Unwind

Baiya has a new customer

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The Diamond of Kalea is located on Kalea's extreme west coast and called as such because its completely made of a crystalline substance called Skyglass. Home of the Alvina of the Stars, cultural mecca of knowledge seekers, and rife with Ethaefal, this remote city shimmers with its own unique light.

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Unwind

Postby Madeira Craven on February 11th, 2021, 3:36 am

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30th of Winter, 520


"I wonder if it's possible to pay someone to pull off my skin and restring my muscles like a ukulele", Madeira wondered aloud as she turned her head and heard her spine realign for the fourth time.

Maro just looked at her, dead-eyed as he cleaned their many chipped porcelain plates with a wet cloth. "I don't know, Miss."

Madeira smiled into her cup. "You're a delightful conversationalist, sweetheart."

"Thank you, miss."

Picking at the wood grain on her kitchen table, Madeira wondered if it was about time she visited a spa. There was only one Madeira knew of in Lhavit, but she'd never been to Starglow before. Part of it was because, since she had discovered the absolute luxury of a private bathroom, she had vowed to never set foot in a public bathhouse again. The other part was the famed tranquility of it all. Madeira did meditate, though infrequently, but her meditation involved much more hallucinogenics and feverish prayer, and much less tea and inner peace.

But maybe there were other benefits to it she hadn't considered. She rolled her shoulders under her prim, violently yellow dress and felt her bones creak like an old house. Her posture was perfect and ridged, even when seated at her own kitchen table with nobody but her housekeeper. Coupled with the stress of the last few weeks her back muscles were wound tighter than her crossbow. She wanted a trained professional to dig their knuckles into her spine until it unspooled like overcooked spaghetti. Starglow seemed like just the place to acquire such a service.

"That's it, I'm going to get a massage", Madeira announced decisively, slamming back the last of her coffee and already rising from her chair. "If anybody asks tell them you haven't seen me and I've dropped off the face of Miza."

Maro blinked at her. "Yes, Miss. Enjoy yourself."

••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••


It was a long walk to Sartu, but worth it in the end. As she climbed the stairs to the tall, steepled building, flanked by bubbling ponds unaffected by the drought, the scent of jasmine, and the sound of string instruments spiraling down to meet her, Madeira began to wonder if she had been missing out all this time. She passed under a skyglass arch and into the main building.

"Welcome to Starglow Spa", a delicate Konti looked up and smiled from behind a desk. Her voice had the dreamy, ethereal quality of a serial daydreamer or a narcoleptic. "What can I do for you?"

"Is anybody available to do a massage?"

"Of course. What kind would you like?"

This threw Madeira for a moment. She hadn't considered there was more than one type. Perhaps sensing this, the Konti continued.

"We can do back, hands, feet, aromatherapy... Perhaps you would prefer a body massage? It's excellent for loosening all the muscles."

Thankful that the decision was being made for her, Madeira gravitated towards the suggestion. "A body massage, if you please."

The konti wrote down a note and beckoned Madeira to follow her. From a sweet-smelling cedar closet she handed Madeira a fresh, fluffy robe and showed her to a changing room. A moment later she collected Madeira's clothing and many abundant accessories, and tactfully didn't ask why the woman was still wearing her silk gloves. She led the Spiritist deeper into the spa and into an empty room, containing a raised bed, a water basin, and many fragrant plants.

"Make yourself comfortable. Your massure will be here shortly", the Konti smiled, bowing her head respectfully before closing the door behind her. Madeira sat on the bed, her robe pulled primly to her neck, and breathed deep of the fresh mountain air while she waited.
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Unwind

Postby Baiya on February 12th, 2021, 5:18 pm

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30th of Winter, 520 AV

"Ready, Baiya?"

A'shra's voice had a tinge of amusement to it as she watched Baiya jump away from what she had been doing. She was supposed to have been folding robes, but in reality she had her nose in one of the other chests in the room. It was not that there was anything of particular interest in it of course; it just housed a different size of towel. The draw was simply that she had never opened it before and curiosity had won over repetitive work.

"Yes, ma'am. Sorry about that. I, uh..."

"Not a worry now, but you'd best carry on."

Baiya nodded somberly. She admired the Konti deeply, and sometimes A'shra's combination of tenderness and resolution was exactly what she needed to ground herself and focus.

"Right. On my way," Baiya confirmed. A'shra just smiled softly and handed her the slip of paper.

On her way down the hall, Baiya slowed her walk so that she could read. Human...body massage...I can handle this. She thought.

Coming into the room she was met with a familiar sight. A woman sat on the raised bed in one of the spa's soft white robes, seemingly content to wait in the elegant rooms. She had the carefully composed expression of a socialite, and the strict, rigid posture of one too. Deducing that this woman would appreciate formality, Baiya stuck carefully to the script.

As she had been taught, she bowed her head respectfully.

"Hello, my name is Baiya. I'll be your masseuse today."

Niceties exchanged, she set her pack down on the floor to begin her work. The pack contained the standard issue supplies, out of which she pulled a towel and her oil. She tried her best to move with grace, but she knew she was nothing like A'shra. Baiya's gestures as she spoke were exaggerated and felt awkward, instead of the flowing dance her boss produced. Nevertheless, she tried.

"For a body massage, I'll have you pull your arms out of the robe and lie down with your breast over the pillow. I'll also let you use the rolled towel to rest your forehead on so that your neck can stay straight. Once you're comfortable I'll be folding the robe down to your waist so that I can reach your back."

Considering her dress, Baiya's eyes flitted to the woman's gloved hands. Her curiosity spiked, even though she knew better. She quickly looked away, distracting herself with rolling the towel for her forehead.

"And before we begin," She continued, "Please, if there's any concerns or pain outside your comfort during the massage let me know. Shall we begin?"

Baiya turned her back to submerge the bottle of oil in a small bucket of spring water to warm. Meanwhile, she mentally sorted through her standard questions to find those open-ended enough to not appear prying. Finally, she settled on simplicity.

"So what brings you here, dear?" She asked over her shoulder.
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Postby Madeira Craven on February 14th, 2021, 8:30 pm

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Madeira turned her head as the door cracked open and a new woman let herself in. The masseur was pretty and immaculate; clean and fresh, her dark hair pulled back and styled, her pale skin porcelain clear, her manner professional. She bowed her head respectfully and introduced herself as Baiya. As she floated around the room, moving bottles and rolling towels, Madeira tried to guess how old she was. She was an adult, clearly, but then the woman would gesture her instructions self-consciously, or she'd catch the youthful shine in her grey eyes, and the spiritist would wonder if she was actually younger than she had guessed. Late teens, possibly.

"Baiya? What a lovely name", she smiled. "I'm Madeira. Pleasure to meet you."

She was given instructions to slip her arms out of the robe and lie down. If she had been told two years ago to disrobe in front of a stranger she would have laughed them out of the room. But Lhavit, through her many visits to the Catholicon and the Red Lantern, had handily scrubbed the modesty out of her. She did as she was told, shifting to find a comfortable position with her forehead propped against the towel and her arms laying by her sides.

"What brings me here?" Madeira reiterated, rolling the question around in her mind. "Same as many of your customers, I suppose. I'm wound tighter than the whiniest violin and I'm hoping you can help", she laughed. "It's been a stressful few seasons, and it would be nice if it didn't feel like I was carrying them on my shoulders."

As her robe was rolled down it exposed two tattoos on Madeira's translucent, sunless skin. One was on her shoulder and upper arm: an animal skull with purple flowers growing through the sockets. The second was more complicated and took up all of her back, from the base of her neck to the swell of her buttock. Harsh black lines and shapes intersected to cleverly form the high crest, uneven legs and bared teeth of a laughing hyena. Beneath the ink the knuckles of her spine pushed up clearly through her skin, and her waist unnaturally indented from the boning of her corset.

"Beautiful, isn't it?", she mumbled proudly into the bed, tapping her back with a gloved finger. "I had my shoulder done here, at Lazuli Ink, to remember the death of a friend", she smiled at her private joke. Jomi was dead but still very much present, and to describe them as friends would be to seriously abuse the word, but he was important to her. "The big one I acquired in Riverfall. Gods they take tattoos very seriously", she remembered belatedly, before her lips twisted in a pained, nostalgic smile, "It's my former bondmate."

She cleared her throat delicately, wondering if it was normal to talk ones way through a massage. But she was naked and being touched by a stranger and felt the need to cover her twinge of discomfort with conversation.

"So, how long have you been doing this, Baiya? I'm sure you have seen all kinds of body art at this point. Any stories to tell?"
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Unwind

Postby Baiya on February 18th, 2021, 3:59 pm

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It was a little jarring to see such beautifully decorated porcelain skin on the surface, and at the same time see the deformities bubbling beneath. Hopefully she could lessen the effect a little- if not visually then at least in terms of comfort.

Baiya spread the oil between her palms, then ran them gently over Madeira's back. The trail the oil left behind highlighted the inks in its sheen. It sounded like she used the tattoos as memorials, but Baiya could not imagine for the life of her why someone would want to recall a death. Her heart squeezed at the mention of a "former" bondmate, too. What a terrible memory!

Baiya turned to her warmup by cupping her hands into "crab claws" and running them up Madeira's back, with her thumbs falling into the natural indentions next to her spine. She pushed gently from the outside, increasing pressure each time she made a pass but being careful to avoid pressing on the spine directly. Although Madeira could almost certainly use a good crack, Baiya knew that she was far from trained to do such a thing.

"I've really only been doing this a little over a year," She answered, "But never fear, ma'am, I've been doing this almost half by life." Baiya grinned at her own joke.

"I've seen some things though, absolutely. Lots of gorgeous tattoos on the Svefra, of course, but the Gnosis marks are my favorite. There's no shortage from Laviku or Zintila around here. But I saw a mark from Myri once, too."

Taking a quick pause from her chattering, Baiya shifted her hands to a new position. This time, she used the heel of her hand to create a deep pressure and moved across the muscles instead of with them. This way the friction was increased- though hopefully not too drastically with the oil to aid her. It would begin to break down some of the scar tissue that had been built on Madeira's back from years of mistreatment.

"Speaking of, have you ever seen the things Myrians do to their bodies? The scars are beautiful in their own way, I guess, but I can't imagine going through something like that myself.

"But I suppose you've seen a lot of strange things, huh? You said the tattoo was from Riverfall? So do you travel for work, or just for pleasure?"
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Postby Madeira Craven on February 20th, 2021, 1:20 am

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An unflattering groan squeezed out of Madeira as Baiya's hands dug into her back. The oil held the heat of her hands as she worked them over her muscles, leaving a comet tail of sparkling nerves across her skin. So this is what she had been missing out on. It felt like she was crumbling in Baiya's hands in preparation for the woman putting her back together.

"Half your life..." she repeated, suddenly feeling a lot more sluggish than a chime ago. "You're a Kelvic?" It took some self control to resist turning over and taking a second look at the woman. Madeira had never found it to be explicitly obvious who was a Kelvic, but she was observant enough to typically pick out subtler things like spotted gums and loping strides or any of the other things that gave them away. Either she was losing her touch or this woman really didn't have any tells.

"Can I ask what type? Hmm, I have Kelvic twins your age." Thinking about it, her daughter would by now be almost exactly Baiya's physical age. She realized she was old enough to be this grown woman's mother. It was a strangely uncomfortable thought.

Baiya switched position then, digging the heels of her hands into her muscles and pressing outward like she was kneading dough. Madeira's entire body stiffened up with pain before melting into the pressure, and her instant reaction was to both curse like a Svefra and moan like a whore. Thankfully she clamped her mouth shut before it had the chance to embarrass her.

"Oh yes, the Myrian are something else", she commented dryly as her breath came back. She had had several run-ins with the race over the years, both their men and women, and neither had left a particularly sunny impression of the culture. "They do some strange things to their bodies. I knew a woman who filed her teeth to points and had a glyph tattooed on her tongue. Another had dentures made from cursed human teeth", she ran her tongue over her own teeth in sympathy. "If you want to see more gnosis' I'll bet there are much gentler gods out there who would oblige. Actually, which god would you choose? Hypothetically, who would you want to receive a mark from?"

As the question of travel came up she rolled her shoulders up to show her ambivalence.

"The strangest things I've ever seen were in Lhavit", she admitted. "Your city is a different type of crazy. I did travel for work though. Just once. I made the big loop from Alvadas to Lhavit with stops along the way. I come from a family that specializes in Spiritism magic. I was-" she tripped over the word given and tried a different track. "I was entrusted to the Dusk family about three years ago to solidify an alliance between them. I came here to teach the Dusk's the spiritism my family perfected.

"It would take a braver woman than I to travel for pleasure. I'd rather put down roots than ever take that journey again. My daughter, Amelie, is of a different breed though. As soon as she was grown she was off to see the world." She turned her head to regard Baiya with one pale eye. "How about you, do you plan to travel? See the world?"
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Postby Baiya on February 21st, 2021, 9:39 pm

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Again, though for a different reason, Baiya's heart squeezed at the mention of other Kelvics. Her mind wandered to her many siblings, likely all holed up together at home for a nap or helping each other with school in the kitchen, bothering their mother to no end.

"I'm a sugar glider. Kind of...flying rodent-like." She said, although she knew her parents would have gone mad to hear her call herself a rodent. "But my whole family tries to encourage staying unbonded, so I suppose I don't look or act quite as wild as some. It's a little lonely, but I think I'm glad I'm my own person."

The topic of a gnosis for herself threw Baiya. She hadn't really considered it since the gods seemed so abstract from where she stood.

"I don't know if I'd like a gnosis. They seem like a lot of work." She furrowed her brow. It was honest, but it sounded terrible phrased like that. "Maybe there's gentler gods, like you said, that wouldn't change my whole life with a mark. Um, Bala is my pseudo-namesake so maybe from Her? I could be okay with becoming a farmer. Even though a Goddess like Caihya sounds beautiful and powerful, I don't want the responsibility of tending the wilds to rest entirely on me. I'm just a kid." She wasn't technically a child, but suddenly she felt very small indeed. She could hear her voice shy away, which made her cringe self-consciously. She made sure to continue applying appropriate pressure, afraid of letting her conversation carry her away from the physical work. She did her best to continue speaking though. After all, conversing with the customer was part of her job, too, if that's what made them feel comfortable. She mentally tried to pull herself together.

"They might not be all bad, though. Would you want a gnosis mark? They'd make you a lot stronger, I'm sure.

"I haven't left Lhavit for that reason. I mean, I do want to and frankly, the curiosity of what's out there might kill me someday. But if it doesn't, I'd die on the road, you see? I'm just not strong enough.

"Not yet." She clarified, setting her jaw as she worked. She returned to smooth, deeply pressured strokes. With these strokes, she made a vertical movement towards the heart with the flat edge of her hand. The idea was to encourage the blood flow to aid in the relaxation, and restore air to the muscles which had been deprived of it while they were so tightly clenched.

Pride crept back into her as she worked, reassuring herself of her path. She was young, but that meant she had time to grow, and look how far she had come already! She would learn all that she wanted to know and she would be skilled enough to travel. It would work out perfectly, she was certain.

"I'm learning magic, too. I'm a hypnotist. And someday I want to learn Flux. Then I'll be powerful enough to explore on my own. Or maybe I'll just use my new abilities to take over here when A'shra is ready to retire, if that ever happens."

"But Spiritsm? Now that one sounds scary," She teased gently, "Have you ever been possessed? Is that why you're wound so tightly?"
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Postby Madeira Craven on February 28th, 2021, 11:55 pm

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Sugar glider. Kind-of flying rodent-like. Madeira had no idea what that was, but the description immediately made her think of bats. Was Baiya a type of bat? She tried to imagine her strong human fingers and how they might translate to a bat's frail wing bones. Something there did not make sense.

As Baiya spoke Madeira began to paint a picture of her in her mind. She wanted to live quietly and easily, taking over the Spa or becoming a farmer, unbounded and independent. And maybe, one day, she would travel. Baiya didn't mention a destination, or that she was travelling to anywhere. Just travel for travel's sake, because she was curious. The chasm of difference between the two women was staggering in that moment. Simple pleasures were about as far out of Madeira's reach as the idea of being independent.

"Would I want a gnosis?" She repeated, mulling it over. Part of her wanted more gnosis'. Those tiny slivers of godly power were incredible. But a louder, terrified part of her remembered what it felt like to be in the presence of Death and Manipulation personified and begged to never see another god again. "I have a gnosis, actually." Swinging her right arm down off the table she brought her hand to her mouth and pinched her glove between her teeth. She replaced it at her side, palm up, to show the clean black scythe mark buried in her distorted, waxy flesh. A chemical burn had left shiny, violently recolored scar tissue across her entire hand, leaving thickened knuckles and fingers that all pointed in slightly different directions. "It's called Eiyon. It's from the death goddess, Dira. It lets me interact with the dead in new ways, see the last moments of someone's life, and track the undead from kilometers away. With it I'm expected to preserve the cycle of life and death."

"It's not that it's a lot of work", she mused thoughtfully. "It's more that my ideals line up with Dira's, so it doesn't feel like work. It just feels like I'm doing something right." She was quiet for a moment, letting the woman dig her soul out through her back, before continuing. "I don't know much about Bala, but if she's represents something that speaks to you, it might be worth currying her favour. Still, I don't recommend the experience of meeting her. Gods are fine in theory, but the reality of them is... a lot."

As the conversation moved to magic, Baiya said something that made Madeira startle in her skin.

"Wait, you're a what?" This time Madeira did raise herself onto her elbows to turn and look at her. There was something complicated in her expression, something between disbelief and astonished. Distantly she registered how loose and pleasantly sore her shoulders felt even in that awkward position. "Maybe it's a cultural thing, but you know, I've never spoken to anyone who's admitted to being a hypnotist."

As the disbelief wore off the curiosity started to make itself known. She had taught herself hypnotism, through books and this one magical pond in Alvadas that probably should have killed her. Encountering another practitioner was nothing short of a miracle. "What can you do with it? Will you show me?"
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Unwind

Postby Baiya on 24 minutes ago

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OOCSorry for long post. Also, if Madeira wouldn't agree to the magic, let me know and I'll switch up the ending because Baiya isn't going to try and force it on her.

Baiya wasn't sure what she had expected from Madeira. She supposed she had expected just what she appeared to be- a young socialite, rich enough to spend money on herself and not bothering with much else. She should have known better. No person was as simple as they appeared.

Sometimes they were also marked by the Goddess of death.

The ink (Was it ink? It couldn't possibly be something so mundane) appeared burned into the crooked, discolored flesh like a brand. She shivered at the sight of it. Baiya couldn't help but think, despite Madeira's assurances that it was an alignment of ideals, that it looked like a slave's marking. No, she didn't suppose she'd be invoking a God anytime soon, even positively.

Perhaps it was this line of thinking that caused Baiya to jump when Madeira confronted her. When she raised herself up on her elbows, Baiya pulled her hands away as if the skin had burned her. Madeira's expression was nigh unreadable, but something in it was astonished. This combined with her new knowledge of the woman's power made it feel as if she had misstepped disastrously. It felt as if a prey instinct took over as her body froze and her eyes went wide.

By the time Madeira began to explain, Baiya physically relaxed, but her mind spun. Her mother had never said anything about it being a secret, had she? Maybe she had, and Baiya had glossed over it in excitement. It was so many seasons ago now. But the magic was least effective when someone knew what you were doing, so it seemed the most safest, most honest option to tell. She wasn't trying to manipulate anyone. She only wanted to help. But just through the one interaction, she was suddenly unsure of her moral stance. So, when Madeira asked to see, Baiya hemmed and hawed.

"I, uh...it isn't much. I really use it mostly just to, well..." She took a deep breath to recapture her thoughts- slowly in, then out. "I can show you."

As part of the teaching, Baiya had experienced a few different levels of hypnosis, but she had always wondered if her magic felt the same to the recipients as her mother's had to her. Whether or not this was a universal experience, it was all she had to describe her practice, so she explained the best she knew.

"The main thing I do is suggest feelings. It's like I can find an emotion in people's heads and offer to bring it to the front, but I can't make you feel it. If you don't want it, then just say no and it will go away pretty quickly."

Baiya swiveled herself around so that she was standing by Madeira's head and placed her hands delicately on her shoulders.

"I have the most practice with conjuring calm, because that's what's useful. So, if you would allow me, I can try that."

Upon her agreement, Baiya knelt to look into Madeira's eyes so she could work. It was always difficult for her because she wanted to close her own eyes and feel, but it was so much easier to make a connection if she watched. Instead, she prepped her own mind with a few slow breaths in and out, letting her mind drift to the emotion in her own head. Calm. Like dew burning off in Syna's morning light. Like the sound of a breeze rustling in the distance. Like water bubbling in the stream.

Picturing herself pulling the djed through her sinuses to her eyes and tongue, she finally mustered the magic and spoke. "Relax. Be calm."

She lingered for a moment, wondering if she could see the effect in Madeira's eyes. Then, she pulled away. She let out a sigh, both releasing the tension and allowing the tiredness to set in. "That's really the best I can do right now. And even that takes effort."

She moved away, finding herself a towel she could dampen. Then she began cleaning any remaining oils off the skin with gentle wax-on wax-off motions. "I mean, did you even feel anything? Not everyone does."
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