Private Tales Shifting Sands

A private roleplay only for those invited by the first writer

Seteta

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Seteta smiled, laughing softly, skipping ahead of him on the road, looking around as well. Vulpesen's answer was... adequate. Definitely a beginner's answer. She took in the same scenery around him, cataloguing what she saw in comparison to his answer.

"You are not wrong," she spoke at last, turning back to face him as she slowed her steps. Her magic worked best when she was in contact with earth, but she wasn't about to walk barefoot through the hot sand on a strange road. Even in the sands that she knew, walking barefoot was a bad idea. Too many things lurked beneath the surface of it.

But right now, the wind picked up enough sand that she felt it pelting her hands lightly, and she reached out to that, connecting with the magic, and then used it to guide her steps as she walked backwards, so she didn't even so much as strike a wayward pebble with her foot. At most, all Vulpesen would be able to sense was that she was channeling magic. It was not visible to any others, though Seteta could, in a way, see it herself, as if it granted her an extra sense.

"There is so much more, though," Seteta continued. "These sands used to be mountains. And even on the mountainsides, there is topsoil and clay. Beneath the desert sands, if you delve deep enough, there is yet more clay, and minerals, and deeper yet there is magma. All of it we can use, if you are keen enough to know it and recognize it."

She stopped walking, and held out a hand. "Come," she said. "Take my hand. Feel the magic, and learn the earth, at least a little. I suspect you'll quickly reach your capacity, though. Using magic is like using a muscle, and every different type of magic works a little differently. You want to build strength slowly, carefully, so you don't injure yourself."

Vulpesen
 

Vulpesen

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Leaning forward just slightly, Vulpesen listened to Seteta's advice, his eyes moving between each feature that she mentioned. Her words made sense to him. Even if he couldn't see through the sand and stone, he knew what lay beneath it.

Reaching out to take the offered hand, the warlock closed his eyes and let his senses extend out from himself, using his teacher as guidance. In some ways it was familiar. Varos' gift of darkness gave him certain fundamentals. He could sense the shadows around them, feel what created them, and he knew how far they reached. Now, he was trying to do something similar. Rather than sensing the intangible darkness, he focused instead on the stone and sand around him. It was still strange, the presence still fuzzy and unfamiliar to him. In some ways, it was like trying to grasp smoke.

While he had never joined their ranks, he was starting to believe in the words of the wilders back home. They had often said that stone was one of their harder disciplines. Nature was alive. A million heartbeats in only a few miles. Trees reached for the skies, rivers ran, and fires consumed. But stone was unmoving... it was cold and heartless making its soul harder to find. "It is slow... but I believe I'm starting to get a sense of something." Varos had given him the capacity for the schools of the elements, but it was up to Vulpesen to put it to use and gain the knowledge.

Seteta
 

Seteta

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Seteta closed her eyes as Vulpesen's hand slipped into hers. Just as she could sense the earth, she could sense the magic within him as well. All of it. She flitted past the ones that didn't match hers, until she found the one that did.

It was small, weak, buried under many others, and she could tell that he was trying to use it.

"It is slow... but I believe I'm starting to get a sense of something."

Gently, Seteta reached for his magic with her own, coaxing it out, closer to his awareness. It would be painless, but with as many other magical abilities as he had, she was sure he felt something as she did it.

"You're trying too hard," she murmured. "Don't try to feel something specific or a large area, or something far away. Reach down and touch the earth, and see what you feel, with both your hands and your magic, beneath your feet."

Vulpesen
 

Vulpesen

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Feeling the entanglement of the magical currents, Vulpesen found his focus a little easier to cling to. Seteta grounded him in a sense, an idea which made Varos chuckle when it popped into his bondmate's head. Ignoring his master and following the woman's advice, Vulpesen stopped seeking out the earth around him and focused instead on what was within reach.

With her guidance, the sand seemed to come alive around him. The sand on his boots brushed over the leather with the wind like waves on the shore. Leaning down, he placed his hand against the warm grains and his senses came alive with stories. Stone was everlasting, but to call it unchanging would be a disservice. Mountains were worn down to sand. Sand compacted and turned to stone. The ground lifted over the ages and formed its ranges. Stone was everlasting, but it changed... What changed was never truly dead. With the revelation, Vulpesen's eyes flashed brighter as understanding and power surged through him.

"I always figured earth was unmoving... but sand is stone, and it flows like water. As ice melts, stone weathers,"
he murmured for Seteta to hear. While he understood the difficulties that his people had with stone, he found himself amused at how easy the answer was to grasp.
 

Seteta

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Her magic still twined with his, Seteta felt it, the moment Vulpesen truly tapped into the magic of the earth. His reach was small, for now, but it was no longer a weak echo of power.

"I always figured earth was unmoving... but sand is stone, and it flows like water. As ice melts, stone weathers," he murmured for @Seteta to hear.

"Earth is far from unmoving," Seteta answered. "It's just that it moves slowly compared to everything else."

Opening her eyes again, she glanced at him with a playful smile crinkling the corners of her eyes. "Do you want to see it how I do?" she asked, gripping his hand a little more firmly as she crouched down next to him and pressed her other palm to the earth.

She tugged at his magic then, pulling it into her own. Several others in her Abtati tribe had been talented with earth magic as well, and they'd often done manipulations in concert with each other. It allowed for greater magic with less individual exertion. But it was intimate. When magic was an innate part of you, it became closely entwined with your soul as well.

"If it's connected to the earth, we can feel it, even if we can't manipulate it," Seteta explained, and then connected the magic within them to the magic of the earth.

Awareness rippled out from where they stood, almost like a shockwave. She didn't delve deep this time--even at her strength, delving deep and wide at the same time took quite a large effort--just outward, on the surface.

The immediate vicinity was easy. Everything was sand, maybe a pebble or boulder here and there. But once she reached past that, to the north there was the Seret mountains. The feel changed from shifting sand to solidity as the roots of the mountain emerged, and on top of that was richness. Fertile soil, feeding the roots of the grasses and the occasional small tree that dotted the mountainsides.

Further east, the feel shifted from coarse sand to smooth silt and mud as her awareness reached the banks of the Baal-Asha river, and there she did delve a little deeper--in a sense. While she couldn't feel the water, she could feel the sediment particles within the water, swept along the river before they tumbled out of range. Sometimes the sediment bounced off reeds and river grasses, or even a fish, and when that happened she could sense those.

There was more, so much more--any people or animals who stood on the earth, springs and oases hiding just beneath the surface of the sands--but she didn't want to overwhelm Vulpesen.

Slowly, she drew the magic back in fading out the awareness instead of cutting it off entirely, and began loosening the tether between her magic and Vulpesen's. She kept her hand in his, knowing from experience that having your magic suddenly expanded by one with greater skill than yourself could be disconcerting as your senses bounced back to what they were supposed to be.

"That will be all for today, I think," Seteta said. "We've quite a ways to travel yet, and we don't want to exhaust ourselves early in the day.

"Tell me what you sensed, when I took over," she said as she began to walk eastward again.

Vulpesen
 

Vulpesen

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Following her hold on his hand, Vulpesen surrendered to the woman's senses. Sight rolled over him like a high tide, threatening to drown his mind in knowledge. Allowing Seteta to guide him, Vulpesen simply focused on how the magic moved through her, trying to emblazon it into his mind so that he could replicate it later. "Well, this could come in handy," he chuckled. Shadows were good for telling him secrets, but they only reached so far. To tell who stood on the stone around him would aid quite a bit in keeping him undetected by those in his path.

Feeling the ebb of the magic when Seteta pulled back, Vulpesen took a deep breath and refocuses his mind to answer her question. "It was as if I could see everything. Those hiking the paths by the mountain. The grains that flowed, carried by water and wind. I could feel how the earth provided to the nature around it, giving nourishment to the trees." As he spoke, he gave her hand a small squeeze, an unconscious gesture as he readjusted to his local reality. He'd heard of Widlers who could sense a mouse from miles away. Now having had a taste of that magic, he found himself nearly overwhelmed. "Knowing to do that might have saved me a few scars in the past."

Seteta
 

Seteta

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"Knowing to do that might have saved me a few scars in the past."

"It can come in handy at times," Seteta agreed with a nod. When she was certain he'd settled back into his surroundings, she released his hand.

They continued to walk, sometimes speaking together for quite a while as she would point out different aspects of the landscape--sometimes even something as simple as what appeared to be a stray rock--and the purpose that it played in the environment.

"Everything relies on the earth," she said. "Even the birds in the air cannot survive without stopping to rest, and even the insects and rodents they consume rely on the earth, and the trees which shelter them are fed by the soil. I've known some skilled in magic who demeaned those with such a basic skill as earth magic, but they have forgotten that everything comes from the earth, and everything returns to the earth.

"The only element which may have might overpower earth is water. Even fire can barely damage earth, but water can sweep sand away in an instant, or it can carve a scar slowly over time."

In a lull in conversation late in the afternoon, Seteta suddenly motioned for Vulpesen to stop walking and held a hand up to hush him before he asked why. Slowly, she crouched to the ground, her eyes locked on a point south of them, and once again touched her palm to the earth. Then she smiled and stood.

"Come," she gestured, walking quickly over the sand. After several moments, she led him to a rather unusual sight.

A solid spike of sand jutted out of the ground, and impaled on it through its skull was a small, rabbit-like creature. "Dinner," Seteta said as she knelt and plucked it off the spike. "This is a chuma. They roast well."

She held up the dead creature by its ears, heedless of the blood smearing her hand. The face looked much like a traditional rabbit or hare, but it had four ears instead of two. It had fur on its back and sides, short and nearly the same color as the sand. On its belly, though, was fine silvery scales, to protect it from the hot sand during the day.

"Be careful of those," Seteta pointed out the long spurs on its back legs. "They contain venom."

Seteta pressed her hand to the earth again, and the spike of sand crumbled back into dust.

"We'll go back to the road and travel a little further," she said, "and then make camp for the night."

Vulpesen
 

Vulpesen

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Listening to her views on the importance of earth in nature's balance, Vulpesen found himself agreeing with her. it was a careful balance between the elements and everything had to play its part. He had simply never given much thought to the land as anything but something to stand on.

When motioned to stop after some time of silence, Vulpesen held still, his eyes looking out into the surroundings as he listened for any signs of danger. When to get on the move, he kept pace with her easily, though his feet seemed to make no sound even as they traversed the rough sands. Upon reaching her kill however, he relaxed and allowed noise to return to his gait as he approached. "I remember a buddy chasing one once. I guess its a good thing that he didn't catch it."

Leaning forward to look at the spurs, he pondered the use of such a creature. "How potent? And I assume you know how to prepare it without me getting some rather unpleasant food poisoning." A wily grin touched his lips at the final comment before he continued to trail behind her, letting her knowledge set the path for their resting spot. "You seem used to living in the wilds. I take it you travel a lot."

Seteta
 

Seteta

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"The venom won't kill you," Seteta answered, laughing softly at the sly grin Vulpesen gave her. "At least... not as long as you're already healthy. And the simplest way to take care of avoiding it in cooking is just to cut the back legs off before you skin it."

Once back to the road, Seteta moved at a slower pace. The goal now was to find a suitable resting spot for the night, rather than covering distance. There wasn't a true oasis nearby, but she'd sensed a small spring with some vegetation around it earlier.

"You seem used to living in the wilds. I take it you travel a lot."

Seteta cast an amused glance back at Vulpesen over her shoulder. "Don't know much about the Abtati, do you?" she teased.

She slowed her pace a little more and came alongside Vulpesen.

"The Abtati are nomadic more often than not. Some raise goats and camels, and others guide travelers or caravans through the desert.

"In the desert, it is the strong and adaptable who survive. Even with earth magic, there's only so much you can alter something from its original state. The wild desert of Amol-Kalit has been the home of the Abtati for millenia. This--" Seteta gestured at the desert surrounding them "--is tame compared to the sands I grew up in."

They walked a little further, their shadows stretching long and thin before them as the sun neared the horizon behind their backs. Seteta paused, kneeling down and pressing her hand to the earth again, then nodding with a satisfied smile behind her headscarf. "There," she pointed northward off the road. "About half an hour in that direction, we'll find a spring. It's not large enough to support an oasis, but I sensed no one else there. We can feast and rest in peace."

Vulpesen
 

Vulpesen

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"Makes it all the better for use. Perhaps I'll study it some time. See what it does to the body." Admittedly, it was a morbid curiosity that the warlock held as he peered at the creature. "I suppose the simplest method often is the best for removing toxins from such creatures," he commented upon her answer.

As to his knowledge on her people, Vulpesen offered a shrug. "Can't say I had much time to meet with the locals any time I was in the area." Hearing of their adaptive lifestyle however did ring some bells in his mind and Vulpesen found himself thinking a bit of his own home. "My own people are also taught to live with nature, though we do tend to live in civilization. Its something of a cultural thing. Though I'd be interested to know just what made your home so much worse. I'm not from the average forest myself."

The idea of an oasis was a welcome one to say the least. While he'd always prefer it over a frozen tundra, the desert certainly wasn't one of his favorite places to travel, not least of all due to the lack of water leaving him in a constant state of parched and dry. "I won't say no to a meal and a rest. We've been walking awhile and sand isn't exactly as kind as a paved road."

Seteta
 

Seteta

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"Would you like me to rub the soreness from your legs later?" Seteta threw Vulpesen a playful glance over her shoulder when he mentioned walking on sand instead of paved road, then turned her gaze forward again with a soft laugh.

"It isn't so much living with nature as in spite of it, at times," Seteta chuckled softly as she changed her course northward and led the way to the spring. She fell silent for a moment, thinking of what to tell him about the desert where she'd grown up.

"Do you know of Oox-meqtwl?" she asked. "The Forbidden City, I think it's called in the Common tongue? My tribe mostly wandered the lands west of there. Oases had several days of travel between them, and otherwise the nearest water was the ocean. But the city... it has been abandoned for longer than the Abtati have history, and the things that roam it are deadly. Sometimes they wander into the sands as well, and we would have to deal with them.

"A few times a year, we would travel to Annuakat," she continued. "We would sell rare hides we'd cured from the creatures we'd killed in the desert, and several of us would split off from the main group and lead caravans through the desert, either to the other cities or explorers wanting to test their mettle at Oox-meqtwl."

Seteta smiled at the sight of the spring ahead of them when they crested a sand dune and she saw a fruit-laden palm tree. "Look, we'll have fresh fruit to go with our chuma," Seteta said. "The dates are ripe. We just have to get up to them."

It was just a few more minutes of walking till they arrived. "Sources of water are sacred places in the desert," Seteta said. "Whoever you happen to meet here, whether friend or foe in the sands, is a brother or sister as long as you're at the water. Break that pact, and you'll become a fugitive in the desert, whether you are man or elf, or any other creature who can make decisions beyond instinct alone, and both Abtati and Kaliti will hunt you down."

She had been right earlier, though. They were the only ones at the spring that night. "Do you happen to have a tent in all that stuff you're lugging around on your back?" she asked. "If not, I can take care of shelter after dinner."

There was little to start a fire within the desert, but at every established spring or oasis in Amol-Kalit there was a solid slab of black rock with a flat surface as smooth as glass. "That is for cooking," she pointed it out to Vulpesen. "It absorbs the heat of the sun and stays hot for hours even after dark, so don't touch it with your bare hands. For whatever reason, it never burns food, though. But you still don't want to cook your hands."

She kneeled near it, and laid the chuma out on the ground, working quickly at skinning and cleaning it with a smaller knife she kept at her waist. She carefully tossed the dismembered back legs toward Vulpesen. "The venom sends searing pain through your body, and paralyzes you for a few hours," she said. "I have no idea if it has any other uses, or how long it might be stable, but you're welcome to take those if you have a way to preserve them."

In a few short minutes, she'd dressed the chuma, cutting off its head, removing the front leg bones, and spatchcocking the body before sprinkling it with salt and seasoning she kept in a small tin in her pocket. It sizzled when she laid it across the cooking stone. It would take several minutes to roast on one side, and then she'd need to flip it over.

She buried the chuma's skin, bones, and head in a spot away from the spring, then nodded toward the water. "It's probably not deep enough for a swim, but we should at least be able to wash up. If you don't mind looking around for a dipper or a bucket, then I don't have to foul the whole spring to clean my hands."

Vulpesen would find one of those items near the opening in the rock face where the spring water poured out.

Vulpesen
 

Vulpesen

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Seteta's suggested drew a raised eyebrow and a smile from Vulpesen. Opening his mouth to offer some sort of quick witted response however, he found himself too tongue tied to bring one to bear and thus he simply closed it with a small chuckle. '[Point for her, hmm?]'

"Oox-Meqtwl," he rolled the word slowly over his tongue, doing his best to get it right. Even for one who could speak fluent elvish, it was an odd word that took some attention to get right. "No, I can't say that I have." Hearing the perils of such a place, he found himself reminded of some of the beasts back home. Idly, he wondered how the animals of each land would fare against each other. Certainly there were few creatures that could stand to a carmuuth. "Your people sound quite helpful. Nice to know there are others with an aim to help, especially in places like this," he gestured to the dunes around them. "As for fighting at the haven, I try not to get in trouble when its not warranted."

Finally finding their resting place, he found a stone to sit on, heaving a small sigh of relief as his legs finally had a rest. While he was used to travel, walking all day in the sun with a travel pack was less than kind to one's legs. "Aye, I've got a tent. Not exactly a large shelter though. Mostly use it for times when my hammock doesn't have a place to hang." Sliding the bag from his shoulders, he pulled a roll from one of the surfaces before setting it beside him.

Raising a hand to catch the legs, he was careful not to get his hands too close to the envenomed barbs, peering over them with interest. "That certainly sounds like it could come in handy. Thank you." While he let Seteta focus on cooking their meal, he produced a few tools from his bag and set to work, carefully probing and cutting at the legs until he found the venom stores which he would then start to extract and empty into a set of vials.

As he finished with his task, he rose to start the one she had given him. Smiling at the placement of the bucket, Vulpesen waved his hand, condensing and pulsing the shadow behind the bucket to send it flying into his hand. "This oughta do it." Taking some water into the bucket, he quickly washed his hands of the viscera from the legs before offering it to his companion for her own use. "Ingenuity and teamwork seem to be some rather important virtues out here."
 

Seteta

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Seteta quirked an eyebrow, then shrugged a little when Vulpesen said her people seemed to be helpful. "We do what has to be done to ensure our survival later," she stated.

She nodded when he mentioned his tent. "Smaller is better. It holds body heat closer. The desert gets cold at night with nothing between the earth and the sky."

When Vulpesen did... something with the shadows and called the bucket to him, Seteta couldn't help but laugh a little as her eyes widened. "That's handy," she commented as she washed her hands after him. "And yes... ingenuity and teamwork," she repeated. "Eventually, everyone out here will encounter a problem they've never faced before, and while being trapped by yourself in the desert in a sandstorm is a difficult feat of survival, it's far more manageable if you have a tribe around you."

Then she laughed again. "Or if you happen to be able to manipulate earth."

Shaking the water off her hands, she took the bucket and dumped it away from where it might run back into the clean spring, then replaced the bucket where it belonged. She unwrapped her headscarf and looped it loosely around her neck, revealing her dark hair braided and pinned into a coil on the back of her head. Kneeling beside the small, quiet pool of water, she scooped it up to her lips with cupped hands and drank quietly for several moments before rising with a contented sigh. The water was cool and sweet, welcome after a long day on the sand.

She gave Vulpesen a quiet smile, then headed back to the cooking stone to check on the chuma. Satisfied with its progress, she carefully grabbed it by the front legs and flipped it over to finish cooking, then she turned and eyed the date tree.

The sunlight was fading quickly, and even with acute elven eyesight, it would be difficult to tell the ripe dates apart from the unripe ones in the dark. She sat on one of the rocks, and quickly unlaced her soft leather boots.

"You might want to get your tent set up before it's dark," Seteta suggested before going to stand at the base of the date tree.

The sand was already losing the heat of the day, though the sun still peeked above the horizon. It was pleasantly warm under her feet instead of scalding hot, and Seteta smiled as she opened herself up to the magic in the earth again and felt the warm sand wrap around her feet and ankles as she directed it to move her up. Within a moment, she was lifted by an arm of sand several feet high, to where she could reach out and pluck the dates as if the tree itself had bent down to reach her. She gathered quite a few into one of the loops of her headscarf before lowering herself back down to the desert floor.

"There." She smiled, carefully removing the headscarf from around her neck so that the dates stayed contained in the makeshift bag. "Sweet and savory for our meal tonight."

Seteta quickly checked the chuma, smiling when she saw that it was done. She cut it in half down the spine, and handed one to Vulpesen.

She settled down on a rock, dangling her half of chuma by the front leg to let it cool enough to comfortably eat.

"Tell me about your home," Seteta requested. "This is my first time traveling outside of Amol-Kalit."

Vulpesen
 

Vulpesen

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"Well, I do hate the cold." Undoing a tie on the roll he had produced earlier, Vulpesen spread out the canvass, revealing several sticks lying within. Quickly, he set to work, erecting a small tent. Within moments it would be obvious that it wasn't made for any sort of long stay with very little room within it. Indeed, there would be just barely enough sleep for two people to sleep within though the space would prove quite intimate.

"The pack is stronger than the wolf,"
he mused at her observation on desert life. The wilds were a dangerous place no matter what form they took, and just when one thought they had faced all that nature could offer, it always seemed that evolution would kick in to produce some new terror. Her musings on the use of magic also brought a nod of agreement from him. As limited as his new powers were, he was already finding uses for them to aid in his survival.

Turning away from his nearly finished tent, he found himself momentarily transfixed as she finally took down the scarf. Returning her smile, he went back to his work, finishing just about the time that she was headed towards the tree. Walking to join her, he watched her display of magic, finding himself impressed at the solidity of the sand.

Seating himself on a stone, he waited for her to come over with the food, offering his thanks as he took his own half. "My people live deep within the Ixchel wilds to avoid any unwanted attention. The trees are so high that they'd make this one look like a sapling," he said, motioning towards the date tree. "We make our houses among them and try to trample upon nature as little as possible. That's probably why I took to being a rigger on the sea. Spent so much of my life climbing that it just came natural." Finishing with his past, Vulpesen took to the chuma, quickly tearing into it with a ravenous apetite. While quite good at ignoring and disguising his hunger, when food was placed around him it was often quite difficult to hold back after such a long day of travel.

Seteta
 

Seteta

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"I've heard there's trees like that in Falwood," Seteta said as she checked the temperature of her chuma. "That's where I'm going next when we reach the Elbion stone. But I've heard if there's any place that could rival the treacherous desert sands, it's the Ixchel Wilds."

She began eating her own meat, eyeing Vulpesen's eager appetite as she did so. "Should I have caught more?" she asked, laughing softly.

They ate quietly for a while after that, and eventually when Seteta had just a pile of chuma bones and date pits on the sand beside her, she stood and stretched then went to bury the chuma bones and scatter the date pits. Some of the pits might take root and grow, or something would come along and eat them.

She went back to the spring to wash her hands again, reveling in the feel of the sand beneath her bare feet. Seteta tapped into just enough magic to feel the earth directly around her, to make sure that she wasn't going to step on a hidden insect nest or something venomous as she walked.

At the spring, she washed her face and her hands, then dried her hands on the abaya she wore over leggings, both made of soft linen, then returned to the rock she'd sat on while she ate. She pulled a comb carved from goat horn out of a pocket and set it in her lap. Then she began deftly pulling the pins out of her hair and untwisted her braid from its coil to undo it and comb through her long hair.

"What's it like, sailing the seas?" she finally broke the silence as she tended to her hair. "I've seen ships at the port in Annuakat, but have never been on one."

Vulpesen
 

Vulpesen

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At her comment on his appetite, Vulpesen cleared his throat, making a small effort to slow himself. "Sorry, I tend to burn through energy a bit faster than most. I'm sure the dates will take care of the rest. If not, I carry rations just incase the land doesn't provide enough." Resuming his meal, it wasn't long until he'd amassed a pile of pits and bones which he then aided her in burying.

Once the remnants were taken care of, he returned to the rock upon which he was sitting and laid down to enjoy the warmth of the stone and the sun. "Its beautiful," he began, looking up to see her dark hair cascading down as it was freed from its braid. "More blues than you can imagine. Though theres also a few more greens than you'd think coming from those that haven't gotten their sea legs." A wily grin touched upon his lips as he remembered a time when such a description included himself. "But its an odd thing really. You feel trapped and imprisoned, knowing that until you reach land, you'll be stuck on the same old ship, eating the same old rotten food, with often times the same more so rotten company. But that feeling of imprisonment comes with the freedom of knowing that your ship can be going anywhere. Every port has a new feel to it and it never gets old seeing what else our wide world has in store."

Seteta
 

Seteta

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"It wasn't a criticism on your eating habits," Seteta smiled gently. "Merely an observation. Chuma will be plentiful, so we can catch two a night from now on. The dates, though, will be less so. But we can pick some in the morning to take with us."

As she combed her hair, she listened to Vulpesen describe life on a ship, and the sight of the ocean, laughing quietly as he talked of sea legs and seasickness.

"It sounds similar to nomad life," she said when he finished. "Although the oases and market towns and caravan routes are rarely changed. But still... there's almost always something new to be seen. Some new textile or food brought in from some far-off place. Probably often brought by those ships.

"I've seen the ocean," she murmured quietly as she tucked her comb back in her pocket, and coming to sit closer to Vulpesen as they talked. She sat on the sand, though, and leaned back against the rock, tipping her head to look up at the stars as they began slowly appearing in the night sky as the sunlight faded away.

"The western edge of the desert meets the sea, but of course you probably know that," Seteta laughed at herself. "Maybe you've even sailed along that coast. At sunset, it's sometimes hard to tell where the sand ends and the water begins, when both turn orange from the light. When you've spent your life on the sands, sometimes it seems that the ocean is the only thing that might be able to eclipse it."

She fell quiet then, letting the warmth of the stone at her back soak into her flesh. She hadn't missed the glances Vulpesen gave her when she took off her headscarf and when she let her hair out of its braid. He was... interesting. A curiosity. And while she wasn't interested in a long-term relationship of any kind--and she doubted he would be, either, based on what he'd said about his goals and his... patron--she'd never been one to deny herself physical affection if all parties were interested.

But she was curious to see if he would make the first move, and when. They had several days of travel ahead. There was no rush.

After a little while, she yawned and stretched, lacing her fingers together and pushing her hands over her head, palms up, as she arched her back. Then she released her hold, and hopped to her feet.

"We'll make better time tomorrow if we're traveling before the heat of the day sinks in," Seteta said, then smiled over her shoulder at Vulpesen. "Good night."

Quietly humming to herself, she retrieved her boots from where she'd sat earlier, and crossed over to the tent to duck inside.

Vulpesen
 
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Vulpesen

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"And here I thought there wouldn't be much hunting in the desert." In truth, while happy for the meal, there had been some concern within him about the size of the meal and once more his thoughts were brought to home in the grand banquet halls and tables lined with food in every tavern. Memories of a life lost but waiting to be reclaimed.

"There are quite a few similarities between the waves and the dunes. Though I prefer to sail than walk the desert,"
he noted at her observations. "And the sea is so much larger than you might think. I'm sure you're aware of its size... but its not until you're weeks out seeing nothing but the horizon that it really hits you."

Falling into silence with Seteta, Vulpasen simply stared at the stars for a moment, his gaze roaming between the constellations as they appeared while he said his silent hellos to each of his midnight friends. Land or sea, the stars were a constant and favored companion for a traveler.

The sounds of shifting sands took his attention from the skies and Vulpesen looked down to see the woman rising up to head for the tent. "I'll likely be joining you. We've still got quite a long road haven't we." His eyes peered after her and then towards the small tent. When he had bought it, it had been for long travels, chosen for its light weight. As such, he had never given much thought to sharing it and while he certainly didn't mind spending some time in closer company with the elven beauty, there were certain... difficulties in regards to his position.

['There'll be no hiding in there,'] Varos whispered in his mind, easily catching his warlock's thoughts.

['I don't suppose so.']

'[Are you going to tell her?']


['Gonna have to.']

['How?']


At that, Vulpesen paused, his golden eyes simply staring at the shelter for a moment. Then, heaving a sigh, he stretched out, enjoying the pleasures of the pops in his back before rising up. ['Not a clue.']

['Better figure it out. The desert is a cold place and I'm sure that bedroll will be quite warm.']


Rolling his eyes at his invisible patron, Vulpesen made his way over shortly behind Seteta as she entered. Ducking his way in after her to the cramped space, he cleared his throat. "My master despises lies, and so he greatly prefers that I not tell them, but that doesn't mean that I'm always open with certain facts. You see, the shadows require a price in the form of secrets, so I'm afraid I haven't been completely forthcoming with you."
 
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Seteta

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Seteta had remembered to grab her headscarf at the last moment, now emptied of dates it had temporarily carried. When Vulpesen entered the tent, she was tucking it and her boots into a far corner of the tent and emptying her pockets of hair pins and comb and a few other items that it just wasn't pleasant to sleep on.

She twisted around to face him, sitting on the floor near the edge of the bedroll, her right leg extended out as she began to unfasten the sheath for her knife from her thigh. She looked up when he cleared his throat.

"My master despises lies, and so he greatly prefers that I not tell them, but that doesn't mean that I'm always open with certain facts. You see, the shadows require a price in the form of secrets, so I'm afraid I haven't been completely forthcoming with you."

Seteta raised a brow. "If you would be more comfortable if we slept separately, making a second shelter will be a simple matter," she offered. "A secret isn't a lie. Abtatu knows I haven't told you everything about myself either." She couldn't help but smirk a little.

Vulpesen
 
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Vulpesen

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Her calmness despite his words was certainly a comfort and making his way over, he seated himself next to her, easily kicking off his boots while he unfastened his cloak. "I'm sure it would be, but truth is, its nice to let go every once in a while." Shedding the cloak, Vulpesen also allowed his mind to fully relax, lifting the glamour that he had become so accustom to wearing.

For Seteta, there would be a shimmer around the seemingly elven man before his true form were revealed. Many of his features stayed the same. His ears remained pointed though shortened form the length of most elven species. His face and body kept the same basic structure and features, only now there were some things that had been added. As he yawned, a pair of canine fangs revealed themselves, his nails semed to grow a bit longer with dagger like points, and his ears noticeably flicked like an animal's searching for any sounds within their desert environment. Most notably however would be the bushy black tail that rose up from behind him, tipped with white and swaying slowly back and forth. "None quite sure if we're actually elves you see. I'm a zorren."

At home deep in the Ixhcel wilds, he wouldn't be surprised if his race was completely unheard of. Though most excursions generally included fighting in some army or another to further some righteous cause. It wasn't his race that made his secret a concern, but rather the drastic nature of the secret itself.

Seteta
 
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Seteta

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Seteta finished unstrapping her knife and set it aside with the rest of her belongings, then shifted to face Vulpesen as he sat beside her.

"I'm sure it would be, but truth is, its nice to let go every once in a while."

She crossed her legs and leaned forward eagerly with a smile. "Don't worry, I won't bite," she teased. "Unless you want me to."

Then she quieted, and watched as the air around him shimmered. She saw little things change--just tiny adjustments to his features and body that made him almost more animal, but still a little elven--though the only thing that made her heart pound a little was the lengthening fangs. For a moment, she wondered if she'd taken up with vampire for a traveling companion, but then the... tail appeared, and her momentary fright turned to fascination.

"Wow," she murmured quietly. She almost craned her neck around to try and get a better view, and her fingers twitched against her leg, resisting the urge to touch. Her curiosity was nearly boundless, but no matter his appearance, Vulpesen was still Vulpesen, and she wouldn't turn him into an object through her actions.

"None quite sure if we're actually elves you see. I'm a zorren."

"A zorren?" she repeated the strange word, reaching up to tuck her hair back behind her ears. "Can't say I've ever heard of one of those before, but there's a lot of things I don't know yet."

Vulpesen
 

Vulpesen

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"Careful, I might bite back," he said with a grin. Seeing her fingers twitch, he laughed inwardly to himself and moved his tail forward, its length easily crossing towards her. The fur would be soft to touch, bushing up momentarily should she take the opportunity to test it. "We prefer to stay in our home of Veradune when not on the march."

Leaning back slowly until he lost balance, Vulpesen landed with a soft whump on his bedroll. "Figured it would be a good idea to let you know now. We're in a bit of a tight space and you've already shown a penchant for stabbing fuzzy things that you can't see." Gazing up at her, he fixed Seteta with a fanged grin.
 

Seteta

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"Careful, I might bite back," he said with a grin.

Seteta's eyes glinted playfully. "Promise?" she smirked, but the smirk quickly turned to a childlike glee when Vulpesen shifted his tail around where she could reach it.

After a final glance to make sure that touching was okay, she reached out. At the first touch of her fingers, the whole thing fluffed up, and she paused. When the fur settled back down, she gently stroked her fingers along it, from about the last quarter to the tip. "So soft," she whispered.

Then she laughed when Vulpesen flopped onto his back.

"Figured it would be a good idea to let you know now. We're in a bit of a tight space and you've already shown a penchant for stabbing fuzzy things that you can't see." Gazing up at her, he fixed @Seteta with a fanged grin.

"Are you sure you're not just a giant puppy?" she asked, swinging her legs out long and reclining on her side. She propped herself up on an elbow, watching him curiously. Hesitantly, she reached out to feel one of his now-exposed fangs.

"I only stabbed something for dinner," she pointed out with an irate but amused huff. "But... it is probably best that I know. I... had an encounter with a starving Zephyr wolf once. It didn't really go well for either of us, and if you'd lost control of the spell you used to hide yourself in your sleep, I may very well have attacked your tail."

Vulpesen
 
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Vulpesen

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He chuckled as she stroked his tail and murmured at its feel. "If only you knew. My master has taught me a few tricks regarding my canine status. And we zorrens often refer to ourselves as guard dogs of the world." He held still as she reached out to his fang, allowing her fingers to trace against it while he held the smile. When closed, his mouth hid them quite easily.

"I've learned to keep the spell on in the back of my mind, even as I dream. Unfortunately, its merely an illusion. Thus why I keep my back guarded. And shaking hands can be a bit problematic." Emphasizing his point, he lifted his hand and traced his claw like nails lightly over her forearm. While he was careful not to cut her, she would still feel the edge of his nails trailing along like the tips of knives. "We use them for climbing trees... and fighting on the few occasions when a weapon isn't in hand." With his tail now freed of its obligation to her hands, he lowered it down, settling the brush down to curl lightly around her back.

Seteta
 

Seteta

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"You're either terribly effective or terribly inefficient if you call yourself the guard dogs of the world, but few people know of you," Seteta teased, lowering her hand from his face.

"I've learned to keep the spell on in the back of my mind, even as I dream. Unfortunately, its merely an illusion. Thus why I keep my back guarded. And shaking hands can be a bit problematic."

"Abtati use illusions too," she said, shivering lightly as Vulpesen's sharp claws trailed over her forearm, though not from fear. "But I've only ever used them to project the images in my mind out, not to maintain an illusion about myself."

"We use them for climbing trees... and fighting on the few occasions when a weapon isn't in hand."

Seteta laughed. "I'll let you pick the dates in the morning, then!"

She fell quiet when Vulpesen's tail settled over her, curling around her back. Her eyes darkened, and she caught her bottom lip between her teeth as her gaze traveled over his face.

"Are you ever going to kiss me?" she smirked, but not unkindly. They'd been playfully flirting since he complained about his legs and the sand, and she wanted to know if the tension was leading to something, or if she should distract herself otherwise.

Vulpesen