Tessa decides to take Niara up on her offer of riding after leaving Mira to Vialle's tender ministrations.

Royal Wing (North) -- 1st Floor -- Amber Castle

The main passageway in the Royal Wing, quiet, broad, winding and carpetted, with lesser corridors branching off. Outwardly, there is little to show that this wing is much different from any other. Doors to private suites and apartments are generally locked, although sometimes an open door might indicate an otherwise unoccupied sitting room. Widely interspersed between them are the usual old paintings and tapestries and the odd decorative chair or table, and the occasional window looks out onto inner courtyards or palace grounds. At the far end of the main passage are stairs up to the next floor of the wing.

Tessa stop before the outer door of Niara's chambers and raps upon it. "My Lady? Are you in?"

From beyond the door, a lady's voice is heard. "Yes! It's unlocked!"

Straightening her shoulders, Tessa opens the door and steps inside.

Niara's Sitting Room -- 1st Floor -- Amber Castle

This chamber is spacious, but perhaps seems wider and brighter than others, courtesy of the light-colored woods and minimalist detail used in its furnishing and decoration. The darkest things here are the aromatic cedar inlays in the blonde birch floor, and the most complicated the coppery iris damask curtains. All of the seating and tables are low, the ovals of monotoned carpet lush, and the pillows littered about willy-nilly plush yet designed for abuse. Two large windows let in a view of the Summer Gardens and the not-so-far peak of Kolvir. Two doors lead out; south and east.

Niara is on the far side of the room, filling a glass from what looks like a pitcher of water with slices of citrus fruit floating in it. She looks up.

Tessa opens the door cautiously, and steps about it. "I hope I am not interrupting."

Niara says, "Oh, no. I had begun to wonder if you were going to take advantage of the excuse I'd offered you, but, no, you're not interrupting." Niara smiles. "Thirsty?"

Tessa smiles shyly, looking down. "Yes, thank you. I stayed at Vialle's quarters a moment before leaving Lady Mira there."

Niara takes out another glass from the little cabinet she's standing in front of, and fills it. "Have a seat, if you'd like. Or, if you truly wish to go riding, and in something other than a gown, please feel free to go rummage in the wardrobes. There are not a lot of Amberite style breeches in there, but the Virgan ones are suitable enough for riding."

Tessa looks down at her dress blushing. "I'd hate to ruin it upon it's first day." she looks up. "You are certain you don't mind?"

Niara says, "Certainly. As I said, I have more clothing now than I shall possibly ever wear." Niara gestures toward the other door in the room with one of the glasses as she takes the two over to a table and sets them there.

"Breeches." Tessa smiles, as she heads to the door of the bedroom. "My mother would be so proud."

Niara chuckles, and settles into a cushion.

Niara's Bedroom -- 1st Floor -- Amber Castle

Here is a painted Eden. Creatures parade around the stone walls, camels, great cats, peacocks, oliphants, river horses, basilisks, zebras and others of that ilk giving way clockwise to bears, wolves, songbirds, fire drakes, horses, hounds, griffins, and others of that like. Flowers float on the blue enameled floor, jasmine, oleander, irises, pansies, ... more, all lovingly unreal. The lone deep window has been done up like a garden swing, replete with iron trompe d'oeil, a leather padded seat, and a nice view of the Summer Gardens. The wardrobe and dressers (as have almost all of the other furniture) have been stained to be swallowed up by their surroundings. The bed has been made in the heart of a wood and wishery water lily. A tiger guards the lone door out. Tessa crosses the room to the wardrobe, opening it and revealing the yards of filmy fabric inside. She searches through the bright purples and oranges for more demure and darker colors, withdrawing the Virgan style breeches and a top.

A few moments are spent, slipping into the clothes and then another wrapping the top about her and tying it. Like harem pants, the breeches are airy and band close to the skin only at the waist and ankles. The top is un-revealing save the back which it leaves completely bare save the ties at the nape of the neck and arch of the back.

She spends a moment to admire herself in the mirror, then slips back into the sitting room.

Niara looks up from the floor. She tilts her head. "It seems to fit, yes?"

Tessa nods. "Indeed. Far better than my brother's breeches would." Tessa grins, eyes flashing.

Niara laughs. Niara says, "Eh, I would not know about that. He had a riding outfit made for me once." Niara says, "Come, come, sit, if you'd like."

Tessa quirks her head to the side. "Oh?" she crosses the room, taking up her glass, and sitting. "What was it like?"

Niara points to the snug suede breeches she's wearing. "Like these, only in a weathered brown color, and wool, if I'm not mistaken. There is a coat with it that fastens from the thighs to my chin, in soft purply-blue, and more wool. It has a little ruffly hem, but nothing that gets in the way of riding."

She smooths a hand over her knee. "I asked his tailor to make me these. I don't think the man was too happy about the color and material."

Tessa chuckles softly. "I would bet not. They are touchy that way."

Niara says, "Give a man a needle, and, eh. Still, I will not complain."

Tessa smiles. "They look very fine."

Niara smiles a little more, and sips her water. "Thank you. I will tell him this, the next I see him."

Tessa grins faintly. "He'll probbaly be worried that I'll approach him asking him for the same."

Niara sets her glass down on the low table. "I don't think it would hurt. And, well, you might even choose more sedate colors." She chuckles. Niara muses. "I don't know where your brother got the brooch that came with the riding outfit. There is also a little cloak that goes atop the jacket ... but again, no matter. How is the Lady Mira?"

Tessa's brow wrinkles faintly. "I am not sure. Prickly. Prim. Determined not to let anything she doesn't want seen be seen." Tessa laughs softly. "She's the wet dream of a psychologist with four college aged children."

"Then, she is well," Niara says, before bringing her brows together. "Psychologist?"

Tessa blushes slightly. "A type of doctor from my home. They specialize in fixing the minds of people with... mental problems. From the very sick who are often delusional or have the mentalities of many people within them. To those who have traumas in their life they wish to talk over and work through."
"Depending on the situation meetings with this doctor can span months or years. I was making a catty remark about Mira's mentality perhaps allowing the doctor a way to pay his children's education."

Niara considers. "A prostitute, then. Yes, I have often thought that she could use one."

Tessa blinks, shaking her head quickly. "No. Not a prostitue. There is no sex involved."

Niara gestures. "Though, the way you are speaking, perhaps it would be better if she merely acquired a mistress." Niara ohs. Niara says, "Interesting."

Tessa flushes. "A psychologist is more a person who listens to you, and then helps you work through problems. No sex."

"A parent, then," Niara says, nodding a little. "Pity."

A smirk crosses Tessa's face. "And I really wouldn't know if Mira has need of a mistress."

"Neither would I," Niara admits. "To be honest." Niara picks up her glass again. "Frankly, the thought makes me shiver a little."

Tessa sighs softly. "She's desperately in need of something though. I've never met a woman so..." she shrugs. "I don't even know what she is. Needy to say the least."

"Spite and will, lady, spite and will," Niara murmurs. "This is what she told me is her battle cry. I asked her at the time why was she fighting a war, when there seemed to be no one willing to struggle with her. Perhaps I am not as good at this language as I believe myself to be -- I did not receive a clear answer." Niara crosses her ankles. "So, have you been forbidden to leave Amber?"

Tessa shakes her head. "Lovely battle cry. And one wonders why she is alone." she sighs a moment, then raises her head, smiling. "I do not believe so. Martin has not said as much, nor did the Regent."

Niara says "Good," simple as that. Niara picks up her glass again. "Have you sworn this ... fealty?"

Tessa shakes her head. "I have not been asked to."

Niara repeats the word "Good."

Tessa's head quirks faintly. "Why? Is it bad if they ask me to swear?"

Niara mumbles, "I am uncertain," over the rim of her glass. "Have you made promises?"

"I promised Martin I would be careful."

Niara says, "A good promise."

Tessa nods. "I hope to fufill it to the fullest."

Niara smiles a little more. "I promised him that I would not damage any of the guards, and that I would give some people, like him, the benefit of the doubt."

Tessa smiles faintly. "I have not known him as long as you, but I would think that if any here deserve the benefit of the doubt. He would be one."

Niara waves a hand. "Eh, a season, and half of two others. Not long at all." Niara says, "I have made other promises, too, enough to sum up to what is asked of me in fealty. Yet, it is asked of me, as if no one believes I have and will continue to keep my word." Niara taps the rim of her glass against her lip. "So, if it is asked of you, early, swear it. Save yourself from tying yourself into more promises."

Tessa nods, lips tightened. "Perhaps they have grown so used to mistrusting themselves, they need to mistrust others as well. If it is asked I will think upon it."

Niara sips, and swallows. "As you wish." She pauses, then. "They may also tell you that they do not speak among themselves, so much. This is one of the arguments given me for swearing fealty, that my promises have been to individuals, and that others do not know of them. Why not tell them? I have asked this, and have received blank looks." Niara chuckles. "So, I return those blank looks."

Tessa shrugs. "If family were a business they'd be out of it."

Niara shakes her head slightly. "Even dire enemies speak more to each other in Virga. Well, on occasion." Niara says, "Please take this as a warning, and not that I wish to be your dire enemy." Niara laughs, quietly.

Tessa nods, laughing slightly. "I have a feeling had you wished to be my dire enemy you would have said far less." "Just because half the family chooses to take vows of silence, or be recluses in their own home doesn't mean all should follow their own particular brand of wisdom."

Niara says, "You would not be sitting there, wearing my clothes, had I, you are right, yes." Niara nods. "Aye."

One of the cushions on the floor moves. Tessa looks down at herself. "And very lovely clothes they are." her eyes then shift to the cushion that moved and she stares at it.

Niara says, "Thank Antonio."

Tessa arches a brow, with a grin. "Do I have to?"

Niara laughs. "Oh, that's the Monster. And, no, you do not."

A brushy tail pops out from under the cushion.

Tessa blinks. "The Monster?" she pauses, catching her lower lip between her teeth. "Am I missing something in translation?"

Niara shakes her head. "It is his name. He is a kit. A wild one."

Tessa stares at the tail. "What is a kit?"

Niara says, "A little cat. Though, well, this kit is not so little. His mother was far larger."

Tessa smiles happily. "A cat? I used to have a cat. When I was much younger."

The cushion begins wandering toward the bedroom door. Large claws, attached to stubby paws, click on the wood as it moves.

Tessa just stares, watching the cushion as it moves.

Niara says, "So did I. Though, they were Mother's, truly." Niara chuckles. "They tolerated me." Niara says, "Then, there were the cats in the circus."

Tessa turns back to you. "Circus?" she queries, eyes lighting up. "What kind of circus?"

A soft yeowl heralds the cushion's flopping off a ridge of black hair, a ridge attached to the arching, stretching back of a large russet-orange wildcat.

Niara tilts her head. "There are _kinds_ of circuses?"

Tessa nods, her attention turning back to the furry creature approaching. "Indeed. Many where I am from."

The cat has two thick yellowed fangs poking out of its mouth, curving almost to its chin. Its purr sounds like a rusty dirtbike that someone's thrown a thick quilt over.

Tessa smiles at the cat. "Is it friendly?"

"There are cats and acrobats, dancers, oliphants, clowns, the like in Virgan circuses," Niara says, setting her empty glass aside, and extending a hand toward the table. Niara says, "Yes, if you let him bite me while you pet him. Otherwise, well, he will likely bite you, and I will have to punish him."

Tessa quirks her head slightly. "Does it hurt when he bites you?"

Niara waggles fingers toward the cat. "_Lianda_. Eh, some. I am growing used to it, though." She chuckles. "It is certainly nothing like the bites I used to get from Pashir and Rinade."

Tessa smiles. "They were your cats at home?"

The cat hops up on the table, making it creak a little.

Niara shakes her head. "Two of the male tigers in the circus. They were jealous of the attention I received from their mate."

Niara says, "She was convinced I was a cub that needed tending, and well, was not as interested in acquiring others." Niara holds still while the cat sniffs her knuckles. "I think you can pet him now, if you'd like."

Tessa stretches a tenuous hand to the cat gently touching him.

The cat's fur is a little oily, and smells of musk.

Niara cups her hand under his mouth, and scritches his chin. "We found him," Niara says, quietly. "Martin and I. On a riding trip through the shadows."

Tessa smiles. "He's lovely. Your very own pet." She sounds almost wistful.

Niara murmurs. "It is nice to have something that needs me, yes." "Even if it is just to chew on at times," she adds, a moment later, when the cat wraps a fang over her fingers.

Tessa nods. "So it is. And someone who will always want you around." she pets the cat again. "You're sure it isn't hurting? I could stop."

Niara shakes her head a little. "Oh, no, I'm fine for now. He hasn't broken the skin." Niara says, "This little one was all by himself, surrounded by his dead brothers and sisters, crying over the corpse of his mother. _Lasika_ were carrying them off, one by one, the greedy beady-eyed bastards." Niara pauses, and amends. "Ferrets."

Tessa's face falls. "Oh the poor dear. The poor thing." she pets him again, her touch softer. "So he is an orphan?"

Niara nods, solemnly.

Tessa nods. "I was once. For three days."

Niara glances up. Her lips twitch, faintly, when the cat bites into her hand a little more earnestly. "You were found, then?"

"My father arrived." Tessa says softly. "And I found out I was not an orphan anymore. Though it didn't help much."

Niara looks down at the cat's twitching ears. She lifts her other hand to smooth out one of the black tufts atop them. "My father supposedly sent one of his agents to rescue me, after my mother was assassinated. This did not help much, either."

Tessa nods. "I think they meant well. Our fathers."

Niara murmurs, "I do not know. I believe I have never met him, though ... Antonio seems to think otherwise. We had a priest who resembled him, greatly."

Tessa nods. "My Lady..." she flushes slightly. "May I ask you something?"

Niara says, "Yes. Please."

Tessa blushes. "Might I call you by your name? I feel silly dancing about it. I am Tessa as I am sure you know."

Niara chuckles. "Please do." Niara says, "Though..."

"Though?" Tessa repeats softly, head quirking to the side.

Niara winces a little, but not at her. "It is not my name, other than in the sense I constructed it at your brother's request." Niara says, "He refused to call me 'Whore', which was the translation of that odd little name the Regent gave me for a time."

Tessa's mouth contorts into a circle. "That was... perhaps unfriendly." she frowns. "What would you like me to call you?"

Niara says, "I think he was attempting to provoke me in telling me my true name. A difficult thing to do, when I do not know the language he was using, nor my true name. Niara is fine. I do like the name." Niara frowns. "In telling me my tru ... eh. In telling him, rather." "The House where I grew up has a custom," Niara says. "Children are not told their true names until they turn sixteen." Niara says, "They are called by nicknames and such until then. I was ... removed ... from there when I was twelve. So, you probably see the situation."

Tessa nods. "Indeed. You never knew your true name." Her head quirks to the side quizzicaly. "Why? Why are children not given their true names until sixteen? Is it a coming of age symbol?""

Niara nods. "Yes."

Tessa sips her water. "Who would know your true name now?"

Niara blows out a breath. "I do not know. The records were burned when the House was looted, I have been told. And Eskander's body was never recovered." She pauses, thoughtful. "If it is indeed true that he was my father, masquerading as such, well, he is well and truly dead. I have been told that he died some time before the others went down to fight with this Chaos." Niara lifts a shoulder. "It does not matter."

Tessa's lips purse. "Does it bother you?"

Niara does not answer immediately. "It shouldn't," she murmurs.

Tessa nods. "But it does. So it matters." Her voice low, smooth.

Niara lifts the other shoulder, and says nothing. She does not look up.

Tessa gently strokes the cat for a while. "I still miss my mother." she says sort of to herself. "Sometimes I wake up with a song on my mind and it reminds me of her. The way she used to sing to me as a child. When I would teach lindy hop to my advanced students I thought of her and what it must have been like to dance to the original artists, and not only the recordings of what they had done." She smiles, letting her eyes drift close. "Then, after my father arrived and disappeared, I thought of him, and I missed him too even if I had known him less than a day."

Something plops onto the glossy surface of the table. Something thick, possibly either a teardrop, or more likely, since Niara's face is dry when she lifts her bright eyes, blood.

"I miss Mother still," Niara whispers. "Though it has been thirteen long years. And Eskander."

Tessa is jolted from her thoughts, and she smiles kindly. "What was she like?" "What do you remember of her?"

"She could walk into a room," Niara says, quietly, "And everything would still. Conversations, attentions, everything -- perhaps even breathing. They would all be hers, until she willed them to go on again, with a smile or a laugh or a wave of her hand. It was nothing she demanded, oh, no, just something that was, as a matter of course. She -- she was beautiful. And more than this, she was an honorable woman. She loved me. I loved her. There was no need for questions."

Tessa nods. "She sounds amazing." she says quietly. "What kind of flowers did she like?"

Niara blinks a little. "Flowers?'

Tessa nods. "Did she like flowers? My mother loved roses. White ones specifically."

Niara says, "Oh, all sorts. Roses, yes, the little red kinds with the orange centers. Tangle-lilies. Yellow orchids." Niara nods, considering. "Likely those the most. She kept sprays of them in her rooms, when they were in bloom."

Tessa smiles. "I was always fond of water lillies. And clematis, we had yards of clematis growing over the walls."

Niara chuckles. "We had water lilies inside the gardens, as well. It was Mother's symbol, as the Lotus of the Gotu, though she was not especially fond of them.

Tessa nods. "We had a water lily pond in back. With goldfish. I always wanted to swim in it as a child so my mother told me that the goldfish would nibble my toes."

Niara says, "They would have. But it would not have hurt much."

Tessa grins. "Well as a child the concept frightened me. They were the largest fish. She called them Koa."

Another drop drips onto the table.

Niara tilts her head. "Large goldfish?"

Tessa nods. "Very. Even more so as a child." she raises her hands gesturing to size. "They had large mouths and bright eyes and they swum about swallowing water and algae."

Niara says, "The ones we had in our pools were small. About the size of my thumb, when I was a child."

Tessa laughs. "Oh. Then I guess the idea of them nibbling your toes was not as scary."

Niara shakes her head, chuckling. "No. Nor my ears. Not that I spent time enough in the pools to learn how to swim properly."

Tessa grins. "You don't swim? Would you like to learn?"

Niara says, "I would." Niara says, "I have had _some_ lessons since I have been here, but..." Niara's lips purse, their edges curling up as they pull into a pert bow.

Tessa perks up. "Is there a place to go swimming here? I used to swim to keep in shape for competitions."

Niara says, "I am not certain, other than the ocean. My lessons were elsewhere." "Perhaps there is a river, deeper inland," Niara then offers.

"A river would do well. Or a lake." Tessa smiles. "Though I love the ocean. I always have."

Niara says, "I have seen it a few times. More so, since I have been here in Amber." Niara laughs. "Entirely too much on the trip to Virga with Antonio. Much less than that, on my initial trip here."

Tessa hrms. "You do not like the ocean?"

Niara says, "I am growing more accustomed to it, since I have traveled on it as a passenger, rather than as cargo."

Tessa shivers faintly. "Cargo. Not a comforting thought."

Niara shrugs some. "It was necessary."

Tessa's head quirks. "Why? Why was it necessary?"

Niara says, "I was fleeing from the Legion, after escaping the Emperor's dungeons. There was a ship bound for Gaiga, one that was not very scruplous about checking their cargo."

"So you hid in the cargo." Tessa nods. "That was brave."

"Little did I know they would make final landfall at Amber, deterred by rumors of pirates in the lanes ahead." she adds.

Niara smiles. "Hardly. I was scared for my life."

Tessa nods. "But you did it anyway. Fear is not the abscence of bravery. It is the abscence of stupidity."

"Unlike affection," Niara says, then, her smile fading some.

"Unlike affection how?"

Niara shakes her head. "A flawed metaphor. Fear is not the absence of bravery. It is the absence of stupidity. Affection is not the absence of stupidity, et cetera." Niara says, "Bah. Mira, again."

"Is it then the asbcence of fear?" Tessa smiles faintly. "I think Mira fears affection more than most." "So she may not be the best judge."

Niara lets her voice slide into something brittle and prickly. "The first rule is, no one cares."

Tessa brings a hand to her mouth chuckling. "Oh my." she shakes her head. "That's a good rendition."

Niara says, "Thank you. I have practiced."

Tessa chuckles further. "That girl is in serious need of a wake up call."

Niara attempts something quiet and wry, in about an octave lower than she has any right to have. Her accent vanishes for something more ... familiar. "Yeah."

Tessa quirks herhead to the side faintly again, laughing. "Yeah." she repeats. "Maybe we should get her a prostitute?"

Niara keeps the tone. "Maybe Antonio, splayed out on an altar."

Tessa's eyes go wide, and she sputters upon her water nearly choking. Then she falls into peals of laughter. Her eyes welling up with liquid and her face turning red. "Oh my. I do hope I can sign my name to the card on -that- gift."

Niara blinks, slowly. "Are you well?" she asks.

Tessa nods, still laughing. "Oh yes. Just envisioning Lady Mira's face filled with distress." she grins. "After all I don't believe Antonio would let us wrap him in cute little bows."

Niara clears her throat. Niara says, "I suspect it would depend on where we tied them."

Tessa smirks. "And how tight. I'd hate to cut off circulation. Lack of blood flow tends to make things..." she smirks. "Cold."

Niara says, "Limp, you mean? Or just blue?"

Tessa smirks. "Small. Or smaller than normal."

Niara considers. Niara says, "Smaller than normal. It isn't exactly small. Though, it's undoubtedly smaller than he believes."

Tessa chuckles further. "Quite proud of himself is he?"

Niara gestures. "You could say that." She holds one hand out about eight inches away from the other, which is still mired in the kitten's mouth. She considers, then brings it in a little. Niara says, "Roughly. And it was dark."

Tessa makes a face, then blushes. "Yuck." Tessa laughs then. "Sorry. I am unfamiliar with men in that way."

Niara's brows lift. "You've never seen them change clothing?"

Tessa shakes her head quickly. "No. I had no siblings. Just my mother and I. And my dance partner was batting for the other team."

Niara's brows come together, and stay lifted, as if she is attempting to parse the last statement.

Tessa flushes. "He liked men." She laughs. "He had no interest in women. But he was a fine dancer. One of the best I ever met." she shrugs. "But he liked men. Otherwise he was perfect."

Niara says, "Oh." Niara says, "It is often the case with such." Niara smiles again, her face loosening. "There were a few among the acrobats. More among the dancers."

Tessa nods. "He and I were friends. I even attended the bonding of he and his lover. But there was nothing beyond friendship between us."

Niara says, "This in the circus, of course. In the House, eh, Himan and Deuclytus were each other's for quite some time." Niara laughs. "Deuclytus was Mother's dressing maid."

"And Himan?"

Niara says, "Claw of the Gotu."

Tessa's brow crinkles. "Which is?"

Niara says, "A first-tier assassin."

Tessa ohs and nods. "And they were lovers?"

Niara nods. Niara adds, quietly, "Please do not let Antonio know that you are a virgin."

Tessa frowns slightly. "Why? What would he do?"

Niara says, "If you were lucky, merely harangue you about it." Niara draws her knees up, and rests her chin on them. Niara says, "Though, it is very likely you would be lucky. I doubt he wishes to incur Martin's wrath. Or even mine." "He has ... strange ideas," she adds.

Tessa looks surprised. "Harangue me about it? On what grounds? It is certainly little enough of his affair if I have yet to choose a man who pleases me."

Niara smiles. "I asked him the same question when he chose to harangue me."

Tessa frowns again. "If I am unlucky?"

Niara says, "I got some smirking answer about its being a weakness, and a way to control one -- well, at least to provoke one." Niara says, "If you are unlucky, he will possibly attempt to seduce you."

Tessa makes a face, and begins to laugh. "Good luck to him. I like my men less..." she smirks then. "Dark."

"And hairy?" Niara inquires.

Tessa makes a face again. "Indeed."

Niara says, "He is at that." Niara says, "Though the darkness does not bother me so much, despite its being so ... ordinary." Niara adds. "Most in Virga are dark. Many even darker than me. To be light skinned and blonde is the mark of an exotic."

Tessa muses a moment. "Maybe if he were taller. Lighter, less..." she ponders a word a moment. "Scruffy. If he had a sense of humor, and was nicer. Oh! He'd need an English accent have to know how to dance and maybe blue eyes." Tessa seems to ponder this for a bit. "Well maybe then I'd ask him to dance." Tessa nods firmly. "He's very scruffy."

Niara says, "Indeed."

Tessa smiles faintly. "So I would be considered exotic in Virga?"

Niara repeats, "Indeed," with a soft laugh. "Until you pinkened from the sun, perhaps. Or do you sunburn?"

"I tan slightly. And my hair gets lighter." "I tend to stay out of the sun if I can."

Niara says, "What is ..." Niara attempts the word "English".

Tessa grins. "A nationality from my home." with some effort she straightens her posture, lifts her chin and slips into a crisp and cutting english accent. The effect lying strangely with her Thari. "They have quite a sound to them. Unique really. It is re cognizable anywhere around my home world." she smiles faintly. "It's rather seductive. Or I think it so."

Niara says, "Interesting." Niara muses. "It sounds vaguely ... Aldoniesian." Niara says, "But, not so much." Niara adds, "You would look Aldoniesian, with darker skin. Wheaten or light brown hair."

Tessa grins again, and softens the accent a bit. "Perhaps if we softened him a bit. Made him leaner, taller, bleached his hair. Lightened his eyes and his voice. Did something with his hair. Cut it really. And kept him out of the sun for a year." Tessa nods. "Then we could fix him for Mira."

Niara says, "I do not think he would sit still for those ... alterations."

"Would it be good for me to look Aldoniesian?" Tessa asks, stumbling slightly over the word. "Are they a neighboring country to your Virga?"

Tessa grins. "I think we have as much chance getting him to sit still for our makeovers as we have for our plans of spread eagling him on an altar for Mira with a blue bow."

Niara reaches over for the water pitcher, and offers more. "They are a province within The Empire of the Sun. A part of Virga, yes."

Tessa extends her glass. "Did you fancy one of them?"

"Though, likely, it would do you little good to resemble one, in particular if your association with me was known. Their Marquis..." Niara coughs a little as she fills the glass. Niara says, "Er, no. Quite the opposite."

Tessa arches a brow. "They were unkind to you?"

Niara says, "The Marquis there fancied me as a bribe for the circus to play in his court."

Tessa frowns. "Arrogant of him."

Niara fills her own glass. "Oh, he was kind enough, with a warm mouth, and strong hands, but ... eh. Something was wrong."

Tessa flushes. "What was wrong with him?"

Niara says, "He was quite ... annoyed with me. Enough so to bid with the Emperor for my release when I was imprisoned." Niara sets the pitcher down. "I do not know what was wrong with him," Niara murmurs. "Just that something was not _right_."

Tessa nods. "I always felt that with the men I met. They were kind enough. Some beautiful, some elegant, some stunning dancers. But none were -right-. There was something off." she shrugs. "Serendipitous I suppose. As I would have had to leave him."

Niara tucks a lock of hair behind her ear. "I suppose that could be said of me, as well. Though, had I remained in his lap for very much longer, it is very likely I would have still been there, and not here."

Tessa quirks her head. "Oh? Why?"

Niara laughs. "By bribe, he wished for me to become a part of his harem. I do not think I would have become involved in the things that happened afterwards, had I been shut up in a harem."

Tessa chuckles softly. "Perhaps not but these clothes would have been put to good use." she says with a wink.

Niara utters, "Yes, but Martin would have perhaps been disa--" She shuts her mouth then, tightening it.

Tessa arches a brow. "Martin would have been disappointed? Why?"

Niara takes a drink, a quick, shallow one. "No matter," she mumbles. "One less person to tease," gets added, on the heels of that.

"Do you like him?" Tessa asks softly, watching her.

Niara inhales, and holds that breath. "Please do not ask me about that," she whispers.

Tessa catches her lip. "He's my brother. I love him." she flushes. "You are my cousin and I like you. From the sound of it he does too."

Niara shuts her eyes. "I should not have said anything," she mumbles. "A good conversation, a slip of the tongue, aiyah, aiyah. Please, forgive me. Please, forget."

Tessa nods quickly. "There is nothing to forgive and it is forgotten."

Niara murmurs, "Thank you." "Thank you," she repeats, very softly.

Tessa nods again. "Of course." Her voice changes slightly. "Your monster is quite lovely. Have you had him long?"

Niara says, "A month, scant that." Niara opens her eyes a slit. "His belly should be full soon. Perhaps he will sleep again."

Tessa arches a brow. "His belly full? He is feeding from you?" "Are you quite alright?"

Niara says, "A small joke. Sometimes ... ah, it feels like it." Niara says, "A little dizzy. You have finished petting him? I think it may be safe to put him down for a nap."

Tessa nods. "I am certainly done."

Niara unfolds her knees, and scoops her other hand under the kitten, hefting him off the table. She does not pull her hand from his mouth until she has placed him on the rug near the table, and put a cushion on top of him. "Yes, yes," she murmurs. "He is ready for another nap." Niara says, "He grows so swiftly, I think he tires himself out, just from growing." Niara cups her bloodied fingers in the palm of her uninjured hand, rubbing them. She then gets up. Niara mumbles, "It is getting better. He has learned not to kick with his claws. Just to chew."

Tessa looks surprised. "Niara! Your hand." she swallows. "I had no idea. Are you quite alright?"

"A little dizzy," Niara repeats, softly, as she takes careful steps through the strewn cushions, to the cabinet where she had retrieved the glasses. She opens one of the lower doors with the toe of her boot, then crouches.

Tessa looks worried. "Can I help? I'm not a doctor but I do know first aid."

"Bandages," she mutters, gazing at the innards of the cabinet, as if she doesn't quite see what she's looking for. Niara glances up. "Perhaps you can find where I put the bandages." She blinks a couple of times. Niara grumbles, then. "Minor difficulty in focusing."

Tessa jumps up from her seat. "Niara... sit down. I'll get them."

Niara complies, sitting on the floor she is crouched over, a little ungracefully.

Tessa crouches before the cabinet, rifling through it.

Tessa frowns at the hand, withdrawing the bundles of bandages. She rises, crossing to the door, opening it and interupting the gossip of two maids. "Get me a bowl and a pitcher of water. Now! And hurry." The maids scurry, like two plump chickens seeing a wolf leer at them.

Niara grumbles something under her breath. "It is not so bad," she says. Niara wipes at masticated skin. "It always heals quickly."

Tessa nods. "True. But I'd rather be safe than sorry."

Niara murmurs, without looking up. "He's just a baby cat." Niara says, "And he is learning, really."

Tessa nods. "Next time I'll bring him something to munch on."

Niara whispers, "Thank you." Niara presses her lips together. Barely louder, she adds, "I -- I worry sometimes that he will be taken from me."

"Your cat?" Tessa asks softly, then takes the pitcher and bowl from the girl as she scurries back, out of breath. Tessa closes the door behind her. "Who would take him from you? Who would be so cruel?" Tessa returns to Niara's side, laying the bowl upon the floor. She wets one of the large bandages and then extends her hands to Niara's. "May I?"

Niara offers her hand over, mutely. Niara mumbles, "Thank you." Niara also shakes her head. "Doesn't matter. Shouldn't matter. Shouldn't worry. But ... if I am good and careful, maybe someday I will not have to be afraid that he will hurt someone, and be taken away." "Or that someone will become tired of his hurting me," Niara adds.

Tessa gently touches the wet bandages to Niara's hand, carefully, meticulously cleaning it. When most fo the blood is gone she guides your hand over the bowl and lets the water spill over it washing it clean. Her eyes then rise. "It is your choice if you wish to let him bite you and no one else's concern." she smiles softly. "And if someone tries to take him away I promise I'll do what I can to stop them or get him back for you. Because it does matter. I'd cry if someone took away my music. It was all I had left."

Niara mumbles. "I will not cry. Though, I thank you."

Tessa wraps the hand carefully, tying off the bandage. "There you are. In a day or so it will be good as new."

"Strange," Niara mumbles. "A woman has not done as much for me in years upon years." She develops an odd little smile. "Thank you again."

Tessa smiles faintly. "You are very welcome."

Niara's next mumble is lost in a chuckle. "Perhaps I am faint from blood loss."

Tessa nods. "Should you like to lie down?"

Niara answers that question by turning sideways and dropping her head onto a floor cushion. She misses bumping the basin with her knees when she stretches out, barely. "Maybe for a little while," she mutters. "At least until the dizziness fades."

Tessa smiles faintly. "We'll go riding tomorrow." she says softly. She moves the basin quietly, then returns into the bedroom briefly to retrieve her clothes and while she's there she grabs a blanket. Returning and draping it over Niara's sleeping form. "Sweet dreams."

And Niara is indeed asleep by the time the blanket settles over her. Or more likely, unconscious from blood loss. The kitten snores under his cushion.

Tessa sighs as she heads to the door after cleaning up. "Little monster. You are a sweetie but you better be nicer to your mistress. She needs you." Tessa exits, closing the door quietly as she leaves.