Private Tales Of Sand & Dragonfire

A private roleplay only for those invited by the first writer

Seteta

The Dragon's Betrothed
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Aetes smiled and let Rheinhard haul him to his feet. The human male may have been shorter than him, but he was no less strong, and Aetes would be lying to say he didn't find that incredibly appealing.

Once on his feet, he wrapped his arm around Rheinhard's waist and then pulled them both into the dance. He could tell Rheinhard was used to graceful dances. Dances done to music where the beats were carefully counted, in grand rooms lit with mage lights. But this... the primal feel of the sand beneath bare feet, the slide of skin on skin and cool air kissing it. Aetes wouldn't trade it for anything.



Rehema smiled cheekily at Persian's comment as he sipped at his tea, picking her own up again, but the smile quickly vanished as he brought up the children. She sipped quietly at her tea as he spoke.

"If you kidnap children so that they forget who they truly are, where they came from, then how exactly is there a cultural divide between the fae and the Inizae?" she challenged.

"We of the sands have always known that slavery can be civil. Kind, even. The desert is a harsh mistress, and sometimes one needs a master to protect them," she agreed. "We have owned slaves, but we have also freed slaves.

"You, in attempting to prove that slavery can be humane, have created an altogether different type of creature,"
Rehema challenged. "Our children will never be for sale, at any price. Our young people who want to leave have always been free to leave, even to go to Pedeo if that is what they wish. Many of the Inizae have led caravans to Pedeo, some have even stepped foot in the city, but for all you claim to have to offer, there is one fundamental thing your city lacks: earth."

Rehema set her nearly empty teacup back on the table.

"To cut the Inizae off from earth is like depriving a human of oxygen," she said. "Surely even you noticed how restless Seteta became in the few days she was there. But regardless, I nor Abtatu nor the Inizae will ever agree to a bargain that puts pet collars around a child's neck, especially."
 

Chaceledon

The Draconian Diva
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Rheinhard deferred to Aetes, letting him lead through the steps. He picked up on it rather quickly, but Rheinhard’s movements were less…passionate. He wasn’t dancing out of joy or the love of it, he was doing it as a walk through a formula. It didn’t mean he wasn’t enjoying himself, but deeper meanings to the dance were lost to him.

Chaceledon, on the other hand, was enjoying wilder movements with Seteta. He had shed his human form and danced around her on all fours, sliding his serpentine body around hers. He lifted her into the air, swirled around her, and blew harmless purple flames about her. She was the untouched center in a maelstrom of fire and scale.

________________________

Persian raised an eyebrow. “You misunderstand me. I wouldn’t expect you to allow me to capture the Inizae, but rather allow me to make the case for them to come to me. I can offer decent employment if they don’t want to become pets, and the option is always there to take the collar.” He eyed her. “Seteta was anxious, yes. I noticed. I plan to give some of my Inizae time outside the city, and I did inquire to some of my pet houses. It will become a new part of my husbandry in keeping Inizae.”

Persian studied her. She was a strong woman. The temptation to lunge at her and get her unconscious, with no servants around, was a strong one. Doing so would shatter any tentative trust, and he wasn’t quite willing to do that yet. “In any relationship there must be give and take, Rehema. We will be in contact for the foreseeable future since Chaceledon does business with me. Seteta already co-owns property with him there. It’s best for both of us we find an arrangement we can live with. I cannot effectively find crystals, marble or metals without Inizae guidance, and you want more freedom to move without fearing me. What must we do to reach an arrangement?”

Persian finished his tea and set the cup aside. He rather liked it, and made a mental note to see if Kennedi could get it in Pedeo.
 

Seteta

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"Did I not just say that the Inizae have always been free to leave?" Rehema also raised a brow. "And over the many millennia that our peoples existence has coincided, you have done quite a lot of taking."

She did smile then, and bit back a laugh.

"You think quite highly of yourself, don't you?" she murmured. "Believing that the Inizae have taken to the wild sands because we were afraid of you. I will admit there was a time in our history when you marred our tribe and our culture irrevocably. But we do not wander the desert because of you. Abtatu exiled us here for our own sins.

"But we will not always wander the desert, Persian de Soto."
Rehema's eyes grew bright, an otherwordly light shining from within them. If he gazed deeply into them, or for too long, it would be uncomfortable. As if someone was looking deep into his soul, baring everything he kept hidden away, even from himself.

"When our time comes to rise again, not you nor any fae will be able to hinder it."

The light faded, but didn't quite leave her eyes.

"Before we make any bargain dealing with the lives of my tribe," Rehema finished, "you will first have nearly twenty thousand years of mistrust to heal. And that will be difficult to do while our kin remain in your city, never freed from pet collars except through death."
 

Chaceledon

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“You may not wander the desert because of me, but you flee at the first sight of me.” Persian said coldly. “Or did you not leave in a hurry and scatter the rest of your tribe? Madam, I know full well your cities crumbled due to a vengeful god. The proof is all around us, in ruins and shattered wrecks.”

He looked back into her gaze. Fanaticism was what he saw there. Echoes of what he’d seen in the eyes of others. She truly believed they would rule the desert again…though when and how was anyone’s guess. Fanaticism like that rarely ended well, and it disquieted him. Perhaps she would rule the sands again.

Persian settled his elbows on the table. “You know full well I cannot just release the Inizae pets I have. I don’t own all of them, for one. For another, they wouldn’t want to leave. Even if I freed all of them tomorrow…it wouldn’t help matters.”
 

Seteta

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Rehema's lip curled. "You are not our only enemies," she chuckled. "No matter who came across us there, whether human, fae, beastman, or Abtati from another tribe, we would have had the same response. We have survived this long because we learned when to flee rather than risk exposure or capture or death. The waters are sacred to all in the desert, but knowledge of where we have been is often shared."

Persian settled his elbows on the table. “You know full well I cannot just release the Inizae pets I have. I don’t own all of them, for one. For another, they wouldn’t want to leave. Even if I freed all of them tomorrow…it wouldn’t help matters.”

"Most of them were not yours in the first place," she countered. "I know some of our ancestors willingly entered these foolish bargains with you, but the majority you had to trap through deceit and violence. And as... meticulous as you are, I'm sure you know exactly who all of the..." she hesitated, because using the world to describe her kin was deplorable to her, but she was not trying to make a personal enemy of Persian. Not right now. "...pets you have raised and sold are descended from."

Rehema sighed and began to pour each of them a second cup of tea. She'd known full well that there would be no agreement tonight. As High Priestess, she could negotiate, but any final decision would have to be made with the tribe elders and the other priests and priestesses approval. But she knew that the crumbs Persian was dangling now would only offend them.

"There are several options I can think of, but for some reason I doubt most of them are steps you're willing to take," she said as she added a small amount of goat milk to her tea. "You could guarantee safe passage in your lands for my tribe. You could buy back the pets descended from those you forcefully captured and give them a choice. You could end the slaughter of the Inizae pets you personally decide have served their purpose, and instead give them to us.

"And when Amphetrion passes, you could let us put him to rest according to our traditions."
 

Chaceledon

The Draconian Diva
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Persian nodded. “I do remember every pet’s lineage. I try to take accounts of their families before their memories fade. It’s harder with the very young.” He agreed. “Breeding pairs captured together are often more difficult; I haven’t had much luck.” He thanked her for the tea and took a sip, listening to her proposals.

“I couldn’t possibly purchase all of them back. It would be disgustingly expensive, not to mention there isn’t anything that demands they be sold back to me. As for safe passage…I can grant that on a limited basis. They’ll have to avoid the city around Auction; late autumn and early winter. I may be able to police my people but I can’t presume to police other fae. The slaughter is…” he hesitated. “…complicated. Hassani is one of the few I’ve released instead of putting him down. He’s my pilot program, you could say. I could see slowly ramping that up, releasing Inizae.”

At the last request he tensed, teacup halfway to his lips. “Amphetrion is a beloved friend. That collar around his neck has been unlocked for as long as I can remember. He will be buried at the spot he chose, deep in the desert, and I won’t hear another word of it. He has been Pedeon for longer than he has been Inizae. Sometimes I think he knows the city better than I do. Whatever he was to your people…that time is over now.” He said, an edge in his tone that brooked no argument. “In return for your safe passage, and returning older pets to you…I want some information. Specifically, how married couples have children. You must dispel the curse somehow.”
 

Seteta

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Rehema was growing more and more... unimpressed with Persian as they continued to talk. She didn't scowl, but any trace of a smile or friendliness in her eyes quickly vanished.

"They were not yours to sell in the first place." Rehema's voice turned stern. "But since you did sell them, it is only a proper courtesy for you to reimburse those you sold them to in negotiating for their release. There is no monetary cost too great to right a wrong."

But would Persian ever admit that he'd committed sins against them? Unlikely, judging by the way this conversation was going. And if he was unable to see that, then any sort of reconciliation between his... city and the Inizae was unlikely. She took a breath to calm herself before she dealt with the rest of what he said, taking a sip of tea.

"There is no reason why Amphetrion cannot be buried where he has chosen," she continued. "But for as long as he has been Pedeon, he has been an Inizae since birth, and he has been Abtatu's always. He has an honored place in our history. We simply wish to respect that and give him the rites he deserves when he passes."

She would like to speak with Amphetrion while he was still alive as well, perhaps even bring him to the temple, but that was something she would need to discuss with others, and with Abtatu. To bring Amphetrion to the temple would mean bringing Persian into it as well.

"But as for the safe passage, and returning older pets... you make a mistake." Persian's voice may have demanded no argument, but Rehema was not that easily cowed. "That is not in return for anything. It is simply to begin making right what you have done in the past. If you prove trustworthy with it, then we can discuss other potentialities in the future."

Then her eyes twinkled playfully.

"However, with your history of breeding pets, I would have thought you knew how a married couple creates a child. If you need a refresher, though, I'm certain we can arrange some... lessons with... someone."
 

Chaceledon

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Persian laughed. “Dear gods woman! It is true, the poor spend money worse than any rich man.” He shook his head. “I can tell you right now I would go bankrupt at the attempt. Alas I can apologize, and I can inform the pets coming up for Auction that they can opt out, but I cannot regain every man, woman and child I’ve sold.” He told her, just as sternly.

He sighed and set his tea aside. “I have done you wrongly, but you must understand my responsibilities. I have people to care for outside of the Inizae. I don’t just have contracts. I have hundreds of babes born every week, the operating costs of educating, training and keeping them safe. Schools to run, shops to keep happy, entire industries on my back. I cannot bankrupt myself for your sake.” He took his glasses off to rub at the bridge of his nose. “That said I am trying to right a wrong. I just cannot shake the earth to do it.”

He eyed her. She was a shrewd one. That spirit was part of the reason Inizae were so popular. They had a strange sense of dominance that reminded him of the dragons at times. “Safe passage through my lands then, and I will return pets sent to the dregs.” He sighed heavily. “Don’t mock me, woman. You know no Inizae not married to another will bear children successfully. Even a proven male cannot produce on his own with a female not his wife. It is a unique curse and sorcery on your god’s part, I admit.”

Persian held out a hand to her. “You are a frustrating creature, Rehema.” He waited silently for her to accept.
 

Seteta

The Dragon's Betrothed
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"It would not be appropriate for you to neglect others solely for our sake." Rehema nodded, satisfied with most of his answer. It was good to know that he wasn't just hoarding wealth, but using it to care for those he'd brought into his care, even if forcefully so. "Though you'll forgive me if I do not have much sympathy for a plight you have brought on yourself."

She couldn't help but laugh when he sighed at her teasing, though not cruelly so.

"It is only a curse to those it inconveniences," she said. "But when you were hunting us down simply for childbearing? It saved our tribe. And while our dwindling numbers the last couple of centuries have become a hardship to navigate, we will continue to thank Abtatu for this blessing until it is time for it to be lifted."

The High Priestess grinned. "You are an equally frustrating creature, Persian," she replied, reaching for his hand. "We have an agreement, then? Safe passage for the Inizae through the lands you control, and Inizae pets returned to the tribe instead of being slaughtered, and without being harmed in any other way. In exchange, we will speak again in the near future about... the things you wish the Inizae to do for you. Perhaps after Seteta and Chaceledon's wedding?"



Seteta couldn't help but laugh, her smile as wide as the night sky, as her fingers slid against Chaceledon's scales as they danced in the fire. But somewhere in the midst of their dance, she caught sight of her father standing off to one side, chewing at his lip and glancing worriedly at the tent.

Her own motions slowly halted, and she looked around. There was no sign of her mother... or Persian.

"Chaceledon," she murmured, her fingers gently tugging at his mane, "I think something's going on. I need to check on mut."
 

Chaceledon

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“It may have saved your tribe, but it continues to be a thorn in my side. One of many.” He muttered, and shook her hand. “Agreed. Safe passage, and we will need to figure out either a drop point or somewhere to meet for the return of the Inizae. I recommend somewhere civilized; I can’t imagine Hassani did well without bathtubs his first few weeks on the sand. I must also ask that anyone receiving medical care make trips to Pedeo…unless you have someone who makes eyeglasses here.”

Persian put his own back on his nose. “After Chaceledon and Seteta’s wedding, then. I’ll expect you in Pedeo; I met you here with every expectation of being buried alive under the sand the moment you saw me. I’d ask you extend me the same trust. It also may be worth getting to know the charges you will be taking…as well as where they came from.”

__________________

Chaceledon was laughing, wildly rolling around Seteta in a swirl of fur and scales. He stopped at the tug on his mane, nuzzling her cheekily. Your mother is a ferocious force of nature. I wouldn’t be so worried. She’s the high priestess for a reason. Persian wouldn’t dare capture her here with Rheinhard around. he licked her ear.
 

Seteta

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"I believe that thorn in your side was part of the intent," Rehema snorted, but she quirked a brow a moment later. "Eye... glasses? Is that what those contraptions on your face are called? Whatever are they for?"

As for medical care... all of the Inizae being reintegrated would have to pass through Abtatu's Cleansing. What ailments they still had after coming out of that would be the ones that needed care. But that was not something Rehema was willing to reveal to Persian yet.

She nodded as he listed the rest of his terms. "We will meet you in Pedeo, with the caveat that if my midwife says traveling that far is dangerous at that point, I will not be present. If I am unable to be there, then Aetes will attend in my place. There will be a few of our elders who go as well."

She smiled then, and stood. "Now that we've danced with words, tell me, Persian de Soto... do you actually dance?"



Seteta huffed when Chaceledon licked her ear, reaching over to gently flick his nose.

"Persian may not be foolish enough to try anything, but I don't think my father knows that," she murmured, nodding toward where Ausar stood. She kissed Chaceledon's muzzle and stepped out of the fire.

"Mit!" she called out, weaving through the dancers toward him. When she reached Ausar, she leaned against him and wound her arms around his waist. "You look worried."

"Your mut is meeting with Persian,"
Ausar sighed, kissing Seteta's forehead. "They've been in there for a while."

"Ah..."
She didn't really have any reassuring words to offer. Chaceledon was so certain that Persian wouldn't hurt Rehema... but he hadn't seen Persian's eagerness to get her in a collar in Witherhold. The memory sent a chill down her spine and she shivered.

"I'm sure they'll be done soon," she said. "If not, we can think of a reason to interrupt."
 

Chaceledon

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Persian raised an eyebrow and tapped the rims of his spectacles. “Ever use a spyglass for a ship or scouting? Very similar principle except it helps your eyes focus on things they can no longer focus on. My eyes have never been perfect. This helps me.” He explained. “A few of the Inizae wear them.”

He nodded. “I hope you know we have some of the finest midwives in Arethil. Even if it is rather close to your delivery date, I’m well-acquainted with helping birthing mothers. I’ve educated many healers on the subject.” He pointed out. “But, as always, it is up to you. I’m assuming Rheinhard will accompany Aetes if he must serve in your stead.”

Persian stood with her and offered her his arm. “Madam, I wouldn’t have been long for this world among the Fae if I didn’t.” He led her outside, taking her hand gently. His arm encircled her waist, high enough not to raise any alarms with Ausar, and led her smoothly into the dance.

Chaceledon rubbed at his nose, and stood vindicated when the slaver easily led Rehema into a simple dance. He lifted his chin and caught Seteta’s eyes.

See? He said triumphantly as he bounded up to her and Ausar. I told you he wouldn’t hurt her. It was probably just business, nothing more. He flicked his tail like an irritated cat. Come with me, darling. It’s freezing outside of the fire.
 

Seteta

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Rehema quirked her head curiously at the eyeglasses, and his explanation. "A spyglass is a more familiar object," she said, "though we have little use for them. Our eyes rarely grow dull, and we scout mostly through the earth."

As they exited the tent, Rehema caught sight of Seteta and Ausar standing to the side, watching, and rolled her eyes. Seteta wasn't usually a worrier, but had more likely gone to check on Ausar. But... Seteta had also had the most interactions with Persian directly recently. Persian slid his arm around her and they joined the dance, and the first chance she had, Rehema mouthed over to Ausar and Seteta I'm fine, stop worrying.

Then they turned away again, Rehema picked up their earlier conversation in the tent.

"I won't make decisions on Rheinhard's behalf," Rehema said. "Aetes is my successor as High Priest one day, so right now he does have to answer to me, and it is his role to fill in when I am not available. But Rheinhard needs to find his own place within the tribe, and my interference could complicate that.

"As for coming to Pedeo... it is less about how close I am to delivery, and more that the later I am in my pregnancy, the less strain I have to put on my body. I nearly died giving birth to Seteta, and there were many losses before her."




Seteta felt Ausar's shoulders go lax as Rehema left the tent, and she hugged him a little tighter before stepping away. Chaceledon bounded up before she could say anything, though, and she sighed a little at his impatience.

"'Just business' isn't incredibly reassuring when his business has been enslaving my kinfolk for longer than Oor held you captive," Seteta muttered, but she reached over to run her fingers through his mane with a sigh. "Go back to the fire, sehejib. I'm going to get some food, and then I'll come back to you."

She turned back to Ausar, though her touch still lingered on Chaceledon. "Have you eaten yet, mit?"

"Not yet,"
Ausar answered. "We should go find something before all the good stuff is gone."
 

Chaceledon

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“Such is the fate of those who wander the desert.” Persian pointed out. “Even the birds have difficulty birthing young here. I can always send someone along with vitamin powder before I leave.” He suggested, catching her little glance toward her nervous mate. Seteta was watching them as well with the same sort of disquiet. As the dance ended, Persian kissed the back of Rehema’s hand. “Pleasant evening, Rehema. I’m glad we came to some arrangement, but you should probably return to your husband; he looks rather nervous.”

Persian had a mind to attempt conversation with a few of the Inizae…or restrict Rosebury, who was getting drunk and handsy. The Lord of Luck was happily extolling the virtues of undead lovers to a group of Inizae, much to Oscar’s amusement. The engineer stood to the side and watched the tribe for a moment, thinking. They would pass through his territory, but he’d keep strict tabs on them. The directions they went, how many, when and who. He’d been unable to get reliable population numbers for decades what with the Inizae avoiding him like the plague.

Rheinhard was content to dance with Aetes late into the evening. His motions were still rather mechanical versus passionate, but he learned quickly. Chaceledon avoided food in lieu of going to chat with Rosebury and Persian. Securing a contract as the designer for Auction the following winter was surprisingly easy, and Persian thought it appropriate to welcome back a formerly popular jeweler.

Persian and Oscar collected Rosebury as the sky grew darker and darker, and left with the giggling fae in tow.
 

Seteta

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Rehema smiled politely, though her eyes gazed distantly over Persian's shoulder. "If vitamin powder would help, I would gladly take it," she murmured. "Unfortunately, most of my problems are due to an injury I received when I was younger."

As they parted, Rehema gently bowed her head. "Go in peace, Persian de Soto," she said softly when he released her hand. "May Abtatu guard your steps until we meet again."

The rest of the evening passed quickly. Flurries of snow continued to drift from the sky, and blankets and goatskins were brought out for the dancers to keep warm under whenever they paused to rest or eat. Warm tea was dispersed in addition to the date wine, and friends and family all huddled close together for warmth. But no one was willing to call the celebration to an early end, with how rarely they were able to have them.

Many of the Inizae were willing to exchange friendly words with Persian, especially those who were acolytes or lower ranking priests and priestesses in the temple. Those who were among the Inizae that frequently traveled the desert--and were more likely to have immediate family who'd encountered Persian in the past--were polite, but less inclined to any discussion.

Rehema didn't miss the scrutinizing eye that Persian gave the entire camp. While they'd agreed to safe passage... there would be guidance put out for any Inizae who felt it was necessary to actually traverse those lands. She doubted many would have a desire to do so. It would mostly be those leading caravans.

Seteta dined with her family, though she cast glances toward Chaceledon off and on, gnawing worriedly at her lip. She couldn't remember the last time she'd seen him eat anything substantial. He'd been picking at meals for days now.

"What worries you, bit?" Ausar asked, gently nudging her with his elbow.

Seteta looked down at her food and sighed. "He thinks he's fat, mit," she said quietly. "His mother put chalk in the rice to make them feel full without eating sufficient food. He was doing better about eating more food before he was reunited with his family... but now..." She shrugged helplessly.

"It will take time,"
Rehema said, reaching over to clasp Seteta's hand. "Be patient."

Seteta nodded quietly, then finished her own food. She arranged for a tray of food to be left in their room, as well, and then went and visited with Keket and a few other friends as Chaceledon visited with Persian and Rosebury. Aetes and Rheinhard seemed to be quite occupied with each other, and she didn't bother them.

Eventually, though, she wandered back to the fire, magic and music thrumming through the sand beneath her feet. She swayed to the beat of the music near the flames, dancing with Keket for a while, and then a few others here and there. She watched curiously as her father handed something to Persian before he left with Oscar and Rosebury, and made note to ask about it later.

Snow was still falling, but none of it accumulated on the ground, either blown away by the breeze or evaporating quickly. She barely felt the chill of it when she held out her hand to catch some of them, then sighed and looked around to see where her lover was.
 

Chaceledon

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Chaceledon sighed, watching Rosebury and Persian leave quietly. He had been hoping things would go well, and it seemed they had. He should have felt more settled than he did. He had a new contract for next years’ Auction, which meant he would soon be put to work creating the aesthetic for the pets. He hoped that Persian and Rehema had reached some sort of agreement. The two halves of his life needed to be able to live together. He was rather curious as to what Ausar gave Persian, but the Fae tucked it away in his coat and gave no indication of what it was.

He rubbed his arm, shivering in the cold. He despised snow. He pulled his eyes away from the quickly disappearing fae and cast a glance toward his new family. Rheinhard, quietly dancing with Aetes. Seteta with her friends. It did his heart good to see them…Rheinhard especially, with his head tucked under Aetes’, slowly dancing in the snow.

His stomach snarled at him, but he ignored it. This was a social event. No one needed to see him stuffing his face. He was acutely aware he’d need to eat something soon, or Seteta would have him tube fed.

The dragon pulled his hair over one shoulder. His mother would have the house in a half-panicked wreck. Was his brother even aware he was alive? Edging Seteta into dragon society was the next step. She might have been content to abandon everything for a tent in the woods, but a life without beds and champagne wasn’t one he enjoyed. How could he live without a closet? A proper sand bath, sifted through and boiling?

While Chaceledon enjoyed the Inizae, he couldn’t see himself living with them permanently. He had a horrific vision of himself in earth tones with dreadlocks and fought the urge to retch. No, it was time to visit Dahn Hedoni. It was time to bring Seteta into the social season. It was time for her to become officially part of draconian life.

His fiancé finished her dances and he could see her eyes wandering for him. Chaceledon smiled, approaching her in a whirl of bronze fabric.

“Snow in the desert. Here I thought I got away from all that.” he encircled her with his arms, looking down into her eyes. “Take a walk with me? If Aetes and my Hardy keep looking like that I’ll say something stupid to one or either of them.” he joked.
 

Seteta

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Seteta smiled as Chaceledon walked over to her, leaning eagerly into him as his arms wrapped around her.

"We don't get snow often," she said, softly kissing his chest. "But it's still water, and a sign of Abtatu's blessing."

She leaned back, looking up at him, affection in her eyes and written across her face, nodding quietly when he asked her to walk with him. She could do it, she thought... handle anything that might come her way, if he was at her side.

"Are you warm enough?" she asked. "It will be colder away from the tents and the fire."



The evening was slowly winding to a close, Aetes noted as the sound of music began to alter as musicians bowed out. Normally, a celebration like this would continue through the night until the first light of dawn was brightening the horizon, but the snow and cold wind was a deterrent to that.

He smoothed his hands over Rheinhard's back and pulled the man close for a gentle kiss.

"Do you want me to stay with you again tonight in your tent?" Aetes asked. "Or would you rather sleep in my quarters? Well... if you want to stay together at all tonight. If you want the night on your own, I understand."
 

Chaceledon

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Chaceledon took her hand and kissed her palm. “I thought we could return to the estate tomorrow morning. We need to start preparing. I’m glad we were able to see your family…and they’re always welcome in my home…but we can’t afford to waste any more time.” he smiled at her. He had every faith she would pass the test put in front of her, but that didn’t mean they could avoid draconian culture forever. “Besides, I wanted to help.”

He was freezing as they walked away from the tents and the fire, but that wasn’t entirely the point. Chaceledon brought her to a small dune, a rise they could see stars between the snowy clouds. He tilted her chin up to kiss her. “I love you, regardless of what happens.”

____________________

Rheinhard returned his kiss shyly, still acutely aware of the others around them. “I would like to stay on my own tonight.” He replied. “I need to tend to the Well. If I am to stay here, there is a chance the others will not stay entirely controlled while Seteta is gone. It is hard to maintain a spell like that from great distances, and she is powerful but young. There will need to be…conversations had. You are welcome to come, but it will likely not be restful.”
 

Seteta

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Tomorrow. Her heart panged. So soon. And yet... there had been delays here, and more time was spent than expected, after having to flee the thermal springs.

"How far are we from the estate?" she asked as they walked, trying not to let her sadness at leaving her tribe--her family--into her voice. "If we left tomorrow afternoon, instead of in the morning, would there be enough daylight to fly by? There's a few things here yet I'd like to take care of, and I promised to spend some time with Keket."

As they crested the top of the sand dune, the camp fading into silence behind them, Seteta couldn't help but gasp as the clouds thinned and parted, allowing starlight to gleam through. She turned into Chaceledon's touch, stretching up onto her toes and leaning into his kiss.

"I love you," she whispered, pressing against him to share what little warmth she had. The green dress was lovely, but it did little to retain heat if she wasn't deliberately working up a sweat.

"Can you warm the sand?" she asked, her fingers tracing down his neck and tickling at his collarbone, chasing her touch with her lips. "Or is that too much magic for you right now?"



Aetes listened, his full attention fixed on Rheinhard. He reached up to cradle the man's face with his hand, thumb gently stroking along his cheekbone.

"Come into the Well with you again, you mean?" Aetes asked. "Do you want me to, or will it be troublesome with the others for me to be there?"

Most of the music had faded away, but Aetes still kept his arms wrapped around Rheinhard, gently swaying near the fire. There was no point in ending this before it had to end.

"You are still welcome back in bed for the night, even if you are in the Well," Aetes told him. "A brazier will have been placed in my room and it will be warmer there than in your tent."
 

Chaceledon

The Draconian Diva
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Chaceledon nodded, recognizing the look in her eyes. She didn’t want to leave so soon. “Only a few hours. We can leave in the early afternoon, and they’re always welcome to come by the estate. If they’re willing to deal with my mother, anyway.” he chuckled. Peridot would lose her mind. He could imagine it now; screeching about ‘dirty beggars’ on the front porch only to realize those were her new in-laws.

“Didnt you have a dream like this?” he grinned, settling himself on the sand and leaning his back into the dune. He spread warmth into the sand, banishing away the little crust of snow with wafts of steam. It was easier for him to keep his magic when they’d been dancing in the fire.

___________________

Rheinhard leaned into Aetes’ touch. “…Your quarters then.” He turned his head to kiss Aetes’ palm. “I would not mind if you held me. I would not mind if you came into the Well with me.” He muttered, unwilling to move. He wished he could stay like this forever, swaying with his lover in the snow.

He could feel the mild impatience of the others. They needed to talk. He sighed and took Aetes’ hand. It was time.
 

Seteta

The Dragon's Betrothed
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Aetes kissed Rheinhard's brow and clasped his hand, leading him through the last lingering bits of the crowd and back to the oasis and his little stone house. A soft, warm glow from the window and the doorway showed that an acolyte had indeed been by to set up the warming brazier and lit the lamp. He led Rheinhard inside, kissed him gently again, then stepped away and began removing the gold jewelry and clips he'd worn to the party, though he left the rings on his fingers.

He turned back the blankets on the bed as he waited for Rheinhard to undress as far as he was comfortable and remove his knives and boots. Aetes left his own loose leggings on. In addition to the linen blankets, some thicker throws woven from camel hair and furry goatskins had been added to the bed. Aetes crawled into the bed and waited for Rheinhard to join him and make himself comfortable, happy to hold the man in his arms for the night.
 

Chaceledon

The Draconian Diva
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The next morning, Chaceledon emerged from the tent to find that the sun had returned. He wrapped his dressing gown around himself and stood in the sunlight, sighing in relief. He was glad that the snow had been a one-off. It was enchanting, but whatever god had invented it needed to reevaluate his priorities. He still hadn’t seen hide nor hair of Rheinhard. The dragon returned to Seteta with breakfast, content to spend his morning in bed lazily eating and kissing his fiancé.

Rheinhard woke a little later than usual, snuggling down into bed. He was staying. The spell would become a little unstable, but Nestor had reassured him he could keep everyone under his thumb. He wasn’t particularly happy about leaving Seteta’s education in Chaceledon’s hands, however.

Gods, he still needed to tell Chaceledon he wasn’t leaving. He rose and dressed himself, leaving the small cocoon of silence to find his mother.

By then, Chaceledon was relaxing by the fire, cleaning his nails. He looked up when Rheinhard approached. “Oh good, you’re up. We’re leaving this afternoon. Ive gotten some things packed but we still need to break down your tent. I sent the furniture back to the estate. Mm! I had a thought that we’d head to Dahn Hedoni, at least make ourselves and our situation known. Mother is probably at the house, so I’ll need you to deal with that manservant of hers and keep him out of our hair.”

Rheinhard took a deep breath. “I’m staying.”

Chaceledon paused and looked up at him.
“Don’t be ridiculous. I need you now more than ever.” he waved a hand dismissively. Aetes can always visit the estate.”

“I’m staying.” Rheinhard repeated.
 

Seteta

The Dragon's Betrothed
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It was a good morning, lingering in bed with Chaceledon, and Seteta was pleased with the amount of food she was able to coax him to eat. Eventually, with a sigh, she rose and cleaned herself off--one of her parent's servants had brought in warm water and towels--then dressed and snuck one last kiss from Chaceledon before she ducked out of the room to spend some time with her parents before heading over to Keket's tent.

Fortunately, it only took a few subtle hints before Hassani found a reason to exit the tent, and the two girls spent a couple of hours chatting--some topics more serious than others--and Seteta got a few of the piercings done that she'd talked about before. Keket asked about the brow piercing that Chaceledon had mentioned for himself, but Seteta just shrugged. Even if he was serious, it would be better to wait, she said. Better not to push his mother's patience any further than they already had.

The sun was high in the morning sky by the time she emerged from Keket's tent, golden rings that matched the ones lining her ear through her left eyebrow and lower lip... and one other for Chaceledon to find later. They were sore, but Keket's spells on the jewelry kept the swelling to a minimum, and would prevent any infection.

She saw Chaceledon near the still-smoldering remains of the bonfire from the night before and headed his way, but caught sight of Rheinhard headed his direction. Mesi and Nebit were seated nearby, and so Seteta diverted that way, though still within sight, to visit with her grandmothers as she waited to see how the conversation would go between Chaceledon and Rheinhard.

By the look on Rheinhard's face, she was pretty certain that he was going to tell Chaceledon that he didn't want to go back to the estate yet. She... didn't think it was going to go well, if she knew her fiancé.



Aetes was surprised at how late Rheinhard slept, but when the man finally stirred, Aetes simply kissed him. After a light breakfast, shared quietly, Rheinhard left, and Aetes followed him shortly afterward. He needed to speak with Rehema, after all, the priest told himself. He wasn't trying to follow his new lover around.

Aetes didn't miss Seteta's pensive look from across the camp, though, as Rheinhard approached Chaceledon, and while he continued walking toward Rehema and Ausar's tent, his footsteps slowed, trying to catch the words the... mother and son exchanged.
 

Chaceledon

The Draconian Diva
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Chaceledon narrowed his eyes at Rheinhard, folding his arms across his chest. “Trust me, neither of us belong here. I have to return to civilization…and an actual bathtub…and you aren’t going to be stable enough without Seteta nearby. Your bond is still quite new and we don’t know how it will affect the spell. So don’t be silly. You’re coming with us.” Chaceledon said sharply. What was wrong with Rheinhard? The plan was always to come back with them. He understood Rheinhard was courting someone, but he was nervous to leave him with so much happening. They would be apart for weeks, months perhaps, and Chaceledon wouldn’t know where he was.

“This is no different than me wintering over somewhere. You did not see me for months then.” Rheinhard said, firmly but patiently.

“That was when Oor would show you to me whenever I needed it! We always knew where you were…”

“So will Seteta.”

“What about the others? What if something happens and I need you? What if something happens to you? Absolutely not. I won’t hear of you endangering yourself over a man.”

Chaceledon flicked a wrist dismissively. “Now go pack up your tent. We’re leaving soon.”

Rheinhard’s jaw tightened. “No. I will stay here for as long as I please, or until I am truly needed. I am a killer. What you are going into is politics and image. Neither are things I am good at. I can learn things from the Inizae here.” He nodded at the camp.

“What could you possibly learn from a pack of dirty elves who still shit in holes?!” Chaceledon snarled in draconian. “Absolutely not!”

Rheinhard closed the distance between them, looking up at his mother angrily. “Your jealousy is making you say evil things. I am staying here.” He growled back in draconian.

“Then give me that disgusting mask you put on last night. I mean it. I made it, and youre not anyone’s dog anymore. I want to destroy it.” Chaceledon held out a hand expectantly.

“No. It will be destroyed when and if I say so.”

“I am your mother.”
Chaceledon spat angrily, raising up to his full height. Heat bled off of him in waves. Rheinhard bared his teeth at him.

“And you do not hold my leash!” Rheinhard snarled.

The two stood, bristling. Chaceledon boiling the sand under his feet to a small pool of molten glass, and Rheinhard standing defiantly still even as sweat rolled down his forehead. The two hadn’t broken eye contact.


“I expect your things packed in half an hour.” Chaceledon snapped, and turned on his heel.

I have put up with your whining, complaining, your high maintenance ways and your insipid, arrogant ways for decades! For once, I am staying here and doing what I want. With who I want.”

Chaceledon froze as though Rheinhard had buried a blade in his back.
“I have known you your entire life. This insipid, arrogant dragon raised you!”

“Raising me does not mean you own me! It was your choice to detonate your entire life, not mine!”

Chaceledon flew at him. Rheinhard ducked his head and rammed the dragon in the gut, carrying them both to the sand. Chaceledon sank his claws into Rheinhard’s shoulders, and earned a vicious bite on the side of the neck for his troubles. Chaceledon raked his claws along Rheinhard’s cheek and the other man punched him in the ribs. The pair wrestled for a bit, each trying to pin the other. Chaceledon had enough. His body became serpentine, wrapped around Rheinhard, and squeezed. Rheinhard made a sucking noise as air was punched out of his lungs, and clawed at the scaled hide.


How dare you speak to me like that! Chaceledon bared his teeth in Rheinhard’s face. Rheinhard lunged up and grabbed the dragon’s nose in his teeth. Chaceledon might have been immune to Rheinhard’s teeth on his scales, but sharp human teeth digging into his nostrils went past his defenses. Rheinhard had struck true, and latched his jaws onto the soft skin between Chaceledon’s nostrils. He let out a high pitched cry, like an eagle or wounded owl.

Let go! My face!

“You…first…” Rheinhard choked around the mouthful, and bit down harder. Dragon blood trickled down his jaw. His ribs were definitely bruised, and one shoulder was threatening to pop out of its socket from how hard Chaceledon was holding him.

“Last…chance..” Rheinhard growled, worming his hand toward the knife roll on his thigh.


I’ll just put you out myself and drag you home-Aaah!

Chaceledon uttered another cry, and immediately released his hold. Rheinhard did as well, scrambling out of Chaceledon’s coils. One arm hung limply, pushed out of its socket. Chaceledon held out his rear foot, staring blankly at the knife impaling it. It had cut through dragon hide like paper.

“I am staying.” Rheinhard spat blood. He staggered forward and ripped the knife out of Chaceledon’s foot. Chaceledon cried out and bunched his coils around himself, protecting the injured limb in a ball of bristling, overheated scales. Rheinhard stumbled toward the oasis. He needed a tree to pop the arm back in. “You are welcome, by the way!” He shouted over one shoulder.


For what?! Stabbing me?!

“For convincing Abtatu to make your woman immortal instead of me!” Rheinhard spat, and headed out of the camp. He needed to drink something; Chaceledon’s heat had made him dizzy.
 

Seteta

The Dragon's Betrothed
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She was hopeful, at first, that Chaceledon would set aside his emotions and talk sensibly with Rheinhard. That hope quickly proved futile, though, and as she clenched her hands in her lap, Mesi and Nebit both reached over to take them.

"They have to sort this between themselves," Nebit said softly. "Don't interfere."

Seteta bit her lip, but nodded, watching the two warily.

When Chaceledon switched to Draconian, though, Seteta stiffened, her nostrils flaring. She wasn't fluent by any means, but she knew enough now to catch the gist of what he'd said. Even at the distance they sat at, the three women could feel the heat radiating off of Chaceledon. As the sand beneath the dragon's feet began to melt, Seteta gently slipped her hands free of her grandmothers'. She met Aetes eyes across the clearing where the fire sat, and nodded quietly.

But when her gaze returned to Rheinhard and Chaceledon, things had already escalated. She crouched down, and Aetes did the same, pressing her palm to the earth and twining her magic with Aetes'. If they endangered the camp, the Inizae, neither of them would hesitate to defend their people.

Seteta flinched when Chaceledon shifted and started to suffocate Rheinhard, but she didn't let herself react otherwise, distancing herself from her emotions in the moment. She vaguely heard her grandmothers worriedly whispering behind her, and many Inizae--including her parents--had come out of their tents at the commotion. She flinched again when Rheinhard latched onto Chaceledon's nose.

She felt sick when she saw Rheinhard's hand moving toward his knife roll, but still didn't interfere. But she couldn't watch as Rheinhard wielded the knife, twisting her face away, eyes scrunched shut, until she heard Chaceledon's shocked cry.

Aetes' magic withdrew as Rheinhard stumbled away, and the priest went to check on his lover.

But when Rheinhard shouted over his shoulder, saying that he'd asked Abtatu to make her immortal instead of him... Seteta paled.

She glanced at Chaceledon, her face still stony. She hadn't decided whether to approach him yet or not, but Rehema quickly crossed over to her first.

"Abtatu offered Rheinhard the unfulfilled lifespans of the Volkers who died early," Rehema explained. "Rheinhard refused them, and asked they be given to you instead. I am still determining what it means. If the years were actually transferred to you or not. Do not fret over that yet. It changes nothing for your life right now."

Seteta's mouth tightened as she glanced back at Chaceledon. "Unless I have to live with tantrums like that for millennia," she murmured quietly.

Ausar came up next to Rehema, and reached over to squeeze Seteta's shoulder. "Things like this are why we do our betrothals this way, so you have time to see each other's flaws, and deal with any truly problematic issues. You can end this here. You do not have to go back with him."

Seteta sighed. "I will speak with him first, before I make any decisions."

Rehema reached for Seteta's hand and held it for a moment. "Do not be afraid to voice your limits," Rehema said. "You will know what decision you should make by how he reacts."

"Yes, mut,"
she answered, then sighed again and walked over to where Chaceldon sat balled up in the sand.

Seteta watched him silently for a few moments.

"You will never speak of my family, my tribe, or my people, like that again," she said at last, her voice scathing and her eyes expressionless. "No matter how upset you are, or how angry you are at Rheinhard, or even possibly myself.

"Shame on you. For using your claws--the claws Abtatu restored for you--on your son. You don't deserve them."


There was so much more she wanted to say. But right now, she doubted he would hear it. He was hurt and needed his wounds tended. She didn't move away, but waited silently for him to calm himself.



"How can I help you?" Aetes asked as he fell into step next to Rheinhard as the human stalked toward the oasis. Blood was dripping from Rheinhard's face where Chaceledon had scratched him. One arm hung limp... but Aetes would wager the emotional pain was greater than the physical pain at the moment.