A quick visit to the Temple of Ashtoreth and a mention of Celosia's name gets Tasha in to speak to the priestess-in-training. Celosia then supplies Tasha with a full bottle of Milk of Ashtoreth, and simple instructions: take six times a day for two days to bring on ovulation, and the menstruation that comes afterwards. "Just don't have any sex," she notes. "And try not to get angry, or you could lose control and become violent." Apparently, the brew also amplifies aggression and any other mood swings a woman might normally go through during her cycle.
By now it's dark enough to easily cover Tasha's flight back to the Hydron estates, and to the villa that Calligenia's family shares. It probably isn't a shock for her to find Layth and Aaron waiting in the garden outside the bedroom for her.
Tasha touches down with a clatter of hooves, her wings folding behind her. Having spied Aaron and Layth from a distance, she was sure to hide her supply of Milk, lest it give anyone ideas. "Oi, waited up for me then? Tha' wasn' necessary," she says by way of greeting.
"What, two men can't sit outside and stargaze?" Aaron asks.
"Actually, no. I'm taking a break from them," Layth notes and points over his shoulder towards the sleeping room. "May the Gods forgive me, but they can be trying, even for me. Aaron didn't want to be left alone with them, either."
The Vartan laughs, covering her mouth to muffle it a bit. "Poor Aaron, it's no wonder you left 'ere." She shakes her head and walks forward, until she stands over the smaller Lapi. Leaning forward so her head is even with his, she says, "I appreciate you askin' me if I was alrigh' the other day."
"It's a conspiracy," Aaron mutters, but smiles up to Tasha. "So, how'd your visit go?" he asks.
"I 'ave been accepted by the High Priestess of Abaddon, though no' as an acolyte. She will divine my fortunes, to see where I mus' go to follow Abaddon's will," Tasha tells Aaron. She then reaches over, cups his head on either side, then kisses the smaller Lapi's forehead. "You're a good friend, you are."
Layth arches an eyebrow at Tasha's rather un-Tasha-like behavior. He doesn't comment on it, though, and resumes looking at the sky.
"Err… wait, what?" Aaron asks, looking surprised. "They're going to send you off someplace?"
Tasha turns and walks over to Layth and, standing on the tips of her hooves, tries to grab his head in the same way. "An' you. I though' abou' wha' you said, an' it was very nice o' you. I'd kiss you too, bu', I'm no' supposed to be doin' anythin' of that sort for a while," she tells him. Glancing back over her shoulder at Aaron, Tasha answers, "I'm no' sure. Only Abaddon can say, aye? 'Course, she said she'd train me, so I'm probably no' likely to leave soon."
Layth just gives Tasha a really strange look. "Ah, a thousand pardons, but what did I say?" he asks, looking a bit confused. "And forgive me for asking, but … did they give you some sacramental wine? You are acting rather, ah, giddy."
Aaron's face screws up in perplexity. "They didn't… give you training already, did they?" he asks. "And why can't you kiss Layth after you just kissed me?"
"You two are so suspicious, can' you be 'appy for me?" Tasha tosses her hands in the air, and walks over before dropping in to a seat. "No, no trainin' yet. Well tha's no' right; the High Priestess tol' me a lot that made sense. Tha's trainin', isn't it?" The woman raises her brows. "As for not kissin' Layth, I'm no' supposed to be foolin' aroun', an' I 'ave a load of Milk to drink for the divination."
"Oh, so with Layth it's fooling around?" Aaron asks, smirking, although the comment is aimed more at the other buck then at Tasha.
"Ah. Well, that is easy. I won't touch you. As you wish," Layth agrees. "As for suspicious. Well, consider our perspectives. Earlier you announce your intentions and we ask, you get angry and leave in a bit of a huff. You return acting … like you've taken something to calm your nerves. A thousand pardons, but it does seem a bit peculiar. We're not upset that you're happy, we're curious as to why. Just because someone asks a question, it doesn't mean they're unhappy with you or mocking you." He then glances over towards Aaron and says with a shrug, "You're wealthy and important, sir. I'm poor and nothing. Rather like the difference between eccentric and just 'weird' Master Lightfoot. Or it means I'm a fool. Which is, of course, entirely possible as well."
"Nah, just means I'm old and 'safe'," Aaron says.
"Or she dare not tread on Queen Tyche's toy," Layth suggests to Aaron and grins slightly.
Aaron snaps his teeth closed on that one…
"Bah, you're no' a fool Layth. You're polite an' … nice. Aye." Tasha smiles a bit, then shifts herself so she can address both men at once without turning her head. After watching the two bucks tease each other, she asks, "Do you really wan' to know why I'm 'appy?"
"Of course," Layth answers simply.
"Sure," Aaron says. "Maybe I can bottle it and sell it to other Vartans. They always seem grouchy."
"Oi, you asked for it. I'm no poet, an' I ain't very learned, bu' I'll try an' explain. Ye see, I guess I jus' realized somethin'. 'Ere in Amazonia, I'm no' much, am I? No' people smaller than me to push aroun', can' flirt like I can elsewhere, don' really 'ave any skills 'sides airships. I was all full of meself, an' for what? It's no' like anyway really respected me for anythin'. No' really. S'why Cap'n Eyeshine won' let me in command." Tasha, usually uncomfortable talking about her feelings, glances off at the stars and stares at them as she continues. "I'm jus' a big phony, aye. All those men an' no' much of it. Pushin' aroun' small people ain't but foolish. I though', aye, I wanted to be somethin' real. Real respect, like Eyeshine then I 'ad to go to the Temple, an' it all made sense." She smiles faintly, and asks, "You wan' to 'ear more?"
Layth lowers his head slightly in indication to continue.
"Oh," Aaron says, then nods.
"Oi, puttin' me on the spot you two." The Vartan laughs again, quietly. "Well, I was gettin' ready for goin' to the Temple an' I started to think. I thought, "I'm goin' before a god, as a fake, an' 'es goin' to kill me." I thought abou' what I thought Abaddon was, an' abou' Calli, an' Eyeshine, an' everyone 'o has real strength in 'em. I thought abou' tha', then I was on me way." Tasha lifts her hand and makes a flapping gesture that she slowly lowers. "I decided I admired Abaddon. I wanted to be like tha', strong an' sure. So I asked, in me head a prayer, aye. I asked, "If you give me this chance, I won' let you down." An' He did. I said my piece, I asked o' the priestess to be an acolyte, an' it was all 'yes.' I'm goin' to live up to me promise. No more phony Tasha."
"I don' feel li' I 'ave to be big an' mean an' flirty anymore. I don' wan' to be. I don't need it, no' more," Tasha adds before looking at the others.
"Most people your age go through exactly the same epiphany, Tasha," Aaron comments. "Or else they wind up living in Darkside… "
"Mmm," Layth says, then nods to Aaron. "I had the advantage, or disadvantage, depending on your perspective, of learning it earlier than most. The trials of life that the Gods had laid before me helped me learn what being 'strong' really meant."
"I see it more as just growing up," Aaron says. "The important things of youth seem just… well… youthful follies through the lens of maturity. Which is to say, Tasha, that just about everyone your age is concerned with the same things you are, and has the same insecurities. Most grow out of them, and you're obviously starting to now."
"Well I grew up in Darkside an' Underside," Tasha admits. She tilts her head, thinking, then says, "I goin' to dedicate my life to Abaddon's direction. I don' know where it'll take me, bu' the High Priestess said it'll be full o' conflict. Sort o' wha' I expected, bu' you ought an' know. Could be dangerous. I may 'ave to leave, may no'."
"Well, I don't know about you going off alone into danger," Aaron notes. "You're still just a kid… err… young adult."
Tasha glares at Aaron, then reaches over and tries to tug one of his ears. "I'm no' a kid! An' as I said, the High Priestess has said I will be taught 'ere, so I don' think I'll be leavin' soon. An', I'm no' to be a acolyte, or a shrine-maiden, so I'm no' to be a warrior or a priest."
"Forgive me, but I would be concerned you may … take on more than you can handle in an attempt to achieve the respect you seek too quickly," Layth comments after hearing Aaron's concern.
"Abaddon teaches wisdom, tha' the best weapon is your 'ead," Tasha counters, smiling toothily. "I'm no' takin' more than' is given me, or tha' I am told to do by His will."
"But can you say that for certainty? Just now you pulled Aaron's ear in anger. You are still easily swayed by your emotions," Layth points out. "That is … dangerous. A fire that burns brightly also burns quickly and then is gone. And please, do not take this as an assault on what you want to do, merely something to think on."
"Are they going to give you any sort of monastic training, or just teach you philosophy?" Aaron asks.
"Well, I'll try an' learn. If you're all so calm, than why don' you teach me?" Tasha wags her tail a bit. "I also wan' to see 'ow you all fight; wha' the High Priestess said 'ad me thinkin'." Tasha grins at Aaron, then tries to ruffle his hair. "Oi, I pulled his ear 'cause I like 'im and 'es teasin' me. As for teachin': leadership, tactics, and logistics. Philosophy, 'course, bu' I'm no' sure abou' the other one. I start my trainin' tomorrow."
Layth shifts a bit and leans forward. "Did I hear you correctly, you wish to learn how I fight? Before I answer that, I must know why," the buck says and watches Tasha with unusual intensity.
"Self confidence," Aaron says to Layth, and then waves a hand around at the villa. "All the women here know how to defend themselves. Even if their idea of a good defense is a very bold offense."
"My idea of a good defense is to not fight in the first place," Layth notes to Aaron. "Combat should always be a last resort."
"'Onestly? I wan' to see the difference. The High Priestess told me warriors are tools, tha' fightin' isn' always needed, an' tha' the best weapon is your mind. So I 'ad it in me 'ead to see 'ow everyone is different. I know Aaron uses a tube, an' you fight with your 'ands. Calli uses swords, an' I 'ave me whip. I though': 'ows that all work? Who's best, an' why?" Tasha then nods to Aaron. "Aye, confidence too. I wan' a Warrior's spirit, bu' I don' wan' to be a Warrior. A Warrior is a tool, it's a leader tha' does i' all."
"Learning each of our styles is not something you could accomplish in a day, a month, or even likely a year," Layth says. "Not if you wish to obtain proficiency. Are you willing to dedicate to that?"
"If you really want to learn, I can get you a membership at my gym back on Rephidim," Aaron says. "Same instructor I had… she's always on the look-out for students."
"I don' wan' to learn it all, bu' the differences an' … Oi, it seemed like a good idea. Alrigh', I'm willin' to learn, but no' wantin' to be a Warrior. I wan't to know to … aye, know the tools, an' for confidence li' Aaron said," the Vartan answers. She nods to Aaron. "I am willin' to learn so long as it doesn't interfere wit' my other duties. Abaddon is more importan'."
Layth sits quietly for a bit. "All right. But understand I won't pull any punches and I'll expect you not to, either. If you want to be effective, you can't get into the habit of pulling blows," he finally says. "A thousand apologies, but … expect to be hurt."
"If you're learning leadership with a military theme to it then yes, you should learn to fight," Aaron says. "I imagine an airship captain is at least expected to be able to do any job that one of the crew does. Unless they're a poodle."
Tasha laughs at the poodle comment, but sobers at Layth's warning. "Alrigh'. Glad you all wan' to 'elp me I appreciate tha' an' I'm no' unused to bleedin' for work. I'm thinkin' this'll 'urt more, though." She sits up a bit straighter.
"My training was tailored specifically to the strengths of a Lapi," Aaron comments. "You'll need someone more experienced than me, unless you just want to learn about poisons?"
"Well, it's not like I won't be hurting as well. I just want to be sure you're learning useful things, not play-fighting," Layth says with a nod. "To do that, it has to be treated as real."
"I never though' o' poisons before. Always though' tha' a bi' un'er'anded. Now tha' I think on i', i's jus' another tool, isn' it?" Nodding, Tasha pats Aaron's hand. "I will then. I'll learn everythin' I can abou' anythin' if it'll 'elp me fulfill me promise." She then nods to Layth, as well. "I'll do wha' I 'ave to do."
"Well, maybe not poisons per se… we'll see," Aaron says.
"Incidentally," Layth adds after a thought, "Knowing how to massage someone actually helps. Places that generate pleasure also generate pain and can debilitate. Not just the males' delicate areas can drop someone with the right hit. So … you're going to get to practice massage … on Master Lightfoot."
"What? Interrogation massage?" Aaron balks.
Tasha's ears quirk, one up, one down. She stares at Layth and a moment, and then shrugs. "I'll do wha' I mus'. Aaron," she glances at the Lapi, "it's your lucky day."
"No, just standard massage. It'll teach her more about body and muscle anatomy as well as how to manipulate it," Layth notes.
"But… I've got lots of scars and torn muscles… " Aaron says, a bit quietly. "I'm practically crunchy."
"Well, then you will benefit all the more from it," Layth points out.
"Crunchy?" Tasha's ears reverse their positions.
"That's how my therapist described it," the Lapi explains.
"Well, would you prefer her to practice on your cousin?" Layth asks.
"'Ow abou' one of Calli's sisters? Or Calli," Tasha offers.
"I don't think you'd allow that, Layth," Aaron relents. "So, sure, I'll be the test dummy."
"If it bothers you too much, we can get you some tears, Master Lightfoot," Layth offers.
Aaron says, "I'm sure I'll produce enough of my own… oh, the drink. Better not… "
"You're awfully shy, Aaron," Tasha teases.
"There are worse fates, Master Lightfoot," Layth quips.
"I'm a Lapi, I'm supposed to be shy," Aaron argues.
"But, I'm not shy," Layth points out.
"Calli isn't shy. Layth isn't shy. Most o' Amazonia isn't shy," Tasha adds.
"Well, normal Lapis are shy," Aaron notes.
"Are you saying I'm not normal?" Layth asks.
"Are you sayin' you are normal?" Tasha looks skeptical.
"You're Amazonian," Aaron notes. "There are more non-Amazonian Lapi… "
"I believe I've just been insulted," Layth muses and rubs his chin.
"No, just told that you're in the minority," Aaron says, grinning.
Tasha shakes her head. "Do you wan' a massage or three or no', Aaron," she asks, leaning towards him.
"Sure, why not," Aaron says, shrugging. "As a favor to you, I'll let you massage me, Tasha." He's still grinning though.
"Ah, the suffering I must endure," Layth laments and looks skyward. "Will the Gods never end these torments?"
"Don' talk abou' the Gods in vain," Tasha admonishes, lightly.
Layth then blinks and grins. He looks to Aaron and says, "And, there is a bright side. You will have more flexibility and endurance for when the Queen calls on you. Why, you may be able to go for days… "
Aaron's ears droop… "Now you're just being mean. Besides, I'm sure Calli doesn't need any more convenient distractions."
"Oi, the Queen! Weren' we s'posed to talk wit' 'er? I was goin' to ask abou' a ship, an' trade, an' … Oi. It's no importan' now, it's not. I do wan' a ship, bu' later, an' if it'll 'elp me follow me path," Tasha considers aloud.
Layth pats Aaron's shoulder. "Master Lightfoot, I consider you the brother I never had. So, it is my duty to tease you. Please forgive me," he says, then grins and winks.
"Oh, oi, one more thing:" Tasha leans forward, then gestures Layth and Aaron forward. "'Ave to watch the ears wit' this one."
"Whisper very quietly then," Aaron says.
"Whisper in standard. Most here do not know it," Layth points out.
"TheHighPriestessknowsI'mno'aLapi," Tasha whispers quickly, in Standard. Then, leaning back, she adds, "An' it's okay. I jus' though' you mi' wonder."
"The priests of Abaddon are how I send messages back and forth from Olympia," Aaron notes. "They know a lot about the outside world."
"Ah. It doesn't entirely surprise me," Layth notes with a shrug.
"Oh, tha's righ'. I 'eard the Temple talks to all Temples of Abaddon, an' I may visit them some day. They'll 'elp me, they will, an' I wan' to 'elp them. Stands to figure, I guess, bu' I though' you may no' know," Tasha explains.
"Well, now that that's settled… err, wait, did you mention Milk?" Aaron asks. "Why did they give you that?"
"Oi, you wan' me to explain tha'?" Tasha twists her muzzle, eyes Aaron like he's about to get his ears tugged, then nods. "Alrigh'. I need a cup o' blood for a ritual."
"I'm sure we could borrow one of Calli's knives and just cut you. A cup is not life threatening," Layth suggests.
Tasha rolls her eyes, then adds as an explanation, "Woman's blood."
"Okay, that's good to know," Aaron says quickly.
"Blood coming from you would by default be the blood of a woman," Layth points out, then shrugs. "But, as you like."
Tasha just eyes Layth, then glances at Aaron in a he's-kind-of-slow sort of way, before explaining, "Menstrual blood."
"Just so long as we don't have to worry about you attacking us at night," Aaron says.
"Perhaps she should get her own room?" Layth suggests.
Aaron rubs his chin, and says, "Err, actually… you and I should get a separate room, Layth. Does have a way of… syncing up."
"I could stay at the Temple, maybe. Or I could ask … " Tasha blinks at the idea of 'syncing up.' "Oi! Never though' o' tha', but Aaron's righ'. Might wan' an' mind yourselves."
"Ah. Wise. I forgot about that. I do not relish the idea of all of Calli's sisters and Aisha … like that," Layth says with a nod.
"Though, not that any have expressed that sort of interest anyway. But, always better to be safe," Layth adds.
"I know where we can stay, Layth," Aaron says. "The Gladiator quarters."
Layth nods. "All right. Shall we go over there tomorrow, then?" he asks.
"Better warn me if Zig'll be aroun', if you're tha' way," Tasha requests, quietly.
"Still have a desire for him, then?" Layth asks Tasha.
Tasha nods slightly. "I think 'e's attractive, bu' I don' wan' to do anythin' wit' him now. I'm no' worried abou' now. I'm worried abou 'avin' a load o' Milk."
"Then do not go near the Gladiator quarters at all. Stay with the women," Layth suggests.
"Alrigh'. I'll pro'ly keep to 'ere an' the Temple until it's over," Tasha agrees.
"Hm, and no fighting training until it's over as well," Layth notes. "Too much emotion."
"When does the anatomy training start then?" Aaron asks.
"I'm no' massagin' you while I'm hyped up on Milk, Aaron," Tasha sighs, then she tries to bat his ear.
"Perhaps Tasha should just sit in a tub of cold water for the duration," Layth suggests.
Tasha shakes her head. "I'll jus' go pray, an' study."
"As you like," Layth says and nods.
Layth stands and bows. "Now, please forgive me. I should go check on Aisha. I cannot have her picking up bad habits from the Circerae family," he says.
"Alrigh' Layth. Thanks for bein' a friend," Tasha says. She stands up and, after looking at him for a moment, sits back down. She grins, and waves. "Take care, aye?"
"I shall endeavor to do so as much as the fates allow," Layth says with a bow. The buck then turns and quietly heads back inside.