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Exalted: A Tale in the Time of Tumult

Exalted: A Tale in the Time of Tumult

In you is the soul of a hero, powered by a divine spark granted by the gods. In you is the power to change the world and right ancient wrongs. In you is the inherited destiny and legacy of a legend. Go forth young champion and conquer. [Full]

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Topics: , demi-gods, fanfic, fantasy, magic, white-wolf, and wuxia-theme (Add Tags »)

Copyright: The creator of this roleplay has attributed some or all of its content to the following sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/exalted
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Introduction

I am currently building a discord group for this roleplay. If your interested in joining please pm me for an invite. It'll be easier for me to explain this mess that way ^^;;

Creation
Spanning A world of splendor and majesty. Of horror and conflict. Forged by Primordial's vast beyond comprehension. Maintained by Gods glorious in their divinity. Besieged by the Fair Folk capacious and mad as the Wyld that spawned them. Plotted against by Demons bitter in their defeat. Undermined by Ghost vengeful in their deaths.

And defended by Exalted legendary in their deeds!



In the beginning there was the wyld, an endless and formless sea of unshaped and raw essence that churned and twisted in an unending tide of madness with out cause or function. Then from the wyld came the primordial's, the first of all shaped beings. So immense were these beings that each of their bodies was a world unto itself. And their existence housed such great spirits that they each possessed not one soul but in fact a multitude to define their form, with these souls each possessing a cadre of lesser souls of their own. At the primordial's coming, around them would swim the Rashaka, which mortal men would come to call the fair folk out of fear. The fair folk were appalled by the primordial's, for their defined forms polluted the purity of the wyld's chaos. In their outrage they made war upon the primordial's, seeking to destroy all shaped things. A war that would continue even onto this very day.

The primordial's would tire of these quarrels with fair folk and desired a shelter for themselves to wait out the eternal storm of chaos. And so they reached out to take hold of the shifting strands of essence around them and wove it into a new shape and from their labors sprain Creation, and to maintain their Creation so that the wyld's currents would not erode it back into madness the primordial crafted the Gods. After these mighty spirits were constructed the Primordials then made mortals, who's prayer's and worship would provide quintessence and ambrosia which the gods craved, and they made mortals weak so that they would depend upon the gods who in turn would have incentive to do their duties to ensure mortal survival and the continued devotion that came from them.

With their labors complete an themselves satisfied with what they had constructed the primordial's sat down to play their games. But all would not be well for long, as the Primordial's would prove to be callous and neglectful slave masters. As many mortals and gods suffered it would not be long before the Unconcerned Sun, mightiest of the gods, would suggest to his fellows the overthrow of their creators. But the Primordial's had foreseen this possibility and laid upon the gods a Geas in their creation that denied them the right to raise a hand against their makers. But this Geas did not apply to mortals, for because they had been made frail the primordial's were certain that nothing mortal could ever harm them.

Seeing this folly the gods came with a plan. They would take the greatest of mortal champions and empower them with a fragment of the god's own divine spark. And from this act these champions became the Exalted, demi-gods chosen of the Incarnae. They were the Solars, chosen of the Unconquered Sun, named Lawgivers and leaders of the exalted host. They were the Lunars, chosen of Luna, named Consorts of the Solars and their prime warlords. They were the Sidereals, chosen of the five maidens of fate, named Viziers and advisers. And they were the Terrestrials, chosen of the Five elemental dragons, named Dragon Blooded and most numerous of the exalted host.

With the backing of the gods behind an them the exalted did battle with the primordial in a cataclysmic war that shook Creation. An uncountable number of lives were lost and many things that once graced the world were lost, never to be made again, but in time the long battle came to an end and the exalted stood victorious. At the request for mercy by Gaia and Autochthon, the only two primordial's to side with the gods against their siblings, the exalted sealed those primordial that surrendered away in a prison made from the flesh of their own leader king malfeas, whom they turned inside out.

This act done and their makers banished, the gods granted rulership over the mortal world whilst the divines to residence in heaven. Under the leadership of the exalted, creation would enter a new golden age of wonder fulled by great works of sorcery and just leadership. This was the first age of the world and all knew properity in its time. All was not well though, for those primordials that had been slain during the fighting found their souls to vast and to complicated to pass into the wheel of reincarnation. Never designed to handle it's makers deaths, this celestial devise was damaged by their demise and the slain titan's souls fell into a dark abyss that formed around them as they became the Neverborn, beings that lie eternally dying. From their tomes in this new underworld the Neverborn spitefully cursed the exalted that had slain them. This curse slowly wormed it's way into the hearts of the exalted, where it festered and worked to corrupt them.

Most heavily did this curse effect the solars who's virtues turned to vice. The once just lawgivers slowly fell into paranoia, greed, vanity and cruelty. Were once they used their magics to aid their subjects they then used them to wreak such terribly torments in their growing madness. In the face of their leaders growing madness the sidereals concocted a plan. They whispered secret thoughts of rebellion into the minds of the dragon blooded whom had already grown disgruntled in their service to the solars. Embolden by their puppet masters the dragon blooded rose up in a bloody uprising known as the Usurpation, murdering their solar masters and driving their lunar mates towards the edges of creation where the wyld lapped at it's shores. To prevent their solars reincarnation and forestall an eternal war the sidereals sealed their souls in a prison of magical jade and sank it beneath the inland sea before using their magic's to erase all memory of themselves from the world. With none left to oppose them the dragon blooded established a shogunate in place of the old solar deliberative and again the world knew peace if only in a lessened state. In time the dragon blooded found themselves unequal to the task of maintaining the sorcerous wounder of the first age, many of which required solar magics to maintain or function. Eventually dragon blood would fight dragon blood over the dwindling magical resources of the first age, only periodically uniting under a strong shogun until the next succession crises split them into civil war once again.

In the shadows of the underworld the Neverborn were not silent either. When the solars had been slain some of their ghost had passed through the underworld. The Neverborn came to them with offers to regain their lost powers and a chance of revenge against their murders. Free from the corrupting influence of the Great curse in their deaths all save thirteen of the solar ghost refused. Those that accepted became the deathlords, powerful undead servants who established dominion over the underworld in their master's name. When the dragon blooded fell into infighting the deathlords saw their chance. Using terrible dark arts they conjured a horrible disease known only as the great contagion and set it loose upon creation where it swept across the land slaying nine out of every ten living things it touched. Then they gave word to fair folk beyond creations shores and informed them of the living worlds weakened state. Taking the chance given to them the Rashaka launched a great crusade against the world and ravaged creation destroying much of it as they went. In the final moments before the worlds doom, one young ragon blooded officer braved the magical defenses ancient fortress of the old solar deliberative. There in she found a mighty super weapon known as the sword of creation which she activated to rain destruction on the fair folk armies and route them from creation.

With the forces of madness in full retreat this woman crowned herself empress of the blessed isle and wielded the power of the fortesses weapon to force adherence to her rule. A cult known as the Immaculate order who praised the dragon blooded for their defeat over the 'Solar Anathema' proclaimed her a messiah and legitimized her rule. Thus was founded the Realm and the beginning of the Second age. For seven and a half centuries the Scarlet Empress has maintained her rule over the Realm. With the secret backing of the Sidereals Her nation has become the greatest of all the world, the one true remaining super power in creation with all other nations paying tribute to her save those rebellious few in the scavenger lands to the east. Once again the world knew an age of stability. Once again though, this would not last.

In Realm Year 763, during an inauspicious time of the year known as the calibration, the scarlet empress vanished without a trace. With know clear successor in line for the scarlet throne, the eleven great dynastic houses that claim familiar blood from her all find themselves piloting against one another as the realm faces what may be it's first civil war. At the edges of the wyld the Lunars smell the growing weakness of the realm and ambitiously plan their return to creation proper. Beyond these shore of creation, the fair folk stir. And in underworld the Deathlords have gain decided to tip their hands. First they sent their own servants to find the jade prison and smash it open to steal the shards of solar essence, and harvest it for their own uses. With these shards they have forged a new breed of exalted, the Abyssal exalted, chosen of oblivion, the Deathknights and servants of the Neverborn. The Deathlord known as Mask of Winters was first to put these new servants to use, sacking the city of Thorns and establishing a foot hold in the living world.

All is not lost in this final moment however, as the servants on the Deathlords were only successful in acquiring half of the solar shards in their theft. The rest escaped their clutches and fled to find new host worthy of their power. For the first time in thousands of years, solar exalted are once again being born in the world.

You are one of these exalted. Born into a Time of Tumult. Great deeds and great trials await for you. What tales will you write for the future?



The starter plot


For you it was an odd occurrence. Not impossible, for you may have seen many strange things since you exalted, but still you found yourself put off by the sight of a crystal winged Osprey bird descending towards you in the night. Clasped in it's beak was an elegantly bound scroll inscribed with your name. Curiosity and courtesy bid you to open the spirits message, and within written in silver ink you read these words.

Honored Exalted
Your presence is requested at the spire of Fakharu, Censor of the Celestial Buracracy and Dragon of Water, for a matter of personal interest. We have heard of your previous exploits and beleive you may help us in a mater most dire. If you will listen to our petition then journey to the nearest sea shore. A ship will be there at the sunset of your arrival and bare you to your destination.


Just as the letter had stated, when you approach the sea at twilight, you find a ship built of ivory awaiting for you with no crew and piloting itself under it's own mysterious power. As you sit aboard it takes to the sea and disappears into mist and reappears at an entirely new port where you find another holding the same letter as you. Slowly as the night moves on the boat acquires more passengers one by one as it makes it's way westward with supernatural speed.

The truth of the matter is this. In the Great western ocean a trio of siren sisters have long suffered in servitude under a storm mother named Sikunare. Eventually freed of her, they sought vengeance for her cruelty during their tenure under her care. As it just so happens, they learn that the Western Celestial Censor Fakharu, a lesser elemental dragon of water, had fallen in love with a mortal woman named Amarel and taken her to be his mistress. Knowing they lack the power or support to threaten Sikunare on their own, they kidnap Amarel in order to blackmail Fakharu into starting a conflict with the storm mother.

The demands are simple, use his position as Celestial Censor to arrest Sikunare on whatever charges, real or imagined, and ensure her downfall. This is an impossible request for Fakharu however, for Sikunare holds a few debts Fakharu owes to her due to their own past dealings. More dearly though, for friendship could be forgotten in if need be, the storm mother has powerful friends in the Celestial Bureaucracy, some equal in rank to Fakharu himself. Knowing that she could use secrets that she had gleaned from his time with her against him if he pressed charges, the censor finds his ability to comply with the Siren's demands difficult and dangerous to try. Therefor in desperation, Fakharu sends out a call for you, and number of other scattered exalted, hoping to secure your aid in finding the siren's hiding place and rescuing his lover before the 28 day deadline approaches.

Rules

The rules for character creation are currently embedded inside of the character sheet.

As for the actual rules of the roleplay itself I will split into Magic and Combat Rules, Character Advancement Rules, and General rules.

Charm use, Essence, Damage and Recovery, and Combos

Charms are the primary power used by the exalted, and each is a technique that allows them to preform super natural feats. In general when using charms you're character is limited to one charm per post, unless it is part of a combo (more on that later). All charms cost essence motes from your essence pool, which will be listed on your character sheet. More powerful charms may also cost points from your willpower pool or health pool. All Charms should be listed with a essence cost, a stat attached that charm and a description of what it does.

Generally there are two factor's that determine a Charm's strength. The first is the amount of essence used to power the Charm. The more essence pumped into the Charm the stronger it's effect and the higher the likeliness of the exalt to succeed at what they are attempting. There is a hard limit on how much essence a character can use for one charm, which can be no greater than the relevant ability/attribute that govern's it. Further more you must master a charm of a lower essence cost before you can master one of a high cost in the same stat.

The other factor governing Charm strength is how long that last. Charms have an activation length on them, depending on what they do. Generally speaking, the charms that have a shorter duration will have more concentrated power in it's use the have greater impact that those will a longer duration. For example an athletics charm with a duration of 'one action/instant' will allow the exalt to leap across a river in a single bound, while one with with a length of 'one scene' will merely allow them to run atop the water unimpeded by it's current. Some specific charms may remain active indefinitely via 'committing' essence, effectively reducing the exalt's maximum essence pool until the charm is deactivated. Charms don't stack with other charms unless specified. Charms never stack with themselves. You can't use a Charm twice for twice the effect.

Charm lengths are: Instant, (#) of actions/post, one scene, one day, or until released.

Charm Combos are a specialized trump card that allows the exalt to activate some charms in rapid succession, a trick unique to them alone. Combo however have a high cost as not only must the exalt pay the essence/willpower cost of each charm in the combo, the exalt must also pay an extra 1 mote surcharge per charm that is part of it. When activating a combo the exalt must activate the ALL the charms that are part of it or the combo will automatically fail. You may not begin play knowing a charm combo, but may develop them as the game goes on.

Artifacts are magical devises or pieces of equipment with unique properties. The most common type of artifact's are made of the five magical metals, which each correspond to one of the exalted types. Any exalt can utilize these tools, but if they make use of one made from the magical metal that resonates with their specific type reduces the cost of activation/attunemeant by 1, to a minimum of 0. More of this will be explained elsewhere.

Sorcery/Necromancy, a dangerous but powerful tool in the exalted's arsenal. The you must decide at the start of play if your character is a sorcerer in order to use it, though it is possible for your character to learn the skill later on if you desire. Sorcery allows the exalted to work magic outside the themes of their caste type and aren't governed under the rules of charms, effecting the environment around them rather than worked through the exalts body, and in general is much more powerful than charms in their effects. The cost for this is that sorcery in general is also vastly more expensive to activate than charms and takes longer to activate, and if the sorcerer is interrupted in their casting it can have catastrophic results.

-Terrestrial Circle
The highest level that dragon blooded may learn. Though it is the most limited in scope it only a fool would soft at it for spells of this level are the fastest to cast and thus the most reliable sorcery to use in combat. Spells from this circle take two post to activate (if in combat). One to start the incantation, and the second to deploy it's power. In order to activate a sorcery the exalt must pay the essence cost plus one point of willpower.
Spells of this level can: Effect an area the size of a large house or manor, create mundane objects of non precious material in small quantities, summon demons of the first circle through an extended ritual at night, and lay a curse/blessing upon someone who is either in range or the sorcerer has a personal object belonging to that person.

-Celestial Circle
The highest level Sidereal's and lunar's. Abyssal's may use magic of this level as well but can go no further. More potent in it's effect's than the terrestrial circle at the cost of being more costly and complex to cast. Spells of this circle requires three post to be cast (if in combat), one to start the incantation, a second to bind the energies, and a third to deploy the magic. The exalt must pay the essence cost plus 2 points of willpower to activate this magic.
Spells of this level can: Effect an area the size of a village, Create mundane object's in large quantities of non precious-materials or small quantities of precious materials, summon a demon of the second circle through an extended ritual on the night of the no moon, or create temporary objects of lesser magic that will fade after a month.

-Solar Circle
The highest level of Spell casting, limited solely to use by the solar exalted. Magic of this level can be world shaking, but is highly focus intensive in it's casting and exhausting in it's essence cost. It requires four post to activate spells of this level in combat. One to begin the incantation, a second to draw upon the vast energies to power the spell, a third to bind that energy, and finally a fourth to deploy that magic. It requires 3 points of willpower along with a large amount of essence to activate spells of this level.
Spells of this circle can: Effect an area the size of a city, Create Mundane object's in a vast hordes if made of non-precious materials or large quantities of precious materials, summon a demon of the third circle through an extended ritual on the starless night of calibration, and create object's of lesser power that can last for a year or object's of greater power that last for a week.

There is a flip side to sorcery though. A dark rival that equal's it in power that was born of the abyss of the underworld. Necromancy, while not innately evil, is an unnatural mimicry of sorcery. While sorcery has the power to create and alter, Necromancy has the power to destroy and corrupt. More on this later once I have time

ANIMA BANNER
Each exalt has what is known as an 'anima banner', a totemic icon that represents an aspect of their soul. The Anima banner starts out invisible and immaterial, but as the exalt burns mores of peripheral essence it grows in intensity and becomes increasingly visible. This image remains so for a long time fading at a rate of one stage per scene (or or every 10-15 minutes) with the exception of the first and final stages
  1. 1-2 motes spent: At this stage the Characters cast mark appears on their forehead for and glitters if it catches light allowing some to see it from certain angles. It is possible to hide this mark under head ware or wrappings and the character may act with stealth normally without penalty. This stage fades after one hour.
  2. 3-4 motes spent: The character's caste mark glows brightly and will shine through anything placed over it, and any who look at her face will find it impossible to mistake her for what she is.Stealth charms and other such magic's used to mute sensory impressions automatically fail, however the character may still use the natural environment to hide themselves, with slight difficulty. (Abyssal caste marks will instead start to bleed rather than glow)
  3. 5 motes spent: The exalt's body is surrounded by a coruscant aura bright enough to read by in the dark, and the caste mark is alight as a burning brand on their forehead. Stealth becomes impossible at this stage.
  4. 6 motes spent: The character is engulfed in a brilliant bonfire of Essence, which burns from his feet to at least a foot above their head. Objects exposed to solar anima's might become bleached or faded as if left in the sun for several days. Most vibrant are the Terrestrial anima's for theirs become physical conduits for their elemental aspect. While their personal effects are safe, as are other supernatural creatures like fellow exalted, anything in close proximity to the dragon blooded will be bombarded with destructive elemental energies. In each case the result is that the exalt is now visible for miles and their caste mark will become engraved in the minds of any who see it.
  5. 7 motes spent: At this stage the character is surrounded by a burning image totemic to his person- a warrior bight be surrounded by a grand and mighty bull, a magician by an elaborate mandala, and so on.This effects fades during any post the character makes that they do not spend essence bu leaps back into existence from the bonfire of their anima when they again spend peripheral motes.

Recovery
The exalted were created by the gods to be tireless warriors, able to undergo great stress and harm. However even their semi-divine bodies be strained by great forces. To that end the gods made sure to imbue the exalt flesh with a natural regenerative quality that can recover from all but the most sever maiming with out scaring.
  • Essence recovers at a rate on one mote per hour if the exalt is preforming low intensity activities, or two per hour if the exalt is taking time to rest.
  • Abyssal exalted recover essence differently as they can't naturally recover it while in the living world (on the flip side, only the can respire it normally in the underworld while non-abyssal can't). To circumvent this, they may drink the blood of the living to regain essence.
  • Health recovers at a rate of one hit point per two if they are receiving medical attention and bed rest. They can't regenerate limbs on their own, but bones will set themselves into place and gaping holes will slowly shrink. Mortal's take MUCH longer to heal and suffer complication's without medical assistance.
  • Willpower recovers at a rate of 1 per day, similar to health. The exalted may also earn back a point if they do something in line with their nature or motivation, such as a caretaker healing the sick.
  • Exalts are highly resistant to non magical diseases, with the worst they suffer being sore throats and slight sniffles.
  • Exalted flesh is incredibly tough. Even without the use of charms a completely naked exalt would find their skin resisting stab wounds about as well as a leather vest.

Character Advancement

Attributes cost [current score x5] xp. Or [current score x4] for Caste attributes of lunar's.

Abilities cost [current score x3] xp, except for cast/favored abilities. Those costing [(current score x3) -1].

Charms cost 10 xp, except for caste/favor-based charms which cost 8 xp.

Developing A combo cost 1 xp per charm that is part of the combo.

Raising your essence score cost [current score x8]


Code: Select all
[left][b]Name[/b]:[/left][right][b]Type and Caste/Aspect[/b]:[/right]
[left][b]Nature[/b]:[/left] Chose from this list http://whitewolf.wikia.com/wiki/List_of_Archetypes
[right][b]Anima Banner[/b]: (Born from the personality and character of the exalt, it is an iconic image that flairs behind them when they burn great amounts of essence)[/right]
[b]Totem Animal:[/b] (Lunar's only. Their 'spirit animal' if you will and one of the lunar's 'true' forms. )

[center][img]image[/img][/center]
[hr][/hr]
[center][u][size=170]Attributes[/size][/u][/center]
All Attributes start with one point in them, and are divided into categories of Physical, Social, and Mental. Of these categories you will decide which is your Primary (8 points to spend on raising attributes) Secondary (6 points to spend) and Tertiary (4 points to spend). This is most important for lunar's as their charms are drawn from their attributes rather than their abilities. No Attribute may be raise above 5.
[hr][/hr]
[center][b]Physical[/b][/center]
[center]STRENGTH (#) DEXTERITY (#) STAMINA (#)[/center]
[center][b]Social[/b][/center]
[center]CHARISMA (#) MANIPULATION (#) APPEARANCE (#)[/center]
[center][b]Mental [/b][/center]
[center]PERCEPTION (#) INTELLIGENCE (#) WITS (#)[/center]
[hr][/hr]
[u][size=170][center]Abilities[/center][/size][/u]
Pick three that are not your caste abilities to become favored abilities. You will have 25 points to spend here but at the bare minimum 10 of these must be spent on Either caste or favored abilities.You may also pick up to five 'specialties' that exist as more narrow focused versions of the other types. No Ability can be raised above 5)
[left][b][size=150]WARFARE[/size][/b]

ARCHERY---------
ATHLETICS-------
AWARENESS------
DODGE-----------
INTEGRITY-------
MARTIAL ARTS---
MELEE------------
RESISTANCE------
THROWN---------
WAR--------------[/left]

[right][size=150][b]LIFE[/b][/size]
CRAFT-------------
LARCENY----------
LINGUISTICS------
PERFORMANCE---
PRESENCE--------
RIDE--------------
SAIL---------------
SOCIALIZE--------
STEALTH----------
SURVIVAL---------[/right]
[hr][/hr]
[center][size=150][b]WISDOM[/b][/size]
BUREAUCRACY
INVESTIGATION
LORE-----------
MEDICINE------
OCCULT--------

[size=150][b]SPECIALTIES[/b][/size]
(optional: A subgroup within a larger ability that you have a particular aptitude. Such as dancing specialty from performance, sword from melee etc )
____________
____________
____________
____________
____________[/center]
[hr][/hr]
[center][size=170][u]YOUR LIFE[/u][/size][/center]
[hr][/hr]
[center][size=170][b]PERSONALITY[/b][/size]
(Write here)

[b]Motivation(s)[/b] (Motivations are the personal aspirations and ambitions of a character.
[list]
[*][/list]

[b]VIRTUES[/b]
(The four Virtues are core to your characters beliefs and desires. You draw strength from them when you set your self to a difficult task and give you motivation towards your goals, and they define you as a hero to the masses. But be warned, the higher the virtue the more difficult it is to ignore for the sake of pragmatism. Resist holding true towards your beliefs of right and wrong too often and you may just snap. Each virtue has one point in it, and you have five additional points to distribute how you choose, but non may go above five.  )
COMPASSION A measure of empathy and forgiveness. Characters with high compassion find strength in helping others but find it difficult to ignore another's plight.
TEMPERANCE is your self control and honesty. High temperance allows you to resist temptation or coercion, but leaves you troubled when you break oaths or tell lies.
CONVICTION  represent's how hardened the character is against hardship and stress. High conviction allows you to endure (and inflict) great pain and suffering, but makes it hard for you abandon a course of action or cause that you have committed yourself too, or admit when you are wrong.
VALOR measures you bravery and self confidence in the face of danger. High valor helps to resist fear or plunge into danger but makes it hard to ignore a challenge or insult, or flee from a foe.

[b]LIMIT BREAK[/b]
(No, this not like final fantasy. The nature of the great curse the defeated primordial's placed upon their vanquishers periodically warps their virtue into twisted inversions in moments of great stress. When an exalt has been force to ignore his or her own principles one to many times they under go episode of madness in which the corruption of the primordial curse comes to the surface. When this 'snap' occurs the exalts primary virtue (the one that's ranked the highest or which ever one you prefer if they are of even rank) becomes compromised into either a twisted reflection of itself or inverted as a polar opposite of itself. The exalt is then forced to act in the terms of this new corrupted virtue until the effects of the curse finishes burning itself out. This effect can last anywhere from hours to DAYS. Though to avoid forcing too heavy a restriction on the player I'll put down a guide line that the character's break down should at least last until the end of the current scene, and after that it's up to the player to decide how long the episode will last.

Examples of Limit breaks are berserk rages, to uncontrollable crying, to a sudden bout of extreme apathy, paranoia, hedonism or whatever else you can come up with. Seriously, so long as it at least tangibly be attributed to a particular virtue in a corrupted state you can go nuts on the concept.)

[b]MERITS[/b]

[b]FLAWS[/b]

[hr][/hr]
[b]PHYSICAL APPEARANCE [/b]

[b]BACKGROUND[/b]
Your early life? (what was your childhood like)

Your family and friends? (Did you grow up in a dynastic house of the realm tutored by servants? Child of nomadic barbarians weaned on the shamans stories? A street Urchin stealing purses with their friends for bread money? Who raised you and taught you what you know?)

Reaching Maturity? (However you wish to define 'Maturity'. Anywhere from your early teenage years to your adult life. When did you learn to accept responsibilities and the value of hard work? (Or maybe how to avoid it.) )

The events that led up to your Exaltion?(This is a dramatic shift in your characters life. A rebirth with new godly powers. A change that cannot be undone, triggered by important events that you either may or may not have had control over, and a new destiny laid at your feet, for good or ill. )

The after effects? (What did you do with your new found powers? How did you react to becoming what you are now? How did the people around you react?)

And finally how did you get where are you now and what are you going to do?
[hr][/hr]
[size=170][u]MAGIC, GEAR AND TALENTS[/u][/size]
[u]Essence score:[/u] 2 (all exalt's start play at this level)
[u]Health:[/u] 0/0 (your stamina stat+3, can be raised further with an endurance charm called ox body technique. Mortal's only get their stamina in health.)
[u]Willpower pool:[/u] 0/0 (Equal to the sum total of your two highest virtues.)
[hr][/hr]

[b]Essence motes[/b]
The magic of the exalted in quantified as 'motes' which can be 'burnt' to power their charms. All exalted have two pools Personal and Peripheral. Personal essence can be burned without causing the exalt's anima banner to flair and is the first one to recharge when the exalt rest to regain their power.

Essence pools are calculated slightly differently between the exalted types.
Solar's and Abyssal's essence pools: Personal (half your willpower+your essence score+2) Peripheral (your full willpower + (essence score X 5))
Lunar's and Sidereal's Essence Pools: Personal (half your willpower+your essence score+1) Peripheral (your full willpower + (essence score X 4))
Dragon Blooded Essence Pools: Personal (half your willpower+your essence score) Peripheral (your full willpower + (essence X 3))

[b]CHARMS[/b]
All exalted start off with 7 charms, based of their abilities (or attributes for Lunar's).

Each 'charm' is a magical trick designed to enhance or augment the exalt's natural talents in super natural ways. The more powerful the charm the more essence it will cost to activate, with some requiring the exalt to also burn a point of willpower as well, or hit points. All charm also require a certain level of skill and spiritual enlightenment in order to learn, necessitating the exalt to to raise their essence score and their abilities/attributes if they wish to acquire stronger charms.

[b]COMBOS[/b]
A combo is a specialized form of charm use that allow rapied fire activation of multiple charms at once. Using a combo allows the exalt to overcome the '1 charm per post rule' but only if they have invested the xp to learn that combo first. You may not have a combo at the start.

[b]SORCERY[/b]
You may choose to exchange one of you charms to unlock the first level of sorcery, the terrestrial circle which will mark you as a sorcerer at the start of play. You will start off with only one spell that you have mastered, but may exchange more charms for more spells. For all other cases, spells are treated the same as charms xp coast wise, and are treated as 'occult' charms this purpose. You require an essence score of 3 and at least 3 in occult to learn the first circle of magic.

[b]!!!!!BONUS POINTS!!!!![/b]
You will have 10 Points to spend on any stats you wish. You may also choose to spend 4 BP to gain another charm/sorcery (or 3 if it is a favored ability/attribute). Also you may spend 3 points to start with a piece of magical gear, or 6 to raise your essence score by 1

[b]PREFERRED FIGHTING STYLE [/b]

[b]EQUIPMENT AND POSSESSIONS[/b][/center]

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Character Portrait: The Storyteller
The Storyteller played by Wake
Me, the GM. I will be taking a more hands on route in directing the role play and the npc inhabitants of this world.
Character Portrait: Ioa
Ioa played by LookingAtPerks
The runner who keeps on running.
Character Portrait: Ashen Sky
Ashen Sky played by Wake
"Clever is the predator that stalks it's prey. More clever is the hunter that bait's his predator."
Character Portrait: Astrid Grünewald "Only a fool defies the Nightfangs, only the wicked deserve their wrath."
Character Portrait: Lux Fiala Life can change in an instant, whether for better or worse; don't let it break you!
Character Portrait: Calliope Lordes Know thy self, know thy enemy.
Character Portrait: The Artisan That Which Souls Cling "Your flesh is weak, but malleable... After the operation it shall be neither."
Character Portrait: Nimin "Zeri" Hedrox If your past is lost to you, then you should fight that much harder for the future.

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These poor, unfortunate souls were once a part of this great world, but have been abandoned. Why don't you consider viewing their profiles and making a decision on whether or not you can roleplay them accurately?


View All »Places in Exalted: A Tale in the Time of Tumult

The West

The West by Wake

A vast expanse of Ocean that stretches into infinity, broken only by scattered islands that grow fewer the farther one goes. Many myths tell of what lies beyond it, but few that venture that far return.

The Blessed Isle

The Blessed Isle by Wake

The Heart of the world. The seat of the Scarlet Empresses power. Nesting place of the Dynastic Dragon Blooded families. Once the homeland of the gods before they retired to heaven, now it houses the greatest empire in creation. The Realm.

The North

The North by Wake

Short summers and long winters are a staple of this place. It is Grasslands dotted by hills and forest are trotted by herds of animals and the nomadic tribes that hunt them for meat and furs, before it all gives way to an endless tundra of ice and snow.

The Underworld

The Underworld by Wake

The stale and stagnate realm of the dead. Here Ghost roam, eking out a pale existence in eternal twilight. Here the Deathlords Hold sway. And here, dead titan's slumber fitfully in their tombs.

The Scavenger Lands

The Scavenger Lands by Wake

Also known as the confederation of rivers. A series of city states, republic's and principalities that defy the realm's influence, even as they squabble amongst each other.

Yu-Shan

Yu-Shan by Wake

The divine city of Heaven where the celestial court of the gods resides.

Malfaes

Malfaes by Wake

The demon city. Built of brass, surrounded by an endless desert and sealed outside creation within the body of the dethroned primordial king. Here the yozi and their demon spawn reside

The Wyld

The Wyld by Wake

The swirling maelstrom of chaos that laps at realities shores. The fair folk reside here, in the land where dreams and reality mix, and few that venture in return unchanged by it. If at all.

The South

The South by Wake

A land of vast and glittering desert sands. Beneath it's dunes lie countless treasures in gems and spices, and is spattered with the blood of those that have sought to clam it.

The East

The East by DevilishFae

Flush with Towering plants and massive beast ripe with the abundance of nature's bounty and a haven for those that resist the realm. As beautiful as it might seem to the outsider's eyes this place holds many hidden dangers beneath it's canopies.

Creation

Creation by Wake

None

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Arcs are bundles of posts that you can organize on your own. They're useful for telling a story that might span long periods of time or space.

The Archipelago Of Exiles

You have been called by Fakharu, lesser Elemental Dragon of Water and Celestial Censor of the West, to aid him in a personal matter. His lover, a mortal named Amarel, has been kidnapped and and held as leverage to blackmail Fakharu into starting a dangerous political feud with one of the local spirit courts. He needs your aid to save her and bring her home, before the 28 dead line approaches. Little do you know, this task will get a lot more complicated than a simple search and rescue by the end.

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Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ioa Character Portrait: Ashen Sky Character Portrait: Astrid Grünewald Character Portrait: Lux Fiala Character Portrait: Calliope Lordes Character Portrait: The Artisan That Which Souls Cling
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Spoiler: show
Current Motes: Personal Pool: 4/6 Peripheral Pool: 13/13
Current Willpower: 5/5
Current Health: 5/5
Current Ongoing Charms active: EMOTION REVEALING SCENT, TRUTH SCENTING METHOD


A smile appeared on the dragons face as three of the exalts gave their answer. "It relieves me greatly to hear that from each of you. The Archipelago lies 600 miles westwards from here, past the very same court of the storm mother whom the sirens seek to spite. I will gift you the same ship you arrived upon to provide transport there."

Ashen noted that by their own proclamations the three had more or less volunteered the group as a whole. He didn't mind though, he was planning on taking the job anyway and he recognized that the dragon had been maneuvering them towards this in the first place. Invite them into his house, feed them a fancy breakfast, give Lux a fancy dress, then make his request after they'd all sampled his hospitality when it'd be rude to refuse. A simple ploy that he honestly should have expected as soon as the word 'brunch' had come up. He had been making note of the emotional signals of each member as they spoke along with his charm for snatching out lies, and though he detected a smidgen of untruth from Fakharu his concern for his lover was genuine.

The more interesting responses came from the other exalts in the room. From Lux he could tell her outrage was real and in it was twinged a hint of regret? That was interesting, but it didn't seem to be targeted towards the dragon but herself. Perhaps she had experience with people being kidnapped before?

The more interesting scents came from Astrid and Artisan. Both had a mix of pity and contempt, with Artisan emitting a bit more avarice. Both of them seemed less interested in helping the dragon than they we're in either the reward or the challenge of it. He also detected a hint of disdain from them aimed towards Lux of all people. That one threw him for a loop and he couldn't figure what it was she did or said to earn that.

Regardless the changing moon decided to ask a question that the others hadn't. "So this archipelago... why is it magically hidden? And who is exiled there?" There was a pause from the dragon before he answered. "That is... a long story. The archipelago gets it's name for the fact that rogue spirits flee there for sanctuary. Lesser Gods who have fallen out of favor with the celestial order, elementals that have offended their spirit courts, even some demons that have escaped from hell or broken free of a sorcerers bindings. All of them try to escape punishments for some crime or another and the wrath of the law and seek the isles that dot that place to lay low. I will admit that I have found it politically pragmatic to ignore that stretch of the ocean, for there are those high in office in heaven that desire it be kept hidden for their own reasons. And as such I know little of the on goings there. I do know that Sikunare, the storm mother to the west, makes a business of smuggling such spirits in there and will likely know more, though I would caution discretion if you seek to meet with her."

Ashen grimaced at the thought of that. Entering a storm mother court, it was not a situation he relished the thought of. Especially not under current circumstances. For some reason he gave brief concerned glance at Calliope. She'd likely be the one at the largest danger if they went that route. "Any supplies you'd be willing to spare for this venture?"

The dragon nodded, likely expecting a bit of an extortion up front under this guise. "I can loan you a few items that may help, but for that I would like to know what strategy you plan to employ." Ashen pondered this a bit. They'd need to act fast if they wanted to nab Amarel safely, but how'd they'd do it will probably require a plan based around the groups strengths. He gave a glance to the others for suggestions.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ashen Sky Character Portrait: Astrid Grünewald Character Portrait: Lux Fiala Character Portrait: Calliope Lordes Character Portrait: The Artisan That Which Souls Cling
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Collab Between Wake, Jak, Sep, & I!


After hearing the dragon's request, Calliope, too, offered her support. The noble creature smiled. "It relieves me greatly to hear that from each of you. The Archipelago lies 600 miles westwards from here, past the very same court of the storm mother whom the sirens seek to spite." Calliope licked her lips at the thought of confrontation. "I will gift you the same ship you arrived upon to provide transport there."

Newly invigorated after her meal, Calliope sat on the edge of her seat as though she was ready to jump up and depart at any moment. Ashen probed for more information, and in return, Fakharu explained the pertinence of the island, presenting the difficulty it might pose for forming a proper plan.

She could feel Ashen's eyes on her once more. It was a good thing she was pink, because her renewed embarrassment would have been all too apparent. For a moment, Calliope's mind lingered on the gentle, albeit awkward gesture Ashen had displayed earlier. Her heart raced. She stared deeply into the table as she relived the moment. For some reason his additional glance only embarrassed and enraged her further. She wanted to violently demand an explanation for his behavior, but instead, Calliope forced herself back to the topic at hand.

Ashen Sky however caught the scent of her embarrasement and subsequent anger. He flinched slightly even if she didn't return his stare, for his magic made it clear to him that he was the source of her sudden turmoil even if he couldn't identify the cause. He was going to have to come up with an explanation for his actions later, even if he couldn't figure it out himself.

Calliope followed the same train of thought Ashen did. What was Fakharu willing to supply for the safe return of his betrothed? It seemed he was unwilling to reveal that information without a more defined road map. "I would offer the assistannce of the Gladomeenn armmy, but I regret your quanndry may nnot cause enough alarmm to warrannt the accordance of mmy King and Queenn." Calliope made eye contact with the beast.

"I am inclinned to ask, dear Fakharu." She began cooly, wiping her greasy hands off on a napkin. "How could you let your beloved escape you so? Be you nnot all mmighty inn your lannd?" Calliope knew not what effect her agnostic approach may invoke.

The dragon's face remained neutral, but his clawed hand did ball into a fist. He showed no sign of feeling insulted even as he spoke. "While I welcome the sentiment Calliope, I feel that it is probably for the better that your nation didn't get involved. The movement of an army would be neither swift or quiet and this endeavor requires both. As for how Amarel was abducted..." He paused to rub his face. Though hidden under his palm their was a mixture of anger and remorse in his face. "She had been collecting pearls along the island's beach when it happened. I have always allowed her to wander the grounds as she chose, and she never felt the need to take a guard with her. Perhaps I should have insited she keep an escort on her walks, but that is in hindsight now. I have come to suspect that the sirens may have had help in snatching her away though, for the island is normally carefully watched from the sea and the air."

Calliope could sense the injury she had induced, but given the circumstance, she felt entitled to hear his answer. She tried to be apathetic, in true Gladomeen fashion, but she recognized his pain. A pang of guilt and anguish washed over her, while she also maintained a neutral expression. She said nothing in reply, simply because she had nothing to say.

"In anny case, I suggest we seek allies on this 'Archipelago'. What is this saying you have? The friennd of mmy friennd is mmy enemmy? The ennemy of mmy friennd is mmy...? No mmatter." The clumsiness of her attempt at the phrase was amplified by her Sky accent. "Surely we can enntreaty the assisstannce of sommeone with our commonality. Knnow you any other person with contact onn this island?" She asked Fakharu.

Fakharu nodded slightly and seemed to consider the idea. "While again I must admit that I have intentionally avoided scruitiny the isles and thus have little knowledge of its inhabitants, and that Sikunare knows more than I, I can offer a few 'gifts' to sway favor for you if needed." He placed his elbows on the table and leaned in. "As I said my position allows me much power over the west and in the celestial order and a word of my command can grant someone much. I can provide letters of pardons for past crimes for those spirits hidding from the law, positions within my own court, material wealth, vauluble information..." He paused for a moment to consider something. "If possible you might even be able to negoitate with the Sirens themselves, or who ever they are working for. After all there must be other thing they would want then simply the disgrace of one storm mother. And if we are lucky the kiddnappers themselves might not all be in agreement by this point. If any of them show remorse or a willingness to aid in her return then I can promise to be... lenient towards them." Their was a small glint in his eye at this. "But above all remember that the immortal inhabitants of the isles were exiled for some treachery or another, and though that will likely make the desperate another treachry is neither too much or too little to expect from them."

Lux returned to her seat after her rather emotive response to Fakharu’s request, having a little bit of difficulty doing so due to the damned corset...perhaps it’d be a little bit too impassioned, but she could not help it. And it was while she was settling herself that she listened as Astrid, Artisan and Calliope confirmed that they too would lend their abilities to Fakharu’s cause. Certainly, they had different motivations than herself, but it was still comforting for the little Dragon-Blooded to know that she wasn’t going this alone after all. She listened as the conversation continued, keeping herself quiet for its duration, doing her best to absorb everything she was hearing as Calliope spoke at length with the Lesser Dragon, and the latter revealed that he could offer up little actual information on the Archipelagos, but did mention the notion of providing materials with which the party could use to sway the favor of the islands’ inhabitants....

So, they were launching into a discussion on strategy? Lux slid down in her seat a bit—she’d been the first to volunteer herself to this cause, but that didn’t mean she was going to be the first to come up with a sound plan on how to go about rescuing Amarel. Strategy was not her strongest area of expertise—typically she tended to think on the fly and acted more on instinct. She was better at improvising, but Lux knew that it would be best to come up with some kind of plan; this was on a different level than the situations she usually delved into.

Bribery and whatnot wouldn’t be the worst way to go about things, but as Fakharu had said, the Archipelagos were full of beings that’d committed one crime or another. Lux brought her hand up to her chin as she ruminated on the information provided....

“Strategy and such things are not my forte, I won’t try to fool anyone on that matter....” she started, quietly, “But, I do not think we would be any lesser for having material we could use to persuade some with. Given that we are lacking information on the Archipelagos, we’ll likely end up having to take a mixed approach to this, though.”


Biding his time to speak, Artisan finally decided to put his two cents in on the matter. "What's done is done Lord Fakharu, my concolences on the kidnapping of your beloved, but we will have her back to you soon. As for the Archipelago... it is... complicated to say the least. We could use whatever resources you have to spare. Making allies is likely the safest way to get your beloved Amarel back to you. Other methods of rescue may have incidental damages, which I'm sure you'd prefer to avoid. As for treachery, I assure you..." He paused, pondering the exact wording of what he was about to say. Failing to find a phrase that properly conveyed what he meant, he decided upon, "Well, I'm no stranger to treachery. Whatever machinations they might have, I'm sure our little group will stay out of the spider's web, and perhaps turn their own plans against those who are keeping Amarel from you."

Turning an eye to Lux, the evangelization of the islands came to the forefront of his mind. "If the Immaculate Order had any success, perhaps Lady Lux will be able to sway some minds. With the proper resources of course." Artisan was intent on squeezing what help he could from the Censor. Though he kept reassuring Fakharu that they'd safely retrieve his lover, judging by certain temperments in the party, he was less than certain. They would definitely need all the help they could get if this was going to be an expedient and successful endeavor. Astrid suppressed a snort at the Abyssal's obvious kowtowing, if it were up to her they would simply sneak into where the girl was being held, kick open the door, and spirit her away.

However partly due to the thought of a challenge, and partly due to the drink, Astrid was in a good mood and willingly to hear the assembled group out. After all had been said and done, and once Astrid was picking her teeth with a claw she proclaimed her attack plan. "Me, I'm not one for words. I leave it up to popular decision, but in my opinion we should go in quietly, strike hard and fast." She slammed a fist into her open palm as it to emphasize the force of their assault. "We'd have Amarel in our hands before they even knew we were there."

Artisan, though not shocked at her plan, was shocked that she thought he could sneak around even half as well as her. "Um... Miss Astrid, I can't exactly move quietly in this armor." As if only just then remembering, she looked at the assembled Celestials and lone Terrestrial. "Then don't come. Though... perhaps most of us are not up to such a task." She ended the thought with a lazy shrug.

Calliope nodded thoughtfully. "While I finnd your approach ennticing, Astrid, this dismmal creature is correct," she referred to Artisan. "Diplomacy mmay be our best option."

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Character Portrait: The Artisan That Which Souls Cling
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The dragon steepled his fingers and spoke. "Lady Astrid's suggestion is tempting, and I would be willing to provide armaments for that course, but it would require locating Amarel and her captors first. That said it seems your group has come to something of a decision for now." He looked over the assembled exalts and nodded to them. "I again thank you all of agreeing to this plea on short notice. And if there is anything specific you would have in mind for provisions in this quest you need merely inquire it of me and I will see that it is given to you." Fakharu then rose from his seat and brushed himself down. "With that though I must return to my chambers and see to my midday task. If you have need of anything for personal taste you may speak to my chamberlain Burnished Mantis and he will provide for you. If you need information about the local seas then my other servants, Shemaru my librarian, Mirror of Divinity my informant, and Steel Sun down by the docks are all present and knowledgeable of the surrounding region. I ask that outside of these four though you do not speak of the true reason why you are summoned here. There are many that watch my court and and if they were to over hear talk of Amarel's kid nap they might see it as something to exploit and I cannot ignore the possibility that the sirens have left a spy to watch for any rescue being sent. If any ask you then tell them that your reason for being here is discussing the matter of my policy on the immaculate order. And while I would like for you to leave as soon as possible I would suggest waiting until night fall to foil any watching eyes or pursuit."

Artisan nodded at the censors words, glad to hear this talk of stealth had been put to rest. Fakharu mentioned the names and locations of some individuals that may be of use to them before they left to retrieve Amarel. Which reminded him of something that had transpired earlier and a need to react to it appropriately. "Oh, one more thing before you go Lord Fakharu. I um..." He bit his lip, thinking about how to broach the delicate matter. "I have need of a quiet place, one where i will be alone and entirely isolated. Can't have prying eyes or ears for this matter, I'm certain you of all people understand the need for privacy. Is there uh... such a place in your court?" For multiple reasons, the Abyssal hoped the dragon would say yes.

Fakharu quirked a brow at this request but he did answer. "There is a meditation chamber on one of the lower floors. I shall have one of the handmaidens escort you there if you wish."

"It would please me greatly to have some time to center myself. Thank you for your gracious kindness Lord Fakharu"

The censor gave a short nod again and addressed the rest one last time. "And with that I must bid you good morning for now. Feel free to enjoy the rest of your breakfast and make yourselves comfortable until nightfall comes. Until then, you have my permission to explore the spire to your hearts content." And with that the dragon turned a departed through the set of doors, leaving the exalts amongst themselves.

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Character Portrait: Astrid Grünewald Character Portrait: The Artisan That Which Souls Cling
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Shortly after Fakharu left, a handmaiden approached Artisan, introducing herself as "Your guide, Sir Celestial. I was instructed to take you to our meditation chamber so that you may relax." Her smile was warm, if a bit fake, and it did well to relax the Abyssal about what he was about to do. "Indeed thank you so much Miss." Following the handmaiden, he made absolutely certain, to the best of his ability, that no one was following them. For what was about to happen, it was best that he be left alone and unseen.


Being left to her own devices, Astrid resumed her meal, polishing off a bit more of the feast. It seemed the filthy Deathknight had no plans to eat, and as such she was more than willing to eat his share. Between each few bites, she looked towards her companions. It seemed they were all better dressed than her. Not due to her vanity, but perhaps due to a slight bit of embarrassment, she began to grow self-conscious about her clothes. Her tribe never commented about them, but they treated her as a Goddess and Astrid began to suspect the disrepair of her clothes was definitely not common in other parts of Creation.

After eating her fill, and comfortably lounging about the table, Astrid remembered something Fakharu had mentioned earlier. Standing up, she made her way to find the chamberlain Burnished Mantis. Though it took longer than she liked, only an hour or so of wandering about with speaking to anyone, she found the chamberlain. Taking a quick glance around that no one would overhear her, she spoke to him in a hushed voice. "Hey," she addressed him rather tersely. "I'm one of Fakharu's honored guests and I need you to get me a new set of clothes."

The chamberlain raised a querulous eyebrow before replying, "Of course, any particular requests?" Astrid grit her teeth, feeling oddly tense about saying it. "Something similar to the Terrestrial's outfit, but not so similar that it's easily noticed!" The chamberlain gave a overt bow, replying with a simple "Of course honored Celestial," and began to make his leave.

An afterthought, but perhaps entirely necessary due to the nature of this mission, Astrid called after him. "Also! I will require a gauntlet and pair of greaves. They should all be spring-loaded with a sharp-edged blade that can be triggered easily with my hands or feet." As the chamberlain left, she began to idly play with her hair, wondering what outfit the chamberlain would bring her. Perhaps she shouldn't have asked, though she was certain that her current outfit would draw unnecessary attention.


The meditation chamber was expansive, larger than Artisan could've imagined. As the handmaiden began to take her leave, the Abyssal, examining the chamber, asked one last thing of her. "In about an hour's time, can you send my servant up to me. I will have need of him in my meditative practice." Slightly confused, the handmaiden acquiesced. "Of course sir."

Doing his best to ensure he was left alone, and after he was satisfied that he was indeed alone, he waited another hour, just to bore anyone watching that he might have missed. After the hour passed, he began the process of bleeding essence into the environment around him.

Though it sometime took a few tries, today Artisan had mastery over his curse, and his resonance began to effect Creation. The room began to smell slightly of a graveyard, death and decay filled the chamber as he felt the curse began to life from him. It seemed the Neverborn's grip would loosen today, albeit only momentarily. Waiting for the effect to face, Artisan sat and began to reflect quietly on the day. Once his servant was here, and night hit, the fun would truly began. A slightly twisted smile painted its way across his face, as he began to chuckle slightly to himself. "Fun, indeed."

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Character Portrait: Lux Fiala
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So, they had…something of a plan it seemed. She’d offered up what bit of input she had that she thought might be useful and kept herself quiet throughout the rest of the discussion—strategies and planning ahead was something that was a little beyond her. Ever since coming into her own, she’d always sort of taken life moment to moment, day to day, planning as she went.... Perhaps that’d left her a bit shortsighted and a little inept when it came to forethought, but that was why she’d not spoken another word after speaking her thoughts on a mixed approach to rescuing Amarel. Better to let those more capable than her speak their minds and formulate a proper plan. Lux would help fill in the gaps as they went, that was what she was best at, after all.

As the talk finished, and Fakharu dismissed himself from their ragtag group’s presence to continue on with his affairs, the lot of them were left to their own devices til nightfall, when they’d head off for the Archipelagos. They were given the names of several individuals with whom they could converse in the meantime, if they saw fit, and were given the option to request impedimenta from Fakharu if they were thought to be of use during Amarel’s rescue.

Lux, however, remained in her seat, verdant eyes set upon the hands now set in her lap as she lapsed into silent thought. She didn’t regret volunteering herself to this, and she would never, but she was feeling...a tad dazed, again, as she had felt in the ship before arriving on the isle and making an utter fool of herself several times over, this time, though the reasons were a tad different. Hearing of Amarel’s situation dredged up melancholy memories. It made her remember. It made her remember that night.

She’d once been in a situation so similar to Amarel’s that ended in tragedy. Certainly, she knew there was nothing she could have done; taking her Second Breath right as Vered took her last seemed to be some kind of fated irony. She’d lacked the capability to save Vered, and to stop her death in that moment, and then the next, she suddenly had it. And, while she wasn’t the one held hostage this time, she had the power to help stop another tragedy from unfurling. That’s what she would do and what she always did, just helping when help was needed.

Something akin to frustration welled up within the little Dragon-Blooded; she raised a hand up, ran it through her hair and sharply sighed as everyone else seemed to be going about their business. She...really wasn’t sure what to do with herself for the rest of the day til they departed the island for the Archipelagos. Before, she was utterly engrossed in the architecture and art within the spire, but now that seemed unappealing. If she simply remained seated at the table for the whole of the day, her mental state would be questioned even further, she was sure.

Bollocks, did she wish she had her chocolate stash—but that was with the handmaidens as they did Creation knows what with her clothes and gear...not to mention they had her Lantern as well. She had none of her things to fiddle with, no sweets to nibble on to soothe her nerves. In truth, Lux was sort of at a loss of what to do with herself—none of the food on the table in front of her really seemed appetizing.... And, she definitely wanted nothing to do with the wine or any of the alcohol....

What was she going to do with herself for the rest of day?

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"Whelp" Said Ashen Sky as he stood from his chair. "If we're goin' tah be 'ere fer tha day ah might as well get ah look o' tha place." With the censor now gone Ashen once again slipped back into his native accent. "If any ya be needin' me a'll be out in about lookin' fer sea charts." He gave a wink at the group and waved as he walked out. As soon as he closed the door behind him though, he let out a nervous sigh he had been holding in. While he was telling the truth about wanting to see the sea charts, his sudden exodus from the group was more to put a little distance between him an Calliope for a while. He could feel that things were going to be a little awkward between them after that little show during breakfast, and he didn't have an explanation yet for his little faux pass earlier. Not wanting to deal with the situation right now, he had decided to beat a hasty retreat for the time being.

He then remembered Fakharu saying something about one of his servants specializing in information, and a thought crossed his mind. If being the dragon's 'informant' meant what he thought it did it might serve him to pay this Mirror of Divinity a visit for... personal reasons.

Making his way down the spire Ashen Sky passed a few other occupants within. Most were more of the mortal servants of the dragon, all young men and women similar dress, manners and appearance as the handmaidens that had greeted them at the docks. Occasionally he'd also pass by a elemental or lesser godling as well. He wasn't sure which was more unusual to him, the fact that all the censors mortal servants didn't look a day over twenty or that Ashen Sky was becoming oddly used to passing by immortals so casually. In wavecrest the gods tended to manifest physically more often than most, but those were uncommon occurrences that happened during festivals or when tribute was demanded to them. Since he had exalted though, he'd bumped into more than one god or elemental spirit and had more casual conversation than he'd expect of beings he'd normally be bowing to in prayer.

He put his musings aside though for the time being, and after asking a few directions he made his way towards Mirror of Divinities letter room. When he entered he found what looked to be a young girl, perhaps no older than ten years old by her appearance and Ashen Sky would have assumed her to be a mere peasant girl were it not for the fact that her entire body was made of water. When she spoke though, she did so with the voice of a fully grown woman. "What is it! Who are you and what do you want?" The lunar nearly jumped at the sharpness of her tone. "Oh, sorry ta barge in on ya miss. I be Ashen Sky, one of exalted Fakharu invited to tha tower."

She hummed and put down the scroll she had been going over and gave him a once over. "I know of you. Lunar exalted of the changing moons caste. Exalted two years ago. Student of the No Moon Jentzsch. Before that you spent most of your time wandering from place to place across creation. And before that you were operating as a privateer out of Wavecrest... under sponsorship by the obsidian blades as I understand?" Ashen Sky clenched his jaw at that and shut the door behind him. "Ay, I was. I figured ye'd know somethin' of it. In fact if ay be getting a chance later ay was hopin' ye might be willin' to help me send a letter thar way. Later, of course." She raised an eyebrow but didn't comment.

"For the time bein', I were told tha you could show me some sea charts for our travel route." The small water elemental nodded and from her desk she pulled out a series of maps. "Take these." She said plainly "There are more in the library, as well as detailed records of the spirit courts out there, documented wyld phenomena, and known sea beast. I would suggest you study it before you leave for the trip." He nodded and muttered his thanks as he left. It was going to be a few hours reading, then maybe he could get a nap in before dusk.

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Character Portrait: Astrid Grünewald Character Portrait: Lux Fiala
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There was a clinking of noise as Burnished Mantis skittered down the halls. His four polished crystal like legs eliciting small clicking noise each time they tapped on the marble floor. The emerald colored insect spirit was slightly aggrieved and would mutter to himself as he made his way towards the washrooms in the lower spire. The cause of his piqued state was the new guest he was attending the request of. As servant of the celestial censor, he had been tasked with seeing to the needs of the exalted champions his master had summoned. And though it was his honor and duty to see that done to the best of his ability, there were still some protocols of etiquette that he expected be observed in return. As it was he was accustomed to receiving 'courtesy gifts' from visitors to the spire as a general show of consideration and setting a proper first impression. Instead this lunar barbarian had simply showed up and demanded in a hushed tone that he acquire her a new choice in wardrobe and weaponry. She hadn't even had the decency to introduce herself!

No matter, he was simply allowing himself to get riled over one exalt and some petty thing. He was certain the others would likely have better manners. For the most part he resolved himself to simply pass the task of finding a change in outfit off onto Nagasani and her assistants whilst he had a word with the master of the arsenal over whether they had the specific weaponry requested in stock. Down a flight of stairs and pass the library he found the handmaidens within the launderette chamber. When he opened the door though he was greeted by the odd sight of the girls frantically trying to put out a fire in the center of the room, originating from a burning red jade lantern that he didn't know the origin of. He stood there staring perplexed as the girls kept throwing wet towels on a localized blaze that continually burned at head height. It took a minute or so before any of the five noticed him, and when they did there was a long awkward pause between them that was punctuated by the crackling of the bonfire. "Oh... Mr. Mantis... uh, we can explain." Periya started, but the look on her face told him plainly that she was still to panicked to accurately summarize what led up to this circumstance. The emerald spirit just rolled his eyes and gave a sharp bark of "later" and stepped forward to pluck the burning lantern with a pincer from it's spot in the center of the fire. It continued to burn fiercely, almost engulfing his entire torso in flame, but the spirits own carapace protected him from the heat. Seeing no way to turn the artifact off himself he plainly shrugged and doused the lantern in a nearby tub of water.


"Now," He said sharply, "I have a task for you. One of our exalted visitors is in need of a change of attire. You are to aid her with that whilst I handle another chore." The handmaidens, still a little shook from the recent disaster, slowly came back to sense at this. "Another one?" Hotton asked as she started scrubbing down the scorch marks on the floor. "Which one requires our services this time?" "Which do you think? The one in the rags. She has requested an outfit similar to the one you gave to the fire aspect, but I will leave the final decision to you on that accord." The girls nodded and continued to fix up the remains of the firey mess as he excused himself. There was a few moments of quiet between the five as they scrubbed away the floor and tried to salvage what wash rags they could, before Lakshmī noticed that the tub Burnished Mantis had flung the lantern into was beginning to let off steam. "Oh gods no. It's still going!" The others looked and all let out a collective breath of exasperation. "Alright," Nagasani stood up to take charge of the situation. "We'll divide and conquer here. Lakshmī please go find Lady Lux and ask for her aid with... this. Hotton, stay here and keep an eye on the mess. Vengalu, Periya, I want you to go to the dressing room and get it ready whilst I go track down Lady Astrid."

They all nodded together and broke to deal with their separate task.

Astrid waited for the Mantis creature to return, taking the chance to shift into a tiny cat, and then ultimately back into her human form, anima shimmering around her all the while. It felt odd to be as a human, rather she spent most of her time in her animal or hybrid forms. Not due to preference, but rather necessity; she looked down at her wrapped hand, thinking about the onyx black skin underneath. By the time Nāgasāni had found her, the essence had died down and she was human again, albeit one that was dressed in rags. Astrid looked up from her musings and raised a cautious brow, expecting the Mantis thing to return to her, not the leader of the courtesans that had given Lux her makeover. "Hmm? What do you need, little one? Have you seen the Burnished Mantis?" Astrid hadn't signed up for a complete makeover, she simply wanted a less conspicuous outfit in which to travel in, as such she steeled herself for what may be about to happen.

Nāgasāni smiled and bowed as she answered. "Yes I have. Mr Burnished Mantis has informed me of your need for a new dress, I have been sent to facilitate your desires lady Astrid..."

Of course the Mantis couldn't have just grabbed her an outfit and been done with it. It wasn't like she made the request in a whisper, or took cares to ensure she wouldn't be overheard. She absolutely wanted the teenage girls to all know about it, and to be the ones to fulfill her request. "Humm.... Indeed." It was a good thing the strong drink had put her in a cheerful demeanor, or she might have put up an unnecessarily dramatic response. "Very well Miss, lets be on with it then. But be warned, touch me not inappropriately. I'm squeamish." The last sentence ended with a slight smile on Astrid's part, as anyone who knew who for a short while could attest to quite the opposite.

The slight smile remained on the handmaiden leader who kept eye contact with the lunar chieftain. "Please, perish the thought lady Astrid. I can assure you that we are professionals and know how to conduct ourselves accordingly." She stepped aside and gestured behind her with another short bow. "Now if you would kindly come with me, I will escort you to one of our guest changing rooms."

Astrid simply nodded, silently following after Nagasani, her metallic boots creating a rhythmic clicking noise as she did. It wouldn't be the first time someone else had dressed her, but the Lunar simply wasn't up for being squeezed into a corset and having her face painted like a doll. She supposed if it came down to it, a delicate dance of dodging and deflecting their implements would be called for. Was breaking some of the courtesan's things considered rude while a guest in this court? Perhaps a simple scare tactic would be sufficient that breaking anything wouldn't be needed.

Meanwhile Nāgasāni silently confided in herself that Astrid might provide a slight bit more of a challenge than Lux, and happily welcomed the thought.




Barely did a minute even pass after Lux questioned what she was going to do with herself for the rest of the day when she seemed to receive an answer in the form of a slightly panicked Lakshmī who strode purposefully into the room. The young handmaiden hadn’t been certain on where to start her search for the Dragon-Blooded since it seemed that the other gathered Exalted were meandering about the spire now that they had the chance. However, it seemed best to start her search in the last place she knew Lux had been for certain...and indeed that had been the correct course of action since Lux had yet to even leave the table. Indeed, that struck Lakshmī as peculiar, but that curiosity could wait til later, after she’d gotten Lux to extinguish her Lantern’s blaze.

Relieved that she was able to find Lux with so little issue, Lakshmī made her way across the room with haste, stooping over a bit once she reach the Terrestrial’s side, and spoke to her in something of a hushed tone, softly rousing her from her ponderings, “Pardon me, Lady Lux?”

Though gentle Lakshmī was, Lux still couldn’t help but startle—she hadn’t even noticed that the handmaiden’s return. An odd sound came from Lux as she jumped a bit in her seat, her hand flying overtop her heart, and she turned and looked at Lakshmī and blinked a few times, noticing the hint of urgency upon the handmaiden’s face. “Ah, Lady Lakshmī, I-I apologize, you gave a bit of a fright there...what, um wh-what do you need of me?”

Lakshmī bowed her head slightly, “My Lady, I am sorry for surprising you as I did, but, Nāgasāni sent me to retrieve you. There has been a bit of an...incident, of sorts, in the launderette room, involving one of your possessions—a Red Jade lantern?”

As soon as Lux heard she went as still as the emerald statue that stood in the center of the room, she even stopped breathing as her pigment-colored face turned pallor. She knew where this was going, oh Creation, did she know....

“Could I please request that you follow me, and extinguish it? It seemed that even submerging it in a tub of water was not enough....”

Without hesitating, Lux nodded and quickly rose to her feet, answering in a jittery tone, “Of course!”

Lakshmī bowed slightly before turning on her heel, beckoning Lux to follow her, “Thank you, Lady Lux. I hope this shan’t take too terribly much of your day.”

Lakshmī moved so quickly that Lux was barely able to keep up with her—the heeled shoes she wore were definitely not helping her as she attempted to hurry along, she wasn’t used to such footwear, and she’d never understand why anyone would subject themselves to wearing such things.... As she rushed, she fretted over what she was going to find. That the Lantern was put into a tub of water did not bode well. Something like this had happened before—a curious set of hands fiddled with the odd Lantern, only for it to suddenly unleash an inextinguishable blaze, no matter who Lux had had examine the Lantern, no one but herself had ever seemed able to display any deliberate control over it. After the last time, when that barn had caught fire, she’d stopped trying....

The moonsilver-adorned maiden led the dragon blooded down the spires levels and into the washroom below. There Hotton had finished cleaning the remnants of the disaster that burned the floor, and were now nervously tending to the bubbling pool of water.

Upon seeing the state that the launderette room was in, Lux blanched and seethed. She’d been so blindsided after her involuntary makeover that she failed to even think about the Lantern or allowing it out of her presence...and, naturally, that lack thereof thought led to a small-scale disaster.

At this point the tub had started to boil slightly and Hotton had taken to raiding ice from the kitchen's cold box to delay the rise in water temperature. There was visible relief on her face once she saw Lakshmī return with Lux in tow. "Lady Lux, apologies for the inconvenience but we had a slight... mishap while handling one of your belongings." She nodded at the floor and the bubbling tub behind her. "Mayhaps you would be willing to lend us a hand in rectifying it?"

Lux, flabbergasted, shook herself from her stupor and looked to Hotton and then to the now boiling tub of water, “Oh, goodness, of course!” and she moved with single-mindedness. Indeed, even submerged in water, the Lantern still blazed mercilessly on! Slight mishap this had caused indeed.... The Dragon-Blooded stared down at the bubbling water before her for a moment, considering how to go about this. While the Lantern itself and the flames produced by it would not harm her, the water that the Lantern had brought to a boil, however...posed a problem. Thinking it over, Lux realized with another sigh that she had no other options as she set her hands upon the rim of the tub, “Lady Hotton, Lady Lakshmī, may I ask that you both provide me with a few feet of space?”

Hotton nodded, “Ah, certainly, Lady Lux.” and she moved back behind the Fire Aspect, standing rather near Lakshmī as per Lux’s request.

When Lux was certain that she had a wide enough berth, she steeled herself and with a grunt, used whatever strength she could muster to tip the tub onto its side, spilling the heated water across the scorched floor with a loud, metallic clatter. Without missing a beat, she hurriedly reach out and took hold of the Lantern before it could start sputtering forth unquenchable flames once more, and willed the object to soothe itself and return to its normal state. After a few moments of silence and calm, it seemed the “slight mishap” was absolved. Releasing a breath she didn’t even realize she’d been holding, Lux looked abashedly up at the two handmaidens who stood watching her in the doorway, a hint of curiosity on their young faces.

A rather nervous giggle escaped from Lux’s mouth, as she gave the girls a discomfited little smile. Pulling the Lantern to her middle, and loosely wrapping her arms around it, she cleared her throat, “I am sorry for the mess and this fiasco—I failed to consider what might happen if I let the Lantern out of sight when you took my clothes and gear to have them washed and mended.” she bowed her head, “If there is to be any sort of consequence for this, I will take it for you girls in full, given that this happened due to my own oblivious nature.”

"Oh no, absolutly not!" Hotton said with a wave. "It was our fault for being careless with your things to begin with. You needn't burden yourself with our mistake." As she spoke the youngest of the handmaidens grabbed a near by mop and was setting to the task of cleaning up the spilt water.

She wasn’t fond of the notion that the girls might suffer some consequence, no matter how minor, for this whole ordeal when it was her seemingly scarce foresight that’d caused it to occur in the first place. However, Lux remembered how her attempts at objecting to anything had went during her makeover, after all...and as much as it went against her instincts to insist upon doing something to at least help.... Lux had a feeling it would get her nowhere, as she’d said earlier, it was pretty much impossible for her to deny these girls anything, it seemed. So, Lux merely sighed, and ceded.

“I’d much prefer to assume accountability for this, but I do believe we’ve learned I’m easily swayed to your whims....”

Behind her, Lakshmī looked thoughtful and after a moment she spoke up. "If I may... there is something we could ask of you." Hotton paused and gave her 'sister' a confused glance, but the moonsilver clad girl ignored it. "We had recived a request to provide a change of clothing for Lady Astrid, similar to the one we gave you. When we are done here, would you be willing to accompany us? I feel your presence might make her more comfortable with our ministrations."

Regarding the tidbit of information given to her, and request, Lux looked to Lakshmī and dumbly blinked a few times. Astrid had...asked for a change in clothing, wanting something that was akin to what she was wearing? They wanted her along to help the Lunar feel...at ease? Certainly, she was willing to go along, but, Lux wasn’t sure how Astrid was going to feel about her company. Prior to the brunch with Fakharu, her status as a Terrestrial was made known to the party overall. Ashen, who was a Lunar himself, had his suspicions of her while they were still on the ship, but did not seem to treat her with any ill-will for it, she had the feeling he treated her as he’d treat any potential ally, really. Astrid, on the other hand.... Lux had yet to really interact with her in a one-on-one manner, and her impressions were from what she witnessed.

The Chieftain seemed to be a little bit of a rough woman, though proud and strong. How she might feel about Lux’s status as a Dragon-Blood while she herself was a Celestial...admittedly, Lux was a little on the anxious side regarding that—after all her plans had been to keep her caste under wraps til she felt she’d built up enough camaraderie that no one would care.

A frown crossed Lux’s face and she hunched inward a bit—she was rather dreading this, but there as no time like the present? Right? Better to address the dragon in the room, right...? Oh, Creation....

“If, if you think I might make Miss Astrid feel a touch more comfortable, then yes, I’d be happy to accompany you.”

"Thank you!" Lakshmi said with a smile. "It will just take us a few moments to finish here." Hotton however seemed to notice the slight hesitation on Lux's face, and stepped forward to offer an out. "That said have no desire to impose upon you if you feel unease with the request."

Had her nails not been manicured, Lux might’ve nibbled upon the tip of her thumb. Hotton was kind to offer her respite from Lakshmī’s request, but.... As nervous as she was, it really was probably best to do this now, while she’d worked up some of the necessary nerve. No matter when she’d finally interact with Astrid proper, she was going to be antsy. So, Lux merely shook her head in response to Hotton’s polite offer, “Thank you, Lady Hotton, but I think it best I go along with you now; no matter when I speak with Miss Astrid, I’m going to be all nerves since I do not know how she perceives Terrestrials. Better to do this sooner, rather than later.”

Both handmaidens simply smiled again and bowed. "As you wish Lady Lux." They said in unison and set to work finishing the clean up. Once they were finished minutes later they joined Lux again outside the room and together made their way towards the guest changing room.



Setting

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Character Portrait: The Storyteller Character Portrait: Astrid Grünewald Character Portrait: Lux Fiala
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Part 1 of a monster collab between Jakuri, Myself and Sepokku


Down a hall and pass several rooms, Nāgasāni led the chieftain across the spire to a spacious room. In side the found it filled with items fit for tailoring and cosmetics. On one side the walls were lined with rolls upon rolls of fabrics all of different colors and materials, all stacked between cabinets filled with scissors, threads, needles, measuring equipment, jewelry and other supplies. On the other was a layered series of racks and shelves that contained various outfits of exquisite design in states of full or half completed construction. At the far end Vengalu and Periya were finishing their preparations of their work station, itself already set up with the folding curtain and rolling wardrobe from earlier, a reclining chair and a large wooden tub of steaming water. They both turned and deeply bowed as Astrid was led into the center of the room. "Now then, Lady Astrid, we we're informed that you desired similar ware to what we provided for Lady Lux, but not noticeably so? We were hoping you could provide some further detail to that request, or would you rather we use our own imaginations?"

The room, admittedly made her changing room in the back of the longhouse that she lived in, look like a hovel. Indeed Astrid could get used to being prepared and pampered in a room of similar size, though perhaps one that was decidely more spartan. Nāgasāni posed a question that, to Astrid, seemed rather obvious. "Your imagination, of course. I know not what goes for normal around these parts and wish to stand out far less." That being said, she immediately undid the fastener that held her cloak around her, shrugging it off as she began to approach the steamy bath. Then she undid the clasp that held the remains of her shirt to her, letting it fall to the ground unceremoniously. The gauntlet on her right hand hit the ground with a dull thunk, and after kicking off her boots, she carefully took off what little remained of her now nearly ruined stockings.

The Lunar casually undid her belt and let her tattered shorts fall to the ground, each article of clothing lay where it fell, creating a trail to the tub. Removing her underwear, she plopped into the bath, purposefully splashing water at Nāgasāni as she did so. Turning a stern eye to Vengalu and Periya she told them, "I already informed Miss Nāgasāni here, but be gentle and treat me with courtesy. Or else." Trying to put a growl into her voice, but failing that, she relaxed into the bath, letting the warmth from earlier consumed drink mix with the warmth from the tub, creating a slight flush over her northern features. "You may begin." Feeling more at home, and unwinding tension she didn't realize she'd been holding, she requested with a smile, "Nāgasāni, be a dear and come wash my hair."

"As you wish honored exalted." The leader of the quintet never faltered in keeping her polite smile, and neither batted an eyelash at the spray of water or the implied threat. The warning lacked heat to it and it was clear the herbal relaxants they had adminsitered to the bath was working to calm the exalt. She set down behind the Lunar and began slowly pouring small hand fulls of hot water over the womans scalp to wet her hair. "Periya. The number 17, the forest kings nector if you would?" Periya nodded and went to one of the cubbords whilist Vengalu gathered up the discarded bits of 'clothing' (and Nāgasāni heavily debated calling the tattered scraps of rags that) astrid had left scattered on the floor. When Periya returned she came with not one but two bottles, for the 'number 17' and the 'forest kings nector' were in fact two separate items, one an actual shampoo and the other a paticular brand of drink gifted to them by a wood elemental. Nāgasāni had been somewhat expecting Astrids rough behavior, and had made a small plan to ease her into a more 'coobrative' state. The bottle labeled 17 she poured into her hands before slowly lathering it into the Lunar's hair. The liquid had a sweet-ye-earthy evergreen scent to it and the handmaiden worked slowly to apply it with soothing kneading motions.

Beside her, Peryia set down the forest kings nector and a small cup and bouyant plate and asked. "Lady Astrid, would you care for a drink and shoulder massage while you soak?"

The drink was appreciated, her buzz from the feast was beginning to wear off, probably due to the sheer amount of the food that had been consumed. "But, of course." without turning her body, and making use of her double-jointed nature, she grabbed the drink from Nagasani and began to indulge herself. After only a few short moments, the drink was emptied and its container placed carelessly on the ground near the bath. "You know Nagasani, being this far from my home, seeing you little ones, kind of reminds me of the children I left behind. Makes me a *hicc* bit homesick." Feeling the girl's hand knead their way through her hair was relaxing, and a bit nostalgic of the way her kids would play with her hair.

Feeling her inhibitions begin to loosen, and once again making use of her double-jointed nature, she reached back and with a grip of iron, she grabbed Nagasani's hand. "Come 'ere, I want a better look at ya." Without waiting for an answer, Astrid pulled the girl into the bath with her and began to scrutinize the poor thing's face, all while the Lunar's own features grew flushed from drink. "Ye remind me of my rambunctious *hicc* little daughter. Do ye think she'll *hicc* have yer kinda *hicc* grace when she's yer age? Little scamp is *hicc* always up to all sorts er mischief with 'er *hicc* brother." Hugging Nagasani tightly, Astrid called out to the one that had been adressed as Periya. "Miss... Periya if you could take over for Miss Nagasani, she is unfortunately predisposed at the moment." Turning her attention back to Nagasani, without skipping a beat she continued on, "I *hicc* like this shampoo ye picked *hicc* out. It smells like the forest *hicc* I used to call home, back *hicc* when i was younger. How did ye *hicc* know?!" Perhaps she was a bit louder than necessary, but volume control was far from her mind.

Joining Astrid in the bath was decidedly not part of Nāgasāni's plan, and it was a miracle that she managed to keep her self from yelping as she was pulled in. At least not too loudly. Trying to keep Astrid tipsy was probably a miscalculation as she was now effectively the Lunar's captive. Despite this, and probably thanks to the herbal relaxants in the bath water, Nāgasāni was able to recover just enough to respond. "Well, um," she began lamely. "We were given a brief overview each of you and your homelands, Lady Astrid, and I uh, suspected that you would prefer a brand native to your part of creation." She felt a slight hint of a blush start to appear on her face as the much stronger woman squeezed her close, not feeling quite as used to being the one on the receiving end of the embarrasement. She flicked her eyes at a still shocked Periya in a subtle gesture of 'do something' whilst she franticly thought of a way to regain control of the situation.

"Um, I wasn't aware that you were a mother Lady Astrid." She said grasping at the first subject she could think of. "Is it just the two children then? May I ask how old they are?" Behind them Periya took over her leaders role of hair dresser and resumed the task of washing Astrid's locks. Vengalu stood further back, wondering to herself if she should come closer to help or stay in reserve in case the exalt decided to get grabby with Peryia as well.

Perhaps a bit weird considering other aspects of her character, Astrid would always seize upon opportunities to dote upon her kids. "Just the two! Twins, a boy and a *hicc* girl. I believe theyre a little over *hicc* three. They must miss *hicc* dear ol' mum terribly *hicc* by now... And they're prolly *hicc* reigning hell down *hicc* upon the rest of the tribe. *Hicc* little scamps never seem to *hicc* run out of energy. Mischievous brats... *hicc* kinda like ye." Thoughts of home filled her head, mind wandering away from the Palace and their soon to begin quest for but a moment.

With a lazy smile Astrid inhaled deeply as she continued to hug Nagasani in a tight grip, the scent of various perfumes, the shampoo, and the herbal relaxants in the bath created a heady mixture that was pleasing but slightly overwhelming. Relaxing her bear hug, but still holding her in place by locking a leg around the courtesan's, attention was turned towards Vengalu. "Miss!" Showing the girl her unmanicured nails that could use some maintenance, she continued, "Could you *hicc* do my nails please? They *hicc* need a bit of *hicc* uh... *hicc* care. Don't color them. *hicc*" She let loose a drunken giggle, no one at home was this skilled at beauty care and it was refreshing, but she'd never admit that. Kicking her free foot up out of the bath, water cascading through the air as she did, "Toes too, *hicc* please!"

Seemingly suddenly becoming aware of something, Astrid quickly scanned the room and confirmed her suspicions. "Where *hicc* er the rest of ye? Weren't therr *hicc* more a ye? This could *hicc* be a lot quicker! Not *hicc* to say I'm in a hurry to *hicc* be done here." Reaching towards Nagasani and ruffling her hair, [color=darkslateblue]"I don't *hicc* mind. Tha leader a ye all *hicc* here to pay me all manner *hicc* a attention. So tell me Miss *hicc* Naaagasani, is the water to yer liking? I am enjoooying it. *hicc*"

A slight chuckle escaped Nagasani's lips at that. The young woman was still slightly off kilter from the sudden turn of the situation, but the head handmaiden was an adaptable sort and was doing the best she could to adjust to Astrid's pace. "It pleases me to know that the bath fits your inclination Lady Astrid. The water was given a special mix of mineral and herbal supplements designed to open the pores and ease muscle fatigue, and has the added benefit of helping to reduce stress and anxiety." That said Nagasani was noting that her dress was getting rather soggy. She would have loved to get out and dry it off but with the exalt's leg firmly wrapped around her own, getting untangled with the older woman would likely be a struggle on it's own. Idly she remembered Astrid's earlier demand against 'inappropriate touching', and how that had apperently gone out the window as soon as she had gotten buzzed. Instead, she opted to remain where she was in an attempt to keep the Full Moon appeased while she rode out her high. Then they could regain footing for stage two.

At their side Vengalu arrived with a set of clipers and nail files. Deciding to start with the outstretched foot, she gently took hold of the ankle and guided it to the rim where she sat down and got to work massaging the foot and trimming the nails. Deciding to keep the conversation going Nagasani continued. "As for where Lakshmi and Hotton are, we left them to take care of a minor spill on one of the other floors but they should join us given enough time. In the meanwhile, since you desire my 'attention' so, would you allow me to scrub your back for you?" She was stuck here now, and figured she might as well try to play the exalts game if she was to get any sway in the matter.

Hearing the others would join them in due time, was enough for Astrid and sunk a bit deeper into the bathwater, letting Vengalu attend to her while Periya finished treating her hair. Nagasani's request was heard, but there were more important matters to attend to first. Leaning forward, squeezing Nagasani in a bear hug, she whispered softly into the girl's ear. "Is thar more a that drink I just had? Can ya send Periya to get more? That sounds like a goood idea!" Releasing Nagasani from the leg-lock, she pulled herself enough out of the bath to allow her back to be scrubbed. Not looking at her, but rather relying on sound and the movement of the water she kept a watch out for Nagasani trying to jump out of the tub.

"Aye do feel a lott lesss fat-igued... As for tha stresss... well that could be a number of thingss..." Certainly, she didn't expect a trip to the spa when she received Fakharu's summons, though she also had no clue why he'd summoned her. Perhaps she should have been twisting his arm a bit further before setting out to reclaim Amarel, but she couldn't dwell on the thought at the moment. Far too many distractions were happening currently, too many things to keep a watchful eye on, well as watchful as she could be in her current state.

Getting the Lunar more drunk was... well it wasn't something she would suggest after seeing what happened with the last bottle, but as host it was only fitting that they see to their guest request. Reluctantly Nagasani gave a nod to Peryia who had mostly finished with Astrid's hair at this point. Swapping places, the starmetal maiden left the room to go collect more of the elixer whilst Nagasani took position behind Astrid. She leaned out of the tub slighty to grab a bar of soap and began lathering the exalts back. Starting at the neck, then working her way down, Nagasani made small circular motions with the bar along the shoulders, under the armpits, the sides, her shoulder blades and then down to the small of her back. Then once there was a nice layer of foam across Astids back the handmaiden rose out of the water to grab a nearby spounge.

Closing her eyes, enjoying the attention as Nagasani set to work, the Lunar let her thoughts begin to float away. The scent in the air and sensation of being attended to by a trained entourage of the Western censor, caused her to dissociate slightly. Such a surreal situation, her children back at home would hardly believe it. However, when Nagasani stood up, mistaking her movement for an attempt at an escape, Astrid practically tackled her, taking them both underneath the water. The water in the tub sloshed about a bit, getting Vengalu slightly wet as well. A sly grin crossed her face as they re-surfaced, "Soorryyy, I slipt!" Her words were an obvious lie, made obvious by the glint in her eyes. "The baath is tooo.... big, don't get oot. I feel odd bein' innit alone."

Lux followed after the two handmaidens, doing her best to keep pace. She kept a loose hold on the Lantern, deciding to take it with her, lest another “slight mishap” occur. Hotton and Lakshmī seemed to sense the apprehension Lux felt, as both girls would occasionally glace back at her and offer her a small, reassuring smile—which she would return out of politeness. As much nerve as she’d built up.... Whatever happened, certainly this would be an experience?

The trio of girls walked for several minutes in silence down stairs, and through corridors and hallways til the duo of handmaidens stopped in front of a door, Hotton spoke, “We’ve arrived, Lady Lux. Nāgasāni, Vengalu and Periya are tending to Lady Astrid here.”

Lakshmī moved, and took hold of the door’s handle, opening it up and making a motion for Lux to enter first, “You may enter, if you’d like.”

Resisting the urge to nibble on the tip of her thumb again, and tightening the hold she had on her Lantern, Lux took in as deep a breath as she could manage with the corset still squeezing her middle so tightly. “Thank you both....”

Steeling herself, Lux held her head up high and entered the room...only to be met with quite the unexpected sight. Of everything she could’ve imagined seeing or happening.... Barely three steps into the room, and Lux froze in place, gawking at a very naked Astrid in a large tub, basically clinging onto a still clothed Nāgasāni. The little Dragon-Blooded opened her mouth a few times, but no words came out, only a high-pitched noise akin to a whine. After a moment, the sight registered in Lux’s mind and the girl suddenly yelped, loudly, and clenched her eyes shut, face turning red as a beet, even with the pigment upon it.

“I-I am SO sorry! I did not mean to interrupt—I th-thought that you were only getting a-a new outfit prepared!” Lux shouted, voice raising an octave as she began to make the motion of backing up to leave the room.

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Character Portrait: Astrid Grünewald Character Portrait: Lux Fiala
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Part 2 of the monster collab between Sepokku, Wake and me!


Nagasani blinked several times. This was turning into... an odd series of events. She took a momoment to wipe the damp hair out of her eyes. She hadn't been expecting the Lunar to get this clingy, or for Hotton and Lakshmi to bring Lady Lux with them. That said she now found herself with a slight situation on her hands again, and this time she wasn't trusting the look in Astrid's eyes. Taking a glance over at the squeaking and back peddling Lux, a thought ran through her head and she latched on to it like a frog snatching a fly. "Oh, Lady Lux! I wasn't expecting to see you again so soon. It's perfectly fine, in fact why don't you come join us." It was good that Lux had closed her eyes at this point, because in that same breath pointed quickly at the other two girls on either side of the terrestrial and mouthed the words. 'Grab her'. Not knowing what was going on, Lakshmī and Hotton nevertheless knew their leader was hatching a plan and complied immediately by clamping a hand each on Lux's shoulders.

Nagasani's outburst redirected Astrid's attention, as it were she was so distracted she had barely registered the door opening, let alone anyone coming into her chambers. Upon seeing Lux, Astrid's forgot about her determination to keep Nagasani prisoner in the bath. Standing up, completely forgetting herself and the situation she was in, Astrid smiled and greeted the small Terrestrial. "Mizz Dragon-Blood! Fancy meeting you here, how havve ya been!? These loverly young ladies have been seeing to ma bath!"

Lux’s eyes popped open upon hearing Nāgasāni’s ‘offer.’ And before she even had a chance to vehemently reject it, Lux was silenced by shock when she felt hands clamp down on both of her shoulders, bewildered and stunned, she looked between Hotton and Lakshmī who both merely gave her an innocuous smile, but said nothing. And again, before Lux had a chance to vocalize her thoughts, Astrid seemed to realize she was in the room...and shamelessly stood up, greeting her a much unwanted view as she slurred her greeting.

Another sharp yelp came from Lux as she hunched over a bit and once more clamped her eyes shut in response to Astrid’s state, flushing now all the way to the tips of her ears by now. “I-see that, Miss A-Astrid,” she sputtered out, embarrassed beyond all reason. “Lady Nāgasāni, I-I am not in need of a bath—nor do I de-desire joining in, i-if you’ll just...I’ll b-be...on...my....” her voice quieted, she couldn't even finish speaking as the grip she had on her Lantern tightened, to the point that it was digging into the skin of her chest.

....this was going to go just as the makeover did before, she just knew it. Oh, Creation, was she ever going to get a break today...?

A tiny, squirrel-like squeak came from her throat as she dreaded what she knew to be inevitable.

"Oh, I simply must insist Lady Lux. We deeply regretted not being able to give you the 'full' treatment and getting you properly cleaned after your long voyage. Besides, I assume you still want out of that Corset?" Nagasani was making good use of the distraction Lux's arrival had made and was now slowly extracting herself from the tub, squeezing her dress to wring the water out. She gave a slight cough and turned back to the Lunar she had just escaped from. "You wouldn't mind would you, Lady Astrid? You did say you felt the bath was awfully big for one person after all." Even without waiting for a response Hotton and Lakshmī we're gently shoving Lux forward. Slowly Lakshmi's other hand went to the large green ribbon that held the back of Lux's bodice closed.

Hearing Lux's protests caused Astrid to fall backwards into the bath, more water leaving the tub, at this point causing it to be lower than it should have been. "I eerr... The baath seemss to be running a beet low... Add, er, ah... Could ya fetch some more waater for the baath?" A less than pleased look was given to Lux, who seemed to find Astrid untasteful, and was fervently trying to find a way to escape her presence. Then she remembered about the request she'd made only a bit ago, "Ah, Mizz Nagasanee... about that drink..."

Nagasani hummed and nodded. "Of course Lady Astrid, I will begin refiling it immediately. As for the drink I am sure Peryia will return with another bottle soon." As she spoke she went to collect a large pan. With a tap of her finger against the rim it started filling with hot water. At the side Vengalu took hold of one of Astrids hands and continued with the manicure.

Lux didn’t respond to Nāgasāni's comment about her corset, in fact, she didn’t respond to anything. The only thing she was focused on was trying to get away...which was proving otherwise impossible since both Hotton and Lakshmī were lightly pushing forward and toward the bath. The Dragon-Blooded whimpered, and kept her eyes shut as tightly as possible, trying in vain to dig the heels of her shoes into the marble-flooring to slow the inescapable...and failing since it was slick with what Lux presumed to be bathwater splashed by Astrid in her intoxicated state. With how...clingy the Lunar had been with Nāgasāni, Lux dreaded what was coming, and with how she was being ‘guided’ to the tub, the thought never crossed her mind that Lakshmī and Hotton would do what they did....

With absolutely no warning, the bodice that held Lux’s dress to her so tightly was loosened from the back as Hotton successfully pried the Lantern out of Lux’s ironclad grasp, and the article of clothing was pulled overtop her head, leaving the Terrestrial utterly dumbfounded and in a rather...sensitive state of undress. As soon as the whole scenario registered, Lux squealed, and threw her arms over herself as best she could, not even noticing that Lakshmī and Hotton had removed their hands from her shoulders.

All four handmaidens in the room knew well enough that it was no longer necessary to restrain Lux. Given her current state of mind, she likely wouldn’t even consider trying to flee.

The moonsilver and jade Maidens made eye contact with eachother, and with a quick a wink they got to work. Hotton's fingers went to the strings of the correst while Lakshmī fiddled with the skirt, loosening them and giving the terrestial a bit more room to breathe. Within moments both fell to the floor in a light pile and were promptly snatched up to keep them from soaking spilt bath water. Lakshmī then began fiddling with the jewelry that adorned the dragon blooded's neck. As she did she whispered softly in her ear. "Oh don't scrunch up so much lady Lux. It was as you said after all, no matter when you spoke with Lady Astrid you were going to be 'all nerves'. Best to get to do this sooner rather than later. And this way you have something to keep your mind off it!"

“Th-this is n-n-not...!” she attempted to protest, but only managed to squeak an incomplete fragment of what she wanted to say.

As what remained of Lux’s clothing was removed, she bent evermore forward, regardless of what was said to her. She whimpered, while she had mentioned it’d be better to speak with Astrid sooner, she hadn’t meant for things to go like...like this! How the Lunar would react to her was the least of her concerns, as Lakshmī had said indeed. But, she couldn’t even form a coherent thought, her mind utterly beyond cognizance at this point. The spontaneous makeover earlier had been mortifying enough, but this, this.... She was being stripped completely bare, and they were going to leave her at the mercy of an intoxicated Astrid!

"This is perfect, a little skinship will help build familiarity." Bellow Hotton was already pulling down the white and gold stockings. It took a little convincing to get the terrestial to lift her feet enough to slide them and the gold plated high heels off. Once she did they were set aside with the other articles. Then both handmaidens put a hand on her back, this time in a comforting manner. They waited a few seconds before they each slipped a finger to both ends of her undergarments. "Ready?" Asked Hotton in a hushed voice. They weren't expecting a response, just giving her a moment to steel herself for the final stage. Then with a flourish they yanked down the last bastion of her decency and slipped it out from under her. Then they both took a step back and bowed. "Once more, may we prouldy present Inheritrix lady Lux Fiala, Burning Sword, Terrestrial exalted of Fire in her unobstructed glory."

Lux shrieked, and immediately dropped down, bringing her knees to her covered diaphragm—her face and ears had never been as red as they were now, and tiny tears prickled at the corners of the Exalted’s eyes. They’d stripped her naked, completely naked!!!

Nagasani gave a flat look and both Hotton and Lakshmi winced slightly. Okay that one might have been a slight bit much. Hotton slid over and put her arms around Lux's shoulders and began shushing softly. In the meanwhile Nagasani had set up the magic pan of water by the tub and perched it on a pedestal where it was now slowly pouring a constant stream of soothing hot water. She had claimed a jug to the side and was now pouring it in along with the hot water, where it's fluid contents of herbs and minerals mixed with the water, along with another does of the relaxants that would likely be needed for Lux's mental state once they finally finished toying with her and got her into the thing. After a minute had passed and Hotton had deemed Lux recovered enough to move, she and Lakshmi gently hoisted the young exalt back upright. Nagasani then recapped the bottle of relaxants, set it down and gave the fire aspect a once over. "Again I must comment your natural beauty Lady Lux. Simply marvelous, it would almost be a shame to hide it away again..." She trailed off intentionally to make herself sound slightly omnious.

At this point she was otherwise mentally dazed with mortification and embarrassment. While she’d been stood up, she moved her hands to a feeble attempt to cover herself as best she could. Nāgasāni’s words barely registered in the Fire Aspect’s head, til the veiled, playful threat she inserted at the end. Overcome as she was, that was enough to rouse Lux’s awareness. With small tears in the corners of her eyes, she looked up at Nāgasāni, frowning from both fear and shame. The handmaidens...they wouldn’t actually leave her exposed, would they? Although, considering what they were doing to her now...

"Oh Don't give me that look." Nagasani then snapped her fingers. "Come on then, get in before we are forced leave you like that for the rest of the day." She made a gesture to Lakshmi who gave a hard slap to the exalts hind quarters to get her moving.

The sharp smack delivered to her backside made Lux jump and stiffen as she squeaked for the umpteenth time that day—there was no hope for her at this point, none at all. It was going to happen, there was no way to delay it further and Lux knew that as much as she wished it weren’t so. She really did not want to get into the bath with Astrid, the Lunar had been so terribly clingy with Nāgasāni before the handmaiden had turned on her and used her as a distraction. Lux assumed now that Nāgasāni had perhaps been dragged into the tub, unwillingly, since she was still fully clothed. At least she’d been fully clothed.... Thanks to the mischievous machinations of the four present handmaidens, she did not have the luxury of still being clothed while being forced into a bath with an intoxicated and apparently rather physical Lunar, no, she was as naked as the day she was birthed.... Despite knowing it was going to happen, Lux couldn’t bring herself to move a single bit, or speak from the trepidation.

When Lux didn't immediately move, and without Nagasani to torment, Astrid went in for the kill. Surprisingly deft for the amount of drink she'd consumed, quickly standing and grabbing Lux, she fell backwards into the bath, Lux in tow.

She knew she was going to be forced into the bath, but she definitely hadn’t expected Astrid to grab her and pull her in. If it had been possible for her face to get any redder, it would have. At this point, that was likely a physical impossibility though. Lux didn’t even have time to scream before her face was squished into Astrid’s bosom and they fell back into the water, completely submerged. Unable to breathe, Lux twisted her head to the side and coughed, water getting to her mouth as she gasped.

"Meann ol' Nagasssanii didn't want to plaay with mee! You'lll keep me companyyy, riight?" A goofy smile grew on the flushed face of the Lunar as she squeezed Lux, perhaps a bit too tightly. "Yeeerr so soft! Like a... like er... umm... like something that's really sofftt!"

While Lux did her best to regain any semblance of coherence, she failed to do so, as Astrid...squeezed her, rather firmly. A sharp whine slipped from Lux’s throat, as she was squished up against her Lunar captor even further, her face again pressed into the intoxicated woman’s bosom. She couldn’t even bring herself to comment on how the woman had said she was apparently ‘soft.’

Releasing Lux, she kicked up her other foot that had yet to be seen to and petitioned the entourage. "If'n ya would pleasse, finish my nails." Speaking of entourage, where was that blasted girl with her drink?

Freed of the Chieftain’s grasp, Lux scrambled away from her, pressing herself against the opposite side of the tub, trying to put as much space between them as possible. Her arms wrapped around her chest, and she exhaled sharply, as Astrid’s attention turned back to the handmaidens—urging them to finish their work on her feet. Lux sunk down into the water til it was just below her nose and ears, face burning. She tried to compose herself. Being forced into the bath as she had been had snapped her back into cognizance and she was able to fully realize what had just occurred, where her face had been. Certainly, Astrid was utterly intoxicated and couldn’t understand how...lascivious that was, how all of this was. ....maybe. Lux couldn’t be sure how Astrid would act when sober, though.

Pulling her knees to herself. Lux tried to make herself seem as small as possible, hoping that maybe she’d be spared anymore attention from Astrid, or from the handmaidens.

Vengalu remained stone faced as more water was splashed about and at this point was probably the only one showing any signs of exasperation. None the less she took the offered foot and returned to work on the Lunars toes. At the same time, as if on cue, Periya returned with another tray holding not just a second bottle of forest kings nector, but also a few other options. She stopped for a moment to comprehend the addition of the terrestrial exalt since she left, but pressed forward as Nagasani waved her over. "Appologies for the delay Lady Astrid, but I decided to gather a few other beverages as well to provide you a few options." She cast an eye to the slowly sinking for of Lux. "I hope you won't have trouble sharing the bottle with Lady Lux will you?"

Periya's return was a welcome sight, especially so since she carried more than a few bottles of drink that Astrid was desperately pining for. "Nnot at alll! The girl could use some er.... uh... loosening up! She's tenser than...." Rather than finishing the sentence, she simply turned back to Periya and gestured for her to come closer, so that she could assess her choices. Deciding upon one named, Blue Ruin, that smelled faintly of berries. Uncorking the bottle with her teeth, she spat the cork onto the ground near the bath and took a long swig. "Mizz Lux! What kinda drink's to yer fancy? Ya strike me as uh... maybe a wine type a gal." Turning back to Nagasani, she asked for her input. "What do ya think Mizzz Nagassanii? Wine type a gal, yeah? What drink do ya prefer? Ya should join us gal!"

When it came to alcohol, Lux had no preference; she didn’t even like the stuff. All of it tasted the same and burned when she swallowed, she derived no enjoyment from it like so many did. So, she didn’t answer Astrid’s inquiry...nor did there seem to be a need since her attention turned back to Nāgasāni.

Looking back and forth between the two, Nagasani weighed her options. Then she sighed and stood up. "Very well, if you insist Lady Astrid. But only if you promise to aid me in 'loosening up' Lady Lux. I can't well scrub her down while she's hiding under the water." And with that she promptly started undoing the buckles of her still soggy gown. Figuring it'd probably be safer with a meat shield companion in to share Astrid's attentions.

As soon as Nāgasāni began to undress, and implored Astrid in helping to get her to ‘loosen up,’ Lux pressed herself up against the back of the tub as far as she could. She tensed up, and clamped her eyes shut—she’d stared at the handmaidens earlier, caught off-guard by their beauty, but she wasn’t about to do that again, especially now...! This situation just kept spiraling and worsening, as far as she was concerned. If it wasn’t bad enough that she’d been forced into a tub with a very naked and drunk Astrid, now Nāgasāni was going to join them as well? Creation had no mercy upon her soul.

Beaming that Nagasani decided to join them, Astrid turned her attention back to Lux, who hadn't answered and still didnt look very comfortable. Finishing the bottle she held by gulping it down in a few seconds, the newly reinvigorated Lunar made her way over to Lux. "Ya look so tensse, lovve. A hott bathh is suppossed ta looosen ya up, not cause ya ta shut dowwnn entirelyy." She pulled the girl up slightly so that her shoulders were out of the water and put an arm around the girl. "What's got ya ssooo blind girllyy? Mizzz Nagsanii is a beaut, no need to shut ya eyes. Whadda ya want ta drinnk? It'ss all great! Try the Fforest nectar... King? Try the Forest drink!"

Looking over to Nagasani, she smiled another goofy grin, before making her claim. "She's all nice and loozened up now! Aren't ya goin' ta join us in are drinks?" With a short burst of giggles to herself, she began to play with Lux's hair, all the while whispering to herself, "Loosey, Loose! Loose, loose, loose! Loooossen uupp. Loozen up!"

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Character Portrait: Astrid Grünewald Character Portrait: Lux Fiala
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Part 3 of the monster collab between Wake, Jakuri, and I!


Never in her life had Lux been good a handling these sorts of situations—she always clammed up and tried to make herself as small as possible in hopes that people would just leave her alone. While this whole situation was perfectly platonic and basically a same-sex bath at this point, it was still rather much for her, she had never been comfortable with seeing others nude or others seeing her nude. And Astrid being so physically unrestrained was making this even worse for her! Very seldom in her life had she ever actually experienced...friendly or familial affection, so yes, this whole scenario was terribly overwhelming for her. Being touched by others in any manner was always a little much, and having someone’s arm thrown around her while naked left her otherwise dazed, and unable to process much of anything.

Maybe this was considered perfectly normal for some people, maybe it was something that was everyday for them...but, it wasn’t for her. Should it have been...?

As Astrid continued to play with her hair and chant in her ear, Lux remained quiet, but had finally opened her eyes a smidge, though she kept them cast downward. Her face and ears were still scarlet, and she still held her arms around her chest, but a hint of melancholia seemed to fall over her as she reflected upon herself and wondered if something like this would be normal for her if she’d had a more...ordinary life. Lux moved her legs away from herself a bit, not as rigid as she was before. Yet, she still did not speak—she really wasn’t sure what to say or do.

Having slipped her gown off, the freshly disrobed Head handmaiden lightly stepped into the bath water. "I appreciate the offer but much as I would love to Lady Astrid, I am technically still on duty for the moment. Perhaps later though." Submerging herself up to the chest she took position opposite side of Lux. "Now then, I haven't finished washing your back have I? And I believe you were telling us a bit about your family earlier?"

Laughing boisterously, loud enough that it echoed off the walls and out of the room, Astrid persisted. "I! Wazn't askin' Mizz Nagasanii, you're schtill on dutyy and currently your duty iz ta attend ta me! An' I demannd you pour yerself a drink, before'n I let you scrub mah back!" Nodding at her declaration, she continued, though a bit quieter. "Drinkin' together iz how bonds arre made. So, do yer job and pour a drink down yer throttle." She tried to wink, perhaps making the comment seem a bit more of a suitable idea, but instead she only blinked awkwardly.

Nagasani tilted her head at that. "Is that a custom of your people lady Astrid?" She seemed to think for a moment, shrugged, and then took a drinking cup and bottle from Peryia. Pouring a small shot for herself and held it up for an impromptu toast. "Very well then, to new bonds made?" As she said this Peryia came around with the tray full of drinks and held it in presentation for Lux as well, giving her a reasuring smile as she bade her to take her own pick.

Astrid still had her arm around her shoulders, as Nāgasāni offered up a toast...was this really how people formed bonds with each other? Lux would definitely not know, after all. They wanted her to indulge, but she hated the taste of alcohol. That would never change, however.... For whatever the reason, something in Lux broke as she sat there in quiet with her thoughts as Astrid was loud and energetic and Nāgasāni was as refined and as composed as ever it seemed. She’d been coerced into this, just as she had been with the makeover before. Not a part of her knew if any of this was normal, she felt so very, very out of place amidst it all. The handmaidens earlier had some fun with her, as they made her over entirely, and getting her into the bath was no different...Astrid wanted her to ‘loosen up,’ did...did they all just want her to act ‘normal’?

Was this really normal...? Was this what normal people did...?

Lux shyly looked up at Periya who stood by her side with a tray of varying goblets and glasses of alcohol. The Starmetal-adorned handmaiden just smiled at her, “Anything pique your interest, Lady Lux?”

“U-Uh...I’m not....” she was about to decline the offer, but couldn’t get the words out.

“It’s very much all right, if you do not desire anything, you needn’t force yourself.” Periya spoke gently.

She was...conflicted. It was a truth beyond truth that she didn’t really care for how any alcohol tasted, but, maybe...this once. As Periya began to make a move to leave, “W-wait, please!” the Terrestrial took in a shaky breath, and looked at the tray...and spotted a bottle that was still three-quarters full of a clear kind of liqueur that seemed to have...bits of gold floating in it? If she was doing this, she couldn’t stop at a cup, one sip and she wouldn’t be able to start again. “I, I...the bottle, with the gold flecks in it, could I h-have that...please, Lady Periya?” Lux asked quietly.

The handmaiden blinked, but looked at Nāgasāni who gave her a playful little grin from behind her glass and nodded. With her approval, Periya held the tray out to Lux, “Of course, Lady Lux—the Gold Rhapsody is a fine choice. It’s flavored with cinnamon so it has a nice hint of spice, which suits you quite well.”

“M-my thanks....” Holding in a breath, Lux pulled an arm away from her chest, reach out and delicately took hold of the bottle by its neck and pulled it to her, and she paused, quietly staring at the swirling bits of gold within it.

Seeing first, Nagasani, then Lux agree to the drinks, made Astrid feel all sorts of giddy suddenly. "Yeesshhh! That'z whad I like ta see!" Grabbing her now empty bottle, and raising it in a toast, she repeated the words Nagasani had said a few moments earlier, "Here's ta new bondz made!" Taking a swig of air, Astrid looked at the bottle perplexed before beginning to giggle again. "Oopsh... I need anudder drink! Oh, pretty lady with drinksh! Could'n you come 'ere a second?" There was no telling what further imbibing of alcohol would do to her mood, but at this point there probably was little stopping her. Peryia nervously approached the Lunar, who snatched up the remaining bottle of Forest King's Nectar.

Looking beyond pleased with herself, she turned back to Nagasani, as she fumbled with uncorking the bottle. "Hokay... Less finisshh the baff now! Do ya got a perdy dress'n for me??" Ample slurring did little to hide the obvious excitement in her voice. "Oh! Do ya fink F-F-Fakkaru... Thass not right. Do ya fink the cenzor will gib me perdy dresses for muh daughder when we bring'im his wife?" At that moment, the Lunar was perfectly content with herself and where she was, all homesickness subsumed by a giddy, alcohol induced high. "We're all bezt frieenns now!" The statement was punctuated by a brief pull from her bottle.

Lux paid little heed to Astrid’s drunken rambles, and simply stared down the bottle she held. She was...going to do this then. Taking in a deep breath, she steeled herself, shut her eyes, tipped her head back, pressed the mouth of the bottle to her lips and started taking large, shameless gulps of the liqueur. Creation, was it foul and did it burn as it hit her throat and her stomach, but she pressed onward anyway, occasionally feeling a bit of the gold leaf pass over her tongue. Her eyes watered, and she wanted to choke and cough, but she held the urge back.

"Thadda girl! Drinkin' like thadd 'id make you family in muh tribe!" The quintet concurred with Astrid's statement and gave a small fit of giggles and polite claps in cheer.

After she guzzled about half of the remaining contents in the bottle, Lux pulled it away from her lips with a pop and gasped, sucking in air to try to soothe the burn that persisted in her mouth and throat. She coughed a few times, and set the bottle on the lip of the tub, thoroughly done with it.

....and, oh, there was the cinnamon Periya had mentioned.

Whether it was the bathwater, the overwhelming amount of mortification she’d experienced so far that day or maybe the liqueur was already hitting her, but Lux found herself feeling...a little lightheaded, and dazed, like her thoughts were being dulled. An odd noise came from Lux’s throat as she tried to speak, but couldn’t manage anything coherent. Her limbs slackened, but her position remained much the same, til she rolled her head back, it coming to rest on Astrid’s shoulder without a word.

Suppressing a giggle, Astrid patted the girl's head, looking at her like a mother would a child. "Aww... Poor fings had quite tha day."

"Indeed, we should finish quickly then and give her a chance for deserved rest." Nagasani downed her own shot glass and returned into Peryia. "Girls, if you would please make ready Lady Astrid's and Lady Lux's new attire?" The other four nodded and dispersed, grabbing their assorted equipment and fabrics. As they scurried around the room Nagasani claimed another bar of soap and brush from the side basket and turned to the Lunar. "Lady Astrid, would you mind tending to her front whilst I administer to her back?"

Astrid nodded, a show of understanding, "Poor crature ca-*hicc*-can berly keep 'er head up, ledder'lone warsh 'erself." Taking the implements from Nagasani, Astrid began to lather the girl up with one hand, while holding her steady, and probably upright, with the other. Balancing on one foot, she held the brush carefully with her free foot and used it to scrub Lux down while she soaped up other areas of her skin. "Standin' is harder thaan ushual." Finding it oddly hard to stand steady, she managed to quickly set to work cleaning the Terrestrial. "Luxsh, I cann'tt git ober how sawft ya are! Ish like a tooyy."

Behind the terrestrial Nagasani hummed as she applied her own layer of soap, and performed a more sober attempt at keeping the terrestial standing. "I agree, it's a most enviable quailty of yours Lady Lux. If given the chance I'd like to keep you to play with forever!" The was a sharp cheerfulness in her voice, and it couldn't be certain whether Nagasani meant that as simple joke or not. None the less she was certainly having fun with the whole exercise and was allowing herself to become swept up with it. A thought crossed her mind and she hummed again. "In fact I wonder... are you ticklish Lady Lux?" Immediately After asking this question she started making a few experimental prods of the exalt's sides. They had only known the exalts a short time but there was a certain level of enjoyment that the handmaidens were having with their company, enough that for the moment the quintet forgot the dire circumstances that brought them here in the first place. Whatever the outcome in the coming days, this day's events did much to endear the exalts in the handmaidens hearts.

Lux was utterly in a daze, her thoughts were foggy and nonsensical, enough that her whole form had gone lax and she barely at all registered the fact that she was being scrubbed down both front and back by the other two women in the tub. The unholy combination of the alcohol, the herbal bathwater and her emotional exhaustion had come together to induce something of a tranquilizing effect over the Terrestrial. Perhaps when she regained her senses, she’d end up being embarrassed beyond all comprehension—if she remembered any of this at all, of course. Til then though, Lux couldn’t have better suited the term ‘loosen up.’

....and it took the few experimental prods that Nāgasāni gave to her sides to rouse Lux even minimally from her intoxicated stupor. Before, someone touching her sides would’ve been enough to make her want to crawl in a hole. However, that was before she’d guzzled near half a bottle of strong liqueur.

Now?

Now, Lux’s loosened inhibitions only allowed the Dragon-Blooded to twitch away a bit in response to the light touches, before Nāgasāni took this to mean that Lux was indeed touch-sensitive, as she’d surmised. A devilish smile played over the girl’s features, “So it would seem that you are indeed ticklish then. Oh, my....”

Seeing Lux in this state brought forth a frown on the Lunar's features, "She'z not all ther' iz zhe?" Waving a hand in front of the girl's face, and still not getting a response. It seemed Nagasani's prodding of her sides was the only thing that could return her to a state of animation. She remained underwater for a few moments, unable to register what happened. Then she realized, that she was underwater. Standing back up, she returned to her study of the potentially overly-intoxicated girl. "Intrereztin'... Standin' ish haard."

Growing slightly concerned for Lux's well-being, Astrid decided to do a little test of her own. Dropping the brush that she held with her foot, and transferring the soap to her foot, she began to tickle Lux. Lightly at first, but as Lux continued to twitch and sidle to and fro the tickling grew in intensity. "Luxzz, whatsha doin'? Luuxxx!"

Nagasani frowned as well. "Dear oh dear, the alcohol seems to have hit her rather hard. Hmm," The handmaiden pondered for a second, trying to gauge the terrestrial's conscious state. Seeing that Astrids ministrations were getting a reaction out of her, the handmaiden decided that continuing with course was probably the best way to gague her mental responsiveness.

Though the light touches and pokes seemed to be snapping Lux from her dazed state, it seemed to only have a slight effect overall. The girl was only reacting instinctively, and was swaying a bit as she struggled to stay upright. So, Nāgasāni pondered when she realized how ineffective just tickling the girl was. She considered her options—Lux was certainly at her mercy, but teasing the girl was proving to be little fun since she barely seemed cognitive enough to respond. There was no joy to be derived from Lux when she was like this.... But, if she was indeed touch-sensitive, then, possibly....

Nāgasāni was feeling a bit more...playful than usual, perhaps it was the small drink she’d shared with the two Exalted, or maybe it was the overall atmosphere, either way, Nāgasāni dared to go a bit further then just light touches. She poked, pinched and squeezed...as Astrid had stated before, the Fire Aspect was soft. The more pressure Nāgasāni seemed to utilize, the more Lux seemed to physically respond, though she still seemed mentally vacant. The handmaiden did giggle a bit, and an idea occurred to her, she remembered earlier, what Lakshmī had done when attempting to get Lux into the tub....

It’d certainly spurned the bashful little Dragon-Blooded back into reality when she’d been so overcome by embarrassment. Perhaps it would work again.

“Ah, Lady Lux, you know you cannot possibly enjoy yourself proper if you do not regain yourself, at least a little.” the handmaiden hummed a touch, and when Lux unsurprisingly failed to respond, “Very well, it looks as if I must resort to more drastic measures to rouse you then.” As Lakshmī had done before her, Nāgasāni delivered a sharp slap to Lux’s hindquarters...which resulted in the Exalted going rigid and squeaking, loudly. Somewhat snapped from her state, Lux’s mind struggled to comprehend the situation, her recall was vague, at best. But, she knew that she was feeling...nice? She was in a nice place, it was warm and it smelled pleasant too, like herbs and flowers.

A silly smile came over her face as she entirely forgot about what roused her in the first place, and she swayed, entirely unaffected by any attempt to keep her upright as she let out an airy, mindless giggle and relinquished herself to gravity’s power and flopped over gracelessly into the tub, pulling both of the other women with her.

Crashing into the bath and letting out a squeal at being unexpectedly knocked down, the trio sent water everywhere and became a heap of tangled limbs as Nagasani and Astrid each struggled to bring Lux back up. The world was spinning a bit and it was hard to figure out which way was up. In the resulting attempts to get up, Astrid was pretty sure she grabbed something she shouldn't have. After realizing this, adrenaline rush from embarassment suddenly made the world stop spinning and she exploded out of the water, standing bolt upright. "Notta werd. From eider a' ya."

Little senseless giggles worked their way out of Lux while Astrid worked to free herself from the tangle, her face was barely above water and she herself didn’t care to move too much, she was perfectly content, even when something of hers got grabbed. Why did Astrid tell them not to say anything...?

Fearing that Lux may drown, she picked the girl up, and for reasons she couldn't quite remember, she lifted her into the air as if presenting a new puppy. "Beee-*hicc*-hold! The lovverlyy lady Luuxx! She *hicc* gotter perdy dresh! And sooonn! *hicc* Ima get uh perdy dresh!"

Lux laughed dizzily as Astrid seemed to present her to the room, as she began to mindlessly parrot the Lunar quietly, “Perdy dresh, perdy dresh~” almost singing it.

Then she held Lux close to herself, rubbing her cheeks against her own and declaring, "She ish the shoftest thing in tha hole wide Creashion! How shweet ov 'er to keep muh company in tha baf!" Lux began to giggle, again, from this.

Like a child showing off her toy, Astrid put Lux's face so close to Nagasani's that they were almost touching. "An' bootiful Nagashani! Who zet this awl up! For mee." Stepping forward, she embraced them both in a bear-hug and started giggling. Lux squealed happily as she was forced into the hug, and madly tittered in delight. Hugs were nice—something told her to hold onto this memory, to this feeling, to remember it for the future regardless of anything else...but why? She didn’t need to remember that hugs were nice! Everyone knew that!

Suddenly, Astrid remembered why she had been called to the palace, and that soon she'd be leaving Nagasani. Then she started to tear up, "Oohh nooo! Nagashani! I'm leeaavvin' shoon!!!" Holding them with only one hand now, she unconsciously began to squeeze them even tighter, all the while alternating between wiping tears from her eyes and patting Nagasani's head. Though not quite crying, she continued to slightly tighten her grip as she kept repeating the phrases, "Good Nagashani. Pretty Nagashani."

Though still utterly stupefied, Lux sensed the sudden shift in Astrid’s mood—about how they were going to leaving soon and wouldn’t see Nāgasāni for a while.

Still pressed firmly against both the Lunar and the handmaiden, Lux wriggled one of her arms free started to help her wipe the tears from her eyes, “Nnnoooo, no cr-cryin’! Do’n cry, pleeeeease.... Do’n wanna see y’cry.... Too pr’tty to cryyyy....” Lux slurred her words, shushing Astrid, trying to soothe her. “We's gonna seeeee Nāgasāni againnnn....” Her words seemed to calm the Lunar, as she had been on the verge of tears, but was now only sniffling, her face growing red with embarrassment. Not many people called Astrid pretty back home. They were all too in awe of her. "O-*sniffle*Okay."

Nagasani was alternating between laughing, struggling for air, and giving a few shrieks of her own as she and Lux were manhandled by the lunar. Finally getting a moment where everyone stopped moving for a second, she reached up and tapped the cheiftain on the shoulder. "There there, Lady Astrid, once you and Lady Lux return with Madam Amarel we will all be able to spend time in each others company again." She folded one arm around Lux's waist and the other around Astrid's. "I have faith that between the two of you it will take no time at all." A warm smile came across her face as she squeezed both exalts firmly. Returning the gesture, and putting an arm on Nagasani's waist, Astrid struck a triumphant pose, caught up in the moment.

Lux wormed her other arm free from between Astrid and Nāgasāni and happily returned the three-way embrace. She started to ramble away again, “Gonna saaaave ‘Marel, gonna saaaave her....” Face flushed from the heat of the bath and the alcohol still in her system, Lux smiled at both women, “Luuuux is…isssss not w’rried, Nāgasāniiiiii s’right, we gonna save Am’rel~”

"Yish! Nagashani gone be 'ere waitin' fer ush!" Smiling another big goofy smile, Astrid began to repeat Lux's claim that they were, "Goooneee saaaave 'Marel! Saave 'Marel an' retuurrn ash hero! Mish Nagashaannii gone be waiting! Then we haf' anudder baf!!!" On the last word, she pounded her chest with a fist, as if to emphasize the importance of the bath. "Nao... Where'sh our perdy dreshes?"

Giggling, Lux was glad that Astrid’s spirits had been lifted. They were going to do this, they were going to save Amarel and see Nāgasāni and all of the handmaidens again—and yes, they were going to have another bath! All of them were going to be heroes—they were going to kick someone’s hindquarters and have an adventure! But first.... “Puuuurdy dr’sses...es....” Lux hummed out.

A small burst of laughter from the far side of the room was the response. The remaining four handmaidens had been watching the display with a fair bit of amusement. Wiping a few merry tears from their eyes, Vengalu was first to step forward. "We have them here for you my Ladies. If you'll join us we'll have you robed and ready for your adventure." Behind her two sets of stands stood holding hand selected articles of colorful clothing and jewlery along with a pair of mirrors and chairs, one each for both exalts.

Leaving the bath, Astrid managed to stagger over to one of the chairs, slumping into it rather ungracefully. Excitedly, she clapped her hands and giggled, obviously taking pleasure in getting a pretty new set of clothes. Something about this request had been lost in the course of the bath... After a few moments she remembered she'd asked for several more things. "Ish the Burnin' Mantish bringing muh gau....grea... Greavesh and gauntlit?" A more nervous laugh came from Vengalu this time. As amusing as Astrid's antics were while drunk, she she didn't relish the idea of seeing her armed while in that state. "Master Mantis is speaking with lord of the armory right now about that. I'm sure he'll have it ready for you when you next see him. Now come, sit, lets do your hair and get you dressed."

She was actually excited about getting dressed up and putting her pretty outfit back on—she and Astrid would both be dolled up~ It was thrilling, so thrilling! Lux wandered out of the bath much in the same vein as Astrid, inelegantly. She walked with the grace of a newborn deer across the room, not bothering to cover herself up in the least til she flopped down into her own seat. Humming happily, the Dragon-Blooded gave a big smile, “Cccccccan I h’my purdy dr’ss back? Pleaaaase? I d’wanna wear some...somethin’ else yet! Like it too much....” Lakshmi and Hotton giggled a bit and pinched her checks. "As you wish lady Lux, but only if you promise to hold still while we put your make up back on."

“’Course! I’mma hold...still!” Lux garbled out, causing Hotton to gently laugh at the tipsy Exalt—what a contrast this was when compared to before. Indeed, it’d been fun transforming Lux when she was an unwilling participant, but this eager attitude was also quite nice too.

“Wonderful to hear, Lady Lux, we promise that you’ll look as wondrous as before.” Hotton assured her, smiling.

And with that the handmaidens split into two groups, Vengalu and Periya for Astrid and Hotton and Lakshmi for Lux, and began their final pampering. They combed the exalts hairs, applied perfumes and oils, and pinned up jewelry. A small scuffle broke out when Periya tried to paint Astrid's lips against her objections, but nobody was hurt and Nagasani managed to convince the Lunar to put Periya back down again. Astrid's hair they paid special attention too, and bound it up in two long pig tails that went down to her waist. Then they brought out the dresses. For Lux, the same gold, green and white dress as before pressed and dried. For Astrid they presented a short kimono that ended just above the knees and was slightly open to the sides below the waist for ease of movement. They gave it a low neckline as well in keeping tradition with Astrids previous outfit. It's body held images birds woven with golden threads present against a sapphire blue background, with black and red trimings along its edges. They wrapped her in it and bundled it closed with a red and white sash, itself tied with a golden string and on her back they tied a large purple and white bow before finishing by presenting her with gem studded sandles. Finally finished, they scooted both exalts infront of the large mirrors and awaited their opinions.

As promised, Lux remained still as she had her makeup reapplied, a part of her felt a little disappointed that Astrid seemed so against wearing makeup too, but it was okay! She was already so pretty to begin with, there was no need for her to have pigment and paint applied to her face. The whole process of having her dressed, and made ready to face the world again in a manner that befitted her status as an Exalted and guest of Fakharu went far faster and smoother this time, due to the fact that Lux did not protest or struggle against the handmaiden’s efforts. Given how giddy Lux seemed to be to get back into her dress, Hotton and Lakshmī decided to grant the little Dragon-Blooded some semblance of mercy this time around, and agreed that they would not force her back into the corset.

As Lux had insisted earlier, her waistline really was tiny enough...and enviable, she was so petite and had a rather nice figure. She didn’t need to have it enhanced by a corset at all, that’d really just been for their own fun.

As she and Astrid were presented before the floor mirrors in unison, both of their makeovers completed within seconds of each other, Lux looked at her own reflection, and unlike before, she joyfully smiled at it. She did not have a moment of disbelief, nor did she feel a lick out of her element—she just felt beautiful! “I, I look s’pr...pretty! Pretty, pretty, pretty~” she sang, clapping her hands a bit in delight.

Astrid was still hoping to receive her sping-loaded requests, but seeing herself in a mirror in such a stunning outfit caused her to forget about it for now. "Yisshh! I'mm shooo peerdy!!!"

Elated, Lux looked over at Astrid as she took in own appearance. She looked so nice—her outfit made her look just that much more amazing. It was enough that made a still very drunk Lux repeat her earlier faux pas, when she’d so dumbly stared at her handmaidens. She couldn’t help but gawk at Astrid—like she’d said before, the Lunar was pretty! Both of them were—they both had on their pretty dresses! The quintet was amazing, so, of course they’d look wondrous. “We's look so niiiice...this s'all nice...I love all you guuuuys....”

Doing a bit of a twirl on the ball of one foot, Astrid admired her new outfit for a few short moments before remembering that Lux was also back in her 'perdy dresh.' Dashing over to the Terrestrial, gasping as she saw Lux once again in her fancyware. "Luxsh! Yer sho peerddy!!!" Springing at the girl, she swept her up into a hug and began spinning with the girl held in a bear-hug.

Lux squealed and laughed in delight as the Lunar hoisted her up, and spun her about. She returned Astrid’s tight bear-hug, thrilled that the woman thought she looked pretty. Astrid had realized her own beauty, but, Lux couldn’t help but comment on it, “You’s so pr’tty, ‘Strid~ Look, y’look like a ma-ma...master...like a w’rk a’art!”

Squealing with delight at Lux's comment, Astrid put her face next to Lux's and began to rub their cheeks together again. "Thash sho shweet! Yer perdy an' shawft an' shweet!!! Lesh go fin' the ofers and show'em er dreshes!" Without waiting for an answer, Astrid called upon Luna's favor, to increase her speed, and sprinted out of the room to look for the rest of their party, Lux still in tow. Bits of anima glittered behind her and her tattoos and caste mark began to glitter slightly, flowing with the power of Luna.

“Byyyyyyye!” Lux shouted back at the handmaidens.

When she reached a small balcony overlooking a courtyard, she flung herself off the side of it, landing in the courtyard. "Where da ya fink they be?" Her voice squeaked with confusion at the end of the sentence, the palace was so terribly large all of a sudden, and it seemed easy to get lost in it.

As Astrid and Lux's forms disappeared out the window Nagasani turned her gaze from the vanishing backs of their new friends and gave her 'sisters' a messuring look. "So..." She drawled whilst slipping on a fresh new gown. "Did any of you remember to equip them with new undergarments?" Lakshmi winked and stuck out her tongue. "Nope~!" Nagasani wasn't sure whether to praise her or groan.

Screaming joyfully, Lux laughed while midair, and continued to giggle madly even after they landed in the courtyard. Why didn’t she ever go ahead and jump out of windows like that? It was fun! Lux looked up at Astrid, who still had a hold on her. ”M’nooot sure...if a’yone can find’em, we’s can!” she cheered. They were going to go show everyone their pretty dresses and celebrate their newfound friendship and the fact that they were going to save Amarel and be heroes!

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Character Portrait: Astrid Grünewald Character Portrait: Lux Fiala Character Portrait: Calliope Lordes
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By this point, Calliope was on her own. She had long since excused herself from her satisfying meal, but not without shoveling leftovers into a small knit bag she had folded up in her pocket. Calliope packed the bag with non-perishable items, such as dried fruits, and cured meats. She shoved a few embroidered napkins in her pockets as well. She wasn't a total animal!

Toting the bag of food with her, Calliope contentedly went to retrieve her things left strewn on the floor outside of the mess hall. She attached the food delicately to the outside of her weapons bag, and then lobbed the monstrous bag back over her shoulder. She longed to stretch and exert herself. It had days since she sparred or even practiced her sword arm.

Before she knew it, she had been wandering the vast halls aimlessly. She had hardly noticed how far she'd come, or when she'd left. Time was escaping her with ease. Calliope paused for a moment to try and memorize her whereabouts, but it would do her no good. Only two minutes later she felt like she was in the same place. She wasn't sure what floor she was on. Above and below, stairs seemed to go on forever. She was never any closer to the top of the spire. Calliope couldn't even remember where the dining hall was. Was it above her? Below her? She turned around to retrace her steps, but it just over complicated things, and she was already lost. No matter! She would press on.

As she descended several flights, Calliope was greeted by the familiar sound of steel. Where did it come from? It had to be only a floor or so beneath her. The Noble followed the enticing sound eagerly.

She was overcome with nostalgia. It reminded Calliope of her first time in the local sparring hall of her village. The realm of combat swept her away like an ardent lover. She could almost taste the gunpowder in the air, and the vapor of sweat at the end of a long day of combat practice. Oh, those were the good old days!

One more flight, and what appeared before Calliope was an archway leading to what could only be the sparring hall. Next to the door, emblazoned in gold lettering, was some kind of language she could not read. She approached the majestic stone-carved doorway, ambient light spilling out and across the stairwell, the silhouette of one? Maybe... two combatants?

The clashing sound flooded the hall, along with the masculine grunts and growls of what she could only imagine was a mercenary preparing for his next battle. At last, a kindred spirit she could relate to! Without any hesitation, she rushed in to see the fearsome warrior.

What?

The sight she was greeted with was not what she had expected, to say the least. Where she imagined bulging biceps and broad shoulders, she was greeted by scrawny arms and a small frame. Before her was a small man, laboring over a wood post, attempting to hack it cleanly in half...and failing miserably.

What she didn't expect was his complexion. He was... "Rose!" Calliope sputtered.

The tawdry man across from her shared her skin color. The rare rose complexion, prized by the royal family. While Calliope stared agape, the man appeared irritated.

"If you don't mind," he said shortly, lowering his short sword, "I'm trying to get some work done."

"But... but- you're... you- we share the sammmme commmplexion." She struggled to reply.

"Easy there with the 'M's, miss. What? This?" He said, gesturing to the skin on his forearm. He chuckled, cooly. "It's just bad rosacea or somethin'." He fell back into an attack stance, ready to resume his study.

"That you have had sinnnnce birth?" Calliope persisted.

"Alright, let me level with you. I'mmmmmm," he started, patronizingly, "busssssyyyyyyyyy, got it?"

"What businnness have you in this estate?"

"Oh Creation, I could ask you the same thing! Didn't your folks teach you any manners?"

"Why yes, they did! Annd if you lived up to your commplexion by annny stretch of the immmaginnation, you'd knnow, I, of all creatures, have the best of mmannners!"

"What is with your interest in complexion? What are you? A dermatologist?"

"I know not this Tribe of Dermatologist you speak of! I am Calliope Lordes, Daughter of Titania, Soul Air of the Gladommain Emmpire, and a descendannt of the dear blood linne which grants you that Noble Hue."

The man seemed to soften at the sound of Calliope's name and title, but instead of inquiring further, he raised his short sword. "You know, impersonating nobility is a royal offense." His tone was less playful and more stern. He approached her menacingly, sword in hand. Calliope almost thought he was ready to attack her. Her hand fell on the hilt of her ōdachi.

"Sir, are you a citizenn of Gladomm?" She asked urgently.

Without reply, the man pounced on her. Unable to dodge his attack, she unsheathed her long sword and blocked the strike. In rush of adrenaline, Calliope overpowered him, gaining enough leverage to shove him to the ground. He was stronger than he looked.

In no time at all, he was on his feet again, and with a sweeping slash, he went for Calliope's stomach. She felt hot, searing pain, as the tip of his blade sliced through her robes in into her abdomen. She cried out. Clutching her stomach for a moment, before growling, "Assaulting nnobility is a royal offennse." She spotted the glint of fear in his eyes, and smiled.

Calliope leapt forward, aiming to shove him, once more, to the ground, but he dodged just in time, regaining his balance instantly and catching her in a grapple. The two struggled until they were just at the edge of the nearest staircase. He held her over the edge, his sword to her throat. Beads of sweat poured down her face, as she fought hard to maintain her stance...but in a last ditch effort to free herself of his grip, she willed the majority of her weight over the railing, taking the traitor with her -- over the edge.

They clattered to the ground, their weapons flying every which way. It was clear the air was knocked out of both of them, as the writhed on the ground side by side. She must have hit her head, because she was seeing three of everything.

Out of the corner of her eye, she caught him reaching for a concealed weapon on his person. Rolling over, Calliope struck him again, this time, cleanly in the face. She stumbled to her feet, kicking the dagger away, and in one last smooth motion, she unsheathed her second sword, extending it out to his throat. She grazed the bottom of his chin with the blade.

"Surrennder, and I will nnot execute you. I will- I will not repeat mmyself again. I am Lady Calliope Lordes of the Gladommain Emmpire, are you a citizen of Gladomm?"

The, now trembling, man swallowed hard and nodded. He was far more likely to believe her now. She clutched her stomach, assessing that the wound wasn't too bad. "I will take you into my custody," she muttered, almost fainting. She swayed, and swayed, and as her vision began to go black, she recalled looking out to see a door to the courtyard, and two very inebriated women standing in it.

"Lux?... Astrid?"

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Character Portrait: Astrid Grünewald Character Portrait: Lux Fiala Character Portrait: Calliope Lordes
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Posting part 1 of the big collab, next parts to follow


The sounds of a scuffle caught Astrid's ears, the groan of metal on metal coming from above her drew attention, and only a few moments later Calliope fell over the edge of the balcony railing. The smell of blood was in the air, and Calliope's bloody robes confirmed it was hers. Their bout wasn't over however and the man tried to make a move, before being squarely punched in the face. Seeming to notice their presence after successfully subduing the man, Astrid waved lazily after hearing her name called. "Hiiiii 'Allliii! Wash thish man gibbing you truble? Ya want, I should exshecute 'im?"

The quizzical and faint call of her name caught Lux’s attention, as smashed as she was, she was still cognitive enough to comprehend the fading consciousness that accompanied her name. With Astrid still holding onto her as if she were a sack of potatoes, Lux’s ditzy smile faded as her foggy mind struggled to piece together who said her name, and from where they’d said it...she knew the voice. Dumbly blinking a few times, the Terrestrial glanced to and fro. That was...Calliope? The pretty pink princess from Gladommm? She sounded...not good.

Craning her head as far as was humanly possible for her to do; Lux set her eyes on a sight that very nearly sent her spiraling back into sobriety instantaneously. Calliope collapsing, clutching onto her stomach as the grip upon her sword loosened, and it fell to the ground with a loud metallic clatter before another...pink person? Who was...ascending to his feet and reaching for Calliope’s sword? Oh, no!

With no words to Astrid, Lux wriggled her way free of the Lunar’s tight grip, landing on her hands and knees before she scrambled up onto her feet. Earnestness drove Lux straight into a dead sprint, and though she was nowhere as fast as Astrid, there was no denying the little Dragon-Blooded moved with purpose. The rose-skinned man who stood above Calliope, brandishing her sword, merely stared at her agape, apparently too dumbfounded to react as Lux moved in on him. Stunned and betrayed by his reflexes, the man beheld the terrifying sight of one, very small woman coming at him in full tilt.

Still somewhere between clear-headedness and inebriation, Lux shouted at the top of her lungs, “Get t’Hell awaaay fr'm our pr’tty pink priiiincess!” before she came to dead stop right before him, and swung her leg upward...hitting a rather...sensitive spot right between the man’s own legs with all the force she could muster.... A strained groan came from the man as his pink complexion paled, and he lost his grip on the sword and it clattered to the ground again. He swayed upon his feet, and could manage no words before he fell backward and hit the ground with a hard thud.

Where he laid, the stranger now guarded his face, assuming a fetal position in order to brace himself for any further attacks. Calliope, on the other hand, struggled to keep her eyes open. The room was spinning. She moaned, fading in and out of consciousness.

With inhuman speed, Astrid darted to the man before he could regain his senses, picking him up by the throat and holding him off the ground. The pink stranger yelped in terror at the sheer strength of the Lunar. "Shheee now w-why why ya gosh ta be bullyin' the perdy pink prinshess!? Ish not nishe, and I do not approve!" Shaking the man to emphasize her point, she tightened her grip to the point where he couldn't breathe then dropped him quite unceremoniously on his butt.

Glaring at the man, Lux stuck her tongue out at him in a rather childish manner before she knelt down next to Calliope, shushing in a soothing manning her as she moaned. [color=red]“S’gonna be ‘kay, promise, s’gonna b’okay....”
she said softly as she gently lifted the Solar’s bloodied hand from her stomach to get a look at the wound...as carefully as she could manage in her half-drunk state, the Dragon-Blooded pulled at the rip in her dress as much as she could without further damaging the clothing, and squinted, as she took to examining what she could. It was shallow, at least, though still bleeding a bit. It didn’t look to be bad enough to cause Calliope to be on the cusp of fainting though. Perhaps she’d hit her head...?

"How'she lookin' Lux?"

“’Tomach’s not bad, but I thin’ she hit h’head.” she answered.

He fell like a rag doll, gasping for breathe. "Who ARE you?!" He demanded, through his pitiful gasps. "Please! Leave me alone! I don't want anymore trouble!" There was a panic in his voice, and his eyes darted around, looking for any which way he could escape. Admittedly, he could still feel the Terrestrial's heel in a not so nice place. Astrid grinned and struck a triumphant pose. "I am Luna'sh wraf made 'uman. I am Nightffaang. I am the cat when yer tha mouse. I am become deaf." He began a quick crawl. "And I do sho luff it when they run. Go on lozer. Jusht try me."

Before the man could gain any distance, Lux huffed and tore off one of her heavy, gold-plated shoes, and lobbed it at him as hard as she could...hitting him square in the back of his head. “Don't matter whooooo...I am, you's...an idiot!”

He let out an indignant cry, falling on his face once more. He turned himself around, on his back, so that he was now facing the two threatening women. He reached into his muddied boot for a hidden knife, and in a smooth throw he aimed for Astrid's side, missing by a foot or so. Lux started at the knife as it sailed past, and couldn't contain her snort at the pathetic display.

He continued to crawl backwards desperately. "Please don't kill me! Please don't kill me!"

Calliope stirred, attempting to prop herself up on her elbows. All the commotion drew her attention, and she struggled to get a view of what was happening. All she saw were Astrid's two long muscular legs, and the partial bust of the royal blooded man, attempting to escape the drunk wrath of Calliope's new companions. "I ag- I agree with the pitiful cre-eature," Calliope groaned. "His life belongs to the royal fammmm...fammmily." She collapsed again, but she was already feeling marginally better.

"What she said!" The stranger plead. "It- ah, it would only be right if she killed me. L-lady Calliope!" He was internally kicking himself for assaulting a princess. What the hell was he thinking?

"Tch... Ffiine he livesh." Not wanting to wait, for fear they might further change their opinion, Astrid angrily walked over to the man. Raising a foot straight into the air until she was doing a standing split, and bringing it down full force onto the man's head. "Wash gone play cat'n'moushe wif 'em. Perdy pink prinshesh hash all tha fun."

Turning her attention back to the princess and away from the pathetic excuse that donned the skin of a man, Lux moved herself into a proper seated position. “S’okay, gotta b’easy, think y’hit your head....”

Grabbing the scruff of the man's neck, Astrid made her way back over to Lux and Calliope, leaving the man laying in a heap next to them. Kneeling down next to them, she turned to Lux and whispered, rather loudly, to her. "Did she shay if she lubs er perdy dreshes?"

Lux shook her head in response to Astrid’s inquiry. “Ha...haven’t asked.”

Before he could make any further pleas, the stranger was out cold, on his face, with his rear end rather uncomfortably up in the air. The princess groaned. "Is he dead?" Calliope asked gruffly, from her comfortable position on her back.

Stealing a minute glance at the sorry sod, Lux confirmed his status. “S’not dead, still breathin’, ‘Alli...ope....” Lux hiccupped as she tried to say the Solar’s name. Gathering whatever few wits she had, Lux tried to speak as gently as she could manage in her state, “I thin’ y’hit yooour head, need t’be car’ful....” She stole a glance at the Solar’s stomach again, and noticed that the wound seemed to have clotted. [color=red]“Should get ba...band’ges f’that...then y’can tell us what y’think of our f’ncy clothes!”

Nodding vigorously and brandishing a big goofy grin, Astrid agreed with Lux. "Thuh lubberly Mish Lux ish cerrect! I got a perdy dresh! Now Lux ish muh twinshy! I'd wrip uh sleeve awf tuh dress ya... but... Perdy dresh." After a few seconds of having a nearly blank mind, Astrid realized Calliope's robe was all but ruined currently. "Mebe, Lux can use yer bloody robe ta manage a.... um... wrap!"

Calliope attempted to sit up again, but stuggled to do so, as if some otherworldly force was pressing down upon her chest. She winced, but beared the pain. But once she had managed to sit up fully, she rested her veering gaze on her two companions.

"Oh," she said, in a rather monotoned voice. "You have channged. It looks..." she chose her words carefully, while her eyes still attempted to roll back into her eye-sockets. "Adequate. I mmean- uh, nnnnnnice. Does the mmaterial stretch well for commmbat purposes?" She inquired, debating whether or not she wanted a change as well. Calliope looked down at her robes, and half-heartedly poked at the new hole in them.

The grin on the Lunar's face faded slightly at the Solar's answer, and hearing enquiries about its efficacy in battle caused the smile to vanish. She always had to think about clothing's battle potential, and that was not what made this outfit so special. "Ish perdy dresh, ish not supposhed ta be combat perpush. Ish shupposhed ta be perdy."

A big smile broke out over Lux’s face, mind too fuzzy to process the beginning bit of Calliope’s comment, “They are ‘eally nice! Comfy, too.... D’know about c-combaaat pu...purrposes’s ‘hough.” She did notice though that the princess was fiddling with the blood-soaked tear in her robes, “D’worry ‘bout that rip, M’sure the handmaaaidens’ll fix y’up wit' some fancy cl'thes!”

The pink man began snoring abruptly. He was still lying directly on his face, dribble rolling down his chin. "Annd where is all this alcohol you have clearly consumed? I amm goinng to nneed it." That question brought a smile back to Astrid's face, they would indeed need more drink for the long journey. In her haze, that thought had escaped her, how embarassing considering how simple a notion it was.

The Dragon-Blooded turned her gaze onto the unconscious man, and peered at him with irritation on her face. He’d hurt their pretty pink princess and now he had the gall to start snoring and drooling right near her! Annoying, he was annoying.... She puffed her cheeks out in a manner that rather resembled a squirrel, contemplating giving the man another well-aimed kick. As tempting as that was, though, Lux decided it was not worth her time, “‘Strid an’I got the al-alcohol while we’s were bondin’ w’the handmaid’ns!” Lux moved herself to her knees, swaying just a bit from her woozy state. “L...let’s g’get that cut cleeeeaned, at least-st! I can d’that, know how, have ‘perience....” she trailed off, “Theeen, n’clothes!”

Calliope cringed at the thought of being cleaned and dressed. It was not custom for Gladomain royalty to be served, not to mention the years of combat and reflex training could easily end in tears for the first machination that laid a finger on her. The Noble could almost imagine herself, reacting impulsively to the touch of one of the poor handmaidens, and taking her arm off as a consequence. She wouldn't know what hit her.

Calliope began shaking her head anxiously. "I'mm afraid that wonn't be nnecessary! A banndage will suffice," she insisted.

But, but...pretty dresses...and bonding....

Lux couldn’t help the pout on her face, but if Calliope didn’t want to.... There was no making her. She sighed, rather disappointed, “‘Kay then, just...ban’age a-and make sure y'head's 'kay, let’ssss do ‘hat, then....”[/color] Lux, woozily got up to her feet, and stood quiet for a second, trying to figure out why something felt awkward...before she looked down and realized she was only wearing one shoe. “Oop, need...need m'shoe f'st....” she mumbled, remembering that she'd lobbed it at the man earlier, Lux looked around, til she found it laying on the ground a few feet away. She clumsily hobbled over, picked it up and put it back on, almost falling over as she did so.

Narrowing her eyes at Calliope, Astrid put a hand on either of the Solar's shoulders. "Whaa? No, no, no. Yer clothez er very ruinet! Ish unaceppting. Nagashani will bring ya shome er.. uh... new clothez! No butzz! We'zsave the baf fer later!" Finishing the sentence, she began to stroke the pink girl's cheek with her right hand, mumbling something about, "Perdy perty princshesh alrerdy baffed, shmell it on her shkin."

"Oh dear, you are innnndeed soused," Calliope sighed, laying a compassionate hand on Astrid's. Calliope couldn't imagine how long she'd wandered the halls before the wild encounter with one of her own kind. And though she regretted her decision to topple right over the edge of the balcony, she was glad she had at last crossed paths with familiar faces, as drunken as they were. They were... starting to grow on her.

She looked straight up at the balcony from which she fell, wondering if it was a good thing how easily she was able to just throw herself off heights, but then, she wouldn't be Calliope if she wasn't a little reckless. They were all a little reckless, she recognized. Maybe aside from the mysterious Artisan, who seemed to throw himself at the feet of anyone, given it would benefit him to be in their good fortune. She knew not Lux's temperment, but it was clear she was more...clumsy than reckless. Calliope felt in good hands, with Astrid's hand on her cheek. She felt something different for these individuals than she had for anyone back in her village. But the word for this relationship she could not think of.

A thought occurred to her. "Oh! I bear glad tidinngs!" She reached awkwardly for the food bag strapped onto her back. "I helped mmmyself to somme snnacks!" Calliope offered the bag to her colleagues, just as the pink man stirred.

After Lux managed to slip her shoe back on without falling flat onto her backside, she found herself in yet another daze, her mind blanking for a moment as she stared off into the sky with a dull look on her face. She swayed a on her feet before shaking herself off her stupor at the announcement and offer of snacks...hopefully, there were sweets! “Snaaacks ‘ound yummy....” she mumbled, wandering back over to Calliope, Astrid and the pathetic peon who...was, of course, beginning to rouse, ruining Lux’s pleasant mood.

Astrid didn't like being brushed off when it came to her pretty dress suggestion, surely Calliope should join them in being pretty. She also didn't appreciate the comment about being drunk, they all had access to drinks with their meal and it wasn't her fault Calliope didn't indulge. Taking a few crab legs out of the bag that had been offered, the Lunar chieftain began to plot a way to force the Solar's wardrobe change.

"Where am I?" He muttered, rolling onto his back and falling back asleep. Calliope wasn't the only one with a bit of brain damage.

The man started snoring and snorting again...what a piece of work. That he could forget that he assaulted Calliope like that—even if he was hit in the head with a shoe and kicked by Astrid, there was no excuse, Lux felt an odd urge to hiss at the man much like a cat...so, she did, not even remembering that Astrid had earlier assumed the form of a housecat. The small girl's hiss drew Astrid's attention, briefly distracting her from her plotting, and eliciting a surprised, "Mew?" Popping a piece of meat into her mouth, she briefly wondered if the girl could speak cat, maybe commune with other animals.

"Does he have annny idenntificationn?" Calliope asked, gracelessly finding her way to her feet.

There was something stately about the man's appearance. His clothes were practical, but made of strong material. His well-kept shock of flowing white hair was distinctive, similar to Calliope herself, but westernized just enough that he seemed foreign. He had nice leather shoes with shining brass buckles, and a set of traveler's trousers, paired with an aristocratic frock.

Calliope picked her sword up off the ground, and pointed it at the man's face. "Search him."

Lux made no motions toward the idiot for a moment and merely leered at him, her lips pursed. Not really even wanting to touch him, Lux instead moved her foot out, and poked his ribs a few times with the tip of her shoes. At this point, Lux was feeling relatively sure that he wasn’t a threat anymore, just a nuisance and a nimrod. “Y’okay, gonna...do that.” Lux somewhat reluctantly obliged, kneeling over, “Goin’ guess, t'is a’distant...rel’tive?” she idly asked, as she knelt over and started to aimlessly poke at the pink man’s clothes, reaching into any stray pocket she found, finding little more than miscellanea, including what looked like several random pieces of a...jigsaw puzzle? What?

"Distannnt relative?" Calliope wondered. "I have nnno relatives outside of mmy mmother lannd!" The princess utilized the tip of her sword to open up his coat, exposing what appeared to be yellow embroidery. "What does it say?" She asked insistently.

The unconscious man was no longer of interest to Astrid, he was unconscious and therefore unable to run or fight, which meant he was effectively invisible to her currently. Gaze locked onto Calliope, she barely understand the girl's command to search the whelp. As Lux made her way towards the man, Astrid advanced a bit of a ways behind her, as if to follow Calliope's orders. However when within range of Calliope, she reached out towards the girl, placing a hand on either shoulder, and ripping the sleeves off her robe, while screaming out, "Peerdy Dreeeesssssshhhhhh," as if it were a battle-cry.

Before Lux was able to manage out an answer, she found herself rather distracted by the sound of tearing fabric, which caused her to turn her gaze back toward both Astrid and Calliope. A hiccup came from the inebriated Terrestrial, and she giggled a bit. Silly Astrid....

"Astrid!!" Calliope cried in annoyance. [color=#FE6979]"What has possessed you?!"
Calliope ripped the robe sleeve out of the chieftain's hand, indignantly throwing her arms down at her sides like a child throwing a fit. As if suddenly incapable of complex sentences Astrid, with wild eyes locked onto Calliope, she simply grunted out "You! Perdy dresh! Like meh!" Hooking her thumb back to point at herself while standing with the other hand on her hip, the Lunar eyed the princess, obstinate about getting the Solar to join the club of pretty dresses. Ready to continue her onslaught should the need arise, she swayed slightly while waiting for Calliope to acquiesce.

Lux did have to admit that she did like the idea of Calliope getting a pretty dress too—she and Astrid both already had one! Getting up to her feet, the little Dragon-Blooded bounced excitedly onto the tips of her toes at the prospect of the three of them matching, it’d be so much fun~ “Pr’tty dress, pr’etty dreeeess....” she quietly cheered in a rather giddy manner.

Calliope growled, her gaze flickering between the dumbfounding Astrid and the man in question. She thought and schemed of some plan to get her way, but there seemed to be but one option... and she wasn't going to like it. There was no use arguing with the Lunar, as psychotic as she was. Astrid was clearly her match in strength and dexterity, maybe even while inebriated.

"If you aid mme, I will," she sighed in frustration, closing her eyes and furrowing her brow. "I will do the pretty dress. Now what does that say?" Calliope kept her blade at the man's throat.

Lux squealed in delight as Calliope agreed. However, though, the subject of the embroidery had all been forgotten by Lux, her thought process still rather simplistic, the clarity she’d acquired before had all but faded. The Solar’s inquiry fell on deaf ears as Lux clapped her hands together in delight.

With a wild grin, Astrid half picked up and half tackled Calliope, holding her up and spinning with her while gracelessly giggling and laughing. "Yezsh!" Having to shift back into her Beastman form might have very well sobered her up, perish the thought! Throwing Calliope slightly into the air, she caught her again with a bearhug around her waist, and buried her face into the girl's stomach, rubbing her face against it like a cat marking family. "We'z all gerna be sho perdy! Shzave tha day! Sho Kawaii!" (Kawaii presumably being a High Realm word for cute which wouldn't register on anyone who didn't speak High Realm due to Fakharu's translation magic)

“Ka...kawaiiiiiii! Goin’ be so...k’waii~” Lux mimicked Astrid, tipping herself to and fro as she hummed a nonsensical little tune.

"I ish gone ta waatch the prizoner!" Setting Calliope down as gently as could be managed in her inebriated state, she stalked over to the unconscious man and grabbed him by his hair, beginning to set off in the direction of Nagasani, dragging the poor soul behind her. At least, where she had last seen the entourage. The man moaned in pain, but aside from that, he hardly stirred.

Calliope followed Astrid reluctantly, but with her captive in the hands of the Lunar, she had no other choice.

Lux followed along, happily humming to herself—she was so excited!

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Character Portrait: Astrid Grünewald Character Portrait: Lux Fiala Character Portrait: Calliope Lordes
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Posting part 2 of the big collab, more to follow


Excitedly, Astrid hurried along the route, back-tracking her steps. There was a brief moment where she was lost as to the way to the balcony she jumped off of. However before long she managed to find the balcony, confirming it by looking down to the courtyard and confirming she had landed in it. From there it was a simple matter of backtracking her steps, which she positively couldn't do in her current condition.

Flustered and unwilling to admit she was a tad lost, she activated one of her charms, anima glittering slightly in the air, and began to follow the scent back to Nagasani's location. There, she found the group of girls cleaning up the mess that Astrid had made by being unnecessarily boisterous in the bath. "Ish 'er 'Eiress Princhesh Calliiiope! She needz a new clofes! Maybe mend 'er robe alsho, she 'ad a mishaap." The last word caused her to burst into a fit of giggles, dropping the strange pink man to cover her mouth and clear her throat. She certainly wasnt laughing about tearing Calliope's robes off, just had something caught in her throat, obviously.

Nagasani and the rest of the quintet looked up, slightly surprised at Astrid's sudden return. "Well I see..." The orichalcum maiden put her hand on her hips and examined the disjointed gaggle infront of her and the state they were all in, and she haggered a guess what the cause 'misshap' that happened to the princesses kimono was. The unconscious man in Astrid's grip was... something. That was a question that she wasn't sure she was going to like the answer of, but that could be put off until everyone was settled back down again. "I suppose explanations can wait till later. Would you mind leaving your new..." She struggled to find the word for the comatose man."Aquaintance over in the corner there?"

With a nod, Astrid hurled the man across the room, landing him in a slump near the back corner of the room. "Ish always time fer explanin! Thish 'er weird guy attacked tha Prinshesh and sho I kicked 'im in tha fashe! Nodding triumphantly, she finished off lamely, and not even slightly believably, "And 'er clothes musta got all tored up in tha scuffle!" A hint of mirth crept its way back into her voice as she dusted off her hands, as if the entire matter had been settled. "An' now we're 'ere!"

A snort came out of her as the man sailed across the room and landed without so much as stirring,“Hiiiii ev’ryone! We...w'back!” Lux waved, leaving the notion of explaining the situation to Astrid, since she seemed so keen on doing so. “L’Astrid said...Call’ope ne...neeeeds a pr’tty dress too!”

Calliope stood uncomfortably at Astrid's side, she still felt a little woozy. Not even the man being launched across the room drew her attention. She was too busy reminding herself of how much she disliked the situation she was in, but it was clear, she was not in the position to fight Astrid's vision.

"Ah... did he now..." Nagasani felt the edge of her lips twitch a little as she tried to keep a pleasant grin. Lord Fakharu would not be pleased when he learned of this. She pressed on though, deciding to leave that matter till later. "Well then if that is the situation then I suppose we can find something to replace her highness' garb." She eyeballed Calliope for a second, trying to picture a few items that might go well on her. "Princess, if you wouldn't mind disrobing for us we will take your measurements and get started." Wordlessly Periya and Vengalu stepped forward to assist in the removal of her belongings whilst Hotton and Lakshmi began setting up their workstation once more. The Princess hesitated, before nodding, and beginning to unequip her weapons, one by one.

Lux remained on her feet, standing as the handmaidens resumed their stations. Calliope seemed anxious about all this...was she maybe afraid she wasn’t going to look pretty too? If that was the case, then that was nonsense! The princess was really pretty...and she was pink! She could make garbage look nice by merit of it being in her presence. “S’gonna be okay! Han...haaaandma...t’girls are goin’ fix y’up nice!” she reassured the Solar.

Tittering quietly to herself, Astrid unceremoniously collapsed to the ground, landing on her butt and began to eagerly await Calliope's new clothes. Soon the trio would be all in beautiful new attire and ready to set out together on their quest to save Amarel. If there were three things the Lunar loved most in the world, it was a good drink, looking good, and a good fight. This quest had already provided two of these things, and she had a feeling it would soon provide the third.

Daydreams began to float through her head, of the epic quest to come, and after that of a potential alliance between Calliope's kingdom and Astrid's tribe. Perhaps the Lux girl could also become family. Things were going better than Astrid had dared hope, and for now she was content to sit and wait.

Possibly the most visible weapon on Calliope was the long ōdachi on her back. She set it down carefully on one of the work stations, clearly disrupting the work of Hotton. She removed her shorter Katana, and another of a similar size, then a dagger she had strapped to her leg... and another she had in her robes... and... The total number of weapons came to about 13. Vengalu and Peryia at first were largely nonpulsed as they collected the weapons the Dawn caste removed from her person, but by the time the disarmed armaments reached the double digits even their professonal facades started to crack a bit as they struggled to find open places to set them aside.

“Wooooow...lots of swords....” Lux mumbled, amazed that the princess had so many on her person. Honestly, Lux wouldn’t have ever been able to guess that she had so many on her, or that anyone could have that many on them, period.

Calliope patted herself down to see if there were any other melee weapons she had forgotten about. Lastly, she removed her weapons bag and dropped it. It hit the ground with a echoing 'thunk.' After all of this, she did not hesitate to remove her robes in front of Astrid, Lux, the maidens, and the unconscious man, who now lay awkwardly in the corner of the work space. Calliope gave Astrid a small pat on the head.

Vengalu quietly took the robe off the princess and neatly began folding it. Peryia stepped forward with a new line of measuring strings. "If your highness would extend her arms to her sides I... will..." She trailed off as she got a better look at Calliope's undressed state. Specifically her eyes fell on the stab wound at abdomen. Though the exalts natural healing had clotted over the cut by this point there was still spatterings of drying blood on her belly. Unused to seeing signs of violence, Periya dropped her tools and put her hands to her mouth to muffle her gasp while her widening eyes looked up at the princess's face and finally spotted the head wound that had been covered by her bangs. The princess cocked her head at first sight of Periya's evident distress. Calliope followed the handmaiden's line of sight to the gash on her stomach.

"What?" She demanded, watching the scene unfold before her. "This? It's nnothing more than a scratch." She said, gesturing to her wound.

The sound of measuring tools clattering to the floor drew Vengalu's attention, who became equally as shocked. Their hesitation in turn alerted Nagasani and the rest of the quintet and when they too saw the wound the collective look of appallment spread through them. Vengalu and Nagasani were first to recover, the soulsteel maiden snatching up a rag, wetting it and then diving down to clean the injury on her belly while Nagasani turned to the other two exalts. "Did... was this caused by that man in the cornor there?" Her voice shook a slight bit as she asked.

Once again in a daze, Lux found herself drawn from it at the question. A genuine look of confusion passed over her face, til she saw Vengalu dabbing at the wound on Calliope’s stomach. She’d...actually forgotten about that in her excitement over the prospect of the princess getting a pretty dress too. She’d meant to clean and bandage it herself, she offered to. Even if Vengalu had begun the task, she’d finish it. As drunk as she still was, she was coherent enough to see that the handmaidens were all disturbed by the sight of blood, and that was understandable, Lux could surmise that such a sight was uncommon for them. Blood didn’t bother her, it was something to which she was accustom, given the life she’d led.

Shocked by the feeling of foreign hands, Calliope squirmed when Vengalu began cleaning her new addition to her impressive set of scars. While the rag was warm, Vengalu's trembling hands were cold, and with each dab, Calliope had the urge to grab the poor woman by the wrist and turn her away. It was more than a figure of speech to say the Noble felt naked. The daylight accentuated the jigsaw puzzle of tattoos that swept across her back.

Lux took a step forward, toward Calliope and Vengalu, swaying just a bit as she answered, rambling a bit. “Yeeeep, t’was him. Kicked ‘em really good f’it, tho’. D...don’t thin’ he’ll b’having kids a’ytime soooooon....” Lux continued til she was next to Vengalu and before Calliope, not even fazed by the fact that the princess had disrobed, without a word, she bent over a bit, next to the Soulsteel handmaiden and observed her for a moment. Though she was working with purpose, Lux could see clear as crystal that her hands were trembling, and that her complexion was somewhat pallor.

A soothing shush came from the Dragon-Blooded as she gently set a hand upon Vengalu’s shoulder, which seemed to lightly startle the girl, as her form tensed at the touch. Curiously and questioningly, she looked at Lux, seeming to not even realize she was there in the first place. “Lady Lux...?”

Lux just gave her a calm smile, and reach her other hand out for the soiled washcloth. “Lemme do thiiiis...can tell th’it’s makin’ y’queasy....” Without argument, Vengalu handed the cloth to Lux, who merely gave a nod to the handmaiden as she stood to her feet.

"Thank you, Lady Lux."

"'Course, s'no prob'em!" And without any hesitation, Lux took to gently dabbing at the wound. Calliope was visibly relieved to be treated by someone more familiar. Lux's touch was far more bearable, the Princess' previously militant posture relaxed to...slightly less militant.

Still in her daydreams, suddenly Astrid noticed that Lux was ahead of her and saying something to the quintet. Ignorant of their reactions, but not wanting to be left out of anything that may ensue, Astrid began to crawl after Lux on her hands and feet. Upon reaching her, she became vaguely aware of Lux trying to communicate, but between her own foggy mind, Lux's slurring of words, and the fact she was still daydreaming she simply couldn't make sense of it.

Instead, she contented herself by hugging Lux's nearby thigh and rubbing her face up and down against it, eyes closed, quietly humming to herself. Both Vengalu and Lux found themselves distracted, as both of them turned their attention to Astrid. Every so often she'd sing to herself, "Sawfty wawfty leg. Widdle Lux'sh leg." Repeating the two phrases for a time, after a few moments she brushed her face against a thigh bone, stopping to look at what she'd been rubbing against, she had a realization. Lux couldn't help but laugh a bit at Astrid's actions."Mish Luuuxxx! Ya don' wear underoos?!" Before Lux had time to process what Astrid had said, she clapped a hand against the girl's rear, with a light smack, to emphasize her point.

Though the slap delivered to her hindquarters might have been light by Astrid’s drunken standards, it carried enough force to sting a bit, which caused Lux to squeak and jerk back upright to her full height, knocking Calliope into a backward stumble. Stunned, Lux merely stared into the air for a few seconds wholly befuddled, as she tried to process what Astrid had just brought to her attention. Was she really not...? “Thaaat’s n’normal f’me, y’sure I’m....” Lux wiggled one of her legs about a bit, confirming her situation, “Huh, g-guesssss m’not! Oh ‘ell!”[color]

Lux haphazardly shrugged, not caring in the least about her predicament as things were. [color=red]“Fix it l’ter, f’now! Our pretty p’nk princeeeess n’her cut cleaned....”


Calliope snorted at the phrase 'pretty pink princess'. She stood a little taller after that. The pretty pink princess examined her hands and what view she had of herself. Was she ...'pretty'? What is 'pretty'? She understood it had some kind of relation to beauty, but she didn't fully understand the concept of beauty in the first place. She felt a boost of confidence and a wave of insecurity all at the same time.

Even with Astrid still awkwardly clinging to her leg, Lux went back to her self-assigned task, wiping away the dried and sticky blood from Calliope’s skin, humming a nonsensical tune to herself.

Astrid's drunken antic's brought some much needed levity back to the situation and the quintet let out a series of giggles at her and Lux's actions. Periya put her hands on Astrid's shoulders and gently tugged a bit in an effort to get her head out from under Lux's skirt. "Come now Lady Astrid, you may inspect Lady Lux's virtue later." The other girls were all smiles again, though Nagasani did spare another glance at the comatose man in the corner. The incident would have to be reported to the Censor rather soon, and though she was uncomfortable with the ruffian actions against their guest the fact that he was unconscious and that they had three, two of them currently drunk not withstanding, exalts to keep him restrained should he reawaken was probably the only thing keeping her from sending a runner for the guards. As it was she decided to leave the matter for now, but she was definitely going to inform the Dragon about the man's actions against his guest once the current makeover was complete.

Feeling a light tug on her shoulder, caused Astrid to stop rubbing her face against the oh so soft Terrestrial for a moment to inspect who was touching her. The girl's words were heard but not heeded, being quickly dismissed with a rather blunt, "S'not why am down here. Already got'n a full gander when I had ta scrub 'er down." It wasn't the Lunar's fault that the girl was currently taller than her, and standing up seemed so unnecessary when she had just sat down. Besides, in their spare time, Astrid saw no reason why she shouldn't content herself with petting a soft little creature, especially since the creature seemed so nonchalant about it.

Lux gave a pat to the top of Astrid's head, doing so as best as she could given their current positions. The Lunar wasn't bothering her in the least...but what did she get a gander of earlier? And what even happened earlier? When was she scrubbed down...? Eh, those were musings for later!

'Speaking of makeovers' Nagasani thought as she looked over the princess. She had to admit, while Lux and Astrid had provided their own unique if fun challenges Calliope was going to be a different ball game. Looking her bare form up and down she concluded that the woman was franky, visually perfect. A strong atlhetic build from a lifetime of physical training, a shapely body, long white soft hair, and a unique pink skin tone that added an exotic look to the woman. Building on that perfection was frankly going to be the difficult part, as they would need something to complement her natural beauty without clashing against her unique skin and hair colors. It was also not lost on her that the princess seemed to fidget strongly at simple touch. Looking over at the other two exalts (and pointedly ignoring their current compromising position) for inspiration two small idea's filled her head that could deal with both issues.

"Hmm, since she is rather pink already... and the other two have been given a bit of gold... would make sense on a solar..." Muttering to herself she walked over to where Periya was currently trying to dislodge the Lunar exalt from the dragon blooded's thighs. Tapping on Astrid's shoulder she leaned down to ask. "Lady Astrid, since you seem to be rather bored and Lady Lux has already volunteered to tend to the princess's wounds, would you be willing to assist us with her majesty's measurements?" She had noticed that Calliope had relaxed somewhat at Lux's touch, and going by that evidence it could be guessed that she'd be a tad more comfortable with her fellow exalts tending to her.

Measurements?! Calliope thought. "Inn mmyyy culture, clothes are mmm-mmmeant to be wornn! Not mmeasured! They billow for warmmth! And we used cords annnd belts to do the mmmeasuring for us!" She sputtered, putting her balled up hands on her hips. She readjusted to throw one hand down at her side, in a defiant, childlike gesture, but she assessed that it would be even more uncomfortable, and her hand found its way back to her hip. While Calliope was alarmed by all suggestions concerning her outfiting, she was once again, relieved to be in the care of her colleagues.

Hearing Nagasani's request caused Astrid to shoot up to her feet, neatly sailing through the air in a somersault and landing slightly behind Calliope. The poor Solar had barely caught sight of Astrid before suddenly she was at Calliope's side. Normally she would have stuck the landing, but her intoxication cause her legs to buckle slightly, almost falling back to her butt. Calliope caught her by the arm, but Astrid recovered assuredly, clearly without any need of the Princess' help.

Astrid lazily stretched her arms, like a lioness might before after awakening from a nap. "Yeaahh I cin 'elp wif measurin tha fair batt'l ang'l." Walking around Calliope, paying close attention to her features, she laid her right hand on the Solar. Running a finger down her shoulder and outlining her shoulder blades rather clumsily, she mumbled to herself, "Whippy mushcle, shlender build, but pawerful." Squatting by Calliope's leg, poking her calf, Astrid admitted, "I uhh... Wot er mea-shure-meants?" A yelp escaped the Princess' lips in protest, jumping at the slightest touch. Cleaning a wound was one thing, but Astrid's unsolicited touch was entirely different. Another small giggle escaped Nagasani at the display, Lux couldn't help the small laugh that slipped from her throat as well. She'd had her measurements taken earlier too....the handmaidens were going to have all of their measurements now! That would make it easier for them all to get new dresses in the future, wouldn't it?

"Well," Nagasani started, "when you get someone's measurements what you are doing is determining the size and shape of various parts of their body. We'll start by having you take hold of her." At her side Vengalu picked up the sets of string and measuring tools she had dropped earlier. She was about give a demonstration but Lakshmi stopped her, wanting to see how Astrid interpreted those instructions.

Astrid nodded as Nagasani instructed her in the proper way to take one's measurements. Stepping up behind Calliope, she put one arm around her waist and the other slightly below her bosom, ensuring Lux had full view of the wound on her midsection.

A wave of chills overcame Calliope, as she was now fully groped by the intoxicated Lunar. The smell of alcohol in Astrid's breath was far more apparent what with how close they were now. "I'm certainnn this is unnnnecesary!" Calliope cried. "H'okay, am 'avin uh hold uh her. Wut am do now?" Certainly the civilized world had some odd traditions, and this hadn't occurred during her outfit change. Perhaps it was due to Calliope's royalty? Royals had oh so many odd rituals. Rituals that Lunars simply didn't have the luxury, or want to pursue. Shrugging off her thoughts, she awaited further instructions.

Lux adjusted her posture now that her leg and hip was now free of one very clingy Lunar, and knelt down, dipping the washcloth in a nearby bucket of soapy water. Now came a part that Calliope was certainly not going to enjoy—disinfecting the cut. Whether the woman was an Exalted or not, it would do no good just cleaning around the injury if she left it gross and with Creation knew what might be festering in there.

Vengalu maintained a neutral expression, however that was constrasted by Lakshmi who was trying not top snicker. The redheaded moonsilver maiden elbowed her sister in the side and Vengalu sighed and gave Lakshmi the measuring string she had been holding. "Now you take this, wrap it around her and call out her size." The string had a series of red lines painted on it, meant to act as markers for the length of centimeters one could measure by. Lakshmi took it and held it out for the Lunar whislt Vengalu acquired another set.

No one ever liked having their cuts cleaned, it always was unpleasant. But, Lux had this nagging feeling in the back of her foggy mind that Calliope would do well with a warning before she got around to doing that, “Pr’tty prin’ess, g’warn you now, goin’ to b’cleeeaning the cut now, m’ght sting bit, ‘kay?”[color] she slurred her words out, as Astrid was attempting to take the Solar’s measurements with whatever instructions were provided by the handmaidens.

Kicking a foot forward, wobbling slightly but using her grip on Calliope to stay upright, Astrid took the measuring string. Wrapping that leg around the Solar, she transferred her hold of the string to the hand above her wound and held it, keeping her hand wrapped around her torso. Then she picked up the other end of the string with her foot and kicked it out almost to a ninety degree angle to pull the string taught. [color=darkslateblue]"Mm'kay, ish wrapt. S-sh'bout... a th-third a tha string. Wut er theze... red bitz fer?"
Vengalu was the one who answered this time. "Those are centimeter markers. You simply need to count how many of them go around to determine the size." She ignored Lakshmi sticking her tongue out at her as she took position on the other side with a small board and writing pen. They had other things to do today and the soulsteel maiden didn't want to waste all of it pranking exalts. "Once you've done that, pick another part of her and measure that as well, I'll keep track of the numbers." She gave a quick glance up at Calliope. "If your highness wouldn't mind would you please stand feet shoulder width apart and your arms outstretched?"

Between the disinfectant and Astrid's awkward assistance, it was as though Calliope was being ensnared and tortured. Now she was being given orders? "I most certainly will nnnot outstretch mmy arrmmms! Let GO OF MME!" She demanded. The pink man, practically upside down in the corner, had awoken at the sound of the Princess' cry, shocked to see a very naked woman being restrained by the intimidating Lunar.

As the Solar began to fidget and writhe about, attempting to escape the hold Astrid had of her, Lux’s efforts in disinfecting her wound came to a halt. Even still soused, the little Dragon-Blooded sensed a need to move from her current position, or else...something would happen, what that something was, she wasn’t sure.

Not understanding why she had to take hold of Calliope, and deciding that part of the measuring process must require her to not let go, Astrid was taking great pains to keep her arms wrapped around the Solar. Calliope was on her final straw. Astrid's grip on her tightened, while she fumbled with the measuring tape. Calliope planned her escape. While she couldn't seem to leap out of Astrid's clutches, instead, she dropped and rolled out of the Lunar's grasp, almost toppling over Lux, who'd obeyed her sense and had flopped backward onto her hindquarters and scrambled back a ways.

From a kneeling stance, Calliope lept to her feet triumphantly. There was a brief awkward pause as the handmaidens and the other two exalts stared at her, Vengalu being the only one with presnece of mind to lend a hand to the fallen Lux. Then Lakshmi, ever the miscreant, pointed directly at the princess and gave a sharp yell of "GRAB HER!"

The Princess, with a sudden burst of adrenaline, took off, fully in the nude, and out the door of the sewing shop. If ONLY she had any of her weapons! Then she could properly defend herself. She only had her own motivation to escape. Taking a sharp turn around the corner, Calliope slipped on the marbled floor, careening into the protruding corner of a wall. She recovered quickly though, making it to her feet, and sprinting down the closest hall she could find. She was just a blur of pink, and a streak of white hair trailing behind her.

A brief moment of uncertainty went through Astrid's mind, taking a moment to process what had just transpired. Hearing Lakshmi cry out, Astrid's skin rippled, anima glittering slightly in the air as it illuminated her caste mark. Growing greatly in size as her Beastman form began to surface, Calliope's scent still fresh in the air, she dropped to all fours and purred out, "Oh Creashion do I luff'n they run." Bounding forward, she darted after the girl. Calliope was quick, but not as quick as a Lunar in full glory, re-capturing her was but a matter of time. Right behind her a small battle cry was sounded as three of the quintet followed behind Astrid's charge.

In the flurry of commotion, the Pink Stranger took the opportunity to sneak out the back, staying quiet as not to draw any attention to himself. He scrambled to his feet, nearly tripping over some baskets of thread and fabric, catching himself on the wall. He fumbled with the door handle for a moment, before making his hasty retreat.

Under most circumstances, even inebriated, Lux would have found it in herself to politely thank Vengalu for helping her to her feet, however.... The whole scene that had played out before the Terrestrial left her otherwise dumbfounded, and for good reason. A naked-as-the-day-she-was-born Calliope sprinting out of the room, with Hotton, Lakshmī and Periya following straight after...which was also followed by a now transformed Astrid.

Following the whole fiasco, Lux, and the remaining two handmaidens, Vengalu and Nāgasāni, all silently stared at the doorway, trying to process what exactly had just occurred before them. What’d just...? Swaying a bit on her feet, the little Dragon-Blooded looked to Nāgasāni questioningly, then to Vengalu. Both of the girls returned Lux’s bewildered stare for a moment, none of them noticing that the Pink Stranger had managed to slip away and out of the room unnoticed.

“Er, that did not go as we planned,” Vengalu mumbled, rubbing her hand against the back of her neck.

Nāgasāni sighed in a most exasperated manner, and set a hand against her forehead, “Indeed, I would say that it did not.” she sighed, “How it was intended to go no longer is of concern, what is of concern is that we have a nude Lady Calliope running about the spire, aimlessly in a panic....”

Both of the handmaidens began to go back and forth between each other, trying to figure out how they were going to absolve this ridiculous situation.

Lux stared at the two girls as they spoke to one another, still holding onto the wet washcloth in her hand. It took her a little longer to comprehend what’d happened than it perhaps would’ve normally, given her intoxicated state, but when it hit her...it hit her hard enough to sober her up a smidgen. Oh dear, poor Calliope.... The Dragon-Blooded had merely been trying to clean and disinfect her wound, but all else that had been going on must’ve been too much for her to bear.

She hadn’t even stopped to grab something to cover herself with before fleeing. Did she even realize...? Acting without thought, Lux dropped the washcloth in her hand, and kicked off her heavy heels, knowing she could move faster without them and sprinted off much in the same vein as Calliope had, though she bothered to grab a large, loose sheet of patterned fabric before exiting the room, calling back to Vengalu and Nāgasāni, “Goin’ after t’em!”

And she was off without waiting for a response, or even knowing where she was going to find everyone, somehow though, Lux had a feeling she’d luck out....

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ashen Sky Character Portrait: Astrid Grünewald Character Portrait: Lux Fiala Character Portrait: Calliope Lordes
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Part 3 of the big collab, more to come


Prodding down the marble and gold halls, Ashen continued to pour over the sea charts he held in his hands. Knowing that the Archipelago of exiles was past the storm mothers court the Lunar was now trying to figure the most likely route the sirens would have taken to reach the island chain, for if he could do that he might be able to narrow down which part of it the kidnappers would likely be hold up in. His eyes trailed through the list of spirit courts, islets and other features along the way, noting which ones they might try to seek shelter at or avoid for safety. Dismissing paths one by one he slowly began to formulate a hunch towards their specific destination and it seemed to point towards the southern edge of the archipelago.

Unconsciously he started up a flight of stairs, utterly engrossed in his hypothesis. Busy with his fact checking he ascended the steps without any concern for his surroundings. And because he so face deep in his papers, the normally attentive changing moon either didn't hear or completely ignored the sound of bare feet slapping against the polished floors as he neared the top.

Ashen would have only heard echoes and murmurs, if only he was listening for them. With each slap of the marbled floors, the sounds of grunting and growling grew louder, along with the formidable chanting of women. It echoed ominously throughout the expansive network of hallways and staircases, like the howling of wind before a storm.

As Ashen reached the top of the stairwell, a small spot of pink appeared at the end of the 100 meter hallway. After a few more moments, the spot became the more defined shape of a woman.

It was only as he cleared the last step that the Lunar noticed something off. He managed to get about two or three paces before he looked up from the map he held infront of him. This gave him just enough time to become slightly aware of a pink and white humanoid blur coming right at him before the impact. Papers went flying out of his hand as the sudden impact of force knocked him off his feet and he went flying backwards down the steps, a single "OOF" escaping his lips. Something screamed in the back of his mind and he unconciously wrapped his arms around whatever it was that had just slammed into him and and he currled himself into a ball around it. Then he felt the first bone shaking impact of his body against the marble steps. He winced and let out another grunt, then another, and another as he tumbled down the stair case until finally he flopped ungracefully onto the tiles at the bottom, with something soft and warm weighing down on his torso. He gave a final groan and unthinkingly squeezed the object one last time.

“Now is not the time for the pleasures of the flesh, dear Ashen!” Calliope urged. They were a tangled mess on the floor, the princess had to practically pry herself out of the Lunar’s grasp. She sat up, still pinning him to the ground, but her body language would suggest she was ready to flee at any moment.

Ashen blinked, vaguely recoginizing the voice, and finally looked up at who had just bowled him over. He was greeted by a round, pink face, and two wide, golden eyes staring back at him, as well as a fleeting look of nervousness as Princess Calliope Lordes looked towards the fast-approaching mob that was about to trample both of them. The privateer almost failed to recognize her at first. Though he'd spoken with the solar on occasion since they're arrival, having her this close to him and in this state made him stop all thought processes for a single moment to take it in. Mouth agape, his eye trailed up and down her form, and for a moment he almost thought a goddess and just seated herself on his stomach. It was a few seconds before his mind finally clicked all the pieces of her together and he final realised that their dawn caste was his mystery attacker. "C... Calliope?" He muttered.

Then another second passed and he realised the state of the dawn caste on top of him, and the fact that he had been openly staring with his mouth open like an idiot. Instantly blood pooled his face crimson in a blush that could've been seen from Yu-Shan. "WHY ARE YA NAKED!" HE sputtered in shock. He tried to avert his gaze, but instead his eyes locked onto something else. The stab wound on her side.

He went cold.

"What... what happend?"

Although Calliope had gotten a head-start, Astrid was faster and quickly eating up the distance between them. The shift into Beastman form had sobered her up and she was now chasing with absolute clarity, kicking off of walls to turn so that she wouldn't lose momentum and generally using every technique she'd learned about pursuit. Before long the Pink girl was in sight, and tumbling into someone and down the stairs. Ignoring the stairs entirely, Astrid leaped down the flight of them, landing behind Callipe and... Ashen?

In retrospect, Astrid wasn't certain why she was determined to put Calliope in a dress or why she should care. However she'd come this far, and damned if she wasn't going to finish her task. "Fun little chase we had, but now it's time to get dressed. Come along."

Before she could answer his question, Calliope stood up, prepared to make another break for it back the way she came. But instead of fleeing, she calmly offered a hand to Ashen. [color=#FE6979]“Come with me,” she whispered.
Without thinking he took it in a heartbeat. Calliope offered a challenging glance to Astrid, and off she went, dragging Ashen behind her in a dead run for freedom. Maybe she couldn’t outrun Astrid, but she wasn’t going down without a fight.

Ashen stumbled for a second as she pulled him. Why was Calliope naked? Why did she have a stab wound in her side? Why was Astrid chasing her in war form? Why were they running from her? These thoughts went through his head in the span of a nanosecond, but they were cast aside the moment he got his feet under him. Some primal, ancient instinct flared in him and his caste mark started to burn on his forehead.

Spoiler: show
Willpower: 7/8
Peripheral Pool: 21
Active Effects: Beastman Transformation/Anima Effect


Letting loose a chortle and beginning to attune her anima to her body, feeling it infuse and spread through her muscles as the air glittered slightly. Waiting until they made it about fifty feet away, she began to chase, quickly catching up to them. Ashen glanced behind them, seeing the Full Moon rapidly advancing on them. Then Essence burned through his legs and he suddenly scooped Calliope up in his arms. In the next second he kicked off with a sudden burst, his body flairing inclandestantly with the silver light of Luna's power, widening the gap again. Astrid wasn't the only one with speed boosting charms.

Spoiler: show
Current Motes: Personal Pool: 4/6 Peripheral Pool: 5/13
Current Willpower: 5/5
Current Health: 5/5
Current Ongoing Charms active:
Ashen Activates: INSTINCT DRIVEN BEAST MOVEMENT. Quintuples running speed


Calliope wasn’t shocked to be scooped up, so much as she was excited to have a second chance at outrunning Astrid. She cackled over Ashen’s shoulder, raising a triumphant fist in the air as the moonchild whisked her off to safety. She held on to Ashen, as they gained speed, her long white hair fell behind them like the tail of comet. She grinned a thrilled grin, glad to have escaped the beast for the time being.

She was probably a minute or so behind the gaggle of crazed women, contrary to what she’d initially though, it turned out that giving chase to a naked pink princess, a transformed Lunar and three of Fakharu’s handmaidens was actually rather easy. Who knew that all Lux had to do was follow a trail of bewildered folks, who were too busy mumbling and muttering amongst each other, trying to process and comprehend what they’d seen to pay much mind to anything else?

As soon as the Dragon-Blooded found herself confronted by a staircase, she gave absolutely no thought as to how she was going to descend it, judgment and inhibitions still loosened by her tipsy state, Lux didn’t slow. Instead, the girl grabbed onto the staircase’s railing, and leapt up, pulling herself onto it, and proceeded to slide down it, the material of her dress providing no friction against the marble material.

Given that she’d already had a running start, Lux otherwise glided down the banister at a speed so fast that it made her heart feel like it’d leapt into her throat, and she couldn’t quite resist the exceedingly loud and joyous squeal that came from her.

Of course though, with absolutely nothing to slow her descent, once Lux reached the bottom of the hand railing...the Dragon-Blooded proceeded to tumble off the handrail, landing on her bum as she ended up sliding several feet across the marbled floor, the large piece of fabric she had in hand trailing behind her. She made it just in time...to see that Ashen had apparently been caught up in this whole ordeal as well, and had bolted off with Calliope. Lux simply remained sitting where she’d at last stopped, watching the whole scene play out from a distance as she could only bring herself to mumble an, “Oh dear....”

The duo began to put distance between themselves and Astrid, much to her chagrin. She grit her teeth and mumbled to herself, "A different tactic perhaps..." Turning around, she began to sprint to Lux, without saying anything, she scooped the small girl up, which caused Lux to let out a small squeak, and resumed the chase, a bit more slowly this time.

As they ran, she began to explain to Lux, "You're gonna go convince them to stop running, talk to them calmly and wind them down. I have a plan."

The Dragon-Blooded blinked a few times before she glanced up at Astrid’s catlike face, winding up the piece of fabric she still had in hand into a ball that she kept pressed against her stomach. The Lunar had a plan? A plan for what, exactly? “N’sure I’ll b’able to, but wiiiill try?” she responded, her thoughts feeling light. “‘Sides, I wanna g’ve ‘Alliope somethin’ to c’ver up wit’....” Lux lifted the balled-up fabric a bit for emphasis, but she couldn’t help but continue to stare. She’d seen Astrid’s half-transformed state earlier that day, but hadn’t had a chance to see it so up close.

She had thought it was fascinating, but actually having a chance to really take it in now...the Terrestrial had a thought she couldn’t quite keep contained as a huge grin formed over her face. “Y’look pretty, ‘Strid!” Lux exclaimed, a hint of absolute awe in her voice. A low purr rose in Astrid's throat, as she looked down at Lux and told her, "I'm always pretty," with a smirk.

A glad little giggle slipped from Lux’s throat in response to Astrid’s unbridled confidence—she had every right to it, after all. [color=red]“Yes! Yes, you are!”[color] she agreed without hesitation, before returning her attention ahead of herself. Astrid wanted her to convince Ashen and Calliope to stop running...the Lunar had some kind of plan that she wasn't privy to. Lux wondered what she had in mind and, also, whatever had happened to the handmaidens who'd been in pursuit as well? Somehow, Lux seemed to have managed to outpace them, strange....

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ashen Sky Character Portrait: Astrid Grünewald Character Portrait: Lux Fiala Character Portrait: Calliope Lordes
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Part 4 of the big collab, more to follow



MEANWHILE WITH THE RUNAWAYS


A blinding silver light shown through the halls, nearly drowning out all vision as the Lunar and Solar pair raced down it at speeds that would put a well bred horse to shame. Above them, burning like a beacon of pure moonlit radiance, the galloping image of a winged armor clad woman on horse back followed. For a solid minute Ashen had run, clearing from one end of the spire fully to the other. It was only after he had realized that Astrid was no longer behind them that the Changing Moon's speed slowed down to a 'relative' jog. Trying to take stock of where they were, Ashen took the opportunity to normalize his breathing pace and collect his wits. Above him the image of the charging valkyrie slowed to a trot and started to fade.

Calliope's head fell back in amazement at the sight of Ashen's anima banner. The silver light was enough to dazzle the stars. She could not remember ever seeing any other Exalt's banner before, aside from her own. It shimmered and flared like a portal to an alternate dimension. Calliope wondered what the meaning was behind the image. A dozen or so valkerie that charged some unknown enemy just above their heads. The Solar's arms fell gently around Ashen's neck, and she continued to gaze her starstruck gaze right up until the image's last flicker. Then it shuddered and disappeared.

Before she knew it, they had slowed. Calliope was rendered silent, she had no words for what she had seen. She was left with an indescribable feeling in her chest.

Feeling Calliope's arms clasp over his sholders brought Ashen's attention back downward, and the slight bit of red back to his cheeks as he was reminded of the state of the woman he was currently holding close to his chest. Briefly he hoped the remaining shimmers of his anima was hiding the blush that was threatening to form again. He coughed slightly and kept at his current pace and tried to keep his eyes forward as they moved. Tried being the key word.

"So..." he began slowly as he tried to think how to proceed, and decided to fall back on his usual quips and sass. "Do ye got an explanation fer what in tha name of tha ocean father's balls that were back thar? Or should ay jus' be assuming tha streakin' is a normal past time of yers?" And of course Ashen slipped back into his usual see tongue out of bad habit.

It took her a moment to disect what Ashen was truly asking. What did the ocean's father have anything to do with it? "I assumme you are referring to mmy outfit, or lack there of." The Princess replied calmly.

He nodded "Aye, it be a tad hard ta ignore." And it was, he had to keep wrenching his eyes back upwards now and again. "Also perhaps why Astrid were chasing us in full warform?"

"It is quite the tale," Calliope chuckled. "You see, I founnd mmyself in a smmall duel, annd after falling off of a balconny, I camme across dear Lux and Astrid, and you see, Astrid was very innsistant on a nnew dress, since mmine robes had beenn sliced open. You must know I was nnot particularly pleased with the situationn, annd I fled before they could clothe me. Annd here we are nnow." Calliope detached her hands from around Ashen's neck and folded them in her lap. "I do appreciate your assistance," she said softly. "Otherwise I would have been drawnnn and quartered by the hanndmminnionns by nnow."

The mention of the duel made Ashen look downwards at the stab wound on her belly again and study it with intensity. "So tha be where tha came from" He muttered under his breath, but the question of who she had gotten into the duel with flirterd through his thoughts. He almost wanted to pose the question, and it was evident on his face for a scant few seconds. Then he grunted and shifted her weight in his arms. "Well it be my pleasure ta help yer magisty. And 'ave no fear, I promise to keep ye away from any nafarious 'handminions' and their dread thread and needle implaments." He gave a cheeky wink and a grin at that, now probably having a bit to much fun with the situation.

"Why, that is very valiannt of you, Sir Ashen," Calliope laughed serenely. It was funny in retrospect, but in all honesty, Calliope was glad to keep Fakharu's handmaidens as far from her as possible. She could sense his curiosity about the wound, and she wasn't about to deprive him of the details.

"I camme across a mmann of my ownn kind." The Princess was quiet, as though she had to work through the turn of events all over again in her mind. It was still somewhat unclear to her why the man had attacked her, but it had to have been significant. "In Gladom, the color of my skin is considered special, and rare. This mmann shared my commplexionn. It is very peculiar situationn, because I knnew nnot of any inndividual with such a commplexion outside of my immediate fammily." Another pause. "Annd when I introduced mmyself, the mann accused me of fraud."

The privateer mulled that information over. There weren't a lot of answers he could give to that. There could be a number of reasons for the mans skin pigmination. Exposure to the chaotic energies of the wyld beyond the world might change someones skin tone to match the color easily, as could the magics of bored god or demon, but neither of those would explain how the man acted at the reveal of Calliope's status as a princess of Gladom. Not unless they had a personal connection to the place to give reason to that response. On a hunch, he decided to pose a question. "your skin tone... I'd be assumin' it's ah inhereted trait of yer family?" He gave her a more clinical examination as he asked this. Well, mostly clinical. 'stop staring at her chest damnit'

"That's right."

He hummed as he mulled the thought over. "An assumin' that yer family has been in power for a good number of generations... I'm assuming ye have a fair few cousin's an such?" He paused before he brouched this next part. "Have ye heard any tales of former family members of generation's past tha fell outta good graces with Galdom's throne?"

Calliope thought for a moment. "I have nnever enntertained such ann idea, nnor have I heard of anny such scandal." Calliope ran a hand through her snowy hair, her gaze drifted as she considered the thought. Some long-lost relative twice, or three times removed from her family tree, had brog the family, and thus the royal figure head at the time severed the connection for fear of any further embarrassment. She had never heard of such a thing, but being that her royal family was quite large, it wasn't completely impossible. There were members of her extended family that had been painted with dishonor for various scandals. Hell, it wasn't uncommon!

"But, that sounnnds very reasonnable. Yes, that mmust be the explannationn, and... and perhaps the distrubannce was nnever brought to light, as to keep the gossip fromm spreadinng."

"Aye, and it might explain why 'e called ye a liar an attacked ye outta tha blue like 'e did." He concured. Considering how far north the black crag mountains were the idea of some princess from a kingdom there venturing this far westwards on her lonesome could be considered a bit far fetched, even with the excuse of having been invited here by a celestial censor. "If tha be tha case, t'would stand ta reason tha he might not believe ye claims of being a princess this far from 'ome. That... or tha bastard could'a just have a grudge against yer family 'e decided to take out on ye." There was a slight hint of rancor when he said this. In either case, the thought that someone might have attacked Calliope over something as petty as mistaken identity or a family feud put an acid taste in his mouth. "In either case, probably ask tha dragon 'bout it later."

Around that point the two of them came to another set of stairs leading downwards. Ashen Sky stopped his run for a moment. His ears flicked a bit as he gaged the decent. He briefly remembered that the spire as a whole was constructed to fit a massive dragon through it's halls, and as such each of the stair cases stretched a fair distance. Still shining with silver light, the Lunar glanced down again at the solar in his arms and a mischievous glint passed in his eyes. "I'm gonna need you to hold on tight for a sec." He said innocently and began adjusting his grip on the princess, even going so far as to wrap his soft tail around her belly for the added stability.

His moonsliver tattos shimmered, quivered and shifted across his skin in response to the essence that he redistributed to his legs. Calliope began, ”What do you mmmea- ?” Ashen then bent his knees and a moment later he launched himself airborn, holding Calliope tight as he arched several meters above before coming back down with an audible thud when his feet landed on the steps. He launched himself again immediantly after, bouncing down the stairs with abandon. Calliope squeaked, then laughed, thoroughly amused by the impromptu ride.

She had unconsciously wrapped her arms around him, hiding her face from the gut churning view by turning her head just so- that they were cheek-to-cheek. Was this a custom of Ashen’s native Western culture? She felt like asking, but in between nervous laughter and the sickening feeling of falling, she left it.

After one or two jumps she was fine, after three or four she began to feel the effects of motion sickness, but by the time they had descended three floors total, she was ready to spill her lunch all over the marble.

”Please! Nnoo mmmore!” She begged into the shoulder of his jacket, at which point they had both noticed that her left hand had found its way into the tussle of hair on the back of Ashen’s head, while the right was clutching his collar, evidently trembling.

Almost as soon as Ashen heard her plea he came to an immediate stop at the bottom of the steps, landing in a crouch and sqeezing the princess firmly close. He felt a sharp pang of gulit for causing her apperent distress and started softly cooing as he waited for her shaking to stop. "Sorry, sorry, should 'ave given ya more warnin', was just tryin' to 'ave some fun with ya. Sorry."

Maybe it was the combination of the head trauma from earlier or simply a new found motion sickness, but it was clear from her expressions, that Calliope was experiencing something very unpleasant. "I've never felt..." she panted, unhanding Ashen's wrinkled collar. "I have nnever.. felt nnnauseous before. This is... ah, this is very nnew. I'm nnot sure I like it." Ashen chuckled somberly in response. "Can't say I've 'eard of anyone tha does."

Calliope placed a hand on her forehead, as though the last few moments had been terribly exhausting. The feeling of nausia passed, and Calliope relaxed in Ashen's comfortable arms. Then only seconds later, she was scrambling out of his grasp. She had fallen from the Lunar's arms and onto the cold stone floor. In an instant, she was on her feet and doubled out a window, emmitting horrible retching sounds. Bye-bye lunch.

The sudden burst of activity from her had left the Lunar staggered in surprise and she had virtually knocked him on his hindquarters in her departure. The shock wore off quickly though, for the sound of Calliope heaving over the side of the window frame brought him running to her side. His years as a salior did him well in this case and he was well familiar enough with new crewmen getting sea sickness to know how to handle it. First he gathered up her snowy white hair in a bundle and held it back behind her head to keep it from getting splattered with bile. Then he began rubbing her back in an effort to get the muscles to relax and make passing easier, all the while keeping a genlte hand on her shoulder to steady her while he waited for the sickness to run it's course.

"I forgot 'ow much ye packed in at lunch earlier. Probably should warn ya against doin' it again when we set sail tonight." He tried to keep his tone calm, but in truth he felt a small pit settle in his stomach. He only meant to tease the princess a bit but had clearly gone too far. The thought that he caused her current nausia made him feel a little sick himself. "You gonna be okay?"

"Oh yes!" She assured him between heaves. "I'mm feeling mmuch better-" Another retching sound followed. "Please do...nnot worry."

Calliope had truly made a mess of herself. She began to miss the comfort of clothing, and she longed for her weapons bag with her change of formal wear, and just her weapons in general. And here she was, looking down the side of the glimmering castle, bear bottomed, purging into what looked like a flower bed. "I admit," she began, "This is nnot quite where I thought I would be but a day ago." The view from her perch, still doubled over the window sill, was quite serene. The courtyard was a brilliant shade of green, divided with pathways and elegant landscaping.

A scholar crossed the courtyard, and promptly noticed the very pink, very naked woman hanging out a window. The man was taken aback. He gawked at the spectacle Calliope had inevitably made of herself. Irritated by his unwelcome gaze, the princess shouted: "THIS IS BUT NNONE OF YOUR CONCERNN!" The man blinked, then scurried away, glancing over his shoulder once more, before disappearing into an archway.

She noticed that Ashen had been rubbing her back, for how long she knew not, but once she was certain there was nothing left to vomit, she removed herself from the window,and detached herself from Ashen's touch rather abruptly. She felt embarrassed, it seemed this Ashen fellow brought some kind of nervousness out in her. Her sudden evasion of his touch made him flinch slightly, from both the abruptness and his own lingering remorse, and he ended up taking a step back.

A small gap formed between them along with a short awkward silence that each maintained for their own seperate reason. After a moment passed Ashen rested his forearms on the windowsil and cleared his throat. "Ay... I can't say I was expectin' much the same either. Certainly wasn't thinkin' that I'd be back this far west again till tha bird showed up with tha censor's invite in it's beak." Idly Ashen started to scan the scenery from their vantage point. "Can't say if I'm as excited bout it as ah should be." They could see the beach they had landed on from there and his eyes were fixed quite strongly on the horizon beyond it. It had been a LONG time since he'd seen the isles of the west and the great western ocean. The sight of it brought forth both feelings of nostalgia and dread.

Pushing the thoughts from his mind for a moment, he decided to ask a question that had been nagging him since they all departed the boat together. "Why did you accept tha censor's invitation? If you don't mind me askin'. It is a long way for a royal to travel alone, even on the request of a dragon."

Calliope struggled to find a comfortable way to stand. She settled on crossing her arms and leaning against the stone corner that divided the window and the wall, which proved to be uncomfortable. She contemplated the question for a long while.

"I-... I wish to brinng honnor to mmy infanntry." She wanted to end her answer at that, but something about the statement didn't sit right. "Simply put, Fakharu's request arrived at an opportunne timme. I have been ammong the Exalted for but three years. The arrival of my exaltationn was quite traummatic, as most are. It was immportant that I venntured elsewhere to brinng honor to my lannd, for mmy own sake." Calliope's posture seemed to deflate with each passing sentence. She rubbed her face. "I amm ashammed to say I have beenn the cause of mmuch grief and tragedy inn my village. Annd being there for anny longer-.. I don't knnow why I amm telling you all this."

"I..." Ashen hesitated for a second. He couldn't really give her an answer as he didn't really know why he asked in the first place. In place of that answer he came up with another question. "Have you met any other Celestial exalts before today?"

"Never quite like this," Calliope chuckled half-heartedly.

"Ay, can't say this was how I was expectin' to be makin' aquintance with my first solar either. Not that I'm complaining mind." He said with a small grin and a wink. Calliope groaned, and laughed. After another short paused he continued. "It's not tha uncommon of a tale for our kind really. Least it's not for what few I've met. Gettin' chosen by tha gods always seems ta 'appen when someone's in trouble, and tha trouble doesn't always just go away because ya've exalted. If anythin' it gets worse more often than not." He shrugged and leaned back taking position opposite from her. By now the glow of his Anima had faded somewhat but his frame still had a slight silver glow to it and his caste mark, that of the changing moon, remained fixed on his forehead. "I think I can relate somewhat if ye be willin' ta talk about it... and more over, ay think the reason ye were tellin' me is because some part of ya wants to talk about it. Least tha's my guess."

Calliope's posture corrected itself, releasing some of the tension that lingered after Ashen's touch. She could almost feel his hand still on her right shoulder blade. It was a touch that, for anyone else, would have been a one-way ticket to a broken wrist, yet there Ashen was, wrist in tact. The Noble's cheeks darkened a shade of pink, and her gaze cast downward for a moment, before she finally willed herself to look the Lunar in the eyes. He glowed divinely.

She hesitated for a moment before nodding slowly, and saying, "Yes, ah, yes, I will... unnfold to you mmy troubles. Or, I shouldnn't say troubles-" She began strolling forward, looking back at him as if to invite him to walk with her. "They are the cards I have beenn dealt, as one says." Wordlessly Ashen followed beside her, keeping pace and listening intently.

A small smile formed at the corners of her mouth as she recalled the more pleasant past. "I was the pride of mmy mmilitary. I rose in the rannks at a rapid speed. Nnot only was I on track to inherit the thronne, but also my position as Chief Commmmander." She threw her head back in pride, but it didn't take a long for the pride to wash away. "I started at just 16– a genneral of mmy own small battalionn." Her tone became solemn. "I lead my mmen into a mmassacre.

"I treated the situationn far too lightly, and mmisjudged my enemmy. There was a flanking ambush. So manny died at my hand, including, ah... Sommeone who was very immportant to me at the time, but he is long since in the past, now." Calliope caught herself displaying her remorse quite visibly through use of facial expressions, and promptly shed all sign of physical distress over the situation, but not before Ashen caught notice of it. She put her arms back down at her sides, and her voice grew cold. "I have nnever made the same mmistake again. This loss lead to my exaltationn. The next thing I remmember, I was sitting in the snow, in a crater of dead. For acres, there lived nnot a single personn. The ennemmy had beenn eradicated, but so had mmy ownn soldiers. And I can remember so vividly, the snow that day. How it was spotted in red. It reminded me of petunias, which I had only read about in horticulture books. Nothing was ever the same. I lost friends, and... loved ones. My family frowned upon me, despite the fact that my true calling had been found. Depsite that I was chosen." Calliope paused for what seemed like ages.

”Picture yourself, Dear Ashen, stannding in the very clearing that a mmassacre once occurred, with the knowledge that the mmassacre was your fault. The mmorning is crisp, the snow is fresh, and you swear you can still smmmmell the thick spray of blood. Everyday after, for three years, all eyes are on you. Nnaturally, it is because of your status- but deep downn, you knnow they are starinng at you because you are a timme bomb. That’s all they will ever knnow you as. Nno mmmmatter how hard you trainnnn. How hard you work. How fast you learnnnn. How well you harness your abilities. The onnly personn who would have listenned to your plight in the whole town, has died because of your arrogannce.” Her eyes narrowed. “Annnd as you stannnd in this snnnoww bannk... you thinnnk back on that fateful day and wish the Gods would have let you die, too.”

Echoes of her words rang through the stone halls. Calliope’s expression was unchanging, cold, reserved, and unaffected. She didn’t let it show, but she regretted saying anything at all almost instantly. Calliope was afraid to gauge Ashen’s response, afraid to let go of any sort of remaining control she had over her body, as she felt the choking sensation of emotion swell in her throat. Her militant posture, even stark naked, was intimidating. She used it to her advantage.

"I was stannding in that clearinng yesterday. Mommments before I received mmy innvitationn. I saw it as a signn. A remminder of mmmy free will. I took the opportunnity and I ran."

A small frown had formed on his Ashen as she revealed her story to him. He remained quiet as the walked, paitently abosrbing her words. "ya ran huh." he muttered unconciously. "That's something I'm familiar with." Her situation was vastly different from his. Born to status, born to responsibility, and the weight of expectations that came with it. He observed her while her gaze was cast ahead of them. Her posture was rigid, firm, upright and strong and for the second time that day he found himself involuntary marveling at her inherent pulchritude. But the lunar suspected that beneath it all was vulnerability she feared to show him and quietly he burned essences once more to activate EMOTION REVEALING SCENT.

He smelt if from her, the fear, the shame, the regret. It washed over his senses and stirred a feeling of unease in him. He had brought up these unpleasant feelings in her and he had no kind words to but her back at ease. But...

Suddenly he turned to her. "Come with me a moment, there is something I should show you." Without waiting for a response he unthinkingly took her by the hand and led her down the hall.

He wasn't entirely familiar with the layout of Fakharu's spire just yet, but he had passed by a room that he was fairly sure was nearby, and in a few moments he had found it again. The jutty that extended from the main hall was different from the rest of the spire. Much of Fakharu's spire had been decorated with fine art and precious metal, it's architecture boasting much of gold and marble in its floors and walls, but this room was not for mere opulence would sully it.

The marble and gold tiles that comprised the the floor and walls was replaced by the scintillating collage of the five colors of jade and the luxurious artistry that covered the walls and ceiling gave way to phantasmagoria Starmetal, Orichalcum and Moonsilver that seemed to project light by themselves from the domed ceiling. The sheer vibrancy of the magical metals seemed to render the sophisticated decorations from before banal by simple presence alone. And what was more the artwork here was simple, surprisingly so, but is suffered no loss in gandure for it only needed to display twelve subjects of awe inspiring sight.

First, coiling around round five towering pillars of jade, were the five serpentine forms of massive dragons, each comprised excursively of one of the five terrestrial magical metals. Above them, surrounded by a series of constellations wrought of star metal, were engravings of five women who each carried a sign of one of the five planets. Center piece of all of this were two statues at the far end of the shrine. One made of moonsilver, that seemed to shift its features ever so slightly every so often between that of a woman or what could be an androgynous man.The other was of a towering armored man with four arms, forged of gleaming Orichalcum and in each hand holding a horn, A laurel, a shield and a spear.


The second they passed through the doors a feeling of weight seemed to descend on them, and a pulse of energy passed through them penetrating their bodies. It almost felt as if this room, this shrine was reacting to their presence, for each step of their feet on the floor gave another slight spark to pass through. The force of that energy felt slightly familiar to both of them. "I found this earlier, while I was wandering around... I think it's supposed to be a shrine to the Incarnae. The gods that created the exalted." Above them the eyes of the great statues staired down at them, measuring but not unkind.

Calliope pored over the figure— the first one she had noticed, the four-armed man. She felt as though the man was staring into her soul. He was intense and foreign to her. While her village typically worshipped deities such as Nasamara, Voharun, and Yaogin, somehow the figure before her was extraodinarily familiar. Had she seen this Great Being before? Perhaps when she Exalted, the patron had visited her, and she had long since forgotten.

In this room, she could sense the irrepressible weight of duty that rested on the shoulders of the Exalted, and in the presence of the Gods, this duty rested particularly on hers. It took her a moment before she noticed the shifting Lunar figure beside the Sun.

Ashen had adopted a pensive yet wistful expression while memories of the last two years returning to him. Unconsciously he squeezed the princess's hand and he pointed to the shimmering moonsilver statue. "Tha... is Luna, tha many face one, tha ever chanin' god o' tha moon an spiritual mother o' all Lunar exalted." There was a slight reverence in his tone and a small smile on his lips. How long had it been since that night in the forest, when he gazed on the face of that silvery goddess even if only for the briefest of moments. His arm shifted and pointed next to the formidable form of the Orchicalum statue. "Tha one next to 'er I'm not as familar with, but ay can make a clear guess tha e's the Unconqured Sun, patron of the solar exalted."

Calliope parted from Ashen, and stood before the great deity, ceremoniously unclad, as if she were wholly surrendering herself to Him. In the presence of the Sun, Himself, Calliope recalled the narrative told by the Immaculate Order, and the tales of conspiracy that were only whispered in quiet conversation in her village. The Princess frowned, her gaze trailed down to the patron's feet. That was something to discuss another day.

She turned, suddenly, to Ashen. The pink, young woman was quite a sight, standing in front of the golden giant. Her silvery hair cascading down her back. She chewed on her words as she posed her question. "Then..." She began slowly. "What is your plight?"

"My... plight?" He was slow to answer. Ashen was not used to divuldging his own secrets, for a mix of shame and fear kept him in the habit of bottling it away. And yet this interaction between him and the dawn caste had taken a turn towards something personal enough to warrant it. Perhaps it was the ambient atmosphere of the shrine or the private nature of her question, but now the lunar was suddenly reminded of how secluded the two of them were. Earlier he had been distracted by their flight from Astrid's pursuit and then their subsequent discussion, but now he couldn't ignore that he was alone with a... strikingly stunning woman. One that stood raw before him and the gods, unabashed with her current state and with the shining image of the towering golden idol behind her. Ashen's earlier composure cracked for a moment and he he fought the urge to blush as he looked away, wondering how he was the one left feeling bashful in this predicament.

Still though, she had opened herself and her troubles to him earlier, and now it was only fair that he do the same.

Hesitantly he began his confession. "I... brought ruin to my own family many years back. It was some years before I exalted. When I still lived here in the west; in a land called Wavecrest. I had angered a powerful group of rival pirates and they..." He stopped and took a breath. He felt his throat drying at the memory. "I remember coming up the road that day, after shore leave. We, my crew I mean, had tied off the ship and gone to enjoy our spoils with friends and family at home. When I reached the top of the hill I saw my family's farm burned. My father and both of my mothers were hanging by there necks from the tree out front. Then those same pirates came for me. And I fled. And they followed. They followed me all the way to the docks. I sought help from my crew mates, but they had been hunted as well. I sought refuge amongst my country men, but those that sheltered me suffered horrible fates. Eventually they harried me out Wave Creast, and soon from the western ocean itself. That was 6 years ago, and I have been in exodus since."

He paused, and his gaze returned to the silver statue of the Goddess of the moon. "Or at least I was. That changed the night Luna marked me as her Chosen."

While Calliope remained expressionless, she could feel anguish overcome her. It was a foreign feeling the people of her culture repressed. There was no such thing as grieving, only celebration of a life that ended in a blaze of glory. Or so it seemed. Calliope was never sure how genuine the overall enthusiasm is at Gladomeen Death Festivals. There was drinking, and music, and dancing; celebrating the lives of the fallen soldiers, and an honorable death! But the pain the eyes of the mothers of these soldiers- it was unmistakable. Calliope didn't truly understand grief, but in Ashen's words... she could some how feel it. Hearing his story brought new meaning to the word, and somehow she found herself empathizing with him. Her brow furrowed, and she gazed at the floor, folding her arms behind her back.

Impulse took Ashen and he reached up to undo the clasp that held his coat together. He looked her in the eyes. He hadn't told this story to anyone in years. "The day that 'appened, I had been fighting my own battle. Not for any nation or higher ideal, but for my own survival alone. As I had for most of my adult life." He slipped the over coat off and held it in his hands. "I had done some things that I'm not proud of in my cowardice and selfish desire to live. But that didn't matter to Luna enough to keep her from marking me as her chosen. Because in the end it wouldn't matter to her. Exaltion, at least as far as my mentor explained it to me, is like that of a second birth. Who we were, what we did, become irreverent in the face of what we choose to do and who we choose to become." He held the jacket out toward her. "I can't speak what it's like to have been through what you have endured, but I can say that you aren't bound by it. You aren't princess Calliope Lordes of Galdom, you're Calliope Lordes dawn caste solar of the unconquered sun. A woman I'd like to know better if she'd let me."

Calliope's transfixed gaze was drawn by the garnment being offered to her. Her eyes flicker between the coat, and Ashen. What did he mean by 'a woman I'd like to know better'? She didn't know, but in accepting the coat, she drew closer to him. "Thannnk you, I-" She composed herself. "Thank you." She longed for some comforting phrase to offer him, but there wasn't any such thing in her vocabulary. "I would be happy to tell you annnything you would like to know," she said, putting on the coat. "And, I thinnk that I would like to inquire mmore about a certainnn Lunar... as well... if he will allow it." The coat covered her well. It smelled like the seashore, and the brisk ocean wind.

"But you mmust forgive me." She said plainly. "It is not in my nnature to pry into annother's life. Or, I should say, it is frownnned upon in Gladomm."

Ashen smiled melancholy and shrugged. "Ye need be makin' no apology. T'would only be fair considerin' tha ay was pryin' into your business first." The discussion had gotten oddly personal between them. But... it felt somewhat good to have had it, and gotten some of that baggage off his chest. With Calliope now clothed in his coat the Lunar regarded the princess before him again. He would admit that she wore it well on her person. But it only had a single strap buckle across the chest to keep it closed. An odd design that kept it tight about the chest, something Ashen had thrown in for his personal preference but as result left a large 'window' of her abdomen. A thought went through the lunar's mind and his expression turned slightly mischievous.

"If ye still be wantin to make it up to me, I might 'ave a suggestion."

Calliope felt Ashen's eyes on her, and a bit of a draft. She pulled the coat tightly around her. A blush deepened the shade of her already pink cheeks. "And what mmmight that be?"

The lunar's grin grew wider and had to repress a chuckle at her timid response. Where as before she seemed entirely unconcerned with her undressed state, he found it endearingly amusing with her sudden bashfulness now that she actually had modesty to protect. "Oh not much just... if we be gettin' in the business of gettin' to know each other better than mabye 'er 'ighness t'would be willin' to indulge me and allow me ta resume holdin' a gorgeous woman in me arms while we continue our earlier walk." He put one leg behind the other and made a mock bow. "We could tour the island a bit more, talk a bit about our home lands, swap stories about our exaltions, I'd oggle yer tits some more..." He rouse again with another of his cheeky winks. "It'd be lovely I swear, perfect way for new commerads in arms to better acquaint themsevles."

The Princess gave him the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps this was some kind greeting in his culture. While Calliope didn't really think this was true, she decided she enjoyed being carried. Maybe it was a form of worship! And she was, after all, of noble blood. "Yes. I will allow it." Calliope said, throwing her nose up in the air. She marched to stand in front of Ashen, crossing her arms expectantly. "You mmay be so priviledged as to carry mme. I grannt you permmissionn." Calliope fastened the buckle across her chest tightly. She smirked. "But perhaps we will save annything mmore for whenn we becomme more acquainnted."

Ashen laughed softly. "Well then, I'' jus 'ave to fully enjoy the 'onor bestowed on me while we do." Placing one hand on her shoulder, he gently leaned her back and scooped her up by the legs till he was once again holding the princess bridal style. "Comfortable, Princess?" He asked as his bushy tail once more found it's way wrapping around her belly.

"Quite." She replied

He grinned. "Then let's be off!" Once more his moonsilver tattoos shimmered as he burnt essence through his soul. His anima sprang to life once more and the two of them flew fom the room at a brisk pace, leaving a trail of silver light in their wake.

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Part 5 of the big collab, more to follow


Certainly, how it was that Lux had managed to catch up with Calliope and Astrid before the trio of Periya, Hotton and Lakshmī did was quite the mystery for the ages, indeed. Regardless of how the little Dragon-Blooded had done it, she’d somehow achieved the feat. In the meanwhile, the three handmaidens had found themselves discovered by Nāgasāni and Vengalu, who’d set off in the aftermath of Lux’s hasty departure. As head of the handmaidens, Nāgasāni had seen fit to chastise the maids of Starmetal, Moonsilver and Jade for their unbecoming behavior. Nāgasāni was most positively not above indulging in a bit of fun, that was for certain, but there were still standards to which she and the girls needed to adhere, and one of those was ensuring that their guilty enjoyments did not push the boundaries of someone’s comfort too far.

....such had occurred with the Princess of Gladom.

The lovely woman seemed on edge regarding the whole ordeal she was undergoing in the first place, and her case had needed to be handled with delicacy...which it had not. The moment the Solar had rend herself free from Astrid’s grasp, Lakshmī should have made attempts to pacify her, and not given into the childish impulse to chase her. Overall, the situation just seemed to further worsen the more Nāgasāni thought it over—Calliope had fled from them, distressed, she’d been involved in a scuffle with an unknown man who’d managed to injure her; said man had managed to slip out from under their noses, his whereabouts otherwise unknown. He needed to be brought before Lord Fakharu, considering the severity of his actions, having attacked one of the Lesser Dragon’s guests.

Though she was quite capable of shouldering a number of responsibilities and carrying out her duties without fail; that did not mean that Nāgasāni was beyond feeling a touch of exasperation every so often, and, certainly, she was feeling it at the moment.

A sigh escaped the girl’s lips, as she had the bridge of her nose pinched between two of her fingers while her other hand rested upon her hip. Her lecturing of the three troublemaking handmaidens concluded with at least Hotton and Periya looking sheepish (Hotton perhaps a touch more than Periya), while Lakshmī merely pouted—her cheeks a bit flushed. Vengalu merely stood at Nāgasāni’s side in silence, allowing her “sister” to do her duty as their head. But when the maid of Orichalcum’s vexation showed itself, Vengalu set a hand gently upon her shoulder, offering her a bit of comfort, not breaking her silence.

This small action roused Nāgasāni from her thoughts, and made her look at the maid of Soulsteel.

While this whole mess had certainly become quite a hullabaloo, it was not beyond them to remedy it. And while Nāgasāni bore the bulk of the responsibility as head handmaiden, Vengalu wanted her to remember that she did have them to rely on—the five of them had each other and they could made reparations with Calliope, find the Pink Stranger, and have everything back in order before the Exalted all embarked on their journey to save Mistress Amarel. They’d accomplished even greater tasks before, after all.

A soft smile slipped across Nāgasāni’s face, and some of the tension in her frame dissipated.

“I know, Vengalu.” she answered the girl’s wordless reassurance, set her hand atop Vengalu’s and gave it a soft squeeze in gratitude before setting it upon her hip. Vengalu again said nothing, but nodded in response, removing her hand from Nāgasāni’s shoulder as the head handmaid turned her attention back to the troublesome trio before her. “I do believe you three clearly comprehend how inappropriate your behavior was, yes?”

“Yes, Nāgasāni, I’m sorry—I was having so much fun that I forgot myself.” Hotton was the first to respond, her large eyes were watery, and her cheeks a touch flushed.

Periya fidgeted beside Hotton, her voice soft with shame, “I must confess that I also got swept up in the moment, the events of the day caused me to lose my professionalism. I swear it shan’t happen again.”

Unlike the maids of Jade and Starmetal, though, Lakshmī remained quiet, her arms were crossed and she had her gaze turned aside, her cheeks still puffed out and a clear pout adorning her features.

“Lakshmī, you understand that you went too far today, don’t you?” Nāgasāni addressed the redhead, her voice firmer than usual.

She huffed outwardly in something of a melodramatic fashion at being directly addressed, but she answered quietly, “I was just having some fun, you know that. I didn’t expect the Princess to be so high-strung that she’d actually run away from us...naked, like she did.” Lakshmī drew into herself a bit, “But, I know that this whole situation is my fault. The second Lady Calliope started getting so terribly jittery, I should have done everything in my power to make her relaxed—that’s one of my duties, after all—I didn’t do that and pushed til she couldn’t handle it anymore.”

“Indeed so, Lakshmī,” Nāgasāni replied, which caused the redheaded maiden to frown again. The head handmaiden noticed how Lakshmī looked to be sulking, which caused her to let out a single breathy laugh and shake her head a bit. So it was the usual response, it seemed. Every time that something went awry, and Lakshmī was found to be the main culprit, the girl always seemed to realize herself in the aftermath and...pout. She was lively, mischievous, and lived life with her spirit leading her more than her mind. Never did she mean true harm to anyone, or anything, she just occasionally got carried away...and that was something that never changed, and in a way, Nāgasāni did hope that it wouldn’t.

Without a word, Nāgasāni took a few steps til she was standing before Lakshmī. The redheaded handmaid refused to look at Nāgasāni who stood before her silently for a moment before she reached up...and gave her “sister” a playful flick upon her forehead, which caused the maid of Moonsilver to squeak out an, “Ouch!” and bring a hand up to her assaulted brow, and sullenly looked up at Nāgasāni, who had her hands upon her hips again, albeit in a more relaxed manner then before, and a smile gracing her lovely face.

“What was that for?” she mumbled.

That was your punishment,” Nāgasāni started, “and so long as you understand what you did wrong, it’ll be your only punishment.”

Next to Lakshmī, both Hotton and Periya had their hands covering their mouths as they did their best to suppress their amusement. Both of them had apologized to Nāgasāni, and were fully aware of their own wrongdoings, yes, but they were still likely on thin ice and didn’t want to risk succumbing to one of Nāgasāni’s infamous forehead flicks. Even Vengalu, who’d had nothing to say during all of this, had the smallest of smiles forming on her usually serious face.

Meanwhile, Lakshmī was rubbing at the spot on her forehead, grumbling; “‘Only punishment’, you say—do you even know how hard you can flick, Nāgasāni?”

The head handmaiden chuckled a bit, “Rather hard, as you’ve told me numerous times.”

“I’m going to have a red mark on my forehead all day now; you know that, don’t you?” Lakshmī muttered.

Beside her, Hotton couldn’t contain herself and started sympathetically giggling, “Be thankful you’ve bangs, Lakshmī. The last time I endured one of Nāgasāni’s punishments, even Mr. Burnished Mantis commented that I’d a mark on my forehead since I’d nothing to hide it.”

To this, Lakshmī could think of no retort, and merely kept wallowing in her own self-pity, not reacting when it was that Nāgasāni had set a gentle hand upon her head, and patted it a few times, smiling as much as Lakshmī continued to sulk before she returned her hand to her hip and took a step back. “I know you meant no harm to Lady Calliope, Lakshmī—we need to ensure that she’s made aware of that as well. All of we five need to apologize to the Princess, and make amends with her.”

Beside Hotton, Periya still had her hand covering her mouth, though the urge to laugh had passed. She contemplated Nāgasāni’s statement and pondered, offering an apology to the Princess was simple; it was the easiest thing they could do, but that wouldn’t be enough to express their honest regret, though, an idea did bloom in her mind. The brunette maiden idly twirled the ends of her hair before she decided to speak her thoughts. “Um, Nāgasāni...?”

The head handmaid cast a questioning gaze to her, as Hotton did her best to console a still sulking Lakshmī, “What is it, Periya?”

“A thought occurred to me...regarding how we should express the sincerity of our apologies to Lady Calliope.” the girl spoke from behind her hand, “Perhaps, we should offer to her a gift of some kind? Though, I am not certain what manner of gift we would present to her, given what was the catalyst for all of this mess...I dare to say that the option of clothing is off the table.”

Behind Nāgasāni, Vengalu couldn’t contain the snort that escaped her. “Most certainly, clothing would be a terrible gift.” She crossed her arms, “However, I do agree that presenting the Princess with a gift is a wise idea.”

Nāgasāni nodded in agreement, going through possible ideas in her head, til her attention was drawn away from that train of thought, as the familiar, hulking feline form of Astrid dashed past at an incredible speed, which caused the quintet of handmaidens to poke their heads out into the main hall from the side hallway they’d been speaking to each other in.

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Character Portrait: Astrid Grünewald Character Portrait: Lux Fiala
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Part 7 of the big collab, final part for now


Due to being carried around much like a child, Lux found herself otherwise at the mercy of Astrid’s whims. She knew that the Lunar had some kind of plan in mind when it came down to the situation regarding Calliope and Ashen.... What that plan was, she had no clue. Astrid had been tight-lipped about whatever she was plotting, and Lux was, surprisingly, sensible enough to know that inquiring would get her nowhere.

It took Astrid sometime to figure out where she was, the winding corridors of the palace all looked the same to her, opulent and buffoonish, all the while Lux bid her time fiddling with the ball of cloth she still had in her possession. After asking a few spirits, one was finally able to indicate what part of the palace they’d come from. Thanks to her inhuman speed and the help of a few passersby that she managed to retrace her steps to the path she’d taken out of the dressing room in a sort of timely manner. The quintet were talking amongst themselves, moving vaguely in the correct direction, it was no wonder that she’d lost them in her rabid dash, by Creation were they slow.

Throwing Lux over her shoulder, the Terrestrial squawked much like a bird in surprise as Astrid strode up to Nagasani, and grabbed her by the wrist, “Lady Astrid?!” Nāgasāni gasped, as she was led along to where Astrid had stopped chasing after Ashen and Calliope. Concerned and curious, the other four handmaidens followed along after the trio, while Lux just gave them a nervous wave with her unoccupied hand. She was as curious as they were….

”West wing, follow the anima. Are you afraid of snakes?” Practically dragging the girl along, and without waiting for an answer, she quickly began jogging back to her quarry.

“Sn’kes?” Lux parroted Astrid’s last word, lifting her head up as much as she could to try to get a view of the Lunar’s face, and failing in the process.

Meanwhile, Nāgasāni’s brow furrowed in confusion as she did her best to keep pace with the rather hasty Lunar before she echoed Lux’s inquiry, “Snakes?” Why...? “Er, no, Lady Astrid, I cannot say that I am fearful of serpents?”

Still slung over Astrid’s shoulder like a sack of potatoes, Lux watched the scenery repeat itself as she continued to fiddle with the ball of fabric in her grasp, “Why y’askin’ ‘bout snakes...?”

Astrid furrowed her brow, it was a simple enough question, or at least she thought. Some people were squeamish about snakes, some sort of primal fear, or something. "I've got an idea, but it requires you not to be scared of snakes." She left the specifics quiet for now, waiting until they were close to the duo, where she had stopped chasing. Lux wasn’t afraid of snakes, but...?

"Mkay... Up to ya'll to find them now. As for my part..." Astrid's form shifted slightly as she put Lux back down onto her feet, assuming the form of a snake which coiled about Nagasani's arms, hiding in her sleeve.

Nāgasāni shivered as soon as Astrid’s serpentine form made contact with her flesh, meanwhile Lux could only stare somewhat entranced, as Astrid’s tail vanished from sight—it took her a moment to reorient herself to standing after having been carried. Before today, Lux had never knowingly been in proximity to a Lunar Exalted, she’d seen Astrid change her form a few times now...and it left her in awe. She knew very little about how this all worked—she didn’t even know that Lunars could assume more than one animal’s form?! She’d have to ask Astrid later if she could get a better look at her current form later...after whatever she...what did she have planned? The Lunar wanted them to find Calliope and Ashen, and then she was going to...do something?

As a...snake.

As awestruck and befuddled as Lux was, was how uncertain Nāgasāni was. She stood there, looking at the sleeve which now housed Astrid...who’d assumed the form of a snake. She had a snake in the sleeve of her robe—she had a Lunar Exalted in the sleeve of her robe.

This day just kept getting odder and odder.

Both handmaiden and Terrestrial stood in silence for a moment, before giving each other a glance, considering their options. “Well, it was my intention to seek out Lady Calliope....” Nāgasāni started, just now realizing that Hotton, Vengalu, Periya and Lakshmī seemed to have fallen behind them.

“We were doin’ t’same....” Lux replied, squeezing the fabric ball in her arms.

Neither girl had any idea as to what plot Astrid had concocted, and both came to the same conclusion; they were not going to get an answer until said plot was set into motion. Resigning herself to that fact and dreading what may come; Nāgasāni knew she was now at the mercy of the Lunar’s whims.

“Gues’ we sh’uld g’lookin’?”

To the question, Nāgasāni could only respond with a nod—there was nothing else to say. All she could do was hope that things did not devolve even further.... So, both girls set off in search of the two runaway Celestials.

Coiled around the slender handmaiden's arm was slightly relaxing, the warmth of her skin feeling odd against reptilian skin. For now, there was nothing to do but wait, soon Nagasani would find her quarry and the plan would be sprung into motion. Flicking her tongue out, the scent of the Lunar and Solar runaways was sharp in the air, certainly they couldn't have gotten far. They probably stopped running shortly after she'd ceased chasing.

Lux was admittedly not entirely certain how Astrid expected her to track Ashen and Calliope—she had some experience hunting and trapping animals, but, that was different...? Animals possessed some intelligence, but once you understood their behaviors and them overall, it was easy to prey upon them, insofar as she’d always been concerned. “Hunting,” for lack of a better term, a Lunar and a Solar was something of an entirely different caliber, something she didn’t exactly have experience with, for numerous reasons. Though she was still rather tipsy, Lux knew that the two were likely still within the Spire...somewhere. Ashen had utilized a Charm of some kind in order to put distance between himself and Astrid. Though that granted him impressive speed, it was also finite. He and Calliope would’ve had to stop fleeing...eventually.

Beside the ruminating Terrestrial, Nāgasāni had otherwise remained silent...til she allowed her eyes to wander downward. “....you are without any shoes, Lady Lux.”

As soon as the handmaiden’s observation registered, Lux ceased walking, and she herself looked upon her own feet, and wiggled her toes, “Yep, I am....” she responded, matter-of-factly. Lux was fully aware of her shoeless state; she’d made the conscious choice to kick off them off before taking off after Calliope, after all. The blonde shrugged after a moment of silence passed, and continued her aimless searching.

Nāgasāni shook her head, allowing herself a small laugh before she followed after Lux, “So long as you are content, then.”

The Dragon-Blooded herself snorted, “‘Course I’m content~ S’easier to walk ‘round w’thout tall shoes, y’know?”

“Many do indeed seem to be of that opinion.”

“Not a’opinion...it’s fact.” Lux mumbled, tilting her head in every which direction as she tried to get her bearings and figure out how she was going to find Ashen and Calliope.

Beside the befuddled and frustrated Dragon-Blooded, the head-handmaid herself held a small smile, but could not help the chill that shot up her spine as a chill registered from her forearm. She had to stamp down the desire to rub warmth back into the appendage, given that Astrid was still coiled around it. “My apologies then, Lady Lux,” she continued on with their banter to distract herself, “it is a fact then, not an opinion.”

A tiny hum came from the tipsy Exalted as she rolled and squished the fabric in her hands, completely at a loss. How Astrid expected her to track down Ashen...she didn’t know, so she once more stopped walking, and was quiet for a moment...before she let out a very loud and very childish sounding groan. Sure, Nāgasāni knew the layout of Fakharu’s spire, but she didn’t. And honestly, a lot of the grandiose décor was beginning to look the same to her at this point…?

Wait, were they going in circles...?

….how in Creation was she supposed to find anyone like this?!

“Ast’id...I d’think I can find ‘em. I c’track ‘nimals fine, b’not people, not much ‘perience....” At her own admission, Lux pouted and felt her cheeks redden, as she hid the bottom half of her face with the bunch of fabric in her arms.

Setting

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Character Portrait: Astrid Grünewald Character Portrait: Lux Fiala
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Calmly watching with a touch of bemusement, the serpent quietly waited for Lux to stumble about for a bit and thought of a way to steer her in the right direction without being so obvious as to alert her prey. Flicking her tongue out once more to catch the scent on the air, brushing against Nagasani as she did, the direction of the runaways could be discerned. They're not far... But, we're going the wrong way...

Being a warm-blooded mammal most of her life, hunting as a snake always felt odd to Astrid. However, hunting in general always felt odd to Astrid, even when it was covering oneself in mud to ambush bandits who ambush caravans, like Lem taught her. The key was to not think about it, and let time pass while your prey runs itself ragged. However it was distinctly harder not to think about it when your enhanced sense of smell and lack of body heat caused an explosion of sensation every time your ride moved. The warm skin of the handmaiden who grew up by the sea was accented by the sea and whatever oils and perfumes made up her morning to create a sensory overload.

Another minutes of wandering passed and Lux began pouting, which Astrid sympathized with as she was doing her best to block all sensation from her mind at the moment. The Palace was an expansive maze to the Lunar Chieftain, even more so when a carnival of senses was screaming at her every jostle and bump. Were it not for the smell of the hunt, she would likely also be entirely lost. Deciding enough time had passed, the serpent calmed itself and tightened up against Nagasani's wrist with its tail, using the upper half of its body to point backwards, towards Ashen and Calliope.

Feeling the snake tense up against her skin, Nagasani slowly stopped walking as she felt Astrid's lower body began to tighten its grip, and her upper body uncoil and run down the length of the girl's arm to her elbow, where it pressed against the back of her sleeve. Uncertain what to think at first, Nagasani ignored it, prompting the serpent to slowly keep coiling until the girl came to a sudden stop. "That sort of hurts Lady Astrid." The coiling halted, but didnt release and the snake started incessantly tapping its nose against the back of her sleeve. "Should we... go back, Lady Astrid?" Hearing her words, the snake began to uncoil, lazily holding onto her body while also fervently pointing to the way that lie their quarry.

"Lady Lux, there is no need to be upset" Nagasani put a consoling arm around the blonde's shoulder before continuing, "I think Lady Astrid is telling us to go this way?" The handmaiden gestured to the snake pressing against her sleeve, and began to walk backwards with Lux.

After setting the two on the right path it was easier to nudge them in the right direction. Once they stopped walking backwards,
they were already going forward, the Lunar need only nudge them left or right, which she did by flicking her tongue against Nagasani's pinky or thumb. Before long they were close to the duo once more.

They're close ~ How best to reprimand an unruly pup? This will be an important lesson to take back to my children... After pondering it for a bit, Astrid decided on an old custom her tribe had created before she arrived, one that she was particularly fond of. It was usually only done at first snow or last snow up North, but it seemed fitting enough in this situation.

Exalted: A Tale in the Time of Tumult: Out Of Character (OOC)

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