Private Tales Of Sand & Dragonfire

A private roleplay only for those invited by the first writer

Chaceledon

The Draconian Diva
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Rheinhard waited patiently for his knives, but he made note of how Seteta had hidden them. It was clever. He strapped them to his thigh, keeping them in plain view, and eyed his mistress’ father.

“She and I, all of us, are bound to each other. Her death means my own. She can push her pain, her injuries toward me and I will have to bear that pain for her.” He said softly. “Our wells of magic are connected, whether we desire it or not. I will always be a threat to you, do not ever treat me like I am not. For if I am not in charge…” he stood close to Ausar.

“…they will kill you. They are always watching. Watching my memories of you. Watching your pregnant wife. While not all of them are cruel, a fair few of them are. I am never not a threat. Remember that, Ausar.”

He walked back to Aetes and butted his head under his lover’s like a cat, nuzzling him for a moment. He was done with the others being in control of him. He wanted to spend some time with the priest.

_________________________

Chaceledon whirled her around the fire, his long delicate legs entangling in hers and lifting her up, sliding her along his body. Their dance was sinuous and beautiful, enrobed in fire and stepping to the beat of the drum.

Oscar stepped over the dune with a smile on his lips. He was dressed in Rosebury’s pinks, with a light ivory shirt and loose rose-colored pants. Rosebury was similarly dressed in a loose khaftan the color of pale tea. He gasped at the sight of Chaceledon and Seteta in the flames.

Persian was behind them, dressed in the usual heavy canvas coat. He didn’t seem to dress up for anything but his own Auction, and tonight was no exception. He was wearing light pants and a loosely flowing shirt, but he was busy sketching the camp. Rosebury smacked his arm.

“Oh stop that and come enjoy the party!” Rosebury laughed.
 

Seteta

The Dragon's Betrothed
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Ausar sighed and shook his head. "I meant more that I'm relieved the Volkers won't be used as a weapon against us anymore."

As for the magic... It was more than Rheinhard was realizing, but as Ausar watched the human male practically cuddle up to Aetes, he thought that now might not be the best time.

Aetes smiled softly as Rheinhard nuzzled into him, and the priest wrapped an arm around the man gently.

Later, the priest mouthed to Ausar, and the other Inizae just waved and headed back to the camp on his own.

"You should listen to Ausar sometime soon," Aetes rumbled, teasing his hand up Rheinhard's back and kissing his forehead. "Seteta might be your mistress, but her fate has always been larger than that."

Aetes reached up and gently grasped Rheinhard's chin, pulling him a little closer and leaning down for a soft kiss.

"I need to change into something less... somber," he murmured when they parted. "Come back to my quarters with me? We should find you some more appropriate clothes as well."



Ausar approached the camp in the darkness, smiling to himself as he heard drumbeats and singing. His eyes wandered first to the tent where he knew his wife still rested, though he lingered on top of a dune some distance out, looking out over the camp and the sands beyond it.

"Of course she would fall in love with a dragon," Ausar murmured, shaking his head, as he caught sight of Seteta and Chaceledon dancing in the fire.

As gifted as the Inizae were with earth, though, they'd also learned to read the weather, and the wind was shifting. It carried a chill from the north, and the scent of something on the wind that Ausar had only smelled a handful of times in his life.

With an amused glance at the sky, he began humming along with the music from the camp, his feet light over the sand as he continued on his way.

Just outside the camp, though, he paused, feeling a shift along the surface of the earth. Ausar stilled, then grinned as he spotted their expected guests.

"Lord Rosebury!" he called in Common, approaching them from the side just before they stepped into the camp. "Welcome!"

Ausar bowed his head respectfully to the fae lord, and smiled at Oscar. His smile became less friendly, a little more sharp, and his eyes hardened just slightly when he caught sight of the third guest behind them.

"Persian, I presume?" Ausar asked, holding out a hand. "I am Ausar. Seteta's father."



Seteta eyes gleamed and she tipped back her head to laugh as she moved with--against--Chaceledon in the flames. Dancing with him was easy. They could read other well now, with their expressions and the movements of their bodies. When he pulled her close and wove his legs through and around hers, she matched her steps with his easily. When he went to lift her up, she was waiting for him.

She tipped her head back, the flames licking at her loose hair but not consuming it, and her eyes fell shut as she just... listened. Felt.

There was so much to feel. The flames teasing at her calves. The coals sizzling under her feet. Chaceledon's body against hers, his skinner hotter than she'd ever felt before. The bite of his newly-grown dragon claws on his fingertips, and she couldn't help but shiver whenever they brushed her bare skin.

She had no idea how long they stayed in the fire and danced. How many times she tugged his face down to hers, kissing him deeply. Her eyes would flutter open whenever their lips parted, watching the firelight reflect in his violet eyes.

Eventually, though, the rhythm of the beat changed, and Seteta leaned into Chaceledon, resting her head against his chest.

"I'll need to leave your side for a little while," she murmured.

There was a dance coming up. One that she wanted him to see, but one that she would dance for herself--with the other women of the tribe--regardless.
 

Chaceledon

The Draconian Diva
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Aetes was right, in his own way. Rheinhard leaned into the other man’s touch and tilted his head up for a kiss. “I do not want him to become complacent.” He muttered. He kissed under Aetes’ chin, sighing in relaxation. “I would like nothing more than to get you out of that clothing.” He admitted. He didn’t think his own was inappropriate…but he also wasn’t arguing if Aetes planned to get him naked.

Rheinhard took Aetes’ hand. “Let’s go back to your tent.” He said softly, making what he hoped was a come hither look at Aetes.

At the edge of camp, Rosebury waved at Ausar. “Ausar! Good to see you again!” the Lord of Luck stood aside and waved Persian forward. “Persian de Soto, chief engineer of Pedeo.”

Persian tucked his notebook away in his jacket and shook Ausar’s hand. His handshake was firm, and calloused.

Seteta’s father? She is an impressive force, your daughter. I’ve not seen a woman stare down a wraith like that.” Persian complimented. “I come peacefully.”


“Studying, as always. I can never get anyone at the Summer Court to relax either.” Rosebury joked. He was eager; he hadn’t been to a party like this in years.

Hassani looked up from his meal to see the strangers coming down the dune. His eyes widened and a hand flew to his throat. Persian! His master! Here! He set down his bowl and made up an excuse to his compatriots at the fire. He hurried through the camp, and past Ausar. He bowed on his hands and knees to Persian.

“Master! I didn’t expect you here…”

Persian blinked, and squatted for a moment. “You’re not mine anymore, boy. You’re your own man. Please get up. I don’t need to have Rosebury teasing me the rest of the night.”
_______________________

Chaceledon led her out of the fire as they parted, with a gentle kiss. He didn’t want to be apart from her, but her tone was so full of meaning. She meant to show him something extraordinary, something he would never see again. He kissed her hand delicately. He chuckled, and let her go.

“That spell will last the rest of the night. Use the fire in good health.” Chaceledon chuckled. He had eyes only for her, but a dreadful chill was roaming the sands. Night was falling quickly, but the scent on the wind wasn’t the normal mixture of sand and baked rock. It was something that reminded him of Fal’Addas. Something sinister.
 

Seteta

The Dragon's Betrothed
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"If the Inizae are anything, it is not complacent," Aetes murmured, tucking Rheinhard's hand into his own and leading the man back toward the oasis, to the small stone house he'd showed him before. He had not missed the intent behind Rheinhard's look.

He walked slowly, stealing kisses from Rheinhard along the way. Aetes did pause at one moment as a cool breeze swept through, his eyes wandering northward. But whatever the wind brought with it, the Inizae would be ready for. The desert was always temperamental. There was no need to bring the celebrations to a halt. Not after they'd already been delayed once. The shepherds with the goat herds would know to bring them into shelter.

When they ducked back inside the stone building, Aetes pulled away for a moment to pull the window covering shut, both for privacy and to block out the wind, and the same for the door. An acolyte had already been in before dusk to light the lamp.

"We cannot entirely avoid the party," Aetes said as he turned back to Rheinhard, heat glimmering in his eyes as he began to stalk toward his new lover. "But we can spare a little more time."

Aetes reached out and stroked a finger along the line of Rheinhard's jaw.

"Shirt and knives off," he murmured. "Then I want your back against the wall."

Aetes stepped away again. As he waited for Rheinhard to comply, Aetes stripped off the long, plain robe he'd worn for the temple, moving slowly to allow Rheinhard to look as much as he wanted, lamplight glimmering off his dark skin. The priest retrieved a small wooden box from next to his bedside and set it on the table. He reached within and pulled out a comb, quickly detangling and braiding his long hair, fastening gold clips in it along the way with practiced ease that required not a single glance in a mirror. Then he reached into the box again, pulling out dozens of gold pieces. He bent down and fastened thick gold bracelets around his ankles, then his wrists, and cuffs around his upper arms. A thick golden nose ring, similar to what Seteta wore, he fastened back into his septum. Earrings followed, long plates of gold that caught the light and cast it around the room.

Then he looked back at Rheinhard, a taunting smile teasing at his lips.

"I can't decide between red robes or blue," he mused. "Which do you think?"



Ausar's smile softened just slightly at Persian's comment, his grip tightening on Persian's hand. While Ausar's were not as calloused, his grasp was just as firm.

"Her fearlessness is a trait she shares with me," he replied, "much to her mother's chagrin. Sometimes she speaks a little too quickly before she's thought things through, but she's better about it than when she was a child."

Ausar released the fae's hand, his eyes falling toward the pocket where he'd tucked the sketchbook, but before he could say anything else, Hassani crowded his way over and prostrated himself before Persian.

Ausar looked away, scratching his ear uncomfortably. When Persian had finished speaking to Hassani, Ausar bent down and hauled the formerly-of-Pedeo Inizae to his feet.

"No one has ever owned you but yourself, no matter what you have been told," Ausar told Hassani, "and here on these lands, no one bows to anyone but Abtatu, and even then only of their own free will."

Then he turned back to meet Persian's gaze. "You are here peacefully, you say?" Ausar held out his hand. "Then lend me your sketchbook. You'll get it back when you leave."



"We will dance in the flames together again before the night is over," Seteta promised, lifting Chaceledon's hand and pressing a kiss to his palm before he let go.

She caught sight of Hassani hurrying past, and her gaze followed him toward the edge of the camp.

"It seems our guests have arrived," she murmured, cringing a little as Hassani bowed before Persian. "Can you go tell muti that they are here? She's tending to mut, and since it was the high priestess that invited them, the high priestess will need to be present soon."

Seteta looked around to see where the other women were gathering, then winced when she caught sight of Keket scowling at Hassani from some distance away.

"When the drums start up again, and the women sing, watch the dance," she told Chaceledon with a smile, and then crossed over the clearing around the fire to clasp Keket's hand.

"You know it will take time for Hassani to unlearn all of that," Seteta said. "Pedeo and Persian was all he'd ever known. He's the first Inizae to be freed from Pedeo. Not even the Inizae we free from other slave masters from less than a year of slavery recover in as little time as he's been with us so far."

"I don't have to enjoy seeing it,"
Keket murmured, wrapping her arm around Seteta's waist.

"Then don't look," Seteta said, turning Keket away from the sight and back toward the fire. "We need to speak with the others anyway, and decide who's doing which part."
 

Chaceledon

The Draconian Diva
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He didn’t have to be asked to follow. He enjoyed their stolen kisses, peppering Aetes’ jaw with affectionate bites. He tugged at his ear playfully before they entered the house, pulling the tip into his mouth with a growl. He followed him in and shut the door behind him.

Rheinhard carefully took his knives from his thigh and placed them on a side table, pulling his shirt over his head. He watched Aetes intently, approaching him and kissing the bare skin between his shoulders. “Do not allow Rosebury to touch these. His element is gold.” He muttered. “I would rather you wear nothing, but if you must wear something…wear red.”

He brushed Aetes’ hair to one side so he could kiss up the back of his neck, his arms encircling the priest’s waist. He grasped the skin gently in his teeth, possessively.

_________________________

Hassani’s cheeks burned in embarrassment having Ausar pull him to his feet. Persian patted his shoulder. “He’s right lad. You don’t bow to anyone in this country but the god that owns it.” He smiled reassuringly at Hassani. “There is nothing that says you can’t visit me. I know you’ll miss things about the city.”

Hassani nodded, and bowed again to both Persian and Ausar. He headed back to the celebration, still feeling a little chastened.

Persian chuckled at Ausar. “Just a book. You’d not begrudge me a little cultural study for my own curiosity?” He smiled politely at Ausar.

Rosebury giggled and grabbed Oscar’s arm. “Come on! I haven’t had dinner yet. You two, stop bristling at each other.” Rosebury chided Persian and Ausar, heading down toward the party.

Chaceledon embraced Rosebury when the Fae squealed and flung his arms about his neck. The dragon laughed, shaking his head. He released the Fae to chatter among the Inizae, and ye gods would Rosebury chatter. He informed Seteta’s mut and muti of their visitors, and returned to the fire to await Persian. He needed to have a talk with the man.
 

Seteta

The Dragon's Betrothed
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"Rosebury's power will have little, if any, hold on these lands," Aetes reassured Rheinhard. "If Abtatu had not permitted them, they would not have even been able to step foot in the sands this close to the temple."

A rumbling laugh escaped him as Rheinhard gently bit at the back of his neck, the man's arms slipping around him.

"I could wear nothing," Aetes purred. "Would that please you? To have me walk through the tribe wearing nothing but this gold and my skin and holding your hand while everyone watches?"

Aetes smoothed his hands over Rheinhard's forearms, then firmly grasped his wrists, breaking his hold and turning around.

"I see you followed only part of my instructions, though. I told you to wait with your back against the wall, didn't I?"

He shifted, sliding his naked thigh between Rheinhard's still-clothed legs as he turned the man, pressing his ass against the edge of the table. Then he reached for Rheinhard's hands and pressed them to the wood.

"If you need something to hold onto, you can hold onto the edge of the table," Aetes instructed, reaching into the wooden box and withdrawing a small knife with a jeweled hilt.

The priest pressed a gentle kiss to the hollow of Rheinhard's throat, then slowly sank down to his knees before the man. He reached up, and rather than unfastening the waistband, he brought the knife to it and with one smooth stroke cut the pants away, the blade not even whispering near Rheinhard's skin.

"If you'd done as I asked, you could have kept your pants," the priest smirked. "But now you'll have to wear my clothes out in front of everyone.

"Wouldn't that be a sight?" He murmured. "You wearing my clothes, and me wearing nothing but gold beside you..."



"If it is just a book, then you will have no problem lending it to me," Ausar stated simply, ignoring Rosebury's scolding before the fae lord and his warlock vanished into the crowd.

"You'll learn far more about our culture from talking to our people, and rest assured that any notes you keep in there are safe from prying eyes. It is unlikely anyone besides my wife would be able to read them anyway."

It went against every instinct Ausar had to allow Persian into their camp, but his wife had invited him with Abtatu's blessing and he would not counter that.

But he would be a fool--they all would, and he knew Rehema would agree--if they allowed Persian to walk in and make detailed sketches of their people. Their tents. Their emblems.

"Wouldn't it be better to get to know us tonight, and make your sketches from memory later?" Ausar suggested, his hand still extended, waiting for the notebook.
 

Chaceledon

The Draconian Diva
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Rheinhard rejoined the party with Aetes, looking a bit stunned. He had known his own ignorance when it came to sex, but clearly it extended far beyond just not knowing the basics. His mind had gone completely blank in those moments. He tugged at the red tunic uncomfortably; he was wearing Aetes’ clothes. The red kept catching his eye in his peripheral vision. Volker had always worn black or earth tones, in keeping with an assassin.

Chaceledon smiled when he saw them walking back hand in hand. By the looks of things, his son was doing well with the lover he’d picked. Rosebury was fluttering around the camp from group to group, talking animatedly in Abtati…bad Abtati from the looks of things. Oscar was making polite conversation, relaxed and at ease with the younger elves.

Persian smiled politely at Ausar. Clearly, the man was willing to make this a point of contention. He reached into his coat and handed the elf the book. “It’s warded against prying eyes, I wouldn’t recommend attempting to read it.” He told him. He patted the elf’s shoulder, and watched as a tiny snowflake drifted down to land on the back of his palm.

“A cold day in hell indeed.” Persian chuckled, making his way down to the party. The temple interested him the most, but only if he could corner Rheinhard. There was no way Nestor hadn’t seen the interior. What sort of secrets were the Inizae hiding deep in the desert?

But of course, politeness had to come with careful study. If everything was going right, Rosebury would attempt to gift gold to at least a few people here…or imbue pieces they already had. Abtatu’s meddling was irritating; he only wanted to track and study them. The lack of reproduction was irritating on his own front, especially with Amphetrion’s death looming. He needed babies in Pedeo, and only being able to capture his stock instead of breeding them was frustrating, expensive, and training was always harder.

It was easier for someone like Hassani, whose mother had already been pregnant upon capture. The trick seemed to be to capture married couples, but oftentimes those couples either refused to reproduce in captivity or refused to give up the babe. Both were bad situations.

Hassani smiled at him, and came up to him shyly. “I’m sorry.” He apologized with a bow.

“You had nothing to be ashamed of; it was a perfect bow of subservience.” Persian reassured him. “But you aren’t a pet anymore, and those collar marks are fading.”

Hassani touched his throat. “I don’t think so many years of education and training are about to fade anytime soon.” He said with a sigh. “Come, there’s someone I want you to meet.” He offered his hand to Persian, and led the man over to Keket. “Persian de Soto, this is Keket. Keket, Persian de Soto.”

Persian smiled and inclined his head. “A pleasure.” Hassani worked fast.
 

Seteta

The Dragon's Betrothed
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"Relax," Aetes murmured, squeezing Rheinhard's hand gently. He'd seen the hesitation at the color of the shirt, when Rheinhard put it on. "Everyone knows you're here anyway. The red looks good on you."

Even as he lazily strolled with Rheinhard, though, Aetes was looking over the camp. Most of the formalities would fall to Rehema tonight, but he still felt protective of these people. The priests, and priestesses, and acolytes were in some ways less nomadic than the rest of the Inizae. This temple was their home. It made him uneasy to have Persian here, so close to it, but he would trust Rehema, and Abtatu.

"Will you be all right for a while?" Aetes asked quietly as they neared the fire. The musicians had quieted, though they still played, and he could see the women gathering for their dance. "I need to check on Rehema and see if she needs anything of me."



"Thank you,"
Ausar murmured, taking the notebook and tucking it into his waistband. He didn't react as Persian patted his shoulder, just lifting a hand to catch one of the snowflakes that fell from the sky. Even snow was a blessing from Abtatu. It was water, after all.

Ausar turned and watched as Persian headed into the camp, then headed toward Nebit's tent to see if his mother would be joining the festivities.



Seteta's eyes flickered up as the dance roles were finalized, her mouth tightening.

"Hassani is bringing Persian over," she warned Keket quietly. "Just so you're not too shocked."

The other women were beginning to spread out and take their positions around the fire, but Seteta stayed with Keket, hand tucked into her elbow.

“Come, there’s someone I want you to meet.” He offered his hand to Persian, and led the man over to Keket. “Persian de Soto, this is Keket. Keket, Persian de Soto.”

Persian smiled and inclined his head. “A pleasure.” Hassani worked fast.

Keket gracefully inclined her head, though her eyes were unreadable when she glanced back up at Hassani. "I hope you enjoy the dance," she murmured, but she barely glanced at Persian, and then gently tugged Seteta away.

"We should get in our places," Keket said as an excuse.

Seteta glanced back to Hassani and gave him a helpless shrug.
 

Chaceledon

The Draconian Diva
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Rheinhard nodded as they approached the fire. “I will be fine.” He said quietly. Aetes wasn’t about to get away so cleanly. Rosebury spotted him in a second and flocked to his side.

And look at you putting your colors over Volker black!Rosebury laughed. His accent was poor and some of the words weren’t quite right, but the spirit of the words was there. “Stop looking so nervous. We’re here to celebrate with you. Come, drink with me. Rheinhard can’t drink. Mm! Did I tell you about the time we gave him brandy on his seventh birthday? Poor boy curled up on my couch like a cat muttering about voices.”

Rosebury smiled at the memory. “Of course there’s always a wager he’ll relax a little. Care to play?” He smiled impishly at Aetes.

_____________________

Persian cocked an eyebrow at Keket. “As always, here to learn.” He told her politely. Hassani gave her a pained look; he knew she didn’t like Persian, but the man was important to him. Persian had taught him everything he knew about the world, barring the last few months. He was as close to a father as Hassani could get. He cleared his throat.

“I’m sorry.” He apologized.

“Don’t think anything of it. A well deserved attitude considering my reputation.” Persian gave him a tight lipped smile. “You’re courting her, I imagine?”

Hassani nodded, looking over to watch Keket. “She’s beautiful, and soft, and sweet. Unsure of me…I think she half expects me to sell everyone here to you.” He muttered, rubbing his arm. “I’m to join the tribe today, with the Volker.”

“Ah, speaking of. I’ve brought you something.” Persian gestured to a nearby sitting area and Hassani settled in. Persian folded himself alongside Hassani, and offered him a sheaf of paper. “Your pedigree. I thought it might be wise given the shallow breeding pool of the Inizae, and your current affections.”

Hassani took the papers, and ran his thumb over them. “….How?”

“Well I had talked to your mother about the name of your father, and your grandparents, and their grandparents.” Persian gestured. “I try and do it with all the women I capture.”

Hassani tucked the papers away, smiling at Persian. “You didn’t have to tear them out of the registry for me…”

“Nonsense, theyre copies.” Persian leaned in. “All I ask, Hassani, is that you send me a letter every now and then…appraise me of your progress.” He kissed his cheek, and rose to rejoin the festivities. He would at least try and rein in Rosebury, who had directed Oscar to break out a set of dominoes.
 

Seteta

The Dragon's Betrothed
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Aetes smiled graciously, but raised an eyebrow at Rosebury's speech. Inizae dialect was not one the outside world encountered often, and it seemed the fae lord had not kept up with the more common dialects of Abtati as well as he should have, either.

"I will have to join you for a drink in a little while," Aetes answered in Common. "The high priestess is expecting me and I shouldn't keep her waiting any longer."

He glanced back to Rheinhard then, lifting the man's hand to kiss the back of it gently before releasing him.

"I fear I would have too great of an advantage as well," Aetes smirked at Rosebury. "Rheinhard has already relaxed significantly and I doubt you'll ever see him as relaxed as I was privileged to earlier.

"Now, if you will excuse me, I will rejoin you later,"
Aetes said as he briefly inclined his head toward Rosebury, then strode away toward Rehema and Ausar's tent.



"Having a relationship with Hassani means being tied to Persian in some way, likely for the rest of your life," Seteta told her friend quietly as they found their empty places next to the other dancers around the fire. "It's... different for me and Chaceledon. Chaceledon will ensure that Persian never takes advantage of me. But Hassani... he will likely try to bring Persian into his life again and again. I'm honestly not even sure that Persian could do anything that would make Hassani doubt him."

Seteta reached over and gently squeezed Keket's hand. "I'm not saying that you shouldn't court him. But it is something you'll need to consider."

Keket squeezed Seteta's hand. "I know. Part of it is that I didn't know Persian would be here tonight. It caught me off guard. There's... things you don't know, about my past. Things I couldn't tell you because you didn't know about Persian yet. But it will have to wait for later. The dance is about to begin."

Seteta bit her lip, looking over at the lead dancer who had just finished speaking with the musicians. "Tomorrow, then?"

"Tomorrow,"
Keket agreed.

Then Seteta felt the first tendrils of magic weaving through the earth under her feet, and she gave Keket one last smile. "Relax. Have fun. This dance is for us. No one else."

Keket took a deep breath and smiled back as they both took their positions. "For us."

And the drumbeats began.
 

Chaceledon

The Draconian Diva
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Rheinhard blushed deeply at Aetes’ words, and looked down. Rosebury laughed and let the priest go, sitting down next to Rheinhard. He tensed, lowering his head on his shoulders slightly and edging away from the Fae lord.

“Oh stop. Your growling doesn’t scare me. Especially not here.” Rosebury said lightly. “He is a handsome one, I’ll give him that. And made his way into your pants in record time. I’ll have to shift my odds.”

Volker watched the dancers congregate silently. “Do not tell Oor.” He muttered.

“No one’s seen hide nor hair of him in weeks. I think last someone saw him was in Ragash a bit ago. Scheming, surely. I doubt he plans to let you go. But such is life, enjoy it. Besides, I thought you could use this.” Rosebury smiled. He reached into his coat and offered Rheinhard a small object covered in a silk kerchief.

Rheinhard knew what it was the second he laid fingers on it. He pulled the cloth away and held his muzzle in his fingers, running his fingers over the images of curling herbs and branches.

“I hope it wasn’t too insensitive of me.”

“No.” Rheinhard lifted the mask to his face and pulled the straps tight behind his head. There was a mixture of emotions swirling in his gut feeling the pressure under his cheekbones and under his chin. Comfort, fear. Most of all, relief. “The Inizae need to understand if I am to do this…my people have their own traditions.”

Chaceledon settled in to watch the dancers, his eyes on Seteta. He glanced over; Rheinhard was looking supremely uncomfortable with whatever topic of conversation Rosebury had chosen. His mouth went dry when he spotted the muzzle. He hadn’t seen Rheinhard like that since Oor had removed it in Fal’Addas…and he’d hoped never to see it again. He fought the urge to march over to his son, rip that hateful steel contraption off of his face and melt it.

Thankfully with the dancers gathering and the drumbeats beginning, conversation was falling silent. As Chaceledon watched, white flakes drifted down from the sky. He shivered and pulled his robes closer; the desert was growing cold.
 
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Seteta

The Dragon's Betrothed
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Seteta sent her own magic into the earth to join the tendrils of it that the lead dancer and all of the other dancers sent out into the earth. She could recognize each participant simply by the feel of their magic, though Keket's was especially vibrant. Even though Keket wasn't greatly skilled with earth magic or illusion magic, there was still an unmistakable feel to her magic--it was bright and colorful--that Seteta would always recognize. Her own magic teased against it for a moment, and then it flowed together with all the other streams of magic in the earth.

As she and all the other dancers began to sway to the beat of the music, Seteta's eyes wandered over the gathered throng. She saw Rheinhard and Rosebury sitting next to each other, and sucked in a breath at the sight of the muzzle, but she wouldn't be able to say anything about it yet. She glanced around for Chaceledon and caught sight of him just as the snow started falling from the sky. It wasn't much, but enough to make her gasp in wonder.

But then the dance began in earnest, and Seteta quickly lost herself in the motions.

The drumbeats faded away, and every dancer crouched low to the ground, hands pressed to the earth. A moment later, the drumbeats began again and in one synchronous movement, the dancers rose, lifting their hands overhead. Sand followed, and it began to spiral in the air. With the fire at their backs, their silhouettes and the sand was illuminated. The lead dancer, though, was the one in charge of the magic.

As the musicians played, the lead dancer began to shape the images of the story their dance told.

Behind the dancers, in the space over the fire, illuminated by the flames, images appeared. It was similar to the way Seteta had told the story of Chaceledon's capture and escape outside of Marian, but with a dozen women to share the magic, it was far more intricate and detailed--and Seteta would have few consequences from the magic.

It was more than just images and dance, though. It was also song. Each of the women sang the story, sometimes together and sometimes just one of them.

Tonight, it was the story of the birth of the first Inizae.

Seteta's voice was clear and vibrant, and it was obviously a song they all knew well.

In the images made of sand, smoke, firelight--and even snow--the story appeared as the song continued.

There was the creation of the oases in the desert, drops of dew carried on the back of a lizard, identical to the one that graced the banners if the Inizae, and also eerily similar to a dragon of Chaceledon's kind.

Then the focus shifted, the illusions becoming an oasis eerily similar to the one behind the temple. Then the image shifted deeper, into the depths of the water, then a burst of light pulsed through the illusion and in its wake was left the image of a young sand elf.

We are made of the sands, but born of the water, they sang.

May our wombs be as life-giving as the oases.

Then the music and their voices faded into silence. The dancers stood, arms raised, as they caught their breath, until the magic faded away beneath their feet. With an almost collective sigh, they lowered their arms, shoulders relaxing.

Seteta smiled over at Keket, sweat on her brow. The circle of dancers slowly broke apart, some of them dispersing into the crowd, others gathering together in conversation. Seteta looked around, and caught sight of Aetes holding open the tent flap for Rehema.

The Inizae fell silent as the High Priestess stepped into the firelight. Her hair was bound back in a simple braid. A beaded band in hues reminiscent of sand and blue was wrapped around her breasts, extending into a halter around her neck. A flowing blue skirt attached at the sides of the beaded band, draping gracefully down her legs to just above her ankles.

The Inizae's affinity may have primarily been earth, but Abtatu was god of the waters.

Aetes followed closely behind Rehema, and in his hands he carried two cups made of sandstone. Seteta knew they would be filled with water.

The dancers quickly shifted away from the fire, find places to sit and stand among the crowd. Seteta gave Keket a quick glance, but her friend was headed back toward Hassani now that Persian had stepped away. Seteta made her own way to Chaceledon, settling beside him and slipping her hand into his.

"Welcome!" Rehema called to the gathered people with a smile as she turned to face them. Thicker snowflakes were falling now, more than just flurries, but they dissipated as soon as they hit the sand, and there was not enough of them to hinder any vision. "It has been many years since we had a celebration like this among the Inizae, here at Abtatu's Temple. And what an auspicious night it is, with much to celebrate.

"Most of you, by now, have met our guests. And while their attendance here tonight is indeed noteworthy, the greatest things we have to celebrate are among us, for our numbers are increasing in more way than one.

"We have my daughter, Seteta, who has returned to us with one she calls beloved." Rehema's eyes twinkled for a moment as she smiled at Seteta and Chaceledon. "And additionally, she has brought two with her who will join the tribe tonight."

Rehema searched the crowd, and beckoned the two forward as she laid eyes on them. "We have Hassani, out of Pedeo," she said, "and Rheinhard Volker, who will be Seteta's son.

"Additionally,"
Rehema continued as she waited for Hassani and Rheinhard to come forward, though she raised a brow at the sight of Rheinhard's muzzled face, "Ausar and I will soon welcome another child of our own."

Rehema's hand settled on her stomach--not yet swollen with child--for a brief moment, and the smile that flickered across her face one of pure, personal joy, before the more serious look of the High Priestess fulfilling her duties returned.

The Inizae gasped, many crying out with joy, but Seteta's hand tensed in Chaceledon's grasp, and she bit the inside of her lip. She wished her mother hadn't announced that with Persian here.

As Rheinhard and Hassani stood before them, Rehema took one of the cups from Aetes, then gently nudged the larger priest with her elbow. Aetes eyes narrowed, but he shifted to stand in front of Rheinhard, and Rehema took the place in front of Hassani, but she divided her attention between the two men.

Aetes eyes were unreadable as he took in the muzzle that covered Rheinhard's face.

"We are born of earth and water," she said. "Sand is what carries us through life, but water is what gives us life. To be Inizae is to revere both, and know that Abtatu's breath is what sustains us through it all."

She extended the sandstone cup to Hassani, and Aetes extended the one he held to Rheinhard.

"If you will join us, take and drink," Rehema said. "Water is the life of the desert, and of the Inizae."
 

Chaceledon

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Chaceledon watched, and listened. Water from the back of a lizard…not a lizard. It looked like him. Like a dragon. Some old and primordial reptile shaking water free from its back. He watched it, pensive. He wanted children with Seteta. He wanted her to be happy, strong, growing in her relationship with the earth. She had grown so much since their first meeting.

He thought of it then, that girl as skinny as a colt with bronze skin who blushed too much. The girl he'd snidely remarked he wasn’t interested in. She had battled a wraith, she had gained the respect of the Volkers, and stood tall against draconian pettiness. She was everything he aspired to be and more. He watched her dance, a soft smile on his face. She moved like a cat.

When they prayed to Abtatu for their wombs to be full, he prayed too. He prayed they could have children. He prayed those children wouldn’t fall to the draconian curse of withering after birth. He prayed they would be as strong as she, and as beautiful as he.

He welcomed her at his side, taking the back of her hand and kissing her skin. Hassani smiled at Keket; he was sure she was angry at him. Rehema was speaking of her own child…which might not have been wise. Chaceledon spared Persian a glance; his face was unreadable, but tense. He was watching, and closely. The same look of intense study he'd had at Auction.

Rheinhard rose, and stood in front of Rehema and Aetes. Hassani felt goosebumps along his skin, but it wasn’t from the cold. The tales he’d heard from the fighting ring were true. You could hear the resounding breath of the Volkers, like the breathing of some metallic monster, through the mask. That sound meant death. He fought the urge to edge away from Rheinhard, even knowing he was safe.

Rheinhard’s eyes were forward, on Aetes. Did the man have to be prodded to give him his cup? He didn’t miss the scowl between priest and priestess. Was Aetes displeased with his joining their tribe?

Hassani drank nervously, but without question. He drained his cup, and smiled at Rehema. Was he supposed to speak? He bowed respectfully in lieu of knowing what to do.

Rheinhard submerged the front of his face mask into the cup, drinking down the water that flooded in through the holes in the design. Chaceledon had designed it cleverly; liquid was aimed toward his lips, and all he had to do was tilt the cup slightly to pour all the contents into his mouth. He was used to drinking with a restraint on, and didn’t spill a drop. He offered the cup back to Aetes, his eyes questioning. He wouldn’t have blamed him if he was angry at a Volker joining the Inizae.

He blew a soft sigh through the mask that made Hassani tense. Jess, Nestor, Gere and Aron were watching. He could feel some of their emotions. Nestor’s eye rolling at antiquated ritual. Aron quietly respectful. Gere’s confusion. Jess’ dismissiveness. They were tiny threads in the whole of his feeling, but they were there. If Seteta grasped it closely, she could feel them.
 
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Seteta

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Rehema smiled softly as both males drank the water, motioning for Aetes to retrieve the cups.

"Rheinhard has already experienced Abtatu's Cleansing," she said, speaking slowly and supplementing her speech in the Common tongue to be sure that Hassani understood her words, "but tomorrow you will enter the temple, Hassani."

She took a breath, and looked between both of them. "The two of you likely have more in common with each other than you do with the nomadic Inizae. While we have many of our own customs and traditions, and our way of worship, that make up our culture, we also would not have survived the desert these long millennia without absorbing the ways of other tribes. While we will teach you about our ways, we have no intention of erasing your own ways. Please teach us as well."

Rehema spread her arms wide. "Welcome. Eat and drink and dance. Tonight we celebrate your presence with us."

She lowered her arms then. "May the water sustain you, and the earth embrace you," Rehema finished, and then stepped away from the fire.

"I will find you soon," Aetes murmured to Rheinhard, giving him a tight smile before he followed Rehema.
 

Chaceledon

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Hassani inclined his head, acknowledging her request. Gods, he so desperately wanted to ask Rheinhard about it. The other man was watching Aetes leave, his eyes on the other man’s back. Hassani thought it best not to disturb him; he hurried back to Keket.

“Care to dance? Or are your feet tired?” He asked playfully. He was bursting with questions about the cleansing.

Rheinhard stood quietly, until he was acutely aware he hadn’t moved. Was Aetes displeased with him? He wished he could read the other man better but the priest didn’t seem at all happy he was part of the tribe now. He would have thought Aetes would want to celebrate with him. He found an out of the way spot to sit, thinking. Questioning whether he should have refused.

He tensed when someone sat down next to him. “It’s just me, not Aluicious. I think he’s determined to get everyone drunk and dancing.” Persian said with a thin smile. “Who’s awake?”

Rheinhard studied him a moment, and sighed. “Jess, Gere, Aron, and Nestor.” He replied.

“I noticed you seem to be aging backwards. Their God’s doing?” Persian nodded in the direction Rehema and Aetes had disappeared.

“It is. Nestor does not like him tampering with the spell.” Rheinhard muttered, pulling his knees up to his chest.

“I should say not.” Persian agreed.

“He wishes to remind you of the time you messed with the spell. Or the last time anyone messed with it.” Rheinhard sighed.

“Wraith spells are tricky.” Persian shrugged. “Lesson learnt. When you’re tired of playing third wheel I’d love to see you in the Ring again. Jess’ canine tooth is still lodged in the brick somewhere. I also wanted to warn you…there have been sightings of a dragon along the coast. It seems to be sick, losing scales between its front legs and vomiting up black into the ocean.”

Rheinhard stiffened. “Wraith touched.” His fingers touched his shirt, feeling the opal underneath.

“Exactly. Gaal swears he hasn’t been the one to do it, and since the creature seems to be in control of it’s own mind I tend to agree. The Lamplights don’t kidnap, and they don’t form warlock bonds. Vees would never get near a dragon. That leaves-“

“-Oor.” Rheinhard interrupted.

“Something to think about.” Persian rose, and rejoined the party.

Rheinhard put his head in his hands.

The Well was safe. It was away from people, and noise. He stepped into it quietly, folding his arms across his chest. The hallway was alive, ringing with a sweet and clear tone. Nestor was seated just outside of the sunroom, writing in his notebook.

“He’s been singing to Klaus.” Nestor muttered. “I forgot how irritating those two were.”

Rheinhard sat down next to him. “I think Aetes is displeased with me.” He muttered.

“Can’t imagine why, you spread your legs and he got what he wanted. Now he leaves. It’s the way of things, especially with us.” Nestor said absentmindedly. “I’d think less with the head between your legs and more about how you’re going to help Seteta with the upcoming challenge. She needs someone to help her focus or else she’ll be sitting around getting railed and not working.”

Rheinhard settled his chin on his knees. “…Will Aetes really leave?”

“Men leave.” Nestor set his pen down. “Mark my words. I give it three months. So focus on your actual duty which is to get Seteta in with the Dahn, and stop focusing on men. She needs you and I’m dead. It’s not like we can just let me take over.”

“I don’t want him to leave..”

Nestor snapped the book shut in exasperation. “I’m sorry, when did you stop being a Volker? Are we not born to service? Is our symbol not the dog, loyalty and bravery to the point of death? Focus on what matters, and that is Seteta. Not Aetes. Seteta. Quote our family to me.”

“Custodi sanguinem effusus est.” Rheinhard muttered.

“Guard the blood we spill.” Nestor quoted. “Forget the man. Guard the blood. Guard Seteta.”
 
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Seteta

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Keket arched a brow at Hassani. "You must think I'm older than you, bab," she retorted, though her smile didn't quite meet her eyes, "if you think my feet are too tired to dance."

She held out her hand to him expectantly.


Seteta leaned her head against Chaceledon's shoulder, watching as the musicians picked up a tune again and other Inizae began to circle the fire in dance. She watched warily as Persian spoke with Rheinhard. There was a faint echo of some confusing emotions through the bond, but she didn't want to pry.

When Persian stepped away, though, and Rheinhard lowered his head and went into the Well, Seteta's brow furrowed.

"Something's bothering him," she murmured quietly. "But I think it's personal. Not... something of Persian's doing."


Aetes walked quietly through the crowd of Inizae. He could hear Rosebury and Oscar making merry. Many of the Inizae were laughing and playing along with whatever antics were going on, but the priest hardly noticed. He was looking for Rheinhard.

When he spotted him, alone, sitting motionless near the fire, Aetes frowned for a moment. Rheinhard was... strangely quiet and motionless, for a fighter. He looked around and spotted Seteta not too far away, jerking his head toward Rheinhard. She quietly raised her free hand and tapped her temple.

In the Well, then. But why? he mouthed.

Seteta shrugged helplessly. So she didn't know.

Aetes looked down at Rheinhard for a minute through the lightly falling snow. It was too cold for someone to just be sitting.

He ducked back inside Rehema and Ausar's tent and retrieved a couple of blankets. One he settled over Rheinhard's shoulders, and the other he draped over his own lap as he sat down next to the human, and waited.
 

Chaceledon

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Hassani took her hand and kissed the back of it, pulling her into the dance easily. He didn’t know the steps, but his feet were light. He smiled adoringly at Keket; he was one of them now, wasn’t he? In title at least. He could court her truly now. “I want to cook you dinner tomorrow.” He offered as they danced.

Chaceledon watched Rheinhard with a frown, kissing the top of Seteta’s head. “There will always be some personal trouble, even without the others awake.” He said softly. “Tonight isn’t the night to be worrying.”

The dragon encircled her with his arms, watching as Aetes fetched blankets. “He’s got someone to share those worries with now. If it’s something else…I doubt it’s an emergency. He would have said something. So tonight, my darling, do try and think of what I’m going to do to you the second we can slip away.” he purred into her ear.

Rheinhard’s head jerked up sharply when the blanket was laid across his shoulders. He blinked, his eyes unfocused for a moment. He squeezed them shut, and when he opened them again he saw Aetes sitting next to him. He looked down. “I am fine in the cold.” He said softly. “But thank you.”

He fiddled with the edge of the blanket for a moment. “…Are you displeased I joined the Inizae?” He asked. Nestor would be angry at him, but he had to know. Aetes wasn’t the sort to just abandon it.
 

Seteta

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Keket let Hassani lead her into the dance, but she subtly shifted and swayed to lead him in the rhythm and steps as he spoke.

"Do you know how to cook over an open fire?" she asked curiously. "I'm sure by now you know we don't have fancy stoves and such like you are used to in Pedeo."


Seteta hummed softly, smiling as Chaceledon pulled her into his embrace. "If Aetes can get him to open up, I'll honestly be impressed," she answered, then laughed as he purred in her ear.

"What you're going to do to me, hm?" she purred back. "How do you know I won't be the one to ravish you?"

She twisted and stretched up to kiss his nose, then stood and tugged him to his feet. "First, though, let's eat and dance some more. You need to stay warm."


"Just because you are fine with the cold doesn't mean you should be cold,"
Aetes said. But Rheinhard's question made him pause, looking over at the man with confusion in his eyes. He gently reached over and stilled Rheinhard's fingers along the blanket edge, taking his hand.

"Of course I'm not displeased. What would make you think that?"

He lifted a hand and carefully touched the muzzle. "Why do you wear this?"
 

Chaceledon

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Hassani paused briefly, chewing his lip. “I uh…well, how hard can it be? A campfire is just a big burner, after all.” He reasoned, and pulled her close. “Besides, if I get good enough at it,‘I can serve you breakfast in bed the next morning.”

Chaceledon eagerly climbed to his feet. Not so much for the food, it was far too public for that, but absolutely when it came to dancing. He tilted Seteta’s chin up so he could kiss her, and swung her into the campfire to dance in the flames. It scared away the chill in his bones.

Rheinhard let Aetes still the fingers nervously shredding the edges of the blanket. “You were not happy when I was sworn in. I cannot blame you, but I wish you would have told me. I understand what is like to be intruded upon. I would not do that to your people.” He reasoned. “The muzzle…is what you put a dog in when he is not in use. To my family, it is a sign of rest. Peace. When I wear this, I know fighting is less likely. Rosebury was kind enough to steal it from Oor for me. We all have one. Oor keeps them in Witherhold.”

He leaned into the fingers touching the muzzle. “It is prideful of me, but these small symbols still mean something to my family.”
 

Seteta

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Keket laughed, though not meanly. "Bigger is not always better," she said, not pulling away from Hassani but not cuddling closer to him either. "But I'll certainly look forward to your... attempts."


Seteta draped her arms around Chaceledon, though she kept glancing down at the fire around them in awe. Never in her wildest dreams would she have thought that she would dance with a dragon within the flames of a campfire.

She paid no attention to time as she swayed in his arms, content to just exist with him in these moments.


Aetes brow wrinkled as he thought back to those moments. Not happy? Why would Rheinhard have thought he was not happy?

"You are not intruding,"
Aetes said, enveloping Rheinhard's hand in his. "The ceremony was more of a formality than anything. You would be part of the tribe anyway, simply because of Seteta and Chaceledon's marriage. Rehema did this so that you would feel you had a place here, regardless of anything else."

Aetes quietly bit the inside of his cheek though. Why would Rheinhard think he was displeased?

"You are far from the first human to be brought into the tribe," Aetes told him. "It's not common, but it happens. Most of the Inizae here can trace their lines back to the old pharaohs of Amol-Kalit... but we're a tribe of mixed blood, out of necessity. We've brought in elves of other tribes, and humans, over the millennia."

Maybe even dragons,
Aetes thought to himself, recalling what he and Nestor had found in the library. It... might have happened, long long ago in the early days of our exile.

"Why did you think I was displeased?"
he asked after a few moments.

When Rheinhard leaned into his touch, though, Aetes shifted a little closer, leaning into the man's side. As he explained the muzzle, Aetes gently traced the shape of it and the engravings.

"If it is something you wish to wear, then do so," Aetes told him. "But I won't lie that it makes you harder to kiss."


Rehema wandered through the party, speaking with any of the Inizae who wished to do so. Some asked for blessings, others just wanted a listening ear for an issue, and some were friends and distant family who wanted to just visit with her. There was never enough time, it seemed, for nights like these.

And even so, when she caught sight of the face she was watching for, she had to excuse herself from a conversation and dodge a few others to reach him.


"Persian de Soto?" she asked with a smile as she came up to him. "Please, come join me for a cup of tea at my tent. I would like to speak with you."
 

Chaceledon

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Rheinhard held Aetes’ hand quietly for a moment. Other humans had been brought in them. It was comforting to know he wasn’t the only one. He ran his thumb over Aetes’ knuckles. He didn’t belong here, or at least he didn’t feel like he did. There were very few places he did feel like he belonged. Witherhold, though that was largely because they had always been there. The Ring of Teeth in Pedeo being another.

“It is hard to think that I am done with war.”
He muttered. “You barely looked at me through the ceremony.” Rheinhard settled his cheek on Aetes’ shoulder, and only lifted it briefly to remove the muzzle. It was hard to cuddle with it on. He fingered the metal, running his fingers over the filigree. “The others want me to ignore you and focus on Seteta. Nestor claims you’ll leave once we’ve properly mated.”

He looked down. He was afraid of the same thing.

________________

Persian hovered around the edges of the party, watching the dancing. Hassani and Keket would make a good match, and there was a high probability be could convince him to send him at least one child. Hopefully, the secrets of the spell to break the reproductive curse on his current stock. It was good having an ally in the Inizae. It might take years, but he was patient.

He caught sight of Rehema making a beeline for him and smiled at her in greeting. “Good evening. Yes, I think we do need to have a conversation. Please. Lead the way.” He gestured.
 

Seteta

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"I felt like I could barely look away from you," Aetes huffed a little, but slid his arm behind Rheinhard as the man settled his head against his shoulder. He was relieved when the muzzle came off, though, and leaned down to kiss Rheinhard softly.

"Nestor assumes that you'll decide you want me forever," Aetes sighed. "You might decide I'm intolerable after a few weeks."

He was joking, somewhat. But they didn't know each other hardly at all. Sexual compatibility was only one factor in a relationship, if this was going to be more.

Aetes sighed then, gathering his thoughts.

"At the ceremony... Rehema was teasing me somewhat," he explained. "Usually the high priestess would offer the water to each new tribe member individually. She likely had me do yours because she thought you would like that. I wasn't expecting it is all.

"But... you'll have to understand that you'll see two sides of me, at times. When I'm fulfilling my role as a priest of Abtatu, even when it involves you, I may not always be able to give you my full attention. And I also have a responsibility to this tribe as a whole. Especially tonight, when there are those among us who have harmed us in the past."

He knew Rheinhard would understand that he spoke of Persian.

"I can't promise you a future," Aetes said bluntly. "Not so early on. I have vows that I've made, long before I met you. Possibly even before you were born, and they are not vows that can be undone. But what I can promise you is that I will talk to you. I won't keep you in the dark about any grievances I have, or if I don't see us working out."

He hesitated for a moment then, pulling away just enough to watch Rheinhard's face. He smiled softly as a snowflake landed on Rheinhard's nose.

"During the ceremony, Rehema said that we would make sure to teach you our ways. Often, those we bring into the tribe are either families with young children and those children grow up learning our ways, or they are mature adults who already have... certain life experiences.

"We Inizae are not sexually shy," Aetes continued. "We've had no fear of unexpected pregnancies for many millennia, and so... certain boundaries have slowly fallen away, though perhaps not as many as we think." He snorted softly, thinking back to the letter Nestor had found as well. It seemed the Inizae had likely always been adventurous in some ways.

"I don't know how much Seteta has spoken of to you, but we have a tradition among the Inizae where our young ones on the cusp of adulthood are given... mentors. They are of the same sex, and the mentors are someone they can ask about changes in their bodies. About sexual things. Someone they are able to ask anything without fear of judgement. Sometimes that mentor ends up being their first lover... but not always. I think... that you might benefit from having someone like that. Someone besides me that you can ask questions of."

Aetes hoped he'd said all of that right. That he wasn't appearing to try and shove Rheinhard off onto another male. But Rheinhard was... profoundly naive and Aetes didn't want to take advantage of him. And there was too much risk that Aetes would subtly push Rheinhard into trying his own preferences, even when the human didn't want them.



"Excellent," Rehema smiled, and motioned toward the tent. "Please remove your shoes before entering."

She led him inside, and directed him to sit at the table, the same one they'd eaten breakfast at with Seteta and Chaceledon. Metal lamps with patterned holes spilled light across the table, and a servant quietly steeped tea at the far end.

"Nothing quite as fancy as you probably have in your city," Rehema conceded, "but I hope you enjoy it. It's black tea with cardamom, cloves, and cinnamon, sweetened with date syrup. You can also have camel's milk or goat's milk in it."

Rehema gently lowered herself onto a cushion across the table from Persian. The servant girl brought the tea tray over and set it between them, then Rehema quietly dismissed her.

"I'm sure you have many questions," Rehema said as she poured the tea for each of them. "Please, ask. I will answer what questions I can."
 

Chaceledon

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Rheinhard had to agree. They didn’t know one another. He adored Aetes in bed, but they needed to spend time together to see if they were compatible in other ways. He was still learning how to live with other people in general, and he feared his hesitancy with others would doom the relationship before it got off the ground. He would have to try, and try hard, not to scare Aetes off.

He listened to him, nodding in agreement. “I know you have your duties, and you are afraid of Persian. If I am to be a part of this people, I protect them as well. Persian will not mess with you while I am here. I would kill him. He knows I would. I am used to working. It would help if I was given some sort of job while I was here.” He nuzzled into Aetes’ shoulder. “The mentor may be a good idea…but who?”

______________________

Persian slipped off his boots and set them just inside the tent flap, stepping inside. He nodded politely at the servant as he sat at the table, studying Rehema. Surely she didn’t think he was a fool to drink something made by the Inizae? Of course, he would play along to be polite.

“Im not as concerned with fanciful things as you might think, madam. My own abode is similar to this one. It might be settled in steel and wood panels instead of cloth, but I don’t share Rosebury’s need to coat everything in silk.” Persian chuckled. He said a quiet thank you to the servant girl.

“I’d like to know how to remove this roadblock between you and I. I’d have no need to bother the Inizae if I could operate on my own. To do that, I need generations. I’ve cut back my operation…it’s difficult to sell a slave already gelded from birth.” He smiled and shook his head. “I know your god has done it to protect you, but I’d argue it’s only caused more suffering on either side. I was forced to keep capturing as pets aged or were disposed of, you were forced to keep fleeing.”

Persian shook his head. “It’s certainly a mess. I appreciate the bravery you’ve shown in allowing me to step foot here. Perhaps there is a better way forward than this cat and mouse game? A way we can both benefit?”
 

Seteta

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"Persian has given us good cause to fear him," Aetes murmured, pulling Rheinhard closer to him again, and absentmindedly reaching for the muzzle to finger it. The man might have said the cold didn't bother him, but that didn't mean he needed to be cold.

"None of the Inizae are idle. Rehema and I will help you find a suitable task among us. As for the mentor... I don't know who it would be. There's a few options, but it will be Rehema and some of the other elders and priests who would select the Inizae you would be paired with. I will be permitted to suggest someone, but not be allowed to have input in the final decision."

Aetes turned and nuzzled the side of Rheinhard's face. "I will talk with Rehema about it tomorrow, now that I know you're amenable."

He laid kisses down Rheinhard's jaw, then reached up and turned his face toward him, planting a slow, deep kiss on his mouth.

"Right now, though, I would really like to dance with you."



"A way we could both benefit?" Rehema murmured, lifting her cup of tea to her lips. Her sharp eyes didn't miss Persian's refusal to drink.

She laughed quietly as she set her teacup down.

"If you will not even trust me to serve you tea that is not poisoned, how can I trust you to uphold any bargain we might make?"

Rehema watched him for a few moments in the dim light. Then she sighed and rested her hands on the table, lacing her fingers together.

"You have a distinct advantage in this," Rehema stated. "You have lived through all of the history of my people, but only from one side of the story. We have to trust the tales that have been handed down to us through millennia, and we have to trust our god's guidance.

"As for closing our wombs... I don't fully understand why Abtatu chose that method. But I do know that when it happened, you were not merely enslaving our people, but you were taking our children. Some barely more than babes in arm. We have many songs and prayers of lament that have survived that time.

"So please, do not think me so naive as to believe you when you say that you've only enslaved us out of necessity. That our limited abilities to bear children have forced your hand.

"You were enslaving us without restraint long before that."
 

Chaceledon

The Draconian Diva
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“He has.” Rheinhard agreed. “And I am grateful to the Inizae. I’m…frustrated with how little I know. Nestor knows but he refuses to talk about it, and I will be damned before I ask Aluid.” He sighed heavily. He hated his own naïveté. The knowledge was in his head, somewhere, but he was loath to go clawing through Aluid’s memories, or Gere’s memories. It seemed so much less…organic learning it second hand. That, and he didn’t particularly want to witness it.

He tilted his head up to kiss Aetes. It had such a way of relaxing him. Those gentle touches to his jaw made the tension slag out of his shoulders. “I would love to dance with you.” He said softly.

Rheinhard rose and offered his hand to the priest. He was used to leading, and leading dignified dances at that, but he was sure he could pick it up.

_____________________

Persian laughed. “Are you sure you’re not fae?” He picked up the cup and took a sip. “I know this may be hard for you to believe, but I target children out of kindness. Children who can’t remember where they came from lose out on a certain culture, but they also experience less pain. Lying to them is easier than attempting to force them to process what has happened. It also cut down on suicides, at least on my end. Your people labored under the idea that something horrid happened to your children. That is my fault. I should have done better community outreach.”

Persian took another sip of his tea. “Back then I was more savage and forceful. I was struggling to make a name for myself and prove that slavery could be humane. Now I’m far more amenable to negotiation. I have contracts with several elven societies that allow me a certain amount of children donated from families per year. Beyond that, I try not to take.”

He settled back. “Rehema, I want to help heal the cultural divide between fae and Inizae. We could use your skills in Pedeo, the old blood there is dying. Would education in a fine city for some of your younger members not be a first step? Without pet collars. You’ve done nothing but survive for so long.”