There is now a synopsis of Sythyry's history here, for ease of catching up on the plot.
A Discourse on Cosmetics [12 Trandary 4261]
Thelvion, whom I do not see very often and who does not see me very well, chanced to give me a very concerned look. "Sythyry? Did you have some sort of accident?"
Me:"What, an accident? I am exceedingly careful, especially in matters of affection." (Which is utterly untrue.)
Thelvion:"A rather more physical accident... a firey explosion or some such."
Me:[Trying to be suitably mysterious]"I am moderately fireproof, as are all my kind. I do not permit firey explosions to injure me!"
Thelvion:"Very well, I suppose, but what did happen to your wings then?"
Me:"My wings...?" (So much for mysteriousness.)
Thelvion:"Your feathers are gone."
Me:"My feathers? Oh, dear."
I was rushing around a bit, and I had forgotten my feathers. Not all of my feathers! The ones on my head have been there since I was hatched -- yes, I am being mysterious in that choice of phrasing. While they sometimes are given a bit of this or that to stiffen them or make them sparkle, they are quite properly part of me.
But I do not naturally have feathers on my wings. Zi Ri rarely do -- we are lizards! (I recognize that this is a fairly weak excuse, as (1) I understand that some Zi Ri do naturally have feathers on their wings, and (2) lizards generally do not have wings at all. Complaints about the logical foundation of my species may be directed to Hren Tzen, who in any event pays more attention to aesthetics than reason.)
The third enchanted device that I ever owned -- my, but that sounds arrogant. I don't think that any of my current or former roommates have owned three enchanted devices in their whole lives, and they are considerable people from considerable families. Still, my parents and grandparents are older than theirs, and enchantment is somewhat of the family business. My roommates (or their families or sponsors) own land, and buildings, and authority, and people, and groves of fruit trees which occasionally bear tourmalines in the cores of the fruit, and many other things. My family has none of that, or very little. We have enchantments, and a name or two that falls on the ear with a weight of a broken-off world-branch. And a crest of feathers, for most of us at least.
My grandparent -- Tnirvakuovvka, not Glikkonen, I do have four grandparents (three still living), even if only one of them has any sort of particular mention in history books -- Tnirvakuovvka, when I visited zir, gave me a Talisman of Enplumiation for my twelfth birthday. For the next month, I was a great puffball of feathers, usually with five or six crests and long iridescent purple streamers and all sorts of brightly-colored gaudiness. You could often see my muzzle or tailtip, but not much else. I did calm down, but I still favor a rather avian appearance now and then. Most nows and most thens, in fact, though I don't really have the best muzzle for it.
Nor is the Talisman of Enplumiation the only cosmetic I use. When my scales are dull, I may rub them with pren-pit oil to which has been added a drop or two of andrimicanthy. At times, as I said, I will brush my crest with something or other to make it stand up better, or even artfully conceal bits of stiff vine in it so that it spreads differently. I often arrange for my tailtip to be arrow-headed, though I have not decided if I wish to do this indefinitely, so I am still using a short-duration Accent upon the Tailtip.
Spikes and tendrils are simply not acceptable in polite company; I have not seen mine in ten years, nor, I hope, has anyone else (except immediately after I have been swimming). This is not done magically at all; simply by means of tincture of adoueille.
This is hardly unusual in style. Almost everyone uses cosmetics in my social set. Looking around the apartment, Dustweed generally does not -- it would be hopeless in any case -- though of course Tethezai has been painting zir quite dramatically quite often.
Havune spends at least a third of an hour each morning on cosmetics, I know it for a fact, though most of that time is spent on oils and perfumes, and nobody else in the apartment can tell. He does not care so intensely what we think, though. His cosmetics are carefully directed at other Cani.
Dubaille has a certain supply of fur-oils, fur-accents, twinkles, nose-mauve, mask-liner, and ... I must admit that I am not so familiar with all the tubs and boxes and bottles and jars and folded leaves and tightly-tied bundles that mammals use to adorn themselves. Sometimes Dubaille devotes himself to them for some significant time; I believe this to be when he is going to go try to cajole or seduce someone.
Seeks-Thunder Strenata rejects and refuses cosmetics. We have traded barbs about my use of them. Indeed, you can often tell whether I am expecting to see her soon by whether my tailtip has an arrowhead or not; that one particularly annoys her for some reason. Of late, she has begun to sharpen her spots when she goes out riding with Nestrune. I cannot say this delights me.
Thery was much more moderate than Dubaille. This is a matter of rank, I think. Dubaille pretends to nobility. Thery doesn't; she pretends (and really is, for a little longer) to be in the entourage of a countess. So of course she is in the habit of dressing somewhat blandly by day, as if to set off the countess (who is not there) and convey an attitude of respectability. I do know for a fact that her nose is not the uniform smooth black that it appears in public. So does Yarwain. So does everyone who saw Yarwain as he dashed home one early morning after a pleasant night, with streaks of noseblack in quite revealing spots on his cream-colored clothing.
Tethezai uses cosmetics the way that Tamvaus uses spices. Some few dishes at Tamvaus are intensely spiced. More often, the spice might seem to be the entire meaning of the dish, and the only reason for having the haunch of guinea pig or the julienne of carrots is to emphasize the caustic brilliance of the arhoolie leaves. Tethezai has a sentient spell to destroy pigments, which is surely of use in painting and in cleaning up after painting, but also allows her to stop her fur from being an eye-aching crimson or whatever. (Well, she never has done that, nor a twelfth part of that, but when she stands beside Thery, one can readily guess which of the two Rassimel girls is the libertine.)