There isn't much for a ptera drover to do while a ship is being readied for launch, so Tasha is given sentry duty. At least it hasn't been boring, with various fights breaking out two docks over aboard the Skurvy Creen, now captainless. And it's certainly got to be better than having Captain Eyeshine bellowing at you to work faster, never mind about the hangover. A look over the side of the dock shows the first hints of morning light oozing across the landscape, so it shouldn't be too much longer before The Rake's unusual passengers arrive.
Having held out against the Tears of Morpheus and endured the rejection of Calli, Tasha spent much of last night running from introspection in to the arms of alcohol. As a result she has a mild hangover, although that's hardly a new twist to her pre-departure mornings.
Standing near the gangplank and leaning against the ship rail, Tasha idly watches people go about their business. Or, in some cases, go about other people usually with blunt objects. It's the standard scene for the rough and tumble Underside docks, and she's quite used to that, too.
And apparently, a blunt object is looking for Tasha too, as something round, hard, and small bounces off the side of her head. "Pssst, psst!" comes from a shadowy section around some old crates on the dock.
Tasha's head tilts as the object bounces off her, and makes an irritated growl. "Oi, what's this," she demands as she looks around for the source of the voice.
Another rock of some sort comes out of the shadows and plunks against the gangplank. "Yes, you, Tasha, get over here!" comes the hushed and rather familiar voice of Jentz.
Tasha's disapproving why'd-you-hit-me-with-a-rock frown mixes oddly with the interested way Tasha's brow shoots up when she hears who it is. "Rocks, what are you thinkin'? You scared of Calli?" Tasha laughs lightly as she steps from the gangplank and saunters over towards the voice, reveling in how unfrightened she is.
And when she gets close enough, Jentz yanks her into the shadows and clamps a hand over her mouth. "Hush, you," he hisses. Up close the mottled bruising on his face becomes quite apparent, as does the torn rags which were his clothing. "I have bigger problems than her," he whispers, peering around as he does so. "Let's just say I'm a bit on the outs with th' old crew, eh? Some knew about the captain's little gold stash. When they got a sniff I had part of it … well, some of them may not be able to write for a long while … but I couldn't exactly take them all on at once. If they find me now, I'm dead. Dead. I should have just went after those blasted rodents when I had the chance."
At first Tasha eyes Jentz with amusement, apparently suspecting this might be some flimsy story that he can use to get her alone. However, upon seeing his face and the ragged state of his clothes, her eyes widen in a look of surprise and concern. "Mmmm-mmm, jmmm, whww bw iwa-" Tasha pulls Jentz's hand down her mouth enough so she can whisper clearly, "- wut, no surprise there, is it? You need a place to hide?"
After a pause, Tasha adds in a confused voice, "Oi'n what rodents?"
"Heh, I need a ride out of here is what I need," Jentz remarks and glances over his shoulder. "They got everything, Tasha. I can't offer to pay. I'm asking for a favor here." His ears flick and his blunt muzzle turns back towards her as he says, "Your new buddies, those rabbits. Wish I had a musket, would have done them both in. Better than being a laughing stock because I gave into them. I can't exactly hold crew authority here anymore because of that."
"Those "rodents" you mean are some kind of fighters, you brick headed fool. Calli, the woman, she's a right Amazonian, an' more than a match for rabble like u- you lot! Bet those fat heads can't remember she beat them down? Eh? Knocked the sense out of 'em all, did she?" Tasha snorts. "Hrr, well, 'suppose I can help you, but don' think abou' doin' anything to 'em, because they're payin' us, AND because they'll whup on you." The woman gives the Rhian an almost pitying stare, the same sort of stare she tends to give men that fall out of her favor. Usually, it's because they prove to be cowards, whiny, or otherwise lacking in some essential strength to Tasha. "No shekels at all, is it?"
"Just bruised knuckles, Tasha," Jentz notes and curls his fingers, joints cracking in protest. "That wasn't the entire crew in the bar. And the ones that were … well, you know the type the captain hired most of the time? They knew they could get part o' the stash if they kept their mouth shut about it. No honor among thieves, even from the ones that were with us for a while. Tried to knock some sense into them, but heh, just too many." And then he actually smirks slightly. "I can at least be happy in the knowledge they won't be able to sail again. Not a one of them knows how to lead, they're dry-docked for sure. In a week they'll be broke, dead, or in jail, heh. I'll just have to find another ship elsewhere. Too hot here." He then reaches over and taps her nose, noting, "I said would have. Not will. Now would be pointless, wouldn't it? What would it gain me, nothing. Back then it would have helped with the matters of perception with that mutinous rabble. I may be broke, but I'm not but I'm not stupid, Tasha. Give me some credit, will ya?"
"Hrr, well, alright. Sometimes I don' think I know you, what with this thinkin' an' all." The Vartan rolls her shoulders and her wings with them, then nods. "I'll see whut can be done, I will, all right? Not sure how I'm goin' to get a slab of beef like you on the ship unnoticed not like I'd have had to if you hadn't up and made yourself a target. Remember that time we- eh, later right? You fit in a crate? Sack?"
"Oi, belay that. No cargo! It's the sack or sneakin' on board when no one's lookin'. Might be able to make the crew look one way when you go the other, or you want an' sign on with us as a 'and," Tasha asks.
The Rhian looks rather relieved and actually smiles. "That's my girl," he says. "Most are still fighting over the remains on the ship, so I don't think they'd notice me. I just don't want to remain here much longer and give 'em a chance, eh? I can just sign on, if you're fixin' to leave anytime soon." He also winks and adds, "An' hey, a bright side o' this. I get a long trip alone … with you. Bet we could get th' boat a rockin', eh?"
"Not too sure 'bout that, I'll have to think on it." Perhaps to the Rhian's surprise, Tasha actually sounds half-serious. By now, he'd know she goes in for tough bravos, and even in understandable circumstances doesn't abide fleeing, whining, or losing, at least not much. "Still, we'd best get you up to the cap'n, so c'mon then, handsome like, we'd best get you below deck before we 'ave a fight on our 'ands."
"Lead on then," Jentz says and motions back towards the ship. "I owe ya one. Next port I'll find a ship needin' a new first mate an' just start over. Just a setback."
As luck would have it, Captain Eyeshine is already at the top of the gangplank, tapping a hoof on the deck. "You no supposed to leave post, Tasha," the one-eyed bird scrawks. "'Specially not for hanky-panky! Gah, what you do to poor boy?"
"Oi, what now? Wasn't like that a'all," Tasha protests, but smirks as if it was just like that. "'Es Jentz, 'e is, an' 'es from the Creen. 'Ad a bit of a tussle with is crew, 'e did, an' 'es lookin' to sign on to the Rake for a spell."
"She's a violent an' cruel woman, Captain," Jentz laments, "I'd keep yer eye on her. Like she says, it appears my former ship crew has run into … issues. So, I was lookin' to sign on for a ride to the next port so I can find a more trustworthy crew. So, don' blame her for leaving her post. I tricked her into comin' down here."
In protest to being described as "violent and cruel," Tasha thwacks Jentz upside the head. "S'not like that!" She scowls at Jentz, too. "I wasn't tricked! I knew full well, I did! Took a chance, s'all. Hrmp."
"I know who he is!" Eyeshine snaps. "I gots first mate already, so no get ideas. You work under Cyrus, Tasha's boss, feeding the pteras. Tasha's mom give me good deal on lots of fresh meat, so you can get to work chopping it up." After another moment, the captain adds, "Take him to quartermaster, Tasha, get him some new pants at least. Seen enough horseflesh this morning, SCRAWK!"
Tasha nods. She may give the captain of the Rake a lot of gruff, but she tends to follow orders once given. At least, follow them while he's watching. "Right-o, cap'n. Follow me, 'orseflesh." She grabs Jentz's hand and leads him towards the bowels of the ship where she suspects the quartermaster is hiding.
Jentz thwacks Tasha right back on the back of the head. "Heartless, violent, and cruel, she is," he comments, giving her a look. And with a glance back to the Captain he says, "Thanks rightly. I'll serve yer crew well during the trip."
It doesn't take very long to get Jentz outfitted and put to work butchering the remains of his former captain into fist-sized chunks that the pteras can easily swallow. Tasha's able to return to her post in time to see the Lapis arrive. Calligenia is dressed much more casually this morning, and the handle of Grent's pistol is sticking out of her waistband. Behind comes Xavier, carrying the luggage and looking no happier than he did the previous night.
"Ahoy, Calli," Tasha calls with a wave. By now Xavier has realized that as long as Calli is around, Tasha seems to forget he's there. "How's the mornin' treating you?"
The Lapi girl waves to the half-Vartan, and doesn't seem to have any problem negotiating the dock and gangway this morning. "Good morning Tasha, I am fine, although Xavier is still complaining."
"What, Xavier?" Tasha seems to finally notice the man next to Calli, but instead of a wave he gets a where'd-he-come-from sort of frown. "Oh, the little man!" Tasha doesn't seem to notice Calli is just as little as Xavier, if not more so. Personal strengths seem to add height in Tasha's mind. "What're you up to?"
"Me? I'm up to not-going-out-to-dinner-with-my-girlfriend tonight, despite making arrangements nearly a sphere ago," the baggage-burdened rabbit mutters.
"What?" Tasha seems to have once again forgotten Xavier was there, as she stares at him in surprise when he answers instead of Calli. "Oi, right."
"I will go to my cabin now," Calligenia says. "Please let me know when we are about to launch?"
"Yes ma'am, shouldn't be but a moment," Tasha says before turning back to scan the docks.
Calli heads below-decks, with Xavier following behind. The man gives Tasha an odd glance before disappearing down the hatchway.
"Odd sort, they are," Tasha remarks to no one in particular.
The captain walks past, and catches the tail end of the Lapis heading to their cabins. "Ah, the nice girl who is paying us 20,000 shekels has arrived, eh?" he says to Tasha.
"That she is, cap'n. Real Amazonian, she is. She put a right beatin' on 'alf the Creen's crew," Tasha answers. She then glances at the dock once before twisting around to watch the captain.
"No sense lingering about then!" Eyeshine says, his voice already raising up as he calls out orders to cast off and rouse the pteras. "You take us out of dock, Tasha," he tells her.
"Oi, CALLI! We's leavin' now! GIT UP 'ERE," Tasha hollers before drawing in the gangplank and securing it.
The deck is momentarily hectic, as lines are cast off and the hoods pulled away from half of the pteras on the ship's 'outrigger' wings. A lone Lapi comes up from below deck, but it is neither the ship's cook, Rupert, nor Calligenia it's just the Lapi that follows her whose name Tasha can never quite remember.
Tasha peers at the Lapi a moment, and with her keen eyesight you'd think she could remember a face. "What's this? Eh, well, goin' get Calli if you can find 'er, ain't but a moment an' we'll be away," Tasha tells the man. And with that Tasha heads for the prow, her station, unfastening her lengthy driving whip in preparation for departure.
"She's not coming up," Xavier reports. "She just didn't want to be surprised when the airship started moving."
"S'that it, then? Ha, tough as nails, an' afraid of a bit o' fair wind." Tasha, with practiced ease, vaults over the rail enclosing the driver's area and then draws her whip back, "You boys ain't afraid of no wind, are ya! You show 'em who rules the skies!" With a crack of her whip she cries, "Hvark! Kaw-rawrk ka," the driving commands, in Vartan.
The pteras respond with calls of their own, and once the first one starts flapping in its tethers, the others follow suit. The Rake pulls away from the dock, and the pilot starts her descending away from the Underside docks and into the open sky below Rephidim.
As she drives the pteras, Tasha reminisces about how she learned her post. It was the old Vartan that originally taught her, he being the other driver of the Rake now and its primary ptera handler. Even now, the old bird seems worried she'd steal his job and she just might, given the chance.
"Kaw-wawrk," Tasha repeats, to ensure the pteras keep a smart pace. After another crack of her whip, she glances at the instrument fondly. Not only is it her primary driving tool, but its also been useful on the rare occasion the Rake has been attacked. Although not a match for steel, or much use in close quarters, the lengthy heavy whip can put the sting on anyone who dares attack the driver or worse.
Within minutes, the Rake passes out of both the sky island's shadow and its pressure envelope. The rigging creaks as the gasbag expands in the lower pressure air, and the pteras can take advantage of the wind, alternating between flapping their wings and using them as sails. "Are they very hard to control?" the strange Lapi asks once Tasha takes a break.
Once again Tasha seems surprised by the presence of the Lapi, looking at him as if this is the first time she's ever seen him. "Oi, what? Pteras?" She studies his face a moment and then nods. "Takes a right-smart 'and to read 'em, an' there's no fiddily book that can give you that. Was the old man what taught me," the old man being Tasha's favorite nickname for the previous pteras driver, "an' 'es no' bad at all. I'm better, 'course!" Another crack of the whip punctuates her claim.
"So your father taught you?" the Lapi asks, refusing to just go away. "Your name is Tasha, isn't it?"
"What?" Tasha glances back at the man, her attention having drifted away to the pteras briefly. "He ain't my father, that's … some noble man, somewhere. A right hero, a real man of action 'e was. The ol' man's just my trainer, 'e is." She nods briefly. "S'right, Tasha."
"I'm Aaron," the Lapi introduces himself. "Aaron Lightfoot. I run an apothecary up topside."
Maybe the Lapi's persistence is paying off, because Tasha seems to find it increasingly difficult to either ignore him or simply forget he exists. She now focuses mostly on him, occasionally glancing fore to check the progress of the pteras or to yell a command in Vartan. "Arrow Leadfoot is it? Some sort 'o doctor," she asks, distractedly.
"Err, Aaron Lightfoot," the man repeats, a bit louder. "I make medicine and… other things, but I'm not a doctor. I'm Calligenia's guardian. I guess you two hit it off last night?"
"Right," Tasha says, as if she had said his name perfectly the first time. "Aaron Liferoot. Not a doctor? Medicine an'," apparently she's not that dense, because her brow raises at the idea of "other things," "- what ho, "other things," eh?" She grins, then frowns when she moves on to Calligenia. "Calli? Oi, thought we might put it off, s'all. No' that it's not goin' anywhere, mind. Headache, think it was. Odd customs an' such." To hide any expression of frustration, Tasha quickly looks fore again and yells an unnecessarily loud command.
Looking away, Tasha misses the Lapi's reaction, which he has back under control by the time she notices him again. "Er, that's not quite what I meant by 'hit it off'. Uhm, if you don't mind my asking, how old are you, Tasha?"
Tasha, who seems to have accepted Aaron's existence by now, looks back without any expression of surprise at seeing him. "Not quite, is it? Not your type? Right piece of work she is, never met another like 'er. Old?" Tasha releases a hand from the rail and begins to count on her fingers. When she gets to five she frowns, sees her other hand is full, and then shoots Aaron a laugh-and-I'll-hit-you look. "Old enough, I am! Five an' … five again, plus … five an' … a few more, it is."
"Er, well if it means anything to you, Calligenia is only seventeen years old," the Lapi says, looking Tasha up and down. "She hasn't had a lot of exposure to our culture yet, and I don't want to see her being taken advantage of."
"What? Seventeen?" Tasha peers at the Lapi, as if he were joking about the importance of her age. Tasha, after all, had been taking advantage and being taken advantage of earlier than that. After a moment Tasha seems to catch on, but she frowns as if the idea is strange to her. "Worried, is it? Don' get your lines in a knot, Lackshoot. She's right fearsome, she is, an' I didn't do anythin' unladylike, anythin' untowards."
"Fearsome? Calli?" Aaron asks, his left ear (the black one) dropping down across his face until he brushes it away. "In any case, she's been very stressed out the past few days, so I'd appreciate it if you didn't impose on her too much. She's really in over her head right now."
Tasha gives another order and crack of her whip before turning back to nod. "Between you an' me, Leftfoot, she's a book to me." A "book to me" meaning something confusing for Tasha, a term she picked up after finding a romance novel and spending the better part of a day working through the first few pages. "Now, won't say I don't fancy her, I do, s'just I don' know what to say. Calli said somethin' 'bout rituals, an' such, which is rum odd to me. But here's a wind for your sail: you wan' her a friend? Send 'er to me, I'll steer 'er right."
Aaron puzzles over this for awhile, then says, "Alright. She needs a grooming partner, and frankly I'm not comfortable filling that role. Hopefully she'll be calmed down enough in an hour or so."
The Vartan raises a brow. "Didn't we jus' talk about that, Lightfood, or am I confusing port for starboard?"
"Grooming," Aaron says. "It means brushing each other's hair or ears."
"Brushin' hair … " Tasha stares at Aaron, searching for some signs of innuendo, " … an' ears … Jus' that, is it?" She seems to assume it is judging by the look on his face. "Right-o then, makin' sure."
"Yes, that's all it means," Aaron says, just to make it clear. "It's something Amazonian's do to relax."
"Fancy that," Tasha remarks, sounding both surprised and a little disappointed. "Right-o, right-o. Grooming it is, then. Tell me, Lightfoot, you say you're 'er "guardian?" How'd that 'appen?"
"Her mother made me agree to do it," Aaron says, sighing. "Now she was fearsome. But I'm only half-Amazonian, and didn't really get raised there, so their customs are a bit odd to me as well. And I don't find having a pretty young woman brushing my ears to be exactly… relaxing."
"Oi, you an' me both. Did I mention Calli's a piece of work? Seen the shinework on that slab o' bronze?" Tasha's wings shiver, and she can't help but lick a canine before forcing a blank expression. She snorts, then continues on, saying, "Met 'er mother? Half Amazonian? Didn't think Amazonians traveled, an' men … men are like slaves, right? Or, what's-it. Oi, a book to me, it is."
"It's complicated, and my own mother was… a rare case," Aaron says. "And you should see her armor, I've got it mounted in my house. It'd still be big even on someone like you."
"More I 'ere about it, more I think Amazonia's real, an' more it sounds like a sailor's story," the Vartan remarks, ears perking at the apparent paradox. She perks up even more, though, when she considers such an armor's shine. "As big as me, is it? Bet it'd shine like the heavens! I'd like to see that, I would!"
Thinking better of it, Aaron says, "Well, it's not that shiny… uh… it's old. Doesn't polish up well, really."
Tasha looks instantly disappointed, ears resuming their unexcited position. "Oh, well then, suppose it is, at that. Must've been somethin' in its time. Oi!" Her ears perk again, tail wagging. "Might see some o' that if Calli heads back to Amazonia!"
"She'll be coming back to Rephidim if she can recover her lost shipment," Aaron says. Then, with a smirk, he suggests, "But you can always join up with a caravan out of Tizar if you want to see Amazonians close-up."
"Tizzer? Never 'eard of any Tizzer. Ain't much for lo-co-motion tha' isn't in the sky. Somethin' a little wrong with those land lubbers transports, y'ask me. Sky's the only honest way." The 'irony' of Tasha judging anything honest appears to be totally lost on her, as she continues right on without so much as a blink. "Still, Amazonia. Like to say I'd been there, have a right ol' adventure."
"Err… yeah, adventure," Aaron says, a bit noncommittally. "Anyway, I'll let Calli know you'll be coming by later. Anything we should know about how the ship runs? Gotta admit, I've been on a lot of airships, but never one drawn by pteras."
"It's a dyin' art, it is. Too many blokes think a hunk of explodin' metal or a high-an'-mighty mage s'better, an' they're full o' rot." Tasha spits, sending the projectile hurling off the ship to land somewhere far, far below. "S'far as 'ow the ship runs, you leave that to the sailors. Keep out o' the way, walk with the sway, don' talk to the cap'n before 'es 'ad 'is breakfast, an' hide yourself if we're attack 'less you want an' fight, 'course."
It is mid-afternoon by the time Tasha's shift with the pteras is over. The work is often harder than it looks, especially if the pteras are tired, spooked or just moody, but the Vartan gets through without becoming too sweaty or stinky at least, not enough to really stand out among the rest of the crew. While there's still time before dinner, she goes to visit Calligenia's cabin. The doe herself answers the knock, looking a bit tired. "Oh, Tasha. Xavier said you'd come by… "
Tasha's since recoiled her whip and has done her best to look presentable, which, to her, just means retying her ponytail and brushing her clothes out quickly. "Ahoy there Calli, Wavie- Xavier said I ought an' 'elp you out with some of this groomin' you Amazonians do," says the Vartan, trying to sound up beat and as friendly as a rough and tumble sort as herself can manage.
Calli's bunny nose twitches madly as she looks over Tasha. "Mmm, yes, I can see why he would," she comments, and opens the door full so the Vartan can enter. Not used for carrying passengers much, the cabin isn't very big. There's enough room for a double-decker bunk, a small airship-sink and a chest to store things in, which also doubles as a seat. A black paw draping over the side of the top bunk indicates the presence of Aaron, although he may be asleep.
Tasha looks herself over when Calli examines her, wondering if, perhaps, she has a stain here or there or else if her feathers need a preening. Once the doe opens the door, though, Tasha steps right in and looks around. "Ain't much, is it? Can't say i'm not sorry 'bout that, but s'what we 'ave best room that's not the cap'n's," she remarks, sounding a little uncertain about this whole affair.
"It's nice and cozy," Calli says, and then turns and removes an expensive looking enameled box from the chest. She sits atop the chest afterwards, with the box in her lap, and says, "It would be best if you kneeled down in front of me, I think."
At Calli's final remark Tasha runs a hand back through her hair, bites her lip, then shrugs and kneels down. Her hoofed feet clop along the floor, then the wall, as she settles. "Oi, nice box," the woman remarks, trying to sound genuinely interested and not distracted or uncertain.
Calligenia opens the top of the box, revealing a set of bronze combs with enamel inlays, several jars and bottles of unknown contents, bronze scissors and a razor, and a high quality mirror built into the lid. "Thank you, it was a gift from my mother," the doe says. She gets up, and sets the box on the chest so that Tasha can see herself in the mirror. She picks out the combs, then moves around behind the Vartan and unties the thong binding Tasha's ponytail.
Shiny things hold a special fascination for Vartans, and Tasha is no exception. Even as a more obscure hybrid offshoot she suffers from the same strength of "shinylust" as the purest blooded Vartan. Therefore, it only stands to figure a shiny object would distract her. And an object of exceptional shininess would leave Tasha dazed and confused such as the mirror, combs, and bottles of the box. Tasha's jaw slackens a bit, leaving her agape, eyes fixed on the mirror and expression thrilled. "Oh," she breathes.
Calli's head appears over Tasha's shoulder in the mirror, and the doe sniffs curiously at the Vartan's wing before bringing the combs to bear. As she combs out Tasha's long blond hair, she asks, "Do you get the chance to bathe very often?"
"Oi, what?" Calli's face in the mirror grants Tasha freedom from the spell of the mirror, and Tasha shifts her eyes to peer back at Calli through the reflective surface. "Bathe? Few days between, at least. 'Pends where we can lan', water storage, an' what not, it does. Sometimes it rains, an' a skinny flight'll do it," she answers.
The doe makes a sort of muttering sound, and lifts a thick strand of Tasha's hair to her nose for a good sniff, and then she actually chews on it for a moment. "Hand me the blue bottle," she says after spitting the hair out of her mouth.
Tasha seems bemused by Calli's hair chewing, blinking at the sight of it. After a bit of staring Tasha merely shrugs, dismissing the action as yet another Amazonian oddity, and reaches for the blue bottle. Once she has it she looks at it curiously before handing it over her shoulder. "Never had someone comb my 'air, 'cept mom. Not too many other women 'round the docks, there aren't. S'competition," Tasha explains.
"Competition for what?" Calli asks, as she opens the bottle and sprinkles drops of clear liquid onto Tasha's hair. After stoppering the bottle again, she starts to work the liquid into the Vartan's hair it appears to be some sort of lather-free shampoo.
Shampoo, too, is mostly foreign to Tasha. Oh, she's put stuff in her hair to make it easier to comb or clean, but it rarely lathers usually it's just glorified bar soap, if that. As she puzzles over true shampoo, she answers, "Men, ships, an', well, not women, but jus' 'bout everythin' else at least sometimes, it is. Met a few others that're right good sorts, but then they're off an' gone, or I am."
"Do you have an arena where you fight?" the doe asks, as she fluffs up Tasha's hair to help it dry. Whatever the stuff was, it seems to have made the Vartan's hair fluffier and shinier. The blonde looks almost golden in the light from the room's porthole.
If her jaw dropped before, it's almost on the floor now. If there's one thing that's better than a shiny object, it's being shiny. Tasha seems to have missed the question, so enraptured by her own hair as she is.
"How do you compete?" Calli asks, altering the question somewhat. She passes the bottle over Tasha's shoulder, and waits for her to take it.
It takes a moment, but Tasha seems to tune back in to Calli's words. She still seems to be distracted, however, as she totally misses the bottle. "Oi, what? A-whatsa? Compete," she asks, distractedly.
The doe tries wiggling the bottle to catch Tasha's attention.
Tasha suddenly jerks when she catches the movement in the corner of her eye. "Wha-oi-wha … Oh!" She takes the bottle and puts it away, snapping out of her reverie. "Arena, you say?"
"Where you fight," Calli notes, then points past Tasha's shoulder to a white jar in the box. "That next, please."
The Vartan picks up the white jar and hands it off before answering. "Where I fight? You mean the tavern? S'where I usually fight, when I want an' impress someone or crack a head, it is. My mother owns it now, but s'where I fought before. Sometimes I'll jus' fight where the fight is."
"It seems an awkward place to do battle," the Lapi notes, and opens the jar, which has a second top perforated with little holes. She shakes some powder out it onto the sides of Tasha's neck, and then starts working it into the fur with her small claws. "The spectators could get hurt."
Tasha suddenly squirms, not expecting the sudden massage. "Right-o, they can. Sometimes then join in, an' it's every man for 'imself. Once- oi, shiver me timbers! You mean, a fightin' place." As she talks Tasha settles some, though she watches the massage with a curious expression. "I've 'eard 'bout places like that. Arenas, that's the word I've heard, sometimes "pits," "rings," and a few other ones. Fight for money, you do an' some places 'ave people that fight to stay alive. Those are for, eh, fun, bu' I never much went for putting some poor sod in a cage an' seeein' if he came out or not."
"You don't fight the other women to the death then when you compete?" Calli asks, as she fluffs up and airs out the fur on Tasha's neck and throat. The powder doesn't make the fur look any cleaner, but it does make it smell cleaner.
Still looking at the grooming and, indeed, looking quite amazed by it all, Tasha answers. "Death? Hrr, sometimes it's 'bout death. No' usually though, no' usually. An', no' if I can 'elp it. S'one thing to plant an arrow in someone's chest when they want an' rob your ship, s'another to kill 'em in a good ol' fashion brawl. I'm no 'ssassin, to be killin' people for shekels an' fun. An' it's not always women s'usually men that wan' an' fight, or animals, those what-it slave-sorts." This time it's Tasha's nose that twitches as she sniffs the air.
Calli makes that Lapi-muttering sound again, and looks into one of Tasha's ears. "Hmm, can you lie on your side?" she asks the Vartan.
Tasha looks over her shoulder, then simply nods and lies down on her side with her head propped on a hand. "Do Amazonians not 'ave bars to fight in, maybe fight for shekels an' such?"
"We don't fight for fun, or for goods," Calli says, as she comes around and puts the jar away, only to fish out a tool Tasha hadn't noticed before probably because it isn't shiny. It's just a thin wooden stick with a sort of tiny spoon at the end. "We are trained to kill in combat. To fight and not strike to kill is… very difficult."
Kneeling down in front of Tasha, Calli blocks her view of the mirror. The doe grabs the tip of the Vartan's ear in one hand, pulling it taught, and uses the other to clean out the inner folds with the wooden tool.
"Oi, sounds harsh, that. When I punch a man, 'e usually falls down or else 'es still up an' madder, but I don' kill 'im. Sometimes when I kick 'em in the booty, then 'e acts like 'es dyin', but men are sensitive 'round those parts. Proud of 'em, I guess. Ha." The Vartan snorts, then glances up sharply when her ear is grabbed. "Oi! What's this then? Ain't nothin' in there worth havin'."
"I am cleaning your ears," the Lapi explains. "Do not wiggle."
Tasha forces herself to stop straining to look, simply giving in and letting the doe mine her ears. "Ain't exactly what I had in mind," she mumbles.
After scooping out a disturbing amount of gunk, Calli says, "Turn over onto your other side now please."
Tasha obediently rolls over, head propped again, looking a little irritated. Her tail idly wags, though, so she can't be too upset. "Isn't this 'sposed to be ralaxin'? I mean, the powder was relaxin', but this is like a Gooshurm kiss," the Vartan complains.
"I find it very relaxing to do," Calligenia says. From this angle, Tasha can also see the bunks, and Aaron is on the top one, head propped up as he rests on his elbows, grinning down at her. "Wow, you clean up pretty well, Tasha. I give a mean sponge-bath if you're interested," he offers.
Tasha's brows shoot up when she catches sight of Aaron and he makes a comment. Now she seems to notice him easily. "Oi, you!" Unfortunately for Tasha, it's very hard to be intimidating when you're prettied up, on your side, and beset by a much smaller doe that's picking out your ears. "Why, I'd give you a sponge bath you, rrr," apparently, being in an embarrassingly compromising position doesn't help her lines any, either, so she just resorts to taking her higher wing and slapping the man with it instead.