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Exalted: A Tale in the Time of Tumult

The West

a part of Exalted: A Tale in the Time of Tumult, 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.

Wake holds sovereignty over The West, giving them the ability to make limited changes.
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Copyright: The creator of this roleplay has attributed some or all of its content to the following sources:

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

The West is a part of Creation.

There are no Places in The West.

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The Western ocean is the largest body of water in all of the known world, stretching for thousands of miles in all directions. The Great Island Chain in the furthest west is the last bastion of civilization before it all gives way to nothing but open seas.

The Wavecrest Archipelago is probably what about half the people in Creation think of when they think of living in the West. It’s tropical, its people are generally peaceful, and it is a wealthy tourist nation on a verdant volcanic isle. However, the leader, the Feathered One, keeps his position by feeding criminals to the volcano god when he grows angry, and of course the archipelago’s riches are not unenvied by others. While it appears idyllic, like all other directions, Wavecrest has its own problems.

The Neck is more provincial, a chain of islands loyal to the Realm where tribal inhabitants survive by fishingg and kelp gathering. They are relatively unspectacular, but they live on a treasure trove of ancient lore. Once, their islands were part of a larger continent called Okeanos. Though they do not realize it, they are living amidst the ruins of First Age glory.

The Coral Archipelago is what the other half of Creation imagines when they consider the West. They are a pirate nation, thinly disguised as merchants. While they bear nominal loyalty to the Realm, theirs is an economy based on thievery and nautical bullying. They believe in excellence winning out over weakness, and to them, the weak cannot protect their belongings.

The Denzik Merchants are actually merchants, a single floating city built by lashing the hulls of ships together, over and over, until it was large enough to support a culture. They sail around the West, taking on and budding off ships to spread their sails (and sales) to all the cultures of Creation. If you need some commodity in the West, the Denzik can find it.

The Skullstone Archipelago is a shadowland in the northwest, ruled by the Silver Prince. It is a necrocracy, where the dead rule and the living are second-class citizens. Unbeknownst to the people of Skullstone, their ruler is actually the Deathlord known as the Bodhissatva Anointed by Dark Water, and his “idyllic” necropolis is actually covering up a darker secret.

The Lintha are less a nation and more a rapacious culture based in the southwest. Accurately decribed as “demon-worshipping, cannibalistic, castration-happy slaver pirates,” they are the descendents of Kimbery, the Sea that Marched against the Flame, one of the Yozis. They raid and pillage in the southwest, led by the chosen of their demonic mother, seeking to regain the purity of their past.

Finally, Luthe was once a magnificent First Age city that floated atop the ocean, until the Usurpation came. The Solar in charge of Luthe chose to sink it, destroying herself, her subjects, and the assassins who came for her, dropping Luthe to the ocean’s floor. However, some of her people survived, and in time bred with beastmen to make a city of wondrous splendor. However, it is still guarded by Admiral Leviathan, the First Age Lunar who loved the queen of Luthe, and woe betide trespassers to his watery domain.

The region has been plagued for centuries by disorder. Pirates frequently patrol these waters, sometime even sponsored by powerful nations that vie for what scarce resources the islands can produce and making privatering a respected position among many in the west. Some, particularly the dredded Lintha Family Syndicate, even going so far as to defy the realm.

Local spirit courts are horribly mismanaged and fraught with infighting and corruption, likely the worst case in all of the five terrestrial regions. Special note must be made of the Storm Mothers in this case who dominate many the waterways. Known for their vanity and short tempers, they grow wrathful whenever they witness a woman more beautiful than they sailing their waters and unleash their fury on any boat carrying such pretties on their decks, which may well be all women for the Storm Mothers are universally hideously ugly. Subjected to this for so many centuries, many cultures here have adapted rigged gender roles to allay the Storm Mother' wrath.

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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Character Portrait: Ashen Sky
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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.

Setting

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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!

Setting

Characters Present

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?"