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[18+]  The Hand That Feeds

Offline Salamander May 13 2020, 12:46 AM
#1
  • Rogue
  • Age: 28
  • Gender: Non-binary
  • Race: Eximius
  • Rank: Quartermaster
  • Total Posts: 53
  • Played by: Sbicy
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August 1476


Salamander has never been fond of Svalbard and its people.

Their memories of this place are far from kind, the overwhelming stink of human setting them on edge. They have already completed their work, and are in need of some much deserved R&R. First thing's first, and that is to find the nearest tavern where they can drink themselves half to death to forget that they're in Svalbard. Humans are everywhere, gazes lingering on the glinting red scales in the setting sun, the shine of their golden eyes, and the set of horns that curl from their skull. Usually, they enjoy being stared at, but in this instance it feels unwelcome. More than once they bare their fangs at a child or a passing adult, hissing low like a crocodile and spooking the onlookers. Was this not what they had wanted? A monster to do their bidding?

Snorting, they refuse to allow this to bother them any longer. The sounds of a port-side tavern catch their ears, earrings swaying as they perk up. Noise emanates from within, clinking glasses and laughter. Wild environments were a rare pleasure they indulged in, unseen and able to mingle as they please. Tonight, however, they were not looking to have to put up with the racism and ignorance of a largely human crowd. Confidence in their stride unbroken, they push open the door and stroll inside--chin up and eyes focused on the bar. Ordering some strong swill from their tap, they pay for the mug and walk back out of the establishment, finding a giant pile of lobster cages near the dock to lean on and enjoy their drink. The water rolling in from the sea is warm and salty, calming their senses and cleansing them of the filth in this place. Might have been a good idea to stick with the crew for this outing. Ah, well.

As luck would have it, the regret is banished immediately upon scenting another eximius close by. A figure approaches through the low light of the evening, eyes aglow and a small, hardly noticeable line of light trapped behind their lips. Tilting their head, the reptilian features visibly brighten when the stranger becomes close enough to engage in conversation.

"I was starting to think I was the only one around! So nice to see another eximius." They straighten, teeth bared in a grin, "I'm Salamander, gorgeous. Could I buy you a drink in exchange for conversation and your name?" The playful lilt of their voice sounds almost teasing, yet they offer their hand in greeting and with hope that the stranger will indulge them.
Away Najwa May 13 2020, 3:15 PM
#2
  • Age: 26
  • Gender: Non-binary
  • Race: Eximius
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  • Total Posts: 60
  • Played by: G
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Svalbard was the necessary evil in her life at the moment. Healing of the mind was a difficult and lengthy process, and the cost was just as heavy. Thankfully, not in coin, otherwise Najwa could have been bought and sold three times over with what the magic required was worth to her and her patron both. But there was work to be done and she didn't dream of shirking it, even when it required travel of longer distances. The occasional side job was par for the course, a little distraction to put a few more pieces of gold in her pocket and something to fill the empty days. It was relaxing in a way, another chance to see the world around her in all its wonder. That ease of navigating overwhelmingly human streets CHANGED once dusk hit. In the unclaim and the wilds she was used to, the dark whispered of safety, of the chance to hunt and the ease of hiding her caravan and the little treasures she protected from the world. It was peaceful and tense in equal measure, that underlying song of the wilderness that all of its denizens danced to. In Svalbard it was a far different tune, a nails on stone SCREAM that made her feel blind and deaf. Even in the daytime she could blend in if she kept her head down and her hands gloved to hide the ink black of her extremities. In the soft blacks of night, her nature could not be denied. No cloak she owned could shroud the line of fire that lit her throat from the inside out, nor could the nearly golden glow of her eyes be kept hidden. In the dark, nobody mistook her for human.

In a way it was freeing not to slow her limbs and hold back the wiry strength she had at her disposal. But overall? The hint of a silver lining wasn’t worth it to her. The stares, the offended or wary glances and the way everyone NOTICED her was enough to make her skin crawl and that familiar anxiety shine bright in amber eyes. Her work after sunset was always the more uneasy of the two, begrudging instead of lighthearted. Still, sitting without a distraction was worse and thus she kept herself moving. Feather light feet tapped out a steady beat as she trotted down the planks that made up the docks and bridges that connected the labyrinth pattern of buildings. At least people on this side of the city were less likely to do more than stare, more used to the diversity of the world crammed into a few square miles. Her time was always easier to spend in the lawless parts of town, for all that the more patrolled areas of Durres labeled themselves as safer.

Naj's somewhat absent look and daydreaming eyes flickered into a BRIGHT curiosity at the sound of another voice. Previously hidden by their stare being cast out over the water, gleaming eyes were turned on her with an equally delighted invitation from the draconic eximius. Someone that held their own striking looks, unique from all others as a good portion of eximius tended to be. Red scales and horns overlooked eyes a brighter shade of yellow gold than her own, paired with a smile...directed at her? She blinked, almost tempted to look over her shoulder for who the other exi must be talking to. Logic dictated that it was undoubtedly her as the hand extended her way couldn't be mistaken, but it was unusual for such welcome to be directed her way.

Unusual, but far from unwanted.

She matched their smile with one of her own, jagged teeth backlit with orange and soft yellow. That strand of kinship was a strong one for Najwa, that vibrato chime of shared status one that murmured of safety. Well, as safe as she ever felt around people she didn't KNOW, anyways. That ease was a factor that could change and as honey eyes scrunched with the grin, her thin fingers found theirs. "Najwa.” While more than happy to accept the offer, there was still an edge of that awkward anxiety, if now cast in a completely different light. Someone who welcomed her not just despite her differences but because of them, someone who looked at her and had compliments spill from their lips? It was no secret that she found herself at a loss on how to respond without making a fool of herself. A red flush crept up the back of her neck and shaded the rims of uncovered ears that same flustered crimson. Hopefully sticking to the basics would make sure this worked out for her. The chance to talk with another eximius was a rare one indeed and she’d hate to miss out just because all the words had evaporated off her tongue when she needed them most. His fingers were warm against hers (an odd experience all on its own) and she sidled closer, no small amount of cautious HOPE obviously writ across her features. “I would love to, and I have the time. Thank you.” Just as genuine as it was unsure, she meant every word. Then her gaze flickered to the bar and away again, the door highlighted in gold one that spoke of routine that could twist wrong if she were unlucky about it. She does let go to step closer, but the footfalls are indicative of that hesitation, even as she slipped forward and through that door. She could do this.
Offline Salamander May 14 2020, 12:55 AM
#3
  • Rogue
  • Age: 28
  • Gender: Non-binary
  • Race: Eximius
  • Rank: Quartermaster
  • Total Posts: 53
  • Played by: Sbicy
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Salamander can see the glow of the eximius before they are near enough for the details of their figure to peel from the dark, a mutual molten gold cutting through the night as their eyes meet. How serendipitous a meeting, encountering one of their own kind in what could be known as the cradle of all machines. That's what they were supposed to be, weren't they? Empty, cold, mechanical things incapable of anything beyond obedience to their creators. The idea itself is, quite frankly, ludicrous with a potential for teetering into humorous.

They are charmed by the smile that edges up along the features of the other when they approach, pleased at the reception of their warm invitation for conversation. A hand slides into their own, smaller and more humanoid than their own, but no less welcome. Their smile is broad and full of pointed fangs, looking with interest at the burning light behind their teeth when they speak, as though there was a fire lit in their belly. The rest of them is so covered that they cannot tell what other noticeable attributes they could be hiding. Based on their response, it is not unreasonable to assume that the happiness at seeing another is shared between them. Compliments flow freely from their tongue, more still to come were they to accept their offer of drink and relaxation.

"Najwa," They taste it in their mouth, enunciating carefully, "Wonderful to meet you. You can call me Sal if you'd like, beautiful. " Their smile never fades, taking a swallow from their drink and dragging their tongue over their lips. It would not be outrageous to see their mannerisms as flirtatious.

They accept and Salamader practically glows, pushing themselves up from the stack of lobster cages and smoothly sliding beside their new company for the evening. "Excellent! Thank you for indulging me, sweetheart. Whatever you like, it's on me." A clawed hand splays over their chest, a mark of sincerity and promise. Turning back toward the tavern they just came from, they tilt their head at the hesitation faltering in her step. Mm, that certainly wouldn't do. Like a shadow they cling to her back as she moves through the doorway, right behind her as they enter nearly together. A free hand lifts to curl over her shoulder, giving it a squeeze should she let the touch happen.

"Just remember, they stare because they're afraid. There's nothing wrong with you." The words are low and deep, spoken beside her ear as they move around her and gesture to the room. "I'll find us a table, hm? Join me when you decide on what you want." Reaching into their pocket, they slip a handful of coins into her hands and make their way to a far corner where they, hopefully, will not be disturbed. They would so hate to get this shirt dirty from caving in a skull.
Away Najwa May 14 2020, 2:54 PM
#4
  • Age: 26
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She was not blind. For all that her viewpoint was of a stranger peering in (an outsider that could only watch never be welcome only good for what they'd had built into their bones) she was an avid student. She knew what these little rituals looked like when applied to each other, those little glances and gestures shared between friends, enemies, lovers and the spots that lay between. It was stepping to that beat herself that tripped her up, the one that continually marked her as OTHER just as much as her eyes that glowed bright. This though, it was a new serenade for her ears alone, the intimidating fact one that only meant that she would have to learn its pattern. "Sal, then."

Between the pair of them, every glint of liquid lit up red and yellow, highlighting any edge graced in it and following the line of that forked tongue like molten gold as they swept the traces of beer from red lips. Her eyes flickered to the motion and back again, the chance to meet her own sparking even greater curiosity and some lost longing that showed plainly on her face before she turned away. It was something different to be met with welcome like this and she couldn’t say she disliked that feeling, new again and unique all for that others had deigned to give it on occasion. There were few that she ever slipped close enough to know in any real measure, and fewer still of that number were eximius. The exiled experiments were the least likely to hurt or be hurt by her, for all that the madness dogged many of their heels. She did not HATE Dire, but nor did she trust herself around them, that simmering coal of instinct and tailored reaction one she hadn’t yet doused. And as for humans?

They had made her. They would have to unmake her to EVER earn her trust. Only one had even attempted to come close, and that song was not yet drawn to its close.

“The time spent with— With a friendly face, that is worth it alone. It means a lot though, thank you.” Her head was tilted up and over her shoulder to eye the taller exi, clawed hand gathering another flicker of a glance. The similarities were not exact but similar enough to pique that ever burning interest. Her inky hands reflected theirs in miniature and cut from a humanoid mold, a pale ghost of the fearsome spikes that tipped their own. The glow and that fiery heat they exuded was a reflection of hers as well, something that kept the chill of the night at bay. The things you saw when you looked. She quirked her lips in another smile, the slight pause on the doorstep one even she could not make last forever, even if part of her wanted to.

Time to face that crucible.

Reactive amber pupils shrank as she took that first step through the door, rowdy noise one that dimmed for a bare second as the few that cared to pay attention sent their gaze to the pair that had entered. The crowd of patrons is predominantly human and if there were any dire hidden in the crowd, she’d not the sense of smell to separate them from the salt crusted smell that was a constant of bars this close to the sea. Her spine locked up straight as she stepped through the door, the clawed hand on her shoulder both a reassurance and another twang on that singing nerve of dontdontdontlookdonttouch. A twitch jittered through her bones and sent a wisp of steam trailing from between her lips, entirely on accident. One nervous eye watched as they leant over her shoulder, something high strung and hopeful both in that gleam. ‘Just remember, they stare because they're afraid. There's nothing wrong with you.’ True, true, true and so so so wrong all in one. There was more than one thing wrong with her and it was not often she felt it as keenly as she did right now.

Najwa nodded, even if it felt more like a hollow gesture than an expression of how she felt at the moment. The chance was worth the risk, she just had to reach for it, right? “I will.” The thin confirmation was the same as the rest of her, tense but determined; a lisp returning to blunt her words as she did her best to keep the sharp teeth behind soft lips. Warm coins are pressed into the palm of her hand and spindly fingers held them tight as her gaze went to the bar and the person that tended it. Hope was a powerful motivator indeed. She ghosted through the crowd, head half bent and only the barest of glances cast to what was around her. For the most part she is ignored (much to her relief) just another face in the crowd for most of the people too intent on their own revelry to notice one or two people out of place. The bartender was a slight more aware of her, but money talked louder in these areas and she got hold of a glass of something liquid and amber that would stoke her fire higher, her vice of choice. Boiling beer was a stink she couldn’t abide but other spirits were tolerable and even pleasant in the right scenarios.

She was even quicker on her feet this go around, pace verging on inhumanly quick as she slipped between tables and errant limbs that blocked her path. The grin she greeted Salamander with was a touch calmer than she actually felt, but heartfelt all the same. If she was lucky, not even anxiety could spoil this chance. She lit down in a chair, right angled to theirs with the two different drinks a connector between them. As always, questions come easiest to the little eximius and she smiled a little wider, gaze turned to theirs. “Where do you come from, Sal? Do you live here, or…?”
Offline Salamander May 14 2020, 9:03 PM
#5
  • Rogue
  • Age: 28
  • Gender: Non-binary
  • Race: Eximius
  • Rank: Quartermaster
  • Total Posts: 53
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Perhaps it was the dragon blood they’d pumped into them that finds this eximius so interesting, as there were plenty you couldn’t pay them to stay in the same country as, let alone speak to. This one, however, they found that they would not at all mind spending the evening with. The fire that burned within the fragile cage of Najwa’s body was an alluring quality, captivating like viewing a living, breathing piece of art. Salamander’s eyes pick out what details they can in the dark, gaze unashamed as it crawls over the length of the other’s clothing. Warmth emanated from the hand in theirs, far hotter than their own high temperature. She was a literal, walking furnace. One of the more peculiar mutations they have come into contact with, as humans borrowed from the idea of nature when they were attempting to create these servants. How they managed to inflict this poor thing with a fire boiling in her belly, they would never know. Elementals were a thing that existed, but they’d never met one so unfortunately human.

The beer they ordered is pungent and lingers on their breath, though they seem to mostly respect Najwa’s space. Mostly. When they enter the doorway, a fierce need for this creature to show her power takes over them, speaking low words of encouragement into her ear before releasing her to the bar. The simmer of steam that escapes her lips does not go unnoticed, a pleased smile curling over their lips as they make their way over to a table tucked into the pocket of the room.

Salamander’s posture is relaxed, their tail curled over one ankle on the floor and lightly tapping the wood beneath. Golden eyes slide around the room, meeting the gaze of nosy onlookers with a stare that eventually forces them to look away in fear of inciting the wrath of the reptile. Unable to hide their ever-present grin, they lip at the edge of the tankard in their hands, sipping idly at the beer and licking the foam from their mouth as Najwa makes their way back to the table. The look on their face is so openly bright and hopeful that Salamander feels a distant pity for them. Surely, such eagerness meant that they were estranged from their kind. Lord forbid they lived here.

Najwa sits with renewed energy, taking a drink of their spirits and sparking conversation.

”Well, in a way we all come from here, but in a less existential sense I’m the quartermaster of a merchant ship. We dock all over to deliver goods, though this is, by far, my least favorite place to be stuck in for a few days while we resupply.” They sit up in their chair, folding an arm on the table and releasing their drink to rest their chin on the back of their wrist--posture reflecting interest and attention solely on the person across from them. ”Though, that was before I saw you.” They wink at the cheesy flirt, their gaze ever attentive and searching for details in the small gaps of the fabric they wore--curious about what lay beneath.

”And you, darling? What brings you out on the docks at this hour? Please tell me if I am intruding upon some work you need to complete.” They had no intention of being turned away at this point, though what could they do, really? Follow her around? Laughable. ”I’d hate to be a bother.” It’s so clearly not true that they grin, tail lifting off the floor to curl in humor behind them.
Away Najwa May 15 2020, 12:35 PM
#6
  • Age: 26
  • Gender: Non-binary
  • Race: Eximius
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Eager was a good word for her expression, slowly easing into something approaching peace with the lack of overt reaction from the humans that surrounded the pair. Living, working, and existing in their space briefly was a constant in this city and the others like it, but to linger too long was a GAMBLE she normally didn't like to risk. Tonight, all sorts of tunes were changing, the new song a fast paced beat that sent her heart a-flutter. And oh, did she want to dance.

Black hands curled around the thick walled glass of sweet whiskey, the slice of orange an unusual garnish for the drink and the locale both, but one chosen purposefully. A treat for her and perhaps another subtle display, something just for the two of them. She listened to them talk in that low rasp, avid and ENRAPTURED with gleaming eyes; back to the crowd behind her and glad of the chance to smile without keeping the teeth in check behind torn lips. "You travel all over, then. This city must sit rather low indeed, to be the worst." Not that she could fault them, the wonder and amusement in her soft voice carrying that same undercurrent of bitter memory. That start, of all the things she had and hadn't forgotten, ranked among the most likely she was to let stay buried most of the time. Trauma and age was good for that respect, keeping them fogged and clouded instead of raw and fresh.

The easily given compliment gets the same depth of response from the slim exi, albeit one in a different hue of emotion. Unhidden by the dark or the hood currently lain slack over inked shoulders, Najwa’s flush darkened the rim of her bare ears into a deep red rather obviously, even if she mostly kept the soft smile from slipping into that flustered and inexperienced grin. Glimpses of the red and gold feathers inked onto her shoulders and the arch of fine bones at her neck made themselves clear as she ducked her head, one sleeved arm coming up to scratch at the back of her neck and push the thick cotton coat further back and away from freckled shoulders.

"No, you’re no bother. It's always nice to get to know a friendly face. I do message delivery on the side, letters and such." Here, delicate fingers pluck at the strap of the leather bag that crossed her narrow chest, empty of the usual load of paper and packages. "Puts a little extra money in my pocket and it’s something to pass the time.” Her main job was a little more complex and difficult to quantify so she let it be for the moment, going for the simpler of the two options at her disposal. If they asked, though, she had no issues telling the taller exi. Just how to word it when all of her usual eloquence had wisped into steam and all she had was a tongue that’d tied itself into knots? Instead of opening her mouth to ramble further she reached for the glass of whisky, taking a subtle sip and a deep inhale of the sharp scent. In wide nostrils, blue flared to life before wicking into her lungs and out of sight. The vapors lit into flares of blue flame along her throat as it went down, a very literal burn that lit into white blue instead of warm orange and red for that bare second. Whiskey didn't burn outright, and beer did nothing but produce an acrid stink, but the heavier alcohols? She might as well not even drink them, a waste of her money only for that internal fire to feed on the unnecessary fuel.
Offline Salamander May 15 2020, 3:00 PM
#7
  • Rogue
  • Age: 28
  • Gender: Non-binary
  • Race: Eximius
  • Rank: Quartermaster
  • Total Posts: 53
  • Played by: Sbicy
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Salamander is, for lack of a better explanation, an animal like all others. More so in appearance than many, they were not without the instinct to chase, as it was fundamental to their design. A predator equipped with a lovely voice, the pied piper that sang with claws and fangs bared. They were unashamed in their actions, of their appearance, confident in their abilities without the tight mask of insecurity. They pursued as easily as they spoke, finding strings to pluck and strum into a favorable tune. It is a game they love to play, and they so, so love the shy ones. It was immediately apparent that their newfound companion was one such type, yet Salamander feels this need to stoke that fire inside her. There is no reason to be so demure when imbued with so much raw, palpable power.

A long ear flicks imperceptibly as Najwa sits before them, pupils dilating into slits as they partially open their mouth to taste their scent and the tang of the drink they set between them. Strong is their nose, but their reptilian features add a heightened awareness of smells that drift over their tongue. They answer her questions with no hesitation, assured that this was, indeed, their most hated place out of them all.

”That’s really saying something when places like Corzya and Giruvaga exist, hm? ” They do not need to elaborate for the implication to bleed through. ”But, the ocean is a fascinating place. Always changing, never predictable, and full of all sorts of terrible things. I’d bemoan being trapped with the same group for months on end, but the crew I am with are a surprisingly enjoyable lot. Been… mmm, six years now?” They drawl toward the end, trailing into a rumble of thought that hums in their chest.

The grin that splits their lips at her blush is wide and open, eyes flicking over the exposure of her drooping clothes after her hood was removed. Her hands at the color of pitch, dipped in an inky night that remains solid up until the sleeve of her shirt. Their fingers itch to touch, to see if it bears a similar warmth to the fire in her belly. Vibrant tattoos wink from beneath her cloak, partially shown as she raises a hand to awkwardly scratch the back of her neck. As with all predators, Salamander cannot resist the urge to strike when an opening presents itself.

”Oh, honey, you are just adorable. I can’t imagine that you get lavished with attention around here, it’s a shame.” They lean forward to affix their attention to her, chin resting on the back of their wrist as she explains her occupation. Messenger? A red, scaly brow furrows over their eyes. Surely, that meant the worst. Wishing to pad the time, Najwa takes a sip of her drink, and the effect that it has on her body has Salamander’s long ears lifting with a peaked interest. The soft orange shimmer cloaked by skin flickers to life, cooling to a dull blue that slides down her throat. Their head tilts, golden eyes watching its trail until stopped by the collar of her top. ”Truly, these humans don’t know the beauty of our kind. What a disappointment.” Their voice is but a purr rumbling through their vocal cords. Oh, to be so outcast in a place where the other is feared and hated.

”Ah, but I digress. A messenger, you say? You deliver on foot? You don’t live in Svalbard, do you?” The notion alone sounds like a nightmare. The supposed ‘madness’ that all eximius eventually succumb to would have taken them by now if they were stuck here with their abusers. ”Is there a reason for it being… here?” Honey-colored eyes turn over the room, looking with disdain at the occupants of the bar.
Away Najwa May 15 2020, 4:51 PM
#8
  • Age: 26
  • Gender: Non-binary
  • Race: Eximius
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  • Total Posts: 60
  • Played by: G
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Hands prone to fidgeting and idle movements just to expend some manner of energy is as close to a constant as you got with Najwa, especially in such unfamiliar territory. Flirting and trying to be something approaching coherent and graceful was not her wheelhouse; something she could feel in the absence of words to say rather than any external feedback. They seemed to like her well enough, so she supposed she was doing alright, but that meant little unless she had some sort of confirmation. But the moment they speak of their occupation, that heartfelt notion punctuated with another rumble she could almost feel in her bones? It went a long ways back to something she recognized, long loved and soothing.

"Six years, with the same group of people. Where was your favourite place to be?" Questions are her constant refrain, her place of comfort when she knew not what else to say. That hunger to know, to learn more and experience the world was a strong one, all the more flared brightly with the song that Salamander spun for her. Stories of the other, elsewhere and foreign places she'd never seen, feelings she yearned to know herself. Those were well known to her, one even her time in the unclaim was dominated by. The grin shifted towards the serene as she listened, misty eyed and and quiet. It was almost enough to make her want to know it, for all that the concept of oceans, boats and the potential trouble she brought with her to that exceedingly flammable idea had cemented a certain type of fear in her prior to this. It sounded like an adventure that never, ever ended and where no one but the people who knew you could see who you were.

That was a SIREN SONG to one like her.

The moment of serenity that rooted in her chest and calmed that high strung uncertainty quickly evaporated at the continuation of the compliments that slipped off Sal's tongue like silver silk. It easily brought that flush back in a heavier hue, the crimson flaring along high cheekbones and across her low set nose this time. Still, she can't just say nothing, the kind words inviting a response. If only Najwa HAD one. The compliment was well timed and the glass at her lips lingered long than strictly necessary as she tried to think of a response to the praise. Compliments in turn? A confirmation of the obvious fact she indeed did not get showered in attention this positive? Both? Neither? Her brain worked overtime and a half as Najwa scrambled for the right answer. The heat coming off her cheeks only doubled at the way their eyes clearly trail after the wash of fire that cleansed the vapor from behind her teeth. Any idea of a response was wiped clean for the moment, left for another time or to be entirely forgotten. At this point, she'd be all right with that.

The subject of her job is both easier and more difficult to talk about and she shrugged, a little more somber with the tone shift it called for. "I do, yeah. Just local stuff for the most part, wherever I happen to be. A lot of people need some message delivered around the city or something taken somewhere. It's...temporary. Paying off a favour for someone in Stadarfell, need something in between that." The sentence is lower, hardly a murmur compared to her normal excited tone. She doesn't resent Vivica, she DOESN'T. The human magister was her guiding star at the moment, that glimmer of hope one she'd clung to. But that doesn't mean she didn't know how twisted it was, how it looked to others. Sometimes, results were the better option, no matter how deep over your head the waters rose. The furrowed brow and the curled lip that spoke of Salamander's dislike, well. It mirrored hers in a lot of ways. It was a price she was willing to pay, over and again. That didn't make it easier to be here. She shrugged and took a deeper draught of the amber, mouth shut firmly to contain any of the errant flame that spiraled like wildfire and amber eyes keen to avoid theirs.
Offline Salamander May 15 2020, 8:00 PM
#9
  • Rogue
  • Age: 28
  • Gender: Non-binary
  • Race: Eximius
  • Rank: Quartermaster
  • Total Posts: 53
  • Played by: Sbicy
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The red eximius keeps their eyes trained across the table, observing every subtle movement and flush of blood under Najwa’s skin. It crests over the shell of exposed ears, painting her cheeks with a blossom of warmth. It darkens the freckles that dapple their body, giving a night to the constellations mapped there. Navigating by sea largely required the sun, and in the absence of it they read the stars. The temptation to trace patterns of shapes they knew manifests, motions like that reserved for a far more private, intimate setting. It wasn’t something out of the question for Salamander, but they had yet to unearth the other’s interests in that regard.

"Mm, hard to say. My favorite? Honestly, it might be the beaches of Kho'gate. They're empty, since the wolves caught wind of their shores being calm enough for ships to dock between routes. It's peaceful there, in a way."

Najwa does not reply to the compliments, choosing instead to stew in the white noise of the crowd in their backdrop. It brings a smile to the smuggler’s lips, tail ticking back and forth at the tip like a swinging pendulum, counting the seconds it takes for her to return their eye contact. Such an attitude was quite uncommon in most eximius, given their vulnerability to madness and rage. Demure was not in their description, and that was a trait bred out through the hunts. Usually, anyway. Humans were hardy and difficult to break, those that retained some semblance of self after the experiments were a force to be reckoned with, indeed.

”That’s a hefty favor, if you ask me. Couldn’t pay me all the money in the world to stay in this place.” A curious glint enters their gaze, looking at the leather strap of the satchel that she toys with over her chest. ”Unfortunate, to say the least. Have you ever thought about just saying fuck it and absconding?” Their grin is wolfish, delighted by the chaos and fantastical adventure they proposed. ”Having a bounty on your head is quite the style these days, kitten.” A golden eye winks, seeking to coax the wondrous look in her eyes from before. It was addicting, this level of rapt attention, and they were sure that the same went for her. A brief moment of quiet ebbs between them, circling like an eddie in a stream. Salamander finishes off their beer, head tipping back and the knot in their throat working to guzzle it all down. Breathing out a loud sigh and setting the tankard off to the side, they scoot up in their chair and stretch out their arms across the wood.

”Can I see your hands, lovely?” Their chin is low, golden eyes sparking as they look up into hers, their palms up and open. They can see the gears working in that pretty head, clanking together as they attempt to process the request. The movement of compliance is slow, yet Salamander remains still. When the extremities are offered, Salamander pulls forward until the edge of the table is pressed into their stomach, slotted below their ribs as clawed hands curl around much smaller ones. Slender, hooked with claws of their own, but so, so black. The shade is much more like a silhouette than an actual limb, a hand-shaped hole in the fabric of their reality.

Salamander’s thumbs smooth over her palms, tracing the lines there and the shape of her fingers. Golden eyes assess every detail, admiring their resemblance to the remnants of a blaze--the wood blackened and smoked and charred. They measure their claws together, grinning at the similar length and curve, an imitation of a raptor’s talons.

”One would think,” They start, voice but a rumble in their chest as they switch to focus on one of her hands, both of theirs inching up to weasel under the loose cloth sleeve and push it up to see where the black stopped, ”That they wouldn’t be so afraid of something they wanted to serve them.” The thin, razor-edge of their claw skims over the indent of the inside of her elbow, ”So quick to call themselves gods when they taint, but not enough to be responsible for their creations.”

They lean on their elbows on the table, half pushed from their seat, close enough to taste her breath on their tongue, stopping just inches short of contact.

”What do you have to be afraid of, darling?”
Away Najwa May 15 2020, 11:16 PM
#10
  • Age: 26
  • Gender: Non-binary
  • Race: Eximius
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For a moment she longed to do exactly as the crimson eximius suggested in that sly rumble of a voice. To spin away into the wild, back into that familiar peace to be forgotten and forget in turn, to be FREE. The urge called to her so strongly she felt her pulse roar in her ears for a split second. Then reality once more settled in, the cup to snuff out her flame. She surely couldn’t do as they suggested, however right they were. Vivica wasn’t done yet, the gaping cracks of her psyche still pouring memories like sand from an hourglass, running out of time. And if she shirked her debt to the magister? A crackle of fear crept up her spine of the mere thought of the consequences that could follow. Najwa shook her head slowly, fingers knotted into a tight ball at the wish that had left a sinister chill behind. “The thought is nice, but unfortunately no. I don’t owe her money, and if there’s something I’ve learned, it's that the people here never let a slight go unpunished.” Her eye found theirs once more, but there was something else that gleamed there, something that spoke of quiet mourning. Things had changed and still shifted around her like unsteady ground. All she could hope for was that she found the other side at the end of all this.

Even still she watched them steadily, that fascination one that never ceased and only ever waxed and waned. The line of that scaled throat, the bob of their chin as they swallowed, the way that Sal bent closer to her, hands outstretched as a common link between them both. She hesitated, that unsurety in the face of a new experience one that had never so much as occurred to her before. New things were to be embraced, to be enjoyed wholeheartedly. Ironically it was that wish for it to go well that held her in limbo this time around. Social workings were so much more complex, the smallest of cogs slipping its grip could throw the whole thing awry. She’d done it before and she dreaded doing it again for such a high stake. It was not that request that gave her pause, but the invisible cues she tended to miss and the sore points she stumbled across without trying. But Sal had been nothing but accepting so far, even with the faux pas she knew had been along their path.

Maybe. Maybe she should just try. Stop thinking and just ACT.

Soot black hands crept along the surface of the table until she found her hands in theirs, dwarfed and yet matched in that way that most eximius found in themselves if they looked long enough. Nothing universal, but that link of thought from one to the next, a strand that changed colour even as it wound between each of the still living links. They had a common source, that wellspring of human intelligence wielded like a knife. There was always something that showed the process if you looked close enough.

Sal certainly intended to look, it seemed. She watched them as they went over every detail of her palms, something fierce and keen in their golden eyes; a bright sun to her antiqued shadow of that same shade. She wondered after their thought process idly, curiosity stoked by the overt interest and the train of thought that clearly had momentum. Her brows furrowed as that gaze slipped to their face once more. What did they look for, what did they see? The hows and whys never failed to string her along behind, the need to know all consuming once she began. It didn’t hurt that the metallic undertone to those scales (dragon? lizard? something else entirely?) caught the yellowed lights overhead with a shine she could only admire. She flexed those thin fingers against theirs a moment when they compared the nails they both possessed, a matched set only set apart in size. Theirs, though, those fingers stretched long compared to hers, made to catch and tear. Were they good at handling the wood and rope that made the bones and sinew of a ship? She hoped so, it was nice to slot into the roles of things you loved.

Her attention is recaptured by their voice with ease as they speak again, that low rumble one that vibrated through the table they leant over and made drums and hollow vessels out of her ribs. 'One would think that they wouldn’t be so afraid of something they wanted to serve them.' Oddly, it is a moment without fear in a life usually ruled by the shadow of that cursed emotion, past, present and future incarnations alike. Those talons could doubtless slice into tendon and snap bone without a second thought and yet here they both found themselves, searching for something else entirely. Her gaze followed the path their nails skimmed, the straight angles of the tattoo and the natural smoking patterns of where pitch warmed into burnt sienna and warm earth tones, speckled with freckles. “It raises some questions of what it was they thought they were getting, doesn’t it?” She was pondering that point with something approaching a long denied truth when she glanced up, the brush of their longer hair one that startled her in the most subtle of ways possible. Mild wonder at the silence of their approach more than shock and fear and that too quick snap of the tripwire triggers built into her bones.

Her pupils blew wide as the question posed sank in, a sharp breath hissing in and wafting that crisp scent of whiskey and aniseed out over her tongue and between those jagged, mismatched teeth. They were close, so close, near enough to see the way those tiny scales overlapped and fit together like the smallest puzzle possible. When had they gotten that close, that clear, that right? Black sclera and golden irises were steady on her and she locked up, only silence left. What WAS she scared of? How to untangle the threads of that long past, the mistakes made and the people hurt and the fear that came preemptive, made justified.

The answer was both simple and hopelessly complex.

“Being the monster they made me into.”
Offline Salamander May 16 2020, 2:00 PM
#11
  • Rogue
  • Age: 28
  • Gender: Non-binary
  • Race: Eximius
  • Rank: Quartermaster
  • Total Posts: 53
  • Played by: Sbicy
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The longing for freedom was something that they all once shared, a common drive to bring the hammer to the chains that bound them to their masters. Social contracts of debt to one's creators was what had kept them lingering, striking the former gods back down to the earth from whence they came. It was an innately human thing, to want to be free, an instinctual, animal drive that could steer them to dark places. The eximius have achieved political and physical liberty, but what of their minds? Were they not still shackled to their past? Was it not the past that constructed the skeleton of the future? Salamander likes to think themselves above it all, yet it is far from true. They lose themselves sometimes among the ashes, forgetting the person they have become in lieu of the creature they made. A predator.

There was no telling how they would have been had they not been abducted and changed. Some deep, deep part of them wonders by the possibilities on occasion, but they always choose to let them pass. No use in dwelling on things they could not change.

"How do you quantify a debt without a number? Sounds like quite the situation you've gotten yourself into." To Najwa, it seemed to be a steep price for their transgression. Salamander had taken up the idea that they owed no one a damn thing, and it is quite sad to see the other eximius on the opposite side of the spectrum.

Even though they have just met, she allows her hands to rest in their own. Sal's are considerably larger, even in proportion to their own body, and the claws add an extra length to the tips of long fingers. Their palms are smooth and free of scales, having almost a leather-like texture, a tougher variant of soft, human flesh. Najwa's is warm to the touch, smooth as silk, transitioning from vanta black to umber around the end of her forearm. Their golden eyes are inquisitive, tracing the reaching dark lines that stretch up and up until they fade, wondering how such an interesting mutation took place. She is caught somewhere between human and beast, fire and night, a quasi attempt at shaping her into their image. Clearly, they thought most eximius that were not entirely humanoid in appearance a failure, a breed of their own to be hated and shunned.

Soft as Najwa was, they can see the flex of strong, fibrous muscle corded through their forearm as their fingers curl to measure their claws. Behind thick lips lie jagged teeth, uncertain if they wished to be close and blunt or separated and honed into a fine edge. To Salamander, they did not look upon her as half-finished, merely a broken terracotta pot whose cracks could be mended with gold.

They cannot help but lean into her space, silent as a serpent, thumbs pressing into her arms. Red lips part to speak, drinking in the whisky-steam from her breath and feeling it tingle through their senses. Honey and burnished gold meet, locked together as they consume each other's view. Salamander's words are low, meant only for her ears, tempering the searing heat of their intensity with a rumbling purr. A response is caught between her teeth, crawling up from a smoky throat after a patient heartbeat of silence. It was not entirely expected, their answer, yet they feel a tug of something at it deep in the pit of their belly. "Hmm." They hum, hands sliding down her arms to cover hers, pressing them to the tabletop as they close the gap and barely ghost their mouth over hers. "Last I checked, darling, you don't have to be anything you don't want to be." With that, they recede from her space, forked tongue tracing the line of their upper lip.

"We're just people, too." They shrug their shoulders, "If they didn't want monsters then they shouldn't have tried to play god when they thought theirs had abandoned them." A flick of their tail is all the indication they offer of how much it truly bothers them.

"When you're finished with your drink, would you like to take a walk? I could use a breather from all this human smell." Their smile is all knives, eyes scouring over the room before leveling onto her again, the edges softening to relax.
Away Najwa May 16 2020, 10:51 PM
#12
  • Age: 26
  • Gender: Non-binary
  • Race: Eximius
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  • Played by: G
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The comment is true and she nodded, even as those thin shoulders hunched a little higher. It was a lot of faith to be held in someone they didn’t necessarily trust, and if Najwa hadn’t been stuck between a rock and a hard place, she’d have been long gone. It was a thin, desperate hope, but she held it all the same.

Somewhere on this meandering encounter, she’d lost track of where it was the pair were headed. Buffeted about by the sheer presence that Salamander had, that inexorable tide she could only ride out with the tentative anticipation of the chance to see where it was they intended to take her. Even the pitched lows of their conversation thus far had held that POTENTIAL and something in her bubbled up in quiet gratitude at this feeling of being encouraged, being wanted, being seen as something other than the hollowed out places in her.

The confession settled between them with a silent gravity, heavy in its undeniable truth. She didn’t pull away as the cool hands around hers gently pressed forward, the fulcrum to the advance that left them close enough to sense. Salamander leant in even further, that hum one that shook the air in tiny vibrations she could all but feel at that range. Najwa watched, gaze unbroken and ceaseless as they closed that gap, eyes wide open and gleaming with that vulnerable hope. Then, that gentle brush of skin on skin, alike and so different in the same moment. Their lips have that same fractured edge to it, infinitely small scales one that merged to form a plated whole still held traces of their drink of choice. Lips cool compared to hers, the heat and steam of her breath is no doubt almost scalding at that range, the heat that bubbled from inside the pit of her belly one that never stopped, even for moments like this. She pressed in a moment, the tip of her nose brushing against that armored edge of their cheek before they pulled away once more.

They were right, too. She’d been given a crossroads, the endless roads that unspooled from this choice one she’d yet to even fully comprehend, never mind set out on. That journey would begin once she stepped forth, as soon as she gathered the pass and the future together and made sense of it. In this heated moment, she felt that urge to step with purpose instead of merely fleeing the consequences of her yesterday. To choose to be herself, to be the person she wanted to be instead of just the shattered chips of bone that were left of who she could have been. Gaze steady for once, she looked them over with some measurement, evaluation whatever it was that Salamander was feeling. People tended to be a mystery, but on this they were of one mind. “They didn’t get what they wanted at the very least.”

Najwa slid her hands out from beneath theirs with a quiet nod, eager to be there and gone. “I’d love to.” They’d lingered long enough, and that heady sip that was left of her drink could be finished quickly if she put her mind to it. Indeed, she did so as soon as Salamander proposed the pair leave for somewhere else. Thin hands scooped up the drink and threw it back in a flickering flare of that same fire and the clear urge to be gone. Then she stood in a liquid movement, quicker than she’d moved before this taut moment. Any attempt to blend is gone and she held her hand out to theirs in an open invitation, far faster than most humans could come close to imagining. “Any destination in mind?”
Offline Salamander May 17 2020, 6:51 PM
#13
  • Rogue
  • Age: 28
  • Gender: Non-binary
  • Race: Eximius
  • Rank: Quartermaster
  • Total Posts: 53
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Salamander is sensitive to the subtle changes in body language, reading the minute ticks of Najwa's facial expressions. Her yearning is so palpable, yet they know that only she is the one that can break the chains she carries. She is just as free as anyone else, were she willing to see it. A task far from simple or easy, as many never rose to the challenge of overcoming it. The natural world shunned the different, the powerful, the alien, though it was the changed that soon rose above the ordinary. Sheep made wolves of the ones they pushed from the flock.

The barest touch of their lips is reciprocated, a soft brush of her nose along the high bone of their cheek before they are pulling away. What an interesting person, so coy with the attention of a stranger, and still so starved for contact. It is not difficult to imagine the suffering they have endured here, surely beat down into this compact form of herself to try her best to fit in and look like those around her. Humans were so hypocritical, especially the ones that occupied this godless land. Machine was once an insult, and eximius were the ones punished for their existence--as though they had asked to be what they are.

Salamander meets her inquisitive gaze, brow lifting in curiosity of the way it picks them apart. Their lack of certain human features made their feelings hard to intercept. Their relaxed demeanor and ever-present smile didn't give anything away, either, though the eximius was not trying to be purposeful in this deceit. Showing themselves like an animal was far easier, on occasion, but they had faith in Najwa's ability to follow their lead. A dance crafted with words is one that requires steps and measures, timing and cue, and the younger eximius seemed to be keeping up just fine.

"That's karma, baby." Their grin is savage.

She downs her drink with a lick of blue flame sparking in her throat, the agreement adding a pleasant curl to their tail as they reach to take her hand and pull themselves up from their seat. "What a gentleman," They tease with a purr, tail coiling around her waist as they don't release her and walk toward the door. "Hmm... Not really! Let's just see what comes along, shall we? There is bound to be something interesting along the way, as shitty as this place is." A snort blows hot from their nostrils, letting go of her hand once they step back out into the warm, August night in favor of attempting to walk their fingers across the back of her shoulders--grip settling on the farthest end to tug her into their side. Should she ward them off, they will respect the boundary as much as they can, though they keep sneaking in gentle sweeps of their tail along the backs of her legs and ankles.

The breeze from the water carries the summer heat, salty and heady with moisture. Gulls have gone quiet for the night, roosting on the masts and rails of ships that sway like dark, hulking beasts chained to the shore. Their eyes cast a faint glow on their cheeks, respective shades of amber and gold. Colors pierce through the veil of darkness, like the beam of a lighthouse guiding the lost. Salamander had always wondered why they all shone like beacons, and why that is one of the only common physical trait they all share. Then again, magic was a fickle thing. Hard to control, and harder still to manipulate.

"Actually, let's hang out here." They speak suddenly, breaking the soft slosh of the wake below the dock. Turning to a shack that looked reserved for selling goods, their long arms reach and grasp the edge--pulling themselves up onto the flat roof. "Want to know how we find our way in the dark on a ship? I can show you."
Away Najwa May 18 2020, 9:41 AM
#14
  • Age: 26
  • Gender: Non-binary
  • Race: Eximius
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They’re heavier than her by almost half and again, but it was nothing more than keeping her balance and a pull to do her part to lift them to their feet, that eximius strength belying the thin look of her if you didn’t watch the wire corded muscle flex. Most people in Stadarfell DIDN'T, used to the excising of the other races from their streets. Despite that ignorance, the two of them were long past subtle and the prickle of stares pinged up her spine, an insistent reminder of where they were. Somewhat different was that insulation from the alarm bells ringing in the back of her mind, demanding she blend, that anxious blare of the potential consequences neverending. She had someone else like her, who LIKED her. Appreciated her for her, even. When all you had was the present, even this brief of a connection was a treasured thing, and for the first time in a long time, Najwa wanted to hold tight to it more than the practices that kept her incognito in streets like these.

Even still, that tense stiffness about her shoulders eased once they were both back out in the open air, posture loosening into something more natural and relaxed, less ready to react should the worst strike. The armoured weight of their tail settling around the curve of her hip didn’t hurt either, something to distract if nothing else. Clawed fingers made contact haltingly, eyes watching them for any indication of reproach. Just because everything had been fine thus far didn’t mean that was a fact set in stone, and she’d like to avoid crossing any of those invisible lines. But barring any inclination otherwise on Salamander’s part, pointed nails would trail along its segments, silently mapping the places where those metallic plates met in those seconds that Sal’s tail still sat where she could reach it.

The unexpected poke of fingers along her shoulders earned them a quick glance, eyes bright as street lamps in the dark. Startled, just a smidge, though it quickly faded into that serene calm once she realized it was their hand that meandered across her shoulders and wrapped about the opposite arm. Welcome and SOLID, a direct counterpart to the thin wire and lines she was made of, she leaned in for a brief moment before breaking off again. In a good sign for them, it was not for any other reason than her odd stop and start gait and the meandering paths she took. Walking in a straight line was just about anathema to her, a foreign concept she wanted no part of, not even for them.

Content to the quiet for the moment, she didn't really reply to their words either, a vague nod all that served for agreement. Instead, her eyes were mostly aimed upwards, barring a glance here or there to do her best to gauge Sal, expressions a thing that for all the rigorous practice she’d been getting in this intricate city still tended to elude her. With Sal, this was the case as well, if less so. The lack of facial clues was more than made up for by the expressive and ADAMANT nature of how they spoke with little and less room for wrong interpretations in their bold proclamations. While far from her intent to give up on the attempt to understand what made them tick (what made them so confident how did they do that?) the stars were always a quick way to steal her gaze away.

So the abrupt change of pace, the offer that Sal dangled before her? That was as good as gold for the curious little thing and her gaze was intense and eager in an instant. “Yes, for sure. Show me.” The prospect of something new, something to learn and something she could do herself was perhaps the easiest way to hold her attention and it showed in the parting of lips and the bright way her eyes followed them as they climbed, never once shifting from their form. The roof was out of their reach if all she did was stretch, but the silver lining to her condition was something she’d long been accustomed to and Najwa didn’t think twice before taking a hopping jump towards the side of the wooden wall in her efforts to follow after Sal. One foot planted against the side to launch her upwards got a hand over that edge, clawed nails sinking into wood with the ease of a hot knife through butter. From there, she was quick to swing herself upwards and clamber over the edge.

She looked around for a bare half moment as if to search the roof for the answer to what they’d offered before her gaze was on them once more, bright eyes and their own gaze the sole source of light barring the stars above. It was enough to highlight the freckles that traced their own constellations over her skin and that all consuming curiosity, although a flicker of that inability to wait is making itself known around the edge of her face, taut and drawn tight with that eager impatience. That and the light of blue blending into orange in the dark, a line of fire that traced its way into her belly, still burning off that alcohol.

She’d never gotten the slightest hint of a buzz from anything high enough of a proof to burn, and she likely never would.

“How do you do it?” Her curiosity waited for nobody, not even her.
Offline Salamander May 23 2020, 12:21 AM
#15
  • Rogue
  • Age: 28
  • Gender: Non-binary
  • Race: Eximius
  • Rank: Quartermaster
  • Total Posts: 53
  • Played by: Sbicy
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They are a touch-starved people, the first generation of machines. With hardly a willing volunteer among them, the next viable step had been the unwanted, forgotten, and forsaken. Salamander was an orphan on the streets of Stardarfell when they were taken, spared not a second thought by the people whom they burdened. It is no wonder that the creature has learned to reach for others, either to elicit a twinge of fear or the warmth of solidarity. Affection was rarely the goal, yet achieved all the same regardless of intention. Clawed fingers trace the interlocking scales, fit together in a repetitive pattern that protects the tough hide beneath. The pieces are flexible, made apparent in the small way the spines can be manipulated due to the lack of plating at their base.

A noise akin to a purr rumbles up from the eximius's chest at the attention, vibrating each rib in a low, inhuman thrum. Contact is brief, traded in favor of an arm over the other's shoulder. Najwa's weight is pressed into their side, the heat emanating from her made all the more noticeable by proximity. Their eyes cut like candles through the darkness, shinning with the brilliance of a beacon. Side by side they venture out along the docks, accompanied only by each other and the quiet melody of the waves lapping at the rocks under their feet. It would be more serene if they weren't in Svalbard, but alas, such a thing could not be helped.

Diverting their path, Salamander tempts their company with the sky, climbing up on the roof by simply reaching up and pulling their body after them. Najwa is shorter, so a hop is needed to vault up the side of the wall, joining them with nary a breath lost.

"First, you have to locate Polaris." Salamander slides behind her, bending to rest a clawed hand on her shoulder and direct her chin up with the other to gaze at the sky. Their breath is warm against her neck, reaching out to point out the star in question, "That will be your basis for north. Stars follow the sun, in the sense that they rise in the east and set in the west. Watch them move." Navigation was something that all eximius who have spent a modicum of time in Ballasburn picked up, considering their navy is the strongest in the world. Being dumped on a remote island would make the surviving inhabitants awful good at finding a way off of it. "I don't carry a sextant on me, but you use that to measure the distance between Polaris and the horizon to get your latitude."

Their head tilts up, the lights of their eyes picking across the night to find what they are looking for. "There, you use Orion's sword to find south and your longitude using the same method. Then, you can plot yourself on a map and ensure that you stay on course." With a grin that is all teeth, their hand stays present on the side of her neck should she not push them away.

"Any questions, darling?"