. With one of us, you will never become lost, and you will never die of thirst."

Then she shrugged.

"But it does mean that we have to be willing to go anywhere. Even Pedeo."

Chaceledon
 

Chaceledon

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Rheinhard hesitated. Nestor believes our mothers are bound to us in some way. Our weapons are always made from their bones. Always. In six hundred generations no Volker has lost his weapon. No matter how much it cost to repair, Oor insisted it be repaired. Perhaps you are more sensitive to it, being a woman. There has never been a female steward. Or any living steward.

Chaceledon nodded at the weapon. “Bone. It is always bone. I’m not sure if any significance, but it is always a beauty to work with.” he sheathed the blade and rolled the knife roll back up, putting it in his lap. “Incapable of caring for her? I have always provided her with what she needed. Clothes on her back, food in her belly, love and care. Her skin glows, her hair is healthy and smooth, her clothes in good repair because of me. She will never want for anything. And you’re upset over teacups?”

Rheinhard winced.

Hassani huffed a bit. “I’m not entirely a child! I was trained in mathematics, art. I was supposed to be someone who could help a mining company locate minerals, or entertain with music. I don’t know anything about the desert other than it was incredibly annoying to deal with inside of the city.” He raked his fingers through his hair. “Just because I wasn’t raised out in a tent doesn’t make me…ignorant.”

The elf took another cookie. “Sometimes I wish Persian hadn’t spared me. I have no purpose now. I don’t know what to do with my life, Keket.”
 

Seteta

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We have much to learn, then, Seteta replied.


"It's the bones of their mothers," Seteta said aloud as Chaceledon put the blade away, her eyes somber as she met her muti's gaze. "But we haven't figured out yet why their weapons must be made of them. We'll tell you more after mut and mit are here. The tale is long and complex, so it's easier to tell it all at one time."

Mesi looked at the Volker thoughtfully for a moment before muttering, "I see." Then she turned her attention back to Chaceledon.

"You have always provided her with what she needs?" Mesi said dubiously. "You've known Seteta for mere months. Her skin has always glowed, and her hair has always been healthy and smooth--when she remembers to tend to its ends, anyway--and her clothes have always been sturdy. You cannot guarantee that she will never want for anything, nor can she guarantee that for you.

"I am not upset over teacups. I am disappointed in your unwillingness to tend to a menial task that would take no more than a few minutes to make the load a little lighter for your beloved, and for your son. I requested that you make tea for me to see a glimpse into who you are: but that includes following it through to the end. The task of tea, from steeping to clearing away the teacups and washing them, was yours.

"What if there comes a time when you and Seteta do not have servants at your beck and call? When the Volker is not there? Will you make Seteta tend to all the chores, simply so you do not soil your hands or clothes?"



Keket hid a smile at Hassani's indignance, but leaned her elbows on the table as she laced her fingers together, and rested her chin on them.

"Why can't you still do any of those things?" she asked. "There may certainly be a few more challenges in accomplishing them, but they are still possible. There are many mining companies. We Inizae are also fond of music. What instrument did you play?"

Chaceledon
 

Chaceledon

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I would prefer if you not give away secrets to a woman who hates me. Rheinhard told her gently. He finished setting up the tent, and he was listening closely to Mesi and Chaceledon. Chaceledon had never done household chores. He hated laundry, he hated cooking and cleaning. He hadn’t grown up how Rheinhard had; doing everything for himself. Dragons had always had servants. Only dragons like Carnelia didn’t, and Rheinhard wagered she had likely had to learn how.

“I can. Whatever she desires from me, whatever she needs, all she has to do is ask. My wealth is at her fingertips. Any servant, any army, any need I will fulfill. I can guarantee she will want for nothing. I am the only man here who can. And when Rheinhard, not “the Volker” decides to leave this household, I will do what I can. I’ve never lived a life without servants and I don’t see any reason to start now.” Chaceledon said stiffly.

This is not going well. Rheinhard nodded to Mesi.

Hassani shrugged. “I play crystals. It’s a mere echo of what the dragons can do, but it’s beautiful and I enjoy doing it. Would…I be able to travel with the tribe for a while? I can’t navigate but I’m a decent cook. I don’t shy from hard work.” He touched Keket’s hand. “I want to learn more about what I am.”
 
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Seteta

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I'm sorry, Seteta apologized to Rheinhard. But I promise, even if she hates you--and I don't think she will for long once she knows more about the history of the Volkers--I promise she won't use it against you in any way.

Things were tense between Mesi and Chaceledon as they finished the tent. Seteta cringed and bit her lip when Chaceledon finally snapped.

It could, honestly, be worse, Seteta admitted, huffing aloud as the final tent panel settled into place. She hasn't started chasing him around with a stick so far.


The corner of Mesi's mouth curled up as Chaceledon finally spoke his mind. "At least you finally speak up for your son," she said. "You are lacking in many ways, but if you are at least willing to speak up for your family, that is a start.

"Seteta! Rheinhard!" she called over. "The servants will finish laying out the rugs inside and setting up the rooms. While they do, I would like to speak with you all."


"Come," Seteta gently laid her hand on Rheinhard's arm. "I promise I won't let her bite."


"I have never heard a dragon play crystals," Keket said, "so your ability won't be any disappointment to me."

When Hassani gently touched her hand, she smiled, and clasped it with her own.

"I don't think Seteta would have brought you here if she didn't intend for you to have the chance to stay with us. We all pull our own weight, so we will find a place where you fit. Since you know how to cook, we can start you there."

She eyed the elf then. "You didn't bring anything with you, though, did you? There were certainly be a celebration when more of the tribe has gathered, especially if there's an imminent betrothal. Do you need new crystals?"

Chaceledon
 

Chaceledon

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Chaceledon’s jaw clenched. “My son doesn’t need me to stand up for him. But neither does he deserve to be called a Volker like some sort of animal. Oor used to call him that.” he said in a tightly controlled tone. “You can insult me all you like, but Rheinhard’s been through enough. I promised him he wouldn’t have to put up with shit anymore.” He stood up. “And he’s Seteta’s son too.”

Chaceledon headed outside, tossing his hair over one shoulder and lifting his chin in the air. Rheinhard sighed deeply. No guarantee I won’t. He muttered, and followed Chaceledon outside. He butted his head against Chaceledon’s shoulder. The dragon wrapped an arm around his son and kissed the top of his head.

Try not to kill her.” Volker muttered in draconian.


“I won’t. She’s just doing the same thing Peridot did to Seteta. I have a feeling I’m not handling it as well.” Chaceledon said with a wry smile.

Hassani squeezed her hand. “I do. But they take a while to carve.” He muttered. “I don’t think I’d have anything ready. I’d have to find quartz. Large chunks of quartz.” He patted her arm. “What do you do here?”
 

Seteta

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Seteta sighed as Rheinhard and Chaceledon ducked outside. She sat next to Mesi on the trunk, brushing the hair that had fallen loose off of her sweaty neck.

"Muti... that was harsh."

"I probably pushed it a little more than I should have,"
Mesi said, wrinkling her nose in the same way Seteta often did. "I'll apologize to Rheinhard. Chaceledon though..."

Mesi turned a scrutinizing gaze on her granddaughter. "Are you sure that's the type of person you want?"

"Muti."

Mesi leaned over and pressed a kiss to Seteta's forehead. "I will admit that I was caught off guard earlier when I first saw Rheinhard. I have only ever seen eyes like that in my nightmares, and I took some of that out on Chaceledon. But the two of you--you and Rheinhard--have a good energy between you. You work well together, and it's clear that you both have some affection for the other. So I will temper my fears, and give Rheinhard a chance to prove himself without judging him against his ancestors."

Seteta didn't know what to say. She had firsthand knowledge now of just how brutal some of the Volkers had been. Could be. If muti had encountered Klaus... rather, it was likely that she had.

"Thank you, muti," Seteta said, her voice thick with emotion.

"Now, about Chaceledon..." Mesi teased, and Seteta huffed, crossing her arms and sticking her nose up in the air.

"Muti. I love him. I promise he's... not as incompetent as he appears."


"I suspect he will have time to prove himself,"
Mesi mused. "But I wasn't joking earlier. Make sure you teach him about the respect due to Inizae elders, especially, before your parents arrive. Your mut is a priestess of Abtatu. He should give her the proper deference, at the very least."

Seteta nodded. Muti was right.

"Now, go tend to your boys. And come to dinner this evening. Make sure to invite Keket."


"Of course, muti. I may bring one other as well. An Inizae from Pedeo."

"Really? We'll have to see if we can determine which family line they came from."

Seteta laughed, then hugged her muti before stepping outside. She looked around and smiled when she spotted Rheinhard and Chaceledon, and they would see a lightness to her step and a smile on her face as she walked to them. She didn't intrude on their embrace, but leaned her head against Chaceledon's shoulder, and reached over to clasp Rheinhard's hand.


She wants to apologize to you, Seteta told Rheinhard through the bond. But you don't have to go in right now. There's no rush.

"We're invited to dinner this evening,"
Seteta said. "But we are free to go now. Someone will come for us when it's time."


"We're not terribly far from the ocean," Keket mused. "Seteta has found some large pieces of quartz nearby before. We can probably find something for you."

Keket grinned and popped another sweet in her mouth as Hassani asked about what she did among the Inizae. "I am, unfortunately, not very well gifted in earth magic. I can do some minor metallurgy--mostly pulling impurities out. Not all Abtati have only earth magic though. I also have some small skill with healing."

She paused there, and gestured toward her ears and her nose. "Seteta's piercings? I did all of those. Not just for her, but for many others as well. And not just on the face. I'm able to infuse a spell on the jewelry. No piercing I've ever done will every get infected or reject."

Chaceledon