"Pass me the crestlich," Alyss demands. I obligingly reach over and hand her a platter, which happens to be a wide flat stone, with juicy legs of crestlich meat upon it. I turn my head sideways, cheek against the ground, to watch her snag a leg and bite into it, not even bothering to sit up. I raise my eyebrow.

"Satisfied with my service, o great daeva of partying?" I grin at her. "Dost thou require my aid to sit up as well?" Brushing black bangs from my eyes, I snatch a chunk from the platter and place it in my mouth, chewing softly.

"Not in the slightest," she declares imperiously. "You need to take lessons on showing proper subservience. You assume—"

"Sub-ser-vi-ence," I sound the word out. "An entire four syllables! Where could you have learned such fancy vo-ca-bu-la-ry?"

"—too much," she continues as if uninterrupted, though smiling. "Plus, if I were to sit up, it would drip all over my clothes. We can't have that, now." I take a long look at her; she's still wearing a party dress—one of Palentine's, no less.

"Well, it's going to drip all over your face, now," I point out reasonably. I roll over on to my stomach and grab a tart for myself, bite into it. It's almost frozen again, courtesy of the temperatures up here in Kuriullu. I scoot forward, my stomach complaining—it really shouldn't, I'm feeding it—and frown as I register the fire is almost gone, just a pile of glowing embers.

"Alyss, the fire's out again," I complain. She doesn't respond—probably intentionally. I reach out to her with my arm, but only her hair is within reach. That won't work. I bend my leg, then stretch it, nudging her arm.

"Stop it," she says, pretending to be sleepy. I nudge her again. She slaps my leg away. "Gah, your foot is so cold."

I pause. "Aren't yours?"

"No, my feet are normal. Yours are cold, you ranger." She lifts her head slightly off the ground to face me, and I note with amusement the juice running down the side of her mouth. "You cold, cold ranger. Oh, is the fire out again?"

I reach into my bag and pull out a small box, open it, pull out a tart, and wave it in front of her. "I'll give you one of these if you start it again." Alyss reaches out to grab it, but I snatch it back before she can touch it.

"Viol-e-e-et," she whines. "Why do you do-o-o this to me? What have I ever done to you? And most important, where'd you get the tarts from?"

"I don't know what you did, but you can make up for it by starting the fire again." I keep my gaze on her, smirking, as I pull another tart out of my bag and hold it tantalizingly in my hand. "I got them from a neighbor," I explain. "He said he bought them off a shugo merchant."

"Alright, alright, but you've got to introduce me to this neighbor sometime," she grumbles, then waves her hand, the flames roaring up from the bed again. I lean back, then shove the berry tart that was gifted to me into the fire. It comes back out, no longer frozen, slightly blackened, the fruit on top just a carbon smear. I bite into it, and flavor explodes on my tongue.

Alyss makes a face. "The only thing you can taste when you do that is burned." She holds out a hand, sitting up. "Anyways, my reward?"

I hand over her share, my eyes closed as I enjoy the fire and the sweet. It's quiet up here; the only thing I can hear is the fire's crackling. When the only things left of the tart are the crumbs on my fingers, I lay back down, wrapping my cloak around me for warmth, then roll on my sides to the edge of the mountain.

The sheer cliff face drops hundreds of meters below us, rock aetherlit red stretching into plateaus and swooping into valleys. I try to stick my arm out over the precipice. I get tangled in my cloak.

"So," I say once I've freed myself, "how's your thing going with that captain? You two seemed to be getting along rather well, really. Quite well, in fact." I smirk at Alyss, who's sitting against a rock, a small pile of feathers acting as a pillow for her head.

"Ehhh…" Alyss makes an exaggerated frown on her face. "He's an excellent conversationalist, and even better at flirting. He certainly knows how to treat a lady. But," she holds up a finger, "only when he isn't on duty. Otherwise, he is a drab, drab man."

I almost laugh in surprise. "Kalio? Flirting? Congratulations, you've achieved great things." I shake my head, tip an imaginary drink towards her. "Is that your final verdict?"

Alyss shrugs relaxedly. "We'll see. If I ever choose to cross paths with him again, unless I have better things to do. Which, I do. Like a lot."

"You mean, like party with your legion friends?" I ask dryly. I stretch out on the cloak as if it were a blanket. Thankfully, the sleeves are big enough it doesn't stretch and pinch.

"Exactly." She half-rises from her position and raises her hands grandly. "Thus, I have proclaimed," she exclaims, then slumps back. "Ow, this rock."

"Thus you've proclaimed," I parrot back. "Maybe you shouldn't have worn your million kinah couture dress on a camping trip, Alyss." I glare mock-sternly at her, atop the really comfortable cloak. I should sleep in this thing while camping; it's that comfortable.

"You know my fashion is always incomparable," she says. "I only wear the best of the best of the best of the best. Of the best."

I grin at her. "It certainly is incomparable." I giggle as a half-forgotten memory comes to mind. "Well…there was that one time when you wore a balaur—"

"Don't you dare remind me—"

"—your face!" My giggles turn to laughter. "You were just, standing there, all confounded, and, and,"—I take a moment to catch my breath—"Izzy was pecking! At the headdress!" I give way to peals of laughter again.

"Ugh." Alyss covers her face with her arms, flinging them over her head in a dramatic movement. "I told you," her muffled voice says, "don't remind me. It was horrible. Horrible, horrible torture."

Once I've calmed, gotten the image of Alyss's wind spirit fluttering about her blonde hair out of mind, I continue. "Anyways, I've some business near Akarios soon. Want to come with?"

"Ooh, what kind of business are we talking about?" Alyss asks, perking her head up. "The 'I've found an Asmodian' kind, the other Asmodian kind, or the 'I've found Lepharists digging a giant hole' kind, or the other Lepharist kind? Or something more…fun?"

I shrug clumsily, my awkward position on the ground making it difficult. "I don't know yet. There's a couple things I've to do there, actually," I say slowly.

"Like? Oh, this is so-o-o suspenseful!" she cries out.

I give her a flat look. "I've got to introduce you to my niece—actually, that's part of why I want to go to there. I think she might've ascended."

"Wait, you have a niece?" Alyss looks at me, sitting up completely. "Why didn't you tell me! Wait, you think she ascended?"

"More like recently adopted niece, kind of." I make a wide circular gesture with my arm. "It's complicated." I settle back down against my cloak and try to snuggle deeper into it, which is difficult, given that it's laid upon rock.

She huffs out a laugh. "I can tell. It always is."

"Not like that." I roll my eyes. "But, yeah. She was clearly hiding something, last time I visited. And she's rather skilled at magic for someone whose interest is swords."

"Not that unusual," Alyss says dismissively. "But hiding something?" She raises an eyebrow. "Hiding something like, a pair of spectral wings manifesting every time she absorbs aether? That, would clinch it."

I nod. "Exactly like that." I sigh. "But really though, it's…it's mostly a hunch I have, more than anything else. Dreams of flying and emerging wings, teleporting between obelisks. You've had them; we've all had them. I just didn't expect to have them again."

"I don't think I have heard of any daeva having the exact same ascending dream after they have ascended," she says. "Though…was there anyone else in the dreams with you?"

I hesitate. "I don't remember. They—the dreams—" I shake my head, continue, "weren't like the ones I had way back when. These're…different, somehow."

"Well, you may be right. I shall accompany you." Alyss settles back down, but I can see her expression change to one of mischievousness when she continues, "Wait. The captain I met in Protectors' Hall—doesn't he work in Poeta? I believe, an opportunity presents itself."

I roll my eyes, again. "Yes, yes. You'll meet him there, but he's probably busy. I hear the kobolds are moving south of Kabarah, and he's likely too busy keeping them away from farmers."

"South of Kabarah, south of Kabarah…isn't there an elim forest around there somewhere? I imagine this will draw attention quickly. It can't be anything good."

"Nope," I pop the word. "And it already has drawn attention." I make a sweeping gesture with my hand, coming back to indicate me. "Mine."

"How very wonderfully dramatic. I assume it's standard for you Miragents, though." Alyss smirks playfully at me. "What will you do next, swear bloody soul vengeance against the Crimson Dragon?"

"No, that's for tomorrow." I stifle a yawn.

"I shall graciously lend my assistance," Alyss replies. "But first, I am hungry. Pass me the food."

I shake my head exasperatedly, reach out to grab the platter, and place it within reach of her hands. "You have my most sincere gratitude for this exemplary service. At my behest, you may now relax," she says through a mouthful.

I blink. "Relax! Oh no! How can I?"

Alyss frowns at me, one eyebrow raised in judgement. "That was not particularly good sarcasm. Your skills need polish."

I look back at her evenly. "And you have way too much fun acting like a spoiled princess all the time. Especially—"

"Hey! I am a spoiled princess all the time. What are you talking about?"

"—for someone who's basically one." Alyss's blue eyes crinkle; I smile fondly, and wrap myself in my cloak, turning over to face the cliff's edge again. Light plays over the peaks, slowly fading. Wind spirits and viragos fly over the ravine, occasionally meeting in a flurry of talons. The wind blows, a constant, cold, reassuring presence.

"Well," she declares after a length of time has passed, "I am weary, and I am not sleeping here in these clothes." She pauses; I turn over to look at her. "Do you have a teleport scroll to Sanctum?"

I groan, and reach out into my bag for my cube, hitting the switch on the side to organize everything. I take out a scroll and toss it in her direction; the wind, of course, snatches it away. Alyss makes an annoyed sound and snaps her fingers, pulling the scroll back towards her.

"See you in two days, at the…Nobellium in Akarios?" I ask, looking up as she stands, unclipping and unfurling the parchment.

"Of course," she smiles. "Don't fall off." A circle of rising blue light and a quick, whispering brush of aether, and she disappears.

I roll off the cloak and rise, pick up the garment, and wrap it around myself. The fire's already flickering without Alyss to sustain it against the wind, and I take a sword and longbow from the cube, then stow it. I lean over the edge and calculate the distances in my head, then shrug. Chances are, I'll probably squish a Lepharist beneath me if I don't glide.

"Now, where would Crios be?" I murmur to myself as I back away, preparing to fall off the cliff. "I've something for him in Theobomos."


Attempt at dialogue. Of course, there's no real point to it.

Feedback appreciated.