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After turning her eyes up to listen to the others, Lunise found herself looking down and around at the utensils the pack had to cook with.

"I am no chef, though I feel I must say...to start cooking as they do in Rimmen would require other tools." Lunise gestured in a horizontal circle. "They bake flat breads in bulbous clay wood ovens. That much is a staple; families would grind flour to make them fresh every morning. It made a pleasant smell to walk down the street." Lunise spoke as a matters of fact, rather close to her professional demeanour, though less condescending. "Other than that, most cooked dishes were stewed in shallow clay bowls over fires. Often they were covered with a conical lid to catch escaping moisture. The only dish I can boast to have mastered is a lamb dish, cut into morsels and spiced and cooked in a sauce until almost dry." She blinked nervously. "Although I have not prepared it in some time, perhaps, if you were to do something similar, there is merit in serving such spiced meat dishes with a chilled sour cream."

"Sour cream?" Rhazii asked, lifting his upper lip. "I have never heard of that before. Why would anyone eat cream that is sour?"

Fendros laughed. "Don't be so hasty, little one, you haven't even tried it. You might end up liking it." No pause was given to the fact that Rhazii was taller than Fendros now. "What do you think, Ahna?" Fendros asked, turning his head.
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For someone who claimed not to be a chef, Lunise seemed surprisingly knowledgeable to Ahnasha. Even her short descriptions showed that she was familiar with the Khajiit cooking methods in a fair amount of detail. "Hmm, I'm certainly willing to try to learn. You will have to walk me through it, though. I find I learn best through practice. I gave Meesei a long list of ingredients, so hopefully we have what we need to make something. I don't think I'd want to send Meesei all the way back to the clan after just having made the trip. I know we don't have all the tools here, but...maybe we can just get creative?"

Ahnasha turned her head towards Sabine. "Do you think you'd be able to, say, mimic an oven? By that I mean, use something like telekinesis, or wards, or some other magic to try and keep head from an area as big as an oven around the fire. That would essentially be like cooking it in an oven, right?"

It took about ten more minutes for Meesei to finally open her return portal. She stepped through with several cloth bags in hand. With each step she took, one could hear a few glass bottles inside lightly clanking together. Lunise was in the middle of explaining the dishes they intended to prepare to Ahnasha, so the first sight Meesei saw was an encouraging one.
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The question posed to Sabine was an interesting conundrum for her to work out. Thankfully, her recent practice instructing Fendros how to redirect heat and magic with wards inspired a thread of thought that brought her to a solution. It was not exactly telekinesis that served the purpose, but a strangely shaped ward.

It was not a sure solution. Fortunately, Lunise was nothing if not magically experienced. She instructed Sabine in a rather bossy manner how to manifest a ward to serve as an oven that would be efficient enough to sustain through. Sabine, thankfully, was fascinated enough by Lunise's insight that the Altmer's condescending tone did not bother her.

All the same, the more time consuming process was the main course. To that, Lunise took the same tone towards Ahnasha. Bossy, yet insightful.

"You must remember to be abundant with the ground peppercorns. But not too much, or else it will overpower the meat," Lunise explained with a raised finger. "Enough to fill your palm once is enough for this serving size. And do not feel remiss about getting the pepper caught in your fur. The people of Rimmen have no trouble getting it off without sneezing. I should also hope you are civilised enough not to lick the spices off your hand while cooking..." Lunise looked up and caught Meesei eye. Her expression suddenly softened. A mix of realisation at how she was sounding and the passive affection she held.

"Welcome back, Meesei," Janius said with a wave. "You are just in time for Ahnasha to be trained as master chef."
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Ahnasha stifled a chuckle towards Lunise as she was following her instructions. "You know, the way you say that, you make it sound like a challenge. I would wager I can get through this without a sneeze." She said, though in response to Janius afterwards, she gave a more pronounced laugh. "I don't think I'd go that far. Or anywhere close to that far. I think I will be lucky to get this one dish right."

Meesei approached the pair by the fire and, one by one, placed her bags down on the ground gently. She had gathered every ingredient on Ahnasha's list, along with a few more that had caught her eye. The kitchen staff saw her requests as odd, but there were no arguments from them. It was far from unreasonable to think that the Champion might need to host a formal meal with a contact as a part of her duties.

Meesei leaned in towards Lunise and gave her a quick kiss on the lips as a greeting. "It is good to see everyone getting along, I would say. And it seems our dinner will be more impressive than I had expected."

"Yet Lunise claims not to be a chef." Ahnasha remarked with a shrug. "Could have fooled me."
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Lunise returned Meesei's kiss without a blink. Those in the pack still doubtful of their relationship were shaken by their perceptions. It was as real as the sand they sat upon. Rhazii was especially surprised; he had never seen two women kiss like a couple before.

With a "hmph," Lunise finally addressed Meesei once Ahnasha was done. "Your pack could go mad if they do not learn how to serve meals to be more interesting, Meesei. All I have advised are simple techniques." Her eyes went to the bags of food and hidden glass vessels. "Besides, what shall be cooked is entirely dependent on what you have brought us."

"Indeed," Janius added. A grin crept onto his lips. "It sounds like you brought some bottles as well. Do you plan to spoil us tonight, Meesei?"
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Meesei gave a quick glance to Janius. "Well, no point in doing something only halfway..."

It took a few minutes to sort through everything that Meesei had brought. There were some ingredients that would not be terribly useful, and another few that were missing, which forced them to make some modifications to the meal they planned to make. However, they had enough available to them, according to Lunise, to at least potentially make a recipe in the Rimmen style. Whether or not they would succeed would depend entirely upon their execution of said recipe.

After Lunise had given her instructions and they had started cooking, there was not too much to do aside from let it cook over the fire and hope it turned out properly. They would need someone to keep the flame warded to prevent the heat from escaping, which ended up being a perfect opportunity for Fendros to practice his wards under Sabine's instruction.

Since Lunise had arrived, Leaps had been resting after playing with Julan, but the smell of food in the air caused him to stir. His large, lumbering form slowly strolled over closer to the fire, but as he drew too close, Kaleeth reached out and gave him a somewhat forceful tap on the end of his snout. "No Leaps, that's not for you. You'll get your own dinner, don't worry." She said in a firm, commanding tone.

As strange as it might have seemed to an outsider like Lunise, the massive, powerful wamasu slinked away from the campfire compliantly, almost timidly. However, Leaps did quickly find something else about which to be curious. Even in the sand, Lunise would be able to hear his heavy footsteps walking up behind her, followed by the heavy breaths of him taking in the new scents provided by their camp's visitor.
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While Lunise knew of Leaps-On-Elves' existence, she had previously no reason to interact with the creature. Now, with it curious, and with Lunise not exactly knowing of its namesake, her back went as stiff as a board. Slowly, with a blank, if uncertain expression, she rotated her head and shoulders until she spied the creature out of one eye.

"I trust your wamasu is not...aggressive?" Lunise asked.

A small blue spell swirled into existence in Lunise's right hand. Meesei recognised it as the beginning of a ward. It was friendlier than a bound spear but still telling of her anxiety.

Fendros answered. "He is just greeting you. He might lick you."
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"We raised him from an egg, and neutered him at a young age to curb his more aggressive tendencies." Meesei explained. She was sitting next to Lunise, so she was able to reach out and rub the side of Leaps' head. "I will say, he is a creature that demands respects. Northern men have considered wamasu to be 'dragons with lightning for blood', and that description is not too far from accurate. Leaps is not quite fully an adult, but he is still a massive, powerful being. He is now old enough to be used in battle, and we have done so a few times. But, I still see him as akin to a faithful hound, you just have to respect that he can accidentally harm you."

Kaleeth also chimed in, her tone more encouraging than explanatory. "He is always curious about new people, but he is also smart. He can tell if a new person is a friend just by seeing how we act towards them. I definitely wouldn't want to make him mad, but we've taught him how to behave. He likes being rubbed right under his jaw; just, um, remember that you will get a static shock if you touch him. Every time."
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Lunise remained twisted to keep an eye on Leaps. Her eyes glanced quickly to Kaleeth, but not long enough to divert her close watch of the beast behind her.

Leaps turned his head on Meesei's hand and let his mouth fall ajar. He usually communicated where he wanted to be pat by the pack in such a way. The pet-like behaviour did nothing to waver Lunise's uncertain stare.

"You can give him a rub if you like," Janius suggested. "If he didn't like you, you would know it by now."

Curling her lips, Lunise shook her head. "I would rather not," she declared flatly. "Thank you."
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Some of what Ahnasha was making took time to complete, so she decided to occupy Leaps with a few helpings of raw meat to keep him from being too curious about the campfire. Being such a large predator, he could eat a rather startling amount of meat in a day. Combined with his water requirements, it would make him far too much of a liability to bring into the desert, were the pack not able to re-supply themselves from Blackreach whenever they wished.

By the time the last piece of their meal had finished cooking, they had a fair amount of variety in their dinner. It was perhaps not a "common" Rimmen feast, since there were dishes that would not usually be paired together, but the ingredients they had on hand had required them to be creative. But, befitting the importance of the occasion to Meesei, they did have a full, three-course meal ahead of them, complete with appetizers, a main course, and sweet desserts. Meesei had even brought mugs to go along with the wine and ale had gathered. Most were Nordic or Breton in origin, but Meesei had found a single bottle of a Khajiit wine. She was not sure from what part of Elsweyr it came from, but her options had not been limitless, even in Blackreach.

As Ahnasha started to serve their dinner, Meesei sat close beside Lunise, leaning up against her. Her entire pack was gathered in the circle around the campfire. Julan had returned to his Argonian form while Ahnasha had been cooking, so he could join with the rest of the pack as well. It was everything Meesei had wanted, and it showed in every part of her demeanor. She had a constant, warm smile, and was completely relaxed and content. Lunise was still not the most sociable of people, but she did not need to be. Even without the Justicar facade, that was not the person she was. Meesei had merely wanted her to feel like she could be comfortable with her pack, and at the moment, Meesei at least felt that was close to being true.

"So, would you like servings with or without moon sugar?" Ahnasha asked as she reached Meesei and Lunise in the circle.
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Lunise's nervous tension could not last forever with Meesei so close. Meesei found her lean reciprocated with Lunise's arm wrapping gently around her waist. Meanwhile, Lunise participated in scant moments in the conversation while the meal was cooking. Mostly, she had to be addressed directly. On only two occasions did she give unprompted comments.

When Ahnasha offered moon sugar, Lunise paused in thought for long enough to give away that her Elsweyran cultural experience had been a thorough one; she had clearly taken it before. She responded slowly and carefully. "I do not think that would be responsible of me this night." She pulled a strangely kind smile. "Thank you."

Lunise had been careful with her wine as well. Almost everyone in the pack was at least on their way to tipsy while she had barely taken in a glass worth.
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Ahnasha gave a nod. "That is fine. Most of the pack does not take it with their meals either; I just thought I would ask. Apart from me, no one really has a tolerance for it." She said, turning her head obviously towards Fendros. "Especially not my husband." She added with a chuckle.

Lorag laughed for a moment. He had already drank a full mug of ale, and yet still did not seem to be any more affected by it than his packmates who had drank only half that. "Yeah, better hope the enemy don't start tipping their arrows with moon sugar."

Grinning, Ahnasha gave her attention back to Fendros. "Oh, that is a good point. You sure you don't want to try to build up a tolerance, my dear? You know, for safety." She chuckled as she held out a moon sugar-laced sweetroll out to Fendros.

Meesei, meanwhile, had been glad to know that Lunise had been speaking to her pack in her absence, but she also wanted to join in the conversation as well. Fortunately, Meesei had in mind a topic that might interest her. "Did I mention, Lunise, that Sabine helped me to improve the efficiency of my portals recently? When she was practicing her own portals, she figured out that folding over the alteration magicka into itself three times to create the link to the destination is entirely unnecessary. Folding it twice works perfectly fine, an considering how much magicka that part of the process takes, it saves a fair amount for the whole spell. I have always had enough magicka myself to simply force my way through it, but she found an easier way."
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Fendros, Janius, and Sabine all shared in the laughter. However, when Fendros had the pastry waved in front of his face, his blue-grey skin ever-so-slightly paled. "Mmm, I don't think I need a swarm of insects in my bed tonight, thank Ahna," Fendros said, covering his mouth.

"I don't understand," Rhazii said. "I know you don't take moon sugar, father, but is there a story behind it? It doesn't sound like something funny. Did you eat it in bed and attract ants or something?"

"Uh, not exactly, Rhazii." Fendros rubbed behind his ear. His eyes turned up to Ahnasha. "Perhaps you'd better explain that time in Thorn, Ahna. You were more lucid at the time."

Lunise's eyes lit up at Meesei's comment. She looked to her face and raised an eyebrow. "From how you explained it to me, folding three times was to ensure safety, was it not? You had to ensure that your destination was displacable air."

Sabine softly answered. "Only if you are bringing someone from the far side of the portal. For travelling one way from your origin to destination you only require two folds. One forward and one back." She smiled to Meesei. "Meesei had been using a technique she had learned about which did not make explicit mention of it."

A tiny tilt of her head expressed at least an indication that Lunise was impressed. "Meesei did make mention of your talents, Sabine. I can see they were not unfounded. Innovation and improvement are hallmarks of quality mages."

It was an irrefutably kind remark. Sabine was at first frozen, trying to figure out what part of it inevitably had Lunise's usual underhanded derision. Finding none, she spread a warm smile and shrank over her food. "Thank you."

"Although..." Lunise turned her head back to Meesei again. "I remember you making specific mention of her affinity for alchemy."
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"Hmm, I don't know that I want to go completely into all the details, but..." Ahnasha began as she turned her attention to Rhazii. "Let's just say that your father has a particular sensitivity to moon sugar. You already know how Khajiit are very tolerant to it compared to the other races, but Fendros is especially, say, vulnerable. It only takes a little to affect him in a pretty bad way. I don't really know why, honestly. I was just joking with him; I wouldn't want to give your father any of it, especially without him knowing. It could be pretty unpleasant. Moon sugar is something that can have some bad effects, even for Khajiit, if we have too much. Do you remember that stuff that we told you to avoid if you ever were to find it, skooma? It is made from moon sugar, but is much more dangerous. Even Khajiit do not have that much of a tolerance for it. Your uncle Janius could tell you some pretty horrible stories you probably wouldn't want to hear about it."

Meesei gave a wide, somewhat prideful smile towards Sabine. "Indeed, before she had any real knowledge as a mage, Sabine was already an accomplished alchemist beyond her years. I started her training as a mage, but she learned her alchemical knowledge as a part of her upbringing before joining the pack. She still makes all of the potions we use, and has been able to make some rather creative concoctions, I would say. Have you had any progress on any new creations as of late, Sabine? I know that alchemy, despite not using one's own magicka, is still a magical discipline at its core. Have the more exotic forms of magic you have been studying recently given you any inspiration?"
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"Alright," Rhazii said dubiously. "I get all that, it's just...what happened in Thorn?"

Fendros picked up where Ahnasha left it. Rhazii's curiosity was not something he wanted to leave unquenched with regards to narcotics. "We were at a festival with a lot of different foods, including Khajiit foods. This was...I think before you were born, Rhazii, but while your mother was carrying you."

Rhazii's ears were pert in attention.

"I had already told Ahna that I was none-too-tolerant of moon sugar," Fendros continued. "Due to an accidental mix-up, I ate part of a pastry a bit like that one." Fendros pointed to the treat Ahnasha had waved in front of him. "It made me very sick and stressed. Ahna, I'm told, kindly took me back to the inn and I had to miss the rest of the day's festivities."

"How much did you take?" Rhazii asked.

"Only a couple of mouthfuls."

"Just as well," Janius added through the latter end of a mouthful of food. "Plenty of non-Khajiit take moon sugar to get used to skooma and it ruins their lives. I doubt we would have let Fendros get addicted, but...well, it's potent stuff, Rhazii. Stay away from it if you want to stay sane and well."

"Yes, uncle," Rhazii didn't hesitate to answer, curling his lips.

On the other side of the campfire, Lunise listened on and looked to Sabine with a slow, realising nod. "I can only assume that a foundation in alchemy would provide a different perspective on traditional magic."

Sabine spoke more confidently than before. "Most of my experimentation time has either been in testing new ingredients or researching the enemy's gas weapons. But I have had...an idea recently. I do not know if it could work. I would have to find some rare reagents to even try." Sabine turned her eyes down and pushed her hair above her brow to the side of her head. "The spell to open portals. You need too much magicka and control to do it with alchemy. But transporting...light, as in Ayleid constructs of light, could be done. If you opened up that type of portal to go one way to you it would be like looking through a window to the portal destination." Sabine leaned her head to one side, stretching. "It is only an idea, though."
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Meesei rubbed her chin curiously. "Hmm, so you would get a view onto the destination without needing to be there personally. It would still have the limitation of needing to form a connection to the destination itself, but...it would be quite useful for viewing a destination before teleporting there personally. We would not necessarily have to step through a portal blind. We could see what we are walking into, if it is uncertain."

"Or..." Meesei started, pausing for a moment as another thought suddenly came to her mind. The idea was starting to seem more and more like a useful subject of research, rather than just a passing thought. "If the portal is visible from only one side, it could be used as a form of reconnaissance. Imagine being far from a location, but still close enough to wee it and create a portal to it. With that type of light portal, one could use it to get a closer look from safety. And as an alchemical concoction, it could be given to anyone, instead of just the two of us." She reasoned.

By this point, Meesei was beginning to stop thinking so much about Lunise and encouraging her to engage with the others, as that seemed to be just happening naturally. The awkwardness that had permeated the camp at first had faded, and she felt they could all speak normally. Meesei took a moment to take a drink from her wine, and start on the fish soup she had been served. It seemed to have turned out well, though unlike Lunise, she did not have anything specific to compare it to.
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"I do not know about all of that," Sabine said. Meesei's suggestions were valid, though the extra hurdles put pressure on Sabine. "If it catches light, it would always cast a shadow. Even if the regular portal is made invisible somehow."

Regardless, their conversation would continue as the next course was brought out.

Lunise was curious about the soup. She lightly stirred and spooned at the flakes of fish. Her slow first taste made her lift her eyebrows a touch. "Hmm." She swallowed and spoke. "Fish is not usually used in this dish, Ahnasha. At least not in Rimmen. Due to the closest main water body being in the Empire, fish is not a common sight in traditional foods." She pointed her spoon into the bowl. "Though, it suits the flavour, ultimately. I shall have to suggest this to the chefs I do know cook such dishes."

"It's good," Janius concurred.
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Although she contained her excitement, Meesei could not have been happier about how the evening was proceeding. Lunise seemed to feel that their dinner had turned out well, and there was no shortage of topics for them to discuss. Research was an easy topic for Lunise to relate to, but they certainly had more of interest to talk about. As they all still had responsibilities the next day, even Lorag kept his drinking to a reasonable level, for him at least.

Eventually, their feast came to a close with dessert. Much of the pack were easily feeling too full to eat much more, though Julan had ensured he left himself enough room to finish his share of the sweets. Unlike the adults, he had not spoken much at all to Lunise, but he had been listening to them speak to her, so he had gradually been growing more comfortable around her. Even after their awkward and startling introduction, he was curious about her. She was far from the first non-lycan that had been so close to the pack, as there were non-lycans in their clan, but he was particularly confused about her relationship with his aunt Meesei.

After finishing his dessert, Julan worked up the courage to walk right up to Meesei and Lunise. "So you're, um, aunt Meesei's mate, right? I didn't know two women could be mates." He said bluntly. There were other couples of the same gender within the Blackreach clan, but Julan was still young and had never noticed before.
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Everyone heard Julan's question, though the most pronounced reaction was Rhazii bringing his thumb and forefinger to his closed eyes and mumbling "Oh gods."

From what Lunise had told her previously, Meesei knew that Altmer society, particularly government, had a strange attitude towards couples of the same gender. While it was not persecuted, there was still a certain shame with not bringing the ever-valued elf children into the world from a coupling. As a result, Lunise's ears and neck flushed red for just long enough to be noticeable around her high-chinned scowl.

Lunise's pause was ended when her flush began to recede. She spoke evenly and eloquently. "We are partners, Kaj-Julan. Whether we can be is a question better suited for your mother and father to answer." Lunise's lips formed a tight smile, clearly unamused.

Everyone was quiet once they picked up on the tension of Lunise's turn of mood. Janius was paused in his mouthful, switching his wide eyes from Lunise to Meesei to see if she had anything to add.

He didn't mind talking to Julan about the matter, though he did not want to call him out and embarrass him on the spot.
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"Hmm, okay." Julan answered, not quite picking up on the awkwardness in Lunise's response. Lunise already acted unusual by Julan's standards, so any change in her attitude seemed no less unusual than before. But, he was at least accepting of her answer, so he did not dwell on the topic. As such, Meesei did not feel the need to comment, wish would have likely kept them talking about it.

"Well, it's always great to have a bigger family. I guess you're helping the pack with all the dangerous things they have to do? It does make me feel better to know that it's not just the pack or the clans that are helping with it. It makes me feel...safer I guess. The more people that are helping, the less of a chance of our family getting hurt somehow." He paused, looking away for a moment as he realized that he might have started rambling. However, it only took a few seconds for him to look back at Lunise, wide-eyed and smiling brightly. He had the kind of expression that made his joy hard to see as anything but genuine. "Anyways, I'm excited to have a new aunt!"

Enthusiastically, Julan, not being one to hold back his affection, gave Lunise a sudden, tight hug.
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