On the way...

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On the way...

Post  Naitachel on Thu Dec 22, 2011 4:00 am

Dusk fell over the camp as the servants made their last touches to whatever accommodations they could. There was a falling-apart barn as well, barely able to stay standing, and an abandoned chicken coop, but those didn't seem decent shelter. A campfire was the center of their encampment, and many of the now-exhausted servants were either bathing at the nearby stream or turning in for the night, trusting their overlords to watch over all and keep them safe until dawn.

Radu exited the coach, stretching slowly. He'd never enjoyed travel, for all they'd done it so extensively, yet he chose not to complain. Instead, he looked over his charges, making certain all were well.

Soraya stretched languidly again, enjoying the extra space the outdoors afforded her. It was true she was enjoying certain aspects of travel, but being cooped up was rather difficult for her. She had chosen exploration of the farmhouse as an excuse to actually walk a ways, and she was now staring at the chicken coop curiously.

Naitachel glided down to a landing on the old barn's rooftop, touching feet delicately, cautiously to the tumbling shingles. Accidentally he set a few sliding down, and seemed to dance up there a moment until he found solid footing, then folded his wings. Up here was best, actually, as he could land clear of the trees, but now that he had set down, he could hop down to the ground. And so he did, landing in a crouch on the ground by the barn. "Heavens... what a long day."

Matty ran among the trees, chased by a laughing Min. "Bring back my shoes, you imp," he called after his giggling brother.

Vlad moved silently behind Soraya. Bending to peer at the chicken coop with her, he asked, "Hoping for a chicken?"

Unaware that she had company, Soraya jumped at Vlad's appearance. "How do you do that?" she asked him with a grimace, though her attention returned to the chicken coop in question. "I was just wondering, I suppose. About who used to live here. What drove them to leave. Where they went." A predicament not so dissimilar to their own.

"Do what?" Vlad asked innocently before shrugging. "We all move on eventually."

Soraya couldn't help but smirk. "Look that innocent, for once, when you are being mischievous," she laughed. "And sneak up on people without making a sound." Her gaze tore away from the coop and she turned her back to it, choosing to gaze at Vlad instead. The skeletons of this place were starting to make her uncomfortable. "I suppose we do, in one form or another," she said a bit sadly.

Vlad laughed. "It is our nature to move silently. There is no effort in it. To move with sound requires effort now, I fear." He drew Soraya to him. "Do you regret accompanying us?"

"Regret?" Soraya asked, startled that the question should cross his mind. "No. I have no home to speak of, save the people who make one for me." The Princes, of course, being those most important to her in that, though she didn't say so aloud. "I suppose I merely wonder whether we are moving toward my answers or away from them." She settled against Vlad's now-familiar shape easily enough as she spoke. Here, at least, they were a bit removed from the rest of the group.

Vlad held her close, nodding. "You will have a home, Soraya. And answers if you desire them. We shall find them for you." He knew this promise could prove difficult to keep, but every fiber of his being demanded she have all she desired, no matter what it took.

Spying Radu and the others, Naitachel smiled and bounded over to give his vampire friend a strong hug, laughing. "Good to see you all out and about! I admit I feared you might need a shoe-horn to emerge after such a long day in cramped confines!"

Radu returned the hug easily, smiling softly as he watched the antics of the others. "It does make for tightened muscles to be so still so long," he admitted quietly.

For all he was a bit tired, Naitachel still had the buoyant energy of a child, and he smiled warmly at Radu. "Not a great many other options, I fear, but the weather holds and the night is pleasant, so best to enjoy this freedom?"

Only a vampire could have heard the faint *pop* at the other end of the barn. The following "Mrrowwwrrr?", however, could be heard throughout the camp.

Radu nodded. He'd come to the same conclusion. He watched as Xandr and the twins moved to escort Mircea out, making certain he'd not stray too far. He nearly jumped, though, at the faint *pop* when it came to him, almost laughing when the sound of the cat calling followed. "Welcome, Master Sihlus," he called out quietly.

Naitachel glanced over where he heard a familiar cat... and chuckled. "All is clear, Master Sihlus. Nothing for miles, far as I could see from above."

The momentary quiet Soraya had found with Vlad quickly dissipated with the sudden nearby meow. "Sihlus," she half-laughed half-sighed as she pulled away from Vlad for propriety's sake. "Perhaps we should join the others."

A large grey cat emerged from the shadows and stropped himself on Naitachel's tail before disappearing in a silvery shimmer. He emerged in human form, wearing a grin. "Excuse the liberty, Naitachel. I just needed a little jolt of feel-good."

The Seraph reached out to rest a hand on Sihlus’ shoulder, nodding with an understanding and gentle grin. "I do not mind, Master Sihlus. Anytime you need such." With a reassuring squeeze of his hand, he let go. "Besides, cats always have such liberties, so why not you?"

Shayori bounced down from the back of her steed, rubbing her chafing posterior. "Any idea how much farther we'll ride?" she asked no-one in particular.

"I think I can answer that for you," Sihlus said. "The rest of us are camped in a little hollow about two miles down the road. We'll wait for you in the morning, and it should be only a couple of hours from there."

Min, for his part, had finally caught Matty, knocking him down and tickling him mercilessly as the younger vampire struggled to keep the elder's shoes out of his reach even then.

Silently, from a perch high in the trees, a tiny smile formed. There was mischief to be done indeed with this lot. They all seemed so serious. She suppressed the hiss, however, as she spotted certain, darker things. Perhaps those would make her best targets. Or perhaps the man-cat would.

"Uncle!" Jina called out then as Xandr took flight in a near-desperate race to head off the now-fleeing Mircea. "He's loose!"

Radu frowned. Muttering a barely audible, "Excuse me," he all but vanished in swift pursuit.

Something sinister-feeling loomed at the edge of the encampment, and slowly glided a bit closer. Terhon slid into Mircea's path like an immobile wall, frowning. Last they needed was trouble right now.

Sihlus scanned the area to see who they were chasing. Oh, Mircea. Better let them handle it.

Nait started in surprise, looking after Radu and those chasing Mircea with concern.

"What was that?" Soraya asked, now stepping away from Vlad in earnest to peer toward the camp.

***

Shayori moved to Sihlus' side, smirking. "Never a dull moment with your friends, is there?"

With those off running, it seemed the target was clear. From a nearby stream, a small puddle of water silently lifted into the air, and, hopefully unnoticed, dropped onto the man-cat's head.

He continued the scan, surprised to find Terhon there, and detecting something strange in a treetop. Spitting like a cat indeed, Sihlus focused on the entity above. "Who is that?"

Shayori laughed in spite of herself. "Hey!" she called as some of the water rebounded to wet her as well. "Not fair!"

Giggling quietly, the water sprite shifted her position amongst the trees. Tiny as she was, she had no fears of being detected. It was difficult for anyone to see her that far away without knowing what they were seeking. Quietly, another jet of water erupted, this time dousing one of the dark ones that had remained behind. She disliked them.

Focusing on the sprite's mind, Sihlus sent a surprisingly sharp thought, <Quit that!>

Sihlus's soaking and Shayori's splash made the Seraph look around, feeling the lighthearted mischief nearby and surprised to find it. <Hello?> he called, curious.

"What the..." Vlad called out, cringing as the jet of cold water hit him right in the face. "Who did that?" he demanded as he wiped the cold water from his eyes.

Soraya yelped and danced away from Vlad at the sudden splash of cold water. "What in the...?" she protested unhappily.

"Perhaps we'd better get out from under," Sihlus said.

***

Mircea ran head-long into the Mara, bouncing back, wild-eyed. "You've come back for me now?" he breathed.

Terhon arched a brow at Mircea, looking a bit puzzled. "I was not far before," he answered slowly, confused. "Do not run off. We do not need others finding us."

"I do not run from you, friend death," Mircea assured him. "It is for you I wait."

Radu approached from behind Mircea, grateful to the Mara for slowing him. "Come, brother. Let us stay with the rest, shall we? It would not do to wander too far alone in these strange lands."

Terhon grunted, making a wry face. "I am not so interested in you," he told the crazed vampire. "I have other interests..." He did not need a love-lorn vampire after him.

"You will not take me yet, then?" Mircea asked, sounding disappointed.

"It is not yet time," Radu sighed. "We've more to do, brother. The children need us yet. Come. Let us return to them."

If a Mara could blush, Terhon might have. Instead, he blinked, like someone slapped. "I will... consider the offer..." he murmured diplomatically, nodding towards Radu and the others. "Go back."

Reluctantly, Mircea rejoined the rest, unwilling to ignore the dictates of death lest he alienate him further.

<Thank you, friend Mara,> Radu offered Terhon. <It seems yours is a voice he will finally hear.>

<I... do not swing his way,>
Terhon grumbled to Radu. <He seems unable to be dissuaded, however.>

<I fear you mistake his intentions,>
Radu informed him. <It is not a tryst he is seeking, but release.>

The Mara frowned a bit further... <I do not help relieve internal... pressures...>

<No... not that sort of release,>
Radu shook his head, uncertain how to explain without encouraging that said release be given.

Terhon sighed, shaking his cowled head slowly. <I do not understand, and am not certain I wish to.>

<He's lived a very long time. And has seen such horrors. He would be done with it if we would but allow it.>
Radu turned sad eyes to the Mara. <In his right mind, he would not ask for it, but as he is now... pray, do not grant his wish. I admit I am perhaps selfish in this, but... I could not bear to be the last of my father's sons. Not yet.>

The Mara arched a brow at Radu, then turned to ghost away back among the trees at the outskirts of the camp. <I do not eat your kind. You need not fear me taking his life without him giving me sound reason to strike.>

<I hold no fear of you. I am aware we are not to your taste and thank you for your understanding. I will see to it such reason is not given,>
Radu sighed, moving back toward the rest.

<Then we understand each other well... Though if he decides I am a chew-rag like a dog again, I wish to request you act swiftly to stop him at that time, as well. It is an odd feeling, being gnawed on like a bone...> Terhon muttered to Radu, thoughtful.

Radu smiled softly. <Agreed,> he assured Terhon. <I believe I can see where such could be somewhat disconcerting.>

***

In answer, Mikki splashed Sihlus again, giggling as she did so.

Shayori couldn't help but laugh harder, even as the icy water hit her as well. "Gah..." She cringed, still laughing. "That's COLD."

A silvery shimmer, and a nighthawk flew, making for the top of the tree, intent on giving this jokester a taste of her own medicine.

She'd heard his warning clearly enough, but she wasn't ready to be done with her fun yet, either. Besides, it was best when they protested. Mikki squealed happily and ducked further into the foliage, diving for the underbrush. This was fun.

The Seraph couldn't help a bit of a smile as he felt the sprite's mischief. "I believe our little visitor intends to refresh us? It is a game to her. Mind her not, please, except for the fun she intends."

Shayori opened a pocket on her cloak. "Hide," she called out to the mischief maker merrily. "Quickly..."

Homing in on her mind, Sihlus swooped into the upper branches, lighting on a branch just above the sprite. <Now shall we play?>

The sprite paused at the invitation to hide. Was this a trick? She generally didn't trust humans, particularly not adult humans, but this group had... a seraph? As the hawk alit above her, Mikki realized it was her only chance, and, sticking her tongue out at Sihlus, dove for the safety of the offered coat-pocket.

Vlad left off grumbling, shaking his head. "A sprite? However did we attract one of those?" he asked, having always believed such creatures avoided his own kind.

Soraya couldn't help but laugh at Vlad's sodden appearance herself, glad she had avoided the majority of the dousing. "Lively little thing, isn't she?" she stated, noting Naitachel's use of the feminine pronoun.

Shayori closed the pocket quickly, turning it away from the others. "Don't be mad," she told the rest. "She didn't mean any harm. She's just having fun, after all. "

Wings tightly against his sides, Sihlus stooped after Mikki, stopping in mid-air just above the pocket.

"I think she was here first?" Naitachel answered Vlad, shrugging and chuckling as the sprite dove for cover from Sihlus. "She means no ill, Master Sihlus. Only mischief."

<Don't let him eat me!> Mikki pled to Naitachel, suddenly afraid of this bird's relentless pursuit. True birds never threatened to eat her, but this one...

Sihlus dropped easily to the ground and shimmered himself back into human form. "Cute little squirt, isn't she?"

Naitachel reached a hand to touch a finger to the outside of Shayori's pocket. <Do not fear, little one. You are safe there. He was merely irritated, and he is a relentless one. Perhaps a better target next time would be someone else.>

At Naitachel's offered comfort, a small, blue face framed with long, wavy white hair emerged from the pocket in question, glaring at Sihlus reprovingly. <That wasn't very nice,> she chastised him, with some mental effort.

<But I was very wet,> Sihlus replied with a smile.

The sprite searched the man-cat's face a few moments, as if appraising him, before a slow grin crept across her face. <So much fun to be had,> she repeated, this time to Naitachel. The comment surely made him aware of just how much mischief she intended to make for this group.

Sihlus returned the grin and held out a finger, as if to a canary.

Shayori, still giggling, moved toward the water. "I need a bath!" she announced. "...Seeing as I'm already wet, I think I'll indulge here. Anyone else coming?"

The Seraph fought the urge to slap himself in the forehead. He had an odd feeling that this sprite might cause them a mix of annoyances with her lighthearted mischief. Yet he smiled. How could one deny such innocence? <Fun, yes, but not all of us should bathe at the same time, little one,> he laughed at her.

Mikki slowly lifted herself out of Shayori's pocket, revealing clear, fragile-seeming wings along with her blue tint. She gingerly allowed herself to land on Sihlus's finger. From there, she peered up at him questioningly. <What are you?> she asked. <Why not?> she then asked Naitachel, confused by his comment. Water was always a good thing, no?

<What am I?> Sihlus answered Mikki. <I'm a man, but I can change to other creatures when I want to.>

<How?>
Mikki asked, now flitting about Sihlus as though trying to investigate him more thoroughly.

"Perhaps I should," Soraya answered, realizing for the first time just how much she smelled.

Vlad shook his head, backing away from the water. "I'll wait for you near the carriages."

Soraya smiled at Vlad. "I will see you soon, then," she said, kissing him on the cheek before moving away with Shayori.

"I think you had best go first, ladies," Naitachel suggested, chuckling quietly. "We shall be after."

"I don't mind if they come too," Shayori offered. "It's not like they'll see much in the dark either way, right?"

Soraya blushed at Shayori's words. "Vampires would," she pointed out.

The Seraph blushed warmly. "Ah, actually... they can, as might I, Miss Shayori."

"They… wait… you all can?" Shayori asked, abruptly blushing as she stood sky-clad by the edge of the water. Realizing then that it really was too late - there wasn't any more or less to see than what she'd already revealed - she shrugged and stood up straight and proud. "Well, then, they've already seen it and might as well come ahead, hadn't they."

<I would not mind,> Terhon's mind added quietly...

Sihlus chuckled. "If skinny-dipping is on the menu, count me in."

<Water is good, little one, but perhaps not delivered so,> the Seraph told the sprite. <The women might enjoy your company when they bathe, however...> The Seraph merely blushed the hotter. <You are of Shadow,> he muttered at Terhon.

Terhon laughed mentally.

At Sihlus's announcement, Mikki suddenly pouted. Was he trying to do something unworthy with the women? Without warning, she splashed the man-cat again, before flitting off toward the one who had hidden her.

<Hey! What was that for?> Sihlus spluttered. <Yours is not the first body I've seen, although far from the worst,> Sihlus told Shayori.

"Perhaps... I should wait," Soraya said uncomfortably. She needed to bathe, to be sure, but given her current situation and who stood to see her naked, well, she wasn't sure this was the best idea. There was no way Minhea would ever let her live it down if he saw her naked before Vlad did.

<Perhaps I may help you,> Terhon chuckled darkly as he ghosted to the water's edge.

<Keep those eyes in your head,> Mikki called back to Sihlus, <and averted from here.> She turned her nose up at him before splashing Shayori with a laugh. Mikki stopped in her tracks and hissed as a dark presence approached. She quickly dove for the safety of a nearby tree. <Danger!> she called to Naitachel.

At Mikki's cry, Sihlus snapped to attention, quickly scanning the area for danger. <What is it?>

Naitachel sent the sprite a reassuring mental pat. <It is but Terhon, a Mara. He is neutral, and loves the one you are playing with. He would die for her rather than harm her.> Naitachel averted his gaze, scarlet, but unable to help laughing a little. "On the bright side, Master Sihlus, our turn is next in the water?"

Shayori laughed as the sprite splashed her, splashing back gleefully.

"The males among my own will return to the carriages if it would make you more comfortable," Radu stated simply, his tone leaving no room for argument among his own.

Sheepishly, Soraya nodded to Radu. She blushed brightly at what was said, and did what she could do keep some foliage between herself and the camp as she undressed and dove in.

Cneajna stripped down and moved toward the water with no concern for who saw, however. Though she was no fan of moving water any more than her own siblings were, she'd less love for the feeling of travel upon her skin.

Lisa followed after Jina without hesitation or inhibition, discarding her clothing.

Terhon snorted. <'It' is myself. The little water-creature is not the type to enjoy my presence.>

Sihlus answered, <I can see that.>

<I don't like him,>
Mikki answered both grumpily. She remained firmly hidden in the bushes, though she kept vigilant watch over his moves, in case she needed to intervene somehow to protect the one who had protected her.

Shayori smiled sweetly at the sprite. "Don't worry," she assured her. "He's my friend... more than a friend really... they both are. I trust them with my life... and more. They won't hurt you."

Jina stretched languidly in the water, enjoying the play of moonlight and soft waves upon her ghost-pale skin.
Min grumbled but moved toward the carriages as directed, knowing better than to contradict his uncle’s directives.

Naitachel joined the other guys and headed for the other side of the carriages. "I suppose we had best call Terhon over as well," he laughed. <Come now, Terhon, do not add to their discomfort...>

<Little one, have no fear,>
Sihlus told the sprite. <He loves her, and I love her. She will come to no harm.>

Terhon paused, a dark shadow among shadows, but with a grumble, turned and ghosted after the other males grumpily.

***

Soraya remained submerged, even if it meant sitting in the water, in order to keep herself as hidden as possible. She knew Terhon was still there, and she disliked that as much as Mikki seemed to.

<I don't like him,> Mikki persisted again, though as he moved away she reemerged from her hiding spot.

Shayori's smile brightened at the sprite’s re-emergence. "There you are. Good. Come and enjoy the water with me."

Mikki remained where she was a few moments, watching as Soraya emerged and smiled at her in turn. With the men gone, that redhead began actually bathing. With a wry smile, the pixie sent up a jet of water, allowing it to rain down on all of the bathing females.

Shayori dove beneath the water, then rose, her long, straight, flame red locks sticking to her skin. She smiled as she felt the gentleness of Sihlus mental touch, though that smile faltered at his sadness, knowing she was the cause.

Cneajna stood, sputtering, as the water came down upon her unexpectedly. "I thought we said bath, not shower," she protested.

Shayori swam a short ways away from the rest, abruptly feeling the need for a bit more solitude. She needed to think, and she knew it. Sih's sadness was her fault. Was Terhon unhappy as well? She smiled at the sprite's antics, but it lacked the innocent joy it had contained before as she pondered the predicament she'd put both of the men she loved in just by loving both.

Mikki glanced at Shayori and raised an eyebrow. Innocently enough, she flicked a wrist, sending more water in Jina's direction. Not only was she getting a reaction, but she was getting to douse a dark one.

"Stop that!" Jina demanded, splashing back at the little... thing... there with them.

Mikki once again stuck her tongue out at Jina before dashing to rest on Shayori's shoulder. She perched there, quietly, as if merely trying to be a presence of comfort, not demanding or offering anything more.

Soraya herself bathed as quickly as she could manage. The water was cold, and she was cold. She did what she had to without fanfare and left the water, before getting dressed and moving to join the waiting men. Perhaps one of them would have a blanket to offer.

Shayori shook off the sadness to smile again at the sprite. "Thanks," she told her. "I'm okay. I just... I have a decision to make... but I can't make it. How do you choose between two when your heart demands both?"

"You don't choose?" Mikki offered. Hers was a simple world where such complex decisions were never a factor or something to be considered. All answers seemed rather obvious.

"But I don't want to hurt either of them, either by choosing or by not choosing. It's as if there simply is no right answer." She sighed. In truth, Shayori had no idea why she was telling all of this to the sprite. She just needed to say it to someone and who else did she really have? "I wish I didn't have to," she admitted, as the tiny, barely audible voice reached her ears. "I really do love them both. I could be so happy as things are now if only I believed they were."

Mikki thought on the predicament a moment, before offering, "See who brings you the purest water?" she offered. It was, after all, one of the only ways pixies ever chose between suitors on the extremely rare occasions such things as courtship were engaged in in her world.

Shayori laughed brightly at that before realizing that the other women had all finished bathing. "I should go back so the men can have their turn. Are you coming with me?"

Again, Mikki considered the offer. Well, this may be fun for a few days more. Grinning, she nodded at Shayori.

***

<So close...> the Mara muttered to Sihlus very quietly.

Sihlus answered, <I know... We still have a problem,> he reminded the Mara. <But that must wait.> Throwing Shayori a mental kiss, tinged with just a trace of sadness, Sihlus followed the others back to the campfire.

<Which one?> the Mara asked Sihlus wryly.

Sihlus asked, <There's more than one?>

<An annoying sprite, us on the run, a crazed vampire who chews on me, little worth hunting in the area... Would you like me to list further?>
the Mara laughed at Sihlus darkly.

<The sprite doesn't bother me, nor does the vampire. We can hunt later, or farther afield, and we've stopped running from and started running to. Makes a short list,> Sihlus said.

<You said problem, then. Those I consider annoying problems. Beyond that... we are as things are. I do not have a problem with that at this time,> Terhon replied to Sihlus, thoughtful.

Sihlus nodded. <I could be satisfied with things as they are, but she is unhappy. Still, it must be her decision, I suppose.>

Terhon agreed, mentally shrugging. Of course, he wanted her to choose himself, yet he could guess Sihlus felt the same, so the two of them were at a stalemate. Amiable one, at least.

***

Georgiana had directed a few of the servants to build a fire and set out blankets in their absence before moving to turn in themselves.

Jina finished bathing and rose, resplendent in the moonlight, to stroll unabashedly back to camp, gathering her clothes in her arms, intent upon drying by the fire before donning fresh garments.

Collecting a blanket, Soraya wrapped herself in one and sat by the fire for warmth.

Naitachel set his travel-pack down by a carriage-wheel, and stretched his shoulders, reaching up for the sky. "At least the weather is holding," he sighed happily.

Sihlus looked up at the stars and snorted in disgust. "Can't even tell time any more in this hemisphere. It's getting late, though, and I'd better get back to the others. We'll wait for you in the morning."

"Are they not safe where they are without you, peacekeeper?" Jina asked him, still drying by the fire.

Nait nodded to Sihlus, and reached out to clasp him on the shoulder. "It will be good to see them again. Send our regards?"

"I'll do that. See you tomorrow." Again Sihlus disappeared behind a silvery shimmer, emerging as a large grey cat. <Good night, all,> he bespoke them, and sent Shayori another loving thought, this one bright with anticipation. He disappeared with a faint *pop*.

<Rest well, friend,> Radu answered back.

<Good night, Master Sihlus!> Nait called after him.

Feeling Sihlus' parting touch, Shayori smiled brightened still. There'd been no touch of sadness there. Could this work after all? Shay watched Sih leave, then sighed. She supposed it was time to turn in as well. She cast about for Terhon, needing to know he was safe and comfortable before she turned in.

Terhon sent a mental smile, a warm touch with it. <Sleep. I watch the night,> he reassured her.

Sighing, Shayori smiled, savoring the touch as she allowed herself to rest, secure in the knowledge that all would be safe and well.

"Guess not," Jina answered for herself as she stretched again, reluctant to dress again as she savored the feeling of the fire's warmth against her bare skin.

Quite warmed by the fire, Soraya felt her eyelids grow heavy. She stood and made her way to the other side of the wagons, where the men waited, yawning as she rounded the corner.

"It looks to be time for you to rest," Vlad suggested softly as he made up the softest pallet on the carriage for her.

Naitachel chuckled as Soraya joined them. "Bathing is far more strenuous than I realized, I suppose."

"Indeed," she agreed quietly, accepting the pallet without protest. "It is not so much the bathing as the traveling, I think," she answered Naitachel as she settled in.

Vlad tucked her in tenderly, kissing her lightly upon the brow before moving toward the exit, supposing she'd prefer peace to company at that point.

Soraya felt a twinge of regret as she watched Vlad leave, knowing she would sleep much more restfully with him nearby, but understanding his need for some space, as well as likely his need to hunt. "Good night," she called.

Radu, Min, and Matty all headed for the water, each ready to wash away the days travel from their skin. Xandr hesitated before escorting Mircea there as well, hoping the mad vampire would continue to behave as he seemed to be since returning to camp.

Naitachel glanced over his shoulder after the others. While he felt an urge to join them... he really had no need to do so, himself. Water and he did not get along very well. He glanced at Vlad, curious. "You are not going with them?" he asked the vampire. He flashed Soraya and amused smile, and reached out to pat her shoulder and offer some of his comfort that way. "Well, it is a strenuous journey..." He had to admit, the idea of cool anything against sore flying muscles appealed to him... though the wetness did not. "I will allow you to rest as well," he told Soraya gently, and turned to go as well. "Sleep well, Soraya."

Terhon glided off for his own bath, having none of the Seraph's concerns with water. He liked washing off the tarnish.

"No, I think not," Vlad answered, barely repressing a shudder at the thought. "Goodnight, dear one," Vlad told Soraya softly.

Soraya’s eyes closed of their own accord, and soon she was breathing deeply.

Naitachel gave Vlad a sympathetic look. "You do not care for water, I take it?"

"No," Vlad admitted, "not since the first."

"The first...?" the Seraph prompted, confused. Surely not his first bath...

"...Death..." Vlad answered reluctantly.

Naitachel winced. "My pardon," he apologized. His gaze drifted back toward the water, and blushed faintly, looking away again, mentally berating himself. Why should he want to watch? He was not Terhon, and had few such desires usually.

"It's alright," Vlad assured him. "It was long ago."

"It must have been very traumatic," Naitachel murmured to Vlad in sympathy.

Vlad nodded hesitantly. The memory rose unbidden - their fall from the tower into the swiftly rushing water... the current dragging them down and down... the pain and panic as he struggled for air and took in only water... then blackness... "I ..." he began, then shook his head. "It is fine," he sighed. "I am simply no fan of water."

The Seraph noticed Vlad's unease and reached out to rest a hand on his shoulder and press some of his soothing and calming ability into the man. He had only come close to drowning, but never nearly as far as Vlad certainly had. "Quite understandable. Perhaps we might gather a few buckets' worth for you to use shortly."

Vlad nodded again. "Thank you," he murmured quietly.

Radu finished washing quickly then moved to the fire to dry, Xandr and Mircea close behind him, leaving Min and Matty playing in the water.

Naitachel nodded back with a warm smile. "Any time," he told Vlad, letting his hand drop back to his side. "Perhaps I might see to that myself, as everyone else seems busy."

Radu waited just outside the circle of firelight for what was clearly intended to be a private conversation to conclude before he stepped forward to dry by the fire and don fresh garments.

Xandr handed Mircea a blanket to dry with, shaking his head when the vampire let it fall to the ground. Taking it back up, he dried himself, dressed, then proceeded to dry the stubborn vampire before assisting him into his own clothing.

Radu moved to his brother's side, assisting Xandr in pressing him into clothing before assuring the servant. "Rest now, friend. I have him tonight."

The Seraph glanced over at Radu helping Mircea, and sent quietly, <Do you need help?> He could feel Mircea's uncooperative mood.

<I need no assistance,> Radu assured him, <but I would not pass up the company. Unless you require rest, of course...>

A metal wing splashed at Min and Matty. <Move over...> the Mara grumbled.

Matty and Min looked at each other, then grinned. Immediately, both began splashing the Mara in earnest.

Terhon snorted, then set to making great splashes with his wings at the pair, the metal feathers ringing like scattered chimes. <I may not swim, but do not tempt me to come after you.>

Min and Matty only laughed harder at the Mara's threat. "Come ahead, dark one," Min invited, splashing him again, enjoying the by play. Matty couldn't seem to manage to do anything but laugh as the great torrents created by the Mara's wings knocked him backwards.

Terhon grunted, then surged after them, splashing heavily. He used his levitating ability to avoid sinking beyond waist height... and to push through the water after the laughing Min.

This only made Min laugh harder, splashing back as he dove and swam deep beneath the Mara, rising behind him, thoroughly enjoying himself. It wasn't every day you got to play with a Mara, after all.

Terhon whirled and splashed back at Min, frowning, though this actually amused him some as well.

Xandr moved swiftly to fetch water for Vlad, anticipating the need, before moving off to bed as directed.

Naitachel chuckled, and shook his head. How the servants did that was beyond him. They always seemed to guess before he could act on so many things... <Then I will join you. I need but meditate, but not so much tonight, as I did some a-wing. I am more sore from staying aloft than anything else.>

<Need you anything I can provide to give you comfort, then?>
Radu asked sincerely.

The Seraph shrugged and walked over to join Radu and Mircea. <I would try soaking, but I fear I agree with Vlad on that notion. Water and I do not usually get along well. It is no matter--once we stop, I need not fly so long, and it shall not be sore any further. I have endured far worse on regular travels.>

Vlad washed up quickly from the bucket, then, dressed in fresh clothing, moved to stand guard. Jina, supposing she was as dry and warm as she'd likely ever be, moved swiftly to do the same.

Matty and Min continued their antics even as the water pelted them. If anything, Terhon's continued response only egged them on. They continued to laugh and play even knowing they'd been bested by their winged opponent.

After a bit, the Mara gave up and levitated himself from the water, wrapping his dark spirit-robes around himself before floating for shore again. <I leave you the... 'field'...> he told them with a dark chuckle, accepting "defeat".

A cheer rose up from the still laughing vampires, and Matty called back, <Perchance we'll meet again in similar battle.>

<Perhaps,>
the Mara agreed amiably, if very quietly.

Min merely bowed to their opponent. "Come on, Matt. We should probably go dry off, too. " Reluctantly, Matty followed Min from the water, both drying and dressing quickly before heading out to hunt, knowing the others would be waiting until their return to follow suit.

<Look west,> Terhon murmured reluctantly. <Only some feral pigs around here.>

<Thank you, friend. Will you join us, or have you had your fill?>
Min replied.

<I ate on the way,> Terhon chuckled slyly. There was a reason some pursuit gave up, or was never heard from again.

"I am sorry all this traveling does not suit you, Lord Mircea," Nait told the older vampire softly.

"We once had a glorious home," Mircea intoned softly. He sighed as he remembered it. The great hall... the ballroom... the winding staircases and towers...

"Perhaps you will again?" Naitachel asked hopefully. "Do not give up hope yet."

"We were royalty once. Did you know?" he asked Nait, looking him over as if trying to place him. "I was a knight. Radu ruled our lands. We were..." His voice trailed off, as if uncertain what they truly were, then or now, in light of their curse.

Naitachel reached out to pat Mircea's arm gently. "Yes, I know. And you all still are."

Mircea shook his head slowly. "It's gone... all of it. Our lands... our lives... our God..." He turned sad eyes to Naitachel. "We are vagabonds, the lot of us now. Vagabond princes..."

The Seraph moved to give Mircea a gentle hug. "It is not all bad. You remain in good company, yes? And who knows what new home might be found or made? Or what wonders and sights one might encounter?"

Mircea cocked his head to the side, looking at Nait once again as if trying to place him. Radu shifted slightly, ready to intervene should Mircea seem ready to strike. Min moved closer as well, not quite trusting his uncle not to harm the seraph. Even Vlad seemed more on guard and ill at ease with Naitachel's proximity to the mad vampire.

Naitachel simply offered a gentle smile in return, not considering any danger to himself, nor truly aware of any. "I... have a feeling you might be surprised, someday, Lord Mircea?" he stated quietly.

Mircea seemed to consider this a moment before nodding slightly. He looked toward the fire, inching closer... then closer... then closer still until Radu's hand fell upon his shoulder. "We shall see..." he answered at last.

The Seraph blinked at the mad vampire innocently, then glanced at Radu, then the others, with a puzzled expression. Why were they so very tense and concerned? "Well, I imagine you all need to feed... and I shall go do my meditations."

Radu nodded, then he and Vlad led Mircea off to hunt, staying close by him all the while.
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Naitachel
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