Private Tales Of Sand & Dragonfire

A private roleplay only for those invited by the first writer

Chaceledon

The Draconian Diva
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“You ask me for a lesson and leave ten minutes in?” Nestor snarled. “You are lucky I teach you at all! Ungrateful brat. Go play with the clowns then. See who you come running to when your dance fails.” He wiped the chalkboard irritably, grabbed a book off the shelf, and went to sit on the cushions in front of the window of the sunroom.

Brade winced a bit as they left. Aron rolled his eyes and bade her forget about the scholar, but Brade shook his head. “He’s got a point, you know.” He told her softly. “He’s just trying to help you. He wouldn’t be teaching you at all if he didn’t like you or want you to succeed. He’s hard to like, and he does it on purpose, but when you’ve known him a while he does make his intentions known.” Brade gave her an encouraging smile.

“He’s an ass with a superiority complex.” Aron dismissed. “He only teaches her to badger her, because none of us listen to him.”

“Then you might understand how frustrating it is being one of the only men who cares about understanding this place.” Brade replied.

“Bullshit. It’s a prison. Got walls and a door like every other prison. C’mon princess, time you met the Librarian.” Aron simply lifted Seteta off her feet, sharply taking the burden of her weight from Brade’s shoulders. He was short, but powerful. Brade smiled a bit and shook his head, the beads in his dreadlocks tinkling. That was a half-dwarf for you. Short, strong and bullheaded.

Brade hurried ahead and peeled back the pages of the library door, escorting Aron and Seteta into the dizzying mass of books. A creature was sifting the books. Sorting them, inspecting them with a faceless gaze. It was sat crisscross on a platform of fur, supported by four human arms, that could skitter this way and that climbing up the mountains of books. The librarian himself had sturdy, skinny arms constantly searching and selecting. A mask would detach from his face now and then, followed by a trail of smoke, to seek a book. It sought them now, hovering in front of them.

Which tome or Volker do you seek?

“Lady here is looking for a remnant that hangs out here. Huron Volker.” Aron said loudly and clearly.

Illegible query. Which tome or Volker do you seek?

“Huron. Volker.” Aron repeated, scowling. The mask withdrew, and lifted high. The limbs selected ten books, and piled them in front of them. “The remnant himself not his records, dipshit!”

“Aron.” Brade chided. “He’s just a spell, he doesn’t understand.” He nodded down the spiral of books. “Come on, he usually hangs out down there.”

Indeed, the half blind redhead was there. He recoiled and shoved his back up against the books, bringing his hands up and cringing, the second he saw them. “S-s-s…Suh-tet…t-teta…” he stammered. “Everyth-thing’s chuh-changed…”

“Oh Gods woman we better think of a nickname that doesn’t have so many t’s.” Aron joked.

__________________

Volker winced when Aetes choked, and took his seat. He dealt the cards, and looked up at him. “I..um…well…ever played snap?” He asked hopefully. “We turn over the top card of our half of the deck, and if they match either number or suit, the first man to shout snap gets that card. Goal is to win all the cards.” He took the top card of his deck, looking at Aetes shyly. He was happy here…playing cards with him in the snow.

He played well, and his reflexes were swift. A knife fighter’s speed was his bread and butter after all. He purposefully faltered with Aetes on more than a few hands…he wanted him to win. Hopefully without spotting that Volker was letting him win.
 
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Seteta

The Dragon's Betrothed
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Seteta flinched at Nestor's scolding, then sighed as she was led away by Aron and Brade, the latter more gently reprimanding her, ignoring Aron's gibes.

"I know," she answered. "I'll apologize to him before I leave for the night. It's just... difficult. There's so much going on, and Chaceledon is ignoring the situation with his family altogeth-ER-"

Her words caught off with a yelp when Aron hauled her off her feet, and into the library. She'd only peeked in there once, not really having had the time so far to really delve into the Well and start to learn its secrets. She hadn't even had a chance yet to tell Nestor about what had happened when she found the heart.

When she saw the... Librarian, though, Seteta just cocked her head and gawked for a few moments, letting Aron deal with it. When Brade said it was just a spell, though, Seteta almost shook her head in disbelief. A spell within a spell? She knew the Well was complex but that was... even more than she could comprehend, at the moment.

She shook her head in an attempt to clear her thoughts as Brade directed them toward where he knew Huron often liked to hide. She was relieved he was there, and as Huron stuttered and stammered, her expression softened and she stepped forward, ignoring Aron's comment.

"I know it has," Seteta spoke gently to Huron, holding out a hand to him. "I'm sorry that it's frightening, but I hope things here are changing for the better. Is there something in particular from before that you're missing, or something that you need that isn't here now?"



Aetes seated himself across from Volker.

"I can't say that I've played snap," he answered as Rheinhard split the deck of cards between them. "But it sounds simple enough."

The rounds went quickly. Aetes had decent reflexes, honed by a lifetime in the desert both hunting for prey that was often scarce, and avoiding predators that liked to hide in the sand, but he knew Rheinhard was letting him win. For now, he'd let it happen.

At the end, Aetes gathered up the deck of cards, his smile relaxed and his eyes playful as he gazed at Rheinhard through the falling snow.

"We should probably head... back," he said after a few moments. "We are just... sitting on a bench in the dark. We'll get chilled if we linger too long."
 

Chaceledon

The Draconian Diva
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Huron slowly relaxed, looking at her. “Y-you took the W-well..” he muttered. “I w-was afraid it was O…Oor p-puh-playing tricks again.”

“Well, we’re not free but definitely under better management.” Aron said warmly. He smiled at Seteta.

“K-klaus?”

Definitely asleep.” Brade reassured him. “You’re not a punching bag anymore. You do need to find new hiding spots though; this is the first place we looked. If Klaus was awake you’d have trapped yourself.”

Huron rose to his feet, took Seteta’s hand, then in a moment of bravery flung his arms around her neck. He hugged her tightly, burying his face into her shoulder.

“You know, best thing to do with Mom is force him to confront it.” Brade told her gently. “It’s how he dealt with our deaths or other things he didn’t want to think about, like Huron being Klaus’ chew toy in here. It’s very draconian to lift your head and carry on. If you’ve got a task, we can help as much as we can. Remember that Rheinhard never forgets, so if you bring him somewhere while you study, you can ask him to pull the shard down and look at his memories.”

“I used to catch cheating wives for the fae doing that.” Aron chuckled. “Lots of shards around here of me peering through windows.”

“The Arena can help you practice as well. Since you’re in control here…it’s your will be done.” Brade reminded her.

“Didn’t Mom talk about music with you? You’re the songbird.” Aron replied. “Which Dahn was it that does entertainment?”

“D-d…duh-Dahn Hedoni.” Huron let go of Seteta with a soft smile. “W-we could a-ask for huh-help.”

“Won’t do it for free but they might need someone offed.” Aron offered.

____________________


Rheinhard nodded in agreement. They did need to head back. The bench was probably frozen by now. He watched Aetes for a moment, content with the rocking of the boat and the silence of the falling snow. He led the man out of the Arena, and with a sharp jerk, out of the Well.

It was freezing, a dry cold washed over them. Rheinhard lifted his mouth from Aetes’ eyes and cleaned his face with his sleeve. He leaned in and placed a chaste kiss on the priest’s lips, his own eyes closed. He clearly didn’t have much experience; the kiss was awkward. But he relished it nonetheless, leaning into the feeling of Aetes’ warmth and softness.
 
A Brief Lesson in Dragon Culture

Seteta

The Dragon's Betrothed
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"I did," Seteta said. "And I will never let Oor take it back. I promise."

Her eyes hardened a little at the mention of Klaus. "He will not be awake without supervision," she swore. "And preferably only when Chaceledon is in here too, since I know Klaus gets along with him best."

When Huron took her hand and flung his arms around her neck, Seteta gently smoothed a hand over his hair, murmuring quiet words if comfort for a few minutes.

She kissed his forehead when Huron pulled away. It was strange to think that she was... inheriting this strange, ancient family that numbered nearly in the thousands. But she would do her best to help them heal and find peace in whatever way they might be able to have it.

She sighed and nodded when considering Brade's words. "I'm just not sure I want the unleash a miffed dragon on my parents or my tribe. I think it would be best to take a day after we've left and make our plans before returning to the estate."

Some good points were raised, though. She hadn't thought of practicing in the Arena.

"It won't work if I'm able to get help from my family with the magic I'll need," Seteta said, "but I could at least finalize what the performance should look like without wearing myself out too early on."

She gave Aron a grateful smile as he suggested another dahn that might be willing to help, though... offing someone in exchange for a marriage challenge seemed a little dubious. But she wouldn't knock it off the list of options right away.

"I'm supposed to host a nameday dance for Dahn Agrys," she told them and began gently guiding them back out if the library and toward the sunroom.

She needed to apologize to Nestor, and maybe all of them could help her pin down a decent set of ideas. Especially since she couldn't get a terrible lot of help from Chaceledon.



Aetes found himself memorizing the way Rheinhard looked at him. There was a soft warmth in his eyes here in this magical place. One Aetes didn't think he'd see often in the real world.

But he still let Rheinhard lead him back out, and while the man wiped his face, Aetes kept his eyes closed, breathing deeply to reground himself and let the lingering dizziness from the return ebb away.

His eyes fluttered open when he felt Rheinhard's lips softly brush over his own.

Aetes smiled, then reached up and slid his hand along the side of Rheinhard's neck. His thumb gently cradled the man's jaw, fingers curling around the back of his head, and Aetes slotted his mouth gently against Rheinhard's.

It was a slow and tender kiss, only deepening when Aetes felt Rheinhard relaxing and opening beneath him, and Aetes eyes slipped shut again to let the taste and scent of the man become his focus.

When they finally parted, breathless, Aetes' eyes lingered on Rheinhard's kiss-swollen lips as the moonlight reflected off the water.

"Can I walk you back?" He asked.
 

Chaceledon

The Draconian Diva
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“Well, and he can’t help you too much. They’d claim he was favoring you over the other participants.” Brade smiled. “Don’t worry. I’m quite musical, Dahn Hedoni has always been friendly with Chaceledon from what he’s told me, and your family will rejuvenate you with magic. In the Well, you won’t be using your own magic, only Rheinhard’s and ours. We power the place, kind of like-“

“Rats on a wheel.” Aron said grimly.

“…I was going to say men putting up sails.” Brade chuckled.

“Dahn Agrys. Agricultural Dahn raising luxury cows for cheeses, meats, cream, milk, leather and whatever else they can come up with. They’ve also perfected breeds of pigs and chickens for the sole use of dragon consumption.” Nestor called down from the top of the dizzying book spiral, folding his arms. “And trust me, they’ve got a love hate relationship with feeding dragon kind.”

Huron smiled at her. “W-we’re all huh-here to help you.”

They all made their way back toward the sunroom, and Nestor took his place back by the window. Huron settled across from him on the cushions, Brade authoritatively picked up the chalk and wiped away Nestor’s flowing script. Warmth spread through the sunroom, suggestive and curling in their stomachs. Nestor pulled a face, and Huron blushed as red as his hair.

“Someone’s getting busy.” Brade snickered.

Please.” Nestor’s lip curled in disgust.

____________________

Rheinhard melted into the hand cradling his cheek. He pressed himself closer to the other man, bravely putting a hand on Aetes’ knee. He couldn’t resist a soft, contented moan. He followed Aetes’ lead as the other deepened the kiss, trying to memorize the feel and smell of the priest.

When they finally parted, Rheinhard leaned into the hand on his cheek. He turned his head to kiss Aetes’ palm, and looked up at him. “Yes.” He said softly. He stood and offered the other his hand.

He felt strangely giddy about showing Aetes where he was sleeping. They were Spartan accommodations to be sure, but Rheinhard had found ways to make them more comfortable. He had made a nest out of bedding in a sunken part of the sand inside his tent, and Chaceledon had given him a small lamp. He purposefully slowed his walk next to Aetes, enjoying his company in silence.

The sands were beautiful at night, and Aetes was in his element. He was born and bred there, and complimented the starry night and pale sand. He was certainly Rheinhard’s favorite part of the view.

Rheinhard paused in front of his tent and looked at Aetes. “We’re here.” He said. He wanted another kiss…he just didn’t quite know how to ask for it.
 

Seteta

The Dragon's Betrothed
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Seteta grew quiet at their comments about 'powering the place.' The statement might be more true than they knew, she realized, remembering the disembodied soul of Nestor that she'd encountered there. If that was the case, though... perhaps simply by find a way to free them, the curse might be ended.

But she still didn't know why Nestor hadn't recognized her in the heart.

Her thoughts were pulled back, though, when she felt Rheinhard take Aetes out of the Well, and Nestor started to spit out information about Dahn Argys. She settled onto a pile of pillows when they returned to the sunroom, and was about to make a suggestion when Rheinhard's... interest wafted through the entire place. Seteta felt a wave of sympathy for Huron as he blushed, and just rolled her eyes at Nestor.

"What Rheinhard is feeling is normal," she told Nestor, then turned a scathing eye on all but Huron. "And don't any of you dare tease him about it next time he's in here.

"Now,"
she said, lacing her fingers together and settling her hands in her lap. "Hopefully I'll get a chance to talk to someone who knows Dahn Argys well in the present time. However, for now we'll just have to make do. Should I pay homage to their specialty in the nameday dance, or would that be considered... distasteful? Since it's potentially a sore spot?"



Aetes grinned and stroked his thumb over Rheinhard's lips after he kissed his palm, then took the man's hand and let himself be led back to the small Inizae camp outside the temple. Zephyr wolves could be heard yipping in the distance, but Aetes didn't sense any close enough to be concerned for the goat herds.

He pretended not to notice the way Rheinhard kept gazing at him.

When they reached the tent, Aetes gently squeezed Rheinhard's hand. The tent was a little ways set off from the majority of the others, and judging by the tracks in the sand Seteta and Chaceledon had moved into her parents' tent a few hours earlier.

Rheinhard paused in front of his tent and looked at Aetes. “We’re here.” He said. He wanted another kiss…he just didn’t quite know how to ask for it.

He could sense the hesitation coming from the man, and took a moment to watch him. His body language seemed... nervous, but not afraid.

"Do you want me to come inside?" Aetes asked quietly.
 

Chaceledon

The Draconian Diva
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“It’s going to have to be in the romantic sense if you do so. The strength of the bull and ram, beauty of the cockerel, warlike boars. As long as you cover it in a thick layer of poetry, shouldn’t offend them. Their pride lays in providing luxury food. Their shame lays in actually doing dirty work. You know more than anyone how much dragons hate it.” Brade smiled. He reached over and ruffled Huron’s hair. He shouldn’t have been so shy.

“Since it’s a nameday ceremony you might also find out whose birthday it actually is. Focus on the individual too. We know more than anyone what it’s like to get known by the family name and only by that name.” Aron pointed out. Brade nodded, and wrote on the board.

Animal themes
Focus on the birthday girl/boy


He flipped the chalk in his hand. “Aron’s right. Maybe the individual has a certain speciality. Besides, it’s not so much the song but the emotions and layers.”

__________________

“…More than anything.” Rheinhard said quietly. He lifted the flap on his tent, and walked inside. He held it up for Aetes, waiting nervously for him. He had only intended for another kiss outside the tent, but perhaps it was more appropriate here in privacy. He approached the other man and tilted his head up to kiss him again.

It felt more intimate here. He wrapped his arms around Aetes’ neck, holding himself as close as he dared.
 

Seteta

The Dragon's Betrothed
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Seteta hummed and tapped her chin. "Isn't it a child, though?" she asked, as she squinted at the writing on the chalkboard, trying to piece together the letters. "Chaceledon said that the nameday happens when a hatchling is a few weeks old. How much of their personality and abilities is already apparent?"

Her face screwed up then, as another thought occurred to her.

"Is it really only one hatchling for the nameday? Shouldn't it be several?"



Aetes ducked inside the tent as Rheinhard held the flap open for him. His head nearly brushed the top of the tent, but he barely had a moment to care before Rheinhard was looking up at him, and Aetes leaned down gently kiss the man again. He hummed quietly as Rheinhard's arms wrapped around his neck.

Aetes wrapped one arm around Rheinhard, gently tugging their bodies together as his other hand settled on Rheinhard's hip. He made no move further than that, though.

This was quite nice. The man's taste was intoxicating, and it had been far too long since Aetes last had a firm, male body tucked against his.

He kept these kisses lighter, less intense. Teasing nips and soft tugs against against Rheinhard's lips, quiet laughter when their noses would bump against each other. Eventually, Aetes pulled away with a contented smile, leaning down to press his forehead against Rheinhard's.

"I would like to stay," Aetes said softly. "Not to have sex. It's too soon for that. But surely you'd like to know more about me. I'd like to know more about you, other than your family's reputation."

Aetes' eyes flickered toward the little nest in the divot in the sand. "May I lay down with you?"
 

Chaceledon

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“Technically not ‘a few weeks’. When the child is able to comprehend being seen and not heard, won’t cry or fuss, and is ‘fit to be seen’.” Nestor said sardonically. “Dragons wouldn’t abide a sleeping babe, or a fitful or colicky one. Child’s likely to be a month or older.”

Brade shook his head a bit. “Dragons have a lot of trouble conceiving and giving birth. Even harder getting their eggs to hatch. Chaceledon and Carnelia are from one clutch, and Cassius the other, and even then I think there were…what did Mother say? Almost fifteen eggs?”

“Dismal hatch rate.” Nestor muttered. “At any rate any personality the child likely has is projection from the parents. It’s arrogance. Serve their arrogance, serve the dahn, you’ll do well.”

_________________

Rheinhard was pliant and willing in his arms, playfully tugging at Aetes’ lower lip with his teeth. He was learning, returning those playful kisses and soft smiles. His heart felt like it would beat out of his chest. He wasn’t so sure about sex…he wanted it, of course, but it was too soon. They’d only just shared kisses.

“Yes.” He pulled away reluctantly and arranged the sleeping area to be…wider. He laid on his side, and similar to a dog making a sleeping divot, he shoved his shoulder into the sides of the nest and forced the sand apart, widening it enough for two. He looked odd using his powerful shoulders and hips, but when he was done he tugged his boots off and settled in the blankets, giving a welcoming nod. He greeted Aetes with a kiss, curling up against him.

“…What made you decide to be a priest?” Rheinhard asked, settling his hand against Aetes’ chest. This close, surely the other man could see that Rheinhard’s breastbone was not only exposed, but opalized.
 

Seteta

The Dragon's Betrothed
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Seteta did her best to continue ignoring Rheinhard's... more than obvious feelings. While there were certain things she certainly didn't mind being an audience to... Rheinhard had no choice in sharing these things, and he was also family. But at least Aetes was... bonding with him, it seemed.

As Nestor's snide feelings about dragon childrearing were made evident, Seteta thought she might agree with him just a bit. A child that... couldn't be tolerated if it was acting like a child? She and Chaceledon were going to need to have a long talk about expectations for their own children before their wedding.

But as Brade spoke, Seteta felt her stomach grow heavy, as if someone was dumping rocks into it.

15 eggs, and only one successful hatch?

"That's more than a dismal hatch rate," she murmured, her gaze catching Nestor's. "Their lifespans notwithstanding... If they don't get their hatch rate up, they will go extinct. Their... lines are too limited already. I know defects take longer to show up in some species, but they probably already are, even in the live hatches."

Her mother's earlier words echoed through her mind.

Considering that our legends speak of your kind of dragons, though, and you're the first we've encountered in millennia... perhaps nature has already begun to work its vengeance on your kind.



Aetes quirked his head as Rheinhard... made his sleeping area larger. It seemed a bit awkward to accomplish, but when Rheinhard finally tugged his boots off and nodded for him to join him, Aetes slipped his own sandals off and his outermost robe--he still wore loose linen pants and a sleeveless tunic underneath it--and then lowered himself next to Rheinhard, happily welcoming his kiss.


“…What made you decide to be a priest?” Rheinhard asked, settling his hand against Aetes’ chest.

He tucked his arm around Rheinhard's shoulders, smiling as the man's hand settled on his chest. Aetes kissed his forehead softly, silently noting the curious sight of Rheinhard's sternum peeking out from his shirt collar. That... was odd.

"A calling," Aetes answered, his voice hushed in the late evening, so as not to disturb anyone sleeping within range of their voices. "I was a young boy when I was enthralled by the rituals of worship the Inizae priests and priestesses would administer. By the time I was a young adult, I realized we worshipped Abtatu in a different manner than nearly all the other Abtati.

"And when I had my vision quest... I met Abtatu in the sands," a quiet reverence filled Aetes voice. "And I realized I wanted to truly know the god who had shaped my people. Who had spared us from becoming tyrants."

There was more to the story, but it was difficult to explain to someone who didn't yet know how deeply interwoven Inizae life was with their way of worship. Maybe one day, he would have the words to express it.

Aetes reached over and gently tugged at Rheinhard's shirt collar.

"Can I see?" He asked, his gaze falling to the visible part of Rheinhard's breastbone. "Is it... related to the Well?"
 

Chaceledon

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“Not only that, but from what I hear from their obsession with dieting, and waste, and their general belief in their own invincibility…children are a risk. I have only seen one painting of Chaceledon’s family. He was allowed to have it briefly before Oor burned it. Chaceledon, even in painting, had hollow eyes and wrists so thin it was comical. Malnourishment and this…obsession with appearance… begins very early.” Nestor told her. From his tone, he hated it. Parents starving their own children and instilling in them a deathly fear of being fat or anything but willowy. “They are dying a slow suicide by decadence. This child of Dahn Agrys might be the only one born in several clutches.”

Brade shook his head. “I don’t think I could stand seeing a baby starved just so it was quiet…Denver and I were going to try for one before I was taken. That’s part of the fun of babies. Cute fat little feet and pudgy smiles, no sleep.” He bit his lip and looked down, voice heavy. “I would have done anything to raise my baby with the sea in its heart.”

“Your husband is dead and so are you. No sense ruminating over it.” Nestor snapped at him.

“I g-gave A-Al…Aluid anyth-thing he wuh-wanted wh-when he was a b-baby.” Huron smiled.

“No wonder he’s so irritating. Back to the matter at hand instead of your wasted womb,” Nestor gestured at Brade. “…your shitty fatherhood skills..” he eyed Huron. “…and don’t you dare pipe up about Yarel as a father…” he glared at Aron. “…This baby will be more precious than anything else to these dragons. This is more than a nameday. This is a culmination of decades of sex, hope, prayer, dead hatchlings and eggs that never start wiggling.”

_______________________________

“Gods are powerful forces to see.” He said softly. “I had only seen one, once. Carruth, the Titan of Death, at a festival in the Autumn Court. There was so much silence around him. That strange stillness of a forest in the dead of winter. Not cruel or terrible. Only still. I was in awe of him, and terrified of him.” Volker said quietly, his voice heavy with similar reverence. “To see a god at a distance is one thing. To speak with one…I cannot even imagine.”

He blushed a bit when Aetes tugged at his shirt collar. He sat up, and pulled his shirt over his head. He folded it carefully, and laid back down so Aetes could see. There was his sternum, opalized and surrounded by scar tissue as though he’d been run through. It was only one scar ruling over a vast network of puncture wounds, claw marks, blade slashes, burns, scrapes, and scratches marring the trunk of his body and disappearing into his trousers.

“Yes.” He touched Aetes’ cheek. “All of us had this. When Oor took us, either as children or young men, this wound had to be made to move the Well from its old inhabitant to the new.” He cuddled up to the priest, kissing under his chin and along the side of his throat. “What of your mother and father?”

He wanted to be closer. He pulled a blanket around them as the cool air of the desert hit his skin, and settled his legs against Aetes. He asked his questions in earnest but part of him couldn’t help but imagine the priest hovering over him without those robes, his thighs around that powerful waist…
 

Seteta

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Seteta's eyes went bright with anger, her mouth tightening, as Nestor spoke of seeing Chaceledon's childhood portrait. She was almost tempted to ask to see Nestor's memory of it, but if she did she wasn't sure she could ever face Peridot again without trying to slap the dragoness across the face.

She hid her trembling fists in her lap, letting Brade speak. She managed a weak smile and a laugh when Brade spoke of the babies he'd hoped to have, reaching over to give his hand a comforting squeeze.

"It's grief, not rumination," Seteta countered when Nestor snapped. "It doesn't have a set time to run its course."

She scowled at Nestor again a moment later. "Aluid's... struggles are not because of what Huron gave him as a baby. Babies have no way of knowing why their deprived of something they want or need, they simply know that they're not getting it."

Seteta reached for Huron's hand then. "You were the best father you could be for the circumstances you were given," she told him quietly. "Of that I am certain."

“…This baby will be more precious than anything else to these dragons. This is more than a nameday. This is a culmination of decades of sex, hope, prayer, dead hatchlings and eggs that never start wiggling.”

She pulled her hands back to her lap then, pursing her lips thoughtfully. A precious new life. Regardless of the other issues at hand, that was something she could work with. New life was precious to the Inizae as well.

"I don't think I have a chance of giving them a performance that is truly draconian," Seteta said. "But I can take what I do know of dragons so far, and blend it with some more traditional Inizae aspects of celebrating a new birth."

Hopefully the dragons would find it... exotic. Fascinating. She hated to have to use her people's culture like this, but if she and Chaceledon were going to blend their two cultures anyway, it was best that she had some control in it from the start.

Seteta paled for a moment, though, as Rheinhard's... feelings became more intense. "I'm sorry, but I think I'm going to have to duck out," Seteta cringed. "Are you guys able to... block this out somehow? Is there something I can do to lessen it for you?"



Aetes caressed Rheinhard's shoulder as he spoke of seeing Carruth. A death god... for the Inizae, Abtatu was all. Life, death, and everything between and after. But to be in the presence of a god... it was a defining moment in one's life, always.

"Speaking with Abtatu, face to face..." Aetes sighed, still in awe of the experience all these decades later. "It was like... being fully seen, fully known. I don't really have words to describe what happened. What we spoke of, even. I just... knew that Abtatu knew me. Knew everything I was, everything I would be, and everything I could be, and still accepted me."

Aetes grinned at the delightful blush that spread across Rheinhard's face, but let his arm fall away as Rheinhard sat up and pulled his shirt off. He made no attempt to hide his perusal of Rheinhard's very fit form, and when the man laid back down next to him, Aetes propped himself up on his elbow. The sheer number of scars marring Rheinhard's flesh was... heartwrenching. But Aetes had his own share of scars. They were simply evidence of a hard life, and scars were better than death.

As Rheinhard gently touched his cheek, Aetes reached out and softly traced the edges of the wound around his sternum. "Is it painful?" he asked quietly, then hummed and tilted his head up as Rheinhard kissed under his chin and across his throat.

“What of your mother and father?”

Aetes wrapped his arm around Rheinhard, his fingers gently tracing up and down the length of the man's spine, as the blanket was tugged over him. Their warmth began to mingle, and Aetes felt the first wave of drowsiness wash over him.

"My mother and father passed away when I was young," the priest murmured, holding back a yawn. "I was... not even twenty yet."

This was nice. To hold someone in his arms late in the evening. He moved his hand around Rheinhard's back, brushing his knuckles along the man's chest before he gently tilted Rheinhard's chin up and gave him a soft kiss again.

"What was your life like, before the Well?" He assumed there was a before, if Rheinhard had the memory of receiving the wound on his chest.
 

Chaceledon

The Draconian Diva
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Nestor looked at her archly, unphased by her snapping. Brade and Huron looked grateful for her intervention at least. “Playing the exotic tribal woman Chaceledon fished out of the desert can only help you.” Nestor told her. He looked her up and down as a fresh wave of powerful arousal hit them. “Just close the connection between you. It goes both ways, you know, and you’ve more control than he does. Either way, Chaceledon’s likely asleep and so should you be.”

Huron and Brade rose to give her a hug goodbye, and Aron waved at her. “We’ll continue brainstorming.” He reassured her.

______________________

“It healed long ago.” Rheinhard said dismissively. He remembered how roughly it had healed. A toddler barely able to stay upright, in bed for weeks with bandages around his chest and nightmares in his head. The Well took a while to settle. He was beginning to feel drowsy himself, but he was fighting the feeling. He didn’t want to sleep, not now. The intimacy was something he craved more than anything.

Aetes’ voice was so soothing and deep. The fingers across his back and chest were protective and gentle. Rheinhard planted lazy kisses down Aetes’ throat and collarbone, his tongue flashing out to taste the other man’s skin. “My mother hung herself when I was three.” He mumbled sleepily. “I was on the floor for three days, eating corpse flies and drinking from the rain barrel, before he came to get me..”

Volker kissed Aetes’ chest, snuggling up against him and closing his eyes. He butted his head up against Aetes’ collarbone. For the first time in his life he fell asleep with warmth, safety, and a protector’s arms around him.

He woke slowly in the cool and stillness of the morning. He inhaled sharply, and stiffened for a moment, until he recalled where he was. He wrapped his arms around Aetes. Sometime during the night he’d nuzzled down to his stomach, and he buried his face against Aetes’ robes. He nosed his way under the fabric, and nuzzled against the priest’s warm stomach.

A rumbling purr began in his chest, reminiscent of the soft sounds Chaceledon made when he was content.
 

Seteta

The Dragon's Betrothed
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Seteta nodded. Getting out of the Well and closing that door in her mind would be simple enough. She stood and returned Huron and Brad's hugs, and waved back to Aron. "I'll bring back some ideas of my own soon," she promised as well.

She stepped over to Nestor then, and gently patted his shoulder. "I'm sorry I was rude earlier," she told him. "I'm still trying to sort out how to take care of things in the real world, and how to deal with preparing for this challenge, and then taking care of the Well also. I am very grateful for your lessons, and I promise I'm not avoiding them on purpose."

Seteta stretched up on her toes and kissed Nestor's cheek before he could pull away, and then she stepped back and pulled herself out of the Well, closing the door in her mind and sighing with relief as Rheinhard's feelings faded away.

Chaceledon was wrapped around her as she woke. Seteta flipped onto her side, nuzzling into his chest without checking to see if he was awake at all before she slipped her hands under his nightshirt to rest over his beating heart.

"It's so much," she whispered quietly. "I don't want to worry about it all, especially tonight, but it's... so much."



Heat flashed through the priest as Rheinhard's tongue teased over his skin, and he almost flipped the man onto his back, a vivid image of running his thumb down Rheinhard's neck and teasing over his collarbone as he settled his hips between the man's thighs.

His next words dashed cold water over his senses, though, and Aetes fingers stilled for a few moments along his back when Rheinhard spoke of his mother. He didn't know what to say to something like that, but the man seemed content to simply nuzzle into his chest, and Aetes felt it as Rheinhard's breathing became soft and deep, sleep clearly finding him.

The priest mouthed a quiet prayer for peaceful rest, then pulling Rheinhard just a little closer as he closed his eyes and tried to sleep.


Aetes jolted awake the next morning as warmth curled over his stomach. He froze for a moment, then remembered he'd fallen asleep in Rheinhard's tent, and he let out a shuddering breath as he felt the man's nose tickling over the skin of his belly as he purred.

"Rheinhard," Aetes choked out as throbbing heat pooled between his legs. "You should come up."
 
Visiting with Parents

Chaceledon

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Chaceledon woke in the morning, stretching and throwing an arm around Seteta. They would have to head back soon. He sighed and looked at his fiancé. If he wanted to keep her, they had to head back. As much as he wanted to spend his days flopped around in tents with her, it wasn’t possible. Not if he still wanted to stay with his family. Despite all of their vitriol…he still loved them. He kissed Seteta’s cheek and let her sleep in, preparing her a pot of tea and some rice for breakfast. He was getting rice down at least, and even if it was a little runny, it was edible.

He got up and made himself presentable while she slept. Brushed and oiled his hair, put on a set of pale green nails, and robes of gold and deep forest green. Light and diaphanous of course; something that would catch and billow on desert winds. He added kohl and gold to his eyes, and a little bit of cream to his lips to keep them from cracking. He tiptoed out, and quietly swept a foot in front of her mother’s door.

“Madam?” he called, hoping the sound of shifting sand would wake her. “I need to speak with you. Privately. Would you accompany me on a morning walk?”

______________________

“Why?” Rheinhard purred lazily, wrapping his arms around Aetes’ waist. He kissed his hips, inhaling the musky odor with relish. He smiled to himself, hidden under the blankets and Aetes’ mussed clothing. The priest had beautiful skin. He kissed up his belly, squirming his head under Aetes’ clothing to kiss a line up his breastbone. He looked a bit silly, a moving lump under the priest’s clothing, but he was enjoying the game as he descended again, down over Aetes’ belly.
 

Seteta

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Rehema had been awake for a while, though she was enjoying a quiet, lazy morning in bed with Ausar. After the hurried exodus from the thermal springs and the long hours spent guiding the remnants of the Inizae through the desert toward the safety of the temple--and sending Abtatu's blessings of protections with the others--it was nice to awaken with the dawn and not have to rush to leave.

She smiled down at Ausar as his fingers wound through the ends of her hair, his palms resting lightly on her hips as they slowly stuttered to a halt. Rehema bent down and pressed a kiss to his lips before rolling off of him with a sigh. She was about to snuggle back up to Ausar when Chaceledon's voice sifted through the tent flaps.

“Madam?” he called, hoping the sound of shifting sand would wake her. “I need to speak with you. Privately. Would you accompany me on a morning walk?”

Rehema sighed and sat up. "Just a moment," she called out, clearly awake and having been so for a while. Ausar propped himself up on his elbows, a bemused look on his face.

"He's out and about earlier than I thought," Ausar commented, watching contentedly as his wife quickly threw on a long abaya and overcoat and combed her hair. "I thought he and Seteta would be... equally as occupied as we were."

Rehema chuckled and shook her head as she shrugged her shoulders. "She's probably sleeping," she said, quickly braiding her hair back and sliding a pair of silk slippers on her feet. "She did expend quite a bit of magic the past few days."

"I'll check on her in a bit, then," Ausar said as he stretched, then grinned. "Do you want me to tell her?"

Rehema's nose crinkled as she smiled and nodded. "If you want to."

Then she ducked out of the flap to meet Chaceledon in the main living area. "A walk?" she said with a smile, "Certainly. You haven't seen the oasis behind the temple yet, have you?"

Rehema gestured for him to lead the way out of the tent.



Aetes heart was racing as Rheinhard kissed up his stomach to his breastbone, but as he sucked in a breath, his tunic pulled tight for a moment, not quite loose enough to accommodate these types of... activities.

"Ah... Rheinhard..." Aetes rasped as the man's mouth slipped back down over his belly, and then a very quiet riiiip was heard as the threads in the linen tunic gave up the ghost.

While it did nothing to quell the desire coursing through him, it did at least clear Aetes mind for just a moment, and he reached down to help untangle Rheinhard from the now-shredded tunic and the blankets, skimming his hands down the man's chest to tease at his waistband.

"We should get up and go find breakfast," Aetes said, though he made no move to do so, his eyes latching on Rheinhard's mouth with want.
 

Chaceledon

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Chaceledon waited patiently for Rehema, though from the sounds of things just beyond the tent flap he’d nearly caught his in-laws in a very compromising position. Thankfully it wasn’t met with any reprisal as Rehema came out, and he held open the tent for them to exit. He offered the priestess his arm, and silently headed toward the oasis. He wanted to make sure they were completely out of earshot before he talked seriously.

“I love your daughter dearly, but the truth is we need your help.” He began. Seteta must complete a challenge laid forth by my father to be accepted into our Dahn as an equal. Her task is to expend magic as a form of music, as a gift to another Dahn. Another family. This family recently welcomed a new baby, and they’re throwing a party. The outcome of this party not only determines whether I marry your daughter, but how the child’s first years of life will go. It’s an old superstition but a strong one. Failing this task will embarrass the Dahn, curse the child, and my father will forbid me to marry Seteta.”

Chaceledon shook his head slightly. “It’s not as though that will stop me, but I would be excommunicated from my family. Forever. Dead. No longer considered a dragon. I…don’t think I could bear it. Seteta needs help, and guidance, and magic.” He looked at Rehema hopefully. He walked them along the shore of the oasis slowly, taking in the morning and giving her space to answer. He wasn’t sure how she could help, but he did know they were running out of time.

______________________

Rheinhard gave a loud, gutteral snarl at being caught in the shirt. He had no problem simply…sitting up. He tore it completely asunder, using his teeth to get rid of any spare strings or scraps of cloth. He shook his head, and looked down at Aetes. They were both panting, flushed with arousal, and the man was mentioning breakfast?

He wanted breakfast now?

Rheinhard’s face darkened with confusion. Maybe he’d done something wrong. He reached over and pulled his shirt over his head, and grabbed his knives. “I will be back soon with breakfast.” He reassured Aetes, and quickly exited the tent. Outside, he bit his lip and looked back briefly. Maybe he shouldn’t have torn the shirt.

He sighed, pushed the heat of the morning away, and focused on stoking their cooking fire so he could get some rice and rehydrate some of the chuma.
 

Seteta

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Rehema slipped her hand into the crook of Chaceledon's elbow as they walked through the chilled morning air. Mist was rising off the oasis as the sunlight reflected off the surface of the water through the palm trees. As soon as the sun was fully up, though, the heat would set in.

As Chaceledon spoke, Rehema listened quietly. Seteta had briefly mentioned the challenge the other day, but that was before they were interrupted by Rosebury. Rehema wished that she could promise to help, to do anything for her daughter to succeed... but the truth was that she had too little information, and she had some limitations of her own right now.

"We are able to link our magic together to fuel a performance, especially with the illusion magic," Rehema said. "However, that is not where my skills or strengths lie, personally. Ausar or Nebit would be better suited to help with that. And as for music... Seteta is more gifted with song than any instruments or composition."

Rehema led them around the oasis until they were looping back toward the temple. "If she can adapt some traditional Inizae songs, that will be a significant help for her," Rehema pondered aloud.

She stopped then, and turned to face Chaceledon, and her gaze was gentle, but firm. "You will need to make up your mind, though," she said. "If Seteta tries her best, and still fails... you must go into this willing to stand by her side, no matter what. Or you need to break this off before you leave here. There can be no possibility of you holding it against her in the future, if you choose to see this through and she fails the task."



Aetes was left blinking in confusion as Rheinhard left the tent with a promise of breakfast.

He'd... meant to slow them down. Not push the man away entirely.

Aetes sat up with a sigh, running his fingers through his long hair and scratching at his short beard. He removed the rest of his shredded tunic, then draped his outer robe back over his shoulders. It was split down the front, his muscled chest exposed as he ducked out the tent's entrance to see where Rheinhard was.

His shoulders slumped with relief to see the man sitting at the fire right outside the tent, and a moment later he settled on the sand next to Rheinhard.

"Forgive me," Aetes said quietly a few moments later. "I... feel like I was pushing you too far, too quickly. I was not intending to push you away. I just know that... when things are new and fresh, sometimes the headiness of it can become intoxicating, and someone might do something they regret later. And I don't want to be something you regret."
 

Chaceledon

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Chaceledon took a deep breath. He knew that one was coming. He had thought long and hard about what would happen if Seteta failed. “…Then I become hedahn, and we will have to leave everything behind. My estate, my family, all of my belongings. Everything I own. Everyone I’ve ever known. My family. We will find somewhere and land on our feet, but for all intents and purposes I will never be a dragon again.” he looked up and met Rehema’s eyes. “She means that much to me. Even if the punishment lasts so much longer than Seteta, it would be worth it.”

______________________

Rheinhard fingered the rim of the bowl in his lap, and put another in front of Aetes when he settled. “I have never gotten to feel intoxicated. I know you are being respectful…but don’t. I would not regret you. If I want you to stop, I will tell you. If I dislike something, I will tell you. I try not to lie. But do not ever presume that I don’t want to be swept up, because I never got to feel that way.” He said quietly.
 

Seteta

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"If I know my daughter," Rehema smiled, gesturing for Chaceledon to begin walking with her again, "then she doesn't care a bit about your possessions or estate, not for her own happiness. She will care because they are things you treasure, but she won't need them or covet them.

"If your family casts you out, you are always welcome with us. And you should also be certain that Seteta knows how you feel about the situation. She is likely more worried about disappointing you than failing your family."


The quiet bleating of goats could be heard in the distance, and the temple's caretakers were slowly emerging from the small stone houses around the oasis. Any who came across their path silently greeted Rehema in the same way Aetes had outside the thermal springs: bringing their fisted hand to their mouth, thumb pressed to their lips as they bowed their head. Rehema would nod and give a quiet greeting, and then they continued on their way.

Something Chaceledon said was bothering her, though. She walked quietly at his side for a few moments, trying to figure out what it was and how to put it into words.

Eventually, she spoke. "While it is no small tragedy to be separated from your family and your culture... they cannot take your identity from you. You must be confident in who and what you are regardless of how anyone--even your closest kin--considers you.

"You know my daughter well enough to have won her heart. While I cannot imagine her doing anything so insidious that she would be cast out of our tribe... such transgressions do exist. While we might forbid someone from saying they are Inizae and from speaking on behalf of the tribe, we would not even attempt to tell them that they were no longer an elf with a deep connection to the earth. Nor that they were no longer Abtatu's child. For someone like Seteta, it would never be possible for her to think otherwise, even if she were cast out."

Rehema's footsteps halted once more, and she faced Chaceledon again. "Your family and culture may have shaped you into the dragon you are today... but the only thing that determines whether you are a dragon or not is you," she said, then lifted her hand to press it against his heart, "and what you believe about yourself in here."

They were drawing near to the temple then, and Rehema gazed at it fondly for a moment before her expression turned somber, and she lowered her hand from his chest.

"There is a part of our history that Seteta doesn't know yet," Rehema said so quietly that it was barely more than a whisper. "And if you're marrying her, it will affect you as well. Will you have time this afternoon? The documents I need to show the both of you are kept in the temple."



Aetes took the bowl Rheinhard offered, but didn't start to eating right away. He listened quietly, watching the sun begin to rise over the distant palm trees around the oasis.

When Rheinhard finished speaking, Aetes took a deep breath as he gathered his thoughts.

"There is a difference between plunging headlong into a roaring river, and gently wading in and adjusting to the flow of the current," Aetes said at last. "And there's something to be said for allowing anticipation to slowly build.

"I want to get to know you," he finished. "As a person, and to help you learn and explore the things you might like. We don't have to sprint to the finish just because it's in sight. Let's enjoy reaching it."

Aetes shifted the bowl of rice and meat to his other hand, flipping his left hand palm up on his knee, offering it to Rheinhard. "If you want something, don't be afraid to ask for it," he told the man, looking over at him with warmth in his eyes. "But if something is too fast or uncomfortable for me, I also get to say so."

There was so much more that Aetes wasn't saying. Things he wasn't sure Rheinhard would quite grasp yet. If the rest of his life had been anything like what Rheinhard had told him so far, then he was going to have a lot to work through. Intimacy--and not just sexual intimacy--could easily become overwhelming. Rheinhard may not think he needed things to be slow, but Aetes experiences with people told him otherwise.

Though it didn't mean they had to be chaste by any means.



Seteta stirred when a warm hand gently stroked her face, and she yawned and rolled over to nuzzle into it, reaching for Chaceledon. Then her nose was gently flicked, and she whined and squinted up as she gently rubbed the tip of her nose.

"Mit," she pouted. "Why?"

Ausar bent down and kissed her forehead. "Even your lover, for all his luxuries" --Ausar cast a rather impressed look around the room-- "was up with the sun. He's out talking with your mother and... I think he made you breakfast."

Seteta sat up confusedly then, running her hands through her hair as she rolled her neck and shoulders. "He can't cook."

Ausar's shoulders shook with laughter, and he set the tray across her lap, then climbed onto the foot of the bed. Seteta grimaced, poking at the bowl of mushy, watery rice before she swallowed a spoonful. Her face scrunched up.

"It's not... awful,"
she told her father. "But it's... not good. I didn't have a chance to tell him that the servants would make breakfast for everyone."

Ausar's laughter echoed through the tent. Fortunately, it was not a large serving of rice, and she ate it as quickly as possible before washing it down with the definitely much better tasting tea, despite its lack of warmth now. When she was finished, Ausar set the tray aside and handed her a comb for her hair.

"Now, bit," he said as she smoothed her hair over a shoulder and began to work through the tangles, "tell me how you're really doing."

Her shoulders drooped and her hands faltered in her hair for a moment. Seteta looked over at Ausar, her eyes weary and anxious. And she told him. She told him about her worries. About Chaceledon, and the way his kind restricted their eating in dangerous ways. How they even did it to their children. About meeting Hokkaido, and Peridot, and hating how they demeaned Chaceledon in ways that he thought was right and normal. That she was afraid if she were to truly throw herself into gaining their approval... she might have to set aside all of the things that made her her.

When her voice finally trailed off, Seteta took a deeper breath than she had in... weeks, her head tipping back as she felt the weight of her worries finally roll off her shoulders. Ausar reached over to gently clasp her ankle through the blankets on the bed.

"Have you told Chaceledon these things?" he asked gently.

"Some," she answered. "But most of it... there just hasn't been a chance yet."

"Do you need help making a chance soon?"
Ausar asked, and Seteta nodded gratefully. "All right. We'll figure it out then. Now... would you like some good news, so your eyes aren't sad when Chaceledon and your mother return?"

"Good news?"
Seteta perked up curiously.

Ausar's eyes turned wistful and warm as he watched her face. "You're going to be a sister."

Seteta's jaw dropped.

Ausar grinned. "We were getting confirmation from the midwife when you sent out the call," he said. "It's why we took so long to get there."

Seteta's brow furrowed and she bit her lip. Her mother had always struggled to carry a child to term. After she'd birthed Seteta, the midwife had given Rehema strict orders to take several years off from even considering childbearing. And if it was early in the pregnancy... then the sudden fraught travel from the springs to the temple could have stressed Rehema. "Is everything all right? The journey here didn't do any harm?"

Ausar shook his head. "She was examined by the healer here yesterday. Everything is fine."

"I am happy for you,"
Seteta grinned. "I cannot wait to meet them."

"We are keeping it quiet for now,"
Ausar said. "Though your grandmothers know, and Aetes knows. Rehema is beginning to put things in order to lighten her responsibilities as a priestess. But you are welcome to tell Chaceledon, and his son."

Seteta nodded, smiling softly.

"But now," Ausar said, standing up. "You should get up and get dressed, so that you can have some... real breakfast."

Seteta looked at the empty bowl from earlier and grimaced again.
 

Chaceledon

The Draconian Diva
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Chaceledon felt comforted by her words, but he smiled sadly at her. “That is what the word hedahn means. Dahn means ‘one’ in very old draconian. Hedahn means ‘no one’. Invisible. My sister is hedahn, and my mother considers her as though she had died in the egg and never hatched. I could not celebrate holidays sacred to my kind, perform tea ceremonies even on my own or with Seteta. I would be forbidden from speaking Draconian itself. It is the strongest sentence a dragon can ever submit to, and it is the only punishment that can never be undone. I would go through all that and more for her.” he explained.

He followed her gaze to the temple, and nodded.
“We will have to leave soon. We left my mother at the estate. But please…we want you to visit us as soon as you can. It is near the mountains, about a week and a half northeast of here. We will meet you at the temple this afternoon. And…if you don’t mind, could Rheinhard join us?”

He steered Rehema back to the main tent, and smiled when he saw Seteta had eaten her breakfast. He thanked Rehema with a bow, and came in to sit next to Seteta. “Good morning. Heard from Rheinhard at all or is he still trailing after that priest like a puppy?”

____________________

Rheinhard took Aetes’ offered hand. “Even a man dying of thirst must drink slowly.” He agreed, weaving his fingers into Aetes and eating with his other hand. He filled his bowl with tea, drinking down the mixture of tea, stray rice, and meat scraps that would ensure he wasted nothing. Chaceledon hated when he fouled good tea like that. He followed it up with another bowl of water, and his bowl was effectively clean without wasting a drop.

He squeezed Aetes’ hand a bit and looked over at him. “The morning is still young…do you want to go back to bed..?” He asked softly. He had never been allowed to lie in before, and he so desperately wanted to snuggle back up against Aetes. He wanted to explore more of him. He wanted to touch him.

___________________

They were getting closer. Oscar needed neither rest nor sleep though he complained about both, and Rosebury followed the trail behind Oscar faithfully. Persian brought up the rear. “Studying them is proving difficult. Can you send the hawk ahead?” Persian asked.


“Of course. He probably needs to stretch his wings a bit. Oscar, my darling, can you continue ahead and see if you can’t find them? I know you wanted to talk with them a bit.” Rosebury called to the zombie, pulling the hood from the hawk and releasing it to the sky.

“South southeast is where they’ve headed.” Oscar told him, and Rosebury guided the hawk with a finger. Oscar nodded with a smile, and followed the tug of gold toward the temple. He walked easily, resplendent in purple silk with a matching pink parasol embroidered in purple wisteria. He had a pair of smoked lenses over his eyes, and slippers on his feet. He walked toward the Abtati slowly and easily. They could see him from a distance and he wasn’t hiding. Persian and Rosebury set up camp a respectable five mile distance.
 

Seteta

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"Perhaps some traditions need to be broken," Rehema answered softly when Chaceledon spoke of what it mean, to him, if he were to become hedahn. She was sure it was more complicated than that, but change had to begin somewhere.

"We would be honored to visit your family," Rehema said with a smile as they began to walk again. "There are some things I have to do here, but we can be there in... perhaps three weeks? Four at the most."

When he asked about Rheinhard, Rehema thought quietly for a moment. "There is a purification ritual that must be completed before entering the temple," she answered. "To be honest, I do not know how it will react to the spell that is woven into his body. Honestly, I am a little uncertain about how it will react to Seteta now, since she is bound into that spell as well, but the temple will recognize her, both because she is Inizae and because she has been here before.

"If he is prepared for the fact that... anything might happen, then he is welcome to at least attempt the ritual," Rehema finished.

She inclined her head when Chaceledon bowed as they returned to the tent. Ausar was just settling into a seat the main table, and Rehema seated herself next to him with a smile, reaching for her husband's hand as she began to speak quietly with him about the plans for the day.

Seteta had brought the tray out with her dishes, and was just seating herself at the table. She leaned over to kiss Chaceledon as he sat next to her.

"I haven't heard anything from him at all," she answered. "And right now I'm keeping that door firmly shut. I got more than enough of Rheinhard's feelings about Aetes in the Well last night."

Her parents employed two servants, and as they spoke the servants came out and took away the tray with the empty rice bowl and teapot, and began to bring in scrambled eggs and fruit and tea, and plates and chopsticks.

"By the way," Seteta murmured, "You don't need to make breakfast while we're here."

"I've asked Chaceledon to bring you to the temple this afternoon," Rehema spoke up. "So don't get too distracted today."

"Yes, mut," Seteta grinned. "Mit tells me congratulations are in order."

Rehema laughed softly, her hand moving to gently cradle her belly as Ausar took her plate and began to dish up food for her. "I wish we could have given you a sibling while you were still a child," Rehema said wistfully, then her eyes turned playful as she looked between Seteta and Chaceledon. "But perhaps they'll have a niece or nephew to play with."

Seteta blushed. "If there's not too many complications... then possibly."

"Also,"
Rehema looked back at Chaceledon. "We'll have guests for lunch, I think."



Aetes felt warmth wash through him as Rheinhard took his hand, and agreed to take things at a slower pace between them. He ate carefully with one hand, though he painstakingly picked out every grain of rice and scrap of meat with his chopsticks, rather than washing the bowl out with tea. He did, though, gesture for Rheinhard to fill his bowl with water, and he swallowed that down with a contented sigh.

Then he set the bowl aside, and scooted a little closer to Rheinhard as the man squeezed his hand.

“The morning is still young…do you want to go back to bed..?” He asked softly.

Aetes smiled over at Rheinhard. "I'll have duties to tend to soon, but I can spare another hour or so."

He carefully stood without letting go of Rheinhard's hand, sweeping the tent flap open, and gently leading the man inside. He bent down and tossed his torn tunic out of the way before settling back into Rheinhard's nest, though he didn't lie down yet.

"Tell me," Aetes said, his eyes heated as he looked up at Rheinhard, tugging at his hand to encourage him to come down to him. He wouldn't mind at all if Rheinhard settled into his lap, but he wanted him comfortable more than anything else. "Of what little we have done so far, what have you enjoyed the most?"
 

Chaceledon

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Chaceledon bit his lip. “The Well does not like to share, I can tell you that. Perhaps if we’re careful, and introduce him slowly, it will work. As for Seteta; she has a direct line to him now. What affects one will affect the other.” he cheered as he settled next to his fiancé, and chuckled when she said she hadn’t heard from Rheinhard. He was bonding with a prospective mate, it was important. Rheinhard would never be a man to take it lightly.

He smiled and took a cup of tea, and smiled wider as they revealed he was going to have a little brother or sister in law.
“Congratulations! I should have known, you’re practically glowing with health. I’m sure you’ll have a healthy bundle of joy very soon.” Chaceledon said warmly, squeezing Seteta’s hand. He looked at his fiancé, warmth in his eyes. He couldn’t wait until that was them. Until it was him waiting nervously on a child. That is, if his poor genetics didn’t doom them from the start. He frowned.

“What company?”

____________________

Rheinhard settled next to Aetes and kissed his hand. “I think…I liked sleeping with you the best. Waking up to someone, and kissing them like that, is something I have been waiting for my entire life. It was everything I thought it would be. Now I know what people say when they speak so highly of sleeping together.” He leaned in and kissed Aetes lightly. “And you? I…do not know much. Only memories of what my relatives have done. Most of the time it did not seem pleasant.”
 

Seteta

The Dragon's Betrothed
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"The fae from the springs have followed us," Rehema said, calmly taking a bit of food and chewing it slowly. "I suspected they would."

Every action they'd taken since the springs had been deliberate. Leading the others away, splitting them off in groups so that if there was an attack they would not all be slaughtered. Rehema had hesitated to lead them to the temple, but Seteta had things she needed to learn, and Abtatu had nudged the priestess to not hesitate.

Seteta gnawed at her lip nervously as she dished up some breakfast for herself. "I'm sorry," she murmured. "I shouldn't have called the Inizae together."

"Bit."
Rehema's voice was firm. "It is not your fault. We were never meant to live in hiding forever, and the fact that we've avoided Persian for these long millennia has been a miracle."

Rehema smiled then. "And regardless, tonight we will celebrate. We have an impending marriage and a new life to look forward to."



Aetes smiled as Rheinhard kissed his hand, and slid his hand gently along the man's jaw a moment later, returning the kiss on the lips with a quiet laugh.

"While I am glad you found rest in my arms," Aetes rumbled, "trust me when I say that is not what people are referring to when they talk of sleeping together."

He wrapped an arm around Rheinhard's waist and tugged him into his lap. "There are many things that I like," he whispered, gently nudging his nose against Rheinhard's, teasing him with the idea of a kiss, but not actually kissing him yet.

"I like kisses." Aetes planted a kiss at the corner of Rheinhard's mouth. Then he dipped lower and licked a line up his jaw. "I like licking."

His hand wandered up under the hem of Rheinhard's shirt, slowly trailing over the scars and muscles. "I like touching."

Aetes pressed a kiss in front of Rheinhard's ear, then dipped lower to gently catch his ear lobe in his teeth, tugging for a moment. "But the question is what do you like?"

His hand shifted higher, thumbing lightly over Rheinhard's nipple. "What kinds of touching do you like? Where do you like to be licked? How do you like to be kissed?"

He didn't expect an actual answer to any of those questions, but if Rheinhard had any, he'd welcome them.
 

Chaceledon

The Draconian Diva
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“Oscar doesn’t mean any harm, and Rosebury is just there because he finds this entire chase entertaining. You’re playing keep away with a party, which just makes him want to join it more.” Chaceledon smirked crookedly. “And I hope you know I was hoping to invite both him and Persian to our wedding, koiros. If we’re planning on celebrating the best thing to do would be to invite those two in gracefully so we can get them out gracefully.”

Something was bothering him, though. How had Persian and Rosebury followed them without a piece of gold? He frowned. “No one here took a piece of gold from them the last time they were here? Rosebury finds people through gold. That’s what his magic binds best to…”