I am still happily in over my head with this project! Gah! ^_^
This piece is more background writing I am working on. Charles and I have been talking about character development and it became apparent that despite a detailed character sketch, I really hadn’t made clear much of how Shaava behaves when she’s at ease, which will be a significant part of her story. So I started playing last night, worked it out some more today, and I’m feeling good enough about it to share. I’m considering this practice for now, although I can see the potential for it or something like it to open the introduction to her character in the main storyline.
Outside of writing I’ve been cultivating Pinterest boards of things that inspire me and a playlist on Spotify of songs that have something in them that relates to the story in my mind. It’s really interesting to have these other sensory inputs and expressions, particularly because when I was writing my thesis I couldn’t focus if I had music on. The difference in process between composing the fiction and the thesis is quite marked for me and I am glad I know that now.
Shaava wasn’t sure if it was the lazy afternoon sun or the satisfaction of having just spent an hour with her cello that suffused her with such contentment. Every day here brought something new: something to learn, something to try, someone to meet, somewhere to go. The wonder of it hadn’t faded much during her residency these past four years. WhiteRock still felt like a vibrant dream when contrasted with the restrictive routines of the Enclave. It was hard to reconcile how different her two worlds were. Yet even thoughts of home couldn’t shake her today; her satisfaction was profound and such that she could pretend those students were passing secrets rather than maligning her with their whispers if she paid attention to something else. Someone was always talking here. It had taken the better part of two years before she’d acclimated to the idea that she didn’t owe anyone her attention as a listener, but she was comfortable with the notion now. She focused instead on the cadence of the leaves rustling in the breeze and wondered what trees might gossip about if they could. It was a pleasant diversion and she let it carry her away into daydreams, her feet following a path she’d walked a thousand times. She was approaching the dormitories when she heard her name echo from the left. Lechta Ai was seldom quiet unless she was up to something.
“Shaava! An unsupervised smile? After all of these years I really am rubbing off on you, aren’t I?” Lechta Ai teased as she drew near, preening her whiskers with pride. The cheerful swishing of her tail indicated that the young woman was in her usual state of jubilation.
“I suppose you must be, Ai-a,” Shaava replied, pulling her thoughts from the clouds. Her shy smile brightened into fullness as she paused her step to let her shorter companion catch up.
“Of course I am. I am amazing. And you recognize amazing things faster than a magpie notices sparkles.” It was hard to keep from loving Lechta Ai’s voice, the way it melded her effusive delight with the world and the purring harmonic of the K:amur peoples. Not for the first time Shaava wished she had the laryngeal muscles that would allow her to purr. She wondered what it felt like. Lechta Ai studied Shaava’s face carefully, adept at reading past the mage’s usual reserve, and liked what she saw. “You really are in a good mood.” Falling into step with the moon elf, Lechta Ai dropped her voice. “I am happy to see it. You’ve been a bit out of sorts lately. I was worried about you. You were acting more like…”
“Like when I got here. I know, Ai-a. I am sorry.” Shaava said, looking sideways at her friend. Her cheeks coloured slightly with what Lechta Ai recognized as shame.
“Don’t apologize,” Lechta Ai chided. “You did nothing wrong. There is nothing to be sorry about.”
“Even so, I am sor-”
“What did I just say?”
Another soft exhalation of frustration. “Right. I know. I am trying, I promise.”
“I know you are, Kitten. You’ve had a lot of catch up to do, and you’re doing great.” Lechta Ai reached out her paw and snagged Shaava’s thin fingers, giving them a squeeze. “It will keep getting easier the longer you’re here. We’ll keep reminding you. Look at how far you’ve come already.”
“Ai-a, everything still seems so different here. What if I never catch up…?” Shaava’s voice trailed away, her smile fading and her eyes regaining their usual solemnity.
“Stop it. You’re more determined than anyone I know. And that’s what you have me for,” Lechta-Ai replied with a wink, bumping her cheek against Shaava’s shoulder affectionately. “Let’s not dwell. I know you, you’ll get too far down into that rabbit hole in your head and I’ll have to dig out you. I just cleaned under my nails, too. Don’t ruin that for me.”
“I will not, I promise,” Shaava replied, seriously. Now it was Lechta-Ai’s turn to sigh.
“I’m joking, Kit. It’s okay. I’ll always dig you out again, you know that. I’ve got you and we’ve got this,” Lechta Ai said, squeezing Shaava’s hand again. “Is there anything you want to talk about?”
The mage smiled her soft smile in return, shaking her head. Still, soft smiles were better than no smiles and Lechta Ai would take what she could get. Compared to how reclusive and shuttered Shaava had been when she arrived here, the mage was practically dancing on tables. “Only that I am grateful for you, Ai-a.”
“And you should be. I am amazing, remember?” the K:amur replied, pretending to buff her claws on the front of her vest. Shaava rolled eyes merry with amusement and they lapsed into silence, enjoying the brief break between classes. “So, what’s on the boil now?” the K:amur finally asked. “More cello? I heard you earlier; I swear you’re getting better and I didn’t think that was possible.”
Shaava shook her head, the movement rippling down the partially bound cascade of her hair. “I have my teaching group this afternoon and I am working on my project this evening. Magus Siannodel has thought up a new variant for the transmutation I am working on and I would like to investigate it a bit before we take it up in the morning. I might try to get more cello in before bed, though.”
“If you even remember to go to bed. Let’s be honest about this, Kit—you get a little obsessive with new lines of inquiry. I’ll come drag you up myself if I need to,” the K:amur warned, the warmth in her voice not entirely masking the seriousness of her assertion.
Shaava caught Lechta Ai’s hand suddenly. “Would you, please? Check in on me?”
Lechta Ai’s whiskers twitched. That was odd. “Of course, if you want me to,” she replied, careful to keep her voice the same. Shaava picked up on tonal change almost as well as a K:amur and it would make her clam up tighter than any shoreline bivalve.
“I would appreciate it,” Shaava replied, relaxing her grip. Lechta Ai’s whiskers twitched again. Very odd.
“No problem, then. Any particular time?”
“Whenever you have a moment will be fine, Ai-a. Thank you.”
Lechta Ai rumbled her assent. “Maybe if you get done early tonight, we could work on those steps I was teaching you? Thyadren traded for a new drum and they said they would love to drum for us.”
“I would enjoy that very much,” Shaava replied, warmth reinfusing her voice. “I was having a lot of fun with that pattern. And it is always a joy to have a live drummer.”
“You’re just delighted that it’s a chance to spend time with Thyadren. Admit it!” Lechta Ai badgered, playfully. “They miss you, you know. You’ve been really busy lately. Don’t you miss them?”
“Of course. I imagine they are quite excited to explore a new instrument. They have been in a creative dry spell as of late,” Shaava replied, thoughtfully. “Hopefully this helps.”
Lechta Ai wondered again how many questions Shaava had avoided answering over the course of her life. She had heard of the subtlety of elves, but Shaavana Amastacia took that to an entirely different level, and so politely most never noticed her evasions. She missed some social niceties so completely that Lechta Ai believed the dark haired elf had never known they existed, while most others were performed as perfectly as a K:amur mating dance. Like a clockwork with a few slipped gears, really. Once you got her aligned again, she was ornamental, functional, and dependable, although it was still too easy to knock her out of alignment in the K:amur’s opinion. Then again, a clockwork’s internal components were often steel and Lechta Ai had been chums with the mage long enough to note the resemblance to her friend’s spine. While still remote with most and skittish in general, Shaava could get herself sorted out pretty quickly now that she was away from her family and had the right tools. The K:amur had begun seeing to that as soon as she recognized it was necessary and the elven mage was the first to admit she was better for it. That said, if something else was going on, Lechta Ai was going to sniff it out. Her tail lashed decisively as they walked through the door. Nobody messed with Kit.
That evening Shaava’s excitement was plain on her face when she rushed through the door of the room she shared with Lechta Ai. She latched it swiftly and put her back against it, her posture tense with excitement. “Ai-a! You would never believe it!”
Lechta Ai looked up from her workbench beside the window where she was repairing Thyadren’s watch. Her eyebrows rose to see the mage so animated. “Oh? What’s that?”
“Magus Siannodel has asked me to accompany him to a conference. In Invictus!” Shaava replied, eyes alight as she tossed her bag into the chair by the fireplace. The deep seat muffled the sound of heavy books landing. “It may even be possible to arrange a tour of the Collegia!”
“Well, that would kill two birds with one stone. A conference and a chance to check out the place you want to do your Fellowship sounds amazing,” Lechta Ai observed, setting down her tools. Thyadren’s warnings about the Magus were fresh in her mind after the heated conversation they’d had while Shaava was in the workroom after dinner. She could see why Thyadren might be concerned, but Lechta Ai wasn’t completely sure their jealousy concerning the sheer amount of time Shaava had recommitted to her studies since Siannodel’s arrival wasn’t distorting their perception of the Magus’ behaviour. If Thyadren thought their budding relationship with Shaava was going to lessen the mage’s dedication to pursuing magic, they had no idea who they were dating. “I’m a bit jealous,” the K:amur teased. “I’ve always wanted to go there. The Artificer’s Guild is supposed to be one of the best.”
“Maybe we can do our Fellowships at the same time,” Shaava mused, flopping onto her stomach on her bed and propping her chin on her palm. “Wouldn’t that be great?”
“Is there anything you do that isn’t graceful?” Lechta Ai demanded with fond exasperation.
Shaava was thoughtful for a moment and then shook her head. “I don’t think so, Ai-a,” she replied with a grin that bordered on cocky. Lechta Ai snorted. Shaava’s tone was deservedly proud, but there was a familiar echo of disquiet behind her words. Lechta Ai still hadn’t figured out where that came from. Not for lack of trying.
“Anyway,” the K:amur rejoined, tossing a mostly-clean grease rag at the mage, “Yes, I do think that would be amazing. Invictus wouldn’t know what hit it if we showed up.” Shaava tried to snatch the rag out of the air from her prone position on the bed and missed. Lechta Ai laughed. “You’d make a terrible cat, Kit. You can’t even catch things that aren’t alive.”
Shaava stuck her tongue out at her and rolled off the bed. “Do you still want to dance tonight? Or are you busy?” she asked as she pulled her comb from its usual spot on the mantle and gave her hair a quick going over.
“Oh, I want to dance. Unlike you, I understand that work can wait,” Lechta Ai replied archly, turning back to her workbench and setting things to rights. She’d know where to pick back up tomorrow as long as things were put in order tonight. “I think you should borrow that aqua set of mine to wear.”
Shaava paused, looking up from a knot. “Are you sure, Ai-a?”
“Of course I am sure. You keep admiring it, you should at least try it on. And it will just be me and Thyadren with you. No one is going to know, never mind say anything. You’ve said a few times lately that you wish you could wear stuff like that and this is as good a time as any to try. You never know, you might like it.”
“Or I might freeze to death,” the mage retorted, but Lechta Ai knew that Shaava wouldn’t turn down the opportunity the way the K:amur had presented it. She was so particular about trying new things anywhere she might incur criticism that it boggled Lechta Ai’s mind, but if she felt secure enough, she was up for just about anything. That had been a pleasant surprise, Lechta Ai reflected. She hadn’t expected that out of the rigid stick she’d first been introduced to. Lights, she had hated that stick.
“It’s in the closet,” the K:amur replied, gesturing absently with her tail while finishing her cleanup. “I’ll be right back, I need to wash my hands. Can you get the door for me so I don’t get oily fingerprints everywhere?” Shaava nodded, crossing the floor. “Thanks, Kit. Get changed and we can head out as soon as I’m back.” Shaava nodded again. As the door closed behind her, Lechta Ai listened for the sound of the lock sliding home. There it was. She wondered again what it was with locked doors, yet another thing Shaava avoided questions about. Shrugging, the K:amur made her way to the bathing room at the end of the hall. It was what it was.
Shaava turned to the closet and found the matched harem pants and top that she’d been admiring since Lechta Ai had brought it back with her from her most recent trip home. The fabric was light and finely woven, almost as soft as suede. Lechta Ai said the quiet aqua colour that Shaava adored was a close match to a type of ice found in the glaciers of her clan’s home range. Shaava couldn’t imagine such a colour existing in ice. That would be something to see. She crossed the floor with it to stand beside the fire and quickly started changing. It caught her off guard to see the flatness of her stomach and the paleness of her arms still exposed after she knew she’d redressed, but it was a good feeling. Boldly, she turned and surveyed her reflection in the mirror that hung behind their door.
It fit like she’d imagined it might and she was delighted. The way the short top wrapped around her throat, crossed over her chest, and tied behind her back created the illusion of her having fuller breasts. The low-slung pants with their wide legs gathered into tight cuffs above her ankles, emphasizing the leanness of her core while the twin beaded ties that held them closed accented the slight curves of her hips. The outfit looked nothing like it looked on Lechta Ai, whose generous curves turned it into a siren’s song of sexuality, but it looked like freedom to Shaava. She tried a few hip circles in either direction, watching her reflection carefully and found the movement of the fabric and her hair complimented each other well. Closing her eyes, she improvised, acclimating to and then luxuriating in the feel of the fabric on her skin and the way her hair felt on her exposed shoulders, back, and hips as she danced. A knock on the door interrupted her trance. She smiled and composed herself before opening it. As expected, it was Lechta Ai returned. The K:amur eyed her critically as she entered.
“Well, that looks delightful. Pants are too short and the waist needs adjusting, but that’s easy to fix when we order yours,” she observed. “And you look delighted. How do you feel?”
“Amazing,” Shaava confirmed. “Absolutely amazing. Isn’t that ridiculous? It’s just clothing.”
“I don’t think so. Novelty is always exciting and you’re such a sensualist I imagine that fabric is giving you vapours. Thyadren is going to be all over you.”
A flash of hesitation clouded Shaava’s features and then was gone, replaced with boldness. “Well, we should show them, then. Wouldn’t want to keep them waiting.” She pulled her robe over the costume, belting its blinding whiteness with her sash.
“That’s my girl,” Lechta Ai grinned. “Let’s go.”