The message is sent by a stocky bronze firelizard, stoic and well-acquainted with Saji and her fair. Twattycakes, Murdan's long-suffering bronze, appears from between and lands on whatever is convenient and in Saji's line of sight, settling his balance so he can lift his foreleg and proffer the bulky message tube strapped there.
Inside, a scrap of hide bears script that can only be Murdan's, casually scrawled and nearly impossible to decipher in places. Unrolling the hide will reveal a hidden surprise: a slender gold cord, a bit worn in places, last seen threaded through Murdan's trader knot.
take this. it's boring me.
(ps: if you get hurt i'll kill you. tell tussy that goes double for him)
XOXO donkey dick
Twattycakes' stoicism must endure Saji's attention, an absent rub of eyeridges and headknobs that indicates he should stay put. It's okay. He doesn't have to wait long. Saji's reply returns with him, on the back of the same scrap of hide. Her own writing is hurried and as inconsistently legible as always.
the fuck is this shit. if this is a joke i ain't laughin.
xoxo my ass
Poor Twattycakes. He's sent back one more time, this time with no message tube. There's just a scrap of paper -- real paper -- slightly damp from being held in the poor creature's mouth. He gives it up willingly, licking his jaws with a look of distaste once it's gone, then curls up in a sunny spot to nap. Twatty out.
The missive is dominated by crude picture of a comically large penis, complete with a hairy, pendulous ballsack. Underneath is written:
Time goes by, as it will. The sun makes its slow crash course with the horizon, its clear white light growing thick and yellow, then orange, then a watery red. A bruised purple has begun to set in to the eastern front. Word has come back that the Gray Leaf child ended up being, in fact, the Gray Leaf children, a wide-eyed and beautiful boy and girl with thick lashes and black hair. Traders, being Traders, have found this a cause enough for celebration. And awhile they wait the arrival of the proud new parents and their unlikely Healer-and-Chadey escort, they've... started the party without them! A huge bonfire has been contributed to, bare feet dancing around it. And to one side, perched on a log, Ellen is in the process of finishing off shaving the head of one bemused and rather /drunk/ Moiralet beasthandler. The two are talking rather /animatedly/ about avians.
Not far away, Akadriel might be doing business or might just be drinking, himself. He certainly /has/ a large tankard, from which he is not at the moment drinking but instead licking foam from where it has spilled over his fingers. There is beside him two /barrels/ of ale, one honey-wheat light and one very dark thick stout, and from these he has been helpfully inebriating anyone with the coin or goods to barter for it. Now he has left the ale-tending in the hands of Ninkou, and turned his attentions away to wander closer to the haircutting. Or the dancing. He keeps an eye on both; pleased, for the latter, a little dismayed, for the former. "Your plague is spreading," he laments. With exaggerated /woe/. "Are you going to 'hawk the avians, too?"
"If they ain't...," the Moiralet man lifts one /very/ meaningful finger and points it at Akadriel, "...already /hawks/." And then he is laughing, clapping a hand over his eyes and says miserably immediately afterward, "That was bad, shee-it, sorry." His Bitran accent is lively. Ellen is swatting loose all the thick (and somewhat dirty) clumps of hair from the man's shoulders, "Y'look good, guy. I put a red feather in -- that'll win her heart for sure, or she's bewitched off ya and no foolin'." She looks up at Akadriel and flashes a pitbull grin, "Y'wanna go next? I'd do you a real neat one. Make a point," she places both fingers at her widow's peak, "and angle it out like an /arrow/." She drags her hands in two lines that pass over either ear. "Real sharp."
"It was terrible," Akadriel agrees solemnly. "But there is hope. With enough ale in you," because clearly the Mioralet man has not /had/ enough booze, as Akadriel waves his mug in indication to the large barrels, "all jokes are funny." He lifts his hand, curling fingers through his messy dark hair. "An arrow," he echoes, eyebrows raising. And drifts a few steps closer to the log. "And whose heart will that win me?"
While they were not present for the morning's excitement, the cause for the celebration has passed from mouth to ear and on so that by the time Wherz's delegation turns up to join the fun Siraji is grinning broadly. Today it is a smaller group that approaches: two women, one dog. "--heard they managed to top that, wasn't just one kid, was /twins/," she is saying to her companion as they draw near the bonfire and its dancing. And its Ellen! And its Akadriel. Her companion is -- taller, noticeably, although similar in hairstyle, at least, as both women sport long, long braids. (Though Saji's has, as it so often does, already begun unraveling itself.) "/Ellenmonster/," she greets first, grin widening; on his lead Dipshit is all a wiggle-waggle, thumpity-whumpity tail wagging so fast he almost unseats himself. omg somanypeople. "You takin' up haircuttin' instead of trappin' now?" Akadriel, while he doesn't get greeted so broadly, does get a lazy-loose salute, and a Dipshit snuff-snuff-snuffling at his feet.
Oft seen but seldom socialized with, Saji's companion is none other than the Wherz (the band) lead guitarist, the oddly named Cookie. Hanging back a little with Saji as a shield of sorts, a well-tended guitar resting across her midsection, she sports a broad smile as she ventures deeper into the camp. "I still say yours was the most dramatic birth, Saji. In the middle of a Hatching? Quite gauche, was it not? Also, your Mirajin was a surprise twin. It must be something about Traders, to have multiple offspring." Idly, her fingers pick along the strings of her instrument, their wandering thus accompanied by a light, merry tune. "Though whoever births monsters must be the most exciting of us all," is added on the heels of Saji's exclamation. Her own greeting is shy, spoken more to the wriggling canine than the people beyond. "Good evening."
"Aw, boss, it in't always about heart, 'f you got enough already. Koll here's just lackin'." Ellen gives a little tug to the longer rattail she'd braided into the nape of old Koll's mohawk. Her own hawk is tied up in the topknot she'd gotten fond of, stuck through tonight with three very LONG iridescent green-black rooster tails. Koll, for his part, thumps her knee with an elbow, "I got /heart/ plenty, gal. Just not..." he shrugs a massive bare shoulder, "Anyhow. When'll I be seein' ya tomoirow?" "Sun-up! R'member, y'promised -" "Yeah, yeah, I'll show ya a funnel trap set up like you never seen. It'll hold birds alive." He touches his forelock to Akadriel, and then Siraji and her companion as well, if more casually and makes to... well. Go explore Akadriel's suggestion at the barrels. "Saaaaaaji, nope, yep. Still trappin' - gotta get more creative snarin' /folk/, though, they'd just pick a wire right off their ankle." Ellen says this quite solemnly, holding up a pincher thumb and forefinger, "They got /hands/. Who's your friend? I'm Ellen. I'ma trapper," of MEN. "Y'wanna mohawk? I'll cut'chu up."
Dipshit's snuffling is met with a half-step back from Akadriel, a many-steps-forward from Akadriel's huge black canine, lurking near the ale in hopes of drunk people dropping FOOD at her. Strife is wriggly-waggy as well, though her little nubtail is lwee thumpity and more just twitchy as she moves over to sniff at the other canine. Akadriel greets the two women with a slight tip of his head, a slight upward curl of his lips. "Everyone births monsters," he says, lightly amused, "it takes a good few Turns before you can teach them to be human." His fingers brush lightly through his hair again, and then drop to his side. He takes a sip of his ale instead, and eyes Ellen contemplatively. "Do they come standard with feathers?"
"Must be somethin' in the water on the road, yeah?" is Saji's suggestion put forth, with the familiar hook of her grin flashed back to Cookie. "This is Cooks-- Cookie. She'sa guitarist, an' she's /crazy/ good." The redhead plonks down in Koll's abandoned spot, waving Cookie down with her. "Betcha Ruvie'd flip over you with a 'hawk," she says up to her companion, before jostling a shoulder over into Ellen's. "Y'should feather me," she delivers, while watching Dipshit and Strife. Apparently Strife is /much/ more exciting than Akadriel's feet: Dip snuff-snuff-aroo-woos a greet, and spanks the ground, utterly uncaring that he is utterly dwarfed.
"The twins are not monsters," Cookie insists, though she offers Akadriel a friendly curtsey, only slightly hampered by her lack of skirts. "When they came out, they looked more like little grubs. Like the ones who eat Thread. So if they are monsters, they are the good kind." She nods, satisfied by that explanation, and takes a seat on the ground next to Saji. She gives the air of a lady arranging her skirts, though there's nothing more to settle than the guitar, placed in her lap. "I believe Ruvia would lock me out of our wagon if I came home with my hair shorn. She is quite particular about such things." It's said with fondness, rather than malice. Gaze moving back to Akadriel, she says, "How do you teach one to be human? I will admit, I do not quite have the knack myself." There's a quiet smile to go with that statement.
"Fuck human," indelicate grunt, "I"m still a monster. Rar." Generally commenting this, Ellen's blunted mannish-child hand fall upon Siraji's braid, folding it over to hang in a loop and tying it there with a bit of twine kept in a belt pouch. Hair-noose. "How come 'Cookie'? Who's Ruvia? S'that your ma?" she busily asks offhand, her husky tone as curious as it is gruff; from the back of her belt, there's a huge tailfeather cluster in different sizes and colors, rounded dove feathers, sharp hawkish spikey ones, the short round puffs of a gaudy fowl's chest. She begins to arrange them in a fan at the back of Siraji's head. She slips a glance up to Akadriel, something throughtful in it, and then jerks her chin at her work, "Only 'f y'want feathers. I got some red 'n black, you wanna run in house colors." Siraji is getting green and earth tones. "How big're the twins now, huh?" Hello, is Strife trying to do /anything/ on her own? Because there's an even bigger black shadow that will compete with /anything/ for what it's doing. Eerie approaches at a lope, ears thrust forward and he kind of just /blunders/ in amongst the other dogs, sniffing everything intently. Strife's flank. Dipshit's ear. Dipshits UNDERBELLY. Face-butt. PLOW. Bungle.
Utterly dwarfed Dipshit might be, but Strife seems disinclined to /use/ her bulk for anything more threatening than a play bow in return, lunging in to -- well, perhaps she is trying to butt up against Dipshit. Instead she is stymied by a sudden presence of EerieSide, which she attempts to peer /under/ to get to the new canine. "Mmm. I remember Cookie. She is the guitar," Akadriel comments absently at Siraji's introduction. "I threatened to lock all my people out," he informs Cookie, "when they turned up with those monstrosities." His beer tankard waves towards Ellen's head in indication. "I believe you teach by example. It is a rather imprecise system. Most people I know of only fake it. And then teach others to fake it in turn. -- Red and black." This seems like /assent/; at least, Akadriel is eying the feathers, and giving a short nod. "When you are done with the others."
"Been thinkin' 'bout maybe loppin' the whole thing off," Saji creeps a hand up to the back of her neck, wiggles her fingers into the bottom of her braid to indicate, "but keep goin' back and forth -- th' boys are a little bit monsters," she admits over her shoulder, sharp-edged grin bright, "but th' best kind. They're gettin' pretty biggo," she waves a hand about sturdy-toddler height from the ground, then frowns as a bronze firelizard wings in to /deliver/ himself unto the ground in Saji's eye-line. "'chu want?" is a-mutter, as she reaches -- careful not to disturb her enfeathering -- to rub a finger over his headknobs and divest him of his message-tube. "Stay." Dipshit, meanwhile, is ecstatic, topple-flopping over as he ends up with an Eerieface to the side, wriggling over and under to still be able to yap-woof at Strife. While licking Eerie. Saji frowns at-- the hide? No, not the hide. The slightly-worn golden cord that's spilled out of it onto her lap.
"I am!" This is to Akadriel, delighted and accompanied by a bright chord on the instrument in her nap. Her fingers don't leave the stings, instead moving into a soft, rapid plucked melody. Something quiet to accompany relaxed conversation. For a given value of "relaxed", of course. "It is all I could say for a long time after I was born," she continues, focus shifting from Akadriel to Ellen. "So it became my name. Ruvia is our singer's youngest sister. She is very dear to me." A faint flush pinks the guitarist's cheeks, but it's accompanied by a grin, rather than any signs of embarrassment. "Do all monsters have feathers? I admit, I have not met many. Only one so far, in my travels. And two half monsters." She turns her grin on Saji, a bit knowing as she says that. It's a grin that quickly fades to an uncertain frown. "Is everything alright?" She raises herself up onto her knees, all the better to reach for the message.
"Red 'n black," Ellen says grimly without looking up. An agreement, possibly. "Shoot, I'll cut it for ya," if Siraji's wedding has taught her anything, it should be that suggesting a 'maybe' to Ellen means Ellen wants to do it Right Now. She swats the loop of braid, "Y'done, anyro'. That'll be a sixtence - y'look pretty." Even if she pronounces it 'purdy'. "Guess my first word was 'dad' - prol'y not th' best name. Cookie's better..." Her steady gruff-ramble commentary fades when the firelizard appears, and she drapes either arm across the back of Siraji's shoulders to peer shamelessly at What She Has. While Eerie... just makes a mess of things. A rolled over Dipshit means his paws have a sudden obstacle amongst them and he's half stepping on the poor thing, his tailnub steadily twitching while he decides the most helpful thing to do right now would be to try and twist his head sideways to chomp on a piece of Strife's cheek-fluff while his hindlegs try to make heads or tails out of not stepping on... heads or tails.
"Be glad of that," Akadriel says, something thin and wry curled through his own small smile. "There are many monsters in the world. It is best never to meet them. They do not all have feathers, though. That would be a convenient identifier." He does not peer quite so shamelessly as Ellen at Siraji's note, though he does raise his eyebrows slightly at the cord that spills out of it. "-- Has there been some accident?" His tone should suggest sympathy at possible tragedies, most likely; instead it just has mildly thoughtful curiosity. Strife has her own dose of curiosity -- not for the hide but for the canines around her, large paw whomphing down to pin Dipshit. Her head bonks up against Eerie's chomping, and she is not so careful about not stepping on things, instead tumblerolling over to just make a giant PILE of fur with the other canines.
Siraji catches up the cord before it can hit the ground, still frowning down at the hide -- which she tilts slightly so that Cookie can read it while she rummages around in a beltpouch. While she offers Ellen's payment up over her shoulder, she also has a stubby nub of stylus-penthing to scribble with; she flips the hide over, scrawls out a reply -- if you are jokin i ain't laughin -- and shoves it back in the message tube. Then shoves that back at Twatty, and shoos him off. "How much more I gotta pay for a chop an' some re-featherin'?" is over her shoulder, while, "'s far as I figure, no. If he's fuckin' kiddin', though, shit, he ain't takin' this shit back." She works her already-colorful knot off her shoulder, then, frowning, starts trying to work out how to work in the gold cord. "Y'lookin' at th' Wherz carvan leader now, 'parently," is to all and sundry, her hooked half-grin made less IMPACTFUL by the cheerful YELPING coming from Dipshit as he ends up under hugepaws. On the bottom of the furpile, he is a wriggle-wriggleworm, all squirmy licky tongue and ridiculous squirming. What is this even.
Sorry, other conversations. Cookie is a bit distracted. Her eyes go to the letter, to the cord, to Twattycakes, shooed off, to Saji, then to the flailing puppy-pile of faildog as if it can tell her what's going on. "That was ... unexpected," comes her careful reply. She fluffs up the dandelion fluff of her bangs, then offers Siraji a hand to shake and a bright smile. "Congratulations, new leader. To the old leader, then. He is very odd." She pulls her braid over her shoulder and flicks the end against her hand, expression thoughtful. "'Dad' would be a perfectly fine name, if it was yours. Any name is a fine one, as long as it belongs to you." Presumably, this is to Ellen, though Cookie is looking once more at the dogs.
"Huh." Is Ellen's full summary response, looking up at Akadriel with an expression to match. Shrug! "Kay," this isn't a dismissive 'kay', it's one of self-prompting, hopping down from where she's sitting to cross one foot in front of the other and bend either knee in a quick, straight-spined curtsey. For all the feathers and wild topknot mohawk (along with the feather brown-blond fuzz that isn't growing out because it never got /cut/ in the first place), it's like getting curtseyed to a cannibal child. "'spects, Saji. S'pretty cool." And theeeen it's done, and she's upright again, "I'd do off your hair for maybe an eighth; another sixtenth for some featherin'. -- an' I wouldn't wanna be called 'dad', feels like bad luck t'have two of us." She doesn't mention her dad's first words spoken /back/ were pretty much 'shut up'. Eerie is AlphaFail. At least he's making a pressing argument for it, as he is bounding around and fake-snarl-panting on the top of the pile, mixing in yaps that /would/ be shrill if he wasn't the size of a small pony. It's like hearing a bass voice try and speak in a falsetto.
"Odd. That is certainly one word for him," Akadriel says mildly, from over the rim of his beer. He offers Siraji a salute that he manages to make look /respectful/, for all it still carries his habitual languid casualness. "Congratulations," he adds his own to the mix, "May you wear it long and well. Though," he adds, with a faint upward twist of smile, "you may find that one cord makes that knot sit particularly /heavy/ on the shoulder. Its burdens do not come without reward, though." Perhaps he means /booze/ -- at least, he is lifting his tankard of ale to Siraji, gesturing Ninkou to bring another stein over for the new-minted leader. On the /house/, even. Strife is adding her own rumbly voice to the mix of DogSounds, half growl and half yap, as she gnaws freely on -- probably she was aiming somewhere else but it ends up being an ear. She doesn't seem particular as to whose.
Siraji clasps Cookie's hand first, looks her square in the eye and says, "I'm findin' a way to blame you for this, y'know that, right?" but it's with a quick-grin; she reclaims her hand and answers Ellen's curtsey and Akadriel's salute in turn (though not quite in kind: they both get her habitually imprecise salute). "Yeah, odd's certainly one way of puttin' it," is paired with a quick huff of a laugh before Twattycakes returns. /This/ time, the bronze spits out a scrap of paper, licks his chops like it tastes bad, and goes off to curl up somewhere warm and undisturbed. "'have fun,'" Saji reads off the slightly damp scrap, eyes the doodle accompanying it, and shoves it down into her beltpouch. "I'm wearin' it. An' I'm gonna do my shardin' best to do it well -- thanks, 'kad." Dipshit's voice is unsurprisingly the littlest, his ruff-roos and yaps all high and happy and beagle-floppy; Strife gets an ear and he awoo-oos in glee, twisting to try to get ahold of -- something. Anyone to gnaw on. "Aiight, Els," Saji decides suddenly, "'s on. 'Chu cut off my braid whole, an' hawk an' feather up the rest." She will be keeping that braid as a SOUVENIR of the last four+ turns, thxu.
"I am sure you will, dear Leader," Cookie says with a grin as they share a hand-clasp. Once it is freed, she starts clapping. It's hard to tell if it's supposed to be applause or is just an expression of glee. Either way, she's enthusiastic with it. "It is not as though you don't do most of the work already, yes?" is more of a prod than mocking in itself. "While he goes off to do Faranth knows what." Attention turns to the Traders' apparent hairdresser, contemplative. "Do your skills include ribbons?"
Ellen spreads out a wide grin full of small square teeth at Cookie, "I got /loads/ of ribbons. C'mon. This is gonna need /all/ my supplies." She is going to make Siraji her new /masterpiece/. She jerks a chin at Akadriel, meeting his eyes for a moment -- then she's whisking the two girls away to hawk and feather them into the fold, and she'll see they get their money's worth. Siraji won't be leaving until her new station has been properly recognized with a headdress fan of spikey feathers haloing her from behind like a palm frond, while Cookie will be treated to rounded dove-grays with flickers of iridescent purple and blue licking over them. And then? Then it's time to celebrate, isn't it. The fires glow, the ale flows and the night gives in to the Trader's way.