The sunlight of Ploma D'or was always bright and beautiful, though it beat on the backs of those working tirelessly. The trees were tall, but their leaves weren't enough to scatter the rays and stop them from shining down onto those doing hard labor. Aleta found herself lucky to be under the ground where it was cool, though there were always dangers to where she was placed. Mining was difficult work, and it showered dirt onto her wings, the ones bound to her abdomen to keep them from flaring when she felt panic or danger. There were only a few other winged people inside with Aleta, all of their wings contained in the same fashion. The Serpens told them it was a necessary precaution when working, and like everything else the snake people said, Aleta and the others believed them. She had to admit, it was nice when they were out of the way so she could pick gems and metals from the walls. Someone on the surface stepped a little too close to the entrance of the mine, and dust rained from the ceiling to stick in her silvery-gray hair and dark feathers threaded in those strands. They were woven into her thick braid easily enough, the hair pulled back so that it didn't get dirty. So much for that. Aleta sighed, slamming the sharp end of the pick into the wall. She was so wrapped in her thoughts of trying to rid her hair of dirt that she almost missed the sound of the metal tip clinking on something other than rocks. Leaning the pick against the wall, Aleta scrabbled her long, black, clawed fingernails into the dirt. Scraping enough of the wall away revealed a moderately sized sapphire. It was dark like the set of eyes staring at it, and Aleta wanted so badly to pocket the jewel and keep it for herself. However, she forced her hand to drop it into the sack at her feet. It wasn't very full today. Aleta saw only two little rubies and a chunk of amber. There was also a brick of limestone that another miner had given her for some odd reason. It was likely to get her in trouble with Vamilan, her Serpen superior, for being in the wrong mine, but Aleta had taken it anyway, not having the heart to tell the other Cloudi otherwise. Throughout the rest of her mining during the day, Aleta came across few other precious gems, but what she came across were thoughts. Mining was boring, but she dared not say that aloud. Vamilan was benevolent in most cases, but even he didn't tolerate words like that. He treated Aleta and the other Cloudis far enough, giving them breaks and water to help them through their day, but Aleta felt odd about doing so much work when Vamilan didn't. She didn't think she'd ever seen the Serpen even so much as glance at a pick axe. She said none of these things to her fellow miners, knowing they would be quick to silence her. She felt like she was the only one having these strange thoughts. The Serpens were kind, and they did have a lot of political and military work, so the Cloudis were doing them many favors by performing the harder work. But Aleta wanted to know what it was like inside Vamilan's grand house, the one with slanted roofs and lavish gates and freshly sprung grass outside. She hardly said a word to anyone, which wasn't out of the ordinary for her. Her thoughts were meant for her and her alone, for when she spoke of what she really wanted to say, the other Cloudis called her crazy. "Our lives are fine. The Serpens are our friends, and they treat us well. We do work, but they always thank us and are appreciative of the things we do for them," they would say. Aleta know what they said to be truth, but as she returned to her small home with the bed too small for her tall frame, Aleta wondered what it was like to fly. She dropped her sack at the gate so the Serpens would know she was finished with her work and collect it. At least they did that themselves. "Hello, Aleta," her mother called, but Aleta only returned the greeting with a soft grunt. "Is something wrong, dear?" "No, Mami. I am just... tired." Contemplative was more like it. "I'm going to clean my hair." There was a thin disk of soap and a cotton towel sitting on the two drawer vanity in her room, and Aleta was quick to swipe and exit the house as her mother spoke her affirmation. The Serpens and Cloudis had crafted a large in-ground basin for washing, though the Serpens drew their water from somewhere else. At least the Cloudis weren't bothered by their serpent superiors down there. Aleta was alone, and she could see over the short stone fence that was attached to the rest of the city's walls. It was down in a lower section, just like all of the Cloudi homes. It seemed a strange way to set up a city if everyone was equally, but the architecture mattered little to Aleta. The solitude, however, was what did matter. Aleta unbound her wings, letting the two-toned bird wings hang at her sides. She stretched them out, almost feeling her bones creak from being confined so long. The basin water was cool as she slipped her hand into it, and she let it slide on her skin, relishing the quiet that surrounded her. Every day she came down to wash the dirt from her hair and wings, but she used it to think as well. She wanted to know more. Too much, Vamilan would say, she thought as she dipped one wing into the water to rid it of dirt.