Many hands moved through the archmage’s long, raven hair, each touch expert and gentle. There were days he relaxed and let himself silently enjoy it, but today he hadn’t the time. There would be unpleasantness later, and he had to make a powerful impression. Sesha opened his eyes as his servants finished the final touches of preparation, eyes following them as they moved. They’d been working on his hair for nearly an hour. Simply brushing the floor-length tresses took a long time. Most days he didn’t rush them. He took the time to review spells in his mind, read, or even occasionally speak with his personal general. Seibel Abolan was the only person, save for his servants, he would ever allow to see him in this state of creation. To everyone else he had to appear beautiful, whenever he left his tower.
The servants had worked expensive oils into his hair to keep it healthy, filling the room with the heady scent of jasmine. It would fade by the time he was finished dressing, but linger the rest of the day, flowing it in his wake when he walked the halls. It was a sweet, gentle scent. Much like the flower, he looked delicate and pale, ready to be plucked by greedy fingers. But jasmine could kill if you took too much of it. He thought it fitting. His outward softness belied the power underneath, and every detail of his dress was meant to accentuate that.
When the preparation was done the servants curled, twisted, and pinned his hair into graceful loops and designs. As usual some was left to fall free down his back, between his black wings. Rubies and pearls had been meticulously woven in, glittering like stars among the dark gloss. His hair was crowned with an intricately carved gold and amber flourish. Each new style was carefully crafted, sculpted as keenly as any of the decorations he wore. Sesha was very particular, and it wasn’t unusual he asked the servants to redo it. Everything had to be perfect. Even a quick jaunt out of the tower required him to dress for it.
The archmage was the jewel of the warlords domain. The generals all craved military might, power through sword and lance, but his power was innate. He could call down fire from the skies and burn them all to cinders. Whoever commanded his hand was sure to be victorious. They all craved control over him, and thus gave him what he desired. He was something cossetted, indulged, and spoiled. The price was that he always had to look the part. He had to make the proper impression when he was brought out to be shown off.
He stood and went to the dressing chamber, moving with grace. He’d long since learned to balance hair and wings, and the many layers of clothing he was ready to don. The outfit today was one of his favorites. Shades of crimson, amber, and yellow, mixed and almost seemed to swirl across the delicate fabric of the outer robe. He caressed the fabric, taking pleasure from the feeling as it slid between his fingers. He’d always loved how silk felt, sumptuous and soft, like a whisper. It was also something only the most powerful of people could afford. People like him. In a way, he was much like it. Only the most powerful of men could command him, or call him their own. His mind drifted to one, but he quickly jerked it away. Down that path danger lay.He was not fully immune to the citadel’s games.
Again the servants began to move, circling him like a pack of wolves. Instead of stripping away, they began to add. Even his underthings were finely made, but they were quickly covered by a delicate base layer, the silk sliding pleasantly over his skin. He really had only to react, as other hands drew on sleeves, and did up buttons. It was easier, in a way, as all his clothing was specially cut and tailored to fit his wings, and could be somewhat difficult to put on alone. He used to do all this for himself, but back then his styles hadn’t been nearly as elaborate. When he’d become archmage things had changed, and he couldn’t manage dressing on his own anymore.
Deep down, part of him hated it. Outwardly, he let his servants see only self satisfied smiles, cruel little laughs, cutting remarks. He deserved this, he told himself. He was owed every hard won luxury, after his laborious years of training, after every dangerous test. This was all exactly what he wanted. If he ever began to doubt, there was always some new bit of lore, or something shiny to occupy his thoughts with. His extensive wardrobe was partly proof of that.
Layer upon layer of cloth slid onto his slim frame, adding complexity, adding beauty. There was something about watching the archmage take shape through cut and color. There was a fine line between too little and too much. What no one else knew was that each layer was armor. Sesha knew his own power, but being so covered put him at ease, gave him confidence. He beguiled with the drape and flow of fabric, and distracted the eye with beautiful colors. Most didn’t look deeper as they sought to win him. Silk, cashmere, and zephyr cloth might not stop a sword, but it didn’t have to, to be what he needed.
The servants added the final robe, setting it gently over his wings and securing it around his waist, making him into a column of swirling flame. The effect was breathtaking. But they weren’t yet done. Others arrived with wing drapes, almost impossibly delicate gold chains dotted with rubies and pearls. It was impossible to easily fly with them on, a feeling he still hated, but the look wouldn’t have been complete without them. He kept still as they were affixed, by the end his wings subtly glinting from the jewels. So many hands brushing over his feathers was less pleasant. They were a deeply intimate part of him. It was tiring, being constantly pulled, plucked, and touched.
Servants returned with jewelry, and began to place the final touches. Ruby encrusted necklaces and rings, that would have fed a family for a year, were clasped around his neck and slid onto his fingers. He looked in the mirror, unable to deny his own beauty. He couldn’t quite help but preen a little bit, pleased with a job well done. He cared nothing for those outside his sphere. He had what he wanted: great power, his tower, his position. It was worth the hours spent dressing himself for the halls below, and the hungry eyes and hands that wished to posses him. Let them try to grasp a living fire. He was ready for the next round.