Exalted: A Tale in the Time of Tumult » Arcs » The Archipelago Of Exiles

You have been called by Fakharu, lesser Elemental Dragon of Water and Celestial Censor of the West, to aid him in a personal matter. His lover, a mortal named Amarel, has been kidnapped and and held as leverage to blackmail Fakharu into starting a dangerous political feud with one of the local spirit courts. He needs your aid to save her and bring her home, before the 28 dead line approaches.

Little do you know, this task will get a lot more complicated than a simple search and rescue by the end.

As written by: Wake, Sepokku, Castle, LookingAtPerks, Jakuri-chan

71 pieces and 10 characters involved, written by 5 different authors.

Character Portrait: Ioa

1 places involved

So begins...

The Archipelago Of Exiles

The WestSetting: The West

One the moonlit sea a single boat drifted against the currents. Behind it, an ethereal wind pushed it along as it cut through the water with surprising swiftness and ease. The ship did not rock or sway as it traveled, for the sea had stilled itself at the coming of it's passing and the breeze, though fierce in its sails, remained constant in it's force for the spirits of the water and air knew well who this boat belonged to and dared not impede it's passage. Nay, in waves beneath it vaguely humanoid shapes writhed in the sea, pushing back any turbulent currents that bared the way.

The Vessel itself was a splendid construction. It's hull was constructed of ivory and birch-wood; it's nails were were silver, and it's sails of white silk. It's interior was no less luxurious, with its polished wooden walls featuring a multitude of tiny engravings of sea creature and holding several small cabins, enough space to comfortably fit ten people. Oddly it featured no crew aboard. It only carried a small group of passengers that it had acquired one by one through out the night, appearing from the mist at one port to collect one and then passing through the fog again to reach an entirely different pier mere moments later. Sometimes it would be in an entirely different point of creation. Each time the first thing they would see, was a strange cloaked figure at the helm, inhumanly tall with long tendrils peeking out from under his robe to claps at the ships wheel.

It would say nothing to them as they came aboard. Merely it would check that they held the scroll that held their invitation, nod, then bade them aboard before returning to the wheel. It did not speak for the first time until the last of it's occupants stepped aboard. When it did it's voice was raspy and wet sounding, like the spray of salt water hitting against the rocks.

"It will be some time before we arrive. Make yourselves comfortable. It would not be proper for you to appear before Lord Fakharu in an unpresentable manner."
The last occupant stepped aboard, a Deathknight formerly known as Dresden, a ghostly pale man dressed in all black armor, reeking of funeral unguents, and holding a chain that was attached to a metal collar around a human male. Only a few short minutes after he did, the Caste mark above his brow brought forth the ire of one of the boat's occupants. Upon seeing his caste mark, Astrid stopped admiring the handiwork of the boat, taking her fingers from where they had been ran along the engraving. She stood from her seat, angrily striding over to The Artisan That Which Souls Cling.

Growling, her anima beginning to flicker and Caste mark becoming evident, as she assumed one of her True Forms. A hulking cross between human and tiger, with some features akin to that of a serpent. "Deathknight." Her eyes burned with malice, as she stepped forward. "You die now."

The Deathknight, recoiled, whimpering as he produced a small honeycombed piece of white jade that made an angry buzzing noise. "S-stay back. I'll use this!" He stepped back a few feet, his back hitting the bow of the boat. "G-guys? A little help here!? The invitation didn't mention psychotic Lunars!"

The 'psychotic Lunar' turned back to the cloaked figure, demanding answers. "What, Is HE doing here? How am I supposed to make myself comfortable with this, FILTH, on the same vessel as me. A servant of the Neverborn, within claw's reach, give me one reason I shouldn't gut him right now!" Astrid spat out, with hatred, eyeing the Artisan. She truly despised Deathknights, and for good reason.
Ashen Sky had been checking the rigging of the boat. It had been a bit of a wonder to him that they sails seemed to adjust themselves of their own accord. The first thought he had had when stepping aboard this ship was that it had been too long since he been at sea. The sight of sails and oars and a mast had been almost nostalgic to him. The second thought had been how immaculate the vessel was. Even the ropes seemed to be made of silk, to say nothing of the decorations along it's walls and it's rails. This seemed more like the luxury yacht you'd suspect to see putting about carrying a realm dynast with little sense aboard, and some bloke had sent it to sea just to ferry them. It really raised a question in him mind of what kind of person this Fakharu person was that he'd send it so far just for help. And that he'd send it for HIM of all people. He hadn't been a chosen of Luna long, but since is second breath he had apparently gained a lot of attention on himself rather quickly.

Well, him and others. He wasn't blind to the fact that a sizable crew had been assembled for this venture that they were being asked to aid with. All of them apparently exalted if they had the same letter as he. And as what appeared to be the last of their assembled party boarded the shouting had started. And here came the third thought to go through his mind as he turned to the irate northern woman, spontaneously taking the form of a beast that marked her as a fellow lunar, who was screaming at another man in a ghastly ensemble. Just the general look of the man reminded him immediately of the sailors of skull stone. And though he had no love for the men of that collection black islets. He let out an exasperated sigh and started walking forward to get between the two. And as he did so he muttered under his breath something about 'not taking tha womenfolk out ta sea.' The... creature at the back of the ship stirred at the growing confrontation, and it's tendrils seemed to grow a foot or so longer, but it stopped as Ashen Sky started making his toward the Duo.

Stepping behind the large warform of the now taller lunar, he coughed slightly to get her attention. "Miss'm," He started in a accented form of river speak. "There are a number of things I don't be liking about this 'er voyage that keep me from bein' comfortable. Personally, out 'ere in tha west it's considered invitin' ill fortune to bring..." He stopped and looked the massive tiger woman up and down and decided to think about what he was going to say next before he invoked the other lunars wrath on him instead. "Well, folks like yer self lets say, out to open sea like this. And while I are not happy with some arrangements I am willing to put em pass me for the time being, since it ain't OUR issues that we been called upon to help sort out. Now If I might ask ye here an now what nature of your grudge with this er man is before ye start a brawl with 'em on ship?" Subtly he was playing up his own his own accent for the short term, inserting a few bits of sea tongue into his High Realm. The idea was to make her pause and try to decipher his speech a bit, a tactic he used before to get someone to shut up and listen to him in the past. And as he spoke, he subtly activated EMOTION SHAPING TECHNIQUE, allowing the essence to flow through his mangled words and try to instill a sense of relaxation into her mind.
Calliope was one of the first aboard the vessel. The ghostly evening seemed to whisper spells and enchantments. The comfortable breeze caressedher face, and brush her long, ivory hair behind her shoulder. She admired the vehicle which carried her 'cross the lurching waters. The boat cradled them; protectively -- substantially, although, the shifting of the boat felt unnatural beneath her armored feet. There was a rhythm to the rock of it. It was predictable, rather than random. Calliope's black robes crisply folded beneath her on the seat which she sat, and in the dim light of the evening, her skin seemed to radiate. Her hands were folded precisely on her lap, and her composure was stately and confident.

Calliope sat furthest from the majority of the group, which was not saying much since most of the passengers had spread themselves out over the length of the trip. Still, she had secluded herself in the most isolated corner she could find. It was not for any reason other than her overwhelming disinterest in the other Exalted individuals. Her eyes were fixed hundreds of yards in the distance, unchanging. The gold beneath her pupils caught the fire light from time to time, shimmering. Her deceptively soft facial features, were chiseled into distinguished focus. She was meditating, only it didn't appear relaxed. Calliope had discovered that she could preserve her energy if she maintained focus for long periods of time. This was what she had chosen to do with her time.

It was the timbre of raised voices that eventually drew her attention. From a few glances, she observed the characters in question. It started with the boarding of the gaunt looking man. While his demeanor was meek and cowardly, there was something about his presence that upset the dynamic of the boat. But it was the dark-haired creature that ignited the hostility. She was rugged and unyielding. She oozed trouble. Calliope noted that Astrid's impulsive dimness posed to be dangerous. Not soon after the mediator stepped in, he spoke with the tongue of a bog dweller. Well travelled. Manipulative. A potential peace-keeper.

Calliope could feel the whispers in the wind pick up speed as this 'Ashen' spoke. She submerged herself back into deep focus, this time, closing her eyes. She could feel the sea-like current of his monologue flow smoothly from his lips. Only when she had slipped back into mediation could she smell the enchantment this character was casting on the boat. It worked. It soothed her. And she resisted. She cared not for the trickery of synthetic-empathy. She wished to keep her mind clear of spell-bound pollution. Calliope inhaled deeply as she felt the energy of the boat rise and settle. She forgot the whole of them, and emptied her mind, preparing for the heavy task ahead of them.
Among all the passangers was the one who got on just before these this latest arrival, the youngest of them all and seemingly the most carefree of the group. A bit shorter then average, he was currently resting at the highest point in the ship, watching the sky with a calm and cheerful expression. It looked like he had absolutely no cares in the world, even though he recieved that letter, probably from some advice his father once gave him.

"Don't worry about not being able to do everything. So long as you keep your spirit pure, your feet fast, and your will strong, its more then enough".

And so, with his boots currently attached to the pack on his side, he kept that in mind even as he heard people scurry below. He had already explored every inch of this ship, twice, including everyone's personal rooms occupied or no. Not out of paranoia or snooping but purehearted curiosity. As for why he was barefoot at the moment, and not wearing his boots...

Well, once he heard the scuffle down below, he figured something interesting had happened. And so, he jumped out of the nest on top of the main mast, and landed on the floor below. That was the reason he was not wearing his boots right now, well that and he was relaxing and being comfortable not having to deal with shoes. But it was also because he didn't want to risk damaging the boat, if he landed while wearing those specific boots. Right now, he was just wearing a sleeveless shirt and some long shorts, his legs looking wimpy but given the height he fell like it was nothing, was also clearly an Exalt.

He then looked towards the group of people with a tilted head.

"Is this what other people outside of my area are usually like? You all seem kinda silly to me. First off, mister, you shouldn't wear metal armor on a boat. If you go overboard, you would drown before you got it off ya know?"

There was no formality in Ioa's voice, and he spoke in an entirely casual tone.

"And also, miss...whats a Death Knight? It doesn't sound nice, but he doesn't really look like he could harm a fly. Just, if he tried to back up any further, he might drown and hit a fish".

And then, Ioa finally turned to Ashen, this energetic ball of light having an innocent face and a curious gaze.

"And by the way...what did you mean by what you said earlier? About not taking womenfolk out to sea or something? I mean, why call them womenfolk, it seems a strange way to say it..."

If Ioa had been a normal human, or if the boat was noisier, he might not have heard it. But one of Ioa's specialties was enhanced senses, and since he had gone up there without telling anyone or making any noise, it was likely that only the operator of the boat knew he was there, and within ear range to hear Ashen's muttering.

Well, it would have been a different story if the winds and weather were more violent though.

"After all, I actually met an entire female crew once. And one time, when coming out of the tavern, I saw this drunk guy try to grab one of them, and even though he was like, this huge guy three times her size, she threw him over her shoulder like it was nothing! It was really cool!"

At that point (even though he had snooped through their rooms already), Ioa realized he still had not introduced himself.

"Oh, sorry!" he said, lightly tapping his knuckle to the side of his head. "Dad is always saying I should try to remember manners. My name is Ioa, its super nice to meet all of you! Oh, oh! Before I forget!"

And then, his bare feet hammering against the well made floor boards with enough force to make them possibly feel like the ship was shaking, he ran over to the one who was piloting their boat. His demeanour seemed more casual and joking then serious, a lighthearted and honest boy with kindness and carefree nature.

"Sorry Captain! I should have introduced myself to you as well! Ioa, reporting for duty on this mission!" he said, giving a playful salute using the wrong hand. And then, his curiosity took over again. "By the way, what wood is this? Is this not common from where I am from? My father was a craftsman, so I thought I had seen every type of wood imaginable. But this is elegant and well made, so I was curious! It really is nice wood, I can tell by the way it feels when I walk on it....oh!"

Looking back at the captain, in a continueing non-stop chain of energy, Ioa looked back at the group while also paying attention to the captain.

"Hey, if this person is this influential and powerful, should we bathe before we get there! Dad always says its bad to not bathe before an important meeting with someone, and we are all probably a bit smelly from traveling!"

Not even paying attention to the fact he was talking to girls of the group as well, Ioa honestly asked that while showing no tact at all.
Another Lunar stepped up, trying to play the intemediary between Astrid and her hated foes. Something about his tone seemed condescending, but she simply couldn't place it. Was he perhaps, insulting her because she was a Northerner, or was it something more. Certain words were overly mangled, and she decided to ignore them altogether. "This man's a servant of the Neverborn! Are you kidding me!? People like him killed Mila! And here, I'm supposed to listen to Nain-Ya about who I should and should NOT kill." She grit her teeth, uncertain about her course of action, but feeling strangely calm.

The man's words seemed to calm the angry Chimera. Nodding frantically, he tried his best to convince Astrid of his innocence. "W-what he said! This whole situations a craps-shoot, but I'm not your enemy here. Deathlords all hate each other, whoever killed your Mila, ch-chances are I hate them as much as you do!" The piece of jade continued to buzz angrily, waiting for the Deathknight to call its inhabitants forth. He was suddenly starting to regret not insisting on finding a way to bring his War Machines with him. Full Moons weren't to be trifled with, especially not one in a Beastman transformation.

The Lunar girl let a low growl loose, calming down but with an ugly taste in her mouth. She spat on the ground, expressing her distaste, but suddenly feeling much less like she needs to gut the pale worm. "Fine!" Turning around she stared at her fellow Lunar. He hadn't been mentioned at the last Tlak, meaning he was probably new. Expending Essence, her tattoos marking victories and losses began to shine and silvery flames seemed to envelop her. At the same time, she gave him a long look, attempting to discern who he was.

After a long moment, she reached out a clawed hand and rubbed her fellow Lunar's head, feeling his ears. "Ah..." A long bit of scrutiny revealed his tell, "You're Ashen Sky, I've heard of you from the Elders... I'm Astrid Grunewald." Turning back to the Deathknight, a flick of her tail expressed her displeasure, and she morphed into a small houescat with ferociously noticeable fangs. Tiny paws padded away from the two, joining the meditative woman and curling up on her lap.

The Deathknight sighed, thankful to not have been torn apart when he was most vulnerable. With a smile he addressed the newcomer in the common tongue. "Thanks... No clue what her issue was, I swear we've never met. I'm The Artisan That Which Souls Cling, nice to meet you." His features were warm and kindly, but his Caste mark betrayed a visceral nature. He put away the angry piece of Jade which his fingers clenched to as if life depended on it. "I owe you one," he said as he extended a hand in greeting.

A younger male also came to greet Artisan, and as it seemed the Deathknight would need all the friends he could get, he politely answered. "I rarely take my armor off, it leaves too much to chance. However I did contract a ghost to catch me should I fall overboard, in preparation for this journey. I am The Artisan That Which Souls Cling, nice to meet you Ioa." He then gestured to the shackled man behind him, "And this is one of my pets, he has no name." Artisan handed the slave a bag and told him to, "Take these to my room and prepare it for me."
Ashen Sky felt his jaw tighten as the larger lunar made reference to his low standing in the silver pact. He was still new to the life of a lunar, and most of his accomplishments thus far had been in the process of simple self preservation and thus the matter of his lack of 'face' among his peers was a sticking point for him. Thankfully his sense of self control prevent him from baring his teeth in the process of calming her down, as he waited for his charm to take effect. Though that matter wasn't help by some runt kid babbling to everyone in the background.

His patience was rewarded when the older lunar seemed to deflate in her anger, his magic appearing to take effect of her. Idly he took note of her lack of resistance to it for later as she spat the last of her waning ire out on the deck. Then she looked at him; her eyes trailing up and down his figure and he resisted the urge to flinch or pull back from her scrutiny for he knew a sign of weakness would likely mar him in her eyes. Then her anima began to flair and the moonsilver tattoo's on her body began moving across her skin. He tensed as she reached her hand out towards his head, and quietly his free hand drifted to the hilt of the rapier hanging at his side.

Then she clamped down on his head and started rubbing. He would have simply brushed the hand off with a slightly annoyed quip, but was stopped from such an action momentarily by her ministrations to the extra set of ears poking out the top of his skull. The sensation sent a small tingling sensation from the tip of his skull and down to the base of his neck. He did not trill at her touch, no matter what accusations to the contrary. He swatted away her arm to get her to stop as she spoke again. "You're Ashen Sky, I've heard of you from the Elders... I'm Astrid Grunewald." He re affixed his hair and nodded. "Ay, I've her of ya."

She stepped back, made another rude gesture towards the sickly looking man before assuming the form of a cat and scappering off towards the strange woman with pink skin. Having relaxed now that the apperent danger was over, that same sickly man approached Ashen Sky. "Thanks... No clue what her issue was, I swear we've never met. I'm The Artisan That Which Souls Cling, nice to meet you. I owe you one." Ashen laughed softly at that. "Wordy name ye got mate. Think I'll be just callin' ya Artisan fer the time being if ye mind." He then slapped his palm against his the outstretched hand offered him and let a toothy grin appear on his face. "And you do. I'll be cashin in tha favor soon!"

The subsequent introduction to the mans 'pet' was off putting, but Ashen Sky had seen slaves before and was willing to put it out of mind as quickly as said man disappeared below deck. Wouldn't do to start something over it after he had just ended something over something else.

At the back of the ship the pilot slowly retracted it's tendrils. Glad to see that these exalts could defuse their struggles on their own. It would be... trouble some to report to Lord Fakharu that he had to drown another group of incompatible aspirants. Time was of the essence as well, for it could not spare the effort to track down and vet a new collection of champions for the task ahead. Not with the stated deadline baring down on his lord like this. The ships helmsman could only hope that these scattered exalts could work out their own differences along the way for whether they new it or not a great deal would be put at immediate risk if they failed, likely bringing the whole of the western spirit courts into disarray. This was the reason why it had quietly worked its magic to allow them all to understand each others speech for the duration of their voyage.

One of the exalts, a small child by the look of it, came bounding over with absurd enthusiasm and started pelting him with questions and dialogue. The spirit stood listening to the boy talk before bringing one tendril up with an small but still audible snapping noise in front of the boys face in a motion not to dissimilar to a 'shushing' sign. "This ship does not yet have the provisions for a self cleaning for it was only built last morning. Rest assured that you will be given time to freshen up at the lords palace when we arrive."
She still wasn’t entirely sure what to make of all...this. Though strange and unusual phenomena were something she wasn’t entirely inexperienced with, this ordeal was on a different level entirely. Certainly did she live for new experiences, but a small part of herself did still doubt that she’d made the right choice in answering the summons she received. Dragon-Blooded though she was, her exploits and journeys paled in comparison to those who were perhaps considered her kin—why she’d been selected against others of her kind eluded her. She was nothing truly special, really. However uncertain she was, Lux wasn’t one to deny what seemed to be a legitimate plea for help, if someone believed that she could really truly help them absolve an apparently dire matter, she would oblige to the best of her limited capabilities. It was the right thing to do.

....regardless, Lux was still somewhat awed and uncertain as she’d boarded the ethereal ship before. It was truly a marvel—gorgeous and a thing of true luxury, undoubtedly, but it still felt somewhat off-putting. Lux felt so very out of place on it for varying reasons, but she’d committed herself in spite of her doubts, and she wasn’t about to recant. A commitment was a commitment.

So, as the ship and its enigma of a helmsman made its rounds, collecting the other Exalted who’d responded to the summons like her, Lux decided that she would seat herself down upon its deck, back resting against the railings, and merely observe those who’d apparently form her traveling party. Including herself, they definitely seemed the mismatched lot. Sans herself, she was rather certain that a bulk of the summoned was what some called Anathema, and one in particular seemed to be what was referred to as a Deathknight. Most definitely, they were an odd bunch. Lux made no motion to greet or speak to the others as they boarded, and instead fetched a small piece of chocolate out of one of her many pockets, and nibbled on it contently.

Yet, when it was that the beginnings of a quarrel formed between the Deathknight and the Exalted with the long inky hair, Lux ceased eating her sweets, and put the remainder of it away for the time being—if in-fighting was already an issue.... Oh dear, was this to be a journey, indeed.

When another intervened in the squabble, and managed to quell it with little incident before it escalated, Lux relaxed herself with a sigh, what did she ever get herself involved in this time? Whilst those involved dispersed—the woman with the long inky hair shifting her body into that of a cat and the Deathknight retreating below deck with...was that a slave...? Lux stared, trying to process that for a moment before she lightly shook her head, deciding to dwell upon that matter at a later time, when less was going on and she had more time to comprehend that.

Later, later.... she thought, coming to the realization that it seemed that the last of the ship’s pickups were made.

Perhaps now she’d find it in herself to mingle amidst the others, attempt to begin something of a rapport. Reaching her arm up and back, she gripped the handrail above her head, and used it to pull herself up with a needless noise, brushing her bottom off as she felt the sea breeze tousle her short hair now that she was standing again. She looked out at the ocean for a moment—it’d been some time since she had been on the ocean before this; rarely did she venture out into open waters. Lux wondered about the others, if they were more at home upon the waves. Maybe she could utilize that to begin some kind of conversation with someone?

Thus, she turned around, walking toward the one whom had mediated between the Deathknight and the other Exalted—and found herself smiling upon realizing that he had...a set of some sort of animalistic ears perched atop his head, and did he have a tail too?

“Ah, ahem,” she cleared her throat to catch his attention, “so, that was...a wondrous way for us all to start off, we’ve not even heard the specifics of our summons and already there is conflict.” Lux let out a nervous laugh, “If no one else will say it; thanks for intervening between those two,” she held a hand up in something of a mock wave before smiling, “my name is Lux, by the by! It’s nice to meet you.”
Ashen Sky looked over his shoulder at the short girl behind him and gave a toothy grin. "Eh, I'm used ta living on ships wit' tight quarters and tha tempers tha flair in em. Ya learn fast how ta cool heads if yer wantin' to live within the same 15 meters o' each other for weeks on end." He turned to her fully and in response to her mock wave gave her a mock salute. "be glad to makin' yer acquaintance miss Lux. You might o' over heard it from the cat lady but me name is Ashen Sky. Former privateer and chosen child of tha goddess Luna." He put both hands on his hips and regarded her for a moment. "Gotta say miss'm, yer oddly caviler about being on a boat full of anathema." He didn't know what manner of exalt she was just yet but he guessed dragon blooded by the smell of her. He looked up and took another glance about the boat at it's other occupants.

"So this'll be our crew than ey. Let's see. So we got Lux here, guy I'm calling Artisan because I'm not saying tha rest of his name because it's to dang long behind me. I think the little chatter box next ta our cap'n said 'is name was Ioa. Big lady cat lady Astrid over thar and..." He took a look at the strange woman that Astrid in cat form had just jumped into the lap of. She hadn't said a word since she got on board, but Ashen Sky knew the touch of the wyld on someone when he saw it and her manner of dress looked vaguely northern. Figuring he might as well try to learn something about her before they all went into the dragons den together he coned his hands around his mouth and shouted at her "HEY! Pretty lady with tha pink pigmentation! Ya got a name for us ta call ya or does tha cat got yer tongue?" He made the universal 'come here' waving motion at her as he yelled.
Many conversations passed, and Calliope had finally slipped into a light sleep. It was a strange kind of sleep. She sat up straight, her posture was impeccable, and though she had drowned out the murmurs of her cabin-mates, she was still partly aware. Calliope was stirred from her meditation by the presence of a small animal in her lap. When she opened her eyes, she discovered a cat that looked up at her with familiar eyes. Almost instinctively, she began to pet the cat. As cold and reserved as Calliope was, she couldn't help but feel drawn to animals, and beauty altogether. It made her feel something that was not discussed in her village. Beauty was considered superficial, but she could not deny to herself the odd lightness a beautiful day made her feel. Calliope did not smile or relax her furrowed brow, still, she was contented by the presence of the small creature of which she continued to pet.

The pink woman looked up at the call of someone clearly addressing her. "Hey! Pretty lady with tha pink pigmentation!" The man said. "Ya got a name for us ta call ya or does tha cat got yer tongue?" It was the bog-dweller she had tuned out not long ago.

It was clear that Ashen's choice of words neither repulsed nor compelled her. Instead, they seemed to fall off of her like water off a duck's back. She ceased petting the animal, and regained a more regal composure. "I am Calliope Lordes, Daughter of Titania, Soul Air to the Noble Seat of Gladom, of the the Gladomain Empire," and with the smallest, and most genuine smile she could muster she added, "But you may have the privilege of calling me Calliope." Each word she spoke was expertly articulated, but certain 't' sounds came out sounding more rounded, (such a Daughter, pronounced by Calliope like: 'Daaduer'), and often she held onto her 'm' and 'n' consonants slightly too long. She spoke softly, due to her native sky-tongue, but her accent was certainly acclimated to speaking a commoner's tongue. Something about her accent resembled more of a Romanian dialect.

"In addition, nno. This feline has nod yed addempted to cut out my tongue, as you say. Mannny gratitudes for the forewarning." She resumed petting the cat readily. After further examination, Calliope discovered that the cat was none other than the irritable Lunar she had observed earlier. The only reason she could tell now was because of the creature's small, distinct Caste mark. However, this did not give Calliope cause to stop petting just yet.

She looked back at Ashen with sudden intentness. "Annd whad is it that you are called, dear stranger?" Calliope asked in return.
Though he did raised an eyebrow at her rather literal interpenetration of his quip, for his part Ashen Sky let out a small whistle as 'Calliope' introduced herself. "Princess of Gladom eh.... never heard o' it." He gave a slight shrug and a smirk at that. "But none tha less it be interenstin' ta have a member o' royalty on this voyage." He started taking a few steps toward her, figuring that if she wasn't going to get up and come join them he'd at least try to meet her half way and subtly hoped that Lux and Artisan would follow so he could make this a group discussion. Quietly Ashen Sky was trying to gather the various passengers of the ship together into the same discussion. The idea being to form some level of group solidarity by getting everyone antiquated with one another before they arrived at Fakharu's palace.

"Ta give ye me name, it's Ashen Sky. I was born out 'ere in tha west in tha nation of Wave Crest, so this be a bit o' a return trip 'ome fer me." He scratched his chin a bit in a show of appearing thoughtful. "So Galdom... where be tha about? From yer accent and dress ye look northerner." He paused, seeming to realize something, and turned his head to look over his shoulder at the others. "In fact ay could ask tha of the rest o' ye. Where be all o' ye from in this 'ere wide world?"
Astrid began to purr contentedly, lazily looking about her surroundings as Calliope pet her. Ashen started to make his way over, speaking with his weirdly accented words. The way he spoke left Astrid to ponder how he hadn't been killed yet, and make her start to regret accepting these summons. She had children to get back to and a tribe to lead. Trusting Ashen to introduce herself, Astrid continued to purr contentedly, that is until the Deathknight began to approach. Her hackles raised slightly and she started to hiss, but ultimately went back to purring in a heap on Calliope's lap.

Artisan joined the small group that had begun forming, eager to ingratiate himself with as many of them as possible, even if only so that they may be more inclined to keep the Lunar off him. He knelt down on one knee to acknowledge Calliope's rank. "Your grace. With a slight tip of the hat, he stood back up to introduce himself. "I am The Artisan That Which Souls Cling, a name given to me by my Lord. You may call me Artisan if it pleases you, your grace. I'm from a small town in the Blessed Isle, but I abandoned that place long ago."

Taking a seat next to Ashen, he smiled gently, then as if it were an afterthought he told everyone within earshot, "Oh, and as my name might suggest, I'm quite the craftsmen. If any of you need anything made, feel free to come to me and I'll cut you a great deal. Despite my nature, I'm sure we'll become fast friends! Indeed we should have to, as Fakharu isn't to be trifled with."

Content with his introduction, Artisan flopped quite unceremoniously onto his back, laying spread out and looking at the sky. "To what end do you think he called us all out here? We're quite a motley bunch."
Calliope was pleased with Ashen's interest in her birth village. She noticed that his boyish features were deceptive. He seemed far older than he looked, though she could not pin an age on him. His blue hair was a shade that Calliope had never seen. Most citizens of Gladom had a mixture of white and a very light blue hair color, she couldn't help but stare at his a little. Not to mention his tail! A tail! Why, she'd never seen such a thing. For the first time since he had boarded the boat, Calliope was really looking at him. She had met a couple Exalted individuals in the past, mostly Solars, and others of the Dawn Caste -- being a warrior, it isn't infrequent one meets another Dawn. But never had she met a Lunar. The concept of transfiguration was foreign to her. She felt her curiosity peak, and she wanted to ask more, but the conversation moved forward.

Suddenly, the gaunt fellow approached her, and knelt before her. He was a weak minded man, Calliope gathered, but his humility was otherwise appealing. She obliged his use of honorifics, and nodded acceptingly, a formal greeting in her culture. She was thoroughly flattered by him, and his features were certainly not unappealing. She continued stroking the cat.

"Gladom is a prosperous village south of the Whide Sea, high in the Crag Mmountains. Mmy people flourish on warfare, and the ancient relics of our ahncesdors. In my culdure we fighd along side our people." In response to his question, she added, "I imagine it mmust be to a great battle."
Following her introduction with Ashen, Lux followed him at his behest as everyone began to exchange proper introductions between themselves, giving some rudimentary information regarding their backgrounds. So far, it seemed that amongst their little group, they had Ashen, Astrid, Artisan, Ioa and Calliope, then herself. Indeed it seemed that she was the only Dragon-Blooded aboard the ship. From what she could silently gather, she had two Solars, two Lunars and a Deathknight in her midst. Never before had she been near so many other Exalted at once—once in a time, she’d run into one or two wayward, but that was it. This experience was definitely new to for her.... Given their first impressions, everyone definitely seemed rather...interesting. They were definitely a rounded group, to say the least.

For the moment, Lux kept herself quiet, looming at the edge of the group as she listened to the lot of them chat, til Artisan brought up Fakharu and the reasoning behind their collective summons. Calliope seemed rather certain it was for a great battle....

Certainly, they were needed for something, and while Lux was not the most educated of folks, knowing what she knew from hearsay and by piecing together bits of miscellaneous information she’d gathered over the years, she was knowledgeable enough to realize that the reasoning behind everyone’s collective summons was beyond the scope of a “great battle.” She didn’t know everything about Fakharu, but she knew enough to realize his power was immense, and whatever help he required from the gathered Exalted, it was something he could not do alone.

Lux lightly set her arms across her diaphragm, a thoughtful expression emerging upon her face. Indeed, as Artisan had said following his rather...peculiar introduction, Fakharu was not someone to trifle with. She tilted her head and pursed her lips as she let out a contemplative noise. “Hmm, I’ve a notion to believe that why ever we lot were summoned, it’s not for the sake of a battle, Lady Calliope.” she paused in her musing, “If it were merely a ‘great battle,’ then I don’t believe that Fakharu would require our aid.”

She adjusted her footing a bit, a thought occurring to her, “Ah, since you were all doing introductions prior...my name is Lux, Lux Fiala. I hail from The Scavenger Lands; I’m from no one place in particular, I’ve been a wanderer for longer than I can remember, if I’m to be honest. Good to meet you all.” she gave a small smile to the lot of them.
Ioa listened and watches as he got some responses from various people, including the captain who said they would bathe when they got there apparently and could make themselves look presentable then. At the very least, he was thinking of that, given the fact he actually had no nice clothes to wear. Technically, he just had one set, because he had been adventuring alone and would wash them when he bathed in some river or stream or pond.

His boots, which were actually a magic item made for him to increase his combat ability, were also the only footwear he had at the moment, not that he actually needed to wear any. And they were safely fastened to him it seemed, since he wasn't wearing anything on his feet at the moment.

"Oh, right? Are we supposed to say where we are from? Well, my name is Ioa, and I grew up in a village surrounded by forests...if that helps. I don't really recognize any landmarks anymore, I kinda just came to a port town and got on because this seemed fun and interesting".

Actually, Ioa had no real clue where he would point to on a map, though if someone worked out some details with him, he could probably designate some location...but that could always be saved for another time. After that, he darted over, moving so fast he seemed to just teleport for that moment, and...disappeared?

No, for some reason he was now hanging upsidedown on a rope, in front of the group. He was holding onto the rope using his legs and held it inbetween his big and index toes, for a reason no one might be able to discern. SImply put, he thought it would be fun. And then, he looked at Calliope.

"Oh, you are another solar like me! Nice to meet you! I am of the Night Caste! And you...Dawn Caste right?"

Ioa made a guess at his fellow Solar, half thinking back to remember if she specified that. Well, she kinda gave him the whole ultimate warrior vibe also. Meanwhile, Ioa probably seemed like the most lax one of all.

"Well, if he all contacted us....maybe he wants to make us a team, or give us a party for becoming Exalted? Or maybe, he...he has some sort of super secret quest that requires both strength and the upmost of secrecy and sneakiness! Or or...just something really cool!"

And then, Ioa added something.

"By the way, who is Fakharu anyways? I am kinda curious since he sent me a letter, so clearly he knows me, but I dont remember meeting him at all...maybe that one sailor that I made friends with when she passed through town, Lulella, knew him and mentioned me? I wonder if she is still out drinking and brawling guys twice as big as her..."

As Ioa sort of mentioned various things, he started to have his mind wander off in totally irrelevent directions.
(Please keep in mind that exalts can't preform supernatural feats without burning essence. I know Ioa is supposed to be fast but he can't be super humanly fast without activating charms.)

It seemed his smooth talking skills had proven themselves again. Slowly the dispersed exalts started to gather around him and began discussing their origins and speculating about the reason for Fakharu's summons. Ashen Sky listened as they spoke their turn and noted what he could of each speaker in kind. Astrid seemed only lightly concerned with the conversation at large, with the only things he could gleam from her being her intense dislike for Artisan and people like him and her apperent willingness to cuddle up with strangers. Artisan, the amicable and shaping up to be a good conversationalist, seemed like someone easily startled and Ashen Sky suspected he was a little desperate to gain everyone's favor after his 'greeting' by Astrid. He was slightly surprised to hear that he was from the blessed Isle and could only hazard a guess as to what caused his departure.

He did notice out the corner of his eye that the pink princess Calliope staring at him rather intently. For some strange reason though, he didn't feel any sense of discomfort with being the object of her scrutiny. Even more, as her eyes trailed up and down his form he unconsciously started to give her a bit of a 'show'; flicking his upper ears and wagging his tail back too and fro when her gaze passed over them. He had a few of his own questions about her such as what was the origin of her skin's color and what this Gladom was like. After a while he realized that he too was starting to stare and returned focus to the rest of the group and the on going discussion.

Lux was the next to speak, sitting at the edge of the group in thought. By her garb he suspected she was well traveled and was quickly validated of that when she admitted such. Interestingly she carried a rather large lantern with her and had to wonder why she'd need on that big. Between her, Astrid and especially Calliope he had to admit that there were some rather striking women on this ship and thought wistfully of his adolescent years as a privateer.

Last was the rather hyper active youngest member of the crew. Ashen did have to admit being impressed at how quickly he zipped about the ship, not sure if the boy was showing off or just reveling in his own powers as any boy his age would. He was similarly impressed with how his mouth nearly moved as fast as his feet and would bounce from topic to topic as much as he did from place to place on the ship.

Deciding to keep things on topic he loudly cleared his throat. "Well, ye all make good points on tha matter..." As he spoke he walked over took a place next to Caliope and Astrid by the ships edge and rested his hands on the rails, facing the whole of the group. He made a pause and looked at the sky as if in thought. "Thinkin' about it, I think tha kid be on ta somethin'. And nay not tha party bit." He rolled his shoulders and looked the party over, taking one last glance at them all for appraisal. "If I was ta make ah comparison ta somethin', out here in the west there be a practice called privateering. The basic idea is tha wars are costly out 'ere in the west, not many have the resources ta keep standin' armies, but we still got rival power's to contend with. So ta get around tha problem nations employ privateer, private citizen's tha are given permission to attack other islands ships and towns an sell there loot back to the ships home nation. Tha idea being tha home country can send out raiders against their enemies without dippin into their own coffer tha much." As he spoke he slipped one of his hands into his coat and pulled out a flask. Taking a quick swig of the liquid to wet his throat he continued with his head slightly lower and his voice softer. "Now this is all well an standard in times o' war. It's expected then. But sometimes a even when a nation isn't at war it might still employ a few privateers to raid a specific target. In these cases, when the nation does this it's 'cause they want something specific done without there name attached ta it. Since Privateers are 'private' citizen's their home country can claim deniability in tha attacks so long as tha privateer don't link things back home. Some even go and hire outside there own country to further throw off suspision of there backing in tha raids."

Slowly bit by bit Ashen Sky's accent started to fade as he neared the end of his monologue. He raised his head now giving them each his full attention and making sure had their's in turn. "Now, I don't want to be throwing any accusations or bad words on our potential employers name, but I'm thinkin' if he's gatherin' so many exalts from different parts of creation, it's because there is something he wants done that he doesn't want his name attached to. Something he can't risk sending his own people out to do for fear of drawin' attention to himself." He shrugged, put his flask back in his pocket and wiped his hands. "'Course, that's all just speculation on my part. I don't know much about Fakharu despite livin' here a while ago." With that he smirked and shot a look at Artisan. "I suspect the only one of us that might is our pale friend here. Ya did say 'e wasn't one be trifled with did ye?"
The helmsman of the ship snorted. It was impressed with the young lunar's insight, but found it distasteful the manner in which he shared it for he made it sound as though lord Fakharu was intending to enact some petty criminal enterprise. The matter was much more delicate and important than simple piracy. But it was at least pleased to see the group of exalts forming together so soon rather than keeping each other at arms length. Hopefully it would be enough to form a coherent circle for the trial ahead.

A cawing noise and the distant flapping of wings drew it's attention as another crystal bird descended from the night sky carrying a message. Holding out a tendril for it to land upon, the spirit took the scroll from the birds beak as soon as it landed and read it silently. Nodding quietly it took hold of the wheel again and started turning it as a new fog bank materialized ahead of them. This time it took far longer to breach the fog than the scant few moments the ship had taken between it's 'shifts' from port to port. After a particularly long and silent period of drifting the boat finally broke free of the last fog bank, revealing orange and red tinged horizon ahead of it that heralded the coming of the dawn. The spirit nodded called to it's passengers in a loud but plain tone. "Lord Fakharu's palace lies ahead, we will be arriving within the hour." And as he said this, far in the distance ahead and just barely visible in the distance a small island came into view. On it what seemed that could be a large tower jutted up from it's center and glimmered slightly as it caught the pre-morning sun.

If one had a spy glass they would see it better for it's splendor, but for any other it would become apparent eventually as the spire gradually grew larger as it closed that it's exterior was wrought with an layer of solid gold. Flying about above it more lights twinkled, and as they came into focus they became whole flocks of the same crystal birds that had delivered the letters to the exalted passengers. Some roosting on the great white marble and gold edifice of the spire, some flying about it in lazy patterns, and others coming and going with scrolls clutched in their talons.
Lux listened as further speculation was made regarding Fakharu and the purpose for their summoning. She’d still yet to sort her first impressions of the others. The lot of them had gathered together into a group, at Ashen’s bidding. Her eyes fell across each individual for the first time proper, as she took the time to better take their appearances in—they all definitely had their own unique looks, didn’t they...? Everyone seemed to hail from all across the corners of Creation; no one was at all from the same place. Though they could all currently understand each other beyond some definite accentual quirks and such, Lux felt herself suspecting that each of them had a differing native tongue. She herself was really only fluent in Riverspeak, having rarely traversed beyond the bounds of the Scavenger Lands.

Ashen somewhat intrigued her, what with the ears and tail. She was curious what sort of animal they were connected to, and while Lux knew herself to not be among the most well-read of folks, she’d still did know enough about Lunars to know about their “Totem Animals.” Naturally, she could come to the assumption as anyone else that Ashen’s ears and tail were a reflection of his respective Totem Animal—though she wasn’t able to recognize which animal.

Calliope, who she’d address before, was quite a sight, indeed. You’d have to be struck blind not to realize that she was lovely—unusual skin pigmentation only adding to her splendidness. She’d spoken before of her home, Gladom, her people were warriors; Lux definitely believed that Calliope herself was a force to be reckoned with. There was an atmosphere about her....

Astrid—the other Lunar who’d almost gotten into conflict with the Deathknight, Artisan.... Ever since Ashen managed to mediate between them, Astrid had kept her form reduced to that of a black housecat, and remained curled upon Calliope’s lap. She didn’t seem much concerned about the exchange happening between the others.

Ioa was...he seemed to be the youngest amidst their group, and his youth was reflected in his rather energetic actions and his winded sentences. He had said he was a Solar, like Calliope was, and ended up spouting aimless rambles regarding Fakharu and his thoughts about him. Overall, Lux felt reminded of a squirrel when she looked at him? Odd, perhaps, but she couldn’t help it.

Lastly was Artisan, the Deathknight who Astrid seemed to have a strong loathing for. She’d never met a Deathknight before and knew very little of them, yet from what she could garner about him; he seemed as if he were cordial enough, definitely intelligent.... Lux would reserve her judgments about him, though first impressions led her to see him as decent, there was still the matter of him apparently having with him what appeared to be a slave and that...was not something Lux felt entirely comfortable with. Certainly, in many parts slavery was commonplace and entirely accepted, but her personal views rather conflicted with such notions, it reminded her of.... Time would only tell how she’d come to view him.

Her hand was held to her chin in thought, as she ruminated over her the opinions she’d had of her companions, however, she was rend from her musings as Ashen began to speak again. As he spoke, Lux noticed that the inflection in his speech began to dwindle away, til nothing of it was left. He made a point that Artisan seemed to have an idea of who Fakharu was, since the Deathknight had made a point to say, “he wasn’t one to be trifled with.” Given her background, Lux was certain that most people would know more than she about a being like Fakharu, especially Artisan, considering he’d said he was originally from the Blessed Isle. Whatever she knew were tidbits of miscellaneous information that she’d pieced together during her travels, she was probably lucky she knew of Fakharu at all before she received his summons....

Before Lux could even open her mouth to articulate anymore thoughts she had regarding the matter, the ethereal helmsman of their elegant ship spoke, informing them that they would arrive at Fakharu’s palace soon. No sooner had he spoken then did the eerie fog that’d enveloped them this whole journey dissipate. The sea around them was dark, though hues of pink and orange began to bath the oceans with light from the still absent sun. Lux moved, walking to the starboard side of the ship’s deck. She set her hands upon the railing, and leaned over it, squinting as she looked to what she assumed to be the ship’s destination. Her oversized, enchanted lantern squeaked as she stood on her tiptoes, leaning further out. Vaguely, she could make out the glimmer of something golden on the island....

The seabreeze tousled Lux’s a bit, as she lowered herself down to her feet, she tucked a stray bit behind an ear before she turned back to everyone. “It would seem that Fakharu has a rather ostentatious set of aesthetics, if my eyes are to be trusted. It looks like his palace is as golden as the sun itself.... If nothing else, this all will certainly be a sight to see—I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little bit excited at the thought!” Lux’s voice teetered a bit. Certainly, she had ever reason to be ambivalent about all this, but she couldn’t help herself. If nothing else, she lived for new experiences, and this would definitely be an experience unlike any other she’d had thus far.

A huge grin broke out over her face as she tittered a touch, excited anticipation spread across her face. The others might think her sudden shift in demeanor a bit odd, but Lux couldn’t help herself.
The Deathknight nodded, armor rasping against itself as he stood to answer Ashen, and take in the sight of the approaching marvel. "Lord Fakharu is one of the Lesser Elemental Dragons, sometimes referred to as one of the 'Little Gods.' He also serves as one of the seven Censors, and not much goes on in the West without making its way back to his court." Heavy, armored footfalls made their way over to Lux, staring at the opulent palace that was fast approaching. "Lord Fakharu is well known in the Spirit Courts out here. Garnering his favor would indeed be ideal. Not to mention I doubt we want to bring his ire upon us."

Artisan took another long look at the assembled, 'privateers' as the Lunar boy had called them. Two Lunars, a Solar and two that had yet to show their true nature. No other Deathknights though, or if they were they must be fresh out of the Labyrinth, though he doubted it. Two Deathknights coincidentally in one place was rare, as there were only a a hundred or so in Creation or otherwise.

The Solar boy seemed impressionable enough, definitely a valuable asset to surviving this long journey. Perhaps even a corruptible Solar to be brought back to the The Bodhisattva Anointed By Dark Waters. Gaining Clout with the Spirit Court AND recruiting a new Abyssal would definitely make this hassle worthwhile.

There wasn't much to be said for this 'Astrid' creature, she seemed hellbent on ensuring he died one way or another. Though she'd definitely be useful if he could get her to dance to his tune, doing so would be an entirely different matter. Ashen had probably saved his life, and as such Artisan viewed him with high regards. Sticking around him would probably be the best chance to not end up on the wrong end of Astrid's claws. However, he probably shouldn't stick TOO close. The boy was clever, more clever than he let on.

As for the last two, there wasn't much to be said. Neither of them had revealed their Caste, nor too much about them. They were both gorgeous, though he doubted that's why Fakharu sent for them. They were probably also Exalted, as everyone gathered here seemed to be. Calliope began to sharpen a blade, definitely a warrior aspect then. The question was which? Heir to the throne screamed some type of Solar, which might make her a Dawn Caste. Though she might also be a Sidereal or Dragon-blood.

The tiny black cat that was Astrid, however, seemed entirely unimpressed with the knowledge of who Fakharu was. He could be a valuable ally to her tribe, and that was all he was to her. The Abyssal's long-winded speech made her regret not beheading him earlier. So far Calliope was proving to be her favorite, her accent even heavily suggested that she was also from the North. Perhaps once this whole thing was over, they could join Gladom and Astrid's tribe and lead a great Horde, uniting the people.

The rest, Astrid would reserve final judgement for. The other Lunar was clever, she gave him that, but his prowess in battle had yet to be measured. The other boy was a bit too energetic for her liking, but perhaps that would translate well into fervor for combat. She couldn't be sure about Lux, but she seemed sweet enough, perhaps even willing to join the Tribe.

Standing up and stretching out, still in Calliope's lap, a lazy mewl was let out and she jumped onto the railing of the boat. On the horizon, a monument to overindulgence could be seen. Flattening her ears with distaste, tiny cat paws began padding their way back to Astrid's room, so that she may retrieve her meager belongings.
She took a breath and calmed her excitedly racing heart—yes she was terribly eager by the glimpse she’d gotten of what was upon the horizon, but she needed to keep a certain level of sang-froid. If her eyes were not deceiving her against the glare of the morning twilight, then it seemed that Fakharu’s palace was gold? Indeed, she might question the architectural tastes of whoever designed the place, nevertheless though, the prospect of seeing a place that was not just decorated with gold, but actually constructed in its entirety.... How fascinating, even if it was garish and rather a waste. Still, she needed to quell her anticipation; she wasn’t here merely for the sights and general experience of it all. Lux was here because Fakharu needed her and the assistance of the others, for some unknown reason. Though the group all had their own notions and had mused over it, they were really no closer to knowing for certain the magnitude of the situation they were asked to assist with.

One of her hands found their way overtop her heart, as she took in a rather deep and measured breath as she forced her heartrate to slow, but the smile never left her face. Lux’s attention was caught, though, when she heard the sound of a sword drawn from its sheathe, which caused her to cast her gaze toward Calliope who’d taken it upon herself to now sharpen one of her swords...the shape of the blade piqued Lux’s curiosities, momentarily distracting her. She recalled seeing sword like those in her travels from time-to-time, but could not recollect the proper term.... It wasn’t til she heard the heavy, metallic footfalls that ceased at her side that she returned to reality, Artisan standing rather near her. Her eyes trailed over to him, as he began to speak. He spoke of Fakharu, and the knowledge he possessed of him. Some of the information he revealed, she’d know, other parts of it, she had not. Until now, Lux couldn’t remember ever having heard the term “Seven Censors,” but it was as she’d speculated before. Fakharu was someone who was due respect.

Mimicking her in a manner, Artisan seemed to look upon those who’d responded to Fakharu’s letters, likely gathering his thoughts on herself and the rest. She still was unsure of what to make of this man, but, she would give him as much of a chance as anyone else. Sans Calliope, she herself was the only one of the group who hadn’t either willing revealed or had someone else reveal their Caste. Given the impression Lux got off Calliope, she wasn’t a Dragon-Blooded like herself, which meant she might be alone in that regard. Ashen seemed to have suspected her status, he’d made a comment before about how she seemed awful casual about traveling with a lot of “Anathema.” She was far from an idiot; she knew that Dragon-Blooded and other Exalted had bad blood between them, and a majority carried that ancient ill-will through to the present day, and those prejudices were still fresh for many.... Lux, in a manner of speaking, considered herself fortunate to not have been raised within the Realm or alongside any other prevalent group of Dragon-Blooded. She never had those archaic views ingrained into her from before she was capable of independent thought. Though her life hadn’t been idyllic in anyway, at least it’d allowed her the gift of free thought, she was allowed to form her own opinions without having her view skewed by some outdated, preconceived notion.

Her Caste and her status as a Terrestrial amongst Celestials could become problematic, though she held none of the views so common amid her Exalted kin...the others didn’t yet know that, and it was quite possible they’d judge her upon those merits. For now, even if Ashen had his suspicions, Lux figured it’d be best to keep quiet about her Caste for as long as conceivably possible. Til, at least, she’d hopefully established a strong enough rapport with everyone that it wouldn’t impede their budding camaraderie.

Ashen let out a low whistle, himself taking in the sight of Fakharu’s opulent abode whilst Astrid, still donning the form of a cat, trotted off, heading below deck—Lux had noticed her little ears flattening against her skull.... Perhaps in revulsion? While she herself was somewhat excited by what was before them, Lux could understand why one might gaze upon Fakharu’s grandiose palace and feel a bit queasy.

The minutes passed by in silence, as the ship drew ever closer to where it would dock, right as soon as the dawn was upon them proper. Unsurprisingly, to Lux at least, the wharf to which their ship was guided was just as elaborate as the ship and Fakharu’s spire. Off in the near distance, she could make out a sort of rather well-maintained garden.... Almost as soon as the ship had come to a standstill, and a board was set out for them to disembark, Ashen was already out onto the pier. Lux had nothing to gather from below deck, and thus was able to follow suit with little hesitation. As she stepped off the ship and onto the pier, she wobbled a bit and took up Ashen’s unspoken offer of assistance in keeping herself upright. She had been on boats and ships few times in the past, but since she rarely ventured beyond the bounds of The Scavenger Lands, she didn’t exactly cope well going between land and sea at a moment’s notice.

Whilst Lux rectified her posture, and got back her balance, a quintet of well-adorned women approached their group, one of them—Nagasani bowed, greeting them, introducing herself, and the other four. They were meant to be their escorts. Lux was dumbfounded for a moment; they were all very...lovely. Not surprising, considering the surroundings, regardless, she couldn’t help her brief stupor.

....oh, Creation, she was staring.

She was staring at these five lovely women like a fool. Realizing her faux pas, Lux’s posture went a little rigid, as she felt her face flush red in embarrassment. Why did she stare? She thought she was over doing that...!

Upon the realization that she was staring, a moment of absolute panic overcame Lux, and reflexively made an attempt to give the five women a wider berth than the few feet between them by taking a couple of steps backward...only to forget in her fretfulness that she was still rather near Ashen, who’d helped her. Gracelessly, she ended up fully backing into him with some measure of force, enough that she nearly knocked him backward off his feet. As Lux regained some few of her scruples, she comprehended what she’d just done, and hastily turned on her heel, grabbing onto Ashen without any thought to where her hands were gripping, simply concerned with righting her mistake, and kept him from tipping over the edge of the pier into the shallow water below. Something of a yelp came out of her, as she almost went crashing with him, only to regain her footing and balance at the last moment, keeping herself and he from tumbling over.

He’d helped keep her from falling onto her backside and here she had nearly knocked him over, and was still touching him while violating his personal space. A tiny squeak came from Lux’s throat as she righted herself, giving Ashen space and sidestepping a few feet to the right. She stood there, her arms stiff and straight at her sides, as she felt the entirety of her face redden further.

Figures, she sees several attractive individuals and she makes an utter dolt of herself. Why did this happen to her after managing to go so long without incident...? It'd been a while since she had a mental shutdown of this magnitude. Even beforehand, before she and everyone one else had introduced themselves proper, she'd not had a lapse in thought, though several members of her traveling party were definitely rather striking themselves. Perhaps it was because she had time to process each, one by one, whereas, this time, the appearance of the five maidens was...sudden? Or, maybe it was their overwhelming aesthetics?

Lux took in a sharp breath, and bowed at the waist very harshly, arms still straight while her lantern creaked in protest to the sudden action. “A-Ah, it’s a pleasure to meet you all! Our journey was perfectly enjoyable!” she greeted the five women, her voice too loud, and shaky. She stood back to her full height, “My name is Lux, and I-I think we’d be more than happy to have you ladies as our escorts!” Still too loud.

The women stared at Lux, their expressions unaffected by her awkward introduction and demeanor, they were quiet a moment before one of them spoke, Periya, the one adorned in Moonsilver responded, her voice calming and sweet, “Thank you, Honored Exalted, Lux. We will guide you to Lord Fakharu the moment the rest of your companions are prepared.” Perhaps they were used to this sort of reaction, then?

Lux swallowed, face still red. “Th-thank you! That sounds best....”

Heavens, it would be fantastic if she could compose herself...alas, what an impression she must be making, not to mention what Ashen was probably thinking of her now, and what the rest of the group would think of her as well. A nearly inaudible, miserable noise came from Lux’s throat again, as she brought a hand up over her face in embarrassment.

She peeked out from behind her hand, expression dismayed as she looked over in shame at Ashen, Gods did she owe him an apology.... "Ashen, I-I am SO sorry for nearly knocking you over, I-I, oh, goodness...."
For his part, Ashen Sky was used to the transition's from a rocking boat to a stable platform. And he was used to the unsteady swaying of fellow crew on rough seas. So the idea of bracing for the impact of another body colliding with his own was not new to him, but in this case there were a few factors that even he hadn't been prepared for.

Firstly was that he simply had been caught off guard in this case. He'd just helped Lux off the boat, and then held his hand out for the second passenger off when the quintet of bejeweled women came to meet them on the pier. He did give the group an appraising glance and hummed to himself as he hoisted another member of their party onto the pier, silently pleased with Fakharu's taste in staff so far. He could guess a bit at the ethnicity of the women in front of him as he saw tell tale signs of two or three island groups he was familiar with by their complexion. Figuring that he'd let Lux be the one to handle first greeting since she had been so excited to be on the island itself, he turned his attention behind him for the next passenger to help off the boat. That had been his mistake.

Lux, as it turned out, was also rather stunned by the five girls appearance. But rather than take it in appreciation she seemed to go instead for bashfulness and promptly retreated backwards straight into Ashen Sky himself. Distracted he too the full brunt of her back peddling and nearly took a fall into the drink. He was saved that fate and the accompanying embarrassment by a trio of factors. First the simple fact that Lux wasn't that heavy in comparison to himself and second was, again, Ashen Sky's instinctual surefootedness and experience with being tussled about. It was the third factor that he was not ready for that truly threw him of his mental balance.

Almost as quickly as Lux and bumped into him she wheeled about and made a grab at his shirt in an attempt to spare him a saltwater bath. There was a breath moment of panic for both of them as her momentum carried her into him and they both nearly tipped, but a combination of both their efforts kept them taking the spill. To the on looker it might have been somewhat comical, but to the both of them it was slightly distressing. On any other day, Ashen Sky would have thoroughly enjoyed having a pretty young woman clinging to him in such a way. But right here, and right now was most certainly not that day and he felt a ting of mortification burn on his face as the younger girl had her hands on the part of his upper body that gave the most leverage. Lux was now effectively and firmly groping his soft chest, electing from the lunar a sound of indeterminable origin as she squeezed. In that same instant she seemed to realize what she had done, let out a small squeaking noise of her own and separated from him at a quick step. Ashen Sky sharply followed suit by promptly turning around so that he could get the flush red embarrassment out of his face and readjust his shirt and jacket, clearly rattled by the experience. All the while in his head he muttered a mantra of:


For their part the women seemed rather non-pulsed with the debacle as Lux made a flustered attempt at salvaging introductions. Ashen shuttered a bit to get the goose bumps out and fixed his jackets straps before he he let out a small cough, having finally regained his composure. This was NOT how he was going to start his service to a member of the celestial court. Most certainly not like a bashful maiden afraid of making a scene. Straightening himself he turned about just as Lux started making her apology. "Ashen, I-I am SO sorry for nearly knocking you over, I-I, oh, goodness...."

He let out a slightly nervous, perhaps slightly forced, chuckle and made a show of waving it off like it was nothing. "Oh don't be worryin' about it miss'm, ya just surprised me ah bit is all." He smoothed back his hair a bit and made himself appear relaxed about the whole ordeal. It was nothing. It was DEFINITELY NOTHING. He was NOT going to loose his cool because a girl he just met felt up his pectorals. "Accident's 'appen, no body got hurt. It's all fine. I'm more flattered that ye'd be jumpin' me so soon than anythin'. It's rather bold o' ye." He let out another slightly nervous laugh, playing the whole incident off as a joke that they could quip about later. Nothing weird or off putting happened.
As for Ioa, as they arrived, he remembered to put on his boots and stepped off of the ship with a sort of simplicity and energy. He seemed entirely unphased by fear and concern, but he was smiling as he admitted the castle and the surrounding area. In the process, he saw the events unfold in front of him between Lux and Aschen, however...he failed to detect any lewd thoughts or such that others might get.

"You two okay?" he asked as he walked down, seemingly unaffected by the swaying waves and continued to admire the area. And then, he noticed the five women as well. "Oh! Hello! My name is Ioa! You all look really nice by the way! This castle looks nice too, did you help it look so nice and beautiful from expertise?"

Ioa, who unknowingly said way too many things with pure sincerity and interest and zero underlying motives, just gave a smile as he continued to walk down and made it to the docks safely. He wondered though if they were going to eat, rest, and bathe first before meeting the man who invited them, or maybe just bathe and rest and they would meet over a feast like in fairytales, or maybe they would just go and meet him directly.

He looked back at the women, thsi time with a curious look. "By the way, are we meeting him directly? What is the plan?"
The vessel had reached its destination, docking at a nearby wharf that was as lavishly decorated as the palace that Fakharu resided in. Artisan had never seen a better constructed jetty, and he couldn't help but admire its opulence. It wasn't long after docking that his slave came above deck carrying his belonging and.... another bag? He demanded while raising a querulous eye brow, "What, um... Why do you have that?"

The slave shrugged and mumbled out, "This cat below deck wouldn't let me leave without it. It was... kind of intimidating..." It was then that noticed Artisan a small black cat, Astrid, who somehow looked smug even though she was a simple housecat, following the slave with a very pleased strut. "Uh...Huh... Well nothing for it I suppose." Refusing to explain that even he was afraid of the cat, he allowed the slave who was visibly straining under the weight, to carry her belongings.

The slave began to disembark with his master, and though the slave was too remiss to really understand what was happening, his master began to grow a shade of red as he noticed the activity going on between Ashen Sky and Lux. Though one might mistake it for embarrassment, it was sheer rage that colored him as such. Ever since his own loved ones had been violently torn from Creation, the Deathknight harbored a grudge against anyone else experiencing such bliss. Artisan made a mental note of the situation and cataloged it for later, in case they actually were lovers. Such love certainly wouldn't survive the Underworld... He could feel the desire to end them boiling in his heart, and fighting it back was bringing the Great Curse upon him. Just in time to make introductions too, oh joy.

Astrid trotted up from below deck, finding that most of the party had already began to depart the boat. Following the slave that she had yowled into submission, and refusing to leave her feline form, she hopped onto the railing and evaluated her options. Lux and Ashen had clumsily fell into each other, each one seeming to grow more awkward than the other with each action. She hated the Deathknight, so he was out of the question and Ioa seemed too bubbly to be a comfortable ride. Disregarding them, Astrid took note of the pink lady carrying herself with grace and dignity. Deciding upon a perch, the housecat leaped onto Calliope and draped herself around her shoulders, stomach touching the nape of the Northerner's neck. With a lazy yawn, she let out a mewl of appreciation.

Ashen and Lux seemed to be getting rather intimate with each other, which made her idly think whether or not Lux would bear strong Beastmen. Which led her to pondering whether Ashen had any such children in Creation. Certainly as a male he must have many, though she envied not his gender. It was obvious who the superior gender was, just look at Calliope and herself.

Ever so carefully, Artisan hoisted himself onto the ship's railing and hopped onto the pier. Fakharu's entourage began to approach, five women that were each beautiful in their own way, and struggling not to laugh at the comedy act playing out before them. Tucking a stray lock of ghostly white hair behind his ear, he approached them with a greeting and began formerly introducing them all, albeit a bit strained. "Greetings Nāgasāni, I am The Artisan That Which Death Clings, the two lovebirds behind me are Lux Fiala and Ashen Sky, respectively," gesturing to each of them in turn. "The exotic beauty there is Calliope Lordes, cat around her shoulders being Astrid Grunewald. And finally the rambunctious youth here is Ioa.

With a smile, the pale man finished, "We're all pleased to be of assistance to Lord Fakharu. You may lead the way, and we'll render what service we can." After all, SOMEONE had to be the diplomat in this situation, otherwise they'd upset one of the seven censors. Somehow that course of action didn't quite appeal to Artisan. Though his resonance was getting in the way, he felt as if he did an adequate job.
Ashen laughed at her apology, though she could tell it was forced, and tense. She buried her burning face into her hands, groaning to herself. He was just as embarrassed as she was, which, he didn’t have a reason to be. After all, she was the one who’d blundered up so terribly, “Accident’s ‘appen, no body got hurt. It’s all fine. I’m more flattered ye’d be jumpin’ me so soon than anythin’. It’s rather bold o’ ye.”

....what? What had he just…WHAT?!

Although Lux did hear the nervous chuckle that came from Ashen, following that comment, it didn’t exactly process well. Even if it was just meant to be a lighthearted response to her apology, and assurance that all was otherwise fine as far as he was concerned.... Lux hunched over, mortified while a muffled choking noise came from her throat, it took all she had not to scream into her hands. Why couldn’t he have just said everything was fine, why did he have to...flirt? Even if it was in jest, why? She never knew how to react to those sorts of comments! It just...it made all this so much worse! Though, she honestly might deserve this, karmic retribution for managing to not only make a fool of herself, but Ashen as well. Very nearly she managed to knock him over the edge of the pier, and basically groped him too...! She’d grabbed without thinking, acting purely in the moment, and when she’d done so he’d made as much of an awkward noise as she did; which, something felt a little…more malleable than it should’ve but she couldn’t place why with how muddled her brain was?

Gods…this was a disaster. And just when Lux thought and hoped that it couldn’t get any worse, she heard a single, throaty laugh, “I find this variety of courting mmost entertaining.”

Why did it have to get worse? Naturally, it would get worse. Such was her luck, it seemed. Whenever she went and made herself seem a nimrod, events played out that exacerbated those traits of hers. Ashen had to teasingly flirt with her at her expense while Calliope seemed to absolutely mean what she had said. She took that whole bit of torment as...courtship? Did she truly now think that they were courting?!

“You two okay?” Ioa asked, before going onto speak with the quintet of handmaidens, and Lux wasn’t able to even form a coherent word to respond. No, no she was most certainly not okay right now. For the umpteenth time in a matter of minutes, all Lux could bring herself to do was to groan, though this time it was a rather loud one. She was beyond saving face, any sense of honor or integrity she had left was in shreds. There was no way to salvage this, so there was no sense in holding it in, really. ....it did make her feel a little better, at least.

The sounds of heavy metallic footsteps approached from behind, from the boat, and Lux knew it was Artisan’s turn to speak and likely comment about this pathetic display, he introduced himself in a more formal and dignified manner than the rest, but.... “...the two lovebirds behind me...”

Lux’s body began to quake a little bit—this was too much and it was too ridiculous! Ashen had to poke fun, Calliope honestly thought that they were courting and even Artisan, who had quite a bit of venom in his voice when he’d said it, had called them lovebirds. She knew she had made an ass of herself; did he have to speak with such distaste? Wasn’t making a fool of herself enough? Why did she have to stare at the quintet of handmaidens? That was something she’d worked so hard to stop doing, and she hadn’t had the problem of staring at aesthetically pleasing folk for at least two months now! She should have known that Fakharu would employ only the loveliest of mortals, being what he was.

After Artisan concluded his introduction, Lux’s embarrassment and frustration hit its limit. The ‘lovebird’ comment was too much for her to handle, as overwhelmingly humiliated as she already was, and...something snapped. Perhaps it was her patience, perhaps it was her temper, either way; there wasn’t a way for Lux to continue quietly wallowing in her shame. Uncaring of impressions or how she might now be perceived, her head snapped up, an exasperated expression adorning her still reddened face. Her usually gentle features showed a fierceness few would think Lux capable ever of, before she shouted at Artisan, fuming, “We are NOT lovebirds! I’m fully aware that I’ve made an ass of myself and all of us by proxy; you needn’t rub it in and be so bitter!” she huffed through her nose, before she turned on her heel, her composure returning, irritation causing her mind to clear and return to clarity. Sighing and setting a hand overtop her heart; she breathed in deep and did her best to soothe her nerves.

Although Fakharu’s quintet of lovely handmaidens had left her in a daze prior, this time, she wouldn’t allow it, and while Lux was aware she couldn’t mend the impression she’d made prior, she could still at least put forth effort. Moving the hand she had overtop her heart, Lux move it higher til the whole of her forearm was diagonally across her chest, while she straightened her other arm at her side, and offered the handmaidens a more formal and proper bow. “I know first impressions cannot be done away with, nevertheless, I wish to apologize for staring at you ladies, and will not attempt to save face with a lie, I was caught off-guard by your collective beauty. However, you’ve my word that I have regained myself and will not be so uncouth again.” Lux stood back upright, “Though I offered my name before, I did so poorly—my name is Lux Fiala, I’m here at the beck and call of Lord Fakharu, and am prepared to listen to his request in full.”

Though her nerves were still a bit shot, and she was still quivering a bit from the remnants of frustration, Lux did her best to maintain a calm exterior.
The former pirate winced a bit as Lux exploded. He'd made that bit of faux flirting just as a means of try to down play the whole debacle as just innocently humorous accident. However everyone else seemed to take it as actual intimacy. Ashen Sky could brush off the insinuations rather easily but the younger girl, who seemed to take the comments a bit more personally and was slightly over whelmed by the attention her mistake had brought upon her. Artisan's quip at them seemed to be the final kicker that caused her outburst, and Ashen figured h'd probably owe her an apology later for indirectly making things worse.

Nāgasāni had managed to keep a straight face through the bulk of their exalted quest antics, but only barely managed to suppress her urge to start giggling when the young woman Lux had her outburst as a result of the other's teasing. Her 'sisters' weren't as in control however, and some had to cover their mouths to hide the smiles that threatened to break. "My my, well I am most certainly flattered by your complements lady Lux, as sir Ashen said, it is quite bold of you. And worry not we take no offense. "

Turning slightly she gave another short bow to the Abyssal of the group. "Thank you sir Artisan That Which Death Clings for the introductions." Then she returned her attention to the group at large. "And thank you all for answering our lords summons. He has been most eager for your arrival and will be pleased to know that you are here. To answer the question sir Ioa asked, Lord Fakharu has hoped you would be willing to meet with him over morning meal to discuss the matter he has called you for." She paused a moment and put a curled finger to her lower lip. "Ordinarily his lordship would be serving court now and administering his judgments for his petitioners, but he has made it quite clear that he wishes to see you immediately upon your arrival. If you wouldn't mind, please follow us, we will guide you towards his throne room." With a final curtsy the quintet of women turned and beckoned the assembled party to follow them up the path and to the spire itself.

A dozen or so minutes of walking through impeccably well kept gardens brought them towards the great door of the outer court yard, made of a massive single piece of amber and ornately carved in a stylized image of a serpentine dragon. Through this portal and inside of the spire itself were brightly painted halls colored aquamarine. Just as with the outside here was great grandeur and splendor to the architecture and decoration but with a severe, restrained sense of art. Beautiful but never vulgar. There were handsome statues made of gold and silver and studded with precious gemstones carved in such a way that they looked almost life like and lascivious Thanjavur style paintings, all evenly spaced and placed according to a grand aesthetic design made to neatly draw the eye from one piece to the next in a flowing and orderly pattern.

Ashen Sky whistled as he passed by one. He stopped to run his hand a long the out stretched arm of one depicting a pair of women in an embrace. "I gotta say, the master of tha house seems ta 'ave a peculiar taste in art work." One of the handmaidens who wore star metal, Hotton if he remembered right, motioned for him to continue following as she responded. "The lord prefers to keep a hegemony to his decorations. For that reason he has personally crafted each of these works himself." He privateer looked surprised to hear that, and gave the statue another more scrutinizing glance before catching up with the others.

When they reached the set of double doors leading to the throne room, Nāgasāni bade the group to halt a moment. "Beyond this door is where the lord holds his court. Since it is already in session we ask that you wait here a moment whilst I announce your arrival." She gave another short bow and slipped inside.

Ashen Sky nodded a bit as she retreated through the door and rested against the far wall. "So," He started as he gave the assorted gaggle a once over. He his throat, and once again his western accent became more restrained as he switched to full realm speak. "Do any of you have much experience with courtly manners? I can fake it in a pinch if needed." Idly he noted to himself that he'd to rehearse his H's, T's and A's a bit while they'd have a minute for his normal speech tended to exclude or accent them in certain words.
While Lux had otherwise managed to regain her poise, after she’d snipped back at Artisan for his embittered comment, this was fleeting. Quickly enough, she noticed that the prior shenanigans had been silly enough to force three of Fakharu’s handmaidens into suppressing fits of laughter. Their hands were overtop their mouths, while their shoulders shook...she’s also fairly sure she heard one of them fail to subdue a quiet snort.... Lux sighed, and shifted between her feet uncomfortably, she’d done her best to make amends for her uncouth mannerisms, and that was all that could be done, now. She blamed no one for laughing at her expense, it was deserved.

“My, my, well, I am most certainly flattered by your compliments, Lady Lux, as Sir Ashen said, it is quite bold of you. And worry not, we take no offense.” Nāgasāni spoke, her voice possessing the slightest edge of amusement.

At Nāgasāni’s comment, Lux lightly cleared her throat, and felt her cheeks flush a touch once more. Mortified as she felt, having all this occur, at least the handmaidens were not irked with her inappropriate staring, or by her complimenting them. Their beauty had blindsided her—while she’d expected grand and splendid sights, the quintet of handmaidens had just struck her, in all honesty, the same thing oft occurred whenever she happened upon some wondrous work of art or architecture. And, while it was perfectly acceptable to look over inanimate objects, it was not to do the same with people. It was rude, uncouth, and inappropriate...Lux knew this, and while she had been attempting to cease gawking at people, it was an issue that always seemed to reemerge, regardless of her efforts.

Whilst Lux had been lost in her musings, Nāgasāni had started to guide the group along, beckoning them to follow her and the other handmaidens into the palace. Upon realizing that everyone else was on the move, Lux snapped from her thoughts and caught up with the lot of them, taking up the rear. For a majority of the trek, the air was quiet, save for the sounds of nature. As they approached the spire, Lux craned her neck in every which direction, trying to take everything in while she could. As she had stated upon the boat, Fakharu, or his designers, had a grandiose sense of aesthetics. Lux would not deny that everything was beautiful, in its own way, though. Sculptures, carvings, murals and reliefs—everything was dazzling in one manner or another.

Everything had a certain...atmosphere to it. Though the gold, the silver, and the gemstones were all unnecessary, there was still something about all of it that just...worked, overall. Lux was lost in everything, having gone from looking in every conceivable direction to actually turning on her heels as she walked, going in circles as she became even more enthralled by the sights around her. The flush that had come to her face earlier from Nāgasāni’s comment had all but faded, while her green eyes glimmered in fascination and excitement, a large smile having come across her face once more.

Along the way, Ashen stopped, and spoke about how apparently peculiar Fakharu’s aesthetics were, with one of the maidens factually responding to him. They continued walking, and Lux kept gazing at her surroundings, taking it all in while she had the chance. Certainly, she likely looked like a fool again, but at least this time she wasn’t doing anything rude. Eventually, they reach an extremely large set of double-doors, which were adorned with elaborate décor as everything else had. Thankfully, while Lux was still mystified and utterly enthralled by her surroundings, she was still aware enough to avoid another faux pas, such as walking into someone. She did still turn herself about, eyes wandering while it was Nāgasāni spoke, “Beyond this door is where the Lord holds his court. Since it is already in sessions, we ask that you wait here a moment whilst I announce your arrival.” Lux heard the sounds of a door opening before it shut again, rather quietly.

Then, they had a moment before they were to be introduced to Fakharu proper. “So,” she heard Ashen start, “Do any of you have much experience with courtly manners? I can fake it in a pinch, if needed.”

Lux didn’t bother to yet respond to this inquiry, still too engrossed by her surrounded, as she continued to wander about in a seemingly aimless manner. “While mmy country may have many reasons for starding wars, we also have cause for ending them. I have acted as ambassador in the past for my mother and father.” While Calliope was rather quick to respond, her words passed overtop Lux’s head as she finally allowed herself to look directly above, her mouth agape as she took in the intricate mural that was both painted and carved into the domed ceiling.

....it was magnificent, but the domed ceiling made it somewhat awkward to look at. Lux began to gingerly take a few steps backward, not minding her surroundings as she was thoroughly only interested in seeing every complexity of the mural—she gave absolutely no thought to anything otherwise, til it was that her foot suddenly met air where she thought there’d be floor, and she lost her balance with a yelp, snapping fully back into reality. Lux hadn’t noticed that around the edges of the halls, and the large, circular waiting area before the double-doors, the middle of the floor was higher, while it was indented near the walls, as water flowed through them, and around the bases of poles and the statues adorning the palace.

Though Lux gave it her best effort, she wasn’t able to keep herself upright this time around and ended up stumbling into a statue...which, thankfully did not topple over. But, when it was that Lux noticed the...theme of the statue, a couple engaged in, well.... The young woman’s face was set ablaze, yet again, and she jumped away from it as quickly as she could, only to not have proper footing to achieve such a feat, which only resulted in Lux falling backwards into the thin stream of water that ran between the elevated floors and wall, effectively soaking her backside.... This was just not her day, was it?

“....no one say a word, please. I swear that I am merely experiencing a rather off day.”
The pirate nodded semi-approvingly at Calliope's assertions, figuring a princess probably would know how to herself themselves in the middle of a formal meeting with a high ranking spirit. It'd probably be a good idea to stick by her for the most part. Making a guess he assumed that Artisan probably new his etiquette as well based on his background on the blessed isle and the way he held himself so far. Astrid and Ioa however worried him slightly. He didn't know Astrid well enough yet to get a real read on her as she had mostly stayed in cat form since they last spoke and hadn't joined in any conversations. He doubted it'd be a good idea for her to stay that way once they met the Censor either. Ioa on the other hand was... well... he was a kid. A very active kid. And thus far he hadn't shown much understanding of social cues, which might be dangerous when walking into a court of spirits what with the know reputations of gods and their tempers.

Ashen Sky's ears flickered a bit as he heard a yelp behind him and turned just in time to see Lux backing into a wall with a sheet of water running down it's side. He hadn't even noticed the fountain until her hindquarters collided with it, drenching her. There was a moment of silence as she disengaged from the wall fountain. “....no one say a word, please. I swear that I am merely experiencing a rather off day.” The pirate put his hand to his face and sighed. This was off to a awkward start already.

And it was then at that moment that the doors chose to open wide and put the circle of exalted right smack dab in the center attention of about a hundred minor gods.

The throne room was ovaloid in shape, immersed in the same jeweled artwork that had been on display in the rest of the palace and currently thronged with a small horde of lesser gods and elementals who all silently waited their turn. Arrayed in a neat line they would each come forward one by one to kneel before a great throne of moonsilver sized to fit a dragon, whose ornamentation rippled and reshaped itself with every movement of the air. Sitting upon the throne that throne was Fakharu himself with a shining gold-green scales an wide patient eyes fixed upon eternity. It was his 'dawn attendance'. A daily ritual where in he held open court to hear the petitions, claims and concerns of those who sought his council or favorable judgement in their disputes.

Two earth elementals, with hair and eyes made of emerald and flesh of onyx, both petition for singular ownership of a perfectly shaped ruby they had found together. A bent and elderly woman who's body was made of rust colored water request permission to read the dragon's copy of the 'Histories of the Tenth Kingdom Under The Seventh Wave' so that she may learn the name of the third king who ruled there and fulfill the commands of a sorcerer who bound her to the task. The spirit of a river came forward to apologize for the conduct of a local village in failing to provide the proper sacrifices at the proper seasons, and promised to flood the village three times as punishment. These and many others all came forward to kneel at Fakharu's throne, but all did so in an orderly fashion and none who were not in front spoke in more than hushed whispers for all knew better than to show misconduct before the great western censor.

It was during this series of appeals that one of the side doors opened and in slipped a young woman adorned in orchalcum hurried at a dignified pace to the dragon's side. Fakharu was glad for Nāgasāni's arrival and the news she whispered in his ear, for he had started to tire of the petty arguments and entreaties that his petitioners brought. With a simple hushed order of "Bring them in" she shuffled back to the side door and flung it open to reveal the exalted standing the opposite side of it. The other handmaidens lightly nudged them to move forward as Nāgasāni loudly spoke to the assembled audience chamber in a carrying voice.

"My lord, and attending members of the court, we hereby proclaim the arrival of our esteemed guest. Sir Ioa, dagger of Heaven, Solar exalted of the Night caste. Sir Ashen Sky, Night Thief, Lunar Exalted of the Changing Moon Caste. Cheiftain Lady Astrid Grünewald, Night Fang, Lunar exalted of the Full Moon caste. Inheritrix lady Lux Fiala, Burning Sword, Terrestrial exalted of Fire. Princess lady Calliope Lordes, Ascending Sun, Solar exalted of the Dawn caste. And The Artisan That Which Souls Cling, Child of Bone, Abyssal Exalted of the Daybreak Caste." She bowed deeply as she listed their names and caste off one by one, gesturing to each as she did so. As was to be expected, the attention of the entire chamber now rested on the six exalts as they were herded into the room. If any of the assembled immortal spirits were displeased at this interruption (And there were. Several infact) none had a chance to voice it as Fakharu roused from his contemplation and rose to full towering height from his shimmering throne.

"Ah, I bid you welcome to my home young princes of the earth. I have eagerly been awaiting your arrival." He spared a polite but crisp glance back at the line of little gods that filled the room. "I will have to declare this dawn attendance over for today, as I must see to my guest. I thank you all for coming, and wish you safe travels in your departure." The serpentine dragon's tone did not hold room for argument. A fair number of the petitioners murmured amongst themselves in clear frustration and annoyance but not a single one dared to raise their complaints with the dragon. Quietly they excused themselves from the chamber but gave the gathered firm and scrutinizing glances as they filed out. Some were likely not to forget their appearance for a long while.

Rolling down from his chair in a great slithering motion, Fakharu stooped low to just above eye level with his guest. Even at this height, he still seemed to loom large over them. "Now then, with my morning schedule cleared, I do hope you will indulge me and join me in a private chamber for refreshments. There is a lovely balcony above where we may watch the waves as the sun rises." The dragon's voice was Jovial, but something about the look in his eyes implied that this was not a mere suggestion.
Lux seemed less than pleased by Artisan's comment, becoming irate and beginning to rattle off explanations. Admittedly, he was glad to hear her deny being Ashen's Lover, but the Great Curse had already set in. Without saying much more, he set off after the giggling entourage and into Fakharu's palace. Court was still in session and thus the group was told to wait while Nagasani went on ahead to announce their arrival. Ioa began to comment on the palace's structure, visibly excited.

The interior was indeed as beautiful and opulent as the outside, very intricate and detailed work went into its construction, possibly by Lord Fakharu himself. A low impressed whistle made its way out of Artisan's cold lips, taking in the attention to detail that went into the palace. Ashen Sky began to ask about who knew how to conduct themselves in a spirit court, claiming to be able to fake it in a pinch. Artisan wasn't exactly foreign to court proceedings, but he imagined the Underworld did things a bit different than Creation.

While he pondered whether or not to speak up, the noble Heir of Lordes took charge, having had experience as ambassador already. If she wanted to be ambassador here, well he wasn't going to argue. The sound of Lux getting drenched wrested his attention away from that matter, she'd backed into one of the waterfalls that adorned the palace walls, and her face had turned a very interesting shade of scarlet.

“....no one say a word, please. I swear that I am merely experiencing a rather off day.”

"Oh dear," Artisan started while fighting to suppress a smile. "Perhaps Nagasani can provide you with a change of clothes in a bit. I'm certain they have very fine attire here."

The doors flung open and the party was ceremoniously introduced to dozens of Spirits and Elementals attending the Lord's court. Not all of the gathered attendees looked pleased to be interrupted by a handful of Exalted, prompting Artisan to tip his hat slightly forward in an attempt to obscure his face. Standing near the back of the group, he did his best to look unassuming.

Fakharu seemed to be a bit rushed, though, perhaps the rumors about him had been true. The Lord ended court immediately, which seemed to draw even more attention and/or ire from the assembled Spirits. Once his attendees had left, he prompted that they should all follow him to his private chamber. There was definitely some validity to the rumors.

A veritable river of words began to flow from Ioa's mouth, complimenting the Lord on his decorations and architecture, eager to see more. "Yes, as Ioa said, lead the way." The Deathknight cleared his throat before continuing, following the Dragon all the while. "Might I also add, thank you for having us Lord Fakharu, I'm sure I speak on behalf of all of us when I say we're pleased to be of service to your grace."

The Nightfang remained draped across the shoulder's of her perch, and for whatever reason, seemed perfectly content to let the others do the talking for her. Calliope marched after Nagasani with all the countenance of a Highborn, and the grace of a huntress. It made for quite the comfortable ride.

Inside the palace was as gaudily overindulgent as the rest of the place, had it been up to Astrid the money would've been spent more practically. Like hiring or outfitting an army. The lead courtesan, at least that's the opinion Astrid held of her, took her leave to inform Fakharu of their arrival. Ashen inquired about anyone understanding court proceedings, which of course she did. As she was the Leader of her people, she'd often overseen weregilds, stopped taxation, and born witness to trial by combat. However, she couldn't be bothered to mediate, or even take an interest in Western affairs outside of using her strengths to put the Dragon in her debt, so she remained silent.

Ioa's boundless energy began to remind her of her children back home, a thought she played with like a ball of yarn for a bit. When Calliope expressed interest in speaking on their behalf, Astrid decided to walk using her own four feet. She slid to the ground and landed with grace, then began to lazily stretch. A bored yawn came from the small feline mouth and her eye caught Lux backing into a stream of water flowing from the wall. Rather than say anything, she simply decided to enjoy the show, Lux was indeed a fun one.

They weren't left alone long before the doors they had been waiting by opened to a room full of Spirits, and the big man Fakharu himself. It was, in a word, impressive. If this many Spirits were willing to give him authentic kowtow, then surely he'd be someone who could help her tribe. Though it might've been rude to not assume one of her True Forms, she hadn't been asked otherwise and didn't want to make a scene, so she stayed a tiny black cat.

Fakharu dismissed the court rather abruptly, a display of strength perhaps. "Now then, with my morning schedule cleared, I do hope you will indulge me and join me in a private chamber for refreshments."

Hoping these refreshments were of the alcoholic persuasion, Astrid considered the possibility this trip wouldn't be so bad after all. Ioa and Artisan shot off after the Dragon. The former still heavily reminding her of her kiddos whenever she came back from a Ritual Hunt and the latter still kissing ass.

"...I'm sure I speak on behalf of all of us when I say we're pleased to be of service to your grace."

Awfully bold of that rat to assume she could be pleased. Regardless, it wouldn't do to make a scene before Fakharu was in her debt, so she flicked a dismissive ear at the Abyssal and cantered along after them.
She sat perhaps a little too long with her hindquarters still submerged in the fountain...an absolutely exasperated air about her. Her face rather matched her elemental aspect at this point, certainly a rather impression shade of crimson. Saying nothing more than she had beforehand, Lux pulled herself free of the cold fountain, feeling the bits of it that’d soaked into her clothing seep further downward as she got to her feet whilst her cloak dribbled and dripped all over the stone and marble flooring—she mentally grumbled to herself as she shook her arms and hands, flecks and drops of water coming from the tips of her fingers. What a sight she must’ve been.... About to meet a Lesser Dragon, and she’d gone and dunked her butt in one of his fountains because she couldn’t stop herself from gawking at pretty things, again! Why could she never seem to get a handle on that...?

While Lux shifted on her feet and made a rather futile effort to at least wring out the water from the lower-half of her cloak, trying to stop it from dripping at the bare minimum, “Oh dear,” Oh, he was just going to have to comment on this, wasn’t he? “Perhaps Nāgasāni can provide you with a change of clothes in a bit. I’m certain they have very fine attire here.” Lux could well hear Artisan attempting to suppress amusement at her predicament. First he’d made the rather unnecessary comment about her and Ashen being ‘lovebirds’ earlier after she’d nearly knocked him over, and now he just had to go and.... Lux huffed to herself, mentally kvetching. At least this time, the comment was somewhat justified, and there was really nothing that warranted her getting peeved.

And, as naturally as things had been going so far, it was right as Lux was in a most undignified stance, trying to squeeze the back of her skirt free of water that the enormous, well-ornamented double-doors that held Fakharu and his in-session court flew wide open...putting herself and the entirety of their small group of oddballs on display to the whole of the spirit court. Lux froze in place, feeling the eyes of many spirits and, what she assumed to be, deities of various sorts. She had only enough time to form one coherent thought before she and the rest of the group was shepherded into the center of Fakharu’s audience chambers by the handmaiden quintet, ....well, this is the single, most humiliating moment of my life thus far.

Deciding to forget her half-sopping wet state for the moment, Lux took in the deepest breath she could, and held it as she shuffled forward to be presented before Fakharu and the myriad of gods and spirits. She stood ramrod straight, her arms stiff and held to her sides as her felt her heart skip a beat. Admittedly, Lux had run-ins before with various otherworldly phenomena and beings, but this...was something on an entirely different level. While under normal circumstances, Lux would lose herself in admiring all around her, taking it all in as she had before but she restrained her senses, both awed and nervous when she finally set her eyes upon Fakharu who was every bit draconic as his epithet of ‘Lesser Dragon’ would indicate. She was honestly at a loss.

....until Nāgasāni begun to formally introduce the lot of them to Fakharu, rattling off their titles, names...and Exalted castes. “Inheritrix, Lady Lux Fiala, Burning Sword, Terrestrial Exalted of Fire.” While Lux did indeed notice the peculiar title tacked onto the beginning of her introduction—something she would definitely ponder over later—her thoughts were more concerned with the fact that her status as a Terrestrial amongst Celestials was revealed before she otherwise had a chance to build a rapport with anyone and hope that would help stave off the bad blood between them. Nāgasāni had no way of knowing her intentions on keeping her status under wraps, so, Lux wasn’t angry just all the more anxious. Ashen had his suspicions, but seemed to treat her fine enough regardless, as for the others. After the meeting with Fakharu was said, done and they were on their way, the topic would properly be broached, she was sure. At least, she was likely safe for the moment since she was sure everyone in the group had the poise to not squabble before Fakharu and his court.

So lost in her own thoughts, again, Lux missed the end of Nāgasāni’s introductions, and the beginnings of Fakharu’s greeting and dismissal of his court, til it was the Lesser Dragon gracefully removed himself from his throne, gliding forward until he was nearly eye-level with the lot of them and she was able to actually feel the power behind his voice as he addressed them so close. “Now then, with my morning schedule cleared, I do hope you will indulge me and join me in a private chamber for refreshments. There is a lovely balcony above where we may watch the waves as the sin rises.”

Only when Lux realized that she essentially had a deity looming overtop her, speaking, did she find herself snapping back to reality, at last releasing that breath she’d been holding since Fakharu’s handmaidens had ushered them into the audience chambers. Realizing how long she’d apparently deprived herself of air, Lux desperately and rather sharply gasped, as she coughed a few times—the whole endeavor rather resembling a dying fish struggling for breath while it was that Ioa took it upon himself to sing Fakharu’s aesthetic praises, speaking before anyone in the rest of the group had even the slightest chance to respond.

Lux was actually rather grateful that she was likely not the center of attention at the moment, she’d had enough of that for the day. With a damp, gloved hand pressed against her chest, she took in a few unsteady, pitifully wheezy breaths as she staved off the wooziness that came with holding her breath far longer than she was used to. So, not only had she managed to make a most fantastic impression upon everyone early, stumbling about like a mindless drunkard and soaking her backside in a fountain, but now also her status as a Dragon-Blooded was in the open and she’d almost caused herself to faint a the foot of a God because she’d forgotten to do something as basic as breathe! Fantastic morning thus far!

After Ioa finished his praise-filled rambles, eager to see more of Fakharu’s palace, Artisan took the opportunity to speak as well, “ Yes, as Ioa said, lead the way. “ making motions to tread after the dragon before speaking once more, “Might I also add; thank you for having us, Lord Fakharu, I’m sure I speak on behalf of all of us when I say we’re pleased to be of service to your grace.”

Following along after Ioa and Artisan both, Astrid trotted on by, still within the form of a black housecat, absolutely no way to discern her thoughts at the moment...while it would indeed be sensical for Lux to follow suit, she currently found herself with the desire to bring up the rear of their little group. Lux was more than aware that she looked an absolute mess, and that her mental state left a lot to be desired. She was sure that if she drew any of Fakharu’s attention to herself now, she’d definitely end up making even more a fool of herself than she definitely had already. While she did not make it obvious that she was lingering behind, beginning to walk along as well, Lux still took slower steps, hunching inward on herself, feeling gooseflesh overcome her arms and legs as the damp state of her hair and heavy traveling clothes made her shiver.

Sighing, Lux reach into one of her pockets, clandestinely sneaking out the piece of chocolate she’d been gnawing on while on the boat before. She knew that Fakharu had told them they were going to have brunch, but she needed something to allay her anxieties, and chocolate usually helped in that regard. There was simply so much going on....

So, while she meandered just a bit, Lux took small nibbles off the sweet substance, hoping no one would notice her impolite action as she followed after a God.
Calliope’s steady gaze remained fixed on the door. She was deadly still awaiting their introduction.

While the door was deliciously intricate, Calliope only observed a small nick in the design, an imperfection that was perfectly within her line of sight. The rest of the door was carved in some unearthly material- like precious stone, or was it wood? The designs were exacting, inhumanly precise, and thick, depicting portraits or stories. Calliope could have feasted her eyes on any of these details, but she stared deeply into the imperfection. It looked like the mark left by a weapon of some kind, like someone had attacked the door. But there was only one marking.

Astrid fit into Calliope’s robes like she was an addition to the costume. Albeit, it was a more tribal look, Calliope still enjoyed the presence and the warmth of the small animal. It was a strange and comforting feeling. She thought to herself could get used to it.

The doors heaved open to reveal an audience of immortals. The rising energy from within the chamber seemed to break into unsettling silence. The deities stared back at the humans with a multitude of expressions. Some were displeased, others marveled at the sight of Calliope and her new compatriots. The Gladomeen swore she spotted a familiar deity, but in moments it was gone, vanishing from her view.

One of the five handmaidens declared the Exalted’s arrival. Calliope corrected her posture, standing proudly when she heard her name announced.

“...Princess lady Calliope Lordes, Ascending Sun, Solar exalted of the Dawn caste. And The Artisan That Which Souls Cling, Child of Bone, Abyssal Exalted...”

The announcement seemed endless. Immortals who were displeased by the interruption seemed more displeased. Immortals who marveled at them scrutinized further. While Calliope typically handled situations like these gracefully, she couldn’t help but feel hot under the eye of their godly audience. But Fakharu, unlike all the rest, seemed calm. His manner and composure put his rank above all other creatures in the room. Calliope watched his actions carefully, noting his natural authority. Perhaps there was something she could further glean from this situation after all!

After humbly greeting the Exalted individuals, Lord Fakharu dismissed the audience. “I will have to declare this dawn attendance over for today, as I must see to my guest. I thank you all for coming, and wish you safe travels in your departure. Now then, with my morning schedule cleared, I do hope you will indulge me and join me in a private chamber for refreshments.”

It was obvious that this wasn’t a matter for discussion and Calliope contentedly went along with the dragon. While Artisan made another distasteful and weak-minded comment, Calliope barely caught the scent of something sweet. She covertly attempted to find the source.
A great chortling laughter filled the chamber. The massive dragon was deeply amused by Ioa's praise, and he expressed this by placing one of his massive paws upon the boy's head and gently tussling his hair. "You flatter me young sir! It has been a long time since one has granted my work such honest and enthusiastic endorsement. Or at least none that wasn't feigned to gain my favor."

With fluid grace he turned and started towards throne rooms rear exit. "And it is I that must thank you all for coming Sir Artisan, I know my invitation was rather spontaneous and I hope you will forgive me for being imposing in my summons on such short notice." As they reached the entrance of a spiral stair case, a change happened in Fakharu's form. Mid movement his body spontaneously started to glow and shrink as his body morphed into something more humanoid in shape. He continued to speak even as his shape settled on that of a hansom well dressed human man. The only hint that gave away that his true draconian nature was clawed hands and tail that remained on his person. He stopped briefly to whisper something in Nagasani's ear. "Would be a dear and let the cooks know that we will be arriving at the balcony shortly. Oh and get a change of clothing for miss Lux as well. I'd rather she not suffer through the morning meal with damp clothes on... Or worse, let her get the furniture wet."

A slight him of mischief was in the eyes of the quintet as they received this order. "Of course my Lord." Was her obediently given reply. Though they held their composure until they left the Censor's sight, they started to whisper a amongst themselves. Well trained servants though they were, they were still young women of their mid adolescence and they recognized a chance to have a little 'fun' at someone else's expense when it presented itself.

Continuing to lead the group in the ascent, pass tapestries of silk and stained glass windows that over looked the rolling vistas of the gardens and island beyond them outside. "As young Ioa has guessed I am somewhat proud of this palace. It has taken me seven centuries to reconstruct it back to it's former splendor. My previous abode before this had been lost to the Balorian Crusade*. all those hundreds of years ago. A rather trying time that still leaves it's mark on the west today. Thrice cursed fair folk still infest some area's of the west." He he gave a practiced sigh at that. "But I do not wish to bore you with past dramas."

He stopped before another well crafted door and opened it wide. "Here we are. Please, enter and sit yourself where you wish." The room he invited the exalts into was large and spacious. The pale gold walls held ornate chiseled with images depreciating noble deeds and adventures of past exalts. It's western wall was open, giving a full view of the ocean outside while a gentle cool morning breeze carrying the scent of the sea wafted in. In it's center was a tall statue carved from a single emerald gemstone of a beautiful young woman in her mid twenties. Around the feet of the statue was an oaken table that even now a group of servants was ladening with succulent grilled fish, warm pastries, fresh fruits and fine drink. Fakharu himself, after the others had strode inside, took to reclining on one of the mounds of cushions that served as chairs from the low table.

Ashen paused as he entered the room. He sniffed the air a bit and hummed to himself, an action that hid his activation of [EMOTION REVEALING SCENT]. "Well, this here is certainly a feast." His eye's paused on a particularly large claw half again the size of his head. "Gotta say it's been a while since I've had the pleasure of feasting on traditional cooking from... from..." Ashen started to trail off as the actual smells hit him. He had activated the charm earlier to give him a bit of an edge in the inevitable discussion they was going to have with the dragon, hoping to read him better and get an edge on him in whatever negotiations that might follow. But in doing so he also opened up his enhanced nostrils to pick out the scent of the food *much* more clearly, and each smell he recognized clearly. Steamed Snipper, grilled clam flesh, cooked eel, Razor fish, Clawshell legs, squid and octopus and... was that **Siaka meat!? He'd only ever eaten Siaka once in his life. When his father had saved up for it as a congratulation gift for becoming an officer on a privateers ship. "... from home." He finished in a quiet mutter. A small wave of nostalgia hit him, and a small speck of moisture started to gather at the edges of his eyes.

In the background Nagasani and the rest of the quintet entered with entirely too innocent smiles. With them they carried a bamboo and silk folding curtain and a rolling wardrobe with accompanying make up kit. They each eye'd Lux with cheerful and expecting smiles.

*[STORY TELLERS NOTE: Anyone who has a lore of three or higher knows that the Balorian Crusade is the name of the fair folk invasion that happened immediately after the great contagion stuck creation. These two events are what are considered to be the official end of the first age.]
**[Siaka, also known as the greater sharks, are a heavy contender for the title of apex sea predator. At 40 feet in length they are basically megladons and hunting these things are incredibly dangerous, but also profitable if you can bag one as their meat, teeth and bones fetch a fair price. They are also considered to be the children of Siakal, the western god of war and carnage and are sacred to her religion.]
Lux continued to trail along a little ways behind the others, as Fakharu laughed, pleased with Ioa’s genuine praise as he patted the boy’s head with a very large draconic hand. That he’d be so thrilled to receive admiration...it seemed rather sad to Lux, since it sounded like people only ever flattered his work to earn support. Though power and prestigious came with advantages, it also came with as many negatives.... Along with the rest of the group, Lux stopped in place when Fakharu did, as they neared a spiral-staircase that led upward. As soon as the movement ceased, and Fakharu, Lux quickly shoved the piece of chocolate she’d been savoring back into one of her pockets—watching, awed as Fakharu’s whole form wavered for a moment, taking on a sharp and bright radiance that shrank in scale.

Throughout her travels, Lux had bore witness to many wonders and many feats. Yet, even if they repeated themselves before her, she would always stand in astonishment of them. Without even skipping a beat, Fakharu had shifted his form from that of a large, imposing dragon god to that of a, admittedly handsome, humanoid who still bore a draconic tail and clawed-hands. For something like that to apparently be such a...casual thing for Fakharu, that itself was amazing.

Though, when the Lesser God gave her a passing glance, Lux stiffened up again...as he bade Nāgasāni over to him and proceeded to whisper to the handmaiden, Lux could only assume it some kind of instruction that had to do with her, given that he’d only bothered Nāgasāni after giving her a quick look. She doubted that whatever Fakharu had ordered would do her harm, but Lux couldn’t help that her heart skipped a beat upon that realization; he’d taken notice of her sodden and soggy state.

“Of course, my Lord.” Nāgasāni responded immediately to Fakharu, while her eyes and the eyes of the other handmaidens were upon her—Lux noted that there was some definite...mischief and delight on their faces. All at once, the quintet hurried out of sight, murmuring amongst themselves as they would occasionally glace back at Lux, who felt her stomach twist. Reiterating her self-assurances from before, she was certain that no one would do her harm, but a sense of nervousness nagged at her regardless, knowing that something was in store for her. Puffing her cheeks out just a bit, Lux said nothing of her thoughts, though and obediently continued to follow after Fakharu and the group as they ascended the spiral-staircase, passing yet more works of splendor, which Lux did allow herself to appreciate, but did not let her fascination consume her as it had before, lest she take a tumble backward down the stairs, given what’d just happened before, such a thing was liable to occur it seemed....

As Fakharu began to speak again, Lux turned her attention back to him, “As young Ioa has guessed, I am somewhat proud of this palace. It has taken me seven centuries to reconstruct it back its former splendor. My previous abode before this had been lost to the Balorian Crusade all those hundreds of years ago. A rather trying time that still leaves its mark on the West today. Thrice-cursed Fair Folk still infest some areas of the West.” a sigh came from him as he paused in his reflections, though it seemed practiced insofar as Lux could tell. He’d perhaps reiterated this tale to others many times over? “But I do not wish to bore you with past dramas.” ....Lux did not consider that sort of tale boring.

As soon as Fakharu ceased discussion of the matter, they were before another elegantly made door that Fakharu proceeded to open to them. “Here we are. Please, enter and sit yourself where you wish.”

The room was...about as gorgeous and ostentatious as one would expect, given the rest of the palace. While Lux still stuck to her initial opinion on Fakharu’s aesthetics being rather grandiose, she still did indeed admire them for their uniqueness. Nervous as she still was, not knowing exactly what had been requested of Nāgasāni and the handmaidens, Lux did still quietly observe the room and its many adornments—her eye specifically drawn to the large, singular emerald statue at its center.... A woman, lovely as the emerald could covey her beauty to be. While everything in Fakharu’s palace thus far had been of the utmost craftsmanship and quality, the jeweled sculpture...there was...something to it. Something more than just the same careful care that everything else carried. The statue’s model, the actual woman, whoever she was...Lux felt her heart slip up to her throat, but swallowed the feeling back down.

Whoever the woman was, she mattered, gravely, to Fakharu. ....did the summons have something to do with...?

“Well, this here is certainly a feast.” Ashen’s sudden comment about the spread of food snapped Lux out of her rumination in regard to the statue, causing her to flinch a bit as a slight noise came from her throat. She turned on her heel, looking at the Lunar as he seemed to appreciate what was going to be offered to them—Lux herself hadn’t even really taken heed of the food, too entranced by the emerald statue behind her. However, now rend from her musings, she did take a moment to look over the food. Admittedly, it looked appetizing, yet the nearly obscene amount of it gave Lux a moment to pause. She knew little about the standards a Lesser God held themselves to when it came to treating guests, but, something about the quality and quantity of food made her quirk her eyebrow up, just a bit. Fakharu had summoned them from across Creation to ask something of them, no doubt. Everyone had, had their own ideations on the matter, ranging from grand to not-so-grand. Lux was now rather certain that whatever Fakharu wanted from them, it was grand.

But, when Ashen began to speak again, Lux’s gaze was drawn over to him, “Gotta say it’s been a while since I’ve had the pleasure of feasting on traditional cooking from...from….” he trailed off and Lux, it was ever-so-slight but, his voice quieted as he seemed to lose himself in thought. She crossed her arms, and raised a finger to her chin as she considered this—on the boat, Ashen had told everyone he hailed from Wave Crest, and that this was a ‘bit o’ a return trip’ for him, as he’d put it with his accent. If From the way he was acting and from what he’d said earlier in the day, Lux supposed that Ashen had been away from the West for quite some time...perhaps it was just hitting him? Maybe he was feeling the pangs associated with homesickness.

“....from home.” he finished speaking in a low murmur, his former enthusiasm all but gone. Lux felt this was enough to confirm her deduction that Ashen had suddenly been struck by a bout of melancholy. Hearing the sudden distance in his voice made Lux frown, she detested when people lost their spark. She weighed her options; at least socially aware enough to know that people oft didn’t like having attention drawn to themselves in situations like these. Certainly, what she was considering would make her look and sound like a nimrod, but given how the day had gone on so far, and the fact that she was standing in the presences of a Lesser God with a soggy behind, how much worse could she possibly make herself appear to everyone? If it made Ashen perk up....

Puffing her cheeks out, she took a few steps in Ashen’s direction, til she was standing to his side, and made it seem like she was eyeing up the food like he had been before. It was all seafood...she adopted a tiny smile, her expression bright as she crossed her arms over her diaphragm, and hummed a touch to call attention to herself, “I’ll certainly say that I’m rather unfamiliar with a majority of this food. I’ve had seafood on a few occasions, but nothing so lavish?” Lux started, bracing herself for how she knew this was going to go over, “I really only recognize the Clawfish legs—they always did make me feel a bit...crabby, though. People stopped letting me eat them because I’d always start getting a snippy attitude!”

....she let silence reign for a moment before she cleared her throat, and saying to him softly, “I’m sorry, but it looked as if you could use a distraction.”

Lux failed to notice as she spoke to him though, that she was being gleefully eyed by Fakharu’s quintet of handmaidens as they entered into the room, carrying with them a plethora of items. It was only when one of them spoke up, Vengalu, that Lux finally realized that Fakharu’s earlier unheard request to Nāgasāni was about to be carried out.

“Lady Lux? Might we five...borrow you, for but a moment?” her voice was gentle, but, Lux heard the elation in it, and noticed the tiny smiles adorning the faces of the handmaidens, the items they carried—a folding curtain, a wardrobe and…was that a make-up kit? Oh, Gods. What was about to happen to her?

She felt her stomach sink low.
Collab post between myself and Jakuri

The young Lunar wasn't sure at what point Lux was behind him, his engrossed state pushing out the rest of the world for that moment. It wasn't until he heard her humming beside him that he final noticed her presence. A quizzical look fell across his face as she spoke. It took him a few seconds to process what she was going on about. When it did click he blinked. Then brushing the moisture out of his eyes he gave her a miffed expression. “I’m sorry, but it looked as if you could use a distraction.” She admitted.

"Ay, consider me distracted. Those we're terrible." He paused as he noticed the handmaidens enter with their assorted equipment. "Though I think tha won't be the only distraction in the room in a minute." He muttered as one as Vengalu stepped forward and asked to borrow Lux. Getting a slight hint of what was going on, and seeing no reason not to enjoy someone else's predicament if he could, the glint of humor returned to Ashen Sky's eyes as he gave the Dragon blooded a slight gentle shove towards the starmetal wearing girl. "Sure ye can!" He answered for her. "Meal's not started yet. Lux'd love to spare a minute for whatever ye need!"

Lux had let out a small yelp as Ashen lightly pushed her toward Vengalu, volunteering her time to the handmaidens. She saw what items the lot of them had, and she had a feeling what she was being volunteered for.... Artisan’s earlier joke about being provided a change of clothes ran through her head. Looks like the Deathknight’s joke wasn’t about to just be a joke. A dismayed expression overtaking her face, Lux shrank inwardly on herself a bit, blushing at the thought of being forced into another outfit so suddenly. Despite however politely Vengalu had made the request...she saw the look in the handmaiden’s eyes! “U-uh,um...I….”

Before Lux could answer proper on her own behalf, and politely decline, Vengalu moved, setting a hand on one of Lux’s shoulders, responding eagerly to Ashen having answered for her. “Marvelous, then! Sir Ashen, we’ll have Lady Lux for but a short moment—she needn’t suffer through a meal with soggy clothing on, after all. It wouldn’t do her or anyone well if she caught a case of the sniffles, after all.”

“Indeed, we’ll have her tidied up in no time at all.” Lakshmī spoke up as well, moving to set her hand on Lux’s other unoccupied shoulder before Vengalu and she began to gently guide the girl toward an empty portion of the room. Lux stiffened up, going scarlet red, “Th-there’s no need, I-I’ve suffered through worse than a meal in damp clothing!” she weakly protested, knowing that it was pointless to do so....

"Nonsense!" Was Hotton's firm and sharp proclamation. "We can't well call ourselves good host if we allow one of our guest to endure even mild discomfort whilst dining at our table!" With that statement made she opened the folding curtain with a flourish and an audible snap. This barrier granted the twin benefits of privacy from the rest of the room to work and a convenient block on the only available escape route Lux might have had. "Now!" Periya said with a clap and a wicked grin. "Lets get you out of those filthy things."

And with that they descended on the terrestrial exalt with the ferocity of a pack of starved sharks, fully committed to the task of 'helping' their guest out of her current attire. They moved with frightening level of efficiency and practiced ease of someone trained specifically for this task. Each worked in tandem, holding arms and legs while the others fiddled with buckles and straps. Nāgasāni tusked as she held up recently relieved shirt."My, My this does show some wear and tear. When did you last have this taken in to a tailor Lady Lux?" She tossed it into a growing pile to the side "Oh we simply cannot let you be seen in it a moment longer, it does absolutely nothing to compliment your figure."

She yelped and squeaked, making noise after noise of protest as various articles of clothing were stripped and pulled off her without any regard. Nāgasāni fussed and commented on her clothing and its well-worn state—then mentioning how it did nothing to compliment her figure. Lux paid little heed to her words though as complete mortification overtook her in her current state of undress. To say that Lux’s face resembled a tomato was almost an understatement, at this point. The quintet had stripped her down to her underclothes with no regard. When Lux’s arms and legs were freed from the handmaiden’s vice-like grips, her arms quickly flew overtop her chest and she slunk inward a bit, head down as she attempted to object, but found herself only able to make an incoherent, birdlike shriek.... A sharp shiver ran through her, her exposed skin developed gooseflesh as it caught a breeze from a nearby, open window. Tropical though the environment was, it was still barely spring, the air carried still winter’s chill.

Hotton set a hand upon the small of Lux’s waist, and a hand upon a shoulder and guided her posture straight. “Oh, Lady Lux, the sooner you allow us to gather your measurements, the sooner you’ll not have to endure the temperature, I assure you, you’ll look a wonder!”

At her side, Periya was taking hold of Lux’s arm again as Lakshmī took hold of the other and straightened them out while Vangalu brought out a measuring tape. Lux quivered abit, til she felt the tape wrap around her back and her.... That made her yelp, “P-Please don’t touch me there!”

The handmaidens collectively held back a small giggle at the Terrestrial’s reaction, she had nothing to be embarrassed about. They weren’t doing anything inappropriate and had done this for numerous individuals—this was something everyday for them, after all.

“Don’t worry, Lady Lux, we’ve almost finished your measurements, we’ll ensure that your clothing compliments your natural beauty and your build, as Hotton said, you’ll look a wonder.” Nāgasāni assured the girl, the slightest smile on the handmaiden’s face as she jotted down numbers on a piece of parchment as Vangalu rattled them off.

Meanwhile, Hotton began fetching a particular set of clothing from the rollaway wardrobe that she felt would suit Lux just splendidly....

As Hotton sifted through the collection of garments Lakshmī hummed a bit as she gave their charge a quick once over. "You know you have such lovely skin Lady Lux. Soft and a fine shade of color. It's a shame your hair seems to be so rebellious though." She held up a lock of her golden blonde hair an rolled it around between her finger and thumb. "Since we're at this stage already, we should set it in order for you while we have the change."

A cooing noise came from Periya on the other side of her. "Oooo yes! A bit of Sea Adder extract to bring out the shine a bit more!" Nāgasāni nodded in agreement. "And while we're doing that we could have her nails trimmed and painted." Behind her Vangalu was already rushing to grab a chair and a large bowl for water. Without even waiting for Lux to object they quickly bade her to sit down, propped up the bowl behind her which mysteriously seemed to fill with simmering water all of its own and then they each took a hand or a foot and got to work. Hotton had finished narrowing down her choices and left her pick hanging from the curtain behind them as she then went to rest at Lux's left foot. Vangalu took the other, while Lakshmī and Periya went to her hands. Nāgasāni took position behind the terrestrial and gently lowered the back of her head into the warm water, soaking her hair before she began rubbing some thick fluid into her locks and scalp, slowly working up to in messaging with firm but soft motions. As they worked each offered complements of Lux's appearance, her face, her eyes, her hair, her skin. Though they were taking all the fun they could get out of playing 'dress up' with the dragon blooded, they were still professionals offering kind and flattering words to their current victim charge.

Honestly, she didn’t know how to react anymore, it didn’t matter if she squirmed, writhed or begged; there was no salvation from what was happening. The handmaidens were drawing this out because they were having fun toying with her. Maybe it was karma for having so impolitely stared at them earlier... The girls made quick work, doing...something to her feet and hands, had they mentioned paint? Nāgasāni had some thick goop in her hair (had she said it was Sea Adder extract?!), and was scrubbing away at her scalp while Lux was otherwise helpless to stop any of it. She just squeezed her eye shut and whined all the while, as each of the handmaidens individually paid her compliment after compliment on one thing or another.... In a way, yes, she very much appreciated the kind words; the handmaidens were polite, even if they were forcing her into what was essentially a spontaneous makeover against her will.

“I-I’m not.... Anything particularly special.” she managed to squeak out as the quintet worked. Lux’s denial of her own beauty made Nāgasāni’s fingers pause in their work on her scalp. A very small frown appeared on her face that went unseen by Lux, and she went back to massaging the Sea Adder extract into her victim’s hair

“Lady Lux, I must politely say that I am inclined to disagree with your perspective, though we handmaidens may be having a bit of fun with you—our compliments are sincere. You’ve charms and beauty; we’re just going to help make those a touch more obvious.”

Despite Nāgasāni’s assurances, and admitted teasing, Lux softly mumbled in embarrassment as the girls finished their various tasks.

Nāgasāni continued to lather, rinse, and then rinse again. The gelled shampoo had been fully applied to Lux's hair at this point and now all that remained was to clear the excess away, comb it straight, give her a light trim and then bind her hair to quickly dry before combing it again a final time. The other four finished their self assigned set of nails one by one and collectively began to pillage the makeup box. A new fever seemed to come over the girls now. At the start this had just been an excuse to have a little fun, practice their talents a bit and enjoy make the young fire aspect squirm and blush adorably a little under some light hearted teasing. And while that was still mostly the main goal, Lux's denial of her own beauty sparked another goal in their minds, to convince her that she was every bit as pretty as she actually was.

Brushes and pigments in tow, the four with free hands took position around her again and began applying makeup to her face, neck and shoulders with the care and patience of an artist polishing a statue.

Wordless whines and mewls came from Lux as the quintet continued their meticulous work on her, her expression caught somewhere between timid and a grimace. At this point, Lux had come to accept her situation with some kind of reluctant grace—it was futile to object to anything that the handmaidens had planned for her. Even if she still felt horridly awkward, resisting would do her no favors, and it’d all be over quicker if she just let it happen.... With that said, in spite of how very jumbled Lux’s mind was, she...couldn’t help but feel that something was now a just a smidge different with how the girls were working. They seemed determined in a new way?

Perhaps her comment had created some kind of spark within them? Nāgasāni’s words were so kind, and Lux was grateful, but she’d been speaking the truth...she never thought of herself as anything so special. She didn’t think she was hideous or anything! She just thought herself...average. Was there something wrong with that?

“Lady Lux,” Vangalu spoke gently, “May I request that you hold your expression neutral? Otherwise, the cosmetics will not go on proper—please?”

A small breath slipped from Lux—cosmetics. Lux had never wore cosmetics of any sort before. She’d seen the box the handmaidens had been handling, but. Ah, there was no way out of this, the maids were going to paint her face whether or not she complied...and as averse as she was toward all of this, it was likely apparent that Lux was otherwise incapable of denying any request these girls made of her at this point. A small noise came out of Lux as she slipped downward into the chair she was seated in, giving in.

“I-I...eh, you all very well can figure I’m incapable of refusing you....” she murmured, her voice quiet and quivering as she forced neutrality over her face.

Periya giggled softly at Lux’s words, “We’ll keep that in mind, Lady Lux.”

Returning to her state of discomfiture, Lux felt a comb being run through hair while puffs and brushes worked their way around her face—powders and creams being applied. The sensation was so foreign and strange—Lux wasn’t sure if she liked how it felt or not? Did individuals of nobility truly wear this substance on their faces every day...?

Whilst Lux silently ruminated over this, the handmaidens seamlessly blended their work, every bit of powder and pigment flawless and perfectly picked; a soft rose for the lips and a delicate ruby for the apples of her cheeks—truly Lux now looked every bit the part of the bashful maiden she acted.

With the final stroke of the brush applied the girls leaned back to regard their work. They each simultaneously nodded in silent agreement. Now came for the final touch. As Lux's hair dried they bade her to stand up once more and take position in the center of the handmaiden's circle. Hotton fetched the outfit she had selected and presented it to the others from beside Lux. One glance at it got the approval of the other four, it was a perfect choice for the young woman and they held it next to her for comparison to prove that fact.

It was a gown as white as sea foam. Consisting of three parts; first a Bodice in the Décolletage style, clinging from the sides of the upper arms to better show off the neck and shoulders. It flowed downward like a waterfall, splitting at the front and continuing behind into a Train that fell all the way down till it reached the back of her feet. Looping around just beneath her breast was a rope to grant stability to the Bodice, a rope that was made of fibers taken from phoenix feathers which gave it a constant slight shimmer to it. This same golden phoenix thread was also embroidered along the frills and edges. Above her chest at the low neckline was another embroidery, this one made of deep green that matched the color of her eyes. This portion thread came from the hair of a dryad and the proximity gave off the scent of pine and cedar trees. From the back a hung a large bow made of the same material as the embroidery with a flowing design to it. From the Bodice's center and on both of it's sleeves was a small golden 'flower' of golden thread with a single emerald in each.

Next beneath the Bodice was a small under skirt that wrapped around her midsection and drifted down to the upper thighs and it too had the shimmering gold thread stitched along it's bottom frills. Finally came a pair of stocking that went all the way up her legs until they rested just a few inches below the the lows edge of the skirt and it too had a design of gold and emerald threads. The whole ensemble was brilliant, a work of carefully woven textile work and specifically chosen materials.

Nāgasāni sighed happily. "A splendid match for you Lady Lux. I think it will complement your hair and eyes wonderfully." She rubbed her hands together and hopped excitedly where she was. This had been the most fun she and the other girls had had in ages and they each were pleased with how the final end result was about to look. But just as they were about to complete the piece and slip the dragon blooded into it, Periya hummed slightly to get their leader's attention and held up something else behind her with a wink. She thumbed up then down in a silent question of 'yes? No?'. Nāgasāni paused, bit her lip, gave Lux a gauging look, and finally shrugged and nodded. ONE last bit of mischief before they set her free of the constant stream of teasing.

"Now, let’s get you into something that matches it's texture a bit more closely first. Just to make sure it's the complete outfit." There was a slight impishness to her tone as Periya advanced behind the exalt with a silk corset and matching undergarment. Besides her, Vangalu appeared with a tray of perfumes and scented oils.

As exposed and embarrassed as Lux felt, having to stand in a state of near undress, she couldn’t deny how...stunning the dress was that the handmaidens had selected for her. The quintet were genuine in their compliments, but looking at the dress, Lux just felt as if it was something that didn’t belong on the likes of her, it was so striking. But, Nāgasāni and the rest of the handmaidens seemed so enthusiastic.... Even if this whole ordeal was completely, horridly mortifying on every conceivable level for Lux, she could at least take some comfort knowing that the handmaidens at least seemed to have had fun, even if it was at her expense and humiliated her to her core.

Though she didn’t feel as if she was suitable for the dress, Lux would don it, if only to appease the girls. They seemed happy. Lux sighed, ready to just get on with it...til Nāgasāni’s comment about completing the outfit.

....Lux had no time to process what she meant, or anything else for that matter, as Vangalu and Hotton moved in and held Lux’s arms upward.

For the umpteenth time in a matter of minutes, Lux was left utterly flabbergasted when she found a corset of all things being put around her middle, and laced up with no warning. A loud, high-pitched squeal escaped from Lux’s throat as the laces were tightened and her waistline was forced even tinier. “A-Ah! Too tight! T-Too tight! Isn’t my waist already small enough?”

Periya hummed from behind Lux, as she made quick and accurate work of the laces. “Given the circumstances, we handmaidens feel you should experience the joys of the complete ensemble, corset included, Lady Lux!” Nāgasāni and Lakshmī, meanwhile, busied themselves sorting out the various pieces of their chosen dress, preparing it for immediate wear once Periya finished with the corset.

Lux exhaled rather sharply, feeling tears prick at her eyes as she felt the corset cinch her ribcage and force some of the air out of her lungs. “Creation have mercy! If this is thought to be a ‘joy,’ then I’m utterly terrified to ask what one would consider a horror to be!”

“Ah, Lady Lux, when it comes to beauty, sometimes, sacrifices must be made.” Lakshmī spoke with a hint of glee in her voice. “Again, allow me to offer our mutual reassurance—we’re only working to make your many natural charms and loveliness a touch more apparent.” The quintet all nodded or hummed in agreement with Lakshmī as Periya completed lacing the corset, tying it tight and securely as Hotton had picked a bottle of scented oil and proceeded to apply something that smell a lot like roses to the pulse points on her wrists while Vangalu spritzed with a spray that smelled similar to the oil, yet was lighter all the while. Following, Nāgasāni approached her, clothing in hand.

The first to go on was the stockings which Vangalu lifted her leg and guided her foot into. At first contact against her skin the material felt every bit as exquisite as it looked. So soft was the fabric that it felt like cream against the skin and was nearly as weightless as the air, leaving no friction as it was slipped on. Hotton handled the other leg and the two of them capped it off by producing a pair of solid gold high heeled slippers for her feet. Then came the under skirt which Lakshmī laid on over top of the corset and allowed to drape down her belly, tickling her stomach with it's touch. Finally came the Bodice, which Nāgasāni raised over her head and slipped onto her, letting the train of it fall down her back in a gentle descent. There was a certain something to it--an odd, comforting warmth that Lux could feel but couldn't explain.

That finished, Hotton and Periya returned to the rolling wardrobe one last time. They returned with a large full body mirror and a set of golden jewellery; a necklace, a pair of bracelets, and a beaded hair pin. Each piece studded with sizable gemstones and dangling a small gold bell. Nāgasāni placed her hands on Lux’s shoulders in a comforting manner as Hotton held up the case to her inspection. “Consider these to be a personal gift from us. The final touch to a noble young princess of the earth’s attire.”

Having someone else dress her was a rather surreal experience overall, never once in her life had Lux ever had someone else dress her...nor did she ever wear a proper corset laced so horridly tight! She could barely breathe. Though Lux did not doubt the quintet’s capabilities or expertise when it came to such matters, but, a part of her was honestly afraid that she was going to end up woozy. She’d made a fool enough of herself already, the only way she could make it truly worse was if she managed to faint during the meeting with Fakharu. ....the clothing did indeed feel wonderful, though. Entirely different from anything she’d ever worn in her life, and still she didn’t feel like she belonged in them.

The clothing felt...she didn’t know how to describe it. Something in her felt soothed, she felt warm—comforted? Was that it?

Something about the sensation made tears well up in her eyes...while she gazed upon herself in the mirror the girls had brought out. She was speechless. Was that really...her? Lux didn’t even know that her hair could lay straight? Fiddling with her fingers, she stared at her own reflection, nervous, not knowing what to think. Nāgasāni wanted her to keep this ensemble as a gift? Something so exquisite? They’d just...let her have it? Clothing like this didn’t suit her, nothing so grand suited her. They were genuine though, even if they’d admitted to having some fun with her. The handmaidens seemed determined to make Lux see herself as more than average.

Lux felt her cheeks flush under the pigments and powders the girls had applied to her face. Accepting a gift of this caliber from anyone seemed so odd, so undeserved. She felt obligated to politely decline, say it was too much to just take when it wasn’t yet earned. However, as she had said before, at this point she was unable to refuse them.... Wringing her hands, standing quiet a moment, she contemplated.

“Ah...I, I really don’t know how to respond,” she spoke softly, “but...but, I do appreciate everything done for me, even if I feel so out of my element. I...do look....” Lux’s words drifted off.

Lakshmī gave Lux a smile, “You look beautiful, Lady Lux, though you are naturally so.”

The Dragon-Blooded let a strange noise out of her throat at Lakshmī’s words—her reaction made the gaggle of girls giggle. Lux was a fun one indeed, you could pay her the slightest compliment and she essentially shutdown. Perhaps they hadn’t quite convinced her of her own charms and beauty yet, but they’d seemed to somewhat sway her in the right direction. It was progress, at least.

“....th-thank you, for the makeover and the attire.” Lux’s voice was hesitant, and quiet.

Nāgasāni lightly squeezed Lux’s shoulders, reassuring her. “Think nothing of it; we enjoyed ourselves, and your company. Now, I do think that preparations are nearly complete for the meal, Lady Lux.”

Hotton gathered Lux’s well-worn traveling clothes in her arms, “Hmm, I do have to say that I am somewhat tempted to have this thrown out, such rags are unfit for one such as yourself....” Before Lux could protest to this though, the handmaiden let out a tiny chuckle at seeing her dismay. “Worry not; I wouldn’t do such a thing. However, I will see that this ensemble is properly washed and restored to proper condition whilst you speak with our Lord.”

With that the girls began tucking away their measuring equipment, packing the make up back up and folding left over clothes. Once finished they gave Lux a brief moment to collect herself emotionally, then brought down the folding curtain and with Nāgasāni still holding her by the shoulders they gently guided her back to the table; Each of them beaming proudly as they presented the dragon blooded like an artist debuting their latest work to the room at large.

Ashen Sky had been vaguely keeping an ear out for the group since he had thrown Lux to the metaphorical wolves. With his charm active it had been hard not to as the emotional mix of excitement, humor, and especially embarrassment had been a rather concentrated smell to his essence charged nose. When he caught sight of Lux being lead back in new apparel and makeup he smirked. The dragon blood had been easy on the eyes before but now a touch of aesthetic detail that truely put on display her natural allure. Still smirking he decided to have on last little laugh and let out a sharp cat call whistle to show his approval with the change.

A sharp and pronounced whine slipped from Lux as fought against reflexively squishing her face into her hands. He had to have known she was way beyond her comfort zone. So, he was purposefully trying to get a rise out of her...and, of course it worked. The handmaidens’ work was astounding and exceptional, but Ashen’s little wolf whistle just made her feel like crawling into the nearest hole and never coming out. Lux knew he was poking fun—she knew it but she still didn’t know how to respond. She never knew how to respond, and it honestly felt like she never would. Flustered, Lux fidgeted about, wringing her hands over each other, while she looked down at the floor, avoiding eye contact since she couldn’t resort to hiding her face in her hands—she’d ruin the cosmetics the quintet had worked so meticulously on, so looking away was the next best option. Lux felt the grip Nāgasāni had on her shoulders tighten, just a bit.

Though the quintet was still smiling cheerfully they each secretly gave Ashen a look and by the same nature of his active charm he could smell their sudden desire to remove his manhood with a rusty pair of scissors. He paled, coughed slightly and quickly revised his last statement. “Ay ah… Ahem. I mean ta say ye-you look rather lovely Lux.”

The sudden shift in Ashen’s demeanor toward her appearance caught Lux off guard, she knew that before he’d just been trying to get a rise from her...which he’d succeeded in doing so, but that last comment was rather unexpected, as far as she was concerned. Surprised, she looked up at him, blinking a few times before she nodded in response, uttering a timid, “Ah, thank you….”

He laughed, slightly nervously, and patted a place at the table. “Well why don’t you come join us then, now tha ye be finished.” He eyed the handmaidens briefly as he said this, and they seemed mostly placated for the moment. Nodding approvingly, they made a final bow to Lux, and then another towards the group as a whole. “Lady Lux, thank you for your time. We will take our leave now. Everyone please enjoy your meal. Call for us if any of you have need of anything.” With those final parting words from Nāgasāni the quintet gathered their things and exited the room, leaving their guest alone with the water dragon.

Lux bade farewell to the handmaidens as they exited the room, Hotton had her clothes in tow...:Lux did hope that she would see them again, though Hotton had promised she would have them cleaned and mended, then returned to her, there was still a small amount of worry. With a sigh, Lux paced over toward the long table, taking heed of Ashen’s invitation. She still felt rather out of her element, and uncomfortable with her appearance, but there more important matters to attend to. Like hearing how Fakharu. So, Lux seated herself in an empty chair and waited quietly...though she found her eyes again drawn to the emerald statue that stood in the center of the room.
Calliope was at the front of the group. She had not yet spoken with Fakharu, though she followed him closely. The truth was, she was still making up her mind about him. And Calliope, of all people, was not particularly one for character analysis. When she arrived at the room she practically dropped her weapons bag at the door, rather rudely. But from her perspective, it would have been rude to take her bag inside. She didn’t seem the type to part with her weapons, but of course, she wasn’t worried, she still had her three swords equiped on her person.

Calliope sat herself down next to Astrid and across from Ashen, observing the bounty of food presented before them. She was starving.

Without any request of permission, she dished herself up, until her plate was overflowing with all kinds of delicacies mixed together haphazardly in a wonderful, steamy, array of aromas. The people of Gladomain eat. Meals are not taken lightly in her town. “You know not when the famine will arrive !” Her mother always said lightheartedly. And so they would eat and eat, without any real consequence due to the extreme amount of physical exertion the average townsmen experienced in training.

Calliope ate with her hands. She viciously tore at the cuts of meat, fat and grease dripping from her pink fingers. She hadn’t fully swallowed before she had filled her mouth again. In the midst of her feast, she paid no mind to Lux’s absence. She devoured the majority of the plate in minutes, and began loading it again almost immediately after. Only letting up to address Astrid.

“I finnd your felinne formm mmost pleasinng,” the Noble stated through the bits of clam flesh still occupying her mouth. As she spoke, bits of ligament flew past her lips. “Your pelt is quite soft ! I readily welcomme your residennce on mmy person !” She wiped the dribble of oil off her chin.

Aside from this, Calliope pursued no other small talk. She did carry some interest in Astrid’s position as Chieftain, and wished to know more about her tribe, but for fear of prying, she kept these questions to herself. The pink woman continued shoveling food down her gullet until she was forced by pure discomfort to stop. She licked her fingers.

Calliope leaned back, satisfied, just in time for Lux’s return. Ashen beckoned her back to the table, “Why don’t you come join us then, now tha ye be finished.”

Calliope laughed heartily and slammed a fist down on the table. “I amm in accordance with Ashenn. I find your currennt appearance far mmore appealinng!”
Spoiler: show
Current Motes: Personal Pool: 5/6 Peripheral Pool: 13/13
Current Willpower: 5/5
Current Health: 5/5
Current Charms active: EMOTION REVEALING SCENT

Ashen Sky winced slightly as the princess fist hit the table, bringing his attention back to her. While Lux had been off getting her make over at the hands of five enthusiastic handmaidens, Calliope had taken to stuffing her face with the sort of wild abandon you'd expect to see on a half starved Siaka. It was oddly fascinating to watch in a a morbid sense, how this woman could go from refined and composed royalty to savage eater in such a turn, and for some reason Ashen just hadn't been able to take his eyes off her as she tore into the food in front of her. Perhaps it was due to his own up bringing in the west where meat was a rare treat and the cooking of fish flesh was slow communal thing, but the privateer always felt that food was better if enjoyed rather than gorged.

.... though he'd admit his master had disagreed with him on that point, regularly stuffing his face at first chance and he'd been a northerner as well. Who knows maybe they were all just crazy.

He sighed. He didn't even need his charm active to know that Fakharu was resisting the urge to frown and he had been wincing with each noise she made through the meal. "Speakin' o' appearances. Ye should probably be takin' better care o' yours yer highness." Again Ashen Sky slipped back into his accent, but he didn't bother to correct himself for the moment. He plucked a folded cloth off the table and wrapped it around his hand. " 'ere, let me fix tha for ya." Then in a move that was rather out of character for him, the Lunar got up, placed a knee on the rim table and used it as leverage as he leaned across to press napkin to the Solar's face. He then proceed to start wiping away the left over gristle and juices from her lips and chin. "Now I'll be admitting' tha ah lot o' western food is saw-pposed ta be eatin' by hand, I hope ye be forgivin' me for sayin' tha yer doin' it wrong." It was just as he was finishing the clean up that Ashen Sky seemed to pause and suddenly realize:
  1. What he was doing
  2. Who he was doing it to
  3. And that he had garnered a few stares for doing it
The Epiphany that he had made his own faux pas (a series of them in one action really) came and went and with a short cough he sat back down, tossed the napkin aside and acted entirely like he hadn't just gone on autopilot and made a somewhat intimate gesture towards someone he'd only known for maybe 3 hours. Seriously, why? WHY did he do that?

Deciding to switch tracks entirely and maybe salvage something of this situation for himself. Clearing his throat he started to gather up a few bits of fish, marinated kelp and a bowl of sauce, and got ready to suppress his accent again. "When it comes to western style fish dishes, it's best to layer tha flavors a bit so ya get a nice spectrum in tha meal. For example..." He set down his gathered ingredients on his plate. "Start with some seasoned' kelp, slap down ah slab o' Siaka meat, lathar it wit some some Salmoriglio Sauce, layer some grilled veggies ovar top, than wrap it wit the kelp like so..." He continued with his little demonstration, pointedly not looking at anyone and hoping to Luna and heaven that this would be enough of a distraction that everybody would forget about whatever the hell that was.
Contending with the corset that was so tightly laced up around her middle was interesting...Lux felt like she had to learn how to breathe all over again with it on. Breaths had to be kept on the lighter side; her middle was too squished to allow anything more. Creation, how she hoped that she stayed conscious and didn’t faint in the middle of the meal. Otherwise, Lux remained still where she’d seated herself, hand set on her lap while a majority of her attention was centered on the intricate emerald statue that had captured her wholly, before Ashen had volunteered her to the handmaidens.... Looking at it again, she felt the same about as she had prior.

Her verdantly colored eyes trailed across the polished surface of the statue’s figure. As she’d observed before, the sculpture had a different atmosphere to it than anything else Lux had seen thus far in Fakharu’s palace. She wasn’t the most aware of people, nor did she carry much knowledge in matters related to crafts.... Was she overthinking it? That was a definite possibility; still, she couldn’t quite shake the thought from her pretty little head. With that notion floating about in her mind, Lux silently gazed over at Fakharu, saying nothing of her thoughts. Perhaps she was right and that the woman who’d modeled for sculpture was someone of great significance to Fakharu, but who was to say that woman was even still alive? It was possible that she’d been somehow involved with the Lesser Dragon ages ago and passed already. Lux didn’t know how long Fakharu had been alive, only that he’d been around for...a really long time.

....if the matter came up, she would inquire, otherwise she’d keep her musings to herself for the time being.

Humming to herself, she shook herself from her thoughts, her gaze ending up on Calliope who was seated diagonally from her, across from Ashen. Lux herself was seated across from Astrid who was still in her feline form after all this while—not that Lux minded, she liked cats, and animals in general...except for horses, those would forevermore give her reason to pause, one of those beasts was to blame for her hair being so short.

It seemed that while Lux had been left to the mercy of Nāgasāni and the rest of the girls, Calliope had gone ahead and gorged herself heartily and done so with much gusto. She had bits of food and grease spattered across her rosy face, and seemed utterly unaffected by it. Some would find the display nauseating, but the sight actually made Lux giggle a bit, making a small smile cross over her own made-up face, she found it endearing to see someone who so thoroughly enjoyed food. Til the princess went ahead and made her own comment regarding her makeover, that is.

“I amm in accordance with Ashen. I find your current appearance far mmore appealinng!” laughing wholeheartedly as she slammed her fist down onto the table hard enough to make the silverware rattle.

Lux stiffened up and slid downward in her seat just a smidge, as much as she wanted to hide her face in her hands she knew she couldn’t, else she’d ruin her carefully applied cosmetics. “....uh, thank you much, Lady Calliope.” she mumbled, reluctantly. Better just to take it with as much grace she could muster. She’d made enough of a fool of herself for one day, after all.

Allowing a sigh to slip from between her rose-colored lips, she did her best to shake off her embarrassment, looking back up at the Northern Princess, right as soon as Ashen...was chastising her table manners and blotting the food of her face with a napkin. Lux had really no idea what to make of the display; it was so...she didn’t even have a word for it. As soon as Ashen otherwise concluded his sudden lesson on etiquette, he seemed to realize himself how much of a gaffe he’d committed.

He tried to play off what he’d just done, diving into an impromptu lesson on how one was supposed to consume the Western foods that were lain out before them. The Lunar rambled on, rather monotone and speaking so quickly it was actually a little hard for Lux to even discern some of what he was saying—and she was sitting right next to him. Now, normally, Lux would keep down her urge to laugh and giggle at the display, but.... Ashen had given her over to the handmaidens earlier in retaliation for her making a couple of horrid jokes. The Dragon-Blooded wouldn’t deny herself this bout of laughter.

One of her hands went gently over her mouth, as her shoulders began to shake a bit as she tried to keep it quiet. Alas, she could not do so though, and Lux began to giggle, eventually erupting into full-on laughter that she couldn’t contain. Certainly, it was rude to laugh so loudly in the presence of a Lesser Dragon, and she would properly apologize in the aftermath if the need be.

“I-I, pfft....” she snorted, unable to continue speaking as bowed her head over, her hand fully overtop her mouth as her other was set across her stomach as she shook from laughter, occasional snorts working their way out of her. After maybe half a minute, Lux was finally able to calm herself, and reduced her little laughing bout to a fit of giggles instead—still she couldn’t wipe the amused grin from her face. Clearing her throat, Lux raised her head back up, her shoulders still occasionally twitching as she held back her laughter.

“I was not aware that etiquette lessons were included with today’s summons, Ashen.” she looked at the Lunar, resting a hand upon her cheek, “ Hmm, I cannot say that I quite took you for the type to be so concerned over such matters. Firstly, you so kindly volunteer me for a wardrobe change and then dote over Lady Calliope so.... the grin on her face grew a touch.

Though she did tease, there was a warmth in Lux’s words, “How endearing.”
Spoiler: show
Current Motes: Personal Pool: 5/6 Peripheral Pool: 13/13
Current Willpower: 5/5
Current Health: 5/5
Current Charms active: EMOTION REVEALING SCENT

As Lux's laughter erupted besides him the Changing Moon stopped his explanation and adopted a neutral expression. Quietly he picked up a goblet of wine and sipped it while he waited for the Fire Aspect to finish her tittering. “I was not aware that etiquette lessons were included with today’s summons, Ashen. Hmm, I cannot say that I quite took you for the type to be so concerned over such matters. Firstly, you so kindly volunteer me for a wardrobe change and then dote over Lady Calliope so....” Ashen could smell shit eating grin on her face and he knew, both by magical scent and tone of her voice that she was taking a little (admittedly deserved) pay back for earlier. “How endearing.”

Ashen Sky put down the goblet, calmly wiped his mouth with the napkin he had used earlier, and adopted a dead pan tone. "Both me mothers taught me to be mannerly around women when ye introduce yer self. But if ye would like then tonight our next lesson will be on balance and tha matter o' walking straight without falling over and gropin' your crew mates or landin' rear end in a fountain." He was calm, he was composed, and he was not going to let himself be dragged into an embarrassing display in front of a functionary of the celestial order just because he had a slight leave of senses. And if that took getting into a verbal sparring match with Lux, so be it. He could use the distraction.
Before she knew what had happened, Ashen was partially on the table wiping Calliope’s face. This action stopped her in her tracks and for a moment she watched him. Totally transfixed by the odd circumstance they were both in at this very moment. For some reason, it felt totally natural.

Spoiler: show
With [EMOTION REVEALING SCENT], Ashen would discover that Calliope was both uncomfortable with Ashen’s gesture, and stirred by it.

“‘Ere,” he said, “let me fix that for ya. Now, I'll be admittin' tha a lot of western food is supposed t’ be eatin' by hand, I hope ye be forgivin' me for sayin' tha yer doin' it wrong.”

Then, suddenly, Ashen was upset! Calliope’s look of wonder transformed into bewilderment. He returned to his seat abruptly and began blathering about dining etiquette. Lux began laughing, and Calliope quickly recovered with another (forced) hearty laugh, joining in on her amusement.

Lux thanked Ashen for his true kindness, volunteering her for a ‘makeover,’ as she called it, and complimented his etiquette... at least, this is what Calliope thought she said. Ashen replied by graciously offering to assist her with her treacherous balance.

Given that Gladomain was founded on the overarching concept of oneness among citizens, Ashen’s gesture was considered polite. Gladomeens would typically dote on one another in a variety of ways. They would serve each other, feed each other, wash each other, and aid each other out of pure instinct, almost like a large hive mind.

“Mmanny gratidudes for your kinnd gesture, dear Ashen.” Calliope chimed in. “Wit such gracious mmanners, in Gladomm, you would be invited to dine wit the Queen herself!”
As Ioa watched with amasement as they continued, Fahkaru said some things that really caught his ear while the others introduced themselves. "Ehh. Why would anyone need to feint it? This place is truly amazing!"

Ioa really was not that well versed with social mannerisms at all, but he understood that Fahkaru and him seemed to be getting along, so he decided to keep going as is...no matter how concerning it might get for hte others. Ioa was Ioa though, and it seemed he was going to be his usual self. At least Fahkaru seemed to like that though.

"Oh wow! Really?! You must be super, super ultimately super amazing!" Ioa said again as he praised with wonderful craftmanship with honest eyes and a honest heart. He seemed incredibly interested in just how incredible it was all made, but also...he praised the scenic views that they passed as well, understanding the beauty of nature and how Fahkaru had seemed to incorporate it as well.

And then, as they entered the room where they would be staying in, Ioa saw Ashen volenteer Lux for something, and watched and listened as Lux seemed to be going under some sort of transformation. Ioa, who could only see glimpses of things at the edges of the curtains and what they brought in and out, appeared to have question marks appear over his head. He seemed...confused about something.

"Hey hey, Ashen...is Lux....is Lux transforming into something? I thought they were just changing clothes....hmm, I wonder what Fahkaru's male clothes would look like? Wait, could this be...could all of that just be the amazingness of his abilities?"

As Ioa had never worn anything fancy before, and as he admired Fahkaru as a crafter as well as a really great person, he wondered what sort of clothes those would look like. Eventually though, he got some idea...as Lux was pushed right out in full fancy dress, of which Ioa had never seen before. Almost immediately, he took out his sketchbook and began making a sketch and drawing of all this. Indeed, Ioa's skills in drawing were actually pretty good, even if it really couldn't be applied normally other then for personal interest.

WIth Ioa drawing Lux in such splendid detail, he couldn't help but fully and bluntly say his admiration in a typical Ioa style. "You look really pretty Lux! Really really pretty! You five did a really great job! And Fahkaru, you have some really great helpers and clothes and stuff!"

That was when Ioa looked back at Ashen and Lux...and remembered something right as the five were leaving.

"You know, now that I think about it, you two kinda make a really great pair! Lux alone looks great, but I bet it would look even more complete if Ashen dressed up with her! I bet they would make a really pretty pair! What do you think, Fahkaru?"

And then, he looked at Ashen giving off a smile while giving that slight tilt to his head that was just a little too naive and innocent for anyone's own good, the kind of smile when one drops a metaphorical bomb without any awareness or intention of it.

"Don't you agree you two would look great together? I mean, just look how pretty Lux is! I bet thsoe five could help you match that!"
Collaborative post between Wake and myself.

“Your back and forth comments reminds me of my children!” Astrid spoke, having assumed a hybrid form between that of a cat and human. She’d laughed as Ashen had attempted to shoot back at Lux for her teasing. ....so, she had children then? Or, was her considering her tribe’s young as her own? Hmm, regardless.

As far as Ashen’s comment was concerned, she knew well enough that she’d gone and made more than a fool of herself earlier. The Lunar’s attempt at a retort to her teasing did nothing to particularly perturb her anymore than she already was to begin with. Perhaps she’d passed some sort of threshold earlier, what with how buffoonish her antics made her appear to be...not to mention the impromptu makeover that’d put her out of her element even more. The fact that Ashen was trying to quip back at her for her own attempt at ribbing, it made her giggle a bit. It seemed that he enjoyed dishing it out—but not having it returned to him. That bout of laughter she’d underwent had been rather cathartic, and overall seemed to allay some of her discomfiture. She still felt very much out of her comfort zone in the dress and with pigment and paints applied to her face, but, she felt better.

Calliope had seemed awestruck, then a little baffled, but she seemed to force herself into a hurried recovery, joining in on Lux’s laughter...though Lux herself could tell it was a touch strained in nature. “Mmanny gratitudes for your kinnd gesture, dear Ashen. Wit such gracious mmanners, in Gladomm you would be invited to dine wit the Queen herself!”

Lux hummed—good thing that Calliope had not ended up being offended by Ashen’s weirdly intimate behavior.

Ashen Sky smiled a bit and scratched his neck. He still felt a little embarrassed for his breach earlier, and the fact that he could detect the awkwardness from her as well and… Did he smell excitement from her as well? That sent him slightly further into sense abashed and to hide it he resorted again to a short laugh. “Well I’ll be keepin’ that in mind if I evar make a trip round to your shores than me lady.” Calm, collected, in control. That’s what he needed to be right now. He was sitting in front of a celestial censor, one that he could smell the growing irritation and regret of even as Fakharu continued to smile patiently. Right now they needed someone to not be making outburst or fools of themselves. He took another sip of wine and a bite of his food to keep his nerves straight.

Keeping herself quiet, deciding it would be better to end the teasing, Lux went ahead and took hold of a goblet that was in front of her, taking a sip of the liquid that was inside of it...before grimacing. Ah, she should have expected it to be filled with some kind of fruity, alcoholic drink.... Such beverages not befitting her sense of tastes, Lux set the cup back upon the table and and began to idly fiddle with some of the food upon her plate. Things seemed to be a calming down.

....then Artisan had to open his mouth.

“Forgive me if this is a bit forward, Sir Night Thief, but you remind me of a young lady I once fancied. Darling she was to me, I’m afraid she is now lost to me.”

The Deathknight’s comment made Lux cease her mindless actions and look up at him. She quirked an eyebrow, and remembered the “lovebirds” comment he’d uttered in a rather embittered tone earlier. The Dragon-Blood didn’t know what to make of this Deathknight.

Ashen Sky, on the other hand, didn’t seem to have heard the second part of the Deathknight’s speech. The changing moon stopped mid chew on his most recent bite and shot a glance at the him. “And by what manner do ya mean that, if you mind me askin”. He knew the statement wasn’t an insinuation, helped by the slight hint of grief he smelled off the other man. Still though his tone might have come off slightly more flat than necessary. Again he took a swig of his wine to wash the food down and free himself for further speech.

Then Ioa had opened his big fat mouth. It seemed that everyone had a comment about something at the most inconvenient of times.

“You look really pretty, Lux! Really, really pretty!” Though Lux was beginning to relax, that comment was still enough to make her clear her throat out of discomfort...then it just got worse as the squirrelly Celestial looked between herself and Ashen.

"You know, now that I think about it, you two kinda make a really great pair! Lux alone looks great, but I bet it would look even more complete if Ashen dressed up with her! I bet they would make a really pretty pair!” The food and drink promptly went down the wrong pipe as Ashen Sky made a sharp intake of air. He started hammering on his chest to clear his windpipe as the runt continued to babble on his idea of giving the night thief a similar makeover as Lux.

Had Lux actually bothered to ingest anything more than the foul wine, she might have had a similar reaction to Ioa’s rambles. While Lux certainly didn’t choke, given that she had nothing to choke on, she definitely did freeze up and feel her face heat under the pigment and paint. So...Ioa thought...that...then. The Dragon-Blooded began to mumble incoherent things to herself, she was perceptive enough to know that Ioa had meant what he said in a completely innocuous manner—he’d meant aesthetics. ….or, at least, she was pretty sure of that.

Things only seemed to worsen when Astrid decided to put in her two cents as well.

"Indeed Mr. Corsair, perhaps a makeover is due for you as well. Certainly some fancy clothes and a Captain's hat could benefit you better than your current garb."

Throat finally cleared Ashen responded curtly, “I am perfectly able to dress meself, thanks.”

Lux wasn’t wholly sure if Astrid was out to tease Ashen, or if she was being completely serious. Either way, the girl wasn’t entirely over what Ioa had said, but she did her best to push it aside to try to collect her composure. If events did so happen to play out, and Fakharu’s handmaidens were somehow able to wrangle Ashen into a makeover, the Dragon-Blood wasn’t going to deny herself a little schadenfreude. ....so long as it didn’t go the way Ioa had suggested, of course.

“Oh, if the notion of proper gentlemen’s ware is unappealing to you, Ashen, then perhaps a makeover near identical to mine would better suit you?” Lux didn’t look over at the Lunar, instead she returned to picking at bits of her food before finally popping some sort of unknown meat into her mouth.

A frown appeared on the pirates face. “As ay jus’ said, I’m perfectly able ta dress myself.” Ashen’s voice became a little more hard at that and his accent slipped in again. He pointedly looked outward towards the open westward wall, away from Lux and the group. “Besides, I don’t think I have your pretty little figure to fit in that.”

Pretty little.... Lux cleared her throat and tried to move past the comment as she swallowed the bite of meat she’d been chewing on. It seemed her little bit of a quip got rather under his skin? It felt like his tone got oddly defensive there, hmm.... She took another bit of the meat and took a bigger bite, “Oh, you’d be rather surprised what you can do, even if you think you have nothing. Corsets, binders, shapewear, etc. I have personally seen men who look far better in a dress than I.”

A small frown appeared on the Lunar’s face though it was likely difficult to see from the way he was resolutely watching the shoreline outside. What, were those the options we heard Nāgasāni and the others were presenting you back there? Probably not best to discuss our undergarments at breakfast my dear.” He crossed his arms over his chest, slightly tense now. Though he was trying to tease her back, the pirate was getting slightly more crass in his comebacks. “And Anyway, I can’t speak for your experiences but I can certainly say that I’m not one of these girly men you seem fond of.”

Her face did redden a bit, but Lux could tell that he was trying to unnerve her. Maybe if it’d been a legitimate effort, it would have had the intended effect. Even if she could not see his expression, she could still at least grasp his body language, and saw that he’d stiffened up. Indeed, she’d been right in thinking he had gotten defensive beforehand. Why, exactly, he was so prickly about this particular subject made Lux wonder, while she stared at him quietly as she nibbled on vaguely savory vegetable.

This was another oddity for her to mentally stow away, she’d noticed a bit of strangeness from him earlier when she’d nearly sent him and herself off the pier.... For now, it was best to not dig any deeper. Even she’d meant her comments in jest, he did not take them so lightly, and continuing the exchange would only prove to cause issues. So, how to derail this conversation? ....puns had proved distracting to Ashen earlier, but, he hadn’t seemed to appreciate them. Well, they had been talking about corsets.... She’d adjusted a bit to the one she was forced into, but it still wasn’t the most comfortable experience. Shifting about in her seat, the Dragon-Blooded mumbled a few, quiet colorful words, “Truly, I cannot say I quite comprehend why anyone would wear a corset of their own accord, anyway. There are bits of me that are squished in such manners, that I’d have thought them impossible!” she puffed out her cheeks, pouting as she played up her discomfort. “Never did I think I’d have to reteach myself how to properly breathe, I do not understand how my lungs are supposed to function like this.”

It was a small gesture but it seemed to work. His arms were still crossed but his shoulders eased up, and he finally turned his attention back to her with a raised eyebrow. He’d relaxed rather quickly now that the topic had changed. “Why did you even let ‘em stuff ya into tha thing?”

Well, she was glad that had done what was intended.... Lux forced a deep sigh as she fidgeted a bit, “I didn’t really have a choice in the matter, they just sort of threw it around me and laced me up into it.” she slid down a bit in her seat, “Til now I’ve never wore one, and after this, I’d prefer not to wear one again, if it can be helped.”

“Well, I recommend not letting yourself get kidnapped by a group of couturier then if tha be the case.” he quipped. A comfortable silence descended on the two as the meal continued. This brunch though was likely nearing its end, and probably sensing that Artisan brought up the question to the water dragon of why they were all here. Ashen and Lux both looked to the dragon with a similar question on their minds and waited for the Censor’s response.
Spoiler: show
Current Motes: Personal Pool: 4/6 Peripheral Pool: 13/13
Current Willpower: 5/5
Current Health: 5/5

Fakharu bore the chatter of his guest with the patience of ages. There were an number of things in the gathered exalts actions that showed a surprising lack of decorum in their behavior that was displeasing to his sensibilities. Still though, he continued to grin and bare it. He had been the one to decide on inviting this group of exalted into his tower and thus it was on him for whatever ruckus they made while here. Still though, he was making mental notes on each of them as the meal progressed, and thus far his opinions of them were becoming low. If he weren't scrapped for time he probably would have sought out chosen that held more.... competent airs about them.

Finally the deathknight spoke up, and the dragon was almost glad to answer the question and put the present farce out of his mind. "So... I may have taken liberties against my liege's wishes in coming here. So in his honor, I'll get to the thick of it... About our summons..." Ah yes. The deathknight's 'liege', the Bodhisattva Anointed By Dark Water. That was also a matter he would be getting into. Later of course. But for now the query deserved an answer and it was as good an opportunity as any to broach the matter.

"Ah yes, your summons. I had hoped to make sure you were all comfortable before I raised the issue of why I had called you hear for it is a rather difficult one." The dragon shifted in his seat till he was no longer in a reclining position. Now straight backed and sitting tall he drew the gathered guest attentions on himself. "Now before I begin, I know that some of you know me, and some of you only know my name but not my position and the duties therein in the celestial order. So for that reason allow me to reintroduce myself; I am Fakharu, appointed celestial censor of the west by the order of heaven. It is my responsibility to provide oversight and audits of the gods and elemental spirits of the west and enforce the laws of heaven in this portion of creation."

He gave a brief moment for that to sink in before he continued. "My rank in the celestial order grants me much power and prestige amongst the gods, but with that privilege comes the issues of responsibilities to uphold and envious rivals that would seek to exploit my power for their own gains or bitter law breakers that would undermine my authority. This is why I have called you, for the actions of a few such criminals has put me in a difficult position and I would be grateful for your aid in resolving the matter."

The dragon paused again to take a deep breath and place a claw over his chest. "The issue is a personal one I am afraid. One who is dear to me has been kidnapped by a trio of sirens, in an attempt to force me to unjustly prosecute the Storm Mother of a spirit court to the west of here. Naturally I would never abuse my position in such a manner under normal circumstances," Ashen sky's nose twitched at this but he said nothing. "but the threat to my beloved Amarel is something I cannot ignore. I cannot chase after her myself however, much as I would wish to- not only would such action give certain enemies of mine unwelcome ideas, but the sirens would know that I have left my spire and might kill her before I could reach her. They have hidden her in a place called the Archipelago of exiles, a place hidden from the eyes of heaven and earth by certain magics from long ago. This is why I need you, noble exalted, I cannot send my own servants for they are too well known in the west and the sirens may have spies watching the tower so I need trust worthy and powerful allies, unknown to the powers of the west who can covertly rescue her in my stead. If you aid me in this emergency, I can promise that you will be richly rewarded and you will have me in your debt."
Lux listened intently, silent and thoughtless as Fakharu spoke.... Before explaining the reason behind the writ that he’d had delivered to each of the group, the Lesser Dragon took it upon himself to ensure that everyone in the group understood the fundamentals about him, his position and what it all entailed. Certainly, Lux was aware of a few sparse facts prior to this, at least...she knew enough to comprehend that Fakharu was an influential individual of great importance. She didn’t need to know many of the finer details to realize that his position as a Celestial Censor of the West came with as many negatives as it did positives…. Positions of authority were a double-edged sword for a plethora of reasons, after all.

“...this is why I have called you, for the actions of a few such criminals has out ne in a difficult position and I would be grateful for your aid in resolving the matter.” If Lux’s attention hadn’t been drawn to the Dragon before, it certainly was now. Fakharu sighed, deeply, and set one of his clawed hands upon his chest before he continued. Whatever he was about to divulge to the group, it was a...sensitive topic. And in the back of Lux’s mind, she thought about that statue.... “The issue is a personal one, I am afraid. One who is dear to me has been kidnapped by a trio of sirens in an attempt to force me to unjustly prosecute the Storm Mother of a Spirit Court to the west of here. Naturally, I would never abuse my position in such a manner under normal cirumstances, but the threat to my beloved Amarel is something I cannot ignore.”

So, it seemed that perhaps her intuition wasn’t wrong—Lux’s hands tightened into small fists upon her lap and a rather light expression of ire overtook her features as she continued to listen to Fakharu as his explanation turned into a plea.
“I cannot chase after her myself, however, much as I would wish to—not only would such action give certain enemies of mine unwelcome ideas, but the sirens would know that I left my spire and might kill her before I could reach her.” A pang of melancholy resounded throughout Lux's person. Fakharu and Amarel's situation...it was one she was knew all too well. After all, once upon the night she'd taken her Second Breath, she'd been held as a hostage. They'd used her as leverage against the closest thing she'd had to a mother, and that'd gotten her killed. Lux survived, only because of Vered's sacrifice and the fact that she Exalted.

Fakharu had more to say, but Lux knew where this was going, it made sense why he’d beckoned to Exalted all across Creation...even if she didn’t think she was quite fit for the task she knew he was going to ask of them. And she didn't even need to be asked.

“They have hidden in a place called the Archipelago of Exiles, a place hidden from the eyes of heaven and earth by magics from long ago. This is why I need you, Noble Exalted, I cannot send my own servants for they are too well known in the West and the sirens may have spies watching the tower, so I need trustworthy and powerful allies, unknown to the powers of the West who can covertly rescue her in my stead.” Someone of Fakharu’s position didn’t beg for help, but this...was about as close to it as you’d ever see, Lux was sure of that.

To call upon perfect strangers for a task like this one, truly, Fakharu was desperate, and she understood why. The Dragon was caught between a rock and hard place, his lover being held hostage, while he was physically unable to anything to save her. That someone would sink so low, that someone would do this.... This sort of matter was something that Lux would have felt compelled toward if she happened across it during her journeys. To take someone’s loved one to blackmail them—it disgusted her! Unbeknownst to Lux, she’d started jittering, just a bit as the irritation built in her. She still wasn’t sure just how helpful she could be, but, without needing any incentive, Lux was already swayed to the cause.

“If you aid me in this emergency, I can promise that you will be richly rewarded and you will have me in your debt.” Fakharu finished, definitely trying to persuade the group...certainly that might be necessary for some, but, not for Lux. She didn’t need any incentives. Lux didn’t need promises of wealth or favors, she didn’t want those things.... And, perhaps she’d be called naïve or silly for that, but it didn’t matter to her. All she wanted to do was do what was right.

Perhaps her compassion and her anger over this wrong got the better of her, but without realizing the small Dragon-Blooded had gotten to her feet rather quickly which caused her chair to slide backward with a squeal, slammed her hands down on top of the table hard enough to make the dinnerware clink and rattle. She probably looked like a fool again, getting so emotional, but Lux didn’t care about that. “How revolting! That they’d sink so low....” she started, her voice loud, impassioned. Her views were simplistic, influenced by her own experienced but across all spectrums she’d view this situation the same. As wrong, wrong, wrong! No matter who the victims were, or their lot in life, her reaction would be as fiery.

“The sort of sods who’d commit this kind of thing can rot, as far as I’m concerned....” she spoke, rather allowing her thoughts to form aloud. Lux removed her hands from the tabletop and looked at Fakharu, expression genuine and determined, “I cannot say I’m entirely confident in myself, but, I want to help. I want nothing and need nothing, from you, Lord Fakharu, I just...want to help, if I’m able to.”

She jumped at the call, not caring or knowing if any of the others would even agree to assist. It didn’t matter, she was committed to this, and she would do whatever she could—she couldn't stand the thought of someone being in the position she once was. Certainly, the task that Lux was vowing herself to could well end up costing her, her life but...that didn't matter. If she did nothing, she couldn't live with herself. Whatever she was capable of doing, she'd do it.
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."
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.
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."
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?
"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.
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.

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.
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!"
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, 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!
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.


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?"
Posting part 1 of the big collab, next parts to follow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"How'she lookin' Lux?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spoiler: show
Charms Active: Blood on the Wind Peripheral Pool: 22/28 Willpower: 7/8
Posting part 2 of the big collab, more to follow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Thank you, Lady Lux."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And she was off without waiting for a response, or even knowing where she was going to find everyone, somehow though, Lux had a feeling she’d luck out....
Part 3 of the big collab, more to come

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He went cold.

"What... what happend?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A glad little giggle slipped from Lux’s throat in response to Astrid’s unbridled confidence—she had every right to it, after all. [color=red]“Yes! Yes, you are!”[color] she agreed without hesitation, before returning her attention ahead of herself. Astrid wanted her to convince Ashen and Calliope to stop running...the Lunar had some kind of plan that she wasn't privy to. Lux wondered what she had in mind and, also, whatever had happened to the handmaidens who'd been in pursuit as well? Somehow, Lux seemed to have managed to outpace them, strange....
Part 4 of the big collab, more to follow


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"That's right."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Quite." She replied

He grinned. "Then let's be off!" Once more his moonsilver tattoos shimmered as he burnt essence through his soul. His anima sprang to life once more and the two of them flew fom the room at a brisk pace, leaving a trail of silver light in their wake.
Part 5 of the big collab, more to follow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What was that for?” she mumbled.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nāgasāni nodded in agreement, going through possible ideas in her head, til her attention was drawn away from that train of thought, as the familiar, hulking feline form of Astrid dashed past at an incredible speed, which caused the quintet of handmaidens to poke their heads out into the main hall from the side hallway they’d been speaking to each other in.
Part 7 of the big collab, final part for now

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As a...snake.

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

This day just kept getting odder and odder.

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

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

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

“Gues’ we sh’uld g’lookin’?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wait, were they going in circles...?

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

“Ast’id...I d’think I can find ‘em. I c’track ‘nimals fine, b’not people, not much ‘perience....” At her own admission, Lux pouted and felt her cheeks redden, as she hid the bottom half of her face with the bunch of fabric in her arms.
Calmly watching with a touch of bemusement, the serpent quietly waited for Lux to stumble about for a bit and thought of a way to steer her in the right direction without being so obvious as to alert her prey. Flicking her tongue out once more to catch the scent on the air, brushing against Nagasani as she did, the direction of the runaways could be discerned. They're not far... But, we're going the wrong way...

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

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

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

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

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

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

Utterly unaware of the pursuit that was slowly tracking them down, Ashen and Calliope were continuing their impromptu tour of the dragon’s palace. The ever present artwork remained a constant in their surroundings as usual but now Ashen took the time to walk ploddingly so that both he and the princess could survey them at their leisure. In doing so certain themes began to appear in some sections. One wall might depict ancient exalts in fierce battle against monstrous creatures of immense size, while the next might show various spirits in meditative positions or kings conducting debates. It could soon be surmised that much of the works might not be things of Fakharu’s imagination but renditions of significant events in creations past. Ancient glories and wise rulers, each adding to a tapestry of creations ever expanding history.

It matter only as a mild curiosity to Ashen who was content to enjoy this walk with the pleasant sensation of holding pretty young woman in his arms. “Hmm so… Wavecreast.” Having invited the princess on this walk with him under the pretense of discussing their homelands, Ashen decided to take the initiative and start first. “It sits at tha southernmost edge of tha great island chain. It be made up o’ three great islands, tha largest of which be Abalone, and a dozen or so smaller isles sorroundin’ em. Our’s is the largest set o’ isles in the whole of the west, tha only ones large enough ta west to support large scale farmin infact, an’ tha coupled with the rich volcanic soils our gods grant us makes us tha breadbasket o’ tha west. Ay grew up one a farm near a town called Divers Joy, on the south end of Abalone. It’s called tha because of the abundance of oyster pearls tha ye can scavenge from the reefs round it. I used to take part in it meself as a kid with me friends, made good money too, though mother Huihana thought it were to dangerous for a boy me age. Ay used ta have ta sneak out after dark some days with a knife ta go huntin’ which earned me more than a few canings when she caught me.” He chuckled a bit. “Ay remember one day ay came home with a bloody bite on me rump, from an eel ay accidentally sat on one mornin. Mother Huihana was right cross bout that one, both me mothers were actually. Though sadly she turned out ta be right in tha end. Some sea beast started moving in a few years back, an any divin’ crews tha weren’t well armed tended to go missin, which forced a career change on me part.”
Thankfully, Nāgasāni was intuitive enough to pick up on Astrid’s wordless directions, quickly realizing that the Lunar was mutely guiding them toward the Celestial duo as best as she could in her serpentine form. Lux followed along, silently, with nothing to say for herself—still immaturely pouting over her inability to track both Ashen and Calliope. Perhaps it was silly to sulk over such a thing, but Lux could not help herself, she felt...ashamed? Embarrassed? No...it was more than that. Unable to be the guide, having to be the guided; it made Lux feel so much like a helpless child. It was so bitterly nostalgic....

The Terrestrial walked alongside Nāgasāni, hushed as she did her damnedest to quell the festering negativity within her. Still hiding the lower half of her face in amidst the bunched up fabric, Lux began to unconsciously nibble on a small bit of it as she tried to clear her mind. There was nothing to worry about! Neither of her companions seemed to care that she was directionally impaired, so.... Maybe it was okay?

Lux did her best to convince herself of that. That it was okay, that she was okay. Her inability to track both Ashen and Calliope didn’t make her helpless, it didn’t make her a child...it was just something she had no experience with in the first place. That was okay.

The arm around Lux’s shoulders suddenly tightened a bit, comfortingly so. Nāgasāni said nothing, still simply following Astrid’s directional ques. The wordless action broke Lux free of her ruminating, and caused her to look at the handmaiden, who returned the glance, sporting a small smile. ....it was reassuring and kind. It was enough to make a giddy giggle bubble up from somewhere deep within Lux, enough to make her jitter a bit as an odd sort of overwhelming joy flittered through her.

The bitter nostalgia vanished in an instant, and Lux couldn’t even quite recall what’d been making her feel so...dour.

Everything was perfectly okay! Astrid was expertly guiding them to the missing duo, and...well, Lux could only assume that shenanigans would ensue. The Lunar Chieftain had something planned, some kind of silly revenge plot no doubt. At this point, the Dragon-Blooded knew she was just along for the ride, much the same as the Handmaiden of Orichalcum. Both were rather at the mercy of one very determined woman, and were otherwise powerless against her.

The trio of women continued to walk through the overly spacious halls of the palace, wordless. Til it was that Lux heard the muffled ramblings of a familiar enough voice....
The two approached a new corridor, though it looked to be more of the same. Natural light fled in from some unidentified source, so They were not far from the courtyard, or maybe an outer-wall, Calliope surmised. The overarching ceilings dwarfed the princess and the sailor. Ashen's voice carried far into the distance, and bounced off the stone, making it sound as though there were whispers coming from all around them.

Calliope listened dutifully to Ashen's stories, noting names and places, taking in the details. Ashen's innocent beginnings remind Calliope of her early combat training, adventures she would go on with friends, the trouble she would get into, and oh, so many broken dishes. It seemed that they might have been kindred in youth. Had they have grown up in the same place, she could imagine their rambunctious friendship, a friend she definitely could have used.

She waited until Ashen had finished before replying, "Your farmm sounnds most appealing. Nnever have I venntured to the west." She studied his face, folding her arms, and neatly perching herself on his shoulder. "It is a shammee you were forced to give up your scavennging, it is a mmost honorable professionn in mmy culture. We call themm," she searched for the word. "'acquirers' or a simmilar trannslationn. Mmany of our finest soldiers nnever leave the village unless for war. Acquirers, however, leave, and returnn with trinnkets and treasures, which amuse the Kinngg and Queenn and all of our dear citizenns." Her gaze trailed up as she recalled her younger years. "I remmember pearl was of most value in Gladomm. For my ten-and-six birthday, I received the most beautiful short sword from mmy father. It was pure silver, the cross guard and pommmmel were enncrusted with pearls. Oh, it was a sight to behold." She looked down at her side, as if it would be sitting right there on her hip.

She went back to studying his face, his handsome, young-looking features. "Do you mmiss your home?" She asked softly.
"I," The question gave him pause. "... A bit yes. It's been ah long time since I've seen it's shores. His tone became slowly turned melancholy "Sometimes I 'ave dreams about it's jungles, and tha people I left behind there. I... didn't really get much of chance ta say goodbye ta any of them before I was forced ta leave." What he left unsaid was that several of those people died very shortly after the Lintha started hunting him, as the pirate syndicate wanted to root out anyone that could have possibly been hiding him. The possible threat that they would resume targeting his friends and loved ones is what kept him from ever returning.

" I try not ta dwell on it to much." Suddenly he straightened himself. "Besides! That's why I'm 'ere now. If I can secure Fakharu's favor, it'd be a great step forward in throwin' off the Lintha for good and finally returnin' home." They stopped at a three way intersection of halls and a small balcony over looking a fountain wrote with gold. Ashen looked down at the princess, a smile returning to his face. "If that day comes I wouldn't mind showin' it too ya if ye like."

From where the two were, anyone looking up from below could spot the two easily but that hadn't been much concern to the Lunar's mind. Ashen had more or less forgotten that Astrid and Lux were still hunting for them in favor of enjoying his walk with Calliope. The press of her head against his shoulder and the weight of her in his arms felt comforting to the sailor. "Speakin' of 'omes, what of your's? You said you 'ad a number of brothers?"
Calliope chewed on the idea of visiting Ashen's hometown. It sounded interesting. It occurred to her that this was the first time she had considered traveling somewhere for a reason aside from war or diplomatic reasons. "Yes. I ammm the younngest of three older brothers. Alastor is mmmy eldest brother, seconnnd is Eros, then Aether, and Castor and Pollux are the twinnns of our fammily. At last, mmy parennts had me, their air."

"The femmmalee gennder traditionally inherits the positionn of Mmonarch. Mmmy mother used to say mmenn were far better at dyinnng thann leading. Of course, she did not mean this. The relationnnship betweennn the sexes is highly valued in our society. We have our roles."

She sighed, imagining a fresh morning on the grounds of the village, the snow untouched by the footfalls of soldiers for the hours during the night, leaving beautiful white blankets stretched across the hills and mountains. Calliope loved to see it in the early hours of day, pure.

"Aside from the traditionnns, well, our village is quite vibrannntt, our life celebrationns are plentiful, and the people are beautiful and robust." She suddenly missed her mother's rosy face against the backdrop of the snow. It reminded her of her youth, and her mother returning home after a long battle, the stain of blood across her face complimenting her beautiful skin. A kind look across her face, happy to see her daughter. "Mmmy mmmother was once the mmmost fearsome fighter of the village. Still today she is a formmmidable opponent, but she has sinnce retired."
It was a little slower than the Huntress would have liked, especially as the scent would at times change directions entirely, which required more complex directions than 'left or right.' However, they were close enough now, so close that the scent of them lingered in the air. Now... It was up to the others to close the gap without arousing suspicion, a notion that caused her to involuntarily tighten around Nagasani's arm.

"L-lady Astrid," Her words brought Astrid out of her thoughts, uncoiling slightly to allow for blood flow to return to the handmaiden's arm. They entered the shrine devoted to the Incarnae, the snake that was Astrid seemed confident that their quarry lie just a ways beyond, however... The real question was what would happen once they found the duo and the Lunar Chieftain surged into motion. Things had gone far enough earlier, which is why they were in this precarious position, and should things get much worse, the situation may become unrecoverable.

Writhing with anticipation, a foreign sensation of scales on skin for her current mode of transportation, Astrid could barely keep herself contained as her quarry appeared before her. Patience yet, she wasn't quite within striking distance, and the plan required a cool head, just like all the quiet hours stalking a blood quarry. Soon, the culmination of her plans would come to fruition and she would taste the sweet fruits of a successful hunt, all that was left was to wait.

The Solar and Lunar duo came into sight, exchanging words as they wandered down the luxurious corridors of the palace, Nagasani approached the two slowly, calling out once she saw them, "Princess Lordes, Sir Ashen Sky; We offer our deepest apologies that this situation has escalated into the uncomfortable situation that it is." Even though her words were genuine, they felt weird to say with Astrid yet to act... The rest of the quintet bowed deeply, apologizing for their immaturity in unison. Involuntarily, the head handmaiden tensed, expecting something from Astrid, but she was entirely still for the first time since crawling into her sleeve. Uncertain, she turned to give Lux a pleading look, hoping that the still not entirely sober Terrestrial could better salvage the situation.
The Lunar and Solar were talking between themselves as they wandered, and Lux only managed to discern the last sentence that Calliope had spoken as she approached the duo with Nāgasāni and a still concealed Astrid. The princess had been speaking of her mother—a formidable warrior...? Yep. Lux could definitely envision someone like that being Calliope’s mother.... She was probably as pink as Calliope was, and as lovely as well.

....she could never be sure if she’d actually known her own parents or not.

She didn’t oft consider the subject, her mind usually otherwise occupied. However, with her better sense still muddled by intoxication, a thought bubbled to the surface, a tiny one that made the Fire Aspect start to nibble on the side of her hand and make her eyes glassy. Her parents...perhaps she knew them, but she could never know for sure. Whatever the truth, more than likely Lux knew that her parents were long deceased. Whether she was born to the bandits who “raised” her or she was brought into their circle through other means, those who she’d call her parents very likely no longer drew breath.

More than a few times she’d heard other people discuss their parents and family—either bitterly, or happily, or somewhere in-between. That was something she could never do in any capacity. The absolute closest thing Lux had to “family” was Vered, who, even at her most affectionate, was distant and impersonal toward Lux. Those could chat about their family, even bitterly, were fortunate, in a sense. At least they knew....

Lux stood by, quietly as Nāgasāni offered up a most genuine apology to Ashen and Calliope, her green eyes distant and expression vacant as her foggy mind filled with acrid thoughts once again. The longer they were in there, the more they burned and stung. The grip that Lux had on the bunched up bundle of fabric in her arms tightened, and the pace of her breathing seemed to increase.

So out of it was she, that she missed Nāgasāni looking her way following her apology...Lux said nothing and simply continued to ruminate, too easily consumed by her thoughts.

As moments of silence turned into seconds, and Lux still did not seem as if she was going to respond in any manner, Nāgasāni found herself growing concerned. The Terrestrial had seemed to slip into some kind of momentary state of melancholy before, but had perked up rather swiftly...? Perhaps, it was happening again? The young woman was still rather intoxicated, and it seemed as if she was inexperienced with alcohol in any capacity.... Likely, that Golden Rhapsody she’d rapidly consumed in the baths was affecting her hard and making her far more emotional then she was when sober. Chances were that even the most passing emotion or sentiment was magnified for her, meaning she was overly quick to both laughter and tears.

What, exactly, was bringing Lux to near tears at the moment, Nāgasāni hadn’t the faintest idea. The handmaiden had been hoping that Lux would, or could, help to lessen the awkwardness of the whole situation.... Apparently, that was not going to be the case, as she seemed utterly lost within herself. Perplexed, Nāgasāni stood herself back up straight, being mindful of the unmoving serpentine Astrid that was coiled around her forearm. Whatever the Lunar Chieftain had planned for Calliope and Ashen, she’d yet to put into action—perhaps the situation was not quite right to do so yet.

The head handmaiden looked upon the duo, wordlessly apologizing yet again, before she attempted to edge closer to Lux in order to determine what was upsetting her so, before...said Terrestrial’s shoulders shuddered and she let out a strained noise that made Nāgasāni jump a bit from its abruptness. And before she could say or do anything to amend the situation, Lux was sniffling and mindlessly rubbing at her eyes, a raw, angry spot having formed along the area of her hand where she’d been nibbling on it.

Flabbergasted, “L-Lay Lux?” was all Nāgasāni could manage out at the moment. She reached her hand out in Lux’s direction before retracting it, remembering Astrid’s presence.

A soft sigh emerged from Lux, as she wiped at her eyes. “S’rry, didn’t mean t’cry.... Just...thinkin’ ‘bout m’parents....”

Being Fakharu’s handmaiden, Nāgasāni knew a bit about Lux...but there were also many things about the girl that were a mystery. One of those things regarded the girl’s parentage. Given Lux’s tears, Nāgasāni could only surmise that she either very much missed her parents or...tragedy. A soft and easy smile formed over Nāgasāni’s features and she beckoned Lux over to her. Still sniffling, Lux heeded the handmaiden’s silent gesture. The handmaid merely set a hand atop the small girl’s head, whilst keeping close to her the one that bore Astrid.

“My dear Lady Lux, it is all right to cry.” she comforted the girl, “I believe you’re just...perhaps a tad more emotional than you would usually be, courtesy of the alcohol you consumed earlier.”

Swallowing back a pitiful hiccup, Lux could not bring herself to meet Nāgasāni’s eyes, as she nodded along in agreement, the thoughts dragging her down slipping back into the fog of her mind. Her nose was red and irritated now, while her eyes were puffy. “Y-Yeah, s’probaly...that....” the Terrestrial sniffled rather loudly this time, trying to clear her head and the tears. “S’just the alco’ol...don’t thin’ I’ll be hav’ng more for a’while....”

Nagasani giggled gently, “I do believe it would be best if you did not...indulge with such gusto again anytime soon.”

A small pout formed on Lux’s face, making the girl look much like a child again. “But...I d’have fun....” she sighed, “The bath w’ you and As’rid was fun! The pr’tty dresses were...fun! Fun, fun, fun....” And as quick as the girl had cried before, she was already smiling again, brightly, as she thought of pretty dresses and other fun things. It was definitely the remnants of her intoxication making her so very...emotive....

Nāgasāni cleared her throat, and turned her gaze back upon Calliope and Ashen.... Who knew what they were thinking of the situation.
As Calliope described her home and family Ashen listened earnestly and with no small amount of curiosity. But when she mentioned the monarchy and her mothers word, he had to resist a disquieted look crossing his features. "Tha sounds.... interestin'." He said noncommittally. While Ashen knew that the rest of creation had didn't hold to the same 'customs' as the west, but from the sound of it Calliopes home seemed to have a more... antithetical view to what Ahsen had been raised on. A view his master had recently tried to teach the young lunar a 'lesson' about prior to his departure to Fakharu's spire.

He was almost glad for the interruption by the arrival of Lux and the handmaidens before he could say something that put his metaphorical foot in his mouth. Nagasani made her apology to the both of them and the group bowed. Ashen merely grinned and waged his tail. "It be na ah bother miss, least na fer me." He briefly remembered that he'd promised to keep Calliope away from the handmaidens if they came for her again, but they honestly didn't seem to hold any ill intent. He looked to the solar in his arms. "Well, what ya think yer highness? All forgiven?"

It was about that point though that he noticed Lux looking a little woozy in the back. And... teary eyed? Ashen's upper ears went flat against his head in worry. Nagasani seemed to notice as well as she immediately went to comfort the silently crying girl. A quick confession from her confirmed Ashen's own suspicions that she was drunk, and the alcohol was making her somewhat emotional. Very gently he set the princess down on her feet and approached the inebriated terrestrial and handmaiden just as Lux seemed to swing back towards smiles again. "Geez, 'ow much did ya let tha poor girl drink?" Despite the concern in his voice Ashen's kept his an amused grin on his face. He crouched down slightly to be more at eye level with Lux. "Well glad ye had fun me dear. Maybe ye can tell us 'bout it all while we walk ye back 'fore any more foolishness 'appens, aye?" Atop his head Ashen's upper ears willed and flicked upright, as he tried to keep her focus away from what had caused her earlier emotional downturn.
Nāgasāni removed her hand from atop Lux’s head, but set it upon the girl’s shoulder, keeping her somewhat close at hand, in case she suddenly became overly emotional again. Indeed, it seemed like quite a possibility.... The Terrestrial’s emotion were terribly fragile at the moment, and it seemed that even the smallest thing could cause her mood to shift with near no warning. Certainly, she was quite emotive earlier in the day, when she first arrived on Fakharu’s Island, but she at least seemed to be in relative control. Unless...that was something of a façade, which was entirely possible. Perhaps Lux merely acted in control of herself because she felt like she had to, and her current state was closer to her true self.... Or, maybe it was her true self.

Alcohol did indeed sometimes make folks reveal the truest forms of themselves....

When Ashen commented, in jest, about how much Lux had been allowed to drink, Nāgasāni turned her gaze upon the Lunar. Her face revealing none of her thoughts or speculations regarding the Dragon-Blooded next to her. She spoke, her voice calm and even, “I can assure you, Sir Ashen, that we did not force Lady Lux to ingest anymore drink then she was comfortable with.... She seemed quite ready and willing to join myself and Lady Astrid in partaking.”

As if rehearsed, a small hiccup slipped up from Lux’s diaphragm, “Mhm, yep...was m’choice....” she gave a small smile before...well, her squirrelly attention span once more ran its course. She didn’t even hear what Ashen said to her, as he came to be eye-to-eye with her...no, the only thoughts that were on Lux’s mind concerned the Lunar’s...ears. They’d distracted her before—she had a love for animals, after all. And normally, Lux would have the decency and self-restraint to not do what she was about to.... However, impulse and curiosity overtook the young girl and with no thought given, she reach out and gently grabbed one of his upright ears, before she giddily giggled to herself and started to rub it in much the same way as she would do with a dog or a cat....
Ashen had certainly not been expecting Lux to grab his ears. The second she did Ashen felt a slight jolt run down his spine and the lunar's body tense very suddenly, inadvertently letting out a small and rather unmanly squeak. Ashen didn't normally let people touch his ears for a very particular reason and his usual recourse would be to swat away anyone who tried. But with the princess still in his arms the matter was complicated.

"Ah, Lux," He started, already his voice starting to warble a bit. " Me ears be a we bit sensitive. So could.. ye please... staaaaaaa... " His voice trailed off and a second later he fell to one knee, and the rational side of his mind noted that it might be to late as a pleasant warmth started to build in the base of his skull and wash down his neck. Ashen's ears were infact sensitive to touch, so much so that they tended to cause an extensive Endorphin rush, leaving the changing moon on a particularly strong high. And the drunken terrestrial's tender ministrations was triggering that rush in a rather powerful way. A second later his eyes diluted, and he in inadvertently dropped Calliope when he loss strength in his arms.
Patience had never been Astrid’s strong suit, she had always been a lady of action, and biding her time was always a last resort. However, what came next was something she needed to do, in order to establish how this temporary pack was going to work. Perhaps she’d forgotten herself slightly earlier, admist the stress and drink. That was to be remedied now, however.

Flicking her tongue with anticipation as her fellow Lunar approached, now was the time to act. With a shimmer of essence, flooding her form and veins, Astrid darted forward, uncoiling from Nagasani’s hand to lunge at her fellow Lunar’s leg. All the while, resuming Beastwoman form once more, with a sweep of her hand, Ashen Sky’s leg was yanked out from under him.

Continuing the momentum, and with a twitch of her tail, she threw the Lunar over the balcony, into the awaiting fountain of water. Dusting off her hands, as if having finished a very difficult job, she admonished him with a motherly tone. ”A pup in heat, should take a bath to cool off.”

With a slightly pleased look Astrid turned to the Solar, resuming human form with a glitter of anima and pressing her right fist across her heart. ”I’m very sorry for earlier Princess.” With a gesture towards Nagasani and the warmest smile she could muster, her words continued ”Miss Nagasani here will take you somewhere to change where you’re comfortable?”
The water of the fountain swashed and spilled over the side as the pirate flailed about inside of it. Muscle control, lossed in due to the lingering euphoric sensation of having his ears rubbed, eluded him for a brief if slightly terrifying series of seconds as he swallowed crystal clear water and tried to right himself before he drowned. Finally Ashen surfaced, sputtering liquid and curses both with equal virulence as he wheezed for air.

"Tha bleedin' 'ell Astrid!"The changing moon coughed. "Tha 'ell was tha for?!" He sat up in the fountain, now thoroughly drenched from head to toe. The waterlogged clothes clung to his body, and if he had presence of mind he would have been reminded of Lux's own plunge into a similar water decoration that ultimately set this whole fiasco into motion. He began wringing out the white shirt that now hung tightly to his chest and muttered curses at Astrid, handmaidens, Astrid, Dragons, stupid quest, and Astrid.

This series of venomous mutterings ceased when he heard someone directly above him clear their throat. Ashen paused mid squeeze to look up at the emerald green form of the earth elemental, Burnished Mantis. The insectiod chamberlain, despite not having any tongue or lips, made a small clicking sound with his mouth in dull surprise. "Well, I see your group seems to have developed a fondness for our water works, but I must request from now on that our guest stay out of the fountains for the duration of your visit."

While Ashen's face flushed red with embarrassment, the chamberlain tilted his head upwards to look at the balcony above where the other three exalts and an increasingly mortified by the second looking quintet of handmaidens stared back down at him. "Now if all of you gentlewomen are done disrupting the peace of the lords halls, streaking about the palace in drunken stupors and generally making complete fools of yourselves in the Censors name!" The sharp raising of his voice caused the quintet to flinch. "I have the item that Lady Astird requested, and a message from Lord Fakharu. An additional number of exalts will be joining you for this errand. The lord shall introduce you at the docks. If you ladies would kind clean yourselves up and make your way there, it would be most appreciated."

At that same time, another boat pulled into port at the same dock as the first ship landed. This one crewed by actual humans. At it's bow the captain, a man with god-blooded linage by the name of Steel-Sun, frowned as the vessel came into mooring. He was already unhappy that he had been sidelined for the rescue of Lady Amarel he had even further frustrated with being given the task of ferrying a few of the late additions to the actual expedition for her retrieval. He had kept his comments to himself though, even if he struggled to keep his distaste from his expression, and turned back to the passengers aboard the deck. "As promised, we have arrived. His lordship and the rest of your party should meet you here soon."