Harvest 1-4, 6106 RTR (Dec 28, 2007) The party boards The Rake, and after several days, finally returns to Rephidim.
(Aaron) (Airship) (Amazonia) (Legacy of the Fenris) (Layth) (Rephidim) (Tasha) (Underside)

    Parthos Docks
    Built atop a sheer cliff that overlooks the Lake of Languor and the resort area, the airship docks of Olympia's capitol city are well positioned to take advantage of the morning and evening trade winds. Craft from all over Sinai vie for space here, with many waiting in holding patterns while Vartans ferry goods and passengers to and from them.

It has been a hectic two days since leaving Dianus. Once the Gogran fishing fleet rendezvoused with The Calligenia the cargo transfer from the fishing boat's hold to the modified yacht took over an hour, and then the Rath'ani crew out of Elysium had to rush to catch the evening winds. At least the staterooms were nice, if a bit crowded, for the overnight journey.

By dawn, The Calligenia made port just as the Olympian fishing boats were leaving. But even then, the cargo could only be moved in small sections and each one taken up the cliff side by different routes to avoid suspicion, even though they were all being brought to the same warehouse. Captain Duke brought the travelers to Fedor's Fashions, where the Karnors were outfitted with Rephidim-style clothing for the rest of the journey. Of them all, Caravelli seemed the most energized by the experience, claiming that he finally felt a bit more 'in the real world' now.

There was little time to rest. Breakfast and lunch seemed to pass in a blur as the makeover from Amazonian to Rephidimite (and Abu Dhabian) clothing and manners was worked out. Even Tasha's clothing was redone to something a bit more conservative than what she'd arrived in, which seemed to have been years ago instead of just a few weeks. Now that they were among people that would likely understand Standard, the Karnors stuck to their roles as Rephidim tourists – so little was actually discussed about their plans.

The elevator ride to the top of the cliffs that afternoon was taken up almost entirely by Tasha's group (and luckily, Broly the Vartan wasn't on lifeguard duty this time, sparing Tasha any embarrassing recognition). By the time they made it to the dock where The Rake was moored, Calligenia's cargo was just beginning to be loaded aboard, and a few of the still-hooded Pteras called out when they caught the scent of their familiar drover. Captain Eyeshine was waiting at the foot of the boarding platform as well.

'Ere we go, Tasha thinks as she spots Captain Eyeshine at the foot of the boarding platform. "Tha's 'im," Tasha warns Gabriel Akkers, ex-captain of The Fenris. "Cap'n Eyeshine 'imself. An' the crew looks largely the same. They're goin' to remember me, like I was." She takes a deep breath and, after checking herself over to make sure she looks conservative on approach, she starts forward. "Oi, Cap'n!"

"I never knew Vartans would be so big close up," Akkers mutters aside to Layth and Aaron.

"This should be interesting," Layth comments absently as he watches the reunion of Tasha and her former captain. To Akkers, Layth notes, "And what she means by remembering her as she was … well … she was a sailor with a guy in every port, so to speak."

"Oi, Tash!" the big Vartan calls. "'Bout time yer got back, scrawk! Who're the Jupes?"

Tasha stops before the large Vartan, the man who could arguably be considered her foster father, and puts a hand on her hip. The other, she uses to gesture at the group. "This 'ere's Gabriel Akkers, ex-captain. Tha' one's Doctor Caravelli, an' the other one's a Doc. as well. They're wha' you call professor-types. Tourists from Rephidim we, rrr, rescued from the wilds. You know the others, Layth, Aaron, Calli." She points at the men and women one, by one. "They'll be comin' wit' us, we gots places to go."

"Back to home port then?" Eyeshine asks, and then notices Tasha's new clothes. "You ain't wearing those new duds while driving the Pteras, I hope!"

"Wha's wrong wit' me new outfit? I 'appen to like 'ow I look now. Didn' you say I shouldn' dress like, like … I did?" She raises a brow, and before the Vartan can answer, she nods. "We're 'eadin' 'ome, bu' there's more to it than tha'. We better 'ave a talk, you an' I. Much more to it, an' I need to talk abou' it in private."

"Scrawk! You don't wear new clothes to the pens, they'll get ruined," Eyeshine notes. "And what do we need to talk about, 'xactly?"

"It's time I moved on, Cap'n. I've got somethin' tha' needs doin', an' a man I mean to do it with, an' we're both 'eadin' far away. My trip's shown me more than I though' existed in all the world, an' I can' stay any longer," Tasha explains. She glances back, waving Gabriel forward. "We're goin' to Abaddon."

"Whu? Through the gateway!" Eyeshine scrawks, his wings lifting up. "Damn right we gonna talk 'bout this! Yer mom will pop a vein!"

"Her mom is pretty big too," Aaron warns Akkers.

"Me mum will un'erstan' when I explain it to 'er. 'Sides," Tasha lifts her arm and pushes back the sleeve, showing the silvery bangle that's fixed there, "I got means o' gettin' there. Now," she gestures at the ship, "permission to come aboard, Cap'n?"

"Yer still droving for the trip home at least, yar?" Eyeshine mutters before giving any approval.

"Aye, one las' time. Maybe secon' to las', if you're takin' me to Gateway," agrees the smaller Vartan.

"I imagine I could tame her mother," Layth notes to Aaron.

"Ummm, not sure 'tame' and 'Vartan' go together," the smaller Lapi says.

"I tamed Lady Tyche," Layth points out, "And have spared you her attentions."

"Alrigh', get yer gear aboard!" Eyeshine yells. "I'll try to pack ya's in best I can. Fancy-pants Jupes can share my Cabin this time."

Tasha winces. "Will you at leas' 'ide the picture? I'm tryin' to make a good impression wit' one o' 'em, an' 'e doesn' need to see more o' my ol' life than need be," she whispers in Eyeshine's ear.

"I don't know about tamed her," Aaron says, then perks his ear at the mention of the picture. "Oh, Gods yes, hide that thing!" he calls to the Vartan.

"Eh, what picture?" Akkers asks, and the two Doctors look curious as well.

"Can I have it?" Layth calls out. "I know a certain doe friend of Xavier's who might find it charming."

"Nothin'! Shut it, magic bunny," Tasha yells back.

"Oh, I took dat down already," Eyeshine says. "Crew kept finding excuses to come talk to me just to leer at it."

"I guess tha's good enough," Tasha says, sounding pained. "Well, let's get everyone aboard then." Turning around, Tasha waves the party on. "Alrigh' you all, let's get on ship!"

"I still think your Anisa would find it charming. It shows you are trainable," Layth comments and nudges Aaron with his elbow. Grinning, he goes to help load the ship and board.

Loading The Rake goes faster than the previous cargo transfers, thankfully. Also, the airship doesn't need to wait for the wind to be favorable, so launches as soon as it can – the pteras don't mind flying in the dark. It isn't quite time for dinner yet by the time quartering is worked out: once again the two does are given the forward closet, while Aaron and Layth will have to make do with crew bunks (when someone isn't using one, that is). The three Karnors get to deal with hammocks up in Eyeshine's cabin.

As one of the pilots of The Rake, Tasha's place is on deck. Currently, she's sitting far fore, reigns in one hand, and her driving whip in the other. To avoid excess embarrassment, she's tried to avoid the crew, especially any of which she was especially 'close' to, as well as Gabriel when they're not alone. "So much 'as changed, an' yet 'ere I am again. Did it really 'appen," she murmurs to herself, wind stirring her hair.

"Of course not. Those Karnors back in the Captain's cabin are just statues," Layth comments from somewhere behind her. "You had too much ale at the last port… "

Aisha hugs her Angor sweater to keep out the chill air, and gives Layth a little kick in the leg. "You should be nice, Tasha has gone through many changes. And leaving one's home is never easy."

"And I s'pose you're my magic bunny conscious 'ere to lecture me on bein' too headstrong an' no' thinkin' things through enough," Tasha quips back, without turning her head away from the night sky. "C'mere an' sit wit' me, I 'ave somethin' to say."

At Aisha's defending, Tasha looks back at the woman, brows raised in surprise. "Oi, thanks Aisha," she says, sounding pleased.

"And what's all this 'Magic Bunny' nonsense?" Aisha whispers to Layth.

"It was a moment of fear and a comment made that Tasha has taken to now using to address me," Layth notes to Aisha before he makes his way further forward to settle down near Tasha.

"Layth, I'm sorry for jus' leavin' you like I did," Tasha says, glancing at the male Lapi. She glances at Aisha, too, as if pondering if she should go on with the other woman there. Apparently deciding Aisha can stay, Tasha goes on. "I wasn' sure 'ow to tell you, or wha' to do, an' I'm no' used to sayin' it. Bu', I wan'ed to tell you thank you, for showin' me tha' there can be more to other people than wha' you can take. Wit'out you, I'd 'ave never seen Gabriel like I 'ave. I'm no' sure I'd 'ave been able to 'elp anyone at all – would 'ave been too full o 'myself to see wha' other people needed. Thank you, Layth."

Layth waves his hand lightly. "It was not necessary you say anything, Tasha. As I have said before, you burn like a fire. Bright and strong then move on. It is a part of your nature I am not sure you will ever completely lose. I carry no anger towards you for leaving me for someone far better," the buck notes. Then with a sidelong glance, he asks, "Or, are you asking me in your own way to part company whenever we reach Rephidim's port? Any road, I hope you do understand that you don't have to be my lover to be my friend, or to have my help. Besides, without me, who would try to keep you on the middle path, instead of raging to one side or another?" The Lapi even grins.

"I jus' don' wan' you to feel 'urt," Tasha confides, scooting closer to Layth. "You did me a good turn, an' I jus' up an' left you. I won' say it was as bad as all tha', I didn' think abou' it until it 'appened. I jus' wan'ed to look after those men, an' the res' came in time. Bu', I wan'ed to say something now tha' its done, wan'ed to say I'm sorry for no' 'andlin' it better." She pats the man's arm, then adds, "I don' wan' you to leave, bu' I'm no' sure why you stay. I'm really surprised you didn' jus' stay in Amazonia – they'd 'ave loved you there. You'd 'ave been like a prince; instead, you're comin' wit' me to a world neitehr of us 'as ever seen. You sure you wan' to come? No' tha' I don' wan' you to, but I wan' you to be 'appy more than I wan' my friend wit' me."

"Someone has to watch your back," Layth comments, "And as smart as your Karnors are, they lack experience in this world. Plus, someone also has to keep an unblinded eye open. Have you not noticed your actions around them? So focused are you, you could miss something deadly important. As for why I left Amazonia … I still have Lady Aisha to watch over as well, and as now charged from Tyche, her daughter, Calligenia too. At least in some things, that is. And then there is the Big Cheese. I must admit I wish to learn what those stones are for." Then with a wry grin, he adds as an afterthought, "And did not Amazonia teach you anything, Tasha? Amazonians are difficult to hurt. I've been through many horrible things. Your actions do not even begin to compare to some true moments of pain."

"There's pain o' the body an' pain o' the 'eart, Layth. I've seen which can 'urt more for me, an' … Well, you jus' tell me if you need to talk. I'm always 'ere for you – magic bunny." Tasha grins, then waves out at the darkness. "Who knows wha' the 'Cheese' does? Those thing worry me, I won' 'ide it. They did somethin' to MOTHER's mind, an' they could power 'er by themselves. They're ancient an' they're mysterious, an' they feel like they're bigger than any o' us. Keep an eye on 'em." She shakes her head, then asks, "So Ol' Tyche sent you to watch Calli? You're gettin' to be like Aaron!"

"Ummm… what is the Big Cheese?" Aisha asks timidly.

"As for pain of the heart, well, I am certain Lady Aisha will help try and heal that, won't you?" the buck comments, then grins to the doe. "Now, as for Calligenia … I am to teach her to remain calm and not kill those she trades with when she feels that they are trying to use her," Layth comments, "Which will be no small task." After a moment of thought, he says, "And with regards to the stones I am not sure how much we need fear those stones directly. Remember, they affected the machine mind, and yet the Karnors who slept with it for the same length of time are unaffected. So, we should be wary, yes, but not paranoid."

"The machine an' the stones were on, wha'd she call 'em … They were unconnected. MOTHER couldn' effect the sleepin' Karnors, bu' she killed Nora by lockin' 'er in her suit. MOTHER only became aggressive when someone tried to take the stones from 'er. Any road, let's jus' keep 'em locked up until we 'ave to examine them. I don' even think any o' us are qualified to do it," Tasha says. She grins a moment, then adds, "Teachin' Calli? She migh' be even more a pain than I am." The woman laughs, then glances at Aisha and answers, "The Cheese is one o' three artifacts we foun', tha' we're retunin' to their owners. They're dangerous, bu' we keep 'em contained."

"You do, of course realize, that we may also be exaggerating their importance. What if they are merely parts to a complex toilet," Layth comments, but then nods. "But as you say, we should keep them contained until people knowledgeable in them can examine them."

"Dangerous?" Aisha asks, her ears drooping. "Killer machines? Cursed artifacts? Aaron didn't mention any of that!"

Layth tilts his head to consider Aisha. Without even asking, he reaches over, picks her up effortlessly, then sets her in his lap. After wrapping his arms around her, he asks, "Do you feel safer now? Anyway, we are not sure what these artifacts are, but they are very old and unusual. We are taking them to a safer place for them to be examined. Now, if they actually threaten us, I can always throw them overboard and into the sea. So, do not worry so much."

"I jus' 'ope they don' turn the sea crazy," Tasha murmurs darkly. "Those things were beyon' even the Expedition, an' you saw wha' they coul' make Layth. Abaddonin' them coul' be worse than 'oldin' on to them. Wha' if someone finds 'em? We couldn' even touch 'em wit'out 'elp."

Aisha doesn't squeak, and just rests her head on Layth's shoulder. "Are they… valuable artifacts? First Ones crystals?" she asks.

"They're priceless," Tasha insists. "Bu' there's more to the worl' than shekels. If these things urged MOTHER to kill Nora, they aren' safe."

"You cannot sell them. And if you tell anyone else about them … it would be bad for all of us," Layth warns. To Tasha, Layth points out, "We chose not to touch them out of concerns of safety, not out of any known danger. If you wish, I will touch one now to test it."

"No!" Aisha says at that suggestion. "Why touch it just to see if something bad happens?"

"Let'sno' touch 'em unless we mus', an' let the Expedition decide," the Vartan replies. "If you go MOTHER on us, we may no' be able to 'elp you."

"But you should be able to easily kill me," Layth counters, though he actually looks like he might be teasing.

"I think it's the other way aroun'. You'd strangle both 'o us, then the crew woul' fill you full o' bolts. No' worth it, aye?" Tasha leans over and pokes Layth in the arm. "I already feel bad enough abou' the Themis Skoll bein' used agains' me!"

"Besides, I am already touching Lady Aisha and she is far more dangerous … " Layth starts to say then ends up grinning at the poke.

"Can we talk about something else?" Aisha asks. "Even Calli doesn't talk about killing so much. At least, not until she sees a new race and talks about vulnerable areas… "

"Calli tol' me she could kill time," Tasha says with a groan. "An' I though' I was a 'andful. Calli's goin' to drive you to drink, Layth."

"I am certain I can train her," Layth deadpans, " … in time."

"Or she can train you," Tasha offers, then laughs.

"So, do you intend to return to your real-estate business when we return?" Layth asks Aisha, changing the subject in honor of her request.

"Hey, you aren't supposed to train me are you?" Aisha suddenly accuses, pulling away from Layth's shoulder. "Even if you do that swirly-thing like in the bath again… I'm not trainable!"

"Oh, well of course I'll check in on it," Aisha then says, calming down. "I have to make sure Anisa is running things properly so that she can make payments on time."

"Of course I won't train you … directly," Layth comments a bit vaguely.

Tasha returns her attentions to the night sky, giving the reigns a tug when one of the leftmost pteras begins to wander. "Do you think Gabriel is a good man, Layth? Aisha?"

"He eats meat," Aisha comments.

"So do I," Tasha replies, glancing back and blinking. "Wha's meat 'ave to do wit' anythin'?"

"He seems a sad man, but strong for continuing on even after his losses," Layth answers simply. Then with a chuckle at Aisha's comment, he adds, "Aisha would say bad things about me too, so take from that what you will."

"A proper gentleman would use a mint wash after eating meat to cover up the scent on his breath," Aisha comments. "Sharing of breath is important in Abu Dhabi, so men are conscientious of it."

"He won' be sad forever – I'll see to tha'," Tasha insists. She gives her whip a crack, yelling 'hyaa!' as two pteras start snapping at each other, then frowns. "I worry 'e jus' seems me as a chil'. 'E's twice me age, seen things I can' even dream o', bu' he doesn' seem to mind me. Turns ou', he jus' seems 'appy to 'ave a sandwich and company."

"Two problems with that. One, we are not in Abu dhabi. Two, we do not have any mint," Layth points out.

"And now you may be thinking too much into things, Tasha," Layth tells the Vartan hybrid as he looks forward. "Do not worry so much about what he thinks. His actions will tell you enough over time. Do not assume he thinks the worst of you … and certainly do not let him see you think such, it will make you look like what you fear he sees you as."

"You should carry some with you to hand out to the other men then, Layth," Aisha notes, then thinks about what Tasha said. "It is not unusual for a man to consort with a woman half his age. Men of that age have accumulated wealth and prestige."

Tasha nods to Layth. "'Ell, we're no' from anywhere 'e's from. I saw the pictures in their ships, they 'ad towers o' metal, an' they raced across the Sea o' Stars. I don' know who to ask abou' 'im or 'is culture. An' … You're righ' Layth. All I can do is jus' 'ope for the bes', and keep goin'."

"He doesn' 'ave wealth, bu' 'e as a prestige no' even the Emir coul' match," Tasha says with a chuckle.

"Then it sounds like you already know your answer about what kind of man he is," Layth notes. "So, why care what myself, or anyone else, thinks?"

"Jus' talki'," Tasha says. She rolls her head around and smiles, showing her teeth now that she's far from Amazonia. "'Ow abou' you? Met anyone? Goin' to seduce Tyche an' become the first King o' Amazonia?"

At that, Layth laughs. "No, nothing so grand as all that," he says, "Right now I just want a decent meal and a warm bed. I'll save conquering a country for tomorrow… "

"I don't know about the decent meal," Aisha comments, "but your bed will certainly be warm, if you grab it after the previous occupant goes on duty."

"Oi, you 'ave changed. Before you wouldn' 'ave even laughed at tha', or made a joke. Now you do. Looks like we've all grown a bi'," insists the Vartan. She then nods her head towards the door below deck, and suggests, "You shoul' ask the Cap'n abou' cookin' the meals. You're better than our rotatin' cooks, an' the crew will love you forever."

"It is good that Layth is not a doe, or we would feel very inadequate," Aisha notes.

"Or share a bed with someone," Layth comments, then nips her ear playfully. At the suggestion of cooking for the crew … that he takes seriously. "Ah, that is a good idea. And honestly, having to cook meat doesn't bother me, so it should not be too difficult to manage."

In a lower voice, Tasha adds, "Jus' watch tha' Vartan Glitterfeather – 'e' likes to watch the men on the docks, if you know wha' I mean. 'E's no' limp-wristed like those types usually are either. 'E'll wan' to check your buns, bun." Then the woman leans back, grinning widely.

Layth's brow goes up. "I would be far too much for him," the buck says, sounding quite serious, too.

"In that case, maybe you'd better sleep with me and Calli tonight, just to be safe," Aisha says. "I'm sure Aaron will be fine on his own."

"Jus' be careful," Tasha warns, half-heartedly. "Looks like we 'ave a ways, anythin' else on your mind, or do you two wan' to get to cookin' an' sleepin'?"

Again, the buck's brow goes up. "Worried you might lose me, Lady Aisha?" the buck asks.

"I don't want to have to carry my luggage by myself," Aisha points out, then tries to tickle Layth before getting up. "I will go to the kitchen with you to help supervise, and to bite anyone who gets too grabby with you."

Tasha smiles. "I'll be 'ere, tendin' the pteras. Jus' yell if you need anythin', 'course I can' jus' leave 'em unattended. They're no' like the wind or an engine," she explains.

"And you will help cook as well," Layth tells the doe with a grin, "Or else." And to prove he's stubborn, he doesn't even so much as snort when he's tickled. "Come on, I think Tasha wishes to sit and daydream for a while in peace. Imagine Gabriel riding the back of a ptera with a sword held high … like in those silly romance books." With a grin, he gets up and heads off with Aisha belowdecks.

    The Fallen Friend
    Times have been tough for Underside since Faraon the Friend went into exile. Dozens of rival gangs emerged to fill the power vacuum, and things still haven't stabilized. The sailors' tavern, The Fallen Friend, is a reflection of this. Everything here is built of thick, sturdy wood to handle being tossed around or used for protection, while an abundance of lamps prevent any shadows deep enough for somebody to lurk in. Mirrors of various levels of quality (apparently taken from one of the 'resorts' that thrived during Faraon's reign) cover the walls over tables and behind the bar so that no matter where one sits, they can see if anyone is sneaking up on them.

After several days aboard a cramped airship, even Underside is a welcome relief. While Calligenia and Aaron deal with the unloading of cargo from The Rake, the Karnors (and a pair of Lapis) get a short trip to a nearby tavern, where they get to see Tasha picked up and hugged by a matronly red Vartan woman. "You backs, Tasha!" she scrawks.

"And I would assume that is her mother," Layth whispers to Akkers.

"Or a really scary ex-lover," the buck adds in whisper after a moment of thought. His grin, though, gives away he's obviously joking.

"Oi, mum!" Tasha looks a bit like a small bird being grappled by a large predator, but she hugs her mother right back. "Was a long road, but 'ere I am, mum! These people me new friends," and here Tasha tries to gesture back at the group, but her hands are rather restrained at the moment.

Layth … waves. "Good day," he says and smiles politely.

"Who these? More bunnies?" Desdemona scrawks as she sets down her daughter, and eyeballs the huddled Karnors and the Lapis. "Old one for me, is he?"

"She's all yours, Eli," Akkers whispers to Dr. Zerachiel, which the Lapis can easily overhear. "You used to be a bird-watcher, right?" "That… I say, that horse-woman over there is also looking us over," Zerachiel replies.

Aisha Lapi-whispers to Layth, "Do you really think you could tame that woman? She is twice your weight."

Layth tilts his head, trying to get a look at the 'horse-woman' they're referring to. To Aisha, he whispers, "Certainly. Size doesn't always matter. Skill matters."

"The bunnies are Layth and Calli, an' the Kar- … The Jupanis are Gabriel Akkers," she points at Akkers, then grins and waves at him, "Doctor Zerachiel, an' Doctor Caravelli. They're from, rrr, far away." To the Karnors, Tasha says, "An' guys, this is me mum, Desdemona! Mos' jus' call 'er Des or Desdi."

And of course, Layth says to her with a nod of his head, "Ma'am."

"Charmed to meet the mother of such a unique daughter," Akkers says, giving a little bow to the red Vartan.

"Oooos, I likes you," Desdi responds to Akkers. "What you boys – and girl – like to drink, ah?"

Tasha, who's still trapped in a hug, squirms a little. "'Ands off mum, the older one's mine," she insists, trying to wiggle free!

"Oh? That final word?" Desdi asks her daughter, in an almost challenging tone.

"Aye, it is," Tasha replies, ears up, eyeing her mother despite being more or less helpless at the moment.

"You may wish to hide now," Layth whispers to the Karnors. To Aisha, he asks, "Ah, is there a safer place they could stay?"

"I do not know how to reach the surface from here," Aisha comments, keeping close to the larger Lapi. "I assumed we would stay at Aaron's house in the Scholar's Quarter."

Desdemona finally lets Tasha down, then musses up her hair. "Hokay, what dey drink? I take one of the brown ones maybe."

The two doctors try to hide behind Gabriel.

"Ah, Xavier's place. One such as he can surely make explosives … so that should be very safe, yes," Layth says with a firm nod. He even puts his arm around Aisha as if to indicate to the bar that the doe is his.

For some reason, the crowd isn't hooting or whistling or ogling the golden doe. Some of them must have good memories.

Tasha leans forward and whispers, "Eli' tha' one there, 'e'd talk your ear off bu' 'e'd appreciate the attention. The other's been righ' down. See, their ship crashed, an' they're the only one's left. S'got 'em in bad spirits, mum." Leaning back Tasha answers, "Let's'ook 'em up wit' the good beer, I'll even pay for it mum. I've 'ad a righ' good run o' things lately, all tol'."

"In clean mugs," Layth adds. Cursed Lapi hearing.

Desdi nods and yells at some drink-nursers to clear a table big enough for the group. The wolves sit with their backs to the (shiny) walls. "I understand a bit about your personality now, Tasha," Akkers comments.

Tasha, who's seated herself beside Akkers in a rather possessive sort of way, nods to the Karnor. "You 'ave to be loud an' take wha' you wan' aroun' 'ere, or no one listens to you," she tells him. "Bu', I love me mum. She can give any lout 'ere a run for 'is money."

As Layth settles into a chair, he comments to Tasha, "I see that you were joking about that Glitterfeather person. No one bothered me on the docks. And … your mother is tamer than I expected."

"'E' mus' 'ave been elsewhere," Tasha assures Layth, then winks at him. She also nods, saying, "Mum's calmed down a bi' over the years. She used to work on The Rake, 'fore she settled down 'ere." Then, to Akkers, she whispers, "You know, we Vartans love shiny things."

"She… uh… likes wolves I guess?" Eli asks. Given Tasha's mixed parentage, it's a fairly silly question.

Tasha gives Eli a look, then points at herself. "Well this ain't a beak, aye? Mum likes a lot o' things, bu' I think she got a taste for Jupani jus' before I was born, if you get me. Cap'n Eyeshine likes 'er too, so keep tha' in mind."

"I hadn't intended… " Eli starts to say, until Remiel just elbows him, since the drinks are being served now. Desdi returns with a platter of leather tankards which she sets out – even putting one before Aisha, the smallest in the group. It's bigger than her head.

"You were expressing mutual interest?" Layth asks Eli as he pushes back his lop-ears.

Tasha grins widely at the sight of Aisha and the tankard. "You may be carryin' Aisha out o' 'ere," she teases the two bunnies.

"N-no!" Zerachiel says, waggling his hands – and then grabbing the tankard with them before they get him into any trouble. "What sort of beer is this?" he asks.

"Warm!" scrawks the barkeep, followed up by a deep laugh.

"Hopefully she will not decorate my shift with a rainbow yawn," Layth comments, then lifts his own tankard up … and just takes a drink.

"Think it's Chronotopian, bu' its pro'ly watered down," Tasha answers, eyeing her mom. "Coul' be Rephidimite, too. One way to find ou'!" She reaches over, takes her mug, and tosses back a big chug!

Akkers follows, and then the other two Karnors when he doesn't fall over dead. It's probably a bit more fortified than they're used to. Aisha just tries a sip and wrinkles her nose. "It's like drinking… dark bread… " she complains.

"'Ow is it?" Tasha glances at Akkers first, then the others. "We don' get the fancy drinks down 'ere, it's mos'ly beers an' ales for the airships crews, somethin' to take the edge off. We only pull ou' the good stuff when we're celebratin'."

"It reminds me of college," Akkers says.

"There is much worse things to drink in the world," Layth notes to Aisha, "Such as 'squibbit squeezins'. This type of beer is intended to be food as well as water."

"College?" Tasha perks her ears and looks at Gabriel questioningly.

"University?" Gabriel replies, thinking the first word didn't make sense.

"He probably means something like the Collegia … Caroban," Layth tries to clarify. "A place where people learn things and drink a lot."

"Like, … Oi, oh, like the Collegia Esoterica. A school." Nodding, Tasha takes another drink, and explains, "No' many o' us down 'ere ever see the side o' a school, le' alone then inside o' one. Get a few mages now an' then, bu' you almos' never see 'em come 'ome."

"Umm, we can get topside from here, right?" Aisha asks Tasha.

"O'course! We can take any number o' ways up. I usually fly, o'course, bu' there's taxis, Rahktors, an' I 'eard o' an elevator once, bu' I've never seen it meself," the Vartan answers Aisha. "Are you thinkin' o' leavin' already?"

"This isn't exactly her world. She is uncomfortable here," Layth comments, then takes another drink.

"I need to check on things up top," Aisha says. "I usually stay at Aaron's townhouse. Calli too sometimes. I thought Captain Akkers and his crew might enjoy it better up there too."

"You make the bes' o' the world you got," Tasha insists. Frowning, she nods after taking another sip. "Alrigh'. Gabriel? Eli? Remy? Where would you rather stay? Layth?"

"I can sleep anywhere. But … given our cargo, it may be safer at the place Aisha suggests," Layth answers. "From what I have heard, Darkside is not too respectful of others property."

"Are there hotels down here?" Remiel asks.

"'Otels?" Tasha blinks at Remiel, head tilting in that confused canine way. "I don' know abou' 'otels, bu' Aaron's place is nicer than mine, an' pro'ly safer too."

As if on cue, Calligenia and Aaron arrive then, looking tired. A few of the patrons scoot their seats closer to the walls at the arrival of the chocolate doe.

Layth smiles and waves to Calligenia. "You look terrible," he tells her. "You should rest more."

"Calli looks good, as always," Tasha corrects Layth as she lifts her mug to the doe.

"She will look better after I tend to her," Layth insists.

Calli sits down, and promptly takes Aisha's largely untouched drink and guzzles down about half of it. Aaron sits next to her, and just watches in horror.

"Make tha' carryin' two does out, Layth," Tasha remarks, eyeing the half-empty drink.

Layth offers Aaron his tankard.

Aaron waves off the offer. Calli wipes her muzzle clean on her sleeve, and says, "Cargo is on the move. I can fulfill my contracts on Rephidim now. I want a bath."

Layth shrugs and takes another drink from his, then. "Do you wish assistance with it?" he inquires of Calligenia. Looking at Aaron again, he asks, "Does your place have a good bath?"

"It does," Tasha answers for Aaron. "I used it las' time. Maybe we ought an' 'ead up then. I can always come back down 'ere an' talk wit' mum."

"There's also the big bath at the gym," Aaron notes, his ears drooping. He was probably hoping to use his shower too tonight. "But we should get going, so I can arrange for food and try to contact a Life Mage."

"All right," Layth answers and sets his tankard down. Offering a hand to both Aisha and Calligenia, he asks, "Will you two beautiful women honor me by walking with me this day?"

Tasha raises a brow at Layth's gesture, then reaches her mug out to the Karnors and asks, "Will you three han'some gentlemen escort me, aye?" She grins widely, then sticks her tongue out at Layth.

As usual, Aaron is the odd man out. "I'll go see to our luggage," he says.


GMed by BoingDragon

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Today is 6 days before Midsummer's Day, Year 28 of the Reign of Archelaus the First (6127)