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The Isles of Aradia (IC/New Settlers Welcome.)

The realms where magic is the most prevalent. These are the realms of traditional fantasy but includes any setting where magic is the primary focus. Examples: LotR, Harry Potter, Dresden Files.

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IronParagon
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Re: The Isles of Aradia (IC/New Settlers Welcome.)

Post by IronParagon » Sat Mar 09, 2019 11:55 am

_______________________________________________________________________
The Cardinal
_______________________________________________________________________


It was the first day of 1015AE. The Platinum Gardens was blanketed beneath a layer of snow so thick that the guards patrolling between the mansions were sinking into it up to their ankles with every step. That pale frost turned the splendor of the noble's quarter, its green gardens and golden statues and shining marble, into the same stark uniform white as the rest of the city. It wrought a stillness, a peace, to the palaces of the aristocracy.

But inside, peace was the last thing anyone could think about.

They had been arriving all day, from all parts of the city, the attendant vassals of that Most Ancient and Noble House of Blackthorne. Orys Waynrite had arrived first, with his sons Axl and Jaxon in tow. Next came Briona Manford, dressed in the dark clothes of a widow's mourning. She was far from the only woman in attendance; in the stead of Kai Cogworth came his elder sister Quella, Shiera Karhall strode into the hall with her pipe leaving a trail of blue smoke behind her, and when Lord Siegfried Rookwood arrived with his bannerman Kavin Falmar, his mother Barbrey was next out of the carriage behind them. Sir Valus Thormund, now Lord Valus Thormund, sat as far away from the Rookwoods as the table would allow. Sir Jaegar Warthorne came in while sharing a bawdy jape with Llewys Monmoth; the latter's father Lord Yven came behind them, looking displeased. Sir Jacques came last of all.

"You're late." The Bloodhawk's cold gaze tracked his son's progression into the hall. Other Lords were pleased to take their councils on round tables, where every man was an equal. Not so for the Blackthornes. The manor's hall had been decorated with a long table of white marble, spacious enough to seat dozens of guests beneath the sinister criss-crossing patterns of the vaulted stone ceiling overhead, and there was only enough room for one man at the head of that table. Dominic's chair was fashioned like the wings of a soaring griffin and was so large that it cast a shadow over the entire table, even upon its occupant. It looked less a lord's seat, and more a throne.

"I came as soon as I could, father," Jacques sighed, pulling out the seat to the Bloodhawk's right side and slouching into it. He flung one leg over the armrests and lounged back, fishing his pipe out of his cloak. "Manford's peasants have a hard time settling in, it would seem."

"They have lived so far in castles and houses." Lady Briona spoke up suddenly, her eyes narrowed at her future liege-lord. "Now you expect them to squat in mud-huts."

Sir Jacques snorted. "They should be grateful that Uncle Daxter's men bothered erecting those huts for them."

"You made them a shanty-town. A slum."

"Did you bark this much at my uncle Roderic, bitch? No wonder he fed himself to the Drakken rather than listen to another second of your nattering." The heir to House Blackthorne lit his pipe with a flick of a wooden match. The reflection of the spark in his grey eyes made it seem like they had flashed with sudden malice. "And no wonder your peasants got so proud of their pathetic selves. When we showed them the huts they started raising a clamor. Not enough space, they said. Not enough food. Like they deserved a palace each, the fucking insects. I told them what I've told you, that they should take what space they could get or they'd get nothing at all. One of them threw a rock at me. Missed, of course, as if some crofter could ever throw straight...but its the thought that counts, eh?"

Briona's mouth had tightened, her green eyes wide, and for once it seemed she had nothing to say.

Jacques gave her a weaselly grin, showing sharp, even white teeth. "So I have my guards take him to task right in front of the whole refugee train. They pull this peasant out, he's got a little daughter clinging to his leg, they push her off and they start going at the father with their cudgels. You've seen the ones, the heavy oakwood? They break bones like they were pottery." He was laughing now, and his uncle Axl was laughing with him. The other lords averted their eyes and kept silent. "So bits of this lackwit rock-thrower peasant start spraying everywhere, and one of them hits the daughter in the face, and she starts screaming. You know the way that children scream, that fucking high-pitched shriek that goes right through your head? Well Uncle Daxter is irked by it as much as anyone else, so he gets his sword out and rides the little shit up the side of her head with it. Only thing is, her head splits open like an egg, and now there's bits of her everywhere. Now the other peasants, they're just watching this, staring at it like cattle in a field, and the rock-thrower's wife is there among them and she's been screeching the whole time. And Uncle Daxter just looks at the bitch and tells her to clean it up!"

Axl roared with laughter as if it was some great punchline. His brother Jaxon smiled wanly, eyes unfocused. Lord Orys managed a polite chuckle. Shiera Karhall puffed on her pipe and said nothing. But Yven Monmoth and Quella Cogworth both looked sick. and Kavin Falmar was gazing at his future liege-lord with overt hatred. Even the jovial Sir Jaegar had stopped smiling.

Briona's nails had left gauges in the gold filigree on the marble table, and she rose to her feet in a rage. "Be damned, Dominic! Is this the legacy of your house? First Corcoran, now my own people--how much will it take before you curtail this weasel you call your son?!"

There was a long, painful silence. Dominic's stormcloud eyes bored into the woman. Nobody dared to make a sound, or even move, for what felt like hours. And the longer it went on, the more Lady Manford's resolve visibly waned, her rage melting away into regret.

"Sit down, woman," the Bloodhawk said at last, his baritone rumbling through the hall like rolling thunder. "Sir Jacques has won a victory at Nchurdamz. You have given me only losses, burdens and mouths to feed. You are a vassal without a keep and you present no asset to me whatsoever at this time. I will hear no council on how to raise my son from the likes of you."

Briona held out for a long moment. But then she sat, ashen-faced, and spoke no more. Jacques gave her a smug wink.

"Before we were interrupted," Shiera Karhall reminded them in a dry tone, "We were trying to speak of the Ludlow situation."

"Indeed," Yven Monmoth agreed, seemingly eager to change the subject. "Who is this Umbridge of Westgate, and how is it he knows of what transpired with the Accord?"

"It does not matter how they all know it," Quella Cogworth argued. She was an older woman with iron-grey hair and a brusque manner; she had been wild in her youth, people whispered, and a tryst with a sailor had left her with a bastard son. Quintin Cogworth had married her to one of his household knights, Galleon, in order to save her virtue. That knight had died at the Riverford, but she wore no clothes of mourning. According to those same rumors, she was more comfortable in the bronze armor that the men of her house wore than the bronze gown she was currently sporting. "It matters what we do about it next."

"Talia knows something. The fat craven of Sabre's whore, the one he can't even summon the courage to fuck." Sir Jacques grinned nastily. "She has my prisoner as well, Preston's widow Aislinn Corcoran. Let me bring them in and question them both, father."

"Question them like you questioned the girl's father?" Llewys Monmoth growled. "Sir Barra Corcoran was an honorable man, and deserved better."

Jacques' smile curdled like sour milk. "She questioned my power. He had to die. I'm the heir to this House, mongrel, and I'll not be questioned by the likes of you. Or her."

"It is true that Barra's death allowed me to take charge of my family," Valus Thormund reminded them, scratching at his neckbeard. "Without the exchanged killing of those hostages, I would never have been able to--"

"Would have been better if the Knoxes had killed you as well, so your whole cursed line could end," Siegfried Rookwood snapped, ever eager to get a chance to insult his rival. When his mother muttered at him, Siegfried waved her off angrily. "Let me alone, mother, I can speak for myself. We should have eyes on that island, Lord Blackthorne, lest a child is born to Rivka that they mean to use against us."

"Lord Ludlow had many daughters, several of whom remain unengaged," Barbrey Rookwood spoke up, ignoring her lordly son's eye-roll. "We could offer a bannerman as a husband to the eldest, Claire. That would allow us to maintain a presence at Caybourne."

Yven nodded. "A prudent idea. I do not believe we need to involve Talia any further in this. My niece has suffered enough since her father's death, and without Druun she has little martial power, for the Sabres still refuse to lift what few swords they have. Leave her be and allow her to grieve. Let us solve this Ludlow matter through diplomacy, not violence."

"The Butterfly Lord, fluttering around prettily with his talk of peace but accomplishing nothing," Jacques sneered. "I'll not take any Ludlow to wife, father. Their sire was a peasant from the Halfmoon, did you know? Disgusting. Mud runs in their veins where blood ought to be."

Dominic regarded his son grimly for a moment. He had been listening to his vassals' council in silence, with his grey eyes flitting between each one over his steepled fingers. Only now did he speak. "The follies of my thrice-great-grandsire have seen our family dance far too close mixing with commoners already. I would not have it happen again, any more than I would permit incest."

"All of you have eligible candidates for marriage in your households," Quella Cogworth pointed out. "Lord Rookwood, Lord Thormund, you are both without a wife. Monmoth's son and Desmond Karhall as well. All are of high birth...and so not one of you would consent to this."

Shiera Karhall exhaled a cloud of blue smoke, and stroked her chin. "It would need to be the least of us. The most meager landowner with the least storied family accomplishments. The lowest of all the Western lords."

All at once, everyone sitting around the table turned to look at Kavin Falmar.

The young lord blinked. "Me? But--"

"--but you'd rather be fucking one of your sheep, is it?" Axl Waynrite grunted, provoking a cackle from his nephew Jacques.

"G'wan with yeh, laddie," Sir Jaegar Warthorne, who was Falmar's brother-in-law, crowed as he thumped the slighter man affectionately on the shoulder. "Past time yeh were wedded."

Kavin squirmed in his seat. "I would rather...I mean, Lord Jaster asked me to..."

"I hardly think it matters what that boy asked of you anymore, does it?" The Bloodhawk asked quietly. "It is past time the House of Falmar made itself useful, something it has conspicuously failed to do in the past."

"You're my son's bannerman, Falmar, and you'll do as he commands," Barbery told him imperiously, and Siegfried huffed.

"It is settled then," Dominic continued, ignoring Kavin's feeble protests. "I will arrange a suitable guard. A loyal force, but non-partisan, should be appropriate...we do not wish the Accord to be too alarmed, as they might be if they see a full Blackthorne regiment landing on their shores. You may take Sir Desmond Karhall with you as well, and a small detachment of his own men."

Shiera's long elfin ears pricked up. "My son is occupied with the Knoxes in the Marshlands. He is a knight of prodigious talent, my lord, but even he cannot exist in two places at once."

"He shall not be there for much longer." Dominic's tone was dismissive. "I mean to lead the next attack on the Knox fortification at Dimhollow Mire myself. Sir Dorian Knox holds their last army in that swamp, and once they go down, Three Towers will be defenseless. I care not for fighting a war on two fronts, and I believe the Demons pose a more tangible threat."

"You speak as if you could end the war in a single battle, my lord." Yven Monmoth looked suspicious. "It is no mean feat. Between the marshmen and the orc tribes, the Knoxes have acquired enough native allies to have a significant terrain advantage over our forces. We might throw ten thousand men at them, or a hundred thousand, but the result will be the same."

Orys Waynrite had only heard one part of what his son-in-law had said, and had hyperfocused upon it. "My Lord, if you are to leave the city, I think now would be a most prudent time to choose a Hand." He puffed himself up, stroking his ridiculous chin-beard. "I am father to your bride, and grandfather to your children, and have been ally to both yourself and your father before you. Choose me and--"

The Bloodhawk silenced the old fool with a look. "I have already chosen a Hand."

Surprised looks swept across the room astride the faces of the bannermen. None of them knew. I suppose it is time to introduce myself, the Cardinal thought, and it was then he chose to move from the shadows where he'd been standing alongside the spymaster Sixx.

Lady Manford was the first to understand. "The...the priest? Dominic, you can't be serious..."

"Do I strike you as the kind of man to play some amusing practical joke upon my vassals, Briona?" The Bloodhawk did not wait for an answer but looked to the others. "Some of you may have not met Cardinal Steerpike before. He has been a close ally of mine for some time, although I confess I have not known it until recently."

"How?" Llewys Monmoth had ridden with the Cardinal back to the city, and even he seemed baffled.

Steerpike did not speak, but instead turned and beckoned. Four cloaked shadows moved into the chamber behind him. The Harbingers arranged themselves in formation by their master, and it was then that Sixx stepped forward to join them. He was one of them. He had always been one of them.

"It will be my honor to serve you all," the priest said then, bowing obsequiously, "Just as I serve your liege-lord."

And how the lords muttered amongst themselves then, as if their thoughts mattered, as if they could change this. Too late, Steerpike thought, and he struggled to suppress a grin. Far too late. Did your tall stone houses and your expensive clothes let you think you were any different from the rest of the scum that clings to the skin of the realm, my lords and ladies? You are cattle now. You are insects. My masterstroke is done, and your minds will burn with the light of the One True God whose name is Mordaghast.

"Lord Blackthorne, this cannot be," Orys Waynrite protested weakly,dabbing at his forehead with a handkerchief. "This priest is an Outlander. The West holds to no faith. And those creatures...dare I say it...they are witchcraft."

Yven Monmoth was equally affronted. "We need governance, my lord. We need what is best for the realm, not--"

"What is best for the realm?" Dominic repeated, and when he spoke the room immediately went silent. "I have meditated on that often, and studied it as well, since I was a boy. All of my studies have yielded me an answer. The realm is sick, my lords. The realm is frightened, and weak, and above all unstable."

Outside, the sun had gone behind a cloud, and it seemed in that moment the whole world darkened. Shadows nestled in the recesses of the Bloodhawk's features, and in that second he seemed like something far from human.

"What the realm needs," said Dominic Blackthorne, "is a king."

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Re: The Isles of Aradia (IC/New Settlers Welcome.)

Post by dinthalion » Sun Mar 10, 2019 7:05 am

Heartsone Estate

They discussed the 'security' excuses to keep people away. She touched her stomach unconsciously. She thought of the fun and excitement she'd had when Attia had helped her prepare for her first wedding. This time it would just be her maids. It felt like it would be somber rather then celebratory. She glanced at Casim, there would be no doubt this was just a marriage of necessity and politics. Really so was her last union but it hadn't felt that way on her wedding day.

Freyr glanced at Mancel when he said he would be returning to the mainland after the wedding. He hoped that meant he had decided not to surrender his duties to his young son. His young son, the young man who he would trust with his daughter, with his grandson. He looked at Casim, he was no warrior, that was for sure. He hoped he at least had wisdom. And he hoped too that he would treat his daughter with kindness and that they would find happiness.

"I think it would be best for them to stay here after the wedding." Freyr interjected.

"That will be up to Casim and I," Rivka replied softly, "what we think is best."

Freyr looked surprised but didn't reply.

Mancel went on to inform her that Lady Rasheba would join her guard. It seemed more then strange to her, not only that a woman would be a guard, such a thing from time to time had been heard of, but that a lady of a noble house would take such a role. She wasn't sure she was comfortable with it, but also knew it wasn't her call. She laughed but wondered too what joke she was missing when Elmer whispered about the dog comment.

Then he asked about dress makers. She smiled thinking of the out of style dress her father had had made for her. It wouldn’t fit her now, not with her expanded belly. But then she frowned, wouldn’t it have been nice to have a gown from the Emporium? Something cutting edge but not too controversial. But she wasn’t a part of that world anymore. She couldn’t be because of the child she carried. It would have been so nice to continue the life she had just begun becoming popular, attending parties and meeting artists. But carrying Jaster child meant that world was closed to her now, with all its excitement and frivolity. This child would mean danger and seclusion. But somehow it seemed worth it, even with all she would have to give up, she already loved the little girl inside her, already she knew she would give anything for her and it would be worth it.

“I would love it if you could talk to one of the dressmakers you know.” Rivka replied. She glanced at Casim. Everything was moving fast but she was starting to feel a sense of resolve. She smiled at him shyly, wondering if he might secretly be more nervous then she was.


-----------


Later that night

Rivka wasn’t as talkative as she used to be as Clarissa helped her undress. But once she was comfortably in her night dress she sat on the bed.

“Lord Ludlow said that Lady Rasheeba would join my guard.” She told her, “she offered on the boat to teach me how to use a sword. I’m going to learn. I don’t want to be afraid of the Bloodhawk anymore. I’m going to learn how to protect myself and my baby. I’m not afraid of the Blacktornes.”

Clarissa sat down next to her and spoke gently. “Its ok to have some fear. Only a fool wouldn’t in these days. As long as that fear doesn’t rule your life, doesn’t make decisions for you. Your father has made that mistake a time or two, if you pardon me speaking against my lord, I do respect him but…. What I’m saying in, trust in more then swords. Trust in your heart and your intelligence and in the Lady’s protection. Trust in those around you and in your own will.”

“I am afraid.” Rivka admitted with a sheepish smile, “But I still feel like through it all everything is going to be alright.”

She slept more soundly that night then she had in weeks.
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Re: The Isles of Aradia (IC/New Settlers Welcome.)

Post by Kotorchix » Mon Mar 11, 2019 1:11 am

Serenity Piers
Heartstone Estate
Sylvie Isle, Caybourne


Serenity’s eyes darted up as Drake cursed. Surprise was evident on her features for only the briefest of moments before a tiny smile chased it away. She giggled as he jested on scooping her away, trying to hide her blush – and looking anywhere except where Rasheba tailed them.

“I dare say my aunt would think you were attempting to elope if you swept me off my feet,” she chimed, taking his arm.

She didn’t say another word out of the gardens and through the corridors, her mind abuzz. As they approached the door to her chambers, she spied the ever-watchful form of Willek. Already his orange glowing eyes had fallen upon them, squinting with that cattish expression, whiskers forward and ears back.

Drake hadn’t been to her quarters here at the Heartstone Estate before. The corridor they walked wasn’t truly inside the estate, open to the stars above with only a criss-crossed trellis to block the view. One side of the corridor had the same trellis curved down to offer some modicum of privacy, vines and delicate white flowers intertwining with the wooden design. Between the gaps of the trellis, they could spy flashes of yet another garden – this one filled with white roses.

Opposite the doors that led into her chambers, there was a small stone alcove for a guard – where Willek stood, wearing his Ludlow colors. The corner of his nostril twitched up the side of his face in an expression Serenity knew to be disapproval. So she paused before they could get in earshot of the grumpy old cat.

Gently, she reached up and kissed Drake on the cheek. She had to stand on her tiptoes and pull him down a little so she could reach. He was still so cold to the touch.

“Goodnight Drake,” she whispered, then turned and walked to the doors. Willek stepped over and swung one open for her, which she thanked him for and also bid him goodnight.

With the door closed behind her, she slumped against the wall and slammed her eyes shut.

Jennifer had been right. He was a specimen indeed. And more importantly, a lovely man. But the little girl inside her was what dragged her down the wall and sprung tears to her eyes.

Sitting on the ground, she stared with blurred vision at her childhood room. The fuzzy figure of Lady Violet stood in the place of honor on Serenity’s bedside table. She was just a little stuffed squirrel wearing a dainty purple dress with lace on the cuffs. But once in Serenity’s life she had been so important. She wasn’t even meant to be a toy – more a curiosity piece, but Serenity had taken the little lady everywhere with her as a child, like other girls would a doll.

Was fourteen years long enough to be a child?

She sniffled and climbed to her feet before setting about getting ready for bed.


Lady Claire Ludlow
The Wall, Ques Novich


Claire caught the brief expression that darted over Lyron’s face – the light dip of his brows and tightening of his lips. Irritation at being called out. But it was of no importance here. Even this talk of her father’s grief could wait – whether he would take the medicine was another discussion entirely. What mattered was finding Eason.

“Then we would appreciate help in searching those areas,” Claire said.

“I believe Commodore Moxus has likely started following his investigation by now,” Lyron said, more to Claire than Divankul. “I think he was going to see the arcaneologist in Maria Vale this very night.”


Commodore Moxus
Maria Vale, Caybourne


The hour had passed to the dawn of the next day when Moxus stepped off the yacht. The water lapping at the docks was black and a chill hung in the air. At this hour, few walked the piers or streets – even the women of less reputable character hid in their brothels, not daring to bare a leg to this frosty night.

He left the two guards who had accompanied him with the yacht, giving a firm command that they return home. He was going to do this alone.

The paved streets of Maria Vale passed beneath his pads. He kept his claws sheathed for stealth, although nothing about the gold-plated steel on his pauldron or his white garb and fur spoke of such a thing. Nor did the giant double-axe crossing his back which shimmered beneath each street lamp he passed.

He had not been given orders to do this. But already in secretive comments, he had heard more than several people about the Heartstone Estate whisper. That their lord was too grieved to rule as he had once. That Lady Amarika was the true backbone of the Accord. He had told the cubs, Lyron and Claire, of his plan to trace the Shifter. But they hadn’t needed to know it was not an order from their sire and kin.

The last drunk stumbled from a closing bar, the stench of rum following him out with a light hint of Sylvbruuq on the air. The man watched Moxus, wafting in the sea breeze like a young sapling. A young sapling with a stick which he promptly pulled out to piss in the wake of the great cat’s passing.

Youth of a city meant nothing. Although barely ten years Moxus’ senior, this city already had its old parts. The shantytowns where his kin set up shop, the corners where the treatment of mould was neglected, the aging structures that should have been replaced long ago. Although his time in the service of the Accord had been in bettering the family and their lands, poverty still existed. Men, elves, and kin alike all spent their gains on trivial things. On families that would never stop growing as long as one had a womb or seed.

And the night always held shadows. No place was perfect, no matter what rules were implemented by the ruling class.

The apartment he found himself standing outside was unassuming. Like many structures in the older part of Maria Vale, it was two stories and compact with its neighbours, barely a seam of space between them so in reality the entire street had one long building. This strip had been built shortly after the initial town established. It had meant to accommodate the influx of settlers of the time, but now it was just another place to put warm bodies.

This one had a brightly painted blue door, a hue like that of the sky. And artfully scrawled across it was the title: ‘Lord Ixium Edelis, Arcaneologist’.

The man within was no lord. It was a ridiculous name. Moxus took the three steps up to the landing and thudded his paw against the door twice.

He heard something smash upstairs, then a muffled curse. Next came the thudding of footsteps, another curse and then the typical tripping of a human’s steps down stairs. The blue door opened a crack and a beady blue eye peeked out at him.

“Wot d’ fock’d’ya want, whiskers?”

Moxus gave the door a nudge, forcing the man inside to stumble back as he walked on in. Immediately he was hit by a chemical stench – like alcohol, but so much… worse. He wrinkled his nose, moving to cover his mouth as he looked at the human – and glared.

“Is the decency to dress before answering a summons too much to ask?”

“M’ya,” the man muttered, shutting the door behind him. “We ‘ave a meetin’? Who d’fock’d set it oop a time loike dis?”

Ixium Edelis was of average height for a human. His skin was pale, his form thin. His black hair was greased into a style Moxus had only seen in Everglow and stubble covered his face. Alcohol rose from the man in fumes, making it difficult for the huge cat to keep his eyes open, they stung so. Moxus had never been the best at judging age when it came to humans or elves, but this one was likely in its prime… if such a thing could ever be said of humans.

Stark naked, the man muttered his way back to the stairs and began to climb them.

Moxus averted his gaze and instead chose to look around the entry room. It couldn’t be called a foyer, it was simply too small. The stairs came out almost directly at the front door with a narrow hallway leading to the kitchen and living space.

But the living space had been converted into something from a scholar’s wet dream. Hunching his way through the thin doorway, Moxus entered what could only be called a laboratory. Tables and cupboards lined the small room much like a kitchen, but bookcases were crammed in the corners, books spilling everywhere. Vials of liquid hung in tiny hammocks beneath the cupboards, some labelled, most not. A cauldron was nestled into the dark fireplace, the stone structure itself seemingly crammed in here at the last possible minute. But the most space was devoted to a large circle of chalk on the floor.

There was nothing intricate to the circle’s design. It was in fact, just a perfect circle.

Some superstitious part of Moxus kept him from stepping over the chalk line. He bumped his head on the ceiling and shook free some dust from his mane, a low growl in his throat. Above him, he heard Ixium’s footsteps again as the man headed for the stairs.

“Awoight,” Ixium muttered, now wearing pants and a loose red shirt as he appeared in the doorway. He was still barefoot and rubbed crusts of sleep from his eyes. “Moxus, ain’id? Ya know I don’ do dis f’free, roight?”

“Even in the service of your lord, finding his lost spawn?”

“Spawn?” Ixium echoed. “Phaw, who talks loike dat? ‘Is lil brat, ye. Still costs me t’ do dis, ya know.”

Moxus looked dubiously at the chalk circle on the floor. “It does not look expensive.” He turned his gaze back on the human. “And payment was already settled. Your memory does not seem to be well-tuned.”

“Well, y’got me thar,” the man said with a toothy grin, exposing a gold canine. He picked up a small pouch and emptied a pinch of chalk onto his palm before rubbing his hands together furiously.

“Ever been on a trip loike dis?”

“No,” Moxus said firmly. “But do this thing. I wish it to be over.”

“Awoight, step in.”

Moxus lifted a foot to step over the chalk, then hesitated. He put his paw back down, looking at Ixium. “Are you still inebriated?”

“Fock naw,” Ixium muttered, making a vague wage of his hand. Chalk dusted into the air. “Wouldn’ do dis wid dat shite in m’mind. Go on, git in.”

The giant cat stepped into the circle, hunching his head down so he didn’t bump it on the ceiling again. Ixium Edelis moved to the fireplace, reaching in to smear some coal on his fingers before mixing it with the chalk in his palm. A tiny flicker of flame danced to life in his fingers, turning a light hue of green.

“Is this witchcraft?”

“Th’ craft of a witch, naw. ‘Tis my craft. An’ I ain’d no witch. Y’ read m’door on d’way in, ye? Arcaneologist. That’s a science-man’s name.”

“How is that… science?” Moxus grunted.

“Magic science,” Ixium grinned. “Now… ‘fore I do dis… can y’mind me where’m meanna be sending ya off t’?”

“We spoke of this earlier.”

“Frankly, m’fine kit, I dun’member ever speakin’ t’ya. Summat ‘bout the lord, fo’sure, an’ some clinks o’ gold, I ‘member dem. But you… dun ‘member ya bein’ a cat.”

“I assure you, I was always a ‘cat’.”

“Hmm, I’ll ‘ave t’take yer word for it,” Ixium shrugged. “Now… destination, fluffbum.”

Moxus felt his hackles rise, but he soothed down the anger within. “When last we spoke, we talked of the red-maned children. One a woman, the other a babe. They gave you a vast sum of gold.”

“Red-‘ead, I ‘member,” the arcaneologist said with another glint of his gold tooth. He nodded a few times. “Ye, I ‘member. Y’wan’ me to send ya off where I put ‘er down.”

Moxus gave a slow nod of his head, again careful of the height constriction. But had he no more than raised his head again, Ixium was waving his chalky coal-covered hands and the light green fire within them.

The air left his lungs in such a rush he was winded. A white glare settled over his vision and every bone in his body felt like it was being stretched away from the next. His jaw clenched, teeth cutting into his own gums.

Flimsy wood gave way beneath his large form, cracking away from him as a shrill scream sounded in his ear. He hit the ground with such force, he exhaled air he didn’t believe could have even remained after the last winding. Slowly, his vision returned as he blinked, painfully easing himself up into a sitting position.

Gentle hands helped him. Then a gnarly old branch of a hand also reached out to guide him to a stool. With confusion, he looked up at the roof of the shanty he had torn through. The scents and sounds of Everglow City permeated the air. Before him was a soft-faced elven youth and an ancient elf in a nightgown.

“Which fool was it this time?” the old man spat. “Ixium? I knew it! Drinking again, as always. Pilkenn, what did I tell you? Never rely on humans to do an elf’s job. Never.

“Are you well, sir?” the younger elf asked, gently touching Moxus’ shoulder.

“Humph,” Moxus grunted, then rolled his neck and looked up at the roof again. “I carry coin. I can pay for that.”

“Why don’t we install shutters!?” the old man went on, hobbling with his staff over to the next stool at the nearby table. He eased himself down with multiple creaks and scowled at the ceiling. “Just leave them open for any of Ixium’s night-time capers. Or day-time, for that matter!”

“He assured me he was not drunk.”

“Well, young man, you got deuced!” the wrinkled elf spat. The elder must have been older than Xankresh Avani to look this pathetic. “You’re lucky you didn’t get thrown off in the Sorrows, dealing with a fool like that!”

“I’m following the trail of a young female and an infant male,” Moxus said, fluffing out his mane to remove any splinters. “I believe this Ixium character sent them to you, only a few days ago.”

The old elf and young shared a glance. “The chalk dust…?” offered the younger.

“Foolishness,” the elder sighed, the fire fading from his tired eyes. “We thought maybe Ixium had sent someone and lost them. There is nothing we can do on this end, I’m afraid. They’re most likely dead, fused into the rock and soil. Or in the Void. It can happen theoretically, but-“

“There is a possibility the Void was their intended destination,” Moxus realized aloud. “There has been some speculation that the young female was a demon.”

Another shared glance between the two elves. The younger – Pilkenn – folded his-… Her? Its? Moxus had no clue. It was an elf. Pilkenn folded their arms over their chest and looked down at the floor. “Ixium should have felt that, sir. A sender channels a person through their own soul’s power.”

“Speak plain. This is my first dalliance into dark magics – of which I want no part of once this has passed.”

“What the child means,” said the elder, “is that Ixium, were he not a drunk at the time, would have been remotely intelligent enough to know something awful had passed through him. But, Grimalkin, I will tell you this of demons: Rarely does one separated from the whole wish to return to the Void.”

“Some days ago,” Pilkenn added, “we felt the air shift like someone had been sent here. But only Ixium’s chalk dust fell to the floor.”

“Who are you?” the elder asked. “Who is the child this demon took?”

“I am Commodore Moxus of Caybourne. The child is Eason Ludlow, second heir to the Ludlow Accord, the ruling house of Caybourne to the east,” Moxus explained.

“Oh,” muttered the old elf, glancing at his companion before chuckling. “I’m Elder Whitestrike. No fancy titles for us. This is my apprentice Pilkenn. And as sorry as I am for your loss of this… heir, we unfortunately can do little else for you.”

“Is there no way to know where they may have been displaced?” Moxus pressed. This was his one and only lead. He’d be damned if it was a dead end.

“No logic can dictate where a well-travelled mind goes,” Whitestrike sighed. “Especially a powerfully stupid one.”

“What reason does this demon have for taking the child?” Pilkenn asked. “If we cannot help you know where this pair went, perhaps we can help you reason where they might go next?”

“Not our business,” Whitestrike warned with something edging on a growl. “Forgive the child, Commodore. We are not guardsmen or investigators.”

Moxus glanced from one to the other, abruptly aware of some social subtlety he had missed. But the younger elf genuinely seemed to want to help. “There is no reason a demon would kill two members of the house and kidnap the second heir. The house has no history with demons that is unique to them alone.”

“Then it has been summoned,” said Pilkenn quietly. “Too specific a goal for that of a rampaging demon.” The young elf glanced to its master as if to gain credence. The old man gave one short nod.

The fur on the back of Moxus’ head rose again, his mane rippling with the effect. He breathed deeply, trying to keep his claws sheathed. But again and again, the name rolled about on his tongue: Blackthorne. Blackthorne. Blackthorne.

“Forget about the roof,” Whitespike said, creaking out of his seat. “Now, let’s see about getting you home direct. Take that fool Ixium out of the picture, yes?”
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Re: The Isles of Aradia (IC/New Settlers Welcome.)

Post by Skummy the Kitty » Mon Mar 11, 2019 8:03 am

Divan
The Wall, Ques Novich

He knew he would come off as asinine for his responses but this bothered Divan very little, what mattered wasn't that he be that same jovial creature that used to be the mask but rather people know him simply as he was. "Well, good to know you was in favor of the help, we have agents standing by for word of approval by the Accord and I will ensure that they are going this night. They'll keep an eye out for Moxus as well and try to relay information to him as and when. Now, on to other things- you've traveled a long way and right as you entered we re in discourse." he stood and a servant materialized to be relayed that messages to everyone were to be sent now to begin the operation and she left just as quickly.

"You cannot worry about your family's safety on an empty stomach, so I would ask you to follow for dinner. I do apologize if my mannerisms have given you the wrong impression as opposed to my reputation, I can be quite an ass sometimes. However I also believe Ash Brandy and Briochi food should smooth that over." He tapped out his pipe's contents and stowed the long necked piece away before letting the book flutter off. Another servant appeared, bowing, and ignoring Metheryl and Nimbe as she passed them by. A slender grimalkyn with hard eyes but a soft body language, she purred softly as Divan gestured "This is Risa, she'll be your attendant for the duration of your stay in the Wall, even if it may only be for this very night with your objective accomplished"

_______________________________________________________

Drake
Outside Serenity's Quarters, Heartsone Estate, Caybourne

Drake smiled and nodded his approval to the young lady and waved at her guardian as he left the corridor and wet back out to the courtyard. He took up a position of meditation int he cold winter air and began to simply breathe. He looked over his actions and thoughts over the course of this adventure and found himself still confused but more sure of his path the longer he stayed. He relished this time in the company of humans and it helped to ease his older wounds and scars that had begun to boil up thanks to the Riverford Massacre. However he could not shake the feeling he was adjusting the true outcome through his actions, bearing influence and bias onto a young woman who was not yet emotionally mature enough for these kinds of events.

He grumbled, fighting within himself before coming to a point that no matter what happened, he would be there to protect this young woman despite not knowing her for all that long. Something in her stirred up emotions and cares Drake had long since silenced a lifetime ago, whether or not this all worked out now was but a footnote to ensuring that Serenity would have a happy life regardless of what anyone else had to say on the matter. She reminded him so much of her, of those times back in the ancients...

The area around him had gone frigid int he night air, but to him it felt like home, he was no more cold than a drake was back in the northern wastes. It was comforting not to be bundled into the castle, suffocated by its walls and people and interactions. He breathed out and began his meditations again. This time he had silenced the arguments, and was now entranced going over his battle mindset as he tried to at least a few times in a week's cycle. He twitched his muscles in every way they were expected and without an inch of movement he acted out his combat within the confines of his mind and reminded his muscles of the guidance so that he would always be prepared for a battle.

His time outside also doubled as surveillance, he would not allow this family to be taken by surprise again and his field of perception radiated out as his let his mind empty out. The air around his dropped many more degrees of temperature, and he flexed his bodily senses and his innate demon sense outwards trying to stress his field of perception to cover the confines of the state. An impossible task without the use of magic but a dedicated mental and spiritual exercise nonetheless. If anyone was still watching they would just see a man sat in the cold garden silently and passively existing.
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Credit to Sammy and Nicodemus; one created my set for me, the other drew the source image as a request.
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Re: The Isles of Aradia (IC/New Settlers Welcome.)

Post by IronParagon » Wed Mar 13, 2019 4:18 am

_______________________________________________________________________
Lady Sabre
_______________________________________________________________________


Though they numbered a comparatively meager ten thousand, it still took them hours to leave the city.

Uncle Yven led the train, splendid in his forest-green steel armor. The howling winds made the aging warrior's dark cloak crack and whip around his form; the lining was stitched with orange patterns so that it looked like the wings of a red admiral butterfly. His son Llewys came beside him, armored in black, and over their heads flew the magnificent banner of the House of Monmoth, held on a twelve foot standard carried by Geraint Blackthorne. Talia was oddly moved to see her cousin riding Jaster's horse Gambit, which he must have salvaged from the Riverford. The lad has never given up his hope in my brother, after all this time. Behind them came a thousand heavily-armored cavalry and almost as many squires. The knights of Crystanthium made a magnificent sight, their multicolored armor glinting in the harsh winter morning sun.

Behind them came the rather less opulent sight of Siegfried Rookwood. The young, sullen warrior had inherited his father's ravenfeather cloak, and his helm had been customized with a black feather crest as well as a visor that curved out in a crow's beak. He looked like some monstrous metal bird of prey astride his black stallion. He had been tasked with leading the archers and infantry, it seemed; they ranged from tall fair-haired Coldharbour soldiers to doughty bearded mountain-dwarves to small, sly wood elven tribesmen in fur armor and wode.

Last but not least came the Bloodhawk himself. Lord Dominic had little need for ornament. His armor was silver plate over scale and blue leather, with little ornament. One might not have known it was him, save for the fact he was larger than any man had a right to be. Redwing was slung across his back; the rubies that made the eyes of its griffin's head pommel glittered. Jenys Waynrite bore the new Blackthorne standard beside him. With them came thousands of mounted knights; Talia soon lost count of even an approximate number for them, but it was far more than five thousand.

"Too much heavy horse," she said aloud, "And only a few thousand foot-soldiers. What kind of battle does my Uncle mean to fight? A destrier is not bred to navigate a swamp--"

"You worry far too much, Tali," Ameline Rookwood said. The tall, pale girls tone was as grim as ever. "Close the door and come inside, will you? You're getting snow on my dress."

Talia pursed her lips unhappily but did as her lady-in-waiting bid her, stepping away from the stone railing that overlooked the passing soldiers below and into the steamy heat of the tea-shop. In truth she was lucky to have been invited to this luncheon at all, as her Uncle had no doubt declared her a pariah. Briona Manford, who'd organized the whole thing, would take her defiance to Dominic Blackthorne wherever she could get it, it seemed, even if it meant inviting his disgraced niece for a round of eastern teas at the Golden Miles' most illustrious establishment.

The rush of cold from the outside had seemed to make Cecily Cogworth even more beautiful; high spots of color had appeared on her cheeks, and the wind had tousled her dark curls so they fell over her wide grey eyes. She was speaking with breathless excitement. "I do hope Lord Dominic ends the war for good and returns peace to the Isles! Wouldn't that be splendid?"

"This war has had grievous costs for us," Ameline told her glumly. "A victory will not bring back those we have lost."

The cheer vanished from Cecily, and her lip trembled. The girl's betrothed, Bedivere Blackthorne, had gone missing while on a voyage to the Untamed Isle; they had been close, and the loss still hurt her.

"Don't mind her, Cecily," stage-whispered Daena Thormund. She was as weighty as the rest of her family, but had kindly and pretty facial features that her cousin lord Valus lacked. "Rookwood is just a misery-guts because my uncle Gaeus took her mother's flower."

Ameline spluttered, her solemn demeanor forgotten. "He--he did not! You shut up, Thormund!"

"Girls, can we please be civil?" Quella Cogworth sighed, putting an arm round her niece's shoulders to comfort her. "Lord Dominic's victory will end any further suffering, and that's that."

Briona's daughter Penelope looked up shyly from her teacup. "Well, I hope Sir Llewys distinguishes himself. He's ever so gallant."

The girl's mother had been brooding, but now spoke up with her customary sharpness. "I'll hear no more talk of the Monmoth whelp, Penny. I swear it is the only thing I have heard you talk about since you met the boy. Listen to the lot of you, fawning over these puissant lords...not a one of you would be able for a true war council. Not even so-called-Lady-Blackthorne over there."

Talia looked up angrily. "Lady Manford, I--"

"Don't you Lady Manford me, young lady." Briona wagged a finger at her. "Do you have any idea how difficult it is to influence the senate as a woman? Now you've acting like a bull in a pottery shop, wading into schemes far above your own head, unmaking years of other women's good work."

"I have told you, whatever the Ludlows were planning, I have no part in it!"

"Ha! And yet your Uncle's spies boast of see your brother's gyrfalcon flying from Claire Ludlow's chambers every few minutes! Plotting tea parties, are you?"

"Her mother died," Talia said quietly, hurt by these accusations. "I would be remiss not to offer apologies for that, and for the way my uncle spoke to her at the Senate. If I was plotting, why would I have sent the most distinctive bird I own? Do you take me for a fool?"

"I think she does, Talia," Ameline muttered. "That's what she's been saying this whole time."

"Lady Sabre, is Rivka Vennett really pregnant with your brother's child?" Daena Thormund asked conspiratorially, as if this were mere gossip rather than a matter of life and death.

Talia opened her mouth to respond, then closed it. They all know now. And the more they know, the more dangerous a son would become. She spoke in her best diplomatic tones. "Regardless, a child's claim would be void. The House belongs to my Uncle now, and there is naught that anyone can do about it." Aradia help us all, if she exists. The fact he is Lord at all seems to suggest otherwise.

"Hail Lord Domimick!" cried Isolde Warthorne, thrusting her teacup in the air like it was a tankard. She was six years old but already had her father's fierce countenance and braided scarlet tresses. "Hail tae th'House o' Blackthorne! Smash Knoxes!"

"Smash Knoxes!" cheered her younger sisters in unison, who were four and two. They all crashed their teacups together in a toast, cracking the china and spilling the contents all over the table.

Everyone laughed at that, and it lifted the mood, although the servants who staffed the teashop seemed far from amused as they went to clean it up.

"How goes your pregnancy, Lady Warthorne?" Talia asked their mother Valoria, who was a few months with child.

"Just one normal little girl." There was a rather haunted edge to her smile as she laid a hand on her belly. "Just one, is all I ask, a sweet little even-tempered daughter..."

She was interrupted by her middle daughter Lynesse, who tugged at her mother's hair. "Ma. I wanna claymore."

"This lot will outstrip all of you someday," Briona warned them, though she smiled as she did it.

"I'll see they do, aye!" came a sudden boisterous voice to their right, and it was Sir Jaegar himself who had entered. The Warthorne girls squealed in delight at the sight of their father, and ran to meet him; laughing, he scooped them up in his broad arms and took turns throwing them an alarmingly high distance into their air like a juggler. They did not seem to mind, and only laughed all the harder.

"Never a dull moment," Valoria sighed, though there was affection in her tone. "What brings you here, husband?"

"Other than t'see m'girls?" Jaegar was holding his two youngest daughters upside-down by the ankles while the eldest sat on his shoulders, all of them still in fits of delight. "I was t'escort yer brother, Lori. Where's he got to, eh? FALMAR!" He roared suddenly, making all the servants jump. "GET IN HERE, YEH SHEEPLORD!"

"It's a ram," Kavin protested quietly, sliding into the room behind his brother-in-law. He wore a coat of green crushed velvet with silver buttons, and a white mantle flung back over one shoulder. A splendid outfit, yet the man wearing it seemed haggard and sad. He had not shaved in a few days; the stubble covering his jaw made him look older than his nineteen years. "How now, sister. Ladies."

"It is good to see you again, Kavin," Talia said softly, a smile touching her lips. They had not had much time together since he had stolen into her chambers many moons ago.

"Shouldn't you be riding with cousin Siegfried?" Ameline asked him.

"Alas, the Bloodhawk has other plans for me." Kavin scratched the back of his head sheepishly. "I'm to wed Claire Ludlow. Or journey to Caybourne and offer myself to her, at least."

Talia blinked. "I...I had not heard of this." A prudent political match, to be sure. She saw it in an instant; Kavin's family were barely more than landed knights, albeit ones that had no skill at arms. A political match of any standing was seen as a positive boon among their family, so they could not be possibly shamed by wedding one of peasant blood. It was a better opportunity still to place Blackthorne soldiers upon that island, so that they mgiht strangle any thoughts of revolution in the cradle. Yet still... He takes away the greatest friend and surest ally I have in the city. There was something else as well. Talia was visited by the image of a wedding. Claire the bride looked as beautiful in white as she'd been at the Senate, but Kavin beside her...spending time with Claire, developing little secrets and in-jokes with Claire, kissing Claire...it made Talia feel something she had never quite felt before. She did not quite know what to do with it.

Cecily was giving her a concerned look. "Lady Sabre, are you well? You're gone all red."

Talia realized that though she generally guarded her emotions expertly, this new feeling was one she had allowed to show on her face. She folded her arms and did her best to look nonchalant. "It's fine. I'm fine." Her cheeks were burning.

"A splendid match, I think," Briona Manford declared.

"It may wait until Rivka's married," Kavin said with an optimism he did not seem to feel. "They're sending invites out soon, I hear. We'll all be heading to Caybourne then."

"Oh, I do love weddings!" Daena Thormund beamed, clapping her plump hands. "And now we may have two, back-to-back! I hope it goes better than the last one. That was quite dreadful."

Talia looked into the dregs at the bottom of her teacup miserably, as the talk moved on to Sir Jacques, who'd been left in charge of the House in his father's absence, and which maiden he was going to marry. No friends in the city. Not welcome at home. Should I go to the tropics and live as a woods-witch?

She watched Kavin laughing at one of Quella Cogworth's jokes. He was a short man, and a poor warrior, but when he smiled the world seemed brighter. She felt that strange emotion again, that irrational feeling she could not quantify or explain. How it frustrated her. But it gave her hope, as well. Talia would not give up. She had friends and allies still. The Bloodhawk had neither, only those who feared him.

Yet a great many people fear him. Fear all the realm in fact. Talia gazed out the window at the falling snow. There must be something, anything, that can salvage this situation...

Jaster would have thought of something. Lunkheaded as he was, decisive action had always been his specialty. But he had left her, they had all left her, and she was alone. All she had left was...

The well of power within her stirred, and she shuddered. Mana, they called it, though she dare not think it, as if others might somehow hear her thoughts. The power to bend nature, to bend reality itself, to her will. She was gifted at it. Untrained, but talented. And it seemed nothing short of magic would save her now. Yet at first sign of it her companions would have her burned as a witch.

She needed to speak to someone, an elder sorcerer. As it happened, she only knew one.

"Knox!" she overheard Jaegar's youngest daughter Joanna cry, shaking her tiny fist.

Yes. Knox.

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Re: The Isles of Aradia (IC/New Settlers Welcome.)

Post by Kotorchix » Sun Mar 17, 2019 2:49 am

Mancel, Moxus, Elmer & Drake
Amayl’s Conservatory
Sylvie Isle, Caybourne

Joint-post with Skummy

Moxus was already stoking the fire in Amayl’s conservatory when Mancel came downstairs the next morning. It was early, barely light enough to show through the high windows of this room. But the day was gray and cold – cold enough that Mancel had opted to wear a cloak through the halls of the stone estate. The sun likely wouldn’t make its way to this room at all today.

Mancel made himself comfortable at the long table with his back to the fire. From the wrappings of his cloak, he produced a large bottle of rum-sylvbruuq. Moxus wordlessly took some crystal glasses from the china cabinet set against the far wall of the room. Four vessels were set on the table and Mancel began to pour.

He hadn’t even had breakfast yet. But he didn’t want it. Didn’t even really want the rum, either. But he took a swig and swished it around his mouth before downing it.

His gaze moved absently to his fingers wrapped loosely about the crystal. His hands were oversized and rough compared to the delicate beauty of the prismatic glass. Decades of hard work had gone into them. And how he had loved comparing them beside Amarika’s. So slender and soft. Smooth, like ivory. That one little freckle on the knuckle of her thumb, another tiny mark on her wrist. How their hands had looked as they held the tiny newborn paws of their twins together…

Moxus grunted, sliding a box along the table to Mancel as he sat down.

“You brought my marshbark,” Mancel observed dumbly, then gave a soft sigh. “Thank you.”

He reached over and opened the small walnut-wood box, preparing his pipe and the bark. Moxus stretched a long arm out and caught a piece of kindling aflame, lighting the pipe for his lord. The kindling then went back in the fire.

A few puffs and Mancel handed the pipe to Moxus. The great cat breathed the smoke in deeply before returning it.

There was a soft rap at the door before Elmer swung it open, admitting the colossal frame of Drake. The shorter elf came in after and shut the door behind them.

“Glad you could come,” Mancel said, although his voice’s only inflection was that of a man who wanted to curl up and sleep forever. He took another mouthful of rum. “Elmer suggested you might be a good man to have in this conversation, with the drow connection to demon hunting.”

Moxus stood, drawing himself up to his full height. He was a good four inches taller than the dark elf and reached over the wide table to offer a paw – to shake the elf’s hand. “I have heard good things of you.”

“This is Commodore Moxus, my captain-of-the-guard.”

Drake was dressed in his attire of brown linens, having been made aware of the exchange in rather vague detail, however he could not refuse a summons to be of aid. The failure of his detection ate at him, and he was hopeful of the fact that in this meeting he could close the book on this matter, or at least make up for his part.

He nodded smiling and took up Moxus' paw in a firm shake, there was a brief moment where both men could feel the other and size them up healthily in the one second exchange. Moxus could feel the cold discipline coming off of the General while Drake felt the warm passions of the Commodore. A silent appraisal that at the very least Drake felt far more comfortable with the large High Feline afterwards. His shoulders loosened and he seemed to almost shrink a half inch as his stature adjusted.

"It is quite a pleasure to meet you Commodore, I have heard some fine tales of you as well in snippets since I have come here, and I am not displeased to see their accuracy."

In another turn of phrase he was happy to know that the Accord was in such good hands as Moxus. Drake was dressed as if it were another day in the temperate springtime despite it still being frigid and harsh with a fireplace alight. This man lived entirely within the cold it would seem and no amount of winter would make a difference to him, he rolled his shoulders and nodded.

"I was told that this is the matter of the shifter, by that logic I am to infer that it is a discussion between your trusted counsel and myself being adept in the field and thus never leaves the confines of this room," Drake began, his tone was not cold and sharp but rather a general listing off so that they could get into the meat of the discussion.

"More than likely you want to know what it might be exactly, who sent it, and why."

Drake noticed Mancel's eyes and realized that he'd seen that look before, in his own face hundreds of years ago and a pang of heartache resurfaced as he saw parts of himself reflected in Mancel. His posture betrayed this and he patted his chest trying to resume control of his features, his face having fallen and a shadow coming over his piercing silver gaze.

All four men seated, Mancel gave a nod to confirm the drow’s assumption. Through the fog filling his mind, he realized there was still a flutter of surprise left to beat a pulse in his thoughts – Moxus very rarely spoke in niceties. Manners were nearly a foreign concept to the beast. But the Grimalkin seemed genuinely impressed by Drake and actually wanted to convey it.

“Tell him what you told me,” Mancel commanded Moxus.

The beast’s mane ruffled. “I have followed the path the shifter took to leave this place,” he rumbled. “The human calling itself an arcaneologist was of no help. But the two elves I spoke to when I reached the intended destination of the shifter and my lord’s cub were of some use.”

In short terms, Moxus explained what he had learned. That these ‘senders’ could feel the soul of a person pass through them as they sent them to other places. That the human had lost the shifter and Eason in his drunken state, completely ruining the trail. The pair of sender elves had then told him that if this shifter was in fact a demon, with such a specific quest it had most likely been summoned.

“This,” Mancel conjectured, “is where I believe we can assume Dominic Blackthorne is at fault.”

“It rubs me the wrong way,” Elmer admitted, stroking his bare-shaven chin. “As much as I would like to paint him the villain, the Bloodhawk is of the Stormlords. And from what I gather, their line don’t approve of magic.”

“A man can defy his morals in lieu of the bigger picture,” Mancel muttered back. “Maybe demons and magic are of some use to the Bloodhawk at this time.”

Drake combed his fingers through his hair as he began to weigh the facts of what he knew about the Blackthornes and their culture, history, and track record throughout the centuries. He seemed to look past the men in the room and be revisiting times long since past to identify and correlate the information. He was silent for a solid five minutes before he opened his mouth once more, having come back to the present to affirm his conclusion.

"It's not Blackthorne, the lineage suggests that despite the fact Dominic is most assuredly a magic wielder he despises its outward usage except in delicate operations- however if that were the case his spymaster- the enigmatic Mister Sixx would have been called in to resolve the matter. Mister Sixx being, what I presume to be a high elven caster, would not have had the raw energy needed alone to cast a summoning for such an interesting creature. It took Divankul some years in order to summon a comparably powerful demon and he is the most informative demonologist in all Aradia and one of its most powerful spellcasters."

With a breath Drake continued his winded explanation and exploration into the nature of the political climate of Aradia.

"That being said, I am not an expert on every last detail of the House, I know only small amounts more than any historian as I have interacted with the Household for centuries beyond this one. Dominic is one of the most pragmatic and utilitarian men I have ever met. He is awash with supreme genetic coding, above average intellect, and a sword that can vanquish his only true rivals. He can kill myself, and Xankresh, at the same time if we both charged at him I would wager. In that same breath he is one of the most prideful and snide men in all Aradia. He would never lose sight of the fact that he is above using such tactics as to summon demons. He will ensure you die either slowly or with one swift march of an army." He broke, taking a breath and swallowing, whetting his tongue again as his throat had begun to dry but he refused to indulge in liquors.

At this point, Elmer seemed to notice his physical discomfort and went to the cabinet to fetch some water seemingly provided earlier this morning by one of the servants. He filled Drake’s glass.

"I was there at the Riverford, saving Blackthorne's men from demons, moving in to escort Jaster and his officers out of the burning fortress city alongside Mossa Redoran. Had Jaster not indulged in heroics we could have saved his life in time, we were close enough to get him to safety. Had Dominic wanted his nephew dead truly he would've done so with his own two hands or by proxy. He would not have wasted such resources and a valuable strategic position like the midlands center of commerce for the entirety of Aradia. He would not have had such variables as allying with the Drow to ensure the death of Knox’s armies.”

“This shifter did not wish to wipe you out, didn't come to dispatch of key strategists such as Moxus, yourself, Rasheba, Amayl, or Elmer. It didn’t come to kill Rivka to ensure the removal of a challenge to Dominic by her birth of Jaster’s son, it didn't come to kill me to prevent you all from allying with the Alliance. It did not come here for any sort of political motivations, any form of military maneuvers, it snatched a young child, killed an older child, and removed what happiness Mancel had left in the world. If this demon’s summoner is anything like the monsters that sacked my city, they have a personal grudge against you, your family, and all that you stand for. It wants to feel you bleed and wither and die alone and a shadow like I nearly did a lifetime ago. It is not Blackthorne, as they don’t even know you.”

Mancel’s knuckles had gone white around the crystal glass. “There is no one to hate me so. Those I would call enemies all died a long time ago.”

Elmer’s gaze slipped to Drake. “I have been with this house since before they knew they were such. I do not doubt your analysis, Drake. The Blackthornes seem to have been eliminated from this discussion. But it still leaves a gaping hole in our investigation. We don’t even have a suspect now.”

“Why take Eason?” Mancel forced himself to release the glass before it would shatter. “Why take my boy? Why not kill him like Amarika and Jenny?”

“Is there significance in who the demon killed?” Moxus growled. “Nothing about them that would threaten someone else we knew?”

Mancel set his jaw. “Jennifer had a reputation, but as far as I know she did not sully any of her lovers’ names. Other than that, I don’t see what power she had or could grow into.”

“Amarika, however,” Elmer noted, “was your advisor. Perhaps not in title, but anyone close to this house knows of your bond with her. Since she was a child, I remember her guiding you through the subtleties of the noble houses. She had a fair grasp on politics like her father. I dare say you know even now you are lesser without her just for that alone.”

The lord closed his eyes for a long moment. He breathed deep, then gently let the air escape his lips. He took another swig of rum-sylvbruuq. “You and Claire would step up to advise me on those matters, as would Serenity I imagine – she’s a quick study. This summoner has taken my greatest love from me, but not all my political power.”

Moxus’ eyes flickered about the three other men before his gaze fell to the table. He hesitated, a great feat for one of such blunt mannerisms. But finally he spoke.

“This pains me to voice. Is it possible there is one in the family itself that would summon this shifter and do these things?”

Mancel and Elmer stared at him, then exchanged glances with Drake. Mancel spluttered and put his head in his hand at the mere thought, overwhelmed. Elmer’s eyes softened and he stared down at the table before finally speaking up.

“Of magical potential, I am the greatest in this house. But in my defence, I have no motive to-“

“Shut up, Elmer,” Mancel snapped. “I fucking know it wasn’t you.”

Drake rolled his shoulders, not so much in a shrug, more of a way to flex his joints a bit from sitting still and he rolled his neck as he thought. The exercise was merely there to clear out some of the new emotions rising up in his stomach and clear out his head.

"This would be easier if we had Divan with us, if anyone knows what demons are made to do its him, unfortunately that asshole is either dead or I'm killing him when I see him for what he did to everyone."

Drake downed the rest of the water he had been provided and gave Elmer a quick flash of a smile in thanks.

"To put it in a way that I can the best, I think Jennifer was a casualty of being easily manipulated to a secluded location for the shifter to steal her form. By the evidence the Shifter originally looked Drow- it would have never made it past the guards in that state but one random girl with a penchant for loving men? Easy meal." Drake said grimly, his face hardening as he thought over the events gain in his head, all while he and Elmer were out becoming friendly with a picnic of all fucking things, he looked pissed at himself.

"Amarika was to break you Mancel, as I said this isn't political, they want you to suffer. Does anyone outside the Accord practice magic but is related? Perhaps any surviving relatives that are estranged?"

He was simply trying to understand the situation, but Drake was looking more and more heated, his face had a sense of color in it for once and his skin was beginning to warm and look flushed. He had begun growing attached to these people and the thought of someone coming up to torment them was pissing him off.

A pause, and then a breath.

"Mancel, for all that is worth, none of your children would summon a demon, I may not have met them all but from what I've heard about them they might have some light grumblings here and there but they all are a family. It has to have come from someone outside of them- maybe the Rodin line is not as dead as you think it is? Or mayhaps ghosts of the past are here to take from you everything they think they are entitled to.”

“I spoke to the Vennet guard last night,” Elmer said. “And did a blood ritual against a sample Amayl provided. They are of a similar bloodline. But the boy was more surprised than I was to find a string of a noble line in his blood. Delighted, even. I don’t think he faked that. He did speak of a sister, a half-elf who is… surprisingly the companion of Claire and Lyron these days.”

Mancel looked at him sharply in suspicion.

“No,” Elmer said before the question could be asked. “She’s a girl of fifteen. And apparently very uninterested in being in any noble house. Friendship seems to be the motivation for her accompanying the children.”

Mancel’s attention returned to Drake. “There is Darcy Piers, the uncle of Serenity and her brothers. But whatever bad blood runs in their house was between him and their father – his brother Elsik. The last time I saw Darcy was at Elsik and Jacinta’s wedding when Darius was… four?”

“Six,” Elmer corrected. “993AE. Almost twenty-two years ago.”

“He has no reason to attack our family,” Mancel ended. “We’ve done nothing but take away a brother he apparently didn’t get along with in the first place. And Elsik has been dead for twelve years now.”

Elmer pressed his lips together, then shook his head. “Darcy is very separate from us. I’ve extended the courtesy of inviting him to Rivka and Casim’s wedding so he can meet you, Drake. If Mancel hadn’t taken Serenity under his wing as a ward, she would belong to him in all senses of the word. It is at least polite to let him know who his niece is marrying.” His eyes flitted away to stare down at the table.

"Then this matter is closed until an investigation can be conducted," Drake said solemnly. "Xankresh is probably taking it upon himself to send out some of the more experienced of the Alliance's people to find Eason and bring him home. If Divan is alive this creature won't hide from him for long, and Eason has distinctive features that look Stormborn. We have tools that can see through illusion, so the abduction cannot hide forever," he stroked his chin thoughtfully.

"We have no one as a lead in any of this, nobody that could slip a creature that stealthily behind so many of us. You have no political rivals that can't be answered. You said everyone who hates you is dead, leaving us with merely an obscure reasoning and conjecture on the nature of the event. It sort of makes me extremely furious to be honest, and brings up a lot of memories of me losing my family. So you'll have to excuse me I think I may have just splintered the arm of this chair with my hand."

He gently raised his hand and sure enough he had crushed it in his frustration and looked embarrassed, there was an imprint of his hand within it.
"I miss my wife too Mancel, always will. However I know who took her from me and when I find them again I will bring down all of the power of the ice. If it's within my power, I'll offer you that same promise that anyone who would cross you is going to feel my icy wrath whenever we might find them. I'm quite genuinely taken with this family as you have shown me a level of kindness and appreciation I haven't felt in ages, and I feel personally responsible for not protecting you as I should have. Whether or not I'm obligated is a moot point, I'm a drow, we kill demons it's our biology. Whoever did this won't get away with it, not for very long at least if I have something to say about it."

He was now a shade of dark azure, his grey skin had become flush and warmed and his piercing silver eyes had become more like soft and blue tinted windows to a man who was becoming fired up over a tragedy.

“Don’t worry about the chair,” Elmer said kindly, although he was still far away in thought. “And it is not your fault, drow or not. None of us could have seen this coming.”

Mancel met the giant drow’s gaze for a long moment. Without hesitation or flinching, he spoke in no uncertain terms with enough ice and hatred to send a chill down his companions’ spines. Even Moxus looked uncomfortable.

“The summoner is mine.”

The lord stood, grabbing up the bottle of rum-sylvbruuq. Without further conversation, he just left. The others stared at the door left ajar in his absence.
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Re: The Isles of Aradia (IC/New Settlers Welcome.)

Post by dinthalion » Thu Mar 21, 2019 5:57 am

Vilhelm’s Cabin


Vilhelm had taken to Ornia's lessons well. He had never had much of an education and was voracious to learn the history of Briochi and the Vennets and to find his place in it. His rightful place. He saw no reason his claim should be disputed. His father had been disowned but there was no indication that meant his whole line. The Lady Aradia had taken from Freyr his only son and the wife who could bare him more. Vilhelm was not religious at all but he knew most of the people were. He could use this to his advantage, paint it as a sign the Lady had rejected Freyr. The only problem was the rumor he had heard, the rumor that had now been confirmed by his spies. His cousin was with child. If she carried a boy....

"I hope their will be no reason to act drastically," he told Ornia, "If my uncle is willing to see reason he will step down peacefully. The people prefer me. I'm the rightful heir. The Lady herself has cleared a path for me. The people want peace, not to be dragged into war and dangerous alliances. With Freyr as lord they cannot break free of this tie to the Blacktornes, but when I take my rightful place, when it becomes apparent that since the time I came of age Freyr lost his right to lead Briochi... I have no tie to the Bloodhawk and his wars. And I want no part of Everglow and its politics and pretentions. Briochi is a region of builders and hard workers, of mountain people. The only alliance we need is with the drow who have shown themselves friend time and time again."

He glanced at Aoria and softened his voice, "And when I marry, when I have daughters and sons, they'll be more to me then pawns to be discarded when they hurt my reputation and sold just to boost it."

"They say I have no honor because my mother was not my father's wife. But my mother told me who I was." he went on, "I am a Vennet. Not just in name, I was born to lead the people. Born to take what is rightfully mine before my uncle destroys it."
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Re: The Isles of Aradia (IC/New Settlers Welcome.)

Post by IronParagon » Fri Mar 22, 2019 1:02 pm

_______________________________________________________________________
The Griffin's Bastard
_______________________________________________________________________


As the six riders crested the snowy hill, the tents of the Blackthorne encampment spread out into the distance like a sea of uniform blue silk. From this distance, one could see servants and squires and grooms scurrying back and forth from pavilion to pavilion, shovels in hand as they tried to clear the fresh layer of snow that had settled on the dirt paths overnight. Already, a troop of soldiers on horseback were winding their way up to greet them--no doubt the scouts had seen them coming for miles.

The Headhunter's monstrous greathelm turned to and fro as he inspected that sight. "All this splendor, and yet they cannot spare to pay adequately for our services?" The helmet turned the natural rasp in Spinner's voice into something frightening, an echoing whisper that seemed barely human. "We should turn off into the Marshes and give our swords to Dorian Knox. He's as stubborn and pious as his lord-father, but there's a fair chance he'll be less stingy."

"Now, eh, I'm loathe to agree with the Griffin's Bastard in any capacity, as well you know, Captain." Sir Gaeus' tone was obsequious. Evidently he was working very hard to stay in his commander's good graces. "And yet she has the right of it here, methinks. I'd sooner fight alongside Desmond Karhall and the Bloodhawk than a pack of Orcs--"

"The Griffin's Bastard is sitting right here, Thormund, and can hear you brown-nosing perfectly well," Arianne growled, patting her horses' mane. Jaster had been looking after it and had named the beast Foxtrot; she had not been pleased with this, as she preferred not to name animals so that they could remain easily interchangeable. It was stupid to become attached to a horse. And yet the lad had called the charger by the name so often that after a while Ari had found herself doing it as well, much to her chagrin, and so it had stuck. "A shame we couldn't dispel any notion of siding with the Knoxes before. My squire informs me that we have part of an Orc pack among our number, actually. Whose idea was that? You think the greenskin will be happy to kill his brethren, Spinner?"

The Headhunter yanked his blood bay around roughly to face them. "Remember your station, bastard. I'll take your council to a point, but you're here as an envoy, nothing more."

"So you keep saying. And so, no doubt, will the Bloodhawk. I suspect I'll be tired of hearing it by the time the day's over, though truth be told I didn't need to hear at all in the first place." Arianne was to act as a negotiator on the behalf of the Hunt; it was to be her task to ensure they were given a place in the coming battle. "I'd best be going then, if--kitten, how did I know you would try that?"

Jaster, positioned behind her, had edged Reaper forward a few steps to follow her. He had that stubborn look in his eye. "I'm your squire. I'm to follow you at all times."

"Maybe not in this situation though, eh?" Arianne's tone was testy; she had no doubt whatsoever that the lad knew he should not go, so she had little patience for this bout of feigned stupidity. She pushed Foxtrot forward a few steps and dropped her voice low. "I don't know what you're planning, but it isn't worth the risk."

"My uncle Yven is down there. And my cousin Llewys. He was at the Riverford, and he was with my people when they fled it." The lad clenched his fists so hard that the leather reigns he was was holding audibly creaked with the strain. "I know I let them down, let them all down, but I just want to know that they're safe...my friends, my wife, my sisters--"

"People you won't be seeing again if you're recognized," Arianne reminded him harshly. But then she saw the look in his eye, sighed, and softened her tone. "You put on a show of wanting to die before, kitten, and I'm glad you've remembered that certain people will be very pleased to have you alive. But you need to have patience. If we ingratiate ourselves here we'll be able to join the host when they go back to the city, and when you're there we can arrange something, understand? But you need to wait."

She could tell that he already knew this, but she also knew it was also something he needed someone else to say to him in order to properly rationalize it. Jaster's mouth was hardened into a grim line, the burns on the left side of his face contorting; he looked at her, then back to Gaeus, the Headhunter and their squires who were watching the exchange intently, and then finally back to her with a solemn nod.

"Good man. Stay with Gaeus, and keep your hood up. I'll be back before long." Arianne turned Foxtrout about without another word, and set off down the hill to meet the scouts. Why am I looking out for this lordling? What has he ever done for me? It didn't fit with her own image of herself, taking this lost boy under her wing. She was supposed to be completely independent, fierce and free, and now she had saddled herself with this...little brother.

Scowling, the Griffin's Bastard pushed Foxtrot into a canter. This situation made her feel all...tangled. Confused. The sooner she was out of it the better.

[ ➶ ]


"I've grown to know these lands, my Lord." Sir Desmond Karhall was the very image of a Western highborn knight; centuries of High Elven breeding had gifted him with fine angular features, long pointed ears, storm-grey eyes and streaming platinum-blonde hair that seemed to glow in the lantern-light. His armor was violet plate-and-scale studded with amtheysts and patterned with silver snowflake-shaped scrollwork. "My men have been routing the marshlanders, the Knoxes and even the Orcs for months. We have put towns and settlements beyond count to the torch, destroyed crops, cut off supply lines, and still Dorian Knox's men have resisted leaving their fortifications. It is not possible to--you."

The sudden venom in his tone, coupled with the immediate sour expression, robbed him of a fair portion of his beauty. Arianne had entered the Bloodhawk's council tent with a flourish, feeling no need to wait for a herald to announce her presence. it was a small and frugal quarters to match the comparatively small force that Lord Dominic had brought; a few lanterns, a few chairs, and a heavy oakwood table upon which was spread a map of the Marshes. Small wooden figurines of Griffins and Gauntlets littered that map, evidently designed to represent troop positions. Desmond was standing before it, while Lord Dominic was seated behind, watching everything over steepled fingers. Other than the guards and squires, they were alone. That was probably for the best. At least she would not have to deal with an entire room of old men harrumphing at her.

"Me!" Arianne agreed brightly. "How goes it, Desmond? Still wearing pretty outfits and bragging about how splendid you are, eh? You truly haven't changed since we were children."

"Sir. Address me as Sir, bastard," the knight growled, resting one gauntleted hand on the amethyst-encrusted hilt of the longsword sheathed at his hip. "i rejoiced when they told me you were dead."

"A most unchivalrous thing to say. Why, I doubt you're a knight at all. I've certainly seen no proof of your skill at arms." Arianne looked to one of the guards and stage-whispered; "Desmond used to get upstaged in the practice-yard by some servant girl, would you believe it?"

"You were never better than me, you cheated," Desmond snapped, his ears flattened back against his head like an angry cat's, and it was very easy to see him again as the snobby eleven-year old he had been when she had knocked him down over and over again all those years ago. "Lord Dominic, say but a word and I will personally throw this bastard out myself."

"Care for a rematch, Desmond?" Arianne tapped the hilt of her own sword and smiled calmly. "I wonder if you've improved much over these...what is it now...twelve years?" And then softer, with a hint of danger; "Fifteen years picking on peasants. Farmers, fishwives, old men, children. They can't make for very good practice. But maybe they're all you're able for."

Karhall opened his mouth to retaliate, but his retort was drowned out by a familiar reverberating baritone. "Leave us."

The knight seemed taken aback. "But my Lord--"

"Leave us, Karhall," Dominic repeated, with an edge to his tone that suggested he would not bother to say it a third time. "Let me speak to the woman alone."

Arianne batted her eyelashes at Karhall on his way out; fuming, he tried to shoulder into her, but she skipped nimbly away and danced over to the war-table, paying him no further mind and speaking now to the Bloodhawk. She peered at the map before her. "What have we here? Is that...Medger's Spine? I know they say you have a head for strategy, Uncle, but I don't see how you're going to manage to get Dorian Knox to line all his soldiers up in that creek for you to--"

"Quiet, bastard." Dominic's stormcloud eyes bored into her pitilessly. "Daxter Waynrite informed me of your survival. I gave you a job to do. What riches did you uncover from the Untamed isle? Did you find my nephew Bedivere? How about Sebastian Rookwood, or his squire Arthur Mannister?"

She felt his gaze like a physical weight. Trying to look untroubled, she slumped into a seat and produced her smoking-pipe. "We did uncover an old chest, filled to the brim with gold. Unfortunately it got eaten by a demon. As did the ship you gave me. And the crew I staffed it with. And everyone else on the expedition."

Lord Blackthorne rose slowly from his seat. He was a damnably large man, and when he stood, he seemed to keep going up and up forever. His shadow fell over her. "You failed me, then?"

Arianne packed herbs into the pipe, not meeting his eye. "There were demons. I had a hundred men. You expect me to vanquish them myself? Your nephew couldn't do that at the Riverford, and he had thirty thousand men."

"Tell me." Dominic moved round the table, still looming over her. "Your Headhunter sits over that hill with his four thousand sellswords. Plainly they come seeking coin. You know fully well that I have no use for those who fail in their duties. What makes you think you are so special that I will make you the exception to the rule?"

Arianne finally met his eye, pipe clenched between her teeth as she patted her pockets for a match. "Why, because we're family, Uncle."

The Bloodhawk regarded her for a moment in silence. Then, quick as a striking adder, quicker than any man of that size had any right to be, his hand came up and clenched around the pipe, millimeters from her face. The wooden lacquer crunched, reduced to powder in his grip. "Wrong answer, bastard," he whispered.

The Elf opened her mouth, letting the broken pipe-stem fall from her lips. She swallowed. "Ah." She'd burned through his patience even quicker than usual; best to change tack before he broke anything...more important. "Then how about this? My Captain hungers for glory, but my men hunger for gold. Your army is strong, aye, but the Knoxes still have you outnumbered three-to-one. I don't know what trick you're planning to pull, but you still need the numbers. The Riverford has thinned your armies, and you need all the swords you can get. You must have some role in this battle which will instill heavy casualties with a veneer of heroic sacrifice. Let us take it for you. The Headhunter will have his achievements, the men will have fattened coinpurses, and your own soldier's losses will be minimal. There is little risk for you here."

"Hm." Dominic straightened. "And what do you get from this?"

"I am a mercenary, a sellsword. Killing for coin is all I know." Sensing a lift in the tension, Arianne spread her hands in a shrug and kicked her legs up to rest on the wartable. "And you happen to pay the best, as you have on every job I've done for you. What kind of fool would turn her back on such a lucrative career? Before the Untamed Isle, ask yourself--did I ever fail you once? Let me make it up to you."

The Bloodhawk swatted her feet back to the ground, but she could see he'd been persuaded. "You're a creature of avarice and low cunning, bastard."

"Ouch. And proud of it. I sense a caveat incoming..."

"You should not be proud of anything." Dominic turned his back on her. "I may have a use for you. Go back to your Headhunter and tell him I will take a thousand of his best riders for my Vanguard."

She watched the back of his head, her ears twitching. "I still do not understand how you think the Knoxes will meet you on an open field, such that it would even necessitate a Vanguard."

"i do not owe you an explanation." The Bloodhawk took one of the gauntlet pieces from the table and turned it over and over in the lantern-light. "We will join in battle at Medger's Spine in the wane of the New Moon. And we will end this war, for good."

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Re: The Isles of Aradia (IC/New Settlers Welcome.)

Post by Skummy the Kitty » Sat Mar 23, 2019 12:14 am

Divan, Ques Novich
Goodbyes (a Joint post between me and Kotor)

Divan stared out as the carriage carried its occupants right back to Everglow in order to get home for preparations of a kind. They had not been clear but Divan knew it was time for Rivka to marry once more. He doubted he'd be welcome there but nobody would be able to stop him if he were to imply keep watch over his niece. Garin had been quiet and the polite conversations had gone over well after the initial meeting, all was well and Reynis was showing some signs of recovery. She was mute but the suppression was helping her to mend herself back together ti wasn't enough but it was a start.

He turned form the window and looked to his companion for the last while, the void looking witch that had gone to literal hell and back with him and they had seen the other's deepest flaws. A good friend indeed but he felt a noticeable tension. She was wary for Nimbe, and averting herself form looking upon Divan fully Kraai was vocal is would seem adamant about something to do with him. It was probably best that they part for the duration, as such dangers were not a welcome sign in his weakened state. He strode towards his new and close friend, with a confident gait that spelled out what he would bring to her before he even opened his mouth.

"Morning to you Metheryl, was our stay in this place of cold stone and magic comfortable enough after our journey together?" he looked tired, ragged almost, with a face that said he needed to rest a thousand more years after all that had transpired and all he continued on with. But he was happy enough just to be with company and sat himself.

"Truth be told," Metheryl said, "I have had little respite. Kraai grows more restless with each day, becoming more and more insistent. And with... with the girl's appearance, she grows ever more violent with her demands."

She did not seat herself. She hardly even noticed the social cue to do so. A steady breath escaped her before she finally looked at Divankul. For a long moment, she said nothing. Then she sat beside Divankul and gazed distantly at the window.

"You must think me a fool, my friend," she said softly.

"Not at all" Divan produced his pipe but simply chewed on its stem for a moment before using it to gesture "I'm a bit too weak to answer Kraai at this time, and so I cannot offer a solace to that quarrel...but you are not foolish nor are you weak. The fact she has not reclaimed control over you is proof" He tapped the pipe at empty air almost and shrugged.

"Perhaps, it is time that we part for the time, I do not know what you and the girl had to converse over and frankly I do not wish to know- as it is your personal issue. However if Kraai has grown restless, I can only presume she's angered with me or Reynis-anomalies we are" He replaced the pipe and stated out the window to the cold winter winds whipping about.
He let a hand wrap around her shoulder in a comforting manner, squeezing a bit to let her know he was being sincere, there was not to be falsehoods of trickery between the two of them at this junction.

Metheryl again said nothing for the longest moment. Then a strange expression came over her face - was it uncertainty? She looked sideways at Divankul before offering the tiniest of shrugs.

"You're right. I will be leaving before the day is done. I know what I have to do before I can truly take Kraai on. This isn't all about me anymore, Divankul. Personal or not, I wish to speak of... the girl."

Divan sighed and shrugged in response, motioning for her to give out her explanation. His face contorted in such a way to betray curiosity and concern, it stared off a bit beyond her as he spoke "Fine be ahead of it and let me understand the full ramifications then my friend, and I will make sure that you get the chance to also bid Reynis away too- I believe she may finally be able to comprehend her situation and she seems thankful for the assistance offered"

"Her name is Nimbe," Metheryl said softly. She rested her hands placidly in her lap before going on. "I told you before I was a mother, in a time much kinder while Holone still lived. Not that I ever became such a figure to her, but I felt comfort in knowing she came from me."

The next breath out held a tremor. "I was in the Void when she died, pregnant. Her child was cut from her and named Wynmae, another orphan to the Shatterlight Coven. We had little to no contact through her life... short as it was."
She pressed her lips together briefly and looked down at her hands. "Wynmae was banished from the Shatterlight Coven for adultery with an outsider. A merchant, human. His name was Ealthe Rodin... and with her, he had a daughter. Nimbe."

Divan stroked at his chin in thought, he knew about the Rodin line, mostly by virtue of being one of the elder officials for the University. He knew of the potentials laid into by that bloodline and he might've fathomed a much deeper problem if a halfbreed was to tap into two separate wells of power, or maybe that was not the issues- however it clung to the foreground of his mind.

"You know how I lost my wife, how Reynis was stolen, and in this we share a pain of being overtaken by the Void and unable to protect our own. This is a most disturbing turn of events indeed, but I don't understand the full ramifications of this. Is it on the level of my daughter being a half breed demon in terms of, lets say exponential risk? Or is it a personal matter only, that there is something that Kraai might want out of the girl that you can't allow for?"

"Whatever the reasons, I want to know the full weight of concerns if at all possible"

"Nimbe heard Kraai," Metheryl admitted. "I've never had anyone else hear her before, what only I hear. And Kraai recognized that she was weaker than I, more easily manipulated, if not outright controlled. It was she that realized my body she inhabits and that of Nimbe shared blood."

She brought her head up, sitting straight and tall. "Kraai has been insistent that you and Reynis need to die after what happened with the realm of the Shadow Dancers. I feel her pull on the girl has weakened since last night, possibly with our extended distance. But I felt it important that you know Kraai may have her sights on another vessel. With intentions of killing you and your daughter."

She put her hand up. "I know you will never let it come to that. But I wanted to warn you. Try as I might not to, I have grown fond of you and don't wish harm to come to you, Divankul."

Divan couldn't help but give a cocksure grin before shaking his head and wiping it off to take the matter seriously. He nodded trying not to smile at the thought of having an all out battle with Kraai once he had reached his full mortal strength. "I promise I do not mock your concerns, I am simply a bit of a child at heart in the face of a strong adversary" He waved his face away coming back to his feelings. "I understand very little of what actually occurred in that time, though I may have spoken some words to you I'm not quite of a mind to know the ramifications of my actions"

With a breath he continued on wards "I recognize Kraai as a grave threat to myself and Reynis, and I will implement my own countermeasures to ensure our safety. I have grown fond of you as well, it is not often I make friends Metheryl and you are one of them most assuredly. I thank you for the warning and will take it to heart." he gave a softer smile, a knowing look, and let himself relax a bit to let the sound of breath envelope the space for a moment or two to center them back.

Metheryl considered him before standing in a fluid motion. She hesitated, as if uncertain on what exactly a goodbye of this sort should entail. Then she huffed a sigh and sat back next to him. And she hugged him.

It was a stiff hug, like she didn't know how to actually embrace someone. Centuries of neglect had left a token of appreciation like this to rot the most quiet death. But she pulled back quickly and stood again, appearing somewhat flustered with her brief moment of emotion.

"Perhaps we will meet again in the Void," she said. "Safe travels, my friend."

Divan smiled, returned the hug with a bit more warmth to her to show her his appreciation, and he nodded at her final words of fleeting companionship. "safe travels, and may we figure out a way out of Kraai's grasp once and for all" With that he allowed her to be off in any manner she chose, he stood and seemed to have other things on his mind as well as he saw Metheryl off.
_____________________________________________________________________
Divan, Ques Novich
After Metheryl

Divan looked himself up and down, and frankly decided he was tired of looking the part of some keenly involved lord, wrapped up in leathers and silks. It was not who he was, or rather not who he had become. He was not cut out for politics if this entire career was anything to be said about it, certainly not with humanity. He sighed, it was time to mantle himself anew and give himself a better approximation of what he felt on the inside. First off her shore off his hair and let it flow outwards in a lofty mane of rich white and blended silvers. He brightened his eyes and let the red vanish at he let the power seep out from these two windows into his soul.

He felt restrained by his outfits and tore them away, fashioning himself a pair of open and flowing pants from a combination of his now torn clothing and magic he made a ragged gi by which to travel around in comfort. He was an elf, he could withstand the cold. He allowed his dense muscles to expand to fit his new body type and show off his drow strength, he had to augment that through a complicated magic but all was well. He now had a filled out and deeply toned body to match the strength of his spirit. tattoos of magical being sprang up along his arms and he felt himself begin to glow as he let his magic hang out unabashedly. He was no longer a demon but rather a reborn warrior and he would make sure the world knew that he was not going to play the games of chess.

As he looked himself over again, he was pleased with the result, he ran his hand over the chin and used magic to allow or a spot of a goatee to form along to a trimmed end. He smiled and warmly delighted himself in what he had made of his body. Once again feeling whole just from the thought that he could feel his muscles and he could actually heart his heartbeat as he relished in the feeling of flesh and blood.
____________________________________________________________________
Vilhelm's Cabin, Briochi
Ornia and Aoria

The priestess sighed and gave a Vilhelm a soft-hearted smile "You two are so alike in that regard, I will not argue with you, if you feel it beneficial for Briochi to be under your command then by all means legally challenge Freyr. However, the Lady's plans are not to harm her Children, but for us to guide them- What occurred with Freyr and his family is a tragedy as well as how it affected Briochi form what you told me. Those wounds are still healing Vilhelm and you should respect that this is not an aspect of Aradia's will, but rather an adversary against her children that has reared its head about" Her tone was serious, a devoted religious icon through and through. But she was soft, nonthreatening, gentle with the boy as she knew he was simply an ambitious youth who saw his country in a state of shock and hurt. He was hungry to do something against an almost insurmountable pressure, that alone was the calling of a Lord-birthrights or not.

He brushed his face and pulled his head into hers in a sign of affection before very close drow, or select individuals who become close to Drow such as the Vennets. She held him in this embrace and breathed feeling this boy and rushed on him. "Your mother was right to raise you in how she did, and you are very much loved and have much love to give. But don't let your calling to a higher office blind you to the realities of the world or taint that generous heart with greed and pride." she pulled off of him and turned to Aoria.

"As well you should stop holding it in that you're carrying Vilhelm's child as we speak, it has not been long but it is very clear that you are to mine eyes. You cannot continue to function as his bodyguard. You are to contact my older brother immediately and inform him so that the proper procedures can be put into place to welcome Vilhelm into the Notusi family."

Aoria became a shade of rose under her dark skin as her secret was exposed in front of her mate that she had been trying to hide in order to continue on as his bodyguard rather than what they had become. She sighed and nodded "Yes Auntie, I'll have word sent to father and he and Vilhelm will have a very frank discussion in the near future then, but we have much more impor-"

"Nothing is more important than the proper care and consultation of a woman's health in times of pregnancy. It is time you two went back to civilization and were receiving proper care for the child." she had an authoritative voice now, she was being serious. As if to punctuate her point a shimmer of light came across and a strange looking elf had appeared in the quarters of the trio. He has a wild mane of white short hair, light grey skin, glowing white eyes, and he was absolutely packed with muscles. It was Divankul Dul-Sansiska. Despite his radical change in appearance there were certain aspects of him that made those that knew him well enough would be able to read beyond appearance and beyond. He had come back, just as Ornia predicted, and he looked to be better than he ever was.
___________________________________________________________________
Vilhelm's Cabin, Briochi
Divankul Dul-Sansiska

Divan

Divan stood before the humble trio of people riding out a rather harsh winter's day together int he middle of the wilderness. He had sensed something in the back of his mind and lo, it had been someone he didn't think he'd meet again ever in his life. Not only could he reclaim his daughter but now he was laying eyes upon his sister once more and this was an almost impossible sight to comprehend. His wide eyed shock was just as tangible as their own as both sides stared down at the other, before Ornia stood and embraced her older brother in a fearsome hug and began crying like a gigantic infant, wailing and taking out her own breaths from simply crying and blubbering. For his part Divan wrapped her up in a hug and comforted her visibly with his own embrace and rocked her form side the side. She was letting it all go, as she knew she was allowed to, into the strongest man she knew who would carry all her grief and sorrow of the last four decades for her because she was too weak to do it herself. Her words were incoherent, the strong and radiate mother figure had simply dissolved into a mess when she knew the one person she had been waiting for had come back into her life. Her life had been an unending amount of hell for so many year it was unbearable to say the least, the fact she made it this long was a testament to elven stubbornness.

It took around an hour of Divan holding her and rocking her before she slipped into sleep and he laid her down to simply rest before facing Vilhelm and Aoria, taking a seat with them after the episode had played out before them. He sighed and nodded "We share an empathetic bond, so I could feel everything that she felt for forty years in that hug, I thank you for your hospitality for my sister and her children. She means the world to me and you took her in without hesitation or fear on your own part. There is never enough gratitude I can show you for the kindness and bravery you've put forward, you have probably don't know too much about Arkon but one thing is nobody can escape them for long. The fact that you managed to keep under their radar is a small miracle. As such I think it best I reward you for your efforts and ensure your continued safety"

He waved his hand and upon the table appeared a looking glass that showed a fairly upscale manor sitting within Briochi proper. It was the Dul-Sansiska family manor that had been built nearly fifty years ago. A standing moniker to the prosperity between the two countries and their bond, it mirrored the one built in Ques Novich for the Vennet household to stay in when they visited the southern area back in the day. "You will be moved to the family manor, not only is it safer from Arkon's clawing fingers, but it's in the heart of where you are setting your sights on. You will have staff, guards, and access to your fellows from here. As it is, I'm sure you've been being taught well by my baby sister. But this next part is all about how you will grow into your outlook and achieve what you want."

"Simply put, I'm a terrible role model for good leadership, I am not a particularly good one I'm a professor and an adventurer. I dive into the Void and kill demons, not run Households and bicker with trivial matters or wars. Freyr was taught by Felix, but you will be taught by what the people need and you will rise to be their voice. You have nothing to fear of being arrested, or hounded by Blackthorne. You'll have a knight stationed at all times at your door- its up to you whether you reveal your location, but you will be protected and supplied, not forced to a mountain stronghold like a warlord savage. This is not merely for you taking action, as I will say if Freyr rises to stop you by his own hand fair and square I will respect him on his capability to do so, no this is for the kindness you have shown to my family personally that you will be given this aid you require. Freyr has organization to his benefit and you require the same before our claims will be taken with serious and stern notice."

With that out of the way he cancelled out the image, he sat there with the crackling of the fireplace to be heard and the whipping of the wind outside looking to the both of them "Do understand I have been through a very potent journey int he Void that has allowed me to become very much a brand new person, as well as time for reflections into what I am. Don't rely on simply one powerful ally to make the world easy for you Vilhelm. Rise to the challenges and opportunities in equal measure, one will make you stronger and the other will move you forwards. However I will offer you indirect aid, as one cannot grow stronger without nourishment and one will not go farther if their legs are like stone."

"As it is, so long as someone comes to rule Briochi in a way that will allow it to heal and rebuild, I will be satisfied. Be it you, or be it Freyr, the one who does so does not matter. I love all of you and want all of you to rise up to meet this as a family and work as one whole, it pains me to see another family at odds with its own self over such a silly thing as blood. But since that cannot be the case, I can at least try to encourage everyone to become their best in order to bring everything tot he table and provide the best care possible. I hope you understand that Vilhelm, nobody is born to rule, everyone must become the ruler they need to be from their own lives tot he lives of a country."
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Credit to Sammy and Nicodemus; one created my set for me, the other drew the source image as a request.
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Kotorchix
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Re: The Isles of Aradia (IC/New Settlers Welcome.)

Post by Kotorchix » Tue Apr 02, 2019 12:54 pm

Lord Darcy Piers
University Library
Everglow City

Joint post with Skummy for Carmelia's role

It was a pity Talia Blackthorne was married to Titus Sabre. Had circumstances been different, she would have very possibly been near the top of his list for a potential wife. She bore the beauty of the Stormborns, both in face and in the sculpture of her body. But even her appearance wasn’t so important as the magical potential he had felt at just being in her vicinity.

Part of him wandered into that dark place, wondering whether he could arrange an accident for Titus. But the risks outweighed the outcomes. Even if Titus was no longer in the picture, Talia would still never be promised to a man such as he. Not with his history as a magician.

It had always seemed a peculiar path for the Blackthorne family to take. For such a popular family with deep magical roots, their aversion to the practice was absurd.

That was where Cecily Cogworth and Penelope Blackthorne, other high-ranking candidates on his list, were also problematic.

Cecily, a young lady of nineteen years, likely held dormant magic within her and (if he was to be frank) was more desirable for her appearance than any great skill. She was beautiful, not so much as Talia, but with wide eyes and black hair, and a slender body hinting at her high elven heritage. But her house were bannermen to the Blackthorne and unfortunately shared their suspicion of magic-users. A betrothal would be unlikely.

So of the Blackthornes, he was left with Penelope as the last viable candidate. She certainly met his requirements – of High Elven blood, from an influential house, young and impressionable, and attractive.

Along with the impressive name of Blackthorne, she held another wealthy name by her mother – Manford. But after what had happened at the Riverford, that name was a little less wealthy… a coincidence that made a betrothal to Penelope all that more possible.

When wealth dribbled from a noble’s fingers, they were far more open to less orthodox options. Such as marrying their daughter off to a wealthy mage. Or marrying their daughter off at all. Briona Manford had a bit of a reputation for rejecting marriage candidates for Penelope. But Lady Briona Manford was in a difficult spot these days. Perhaps she would find less wrong with Darcy Piers than she had other suitors.

But of course there were always other options. He had even considered the recently widowed Briona Manford, Cecily’s aunt Quella, and other women of elven blood. He had even considered Drow of the Dul-Sansiska and Redoran lines. But although attractive in their own rights, and closer to his own age, these women had varying issues. Some had already borne children and were through the best of their child-rearing years. Others had histories of infidelity, including the births of illegitimate children. Among the other high expectations he held in a potential wife, loyalty was a very desirable trait.

If Darcy Piers was to begin a legacy with a wife, he wanted her to be all his. And he, all hers. He wasn’t above romanticism in this cool analysis of his future mate.

Where the Stormborns held the advantage he was looking for in a solid blend of high-elf and human bloodlines, he wasn’t completely averse to creating his own blend. Finding a high-elf family of pureblood was no small feat, but Everglow City still held a rare few.

It wasn’t so much the mixing of hrow and human that ruined his plans. It was when the mixture became so convoluted that a firm bloodline couldn’t be established. Wood elf genes, a smattering of drow blood, or so watered out by human-elf hybrids that it was impossible to even tell elven blood ran through those veins at all.

So the house of Relvingold in the Golden Mile held his next candidate. Carmelia, a pureblood hrow. Even currently in her thirties she would likely outlive him by a few centuries, a less desirable fact unfortunately. And by her age, rumors of her being barren had abounded. But Darcy had his suspicions these were unfounded and created just to spite the young lady’s overzealous father. Lord Relvingold was another noble parent known to have impossible standards for his daughter. Thankfully, those standards were a lot closer to Darcy’s areas of expertise.

Of his candidates, Lady Carmelia Relvingold and the young Lady Penelope Blackthorne were the best. And fortunately, he would be attending the wedding of Lord Casim Ludlow to Lady Rivka Vennet, formerly wife of Jaster Blackthorne. Penelope would be there and he would be allowed an introduction finally.

Lady Carmelia was another matter. She had no reason to attend the wedding. But his invitation had clarified he was allowed to bring a plus one (along with four staff), and as one of his candidates, it was an opportunity to get to know her that he couldn’t pass up.

So here he was, in the University Library, watching her over the pages of his book.

Her golden hair spilled off her head in waterfall-like tresses, pooling on her shoulders and trickling down her back. The tip of a long, pointed ear peeked through her locks. Her profile was angelic, radiantly white with clear blue eyes. Her body, slender yet buxom in just the right areas, was clad in an Emporium-made dress in a light blue with deep orange trimmings.

For weeks, he had done this. Little more than long stares over his book at her, glancing away before she could catch his eyes. Feigning disinterest just enough that the rare moments she caught him looking would stick in her mind. Frustrate her.

But this time, when her eyes snapped to his, he held the stare. He put down his book and just watched her as he sat with a straight back in the plush library armchair, one leg crossed over the other.

And as if on impulse, he stood and approached her. “May I?” he offered, motioning to the chair beside her at the table where she was seated.

Carmelia was, by her own measure, just the same as any other lower noble in the city. You weren't big or bold enough to play with the Platinums but you weren't about to go down too many pegs. That is why this new face intrigued her so much, he had been frustratingly fleeting and purposefully within her sights for months. He never approached, and she was either on duty or otherwise indisposed to catch him. Now he was presenting himself fully to her in this instance. She narrowed her eyes, looking him up and down. His ruggedness was something of a plus but he was simply a human from what she could tell and knew her father would have no part in that.

"You may, but please do tell me who you might be. I'm Carmelia Relvingold."

Darcy seated himself, smiling as he did. He made himself comfortable, leaning back in his chair and characteristically re-crossing his leg beneath the table. For a moment he allowed himself to gaze upon her beauty close-up. This was the closest he had ever gotten to her. He brushed a stray strand of his peppered brown hair behind a slightly pointed ear, conscious of the reality she might not give him the time of day without a drop of elven blood.

“My name is Darcy,” he said without title, without pretence. “And I must admit I already know who you are, my lady.” This last part he purred in the golden tongue with a perfect lilt, like he was born to it, although he most certainly was not.

“Don’t be alarmed,” he said with a disarming smile. “I… like to know a little about someone before I get to know them further. You spend a lot of time here. What do you study?”

It was a conversation starter. He already knew. He knew everything public there was to know about this young lady.

Carmelia gave him a sidelong glance, the way he spoke had some sort of nature to it she hadn't heard out of too many men before. Almost this sort of entitlement to be able to pry into her life. 'Oh, I'm so sorry to judge you-you were merely obsessing over me in an attempt to have something to speak with me on'. Typically she would tell him to shove off but he spoke words in the Golden tongue. It meant that he was either a university student, or he managed to lie his way into the Temple. Considering she worked as a seraph that second option could not be true.

"I see, Darcy then, I'm sure one such as yourself that has been hounding at my heels for weeks on end knows that I study magic theory, the golden tongue, and enchantment practices. Yes, I have noticed you for a while now, and it's infuriating that you keep seeming to vanish from my sight in that moment. Are you a user of magic? I can't fathom why you'd be in the Master Divan Wing if otherwise."

They were situated within a wing located to the back end of the Library, named after Divankul Dul-Sansiska.

The wing was comprised mostly of magical theories, but also the world's largest collection of information on void species, and a litany of biographical materials of the man's life in summoning such a monster. The wing was special access only, due to the sensitivity of the information and the capability of abuse. This man could not just be a random happenstance suitor, this man had class and by his elven features he probably had a natural talent and a chip on his shoulder.

Perfect.

She was on to him. So he gave a small motion of surrender with his hands. A ‘you caught me’ expression. “Then I’ll be frank, star’s delight,” again, in the Golden tongue, “I have no reason to be here the past few weeks for any nature of study. All the materials I need are at my abode in the Golden Mile.”

He allowed a mischievous glint to strike from his eye.

“But you aren’t.”

"Hmmmm a nonchalant flexing that you are of my station or higher, as the only residencies afforded in the Golden Mile are to lower noble factions. Your use of the golden tongue and the fluency is potent to be sure... Tell me then, why is someone like you after such a meek woman of myself?"

She was anything but meek, Carmelia was a battle hardened Seraph who had spent her year relentlessly studying magic to get to this point and even had to attend demon hunts in attendance of Master Divankul and a witch hunter in order to receive her licenses to practice demon hunting.

"I'm not within your home for you have not invited me there, and if you are of the impression to court me then I may only ask two things. Are you of a line of high elves and are you a season practitioner of magic?"

Darcy had little response to the magic question other than a smile. But in an instant his body had lit up with arcane energy, lightning arcing across his arms and from wrist to wrist. Carmelia’s hair began to stand on end just with being in his vicinity.

Casually, he allowed his aerothurgy to expand. A controlled burst of air slid a book from one of the many shelves, forcing it onto the table before Carmelia. A light breeze danced over the pages, turning until it fell open on what appeared to be a family tree.

“House Piers,” he said, the electricity simmering down into only a spark or two across his forearms. “Unfortunately not so elven as I would like. My grandmother was where the dalliance began into human blood and the line of House Piers was briefly ended with the death of her parents, leaving no legitimate heirs. I have recovered my family’s estate and holdings, along with adding some improvements of my own, such as the late House Dalman’s vineyards and orchards.”

The family tree actually held Darcy’s name and that of his brother Elsik’s, having been updated in recent years. It didn’t hold Elsik’s children. But above their names were those of their parents: Jon Piers, and Emmeline Suntra. Above Jon, there was Julian Lyreson (a half-elf), and the aforementioned grandmother: Lady Lyrissa Piers. Of course the line went on back further and further, with all sorts of high elven names. Not so many that were recognizable unfortunately. A few minor lords and ladies through the annals of history had places in the Senate or attended to other higher nobles.

“Before myself, the Piers appeared very uninterested in making a legacy for their House,” Darcy admitted sadly. His eyes flashed. “But if a lady such as yourself were interested, perhaps the union of Piers and Relvingold would be to our benefit.”

He snuffed out the last arcane sparks. “I understand I have to impress your father. But before all else, I must impress you. So, Lady Relvingold, I invite you to be my companion to the wedding of Casim Ludlow and Rivka Blackthorne in Caybourne. Perhaps that time will allow us to get acquainted more closely.”

Carmelia enjoyed the flair for enthusiasm this man had, a bold move to show his hand outright when pressed on his capability. A cocksure attitude but one she could relate to in some was always wanting to push the limitations. She nodded at the lineage, studying it closely hoping to go back to her father with the knowledge for purity screening, but it seemed legit - he wasn't exactly pure high elven but it was rather close comparatively and with strong magical genes.

"You talk the talk, and to be able to go to the wedding of Jaster's widow would be a nice status symbol for being seen in such a public occasion I don't think I can refuse. It will also give me the chance to observe if you are the real deal of nobility and have the power to interact with others of your station."

She wasn’t much of a romantic. A disappointment, to be sure. But in every other capacity, she was far beyond perfection.

“My late brother’s wife was sister to the groom’s mother,” Darcy explained. “I can’t say relationships with the Ludlow Accord and my own newly blossomed House are beyond cordial. I believe they have invited me as little more than a formality. But, as you imply, weddings are fantastic places to make new connections.”

He swept up from the table in an eloquent bow. “I will deliver myself to your father within the week, along with the date for the wedding.” He took her hand and pressed a sensual kiss to her knuckles, gazing into her azure eyes. “I look forward to seeing you again, Lady Relvingold.”


Lord Casim Ludlow
Heartstone Estate
Sylvie Isle, Caybourne


He dared not admit it to himself, but he knew he was neglecting his wife-to-be. Their interactions throughout the estate had been short and polite. He had bowed and kissed her hands where appropriate, as she had called him lord and sir.

After that quick advent down below the cellars, he had been playing it safe. Freyr was obviously frightened for his daughter, utterly conscious of her safety. And until such a time as it was appropriate, Casim would not likely approach her without a chaperone in her presence.

To be correct.

Grandpa Keyair’s old master suite was being prepared for the wedding. Servants had cleaned the place utterly before Casim even arrived on Sylvie Isle, but now they were making adjustments with the help of Rivka’s maid Clarissa.

Casim didn’t fully understand why they needed to change everything – the drapes, the walls, even the rugs and furniture. Admittedly Keyair’s room hadn’t been lived in for three years, and before that it likely hadn’t been renovated for the thirty odd years he’d inhabited it.

Keyair’s personal affects weren’t a problem. Most had long ago been moved to the trophy room or been passed on to house members those things meant something to. Casim’s inheritance of a non-fiscal or monetary value was a vast number of leatherbound tomes and journals – all beautifully crisp and clean with hemp pages, not a drop of ink on them. Of course, he’d filled several of them with scribbles, poetry, and musings by now.

In the midst of all the chaos - furniture being moved out, drapes being measured on the windows, and the entire bed being rebuilt with a new mattress – Casim’s belongings were being moved in. He had tried to help, but before long he realized he was more of a hindrance as he tried to find new spots for his things while everyone else was focused on just getting everything into the room.

Out of the way, he sat in the far corner of the suite’s living room, on the floor against the wall. Vast windows stretched up behind him but whoever was tending to the drapes had done little but tear down the old ones here.

He hoped Rivka was happy. Or at least being kept busy.

Claire and Lyron had arrived back with their new aide, a half-elf named Nimbe. And Serenity was about, as was Rasheba, but Casim couldn’t gauge if any of them had made friends with Rivka despite introductions of the new parties.

Darius was meant to be here. There was news he had been spotted in Caybourne, but he still hadn’t made his way to Sylvie Isle. He had a weird aversion to the place. Maybe he was still trying to get over that. Or dealing to some shady dealings. Who knew with that guy, either way he likely wouldn’t get beyond an introduction with the Lady Rivka.

And of course there was Aimee, but she had done little but cling to Mancel or Elmer in the weeks now following their mother’s death. Mostly to their father. She had refused her own quarters, knowing she would be safe if she could stay with her papa. And she was too young to be a friend for Rivka anyway.

He was broken from his reverie by the heavy thud of books slamming down next to him and he started.

Elmer gave him an amused smirk, then sat down beside him and the new pile of books. He coughed a few times from the dust stirred up, waving it away with his hand before turning to look at Casim.

“You look lost,” he said gently.

“I feel it,” Casim admitted. He ran his fingers through his hair which had bunched into curls again. “We don’t even know if we’re staying here after the wedding and all my stuff’s just… here. Like this is home now.”

Elmer stayed quiet, gazing out at the bustle of the room, of the servants milling through one door to another about the suite.

“You remember that dollhouse Jenny and Claire used to play with all the time? It feels like that. Just watching an entire home come together and forcing little figures to play out their lives in this… box. Is that what Rivka and I are? Dolls at the behest of greater forces?”

“Aren’t we all?” Elmer asked in return. “Are any of us truly exempt from responsibility?”

“You could just walk away,” Casim said. “You don’t owe my father anything. You’re a free man, no family, nothing. You made your own responsibilities here. They weren’t… thrust upon you.”

Elmer chuffed. He picked up one of the books and began idly sifting through the pages.

“It doesn’t matter what anyone is owed. What matters is what you’re willing to give of yourself. You aren’t a slave to your father, nor to the House. Yes, Amayl took advantage of you, but you were given a choice to back out. You were never forced into this. You always had a choice. Still do, if you wish.”

Casim sat silent for a long moment. There was a loud crash as someone dropped something heavy, then squabbling as one of the servants claimed they were all right while everyone else wanted to know if some item or another had been damaged. It hadn’t.

“You had a wife once.”

“I did.”

“Did you love her?”

Elmer sighed softly, setting the book down. “I know I did. But I don’t remember, unfortunately, due to whatever happened to me in the Sorrows. But I think the question you’re really asking me is whether you can learn to love.”

“I guess.”

“You can. Your parents are a prime example.”

“But they always loved each other.”

“In a different way,” Elmer said. “I don’t know if you realize this, but Mancel was originally betrothed to your aunt Jacinta. His relationship with Amarika was little more than an uncle-like friendship.”

“I… didn’t know that,” Casim blinked. “That’s uncomfortable. How did things turn out the way they did?”

“Jacinta fell in love with Elsik. Rather than fight their love, Mancel allowed Jacinta to break from the engagement. But Keyair wouldn’t have it – he wanted Mancel in the family, to become part of his blood. So he engaged him to the next daughter instead.”

“I knew they were engaged when Mother was young, but… did Jacinta and Father ever… court?”

“No,” Elmer said with a small shrug. “Their relationship was more formal than his friendship with Amarika was when she was a child. Mancel treated this second betrothal like it was nothing, continuing an innocent friendship with Amarika. When it came time to be wed, they didn’t know how to love any other way.”

Casim blinked again.

“For them it felt wrong at first, turning what was once a familial love into a romantic one. You’ll never tell your father I told you this, but they didn’t consummate the marriage for four years.”

“What?”

Elmer made a flapping motion of his hand, as if begging Casim to quiet down.

“Shush. Yes, it was a strange time. But they made it. And you saw that love, that passionate fiery love that was far beyond anything simply sexual. That doesn’t come overnight.”

“So what you’re saying… if I let Rivka have space, let her grow to love me… maybe in four years we’ll…?”

“No, you’re going to have sex on the first night if you can, unless she doesn’t want to,” Elmer said. He grinned at Casim. “In the eyes of the Temple, a marriage can be annulled if you don’t fulfil that duty. And you share no love yet, familial or romantic. You may have it easier than your parents. My advice to you is this: Rivka has had a man before. To please her, you need to-”

“Elmer!” Casim hissed. “Come on! Don’t speak like that.”

“Has your father spoken about making love to a woman?”

“My mother!? Elmer… I’m… I’m leaving.”

He didn’t move. Curiosity and a horrible sense that he was being watched and listened, including inside his very own thoughts just couldn’t be shaken. He felt unclean.

“Fair enough,” Elmer chuckled. “But you’ll want to know soon enough.”

They sat in silence a few long, painful moments. But finally, Casim leaned over to whisper: “If we go somewhere else, I’ll listen. But not about my mother.”

“I don’t know anything about your mother,” Elmer whispered back.

The elf stood, Casim quickly following suit. “Come,” Elmer commanded, striding quickly. Casim had to jog to keep up. “To start with, I’m going to stress the importance of stamina. I need you to do a lap around the garden quarter.”

“What does this have to do with-?”

“You want to be the husband she remembers for more than being just sweet? Run that lap, and I’ll explain.”
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Re: The Isles of Aradia (IC/New Settlers Welcome.)

Post by IronParagon » Thu Apr 04, 2019 2:25 am

_______________________________________________________________________
The Griffin's Bastard
_______________________________________________________________________


"FORM UP! FOR FUCK'S SAKE, FORM UP!"

No-one was listening to her. Not a single one of them. They had joined the scrum, the endless shapeless pandemonium that surrounded her on all sides. It had all seemed so simple, so orderly, when the Bloodhawk had laid out the battle plan; the Huntsmen would have the Vanguard, he said, and their task would be to tackle the Knox frontline in a daredevil head-on charge that would split the enemy force wide open and leave them vulnerable to attack from Desmond Karhall's flanking cavalry. Perhaps it had been part of her dear uncle's plan that the Huntsmen were far too undisciplined to hold together against even the most hastily-prepared shield wall. But even though the Knoxes had somehow thought to meet them in the open field, out here in the craggy pass called Medger's Spine...even though they had a driving rain going right into their faces...even though the Huntsmen's charge had torn through their barrier...still, it had devolved into this mess.

Arianne yanked Foxtrot around, cursing; the rain was plastering the hood of her cloak down to her face so she could barely see. She had the reigns in one hand, and was swinging her longsword furiously with the other. Men came at her to die; a squire with a sleeping lion on his surcoat, a scrofulous marshlander all in furs, a great snorting greenskin who sprayed out clotted black blood when she cleaved his head in. Something exploded near her, making Foxtrot scream and rear up; blinded, Arianne fought to control the beast, and as her sight returned she saw the residue of some sorcerer's spell rising up from the ground not ten feet away, a tangling column of overlapping flames that took the shape of screeching serpents, and those it touched had their skin melt like wax, and the air smelt of alkali and sweat and death.

"FORM UP! LISTEN TO ME, FORM UP!" Arianne's voice was growing hoarse from screaming. A volley of arrows whistled overhead, one of them missing her by inches. "FORM UP, YOU--"

A hand grabbed at her reigns, and she almost hacked at it before realizing that it belonged to Jaster. The lad was astride Reaper and wearing rusty, borrowed iron armor with a greathelm that hid his face. She could see his hands were shaking, even through the boiled leather gauntlets he wore. He'd spent most of the last night standing outside his tent hacking at tree stumps with the worn iron sword Smithee had given him. Arianne told him he'd have been better served by a bit of rest. He'd told her that what awaited him on the morrow was exactly what he saw in his sleep; he would sooner face a night awake then fight the shadows that lurked in his dreams.

He was shouting something at her, she realized, though it was difficult to tell through the visor, let alone the surrounding chaos. Something like hollow...or follow? The lad made a beckoning gesture, and she realized she had the right of it. With a lash of the reigns, Foxtrot kicked into motion, following the trail of the squire's fierce black stallion. The battle moved around them like a river running about a stone in its midst, heedless of their movement. Horrors flitted past them, beyond count. A horse kicked on the ground, one of its legs shattered, its eyes rolling in terror as the chaos drowned out its screams. Its rider lay just meters from it, one of the junior Huntsmen. He called out to Arianne when he saw her, reaching out for her hand; she almost went to help him up until she saw that his body was missing below the waist and his intestines were snaking out behind him into the mud, like the roots of a plant that had been torn from the earth. Recoiling from the dying man with a curse, she had to ride on.

Jaster led her to a little outcropping that jutted out from one of the tall stone sides of Medger's Spine, a rock topped by a single gnarled tree. A shield wall had been erected there, Blackthorne soldiers shoulder-to-shoulder brandishing halberds and pressing their tower shields together to form a barrier. One of their number saw Arianne's red braid and blue cloak. He shouted to let them pass.

J'Zara was in there, fussing over a dying man. The soldier wore Blackthorne steel armor, and the helmet laid at his side had a captain's crest on it. The man's face had turned white and black veins throbbed in his temples; a crusty pus leaked from the sides of his mouth. Three of his fellows lay to his sides, all of them likewise inflicted, all of them dead. The High Feline sashayed her knobbly alderwood staff over the soldier, muttering incantations. There was a glow, and the captain took a single shuddering gasp...then exhaled slowly, dying. The raindrops rolled into his blank eyes.

"My friend Cletus went the same way." Jaster had raised the visor of his helm. He had gone white as a ghost, making the raw flesh on his burn scars stand out all the more, but his gaze was transfixed and eerily still.

"Marsh poisons." The Feline sighed and closed the corpse's eyes with her paw. "Blackthornes say J'Zara must devise antidote quickly, but Blackthornes die too fast to respond to medicine or spells..."

"TYGMO!" Ogden was waiting nearby with several fellow huntsmen. The fighting had made him agitated; he bounced the head of his warhammer off one palm, striding back and forth as he ranted. "KORINI, BAPPA SEE DOE POBBA JEZ--"

"That noise ain't helping any, stone-brother," Shockeye Sykes grumbled. He was a greybeard dwarf with a bulging left eye that pointed in an opposite direction to his right. "And us sittin here ain't helpin much, either."

"K'Thrzo wants to fight." The black-coated High Feline hissed as he brandished his hunting spear. "What hunter takes shelter during hunt, K'Thrzo asks? No true hunter, K'thrzo says."

Ignoring them, Arianne spurred Foxtrot up to the tree and pulled herself up into the branches. Her High Elven ancestors had made their home in the trees long before there were humans, and every little Hrow could climb before they could walk. She scaled to the top in seconds, and from there, she could see the whole battle.

Not that it brought her any closer to understanding what was going on. It was still the same scrum, banner mashing against banner and mud-splattered surcoats making it impossible to divine who was fighting for whom and if so, who was winning that fight. She saw the Headhunter, riding through the fray with his scimitar slashing in deadly arcs, cackling like a madman as the blade sent jets of blood spurting high into the air behind him--unconcerned that none of his men were riding by him, and making no effort to rally them. She saw Sir Gaeus Thormund get pulled from his horse by an Orc, dropping his morningstar, and fall under the tide of battle. She saw the Bloodhawk, as there was a rumble of thunder accompanied by a flash of sheet-lightning, silhouetted at the top of the pass. He sat there motionless on his horse, sword sheathed, looking down on them all with his five thousand reserve troops. Like he was waiting. Well what the fuck does he have to wait for? Arianne thought, suddenly even more furious. Did he stage this fight purely to rid himself of men he dislikes? Does he intend to run away once he ensures the fight is lost? Why won't he HELP us?

And finally, as she turned to look to the other side of the field, she saw the worst sight of all. Sir Dorian Knox, sitting on a ten-thousand-odd numerical advantage, had not been quite so stingy in his use of reinforcements. The true force of the Orcs were coming. They rode astride giant marsh-beasts, great shaggy creatures with hunched backs and horned faces that dripped with swamp-weeds. The riders wore steel plate paid for by their benefactors, and their weapons looked castle-forged as well. At their head came the biggest greenskin Arianne had ever seen, a monster with a six-foot battleaxe and a trollskull helm. This was the warchief, she knew--Grimgar Lockjaw.

A crossbow bolt whizzed past her head, and she decided she'd had enough sightseeing. In a few quick motions, she dropped back into Foxtrot's saddle, then onto the ground.

"Listen, the lot of you." She made a motion for them to gather round. "Orcs to the North. A cavalry. Led by the Chief. They'll run us over within a minute."

"They're mounted?" Jaster suddenly clutched both sides of his head, as if trying to wrench a thought from his mind. "Wait--wait. I know something, I...agh...if only my sister was here..."

"...she would be capable of a coherent thought? I'm sure we'd all appreciate that, but we must make do with what we're given." Arianne clapped her hands together. "Spit it out, lad, we need something fast--"

"I'VE GOT IT!" his sudden shout made them all recoil, not least of which was due to another spell erupting just meters away from them, sending a cloud of howling blue phantoms swirling into the sky. "The beasts they ride--they give off this stench. From the swamp gasses. Talia told me that it was this substance used in alchemy--"

"Methane." J'Zara nodded.

"Yes! And she said that you can transmutate...with living matter, of sorts, and she says that there's a sort of dead used-to-be-living matter in mud." He kicked at the ground beneath them. "Like this."

"Sediment." J'Zara nodded again.

Arianne gazed at her Feline friend, nonplussed. "The fact you can derive sense from any of this maundering is a marvel."

The mage flapped her paws. "No, J'Zara thinks kitten is right--J'Zara knows a spell. Transmutation, combustion. Would have to leave the poisoned, but no other choice..."

Arianne locked eyes with Jaster for a single moment, then tossed her hair, like she was shaking off an irksome fly. "Can't believe I'm saying this...but kitten's plan is better than being trampled. Let's do it."

At this distance from the battle, when she gave orders, the men would actually listen. The shield wall parted outwards at her command to clear space, and then they were riding. Arianne and Jaster took the front, and J'Zara came behind them, riding double with Ogden perched in front of her saddle like an odd ornament. Shockeye Sykes and K'Thrzo brought up the rear. They were a small party, but if all went according to their hastily-assembled plan, it would be all they needed.

The great marsh-beasts were so heavy that the ground thundered with their charge. The Orcs beat on great war-drums and blasted droning horns; they flew no bannerds, but were so abominably large that one could hardly mistake them for what they were. And there was something else as well--a kind of shimmer that appeared over the backs of the beasts, like a heat haze rising from stone on a hot day.

They were approaching awfully fast. Arianne turned in the saddle and called out; "CAT, IF YOU INTEND TO DO SOMETHING, I WOULD DO IT NOW--"

J'Zara had raised her staff and spoken a word, but a single word, and then all at once everything was on fire; the beasts, the riders, the other Blackthorne soldiers, even the air itself hurt to breathe. Foxtrot was screaming and bucking, and Arianne fought to hang on, coughing, squinting to see through the acrid smoke...

Something huge rose up in front of her, a figure larger than any man, wreathed in flame. Arianne recoiled, pulling the reigns as hard as she could, but Foxtrot was fighting her--the mare howled, tossing her head back and forth, eyes rolling in white panic. The monster was bearing down on them, and when Arianne looked up she saw it was the Lockjaw, free from his mount, and his fur cloak had been caught aflame and the flesh beneath had gone up with it, and it made the fetid meat stench that rose from all of his race even worse, and along with the smoke Arianne couldn't breathe, and the horse bucked out of her control and the Orc bore down on her, reaching out with one burning hand--

"FIIIGHT!" Ogden came from nowhere, soaring through the air with his warhammer aloft like some bizarre furry bird of prey; with a deafening crak, he brought his weapon right down on the head of the Lockjaw. The Orc's helmet splintered, and for a second Arianne had thought the skull beneath it had followed as well. But as the pieces of trollbone fell away, revealing a the brutish face beneath scarred in the places the bone had been fused onto the skin, she knew it was not over.

The Huntsmen bore down on him like crow descending onto carrion, and one by one, he sent them running. K'Thrzo's spear dug into a weak spot beneath the Orc's cuirass, but the Lockjaw swung one fist and knocked the High Feline right off his horse. Shockeye lashed out with his whip-chain and it caught the Chieftan around one arm, just as J'Zara was preparing a spell and Ogden was coming in for another strike with his warhammer. It seemed like it was over, for a moment, but then Grimgar pulled and Shockeye was lifted into the air. Swinging Sykes like a mace, the Orc slammed him into Ogden and then into J'Zara's horse, knocking both sprawling. Jaster came at him then, bursting through a ring of fire with his sword aloft--it looked dreadfully heroic, like Arthur Blackthorne riding down Bolzog at the Riverford, but it was all for naught. The lordling's iron longsword shattered against the Lockjaws steel plate, and the Orc pushed into him, knocking him off of Reaper's saddle. Jaster rolled in the dirt, and as another volley of arrows shot over their heads, Grimgar drew his battleaxe and raised it to make an end. It came down in a clean arc, the flames dancing reflected in its blade.

And stopped. Arianne grunted at the impact of the blow; her sword had almost bent in half from its weight as she had leaped from the saddle to parry it. They stood now, the Orc looming over her, locked blade-to-blade, and even though he was still burning, she could see his shoulders shaking with laughter. He pushed the blade of the axe down on her, harder, and the sword was bending in her hands, Jaster still insensate on the ground behind her, the ash in the air choking her eyes and lungs, and she thought, not for the first time, I'm going to die here.

A sound pierced through the din--a fanfare of trumpets, chorusing in a heraldic tune, and suddenly the ground was shaking. Arianne turned her head for a second, and she saw that past where one of the marsh-beasts had fallen in the flames to the ground, the reserve had finally begun their attack. They came tearing down the pass, illuminated in another flash of sheet-lightning. The Bloodhawk came at their head on his white stallion. Jets of light forked over their heads, spells from enemy casters, but Lord Blackthorne only drew his sword and it seemed for a second like all the world was bathed in the reflection of its crimson blaze--Redwing, the blade of Jason the Drakkenslayer himself. it seemed to drink the energy of the spells in the air, and as it did so, there was another blast of forked lightning from above, and Arianne could swear that she saw five figures in black cloaks running alongside the Bloodhawk's horse at inhuman speeds.

The cavalry collided with the Knox army, and everything went white.

_______________________________________________________________________
Handsome Arthur
_______________________________________________________________________


"ARIANNE! ARIANNE, ANSWER ME!"

As the oncoming dawn began its slow march over the horizon, Jaster walked a field of battle that was unrecognizable from when that same sun had set just hours before. The very earth was scorched and warped by sorcery; ash drifted through the air, buoyed by the rain that had slowed to a drizzle that had failed to quell the fires that were still blazing. After one too many struggling breaths through his visor, he tore his greathelm off and flung it aside. He no longer cared if anyone knew his face. Blackthorne men moved back and forth between the corpses, looting and cutting throats as appropriate, but nowhere could he see the one whom he sought. He squinted through the smoke, pulling Foxtrot along in one hand and Reaper in the other. The fight with the Lockjaw was near here, she had to still be there...

"ARIANNE!" he called again. "ARIANNE! ARE YOU--no!"

Beneath the charred remains of one of the marsh-beasts nearby, he had spied a braid of red hair. He gave the horses to another squire, then rushed to where she lay. The elf had not been crushed, owing perhaps to another larger corpse that lay at her side propping the beast up to allow her room, and he was able to free her with one pull. She was limp in his arms, her blue cloak ripped and burned, her scale haubrek matted with filth. Blood ran down her face from a gash in her forehead. He tried to sit her up, shaking her shoulders.

"Arianne--Arianne, you have to wake up--" He peeled off one of his gloves and pressed two fingers to her neck in the way Yven had taught him. He could feel a faint pulse, but she still hadn't responded. "Wake up, bastard." he hoped that would get some kind of rise from her, but still nothing. There was nothing for it; he'd have to shock her awake. He drew back one hand, and went for it.

Lightning-quick, the elf raised a single finger to block the slap at the wrist. One grey-green eye opened. "Don't you dare, kitten."

"I thought you were insensate. You scared me." Jaster felt an odd relief.

"I want to be insensate, I'm fucking exhausted," the Elf grumbled, closing her eye. "Just let me sleep a little longer..."

He shook her again and used his strictest voice. "No. We need you up. You have to get that wound bandaged, and help us clear the field."

"Bah." Arianne sat up nevertheless, putting a hand to her head with a groan. "Feels like my head's stuffed with cotton...a drink, lad, fetch me a drink."

He rushed to retrieve a canteen from Reaper's saddle, uncorked it, and brought it back to her. She quaffed it, then promptly spat it back out again.

"Phfbbtt--water?!" She seemed outraged. "You think I'm a horse? Wyvern-mead, get me wyvern-mead!"

Scowling, Jaster managed to borrow some off a man-at-arms and brought it back to her. She drank long and deep, then slumped back against the rock, the black liquid leaking down her chin. "Ahh, that's the stuff. Now give it to me straight, lad." She opened one eye again and regarded him dispassionately. "Did we win, or are we awaiting execution by Dorian Knox right now?"

"We won." Jaster pressed his lips together into a grim line. "In a way."

"What do you mean, in a way?" Arianne's long ears perked up.

"It's...it's better if you come see for yourself." He offered her a hand.

It took her a minute to get her saddled up on Foxtrot, and he still insisted on guiding the horse by the reigns til the Elf had a clearer head, but nevertheless Jaster led Arianne towards the mouth of the pass. They saw figures passing; piles of Huntsmen's corpses being burned, J'Zara treating Sir Gaeus for a wound, Ogden still hammering at a dead Orc as if he had not realized the fight was over, and the Headhunter sitting stop a pile of corpses with the butchered commander of the Corcoran garrison laid across his lap. With a hunting knife, Spinner slowly peeled off a patch of the man's skin to add to his cloak. He looked up as they passed, and the mismatched jewel eyes of his demon's-head helm seemed to follow them long after they'd left him.

A clearing had been made in the middle of the surrounding troops. The knights of House Blackthorne were gathered there, mud-splattered and looking rather less splendid. Arianne took her cloak off and wrapped it around Jaster's head quickly; he protested weakly, but the Monmoths were mere yards away so he could not truly object. The Bloodhawk stood in the middle of that ring and kneeling at his feet were four figures in chains; Lord Willem Worcester, young and soft-looking, seemingly unhurt; a dark-haired boy that Jaster did not recognize, who appeared to be bleeding badly from a wound to the leg; the Lockjaw, bearing a stump for his right arm where Redwing had severed it, burns scarring his now unrecognizable features; and last but most certainly not least, Dorian Knox himself. The big man wore a wooden brace around his leg (I put that there, Jaster realized) that made his kneeling posture awkward and twisted. His dark armor was battered and scorched, and his beard unkempt and unruly, but his yellow-green eyes were bright as ever as he ranted.

"My father will NEVER bend to you, Bloodhawk," the heir to House Knox told the man before him, spitting at his feet as if to help illustrate this. "No Blackthorne will ever call the Eastern Reach his own, I swear on Aradia herself--"

"How did you do it?" Willem Worcester's brown eyes were wide with awe. "The swamp was burning. You made us leave. But you didn't have any spellcasters there."

"Shut your bloody mouth, Worcester!" Knox bellowed, rounding on his younger bannerman. "It doesn't matter how--"

"I think it does, brother." And there he was, the figure Jaster had spied in the Bloodhawk's company just hours before. Nestor Knox appeared from the shadows behind the Bloodhawk, smiling patiently, his oiled hair and mustache gleaming in the dawnlight.

The Blackthorne bannermen muttered amongst themselves, many touching their swords. Evidently they were as confused as the Easterners.

"Nestor...?" Dorian's expression was blank for a moment, but then his bushy brows drew together and his face went purple as understanding dawned. "You betrayed us?!?"

"I told you brother. I despise the sight of blood." Nestor examined his manicured nails. "But you and father and Preston and all your banners wouldn't listen to me, would you? Insisted on fighting a war we couldn't win." He approached his elder sibling and crouched beside him. "Great things are coming, Dorian. House Knox must adapt, not stand in the way of progress. Repent your ways, join us, and--"

Dorian spat in the mage's face. All Nestor's cool courtesy vanished in an instant. Trembling in rage and disgust, the secondborn reached slowly for a handkerchief and dabbed the spittle from his mustache and the front of his previously immaculate white robes.

"Never," Sir Dorian Knox repeated, and even despite his damaged leg, he managed to rise to his feet. "Never, turncloak. You hear me? Not on Aradia's realm, not so long as defiance lives in the hearts of her true children, NO KNOX WILL EVER BOW TO A BLACKTH--"

The big man stopped. Blood spurted from his mouth. He turned his eyes slowly down, and saw Redwing buried in his thorax. Dominic had been standing motionless, both hands resting on either side of Redwing's crossguard where he'd buried it in the earth, and his movement had been so fast that it was like switching between two pictures. Slowly, the Bloodhawk drew back, sliding Redwing out of the Knox heir's chest; the crimson blade was the same color as the dark blood that adorned its blade, Jaster noticed. Dorian staggered forward a step, mouth still gaping open, and locked eyes with Dominic one last time, yellow-green on grey. Beneath his beard, Dominic's mouth curled as if in disgust. The sword moved again, quick as a crack of red lightning, and Dorian Knox's head flew from his shoulders and landed in the mud meters behind him. The body twitched once, then blood fountained from its ragged neck and it slumped to the ground, twitching.

Willem Worcester stared in horror. "No! You--you said he would be taken hostage--"

"He had no intention of co-operating." Dominic took a rag and wiped the blade clean, as if the Knox blood was too filthy to be worthy of adorning it. "And I do not need to bargain. Lord Knox stands right here."

"What?" Young Worcester blinked, nonplussed. "Lord Oswald is at Three Towers, what do you--?"

"Father died in the night." Nestor had not been lying about hating the sight of blood, it seemed; he had gone green and turned from his brother's corpse, but now spoke confidently enough. "He was an old man, and sickly. Dorian was Lord, though he did not know it yet."

"It seems you have inherited the title, Lord Nestor." Dominic's tone was bored. As if this had all been rehearsed, a long time ago.

"So it seems." Nestor turned to the Bloodhawk, with a charming smile. "Lord Blackthorne, I would humbly ask to negotiate my surrender. You may have your dominion over the Eastern Reach, as agreed, and take my cousin Heracles here as your hostage to ensure our co-operation."

Dominic did not even bother to pretend to have to think about the terms, and instead answered instantly. "I accept your terms."

They shook hands. The Blackthorne bannermen might have cheered, but they instead only looked on in bewilderment.

They do not see, Jaster thought, with a dawning realization. They do not see that this has all been in motion for years. Without Knox there is only the Drow, and if the Drow capitulate as well...there is no military power in the world that can contest the Bloodhawk's right to Kingship.

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Re: The Isles of Aradia (IC/New Settlers Welcome.)

Post by Skummy the Kitty » Thu Apr 04, 2019 12:37 pm

Fang, Maria Vale, Caybourne-

Fang had grown tired of his partnership with Gold, the Wild One and himself had never gotten along in their shared tenure under Divankul, and Fang's retirement and new fangled mission had only served to increase their divide. Apparently without his hard, no nonsense rule, the estate had fallen on hard times and Maria was trying to get competent staffing done. Something Fang had been doing in his forty years of work for the family, as well as whipping people into shape and making the Box run like clockwork. He was originally a labor cat made to tend to a homestead religiously so the work had come natural to him from his early childhood.

Gold was the familiar to Divan during his last few decades of lordship, and ran the maintenance on all magical equipment, he was a powerful master of telekinetics and understood magic theory thanks to countless years of studying with Divan. without him the estate would fall apart completely. For such a small thing he had a big ego, a small cat of black fur with white around his paws, face, and all along his elongated tail. He wore tiny golden bracelets on his hind and forlegs, and a pointed cap bent out of shape from years of use, as well as a golden chime bell around his neck so he wouldn't get lost. Gold hated to admit that he was getting way too old for this anymore. The man was thirty two, he had arthritis in all his joints and his eyesight was failing, he was keeping it together on poultices and moon sugar.

That is where Silvers came in, a sweet little grimal cub of about sixteen who was taken in from the Tropics at the ripe age of three to be reared in magic by Gold during a vacation down there with Divan. She had looked up to her Master, as well as Master Divan and Master Fang as role models of how to be an excellent magical caretaker one day. Even though the three of them were obscenely strict they had warm spots for the girl int heir own ways. Divan was a manic but he always complimented Silvers with extra pocket change in allowance, Fang never pushed her too hard on her cleaning duties and helped with Gold if he was on a bender of sugar, and Gold?

Gold would sometime not yell at her for screwing up, and sometimes forget to beat her knuckles with a wooden spoon, when she tried and failed at repairing a magical contraption. He was a tough master but he had a mastery over magic and always inspired her even into his old age, he could be cruel and he could be very destructive if he was on something, but int he end if ever Silvers felt in danger Gold was there for her each and every time. When Divan left and the fighting commenced Gold had made sure that no matter what he'd kill every last traitorous bastard who crossed him.

He wound up killing several conspirators who tried to steal Silvers for their own maniacal agendas, alongside Fang and several others they forced the schism forward and helped Maria see the light of her actions. When it was all said and done Silvers did not know exactly was the new norm, but Gold has slowly been cluing in his clueless apprentice that a very great and ominous evil is coming back and they need to get her prepped to safeguard the family. As for what they were doing all the way in Maria Vale?

Well Master Fang needed more cats for his new project as Lord of House Fang, it wasn't exactly recognized by the senate but he had a manor int he Golden Mile he bought off House Victross using his saved salaries. He had numerous new businesses under his belt he had bought up using his severances when he left the House. He had gotten contracts for Fairmane to begin production on all manner of war items, had been sailing to the Tropics and headed to the Wilds, been making deals everywhere he could cash in his favors built up over the years. He had asked Maria for help getting to Caybourne as he knew of a massive population that consisted of mostly former slaves.

Fang looked to Silvers and made a gesture, a 'come along, cub' motion, and Silvers snapped form her haze and nodded carting her aging master in her arms quickly. "Fang must talk to all Cats, you will go with gold to speak with many of them on one side of here- I shall be with other side. Convince them to work for Fang"

"They won't work without strong leadership, something you don't have Fang, I think it to be best you stick to your small selection of family members for now" Gold was a pessimistic bastard as always as his ruby red and sapphire blue eyes narrowed. "You have under thirty cats to your name, most of which are just what little you could scrounge, you are worthless"

"By the shade why did Lady Maria have to give Fang you of all? You complain entire way here, Fang is tired of it, Fang has been working months to get this far. Fang has made silk deals, Fang has convinced House Erenai to help, Fang got H Clan of Pride to join the fight and will go back for clan M after to rematch Alpha. Gold has done nothing but hold estate together since Fang left! Fang has been hard at work all these months!" Fang, a monster of a cat at six foot ten and packed tot he brim with hard earned muscles stared down at the smaller cat angrily, his ire rising. "Fang wil do himself what Gold cannot!"

"Master Fang please cease" Silvers chimed and petted Gold "We will go and find Kyn who will join, you must go and speak to Kyn" with that Silvers turned on her paw and marched onwards to a group of High Feline laborers and began introducing herself and what Fang was about. Fang ont he other hand marched up to what seemed to be the center of the quarter these peoples lived in. He was looking for who might be the elders of this place to make agreements with them on the migration of some of the clan. He could tell they were living on top of each other, which was not in and of itself bad but it could be troublesome later on.

Fang's scarring, missing digits, and his famous missing bite were healed over and replaced thanks to alchemically grown limbs and a strange regrowth potion that had painfully made him grow a new set of teeth. While being sixty, which was already an elderly status, he had the physical fitness and strength of a man half his age. He was wearing baggy brown harem pants that sashed side to side as her walked, and his waist was covered by a tattered apron. His right first finger held his house crest, clenched teeth with sharp fangs to either side. He wore old wrappings around his wrists, he was not displaying wealth or power but showing that he still remembers his time as a slave and carries it with him as a tool now.

"KYN! I wish to speak with all of you! Something must be done for all who suffer fate of slavery and mistreatment! Must be helped!" He was shouting for everyone and anyone to hear him, and he hoped those that represented the whole of the community would step forward. As it was Fang had bought a minor shipping company, some lands out westward from Everglow, a few mills and the like, essentially small time operations but he needed workers to fill those up and to help him build up a strong House with plenty of support to fund a war with the Slavers and to bring the trade to its knees once and for all. He could do a lot on his own but to move forward eh needed all the cats he could muster.

"Fang be I! Fang is here to declare that slavery must be stopped, if not by law then by claw! Fang wants help of everyone willing to help not only Fang, but all peoples affected. Fang is here to do what must be done, he i old cat and strong but one storng old cat cannot stop everything. Fang needs much help, all help, if dream of Free Kyn is to be realized. Free Kyn should not be a title one wears when they can escape their bonds- Free Kyn must be the name of every Kyn and every human and every other here that all are free and none shall take. Fang believes only kyn can solve this. We great in number and maybe great in fight? Fang ass who might join in Fang's mission and help by the work of Shadewalker? Shadewalker weeps to see children in bondage, Fang says shadewalker should not mourn for children, Shadewalker gives us strength and thus Fang say, up with us all and fight for all Kyn!"
Image
Credit to Sammy and Nicodemus; one created my set for me, the other drew the source image as a request.
Thank You Both!

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Kotorchix
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Re: The Isles of Aradia (IC/New Settlers Welcome.)

Post by Kotorchix » Fri Apr 05, 2019 12:59 am

Nimbe Elassore Rodin
Heartstone Estate
Sylvie Isle, Caybourne


Claire’s entourage had arrived at the Heartstone Estate late last night. Instead of getting her set up in servant quarters, Claire had invited Nimbe to stay in her guest room in the Garden Quarter.

They shared the huge bed, so big Nimbe knew it could fit almost six people her own size before becoming remotely crowded. Yet somehow, Claire managed to take up most of the space with her sprawling limbs and long hair splayed everywhere.

Nimbe had been up before the sun to prepare Claire’s clothing for the day and unpack. She had hardly been conscious on the ride up to this strange palace in the clouds, only having the energy to sleepily peek out the window at the sparkling seas below.

First thing she did with her free time, she stood on the balcony of Claire’s room, overlooking a massive canyon which plunged down into still waters below. Across the way was a large rock formation, on which some effort was ongoing to erect a watchtower. Nimbe had no idea how the builders had gotten across the chasm.

The chilled breeze was exhilarating as it whipped through her hair and nightgown. But she quickly trotted back inside. Today, she would see Carndas again! But first, she had to find this ‘Mac’ Claire and Lyron had spoken of, some sort of coordinator for the staff of Heartstone Estate. He would be able to help her find her brother.

She dressed herself in a light pink dress Claire had bought at the Aradian docks just before they left. It fit her perfectly, and she hadn’t thought she would like such a delicate color on herself but she had been pleasantly mistaken. It had dainty lace sleeves with frilly edges, and the bodice fit slim to her waist – a little more lenient about the chest, so as to create the illusion she had more chest than she really did. A cream woollen shawl wrapped about her shoulders made the perfect accessory to keep warm while still suiting the outfit. She slipped on her new winter boots and headed out into the Garden Quarter.

Only servants bustled about at this early hour. There were some taking laundry back to the estate itself. A well-built old man with white hair and wearing a priest’s robe was knelt in the vegetable garden, tending to the plants as he sang in a deep baritone.

There was another servant walking the most absurd creature Nimbe had ever seen. It looked like a shorn sheep, but its legs and neck were far too long. The servant walked it a few steps every now and again as it nibbled at the grass. Whatever it was, Nimbe made sure to keep a wide circle about it. When it looked her way, its eyes had rectangles in them and pointed two different directions. Its tail flapped out straight into the air and a pile of excrement just fell out from the base of it. She shuddered and hastened her step, the geometric pupils following her.

Following Lyron’s directions from the night before, she left the Garden Quarter and crossed the large cobbled road that led up to the estate itself. She eyed the large mansion for a long moment, standing in the middle of the empty road. It looked dark hewn from the rock like that. The trees in this place were still so young, and where there weren’t rocks or buildings, the grass expanded in flat swatches that made her feel uncomfortable.

No matter what, she still found the open sky somewhat disturbing above her. Without the latticework of leaves from trees, she felt vulnerable. And having the grass spread out in such a manner, unbroken by foliage… it felt like the world might swallow her whole.

But clustered buildings could bring her little comfort. She headed into what Lyron had called the Husbandry Quarter – where the horses and animals were kept, alongside storage and Mac’s office. These buildings, made of rock but accented with an unnecessary amount of wood, were close together but didn’t reach higher than two storeys. That was a comfort compared to Everglow City’s Halfmoon District.

Mac’s office had a big sign on it with ‘Coordinator’ painted on it in red above a bright blue door. About the doorframe, tiny little flowers of all colors had been carved and painted into the woodwork. She stopped to admire them, touching over the handiwork with a smile on her face.

A guilty pleasure. Carndas loved woodworking, and Nimbe had loved painting what he made. It was one of their roadside enterprises, making tiny figurines and children’s toys to sell their way across Aradia. She found herself wondering why she had never kept one for nostalgia’s sake.

She rapped her knuckles softly against the door before pushing it open.

The room within was warm and well-lit with goat-horn sconces on the walls. A fire crackled merrily across the room with two plush red chairs angled towards it with woollen blankets draped over them. There were no windows, but the walls were covered in hides and bore unusual artwork – scraps of parchment covered in children’s scribbles. Nimbe could make out a few familiar shapes – a house, a dog, maybe a horse, some people, but most of the artwork was illegible. At the far end of the room beside the fireplace was another door, far plainer than the front door she closed behind her.

She stood hesitantly for a moment, holding her shawl about her shoulders before the door burst open and a man poked his head out at her. The broadest smile spread across his chubby features and he let himself out of what was likely a tiny bedchamber. He smoothed back his short hair before offering Nimbe a polite bow.

“You must be Nimbe. I was told to expect you sometime today,” he beamed with a lovely tone.

He was broad, his body thick with a layer of fat. He didn’t wear warm clothing like Nimbe, and even had a slight sheen of sweat already starting on his forehead. But his smile was beautiful and genuine. Nimbe immediately liked him.

Before she could get a word in, he was moving on. Gentle hands rested on her shoulders and he steered her into one of the plush chairs. A tiny pastry on a tiny plate was put in her hands and Mac put up one finger as if asking her to wait a moment.

“Carndas is just next door. The barracks is no place for a lady of polite standing, so I’ll go fetch him!”

And Nimbe was left alone, staring at the pastry and wondering where in Aradia it had appeared from. It was dusted with a sweet powder which she licked off the tips of her fingers. The crust flaked with her touch and she fussed over the mess she left on the velvety arm of the plush chair.

The front door swung open with Mac’s thick arm holding it. Carndas strode in, but it took Nimbe a moment to recognize him as her brother. She stood, leaving the pastry on the chair as Carndas crushed her in an embrace.

He was clean-shaven, his hair brushed back into a small tail at the base of his neck. He wore Ludlow colors, a dark green tunic tightened at the waist with a grey belt, and slate-colored trousers with sturdy black seal-skin boots bound with leather.

Mac scuttled past them, saying he would be in the next room before shutting himself in his bedchamber to give them some privacy.

“I almost didn’t recognize you,” Carndas said, pulling away to look at her.

An almost puzzled expression crossed his face as he tugged at one of her fancifully curled strands of hair. Nimbe blushed, fixing it back behind her pointed ear.

“Claire’s doing,” she explained weakly.

“A lady does your hair?” Carndas teased. “We really are stepping up in the world.”

He sat, motioning for her to do the same. She gave him her pastry but he set it aside with a smile and shake of his head. “Already ate. But we need to talk.”

Concern crossed her features, and he realized his phrasing was off. “No, no,” he soothed, “not about anything bad. Just, an interesting development to do with our lineage.”

“Oh,” Nimbe said softly, her eyes dipping. “So do I.”

There was a moment of silence, both wondering what exactly the other knew before Carndas dove into it. “What seems to pass for the wizard here, an elf named Elmer, was able to confirm that we’re related to the Ludlows. Or more specifically, anyone descended from the Heartstone name.”

Nimbe’s brow raised. “We’re related to Claire?”

“Very distantly,” Carndas admitted. “We have no claim to anything here, we’re so far removed. But Lady Amayl claims it was her grandmother that had a child with a Rodin, leading to the current Heartstone, Piers, and Ludlow lines.”

“I’m related to Lyron, then.”

“Yeah, we both are. The Rodin Amayl’s grandmother had a child with was… our great-grandfather.”

“So what does this mean?” Nimbe asked. “Are there holdings for your name? I know that’s what you really want, a title and land.”

“No,” Carndas said with a shake of his head. He rubbed a hand over his smooth chin, the gesture too fast as if he had expected some resistance from his usual stubble. “They’re all gone, ages ago. Elmer managed to find some old maps kept by one of our ancestors, but the land holdings the Rodins occupied were all sold off after – get this – one of us married a Blackthorne.”

Nimbe had nothing to say to that. Concern just deepened on her face. “All right… that sounds bad.”

“Why?” Carndas pushed. “It was Jason Blackthorne she married. We’re related to the Stormlords! You can’t see how amazing that is? He was a legend, Nimbe. You don’t remember those stories I used to tell you as a kid about him?”

“No, no, I remember,” Nimbe muttered. “I just… the Blackthornes are not good people these days, are they?”

Carndas frowned. “Rivka’s a good person.”

“She’s not a Blackthorne. And I know we can’t help who we’re related to, but I don’t find comfort in knowing we may share blood with people like the Bloodhawk. Claire’s so worried about him. She even thought for a while it was he who had ordered her mother and sister’s deaths and the kidnapping of her brother.”

“We’re no Stormlords, Nimbe,” Carndas tried to console her. “We’re related, but we don’t have their blood. They have our blood. We’re a predecessor house to the ones that live today. It’s not like they’re going to want to have us come to their parties or go to war with us over our… totally-existent land holdings.”

“But really, what does this mean for us?” Nimbe asked again. “You get no land or title. Has anything actually changed?”

Carndas hesitated, opened his mouth, closed it, then shrugged.

“We have blood from a noble line. It’s somewhere on the road towards respect. I know Lady Amayl has been treating me differently since Elmer and I talked it over with her and went through all the records. She didn’t even know about the Blackthorne connection, you know.”

“Respect,” Nimbe echoed.

Her gaze settled on the searing flames dancing in the fireplace. “That doesn’t seem worth much in this strange world of nobles. Especially when there are more important things than who marries whom, or which is the wealthiest House of them all.”

Carndas examined his sister’s face a long moment. It was a new light he saw Nimbe in then, one that realized she wasn’t just his little sister anymore. She was experiencing the world for herself, and it was beginning to show.

“You don’t approve of me trying to get us some respect?”

“It’s not that,” Nimbe sighed. She leaned forward in her seat, interlocking her fingers before her. “You’re the only one between us that has a vision for life. And in this part of Aradia, in the Houses, that seems to be important. I’m not cut out for this life, I know that. The respect you gain should be yours, and yours alone.”

She glanced up at him. “Don’t worry about me. I don’t need respect like that.”

“I dare say if anyone respects me, they’d better respect my sister too,” Carndas said with a smirk. But the tilt of his brow betrayed his concerns. He could see what Nimbe was saying. That one day, she would walk away from all this.

“You said you had news too,” he said softly. “About our lineage?”

“Mine,” Nimbe softly corrected. “My lineage.”

Carndas’ brows shot up. “The Shatterlight elves? You met some? They’re cagey, how-?”

“I met my great-grandmother,” Nimbe said. “Her name is Metheryl Arcaena. She’s… the strangest woman I’ve ever met, I think. She’s haunted by this demon, and had her body switched in the Void, and… I… I don’t really know how to explain how I feel.”

“Not that any of what you just said makes any sense, but… that’s great. I think?”

Nimbe gave a weak smile and rubbed her hands over her face. “We’ve agreed we will meet again sometime soon. But in the years of elves, what does soon even mean? I think she wants to be rid of her demon before we speak again.”

She breathed deeply, then looked to Carndas again, her smile fading. “So what’s going to happen with us?”

“I’m… going to serve Lady Rivka, and her husband,” he replied, his eyes darting down and away from her gaze.

“Knowing that this family has our blood… I dunno, it feels like I need to be here. Like everything I’ve done, every bizarre con I’ve run, all the places we went across Aradia, somehow it all led to here. And it feels too convenient to be anything but fate cast by the goddess.”

“So why am I here, then?” Nimbe teased. “Oh ‘soothsayer’.”

Carndas swatted her leg with his foot, giving a smile as she giggled.

“Maybe Aradia has a plan with these people for you too. Or maybe time is simply passing by in a strange series of coincidences with our fates still intertwined. I don’t know why else our paths should cross so often in this ‘game’ of nobles.”

“I should be getting back to Claire,” Nimbe admitted reluctantly. “She usually wakes at this time.”

“All right,” Carndas said, leaning forward and taking her hands in his. He gave her a gentle squeeze as he kissed her forehead. “I’m here. But I need to take over Thomas’ shift in a few hours, so I won’t be able to really talk unless I’m off-duty.”

Nimbe nodded and stood, returning a kiss to Carndas’ own brow. “I imagine I’ll have to keep Claire from talking to you too much.”

Carndas withdrew, his brow up again. “Why?”

“I saw the way you two looked at each other. I’m not as innocent as I look. And now you’re related.”

“We did not,” Carndas said, flustered. “I did not look at her in any way. And it’s distant. Very distant.”

“Mmhmm.”

“Oh get out of here,” Carndas scowled, giving her a little shove as he tried not to smile. “You don’t know shit. Don’t make it weird.”

You’re making it weird,” Nimbe replied in good humor as she headed for the door. She opened it and stopped, looking back over her shoulder with a mischievous glint in her eye.

“Cousin-lover.”

She fled before he could say anything more.



Elmer Twicefreed
Heartstone Estate
Sylvie Isle, Caybourne


It was just before the midday meal when Elmer finally let the boy rest. Casim laid stretched out on the estate’s front steps, his chest heaving with exertion as Elmer held out a jug of water. Casim could hardly get the fresh liquid down his throat fast enough and Elmer had to restrain him a moment.

“You’ll make yourself sick.”

“You’ll make me sick,” Casim breathed, taking another long gulp. With water dripping from his chin, he shot a half-hearted glare Elmer’s way. “You sure this is… worth it?” he gasped. “Like… it’s that… important?”

“Would you like me to explain it all over again?” Elmer crooned.

Casim blanched and looked away, shaking his head. It was obviously embarrassing enough talking about such sensitive topics, but actually talking about the sensitivity in those topics was another matter entirely. Elmer freely admitted he enjoyed the boy’s discomfort, even if it did make him a little sad. Casim had no idea how to approach sex, or talking about it.

And humans, with their short lifespans and even shorter interest in sex, had such little time to actually spend enjoying such a thing. What a way to waste intimacy when it wasn’t done right.

“Next, I’ll explain where a woman likes to be touched. Stamina isn’t the only trait they like in a man. You need to anticipate their needs, know how to reach those spots and in which motions they prefer those touches to be made.”

“This… is far more… complicated than it needs to be.”

“I will not fault you there,” Elmer admitted. “But sex with a woman is like playing an instrument. Treat her well, strum her just right, keep her tuned, and she will sing for you.”

“Is there an instrument… where you just rub it really, really fast…?”

Elmer blinked, realizing Casim had finally made a joke on this whole manner with little more than a light coloration of his cheeks. He laughed. “I dare say Rivka is no man, so let’s not even consider that instrument, whatever it might be.”

“You can bang drums.”

“All right,” Elmer smiled. “Enough of that. We’ll pick this back up tomorrow. I need to draw some illustrations or find a book with them. More running in the morning, some more of those push-ups and crunches, and then studying the female form.”

“I know what shape a woman is,” Casim complained. “I don’t need pictures.”

“So I assume you know what their delicates look like?”

Casim blinked owlishly, the color returning in a flood to his cheeks. “Like… down there? I’ve seen pictures, I mean… they have hair there, like guys.”

“But what’s under the hair?”

Casim looked horrified. Before he could say anything, however, they heard steps behind them and the squabbling of two familiar voices. Crisben, the common elf steward of Heartstone Estate, opened the front doors of the estate in his dramatic flair, whisking down the stairs past them as Willek the High Feline gave chase.

“Please, Willek would not ask were it not important to him,” Willek pleaded. “Master Bennett, please.”

“What’s this?” Elmer asked, waving Casim off. The boy scurried with his water like he was escaping a fire.

Crisben Bennett was a harsh-looking man for an elf. If not for his pointed ears and violently yellow eyes, he could have easily been mistaken for a human. He was handsome and chiselled, but his expression tended to easily fall within the realm of dissatisfaction. The expression he bore now was not so much that as it was pure displeasure.

“The Kyn wants a day off,” Crisben said with a wide wave of his arm towards the old High Feline. “As I’ve told him, in very clear terms, he needs to file a request at least two weeks in advance unless it is a family emergency. And as it is not a family emergency, he should return to work right away!”

Willek’s tufted tail flicked back and forth in obvious agitation, his ears laid back to his head while he attempted to keep the pleading tone. Although, it was apparent his patience was wearing thin. “Willek knows great Fang is in Maria Vale,” he whined. “It would be an honor to meet him.”

“No. No. No, oh, and,” Crisben paused, as if he were thinking, then whipped his head around to glare at Willek again. “No.”

“I’ll take your shift.”

Crisben’s face flushed with anger as he glared at Elmer. “You have no authority here, Mr Twicefreed. I am the steward of this estate. You’d best keep to your own.”

“I once knew a young lady,” Elmer said slowly, gently. “She was a dark beauty. Hair pitch black like the depths of the Sorrows with jet-stone eyes to match. She used to have this laugh, where when something was far too ridiculous for her to handle she would begin snorting like a tiny pig. And she would laugh harder, at herself, only making it worse.”

Crisben glared at him, lost.

“She was a lady of great power, unknowingly at the time. The greatest power her family had to offer at the time, actually-”

“I do not care to know of your past conquests, Mr Twicefreed,” Crisben sneered. “Willek-”

“No, Mr Bennett, you are mistaken. I raised this girl from a toddling mess of snot, diapers and scratched knees up into the beautiful charming woman that would one day bring the name of her House to every tongue this side of Aradia’s Sorrows. How might that young lady feel these days about her steward of two years speaking to her godfather in the manner you just have?”

Crisben’s petulance faded from his face. He breathed in, held the breath, then released it in a long sigh. He turned on his heel and marched off.

“Go enjoy whatever Fang has to say,” Elmer said, turning back to Willek. “I’m sure I can keep Serenity entertained while you’re away.”

“Elmer is too kind,” Willek said with a gentle brush of his paw to Elmer’s shoulder. “Willek will. Thanking Elmer again.”

Elmer watched as the elderly High Feline rushed off back to the servant quarters, no doubt to collect some item or another before leaving.

The tall elf breathed in the cold air before letting it escape his lungs in a whoosh. He stood up from the stair he had been sitting on and stretched, a few muscles clicking as he rolled his shoulders. Some pleasant pops sounded in his neck. But then he was off across the grounds, back into the Garden Quarter.

Drake and Rasheba were long gone. Elmer doubted to find the drow anywhere near Serenity despite Willek’s brief absence. He made his way to Serenity’s quarters and tapped his fist on the door.

“It’s Elmer,” he said. “Replacing Willek as your personal guard for today.”

Serenity opened the door to blink at him. She was holding an open book under her arm, her long tresses loose about her shoulders. She didn’t appear to have yet changed out of her nightgown. “What time is it!?” she exclaimed, squinting against the sun almost directly overhead. “Oh goddess.”

She rushed back into the room. Elmer, curious, stepped in after her. “Is something meant to be happening at this time?” he asked, watching as she hastily brushed her hair.

“No, but… I was reading and the book was too good, so I didn’t go to sleep until very late, and you just woke me up. I haven’t even eaten breakfast yet!”

Elmer hid his smile. Nerd. “Well, you and I have something to talk about. I’ll go get you some food, and you get dressed, all right?”

Serenity threw him a worried glance, but his smile belayed her fears their conversation would be on a bad topic. She nodded and set about finding herself something to wear as Elmer left.



They sat outside in the garden courtyard adjacent to Serenity’s chambers. She wore a lavender-hued dress made of several cotton layers, edged with white trim about the skirts, neckline, and sleeves. White flowers had been embroidered on the bodice. Elmer rather liked this dress. He hadn’t seen her wear it in a while and it was nice to see it still fit her. Her hair wound its way over her shoulder in a thick braid.

She sipped at her tea before tearing her pastry in half and buttering each side. Elmer spooned on some blackberry jam once she was finished.

“What did you want to talk about, Elmer?”

“Drake,” he said plainly. “It’s good to see you both getting along.”

“Oh,” Serenity said softly, looking into her tea. “Well, he’s a lovely man. It isn’t so hard to get along with him.”

“You’re not getting along enough.”

She looked up from her tea, a slight frown on her face before she took another sup. “I don’t understand. I thought I was doing this right.”

“Courtship isn’t meant to be doing it right all the time,” Elmer said softly. He took a sip of his own tea. “I know our culture would have you believe chaperones are the only way to have a respectable romance. But tell me this, in that novel you were reading last night, how many scenes had someone watching the lovers, preventing them from even touching?”

She thought about it for a moment as if she were actually counting, then frowned. “They never had a chaperone. But Rasheba doesn’t stop Drake from touching me. He held my hand.”

Elmer tried not to smile at her innocence. “That’s good,” he said. “But does that feel special to you when someone’s watching? Or like you’re breaking a rule?”

“Are you… encouraging me to break the rules?” Serenity asked, suspiciously.

Elmer let the smile spread across his face.

“What I’m trying to say, Serenity, is that you have not had enough privacy to even become friends with this man. I’m not encouraging the touching, or the kissing, or any of that. But I’m saying that a conversation alone, some sort of activity together, those are what make experiences you can associate each other by. And that’s more powerful than just delicately tip-toeing about each other as you are doing now.”

“So what am I meant to do?” Serenity asked. “Willek’s always around. Rasheba keeps an eye on Drake whenever she’s not somewhere near Rivka.”

“You’re going to be sneaky.”

“What?” Serenity almost snorted.

“Right now, I’m responsible for your safety. But I’m willing to look the other way if you want to go spend some time with Drake. Not breaking the rules. You will not stay in a room with him where there is a bed, do you understand?”

Serenity looked aghast. “I would never-”

“It happens,” Elmer insisted. “And I’m not talking about rape. I’m talking about passion. I see sparks between you, and whether or not you know it, your body knows how to respond to those. Be careful. I trust Drake entirely when it comes to your physical safety, but you have to be also responsible for what you do with your body.”

Serenity didn’t quite know where to look. Her eyes shifted about uncomfortably, that she was talking with a man about these things, before she finally left her gaze in the depths of her tea. She took another long drink to stall for time while she got her thoughts in order.

“Do you understand?”

“Yes,” she said, trying not to sound exasperated although she was clearly embarrassed.

“I am not encouraging you to have sex.”

She reddened so deeply that even the tips of her delicately pointed ears went pink. “I would never imagine you would.”

“Unless you’re married.”

“Of course,” she stammered.

Elmer looked at her for a long moment, then nodded and took another draught of his tea. “You need to invite him somewhere.”

“Isn’t the man meant to do that…?”

“Our culture would say that, yes,” Elmer shrugged. “But our culture also states it’s far too forward of a man to ask an unmarried woman to be alone, doesn’t it? So one of you has to break that cultural taboo. And this time, it’s going to have to be you. You have to give him permission to do the same.”

“Wh-…” Serenity cleared her throat. “Pardon me. Why are you worried about this? Has Drake… said something?”

“He has said nothing, and has been the perfect gentleman,” Elmer said. “But I know your wedding will not be for another two months at least. You might as well get to enjoy each other’s company rather than this strict courtship humans seem so fond of. Become friends.”

“But why you specifically?” Serenity asked gently.

Elmer chuckled. “Was giving Casim the opposite speech, thought I might as well give it to you too, I suppose. I know you will likely spend the rest of your life with this man. It may as well be a beautiful friendship alongside the marriage. I just want you to be happy. All of you.”



Serenity Piers
Heartstone Estate
Sylvie Isle, Caybourne


She felt a fool, standing before Drake’s quarters. She breathed in deep, trying to force herself to knock with the breath out, but she just kept holding it in her lungs. Her knuckles tightened about the satchel she had brought with snacks and drinks before she let the air out in an explosive gust and rapped her knuckles on the door.

She couldn’t go in. Elmer had made that much clear. She had an idea on where to take him, on what to do, but first she needed to actually ask him out. Ask him out. She felt sick. In a weird way. In a weirdly good way that almost wasn’t sick? She didn’t know! Part of her hoped he wasn’t there. That no one would answer and she would just go back to her room.

Another part actively schemed against her, excited at the concept of taking Drake to what she called the Cellar Falls.

She knew of the Drow habit of social bathing – Elmer had told her about it, warning her against it. But she thought if she could explain to Drake that it wasn’t acceptable in human culture, they would still be able to swim together.

The water would be freezing, but that had never stopped her before.

Yes. This feeling was excitement.
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IronParagon
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Re: The Isles of Aradia (IC/New Settlers Welcome.)

Post by IronParagon » Sat Apr 06, 2019 11:01 pm

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The Griffin's Bastard
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"...and I'm to personally guard Penelope Blackthorne," Arianne explained, scratching at the sealed wound on her forehead. "The lass will have a thousand suitors, even with her mother's castle in ruins. It will fall to me to ensure none of them try anything--oww, J'Zara--!"

The Feline had prodded her in the shins with the end of her alderwood staff. "Elf picks at J'Zara's stitches again. If Elf persists, wound will not heal."

"I will make a rug out of you," Arianne hissed.

The central figures of the Wild Hunt had packed themselves into the captain's cabin of the Grey Lady. A map of the Heartstone Estate's grounds had been laid out before them, and they were attempting to decide who was going to go where. These quarters were designed to be luxurious for one passenger, but for twenty-odd soldiers it had become rather cramped.

"I would sooner not be so close to my cousin Valus," Sir Gaeus complained. He was pressed so close to the table that his considerable gut was actually resting atop its surface. "My father took him on for a son once my brothers had died, with myself in exile. Never liked the man. Half a Waynrite, and as weaselly a craven as that would imply."

Ogden poked his furry, misshapen head up over the edge of the table, intoning a single word with dark solemnity. "Yakpung."

"We can move the two of you over by the Rookwoods, if you want," Arianne told the knight angrily. She almost went to touch the stitches again, but managed to restrain herself after she noticed the Feline mage aiming the staff for her shins again. "Or perhaps by our new friends the Knoxes? I thought the Thormunds would trust you better, and perhaps treat you better. It's unlikely that even an exile would turn kinslayer."

"Hmph! A few minutes with Valus, and I just might." Gaeus tugged at his mutton-chop beard, but voiced no further objections.

"K'Thrzo is to Cogworth, yes?" The hulking black High Feline's eyes seemed to glow in the shade of the cabin, giving him a sinister look. "Guarding women is...how you say in this stupid language...unworthy."

J'Zara hissed something in the native language of the Prides, and K'Thrzo hissed something back, and then both of them were yowling at each other with their manes standing on end until a voice cut through the noise.

"And where have you placed me, bastard?" The Headhunter's voice never failed to bring about a reverential hush, turned into a harsh metallic echo by his greathelm as it was. Even at sea, he wore full armor, now with two additional trophies; a patch of skin on the end of his cloak, and a bone-talisman he'd ripped from the neck of an Orc shaman. He was the only one who had space enough to take a seat--the others had backed up from him as if they did not dare touch him.

Arianne hated trying to talk to Spinner when he was wearing the helmet. You were never quite sure where to look, where his real eyes were, and you just ended up speaking at the twisted demon hound's face as if it were the real thing. "I've not bothered to put you anywhere."

"You're damn right," the Headhunter whispered. His thumbs circled the pommels of the blades at his belt, slowly, like he was caressing two lovers. "Eighty-nine men I killed in that battle. Near a whole garrison, single-handed, and I'd have done for the Lockjaw as well if the Bloodhawk hadn't gotten to him first. What do they give me for the honor? A roll of coins no longer than a dwarf's cock, and a boatride to the next job. So again, you're damn right. You're damn right I won't be standing guard for a single one of the puissant, snotty bluebloods who won't give me a fraction of what I'm owed."

"Headhunter won't get anything at all if he does not join in," J'Zara warned.

The demon's head turned, its unsettling mismatched eyes seeming to regard the Feline. "I would not get anything even if I did participate, housecat. What trophies are there in this duty? What glory?"

"Mayhap Preston Knox will storm in again," Shockeye Sykes said--he had to stand on the bedside table at the other side of the room to be seen. "Then you can do for him, Captain!"

No. I've already seen to that, Arianne thought darkly as the other men laughed at the jape.

The Headhunter did not laugh, but the thought seemed to amuse him. "A Knox, eh? Now there would be a fine kill...even worthy, perhaps, of my Wyrmfang." He tapped the handle of the Stormlord sword on his right hip. The runes engraved on its scabbard glittered in the sparing light from the glass window.

I tire of this. Best to end it. "Anyone have any other questions?" Arianne paused for an answer, but as expected, got none. "As you will, then. Memorize your stations, keep your blades sharp, and I'll see you all out there. This won't be taxing work, but it will be the best we can get in peacetime. Now...has anyone seen my squire?"

She found him outside on the starboard deck, where a small crowd of assorted soldiers and servants had gathered to watch him--he was enjoying a spike of popularity among the Wild Huntsmen owing to having helped with their last battle-plan. A pile of arrows lay by the sword-rack, where she'd had him fletching them for her since dawn. A leather bag of sand had been hung from one of the lantern-holders with a metal chain. Jaster danced around that target, striking it with his fists. His curly hair had grown into a short, neat cut that was colored a sandy strawberry-blonde, and his thick reddish beard made him look far older--it was marred by the scars on the left side of his face, where the hairs grew in wispy-white like dead grass. He wore only trousers, boots, and white bandages around his knuckles. It made an impressive sight. The lad had looked withered since they'd dredged him from the Whiterush, but for the past few months he had done nothing but train up his strength, with only the merest breaks for duties, eating and sleeping. Now he looked better than a noble with a life of luxury ever could; his bare torso was stacked, sinewy with hard rippling muscle, his abdomen flat and ridged. With his pale skin, he looked like the heroic white marble carvings they made in the West. When he paused to stretch, laying one hand on his shoulder and rolling his arm clockwise, the morning light caught the shape of the hard V beneath his abdomen. Several of the ship's serving girls were looking on, giggling and whispering to each other, seemingly enjoying more than just the display of physical prowess. The Headhunter's squire Edelweiss had gone slightly pink.

The silliness of girls who lusted after even the most meager of lordlings never failed to annoy Arianne. She cleared her throat loudly. "If you could all give me a moment to talk to my squire in private, please?"

They moved off, rather reluctantly. That was for the best, considering the conversation that was about to occur. Arianne took a breath--best to just dive in and get it over with. "Taking out your frustrations, kitten? That bag will not turn into your Uncle's head, no matter how much you will it."

"They used this ship to take our father's corpse back to Stormrise, for burial." Jaster went back to bludgeoning the sandbag with quick, hard blows. "The last time I stood here I was the most powerful man in the realm. I wonder what father would say, if he saw me now?"

Nothing. He's dead. And even if he lived, what does it matter? The man was a fool--a monstrous one besides. Arianne did not say of that, but stayed quiet. He was in one of his petulant moods, and perhaps for good reason. She knew it would come out eventually. A moment passed before Jaster spoke again, his speech punctuated by the sounds of his fists slamming into the sandbag.

"You know how many men I killed at Medger's Spine?" Wap. Wap. Wap "Three. Three men. Two Corcoran peasant pikemen, and a fat old greenskin who had his back turned." His blows increased in speed and intensity until his arms were almost a blur. WapWapWap. "The rest of the time I spent scuttling around after you, carrying your quiver and fixing you drinks like a servant. Suppose it's all I'm good for. I've gotten soft. Rusty. Father was right...I am weak." WapwapwapwapwapWAP. The last blow hit so hard that the sandbag flew back into the air like a pendulum, bearing a sizable dent. Jaster caught it on the rebound, then noticed the blood from his knuckles staining the bandages on his hands. He stared at it as if hypnotized.

Arianne sat on a barrel, crossing her long legs beneath her. "Have you heard the news?"

"She's pregnant. And marrying another man. And we're to attend the wedding." The lad's sapphire eyes traced the path of the tiny spots of blood as they spread their way across the white fabric. "She's pregnant," he repeated, softer this time, "With my child."

"Had I known before," she told him, "I would have broken it to you gently."

That seemed to snap him out of it. Jaster twitched in annoyance, turned away from her and snatched an iron sword from the rack. He began to spin it about, practicing stances. "I don't need it broken to me gently. I don't need it broken to me at all. It's not my problem." His tone implied that the conversation was over.

She refused to accept the implication. "You aren't acting like it's not your problem. You're upset."

"I'm not upset," the lad snapped, slashing the sword down so viciously that if a person had been in its path they would have been cut in two.

"You don't want an heir?"

Jaster halted in a side-guard stance. He clenched the handle of the blade so tightly that it made the bleeding on his knuckles worse. His eyes had glazed over. "The Bloodhawk will kill her before he lets her birth it."

Arianne steepled her fingers. "He was likely to do that anyway."

"Well it's not fair!" He dropped the stance and rounded on her with a sudden savagery, jabbing a finger out towards the open sea where the rest of the fleet sailed. "He just--he just takes. He takes everything, and no-one stops him, and no-one looks for me or cares about me, there wasn't even a funeral, they all forgot about me, he gets everything and I get nothing and it's NOT FAIR!"

"Is the girl yours now, kitten?" Arianne felt her own temper flare. "One of your own possessions, like a horse or a piece of armor? Do you hate the Bloodhawk for what he takes from the realm, or just for what he takes off of you?"

He ignored the second part of the question. "She's my wife. Carrying my heir. I will go to her at the wedding, find a way to stay at Caybourne, and when she births it--"

"I imagine you think it'll be all yours, eh? She gets no say in this at all, even though it's her child, too."

"There are more important things at stake here than her feelings." He looked at her in disgust. "The fate of the West. The fate of the Realm. A trueborn child is more than Dominic has. Rivka will know, or else I'll make her see."

"Careful now, lad. You're doing that funny little trick where you open your mouth and our father's voice comes out." Arianne jumped off the barrel so she could look him in the eye. "You think you have some power over her, do you? Think you're in love, or she loves you enough to do whatever you tell her?"

He flung the sword aside with a noisy clatter. "She's my wife--!"

"Not anymore. Not ever, in fact." Arianne bared her teeth in a wicked grin. "What stage exactly do you think she gained this apparent affection for you? When you used her to pull yourself off while she lay beneath you, stiff and terrified? Or when she found out your cold fumblings left her a target for the most dangerous man in the realm?" She laced her tone with acid sarcasm. "You know, I don't think she'll be very happy to see you, kitten."

A dangerous look had entered the young lord's eyes, the same look he'd given her the night they'd fought. His fists clenched. "You best shut your mouth, bastard--"

"I think I'll keep talking, actually, because this is something you need to hear," Arianne snapped. "You want what's yours. I understand. But if you have to be a tyrant to get it, to frighten this child you raped into doing what you want, then you're no better than the Bloodhawk. Your family--"

"And what the fuck would YOU KNOW ABOUT FAMILY, BASTARD?!" He spat those words hatefully, pushing up to her so they were almost face-to-face, and in that moment it seemed some core aspect of his humanity had lifted. His eyes blazed and cords stood out in his neck and he screamed at her, pounding himself on the chest with one fist, and she felt in that one moment that she was not speaking to a man but to all the accumulated hatred and resentment and entitlement of an aeons-long bloodline--she was speaking to Jason, to Arthur. To Dominic. "IT'S MY CHILD, MY LEGACY, MINE!"

A hush fell over the deck of the Grey Lady. The waves crashed against the side of the boat, and seagulls shrieked in the distance. They stood in the quiet, one silent, one panting. Arianne met his gaze steadily, impassively. Slowly, she watched his expression turn from anger, to contemplation, to shame. He broke eye contact first, turning his back on her.

"Listen to yourself, lad," she said softly. "Your father made you sick in the head. Don't you see? All this talk about legacy, possession, your will over all others...it's what he wanted. Not what you wanted. Yet you keep regurgitating it, like a fucking parrot. Is this all you are as a person, I wonder? Is there more to you? Was there ever more to you, before....this?"

He said nothing, only stared out at the sea.

Arianne shook her head and dropped the subject. "I need those arrows finished by noon. We make landfall at dusk. I hope you understand you'll be positioned in the servant's quarters, away from the nobility? So they can't see you, and you can't interact with them. Maybe that's for the best."

She left him alone with that. But she had the feeling their exchange would be remembered by the both of them for a long time to come.

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Re: The Isles of Aradia (IC/New Settlers Welcome.)

Post by Skummy the Kitty » Sun Apr 07, 2019 1:32 am

Drake and Rasheba
Heartstone Estate
Sylvie Isle, Caybourne

Collab of Skummy and Kotor

Drake had spent the following period of time he had with Serenity training and helping update the security staff in their methods. Or rather, taking a page out of history with some traditional elvish movements and enhanced sentry and scouting practices- even going so far as to request specialized equipment from Alegora. He had made nice with the Captain of the Guard, Tazim, the men had a stone cold relationship with one another and followed a pragmatic code of conduct, Drake didn't pry into the torment of the man's life and vice versa which suited both fine.

Outside of that, he had kept distance to allow Serenity to collect herself and to also make his way down and away to have gone bartering, for some pieces of local flair that would better represent his appreciation for this new place that had grown on him . He had started to truly appreciate this island and the people on it-with that he had also been hearing a lot of buzz about Rasheba among other things. Most of it was the typical masculine talk about gratuitous amounts of sex and insane acts of debauchery, of course nothing they would ever say to her as she was far superior a match. Still...
Some of the rumors and talks intrigued him, nothing worth trying to pry into a woman's life but enough to envelop her in an enigma much like his own. Beyond that she was said to be tough and strong, unbelievably so, that was some amount of bemusement to Drake an he had let the thought carry him over to now. He had been training out in the Garden Quarter, doing upside down push ups and flip leaps, having felt a presence on his back he glanced to find Lyron and Claire had been wandering the grounds and had stopped to stare at the half dressed drow doing all manner of acrobatic movement. Claire with a sense of bewilderment at the dexterity and strength, with Lyron having a stare of both some sort of appreciation and a shocked appeal that such a person existed apparently. However they were soon off and away and Drake gathered his training sword and moved to practice his blade arts as he always did each day.

Then he heard the grunts and the whoosh of air signaling someone else near, the man took a closer look through bits of the orchard to see Rasheba practicing. Where Drake wore old brown linen pants and wraps for his hands and feet, Rasheba was clad in boots, brown pants, a white sleeveless shirt that clung to her tight and her hair was bound in a tail. He nodded at her technique and moved fluidly through the trees to cme upon her, stil wielding his own training blade. Dull as it was, however made of elvish steel and the size of her own blade, he did not brandish it but gave a mere wave of the hand and a smirk.

“Lady Rasheba, care to partake in a bit of training with a partner worth going against? I cannot fathom is being too much fun going at it with the resistance merely of the air”

The lady was slick with sweat, having been at this for some time apparently, or at least incorporating it into her own physical routine. A few strands of dark hair clung to her forehead and a wet patch had formed upon her chest. She smiled, flourishing the blade as she flicked a stray lock of hair from her eyes.

"Fighting against some muscle would be appreciated," she admitted. "But please, drop the title. Just Rasheba. And forgive me, I don't have a training blade so I'll try to remember not to stick you with the pointy end."

Drake patted his now flush and dark velvet skin "Tough skinned, you couldn't pierce me unless you were actively trying" He brandished his own blade looking Rasheba up and down, analyzing how to go about this and understanding she was far smaller than him. He took up a stance that was baked into his every fiber, sword diagonal at forty five degrees to his body, his other hand made loose but outstretched. His feet parted in such a way that his legs would always spring him forward or backwards, primed. He was a statue, firm and silent as he awaited the strikes to come from Rasheba.

"Come at me with your fullest strength and I will do the same, Rasheba, give me everything you have to offer" Drake felt himself become somewhat excited by this prospect as he'd get to see what kind of training had Serenity been put through, or at least in a diminished way for her age and size.
Natalie - Natakate/KotorchixLast Wednesday at 11:25 PM
The glint in Rasheba's eye as she sized up her opponent implied she would take his words to heart. There would be no holding back. But first, she would have to test his own attributes before she fully administered hers.

The strike was fast and brutal, aimed at his kidney. But before she could do more than brush his skin with the metal, she was halted by his own blade.

The strike was excellent, quick, strong with a coiled bite to it that worked on the woman's favor on her choice of blade. Her targeting was on point, to debilitate and disorient an opponent a devastating first blow was the correct move, however Drake also knew this and it was no short issue to work out a proper counter. He nodded and twitched his blade upwards and rotated to bring her edge off to his right side up and away form effectiveness while trying to force her to bare her own right side for a swift moving southpaw strike.

Any proper swordsman knows that a duel of blades may just as easily involve slugging an unarmored opponent into a stupor in order to gain the upper hand. True battle was won through acts of savagery and elegance dancing in harmony. At least that's how Drake had always tended to fight, his footing seemed solid and so long as Rasheba didn't have the momentum and reflexes to react it was almost surely her loss.

But she did. She knew the opening he had made in her defenses and compensated with a tilt of her body, his strike missing her by an inch. She also knew because of his larger size, this could easily result in her being grabbed by his much longer arms. So in the same motion she tilted, she also hopped a step back, out of his hand's reach.

She stood, waiting for his offensive, blade before her and ready to block.

Drake recovered easily enough, with little fanfare he brought his blade back up to bare and he was once again returned to his starting position. he was about to lunge when he heard the beating of feet pacing out around the orchard. He noticed through the trees it was Casim Ludlow of all people, the bookish and shy lordling was out for a mid morning jog. Drake forgot himself in that moment and shouted out.

"That's it young Lord! Build up that endurance, you'll need all that stamina for the coming days, and then some! Push on!" He laughed genuinely seeing someone he had written off as a soft bodied lord taking an effort to commit to physical fitness. Drake would encourage anyone who would go out of their way to improve themselves for the better. Even though his guard was dropped it would have been foolish of Rasheba to take a mark, Drake was a seasoned warrior and would have a passive sense of movement. He was sure Rasheba had one of her own but less refined in that her body would just feel a disturbance and act on its own.

However, if he were simply to move on her she'd be ready, on the other hand that would be a good test of her true strength, he primed his sword arm and shuffled his feet to where his left arm stretched outwards before the blade and he was crouched in a lunging position. In truth it was about one second before he had launched himself, but Drake figured this woman was more keen than he was aware and she saw every movement as if it were a leisurely sway. Regardless his blade was going straight, with no tip it would at he most fracture something if it connected, it was a true lunge. Fundamentals, but int he hands of someone this ancient, those could prove devastating to the cocksure.

But she was already moving forward. Not to meet him, but rather beneath him. She dropped and slid through the grass right under his blade, between his legs, and out the other side of him, nicking his calf with the flat of her blade. But she was left on her back, a vulnerable position. Were this any other fight, in true combat, had she moved her blade up rather than in the friendly swipe, her combatant would most likely be toppling forward.

Drake smiled, her form was a perfect utilization of his more immense size to his disadvantage, however he would simply spin himself about and lean into his back foot as he turned to face Rasheba and send his blade hurtling towards the ground tot he side of her head. He knew that if they were to have fought in the truth of it he's be gashed and bleeding, this was merely a way to go back to ground.

"A superior form, a lithe body structure with the rapid response of a mountain serpent, well done to take advantage of me. Care to continue? Or shall we call this yours?" Drake's face was flush with blood flow and he was smirking, happy to have someone keep up and even teach him a little bit about how he went about in the old ways could cost him.

Rasheba remained on her back and gave a small shrug, a smile spreading across her features. "If you're tired, I understand," she teased playfully.

She rolled to her feet, sticking the end of her sword in the dirt while she brushed grass off herself. Flicking a few bits of hair from her eyes, she squinted against the sun to give Drake another grin. "I feel you were evaluating me, from the perspective that I am Serenity's teacher. She's faster than I am. But her strikes are slices. She rarely has the strength to put behind an actual strike."

"Swift cuts of the blade can easily send someone down as they don't realize the blood they lose on even shallow nicks, but I understand, and yes this was mostly for that reason but also I great appreciate anyone who wishes to improve upon themselves" He wiped what little sweat had collected from his face and shrugged "None are perfect, we can always do better, aside of that I've heard a lot of talk around you while I train the guards, and I'm a fool for a challenge"

In the brief silence he added "Is she enthusiastic to have the use of the blade to fall back upon? Is it a source of enjoyment or utility for her to practice with you?"

Rasheba rolled her eyes at mention of the guards and their talk.

"She's more disciplined than I expected," Rasheba admitted. "She comes from a rather fiery family, but she took the training to heart. She can't be a brute in combat like you or I can - things that we can't even show in training. But she does enjoy it. She comes away from every practice happy. I don't think she truly wants to put her skills to the test in real combat, but... at least it's there if she ever needs it."

"Good....good" Drake seemed to have a fading of his view as he thought about the possibility of her becoming an excellent swordswoman in her own right, would she do it alongside him or choose her own way out into the world? He snapped back to reality and nodded collecting the blade and wiping "I would be remiss to not acknowledge you would be force to be reckoned in true combat, but then I'm not the just appealing for my stoic good looks" He gave a half hearted smirk and made a silly gesture of his hands , acting a fool for once as he began to feel more with these people than he had in centuries.

"I won't pry, but, what did you see out in the world when you first broke away out of the bubble of life here? I saw world on the brink of collapse and in need of me, but you have the fortune to have been born in a time of relative calm before the storms that plagued us these last years. I wish to know what a human sees when they go out into the world, and how it differs form my eternal watch of a slowly evolving civilization" The charms had stopped, he was back in his odd drow tone again and standing straight with his blade cleaned and placed to its scabbard. Icy blue eyes like lances into Rasheba for a response, though b no means a purposeful egging, rather a side effect form the man's intensity.

Rasheba paused, an obvious discomfort snatching at her for a moment. Then she breathed out. "I don't believe the world has changed much, in all honesty. There have always been evils, and there will always be hope. The events that pass us by will happen again and again. Demons will always exist, as will those who fight them. Men will rise up and give themselves titles, but in the end, will always die. I don't believe I have seen much different with the world than what you have, Drake. Just on a smaller scope."

Drake nodded, stroking his chin and spoke up once more: "You have a point, tis a cycle-but every cycle can be broken and this may jut be our chance to do so. I don't know why, but you and this family and Serenity have taught me to feel a feeling I haven't had in so many long centuries. It's an actual present feeling of excitement, affections, suspense...I feel actually appreciated here. Beyond being used as an instrument. This may sound as though its directly out of those void forsaken novels, but I feel at a sense of peace here and balanced between my history and a new pathway to the future-regardless of the outcomes to yet present themselves it feels like I'm on a new stride."

Rasheba's face softened. "I'm happy for you, that you can feel that way about us," she said gently. "My father would have liked you, had he lived long enough to meet you. With his eccentricities, he may have even tried to wed you to me instead of Serenity. He had a real thing for that, trying to marry us off to men he liked."

She chuckled. A moment of silence, then her eyes darted up to Drake. "Which rumor was it this time? I'm a personal fan of the theory there's a cock between my legs."

Drake gave her a sidelong glance and shook his head "Keyair sounds like he would have been a phenomenal friend according to all those who knew him" He knew he was deflecting her questioning and he knew it was work the slight change in her face as if he had ignored her "This time it was about the fact you came home because you went off and had a baby when you left, oh and of course the typical bitching and moaning about how its unfair that you keep knocking them on their asses-strangely they don't complain that way about me"

The corner of her mouth twitched upwards, but it wasn't in a smile. It was some sort of expression that even the long-lived Drake couldn't determine. "Typical old women," she rebuked of the guards.

"I came home because I realized there were things in this world that needed to be silenced, things that others didn't even know had a voice. There was never a baby. Most likely, never will be."

She stood silent a moment longer, then swiftly unstuck her sword's tip from the dirt. "We should do this again, Drake. Perhaps next time I will have a training blade so we have a little more fun."

"There are always things out there, new pathways, many unknowns. Not having children is just as good as having them for what its worth. I'm not a firm believer these days as I'm forbidden from seeing mine, and it has been my pleasure to spar with you-mayhaps in a time we will be able to test far more on how our swords may clash" With that he spun and walked, leaving Rasheba to bask in the winter air and himself to go back to his room for a long bath. He had been out for hours by this point and did not wish to remain in the smell.

The only complaint he could think of this place was that it was not like home where one would visit the bathhouse and join in long soaks among the fellows and ladies of the house. That sort of bonding was probably unfamiliar and odd to humans and seen as too open an affair for one to strip themselves to their nakedness and be vulnerable to one another. However, it was honestly one of the things that made Drow work so well together to abandon their veils of security and come together naked and vulnerable. Humans were strange creatures, that was for damn sure.

___________________________________________________________________________________________
Drake and Serenity
Heartstone Estate
Slyvie Isle, Caybourne

Skummy/Kotor Collab

Drake had been taking a purely utilitarian bath, he wasn't a huge fan of it but it at least allowed him to remove his sweat and smell in a timely manner. No time for meditations though sadly, it simply was not the place one would wish to spend their time. No conversing, no long hours of silence aside from the rippling of water, nobody there to share in the experience of vulnerability. He was out now, drying himself with patting gestures, he heard the rapt on the door and thought it could probably just be servants or something of that manner-then thought better of himself that is could be one of the family come over to speak with him and he should conduct himself as such.

With that on his mind he pulled back his still wet hair behind his ears and pulled himself into a set of shorter pants that came to his knees. Modesty cloth he tended to refer to it as it was how humans looked to one another. That one must have modesty in their appearance, one may not be held in compromise and weakness facing another. That still did bite at him a little and he couldn't understand why. Perhaps it was just his own culture being too forefront to his brain.

He swept open the door, still wet in some places on his body with only the coverings for his groin and legs. As far as he was concerned that would silence anyone that had a problem with nakedness of the elven form. His eyes did not widen at the sight of Serenity, but his eyebrows raised in a gesture of true and honest surprise. Perhaps the one person he wasn't expecting as he thought to give her the space after they had constantly been watched over by Willek and Rasheba.

The surprise only lasted but a flash and he smiled, a warm smile as he stood relaxed and nodded" Afternoon, Serenity, did you enjoy whatever book you had for the night?" He was making a shot int he dark- as he hadn't seen her wandering about, hadn't seen her eating, nothing she had simply vanished which while not odd he figured her to be bunched into her room with some novel of a sort as it was her past time. He had been active since the early morning, of all sorts in activities trying to keep himself busy and keep himself in shape.

Serenity's mouth gaped open like that of a mounted fish as she tried to form words. They didn't come to her, as her eyes dipped up and down his body, ashamedly away, fugitively back, then tried to focus on Drake's face. She opened her mouth again, but only a weak sound came out.

Finally, she cleared her throat. "I... yes, it was very good," she stammered. "You're... uhm, almost naked."

Drake gave a half shrug "But of course, I had been in the bath not a short time ago and it is rude to keep one waiting at the door. Would you like me to fetch my linens and come back to speak with you Serenity?" it was an honest question with a reasonable tone in his voice saying he realized she was uncomfortable and unfamiliar with what to do in such a circumstance. He was not some savage to simply force others about in his ways, but he still was an entire culture removed from humans, there was bound to be some mix ups in how one perceived the other.

"Am I to take your reddened face as a confirmation then to do so?" He asked as she had not responded for a clear moment, almost looking frozen in place.

"To do what?" she blinked. Then looked down again. "Oh, right, yes, please. Uhm... wait," she babbled, putting a hand to her face in obvious embarrassment. "I mean... hold on."

She took a breath. She didn't look at him, keeping her eyes trained on the edge of the doorframe. "I... came to ask you to have dinner with me. Nothing fancy, just... I thought... Willek's not around. Maybe we could spend some time together?"

She clutched the satchel a little tighter, forcing herself to look at Drake again - at his face only. "I understand if maybe it's a bit forward."

Drake couldn't help but smile, he lowered her his frame to make it less awkward on her to keep trying to avert her gaze. "It's forward, something I would not expect of you and that is in a positive way I assure you. It's also welcome and I would appreciate any time I were to have with you as always" He let one hand brush her arm gently trying to calm her down as she looked like she was about to either cry or collapse expecting him to say something int he negatives.

"Don't feel so wound up, you're going to have a stroke and I don't want to explain that to Rasheba, the woman is fast enough to teach me a few things and that's in friendly contest" he said now with a chuckle before his face straightened "I'd ask what you had prepared in the satchel but that ruins the surprise, and since I can see you're full of them I'd like to experience each and every one at their fullest"

Serenity hugged the satchel to her chest, the blush growing ever deeper. "I... I'll wait here for you to get some clothes. Uhm, maybe something you don't mind getting wet in?"

Drake nodded and arose, he couldn't fathom why he should be wet in his clothing but regarded it as simply something human he couldn't get. He shut the door although it did not fully catch and he turned and stripped back away and stuffed himself into a light beige set of parts and a tunic that actually fit his frame properly. He took an ivory comb to his hair and came walking back with a now much more styled, and clothed, look to him while remaining very much Drake. His hand met Serenity's shoulder and back as he patted her "Is this a better dress? Something that you won't be avoiding to look at me the entire time?" He had that look on his face of humor, knowing full well she might just avoid staring at him anyways for other reasons especially that he brought it up at all.

"I'm sorry," Serenity said, summoning a smile as she tried to wipe the blush away. "Around here, I suppose... it's not too common to see someone almost naked. You see the men sometimes working shirtless, but not like... almost naked. Anyway!"

She giggled, not really meaning to, but just nervous. She took his hand, leading him away quickly. "Come on, we need to go into the estate."

Drake allowed himself to be pulled forward, enjoying the enthusiasm and energy she suddenly had that he hadn't seen before. "What would happen to be in the estate? I would think that's more in the way of others than normal which seems counter productive in some form-am I to suppose there's a special spot out of the eyes of others you have your mind set on?" He walked slowly with her, letting his long legs take strides that matched at least two of her own admiring her dress in a way he hadn't paid as much attention to on previous occasions.

"Exactly that," she said, taking him across the Garden Quarter and skirting the paved road up to the estate. They tripped up the stairs and into the foyer, up the next set of stairs, and into the great hall. But this was not their final destination. They went to the far end of the room and slipped through the middle door - the one leading to a small set of corridors. Navigation was easy and before long they were heading down a long, dark path that descended into the rock.

"My grandpa was insistent that there be an escape route deep within the estate," she explained as they passed doors that led to the two basements - storage, and one used for aging foods and drink. "Along it were the basements and the crypts."

She paused at a gap in the dark hall, their elven eyes adjusting easily. Whatever genes Serenity had gathered from her father's side, thankfully there was enough for darkvision.

"My parents and older sister are down there, along with everyone else. Grandpa, Grandma, Aunt Amarika and Jenny. But they're not what I brought you to see. They're just urns now."

As they passed the crypts and Drake heard Serenity so off offhandedly mention that this is where the family's ashes were kept. He felt some pangs of sadness for his failure to halt the deaths of Amarika and Jennifer, something he could have most easily prevented had he been vigilant. No time to ponder of that now, he had to ensure that at the very least now that the rest of the Accord was kept safe form harm no matter what. Most importantly was his protection of Serenity, he would not let her go, not now not ever. He had come too far and grown to care for her in a way he hadn't felt in a long time, and knew it would probably only grow stronger the more time he spent with her.

Drake spoke "Still, at some point I will visit them all and pay my respects, and apologize even if they are just urns for my failures to protect them....Your aunt said Keyair and I would have gotten along well. Apparently the man was full of eccentricities as if he were a Drow and had a stunningly unique view of this world. I can tell he was loved." h looked around the cavern and could heard the subtle sound of moving water now.

A smile tugged at Serenity's features as they continued their journey downwards. The air had become cooler, fresh air now easily scented.

"I miss Grandpa Keyair," she said softly. "He was funny and everyone loved him. He died suddenly, but it was natural. He was old, for a human. Just passed in his sleep. I think he would have been annoyed had he known that was the way he was going to go out."

A soft chuckle passed her lips. "He used to say he wanted to eat himself to death when he got old. And that when he died, he wanted to be fed to the nearest shark we could find so he wasn't useless in death."

"Ah a pragmatist" Drake said nodding as if that was the most normal thin in the world for someone to declare "He built this place alongside Mancel if I'm not mistaken, the mastermind behind the Accord and the man who made it what it is in a lot of respects" a pause as he began to breath the fresh and cool air "It is good to have people in one's life that evoke such emotions, and that can cause such great humor and love to be shared among all." As they reached the end of the corridor he was wondering just what Serenity had in mind.

"This is quite the place to share in each other's company, though were we not elvish it would be dark as the void down here....hmmmm the mind begins to wander as to what you could possibly want from a dark and secluded place without risk of becoming caught after" humor of course, but humor directed at a place Drake knew Serenity was not advanced enough in that it would probably fluster her a bit "I jest of course, merely to eat a meal in peace with you away from everyone's eyes is a delight for me to say the least.

"Well, that wasn't all I had in mind," Serenity admitted as they entered the chamber.

One side of the room was completely open to the outside, the pool of water filling the center of the room just spilled from this opening. Most likely it was an underground spring that created this small cavern, and it was simply utilized as a place to store a few barrels. Some of which were bound to the edges of the pool to bob in chilled water.

Serenity released Drake's hand, stepping to the edge of the pool and kicked off her shoes. She sat on the edge, careful not to get her dress wet as she tugged it up to her knees. Her legs dipped into the water and she kicked her feet a bit.

"I swim here sometimes," she explained. "You can see outside, even if it's not really a view other than rock, but... it's nice. Cold, but nice."

Drake stepped in and joined her at the side of the pool of water nodding "The cold can be comforting at times, in the absence of warmth things slow done and one can feel the sharp whipcrack of a solid mind" he thought for a moment and ten asked "Are you aware of the drow custom of social bathing? Not that I am trying to....ehm regardless it's in a way similar to what I think is your experience in swimming, if for nothing else time in the baths adds for reflection and calm. Sometimes just to be in the waters to hear nothing but ripples and streams of the flow can be just what one needs. To share in this experience and to converse with others in one's most vulnerable state is a way of growing closer"

His face squinted out the clearing of the rocks, not paying as much attention specifically to Serenity as he spoke "Some misinterpret our practices, well, honestly most people do. Some like Maria get angered over the fact, some like Divan ignore it. like to talk to people about it and try to fathom what is so odd about nakedness, are humans so afraid to show vulnerabilities to each other?" He was speaking form a place of honest confusion, something he wasn't familiar with was the human mindset, and he was on a tangent about it now that he was placed in a locale that reminded him of the bathhouses

"I mean no rudeness you understand, I'm merely perplexed, however on another note you decided this as a place for us to have out time together and I can respect that choice. I would ask if you have any intention of swimming with me in this frigid pool? I would be a liar if I said I would not find that to be both amusing and also quite an idea to take part in, if just for the fact that I hope to continue to grow closer to you"

Serenity smiled, although she could feel the blush returning. Elmer had warned her of Drake's possible confusion. It was part of the reason she was so willing to forgive his earlier state of dress. But part of her wondered if Uncle Mancel truly knew what he'd been setting her up for in this engagement. Their cultures were so different!

"I am going to swim," she confirmed. "I'm wearing some clothes under this dress that would be appropriate for it. I just wanted to adjust to the cold first."

She drew her legs from the water and held her bare knees to her chest, the satchel now at her side on the stone floor. "Elmer told me about social bathing. It's really not a human thing, or even a high elf thing, from what Elmer said. Nakedness is... kind of reserved for a man and wife in our culture. Anything else, I guess we would call inappropriate?"

She eyed Drake a moment. "Not that I think your culture is inappropriate. I think we're just different. What doesn't offend you might upset me, or vice versa. Have I done anything you find particularly weird yet?"

Drake stroked his chin as he wondered upon what Serenity had to say "I suppose that would make sense, in any case there are many things humans do oddly and I suppose to you Drow are exceptionally odd. Hrow are far more relatable to humans in many regards, I do find your choice of dress fairly off but that is due again in part to my own culture. The body is sacred and to put oneself behind a multitude of cloth is to hide an Aradian given image, it does not feel correct. You however have done nothing 'weird' you've done things as you were taught to, and now you've begun to think more about yourself and that has been a far better outcome in my eyes to see you grow to care about me that much to give me that pleasure"

A pause "In all honesty, is there anything you do not find off putting about me?" he said with a smirk that said he knew how much of an oddball he was to everyone "I'm a man of social bathing, of no refinement despite my title, I do not dress the part nor do I speak it. I don't follow the rituals of courtship, in fact I simply just do as I do giving the respects obliged of me to ensure that I do not step on many toes. I'm far form what you might consider ideal for a husband"

"Jenny said you were a catch," Serenity said with a cheeky grin. "I don't think your differences make you off-putting. They just catch me off-guard sometimes, but that isn't a bad thing."

Her gaze dropped to his bare feet. "I'm honestly not sure what is expected in courtship anyhow. Books would have you think one thing, while in reality everyone is saying not to do all the things that happen in books or your reputation will be soiled, or people will talk, or some other nonsense."

"Pfffthahahaha! Reputation?! The fucks that got to do with love?" he couldn't help himself and guffawed at the combination statements, and he adorable grin. In a reflex he let one hand wrap around her waist and let his fingers brush her stomach as he spoke. He was feeling a bit more like he could trust her not to lose her mind at the action by this point. "The void do they think speaking ill of one another gets them" he shook his head and shrugged.

"You remember what I told you last time correct? I'm glad you're not put off too badly by my mannerisms as I can't exactly change those overnight. I'd like to say to hell with the rule of how to do things, because in the past weeks I've been here it reminded me of something. I don't actually give a damn about what everyone wants out of me, I just know what I want, and as horribly novel esque as it may sound- it's to get to know you better, Serenity, whatever that might entail next"

For once Serenity could feel, even through he cloth, the man was warm to the touch, his skin was flush now, he was actually blushing himself though it was hidden behind his velvet tones. He was becoming taken with her in some manner though it was impossible to tell by what measure.

She hesitated, her own embarrassment and tentativeness holding her back, but in a tiny moment of bravery she leaned towards him and gave him a hug, her arms around his chest. She didn't try to get them all the way around, it was impossible. But she rested her head against him for a long moment.

"It does sound like something out of a book," she teased in her timid way.

Drake was a bit taken aback b her own forwardness, and gently squeezed on her as she hugged to him and though it only for a moment, an elongated one to be sure, it felt like an eternity. He seemed to take in one long breath that stretched onwards and nodded "Yes, I suppose it really does, though I'm not sure now if that's a bad thing at this point" He had a warm smile and he spoke out the next words in a bit of a half whisper "I am thankful to have met you Serenity, well and truly, I haven't been this happy for a long time"

She blushed to think anyone would say such a thing to her, that she could have that much impact. She gave him one last squeeze before pulling back and climbing to her feet. Taking a few steps away and turning her back, she reached behind her and loosened the laces of her dress, just enough she could squirm from the bodice down into the depths of her skirts and free herself. Pulling the fabric over her head, she set the dress aside in a dry spot of the chamber.

She wore black trouser-like pants, but they only reached mid-way down her thigh. A shirt to match them, also in black, clad her torso and was held on by straps over the shoulders without sleeves. Without further ado, she slid into the water and submerged herself, head and all.

Drake was a gentleman to say the least so he did not turn to watch even if she was simply shuffling out for her clothing to swim about in and he watched her as she went and sank herself into the cold pool of crystal waters. He peeled off his shirt and slid himself in, as to do anymore would surely not be appreciated, and he allowed himself to melt into the water. The temperature was of no true concern to him as he awaited Serenity to rise back up on the surface of the water.

He was glad for the cold to some degree, as he said it gave him a sharpness he didn't divine otherwise to make sure he was still focused and ready for anything while enjoying her company. It also helped to do away with his blush and let him refocus mentally about what just transpired between the two.

She resurfaced for a breath, her braid coiled in a wet snake over her shoulders. A shiver chattered her teeth, but she smiled regardless, enjoying the chill. The water was far deeper than it looked, even Drake's long legs didn't brush the bottom of the pool past the first foot or two from the edge.

She paddled in a little circle, stretching her limbs in ways they hadn't moved for some time. Then caught the rope of a floating barrel to hold herself afloat while she wiped water from her eyes.

Drake smiled and dove underneath the water swimming far faster than Serenity, as it had always been a past time for him for other reasons, he reached the bottom and bobbed back up now next tot the smaller woman. He looked absolutely at home in the frigid cold and looked no worse for wear, he didn't even seem all that cooled off as if his body temperature didn't really respond to the influences of the environment. This was proven when he touched her shoulder as he bobbed in the pool with her. His hand being warm to the touch as it had been, quite an oddity. He withdrew it and waded there with her.

"I know you feel refreshed in the icy chill but make sure you don't submit to hypothermia" he was gentle about it and seemed to have this appreciative look to his face "I do enjoy swimming quite a bit, always was a phenomenal exercise to keep myself well in good standing. It's better with others, as are most things of course"

"Don't worry about me," Serenity chided. "I've never gotten sick from this before. Nobody even knows I come down here, save for Willek, but he stops at the corridor because he thinks I'm visiting my family."

"Well, that must mean you're a bit more a a devious than I gave your credit for upon my arrival Serenity" Drake added right back "Well done, now would you like to race me? I'll place one hand behind my back the entire time" He added in with a chuckle looking at her still chittering by reflex and knew a bit of activity would help that right up.

She splashed him. "You know I wouldn't stand a chance even with that handicap. I saw you dive down there. You're a fish."

He let out a laugh and shrugged "I am sorry but I've been training this body for a good while, not my fault I'm so healthy, I could simply place you upon my back and show you how much of 'a fish' i'd be, but that may be a bit forward, even for myself. So instead i'd ask what is your plan now Serenity?" He would not splash back, because honestly he'd swell her up in the amount and it would push her underwater.

She shrugged. "I don't know, I had only thought this far. And food. There's food in the satchel if you're hungry. A bottle of sylvbruuq and some berry pie."

She kicked once, allowing her body to float to the surface. She stared at the ceiling of the cavern, watching the water reflect off the rock.

Drake nodded and seemed to just accept that as a sufficient answer "You seem so much more like a confident woman about this all, and I appreciate that, lets me know I'd at least broken past one point and can actually get to understand who you actually are" He looked up and then looked down, he seemed to actually look at Serenity as a whole and realized a few things about humans in the process, mostly things he was not about to say aloud however as he turned his attention to around the cavern "To answer, I'm not hungry, but whenever you may be I will share in it with you. Another elvish past time that I think humans share, sharing in food and drink with the ones one may care for, not wholly about simply being fed but upon just the relishing of time together"

"I'm not hungry either," Serenity admitted, rolling from her back and letting her legs sink beneath her once more. She eyed Drake a long moment, paddling in the spot. Her eyes dipped, not away, but down at his body distorted by the water's ripples. She didn't say anything a long moment. Then leisurely kicked towards him.

The water hid the sweat she could feel gathering on her skin. It felt far too personal, all this. It shouldn't have been. It was innocent. It was all innocent. But as she drew nearer to him, it didn't feel so.

She stopped at his side, her hand on his shoulder to steady herself. She looked at his dark skin beneath her hand, crisscrossed with marks and ancient scars, so ancient they almost weren't scars at all anymore. Her eyes darted to his, fluttered away, as she reached with her other hand and delicately caught his strong jaw.

She made no move, just examining him. His chin, his lips, his nose, his eyes - she couldn't help flinching when their gazes met. But she memorized every feature of his, her brows narrowing as she tried to understand what she was meant to be feeling.

Drake couldn't quite understand what was happening at first, she seemed to have this look about her he wasn't sure what to read of it himself. His eyes weren't simply passive either he was regarding every movement she made. His eyes were left unserious, his face neutral as he let her examine him, with her fingertips, with her eyes, apparently drinking in the information of who he was. He said nothing, made no movement but a slow and rhythmic breathing, as he felt her rate increase his stayed the same. He figured it he made a moment her resolve would shatter and she'd be left embarrassed and afraid to move at all. Better to let her figure it out as she did what she was feeling in her mind as it raced, not for him to influence. So he simply kept his gaze locked to her but did so without intensity. His face was relaxed and normal and he let a light and gentle smile play out to let her know it was fine.

In novels they closed their eyes. She didn't know why. But it was always the one thing that let the other know for certain, that they belonged together. She didn't know how Drake felt about it, whether she was his simply because they had been told so. But was he hers until she put that claim on him?

Was it a claim? What was it really? It was meant to be important, the first time. Something special. And how did she do it!? Did one close their eyes to keep the other person out!? WHY!?

So with a deep inhalation through her nostrils, she leaned forward and kissed him. On the mouth. His lips were softer than she expected, the warmth something else entirely.

Drake simply did not step in her way, he let her come into him and for the kiss to press on, shutting his eyes as it was awkward to hold them open in this manner for both parties. His arm did wrap around the all of Serenity's back and onto her hip as she leaned in but nothing more to steal away the power she had to make this decision for herself. He made mo other motions, but to return her kiss back to her with the thought that he had truly missed this on a deeper level than he had ever thought before. Her lips were something soft and sweet, and it made his face warm to the thought in that moment.

The rush of emotion was bizarre. Or the absence of something. She didn't know what. It was like her mind was the cleanest slate it had ever been, while all at once being a huge mess of scribbles and paint splotches she couldn't come close to identifying. She felt cold and warm all at once, in places, deep down, that she didn't even know could feel. Even in her bones. Adrenaline spiked on her tongue.

She pulled back for a breath, feeling all at once the warmth of his hand over her back and hip. His hands were so huge on her, the fingers weren't even splayed. She stared at him in a new light.

Then awkwardly, stupidly, she grinned. "Hi."

Drake, for his part, was at a dizzying loss for what was going on, the quite of his mind was flush with old and new emotions alike. He blinked at her sudden spoken word, it had a new inflected, a new feeling behind it. He said one word back not knowing what the thought was behind it as he had some kind of smirk settling onto his face "Hi". He did not move his arm or hand but rather kept her in his one slug embrace suddenly a bit frozen as his mind went about processing everything.

Her body wanted to move, she could feel it. Like when one has been sitting too long, but towards him. Her arms tingled, her back tingled - especially where he held her, and her legs dangled freely in the water as they floated there. Foggily she realized that any other time or place, she might not have the ability to just kiss him. Their height difference was so great, this was the first time she had actually been level with him.

"I didn't realize your eyes were blue," she realized aloud. "Drow... have red eyes. Don't they?"

Drake, continuing to hold fast snapped back to a semblance of reality as she spoke and he nodded "It's typical of them, but I'm not a normal drow. Those that have blue eyes are known as Northerners b our fellows because it's not normal" He didn't wish to have this moment broken, in his mind this was some of the best time he had spent, ever and it seemed to keep stretching along. He really couldn't help but take her in, memorizing every last detail of her as is eyes had a soft look around them and he kept them in line with hers as they talked, only breaking to examine her hair for a moment finding a strange enjoyment out of the rare plum coloring.

A strange peace had stolen over her. Although so much of her body was throwing mixed signals at her, she came to the realization that her nervous fluttering had stopped. She could look him in the eyes. It turned something exciting up in her chest, made her heart do something that seemed very unhealthy. But it wasn't so excruciatingly embarrassing.

So she kissed him again. Softer, actually feeling his lips with hers. He smelled clean, like lavender. Sweet. And she released his face, her arm wrapping about the back of his head, her hand finding its way into his hair, as she tilted her head for better access to his mouth.
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Credit to Sammy and Nicodemus; one created my set for me, the other drew the source image as a request.
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Kotorchix
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Re: The Isles of Aradia (IC/New Settlers Welcome.)

Post by Kotorchix » Sun Apr 07, 2019 2:46 am

Darius Black
Heartstone Estate
Sylvie Isle, Caybourne


Darius had spent the night at the Ludlow Estate in Caybourne. Thankfully despite the years one of the guards had recognized him and let him in to wander the empty rooms alone. A few servants still scurried about tending to their duties, but the house was clearly barren of anyone actually living in it.

He went to Mancel's bedroom where Amarika had died. The room was sparse - the servants seemed to have anticipated Mancel would not be coming back to that room. Or they had been commanded to do so, he didn't know.

The Ludlow Estate hadn't changed much. A few new family portraits had been painted and hung in places of honor. And of course there was Aimee's room, which he popped his head into.

He'd never met his blind cousin, and it was strange to see how her childhood bedroom differed to that of her sisters' when they were the same age. Everything was immaculately in-place, not a single toy or block or scrap of parchment left out in the nature typical of children. Although, there was every possibility the servants had tidied up in here also. He still took the time to go through her things, noticing the significant absence of the older girls' dollhouse that Grandpa Keyair had made them. Instead, there was a rosewood violin. Polished to a lovely sheen, it held the place of honor on her very sparse dressing table. There was a mirror behind it, although Darius couldn't imagine what for. Her wardrobe was full of nice dresses, and Darius felt some comfort in knowing that even if she couldn't see herself, her caretakers still did an excellent job in making sure she looked nice. Why it mattered? He didn't know. But it was a comforting thought.

He stayed the night in the guest room beside Lyron's. Part of him wanted to snoop further, but it didn't feel right with his adult brother. Knowing a child was being well taken care of was one thing compared to invading the man's privacy. However tempting it might be. Mancel's room was a different matter. He'd half expected to see Amarika's blood still all over the place, to be honest.

Then he spent another night there. And another. All the while, he berated himself over his cowardice. It wasn't about potentially going up against the drow to take his sister somewhere safe where she wouldn't be married off. It wasn't about anyone actually there, to be completely frank. It was about who wasn't there.

Keyair died in 1012. The news had reached him a few months after the funeral. That entire house made Darius think of the old man. That house was him, so deeply. It held all his treasures, his random relics, portraits of those he held dearest - even non-family members. To go back to it and know he wasn't there, that the identity of the estate had completely changed... it was a bit much, even for Darius. And he hated himself for feeling so strongly about it.

It wasn't even the fact his parents had died there. That they had burned their bodies along with little Angelique in the back fields and returned their ashes to the crypt deep in the estate. It was that everything he knew, had changed. There would be familiar faces, aged, different, without Keyair.

If Serenity's well-being weren't at risk, he would never have come back.

Three days in, he finally left the Ludlow Estate. He caught a ride over to Sylvie Isle with a fisherman and helped the man unload his wares as payment. Then he made the long trek up the winding road that reached into the clouds. He crossed the colossal, ancient bridge that spanned two mountains - something stupid the drow would have thought up, he reckoned. Keyair had always said it was another ancient civilization though, that the architecture didn't suit the drow.

The guards at the wall spotted him. They bickered a bit before another familiar face appeared atop the wall and waved him on in - Tazim Chakif. The old guard captain didn't stick around to get reacquainted, and Darius was pleased. The old man probably felt the same. Darius coming home was just re-opening old wounds.

He walked up the path towards the estate. He got a glimpse of the garden district, a scrawny redhead running around it like crazy - who the fuck was that? Casim? It was a weird, jarring realization that of course the boy had grown up too. He was even sporting the beginnings of a scruffy ginger beard.

Fuck, he wished he wasn't here.

Right before the estate rising up before him, he saw a figure on the paved road. A very tall, muscular figure. One that should not have been so familiar for Darius having never met the man. But he knew who he was.

Sooner was better than later or never. Who knew. Maybe he wouldn't have to go to extreme lengths to get Serenity to see the folly of this. But he would not tip the man off to his plan. No, that would be a very bad idea.

"Grass around the back of the estate is softer on the soles," he called out.

Drake, having had quite and experience recently, was clothed in bandages to his feet and hands, and wearing long brown pants for modesty's sake as he made his laps throughout having actually spotted Casim again as well. His hair was now properly braided and as he heard an unfamiliar voice behind him he ceased his running and turned to face the new approach. He knew the man already, the white hair was a dead giveaway as to who this could be if his understanding of how these families worked was correct.

"That may be so, but nothing worth having comes easy Mr. Black." He had begun to approach, glistening with a shiny layer of new sweat though the scents of earlier clung to him.

"It seems you happened to make it back here without the old man trying to murder you for getting into his waters, well done."

The old man of course being Xankresh, of whom Darius had already been pardoned by in their own meeting. Drake was a looking statue to be sure but he was also happy looking, not at all suspicious, rather welcoming to someone coming home to their family.

"Please, around here, it's Heartstone," Darius said cordially. "But you can call me Darius. Now, you'll have to forgive me, but I never figured how to pronounce your name. I was never proficient in the drow tongue and frankly sucked at Elvish even while I was trying to learn it as a child."

"Drake is what I go by for those that have troubles with elvish, it essentially translates to mean the same thing in the end."

He made no mention of why he did not go by Piers like his siblings, figuring it was a sore topic considering his life on the seas.

"It's a harsh one at that if you try speaking Drow, we're very cutting. So to what do I owe this pleasure? Surely there are more important people than myself you are interested in catching up with?" he was breathing steady again and ready to converse, he crossed his arms over his chest lazily though he forgot to humans the gesture could be a bit off putting.

Darius matched the pose of the Drow. The man was still a few inches taller than himself, but for their respective species they made a firm match in physical form. Darius couldn't help but size him up as he prepared his answer. He did need to know what exactly he might have to go up against.

"Meeting you here was just good luck, I suppose, as you're exactly the man I wished to speak to in frank terms."

He leaned forward just a smidge as if he were speaking in a conspirational tone, although there was no change in volume. "I'm here to convince you not to marry my sister."

"Ah" was all that Drake said, nodding, as if understanding in a click. "I understand your concerns, but I'll have to decide to go through with the marriage if Serenity agrees. By all merits she is a wonderful woman, and it's just as much up to her as it is to me." His mind flashing back to the pool and smirking, thinking fondly. "I'm not one to care what others want out of all this, more about what the two of us decide what is best, mostly for her to decide for her own self what she wants."

"Woman?" Darius echoed. "She's but a child. She's hardly old enough to make such life changing decisions. I believe Mancel overstepped his authority with this match. Not that I hold anything against you, Drake. You're as entangled in this as she is, almost. But you have the maturity to understand what is going to happen."

"Yes, I have plenty of maturity, and while I will respect you love for your sister as her brother, I also know what I'm doing. For as you say, I have the maturity to look forward on this, more than anyone in this world I have the power to give her whatever she could want out of her life-would you stand in her way if she wanted to experience everything this world had to offer with someone who could protect her?" his voice was low, steady, concise and calm. He was not irate, angered, even frustrated, he was empathetic to Darius' plight. "I have lived a lot of time alone, and Serenity and this family of people are the first time I've felt love and compassion in a very long time, and that is a reciprocation affection to let them all figure out their lives for their selves. I will not be like all the other men in Serenity's life that attempt to find out what is best for her."

"She doesn't even know who else is out there," Darius replied. "And I really would have tried to talk to Xankresh about this if that weren't the equivalent of serving my head on a silver platter to him. I'll be talking to Mancel later tonight to try and change his mind."

This wasn't going well. "In a month or two she'll be of age, and you'll be married. She'll bear your children before she even knows what there is in the world to miss out on. And by then it will be too late, because she'll be dealing with the responsibilities of motherhood."

"I'll begin with what's wrong in that entire rationalization Darius." Drake's face hardened hearing him speak about his sister in such an insulting way "One, you're a pirate up against the Pirate King, he's a selfish asshole who thinks only for himself. Second, I doubt Mancel is in any state to converse after the tragedy that befell this family and you need to respect that. Third, of course she'll be of age, doesn't mean I don't have a control over my urges- I realize you fear a man in his five hundred being with Serenity who is not yet as the human age of maturity. I find it deeply insulting to your sister that you would treat her as if she is a no nothing and need to be protected by you when you have not been here to tend to your responsibilities from the start as the remaining heir to the Piers house-whether or not you accept the namesake"

Anger flashed in Darius' eyes and his nostrils flared. His arms moved away from his chest, hanging at his sides with open palms as if he were reminding himself not to ball them into fists.

Drake was set on marrying his sister. That was certain. And he wasn't afraid to throw punches. Low ones.

"Mancel is still the lord of this nation, and my uncle. Deaths or no, he is still responsible for living members of this family. And I will see to it that he remembers such. He may have the power to marry off his son to some Blackthorne's leftovers, but I deny him the audacity to marry my fourteen-year-old sister off to you. I am stepping in here, because she has not experienced the world enough to even understand what real love is - what it is to choose one's own path. Marrying you cements a path."

His eyes flashed again, the friendly smile completely gone. "I would never presume to know what is best for my sister, but as you pointed out I have not kept up with my responsibilities. I intend to remedy that. And know this: My sister was not put on Aradia's green ass to birth your whelps. Let her find that out for herself before you go sticking your cock in her."

With that, he left the drow in the road and headed up the stairs to the estate. This place be damned, he was back.
Last edited by Kotorchix on Sun Apr 07, 2019 12:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Isles of Aradia (IC/New Settlers Welcome.)

Post by dinthalion » Sun Apr 07, 2019 11:00 am

Vilhelms Cabin
Vilhelm


Vilhelm's face tightened into a line when Orina smoothly but suddenly turned her conversation to Aoria. It seemed she took this much to casually. He shot Aroia a quick hard glance as her face reddened. He hid it quickly but heard little else of what was said. He felt betrayed, manipulated. She hadn't told him. Did she not realize what this meant? Or had she kept quiet because she had no intention of being his wife. Was it the child that didn't matter to her or was it him she didn't care about?

Even Divian's sudden arrival wasn't as shocking as the news.

"It was my pleasure, Uncle." Vilhelm replied politely to the drow's thank you.

He tried to listen as Divian went on about the manor and its protections. But he felt like he wanted none of it anymore. He wanted to run, to hide. Instead of sounding like advice it all sounded patronizing. But he kept a grim alert face. His mind wandered. He had always been very careful. Though he would kiss and flirt and find pleasure with girls he'd always tried to avoid the risk of a child. He’d pull out or he’d use his mouth and ask her to do the same. But he'd gotten emotional with Aoria, it was more than just fun with her, there was a connection. She'd used that connection to manipulate him into taking risks he didn't want to. He'd wondered if she would be his lady, if they would find true and lasting love. But now he knew she didn't love him, she no longer looked like a lady to him, no she just looked like some servant whoring herself out. He knew the drill, the pretty young servant would seduce a lord or noble, if she got lucky enough to bear his bastard she would find extra pay, better quarters, often a transfer and an easier job. The child would bare shame for a lifetime but for the mother it was worth the price. His mother hadn't been like that, she'd borne her shame with dignity and never asked for anything from his father. He’d lived with contempt without the reward. But his child would not bear the stigma.

When he finally got the chance to be alone he reflected on the irony. He had always looked down on the way nobles would whore themselves or their children into marriage for political alliance. How they always seemed to feel forced by social norms. He thought he would be different, that he would court any marry on his own terms. He had wanted to some day marry Aoria, to have children and a life, but he wanted it to be for love. But now, just like a noble son he had no choice. But at least like any noble he would get a powerful alliance out of it.

It took him some time to settle his emotions. Finally it settled to a cold anger, which would have frightened him if he knew the similarity his countenance now bore to his father. So instead of readying his things he found Aoria.

“We’ll be married as soon as we get to Briochi.” He told her matter of factly with no introduction, “We’ll have a party with those we dare invite. Not as grand as it could have been if we’d waited until I was lord, of course. But we won’t wait, our child will never be called a bastard.”


----------------------------

Heartstone Estate
Rivka


Rivka hadn’t seen much of her fiancée other than in an official and formal capacity. Not that she’d sought him out either. Everything had been a whirlwind, planning the wedding so quickly. The dress, the food the decorations. She was much more involved in the planning this time then she had been the last time. And maybe it was more then the busyness. In a way she was protecting herself. Though resolute she felt nervous and conflicted. She felt guilty at the thought that she might be happy with Casim, at the fact that she liked him.

Things got better when Nance arrived with his daughters and son. Freryr and Rivka soon learned that their attempts to hide the pregnancy had been in vain. Servants talked and rumors spread and found confirmation. To Rivka she felt relief in a way. It was stressful to try so hard to hide something that just got more and more obvious every day. And it was nice to be able to talk about it. She had so many questions and so much emotion.

She spent a lot of time with her two older cousin’s gossiping and talking. But they could tell Rivka had changed a little. They went with Rivka to her final dress fitting.

“That looks so much better than that outdated monstrosity you wore last time.” Her cousin told her.

“This time I got to pick it out.” Rivka smiled, “I even got to help design it. I learned a few things from Lady Attia.”

“So tell us about Casim!” the other piped up.

“He seems sweet.” Rivka replied, “He’s kind of shy. I think he’s kind of a romantic. I don’t know think I’ll like him. I think we’ll get along well enough.”

“We’ve hardly gotten to meet him, if he’s such a romantic why isn’t he hanging around?”

“Because he’s a gentleman. And he’s been busy preparing for the wedding and all of that.” She replied.

“I’ve seen him out running around the grounds.” The younger piped up. “He looks kind of scrawny.”

“Hopefully he’s not scrawny where it counts.” The older giggled as the other two girls reddened a little. “It must be disappointing to have to lower your standards after a man like Jaster Balckthorne. Poor Casim has to know he’ll never live up to that no matter how hard her tries.”

“I’m not going to compare them in bed.” Rivka snapped, “I’m not even going to think about Jaster when I’m with Casim…I just…I didn’t even… you need to think before you talk.”

Her younger cousin seeing the conversation was getting tense interjected. “Like she even has room to talk. Father will probably marry her to some scrawny man from a lesser house with no title or anything.”

“Father bought us both gorgeous new dresses for the wedding. I think he’s hoping we’ll both catch the eye of someone in the accord or maybe one of the Balckthorne vassals. I don’t want to marry anyone connected with the Blackthornes though. Does Casim have any eligible cousins or family?”

“I think there’s the Peirs.” Rivka said, glad for the change of subject. “There is a boy, Lyron, I think he’s still a little young.”

“But is he handsome and sweet?” she asked.

“I don’t know, I haven’t met him.” She laughed, “I thought you already had a crush on that boy you met in Everglow.”

“Father didn’t like him.” She replied, “tell Casim to introduce me to Lyron!”

Their conversation drifted back to liter topics as they gossiped some more about the guests and people they knew back from Briochi.
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Re: The Isles of Aradia (IC/New Settlers Welcome.)

Post by Skummy the Kitty » Sun Apr 07, 2019 11:51 am

Aoria
Vilhelm's Cabin, Briochi
Fighting with Vilhelm

Her eyes were soft and she looked sad, knowing that this would not ease the feeling of betrayal that her mate must have felt "Drow do things differently Vilhelm, and it's not always easy to be with us. However, some things you should know: We never turn our backs upon our own children, we mate for the rest of our lives and if we were to choose someone it's permanent, and we're not always the most rational people. I thought it would be better if I waited for help to get here before we talked about the baby, because between the Rangers, and Briochi, and everything I though this would just be too much for both of us to handle. Frankly, now that I'm carrying this child I'm happy I have it, if you cannot forgive what I did that's....that's....."

Tears began to well up in this hardened assassin's face as she spoke shakily finally beginning to crack "Don't you dare to assume I do not love you and this child with every fiber of my being and was only doing what I knew to do to protect us all. I am not your father, nor your uncle, nor my own uncle. I am your mate for Aradia's sake!" She wiped at her face but they kept streaming down now as a small river "This isn't about me being Notusi, this isn't something to do with your fucking lordship! This is me feeling like I had finally found someone I could trust my life to and feel safe with. Drow don't fucking just randomly have kids! It takes time and emotion and love and friendship and everything to let us know we can be with someone forever."

"I don't give a shit what the wedding looks like, but I refuse to have my life be bound to someone who may hate me after sharing a love with me for so long. Love does not simply evaporate when someone is in a life or death situation, and they don't wish to tell you about their child for a few weeks until they feel its safe to do so. I can feel that raw anger through your eyes, you're looking at me as if I were some cruel bitch that played with your heart! You didn't even think to simply ask why I said nothing, you just became this" she gestured to even his posture in front of her, she couldn't' stop crying and trudged away and out the door into the freezing cold. She felt heartbroken, she knew what she did was wrong but the words he said that dripped with that venom were worse than any spider bite.

To his credit, once he heard Aoria's rising commotion Divan remained impassive, allowing for the wellspring of frustrations and emotions of both sides to play out. It had not been expected, but he could see Vilhem was taking traits he had been reared by in his own harsh upbringing in this world. He gave the young man a look and sighed, he aid nothing and went out to fetch his niece from the cold.
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Re: The Isles of Aradia (IC/New Settlers Welcome.)

Post by IronParagon » Wed Apr 10, 2019 8:36 am

_______________________________________________________________________
Lady Sabre
_______________________________________________________________________


"I can't do it, Talia! I can't face them!"

Aislinn, last living Heir to the most Ancient and Noble House of Corcoran, knelt on the floor of the cabin hunched over a sick-bucket. Her splendid ermine dress was splattered with vomit, her honey-blonde hair disheveled, her face gaunt and pale-green. She looked up, wide-eyed, at her hostess. "I can't. After what they did to me, to my father...to have to dine with them like they're my friends, like it's all forgiven, like none of it even happened...how can I face them? How?!" Her breath hitched in a sob that gave way to a retch, and then she was dry-heaving again, the awful sound of its reverberating around the small room and making its sparse occupants wince.

"it doesn't seem fair." Ameline Rookwood's tone was morose and she was pale and cool as ever, but her words were sympathetic. "Are we sure she can't just stay on the ship...?"

"I don't think the boat's doing her much good," Lucy MacNair said in a conspiratorial stage-whisper that could have been heard from half the ocean away. As usual, once she started chatting, it took a lot to get her to stop. "She's dreadfully sick. But it'll go worse for her if she doesn't show up, what with her father being dead and her uncle being a recluse in his keep, she's the only Corcoran left you see. And her husband being dead too, though he was a Knox and daddy says he never touched her and only diddled little girls, I'm not sure what that means but--oof! Stop poking me, Ameline! What did you say--kite? Oh, quiet. Sorry."

It's more than just the sea making her sick, Talia reflected darkly. It had been a battle to coax Preston Knox's widow aboard the Panther's Paw and getting her off would be even more of a challenge. The messenger that had come to the Sabre Villa had issued a request for Aislinn by name, which was more than could be said for Talia, but she had little choice in the matter. Henriik was an old man, spent, and settling into retirement at his island mansion. Attia seemed to wander closer into madness with each passing day, staggering about the Villa stinking of wine while in a state of undress, only taking her puppet guard-captain as a visitor. And as for Titus...rumor had it the heir had shackled up with some old lover at Verdant Lea, and had not stirred from his pleasure-gardens there ever since. They had not even corresponded since the previous year. The invitation had gone out to the Sabre family as a whole, but Talia had been the only one fit to answer it, as she'd been the one running the Sabre household affairs since before the turn of the new year. That had been an enjoyable process, and she'd fancied to have become rather good at the whole procedure, until the news of the wedding had reached her. Now she would have to uproot herself and her budding household to a spot halfway across the realm...and finally confront Rivka, who was said to be carrying a child. The prospect of having a niece or nephew, a child of Jaster's, made Talia feel dizzy. She would have to do something with it...but what?

It was the kind of thing she might have thought to ask Nestor, but since his ascendance to being Lord Knox, she trusted him even less than before. He had seen to the death of his brother, the head he'd promised her, but he'd also been in league with the Bloodhawk all along. She wanted to believe that the business with the Mannisters and Highcliffes, now apparent as an attempt to consolidate Dominic's hold over the midlands, was Nestor attempting to involve her in his conspiracies, to make her Uncle less harsh to her. But somehow she doubted it. It was Lord Nestor who'd requested Aislinn's presence specifically. The girl had to comply--he was her liege-lord. The journey had been taxing for her, and the prospect of finally facing the party had made it even worse. She had curled into a ball now, clutching at clumps of her hair as if meaning to tear them out and shaking with soft, silent sobs.

A Birhor sailor poked his head through the cabin door. "Eez tiem to leef."

"Give her a moment, please," Talia told him waspishly, ignoring his eye-roll and subsequent retreat. Her ladies-in-waiting were going to be no help here. This was something she was going to have to solve herself. Taking a deep breath, she approached the Knox widow, adjusted her skirts, then knelt beside her. "Lady Corcoran. Your father was one of the greatest knights in the realm. My uncle Yven always told me so, and my brothers as well--tales of the Old Lion, Sir Barra of Mistvale. There was no man more chivalrous or brave in these Isles. Don't you think he would want you to be brave, too?"

"My father?" When Aislinn looked up at her, her eyes were red-rimmed, raw with grief. "He...he wanted a son, but he only had me, and all he could get out of me was Preston for his heir. I failed him, and my uncle too, and--" She looked down at her dress, seeing the vomit staining on the expensive fabric. "I ruined my dress. The one you brought for me. I'm useless. I'm so useless." Her mouth trembled dangerously.

"Listen to me." Talia took the widow's face in her hands, forcing her to make eye-contact. The woman's breath stank of bile, but Lady Sabre forced herself not to recoil. She kept her tone firm, but gentle. "You have allies at this gathering. Friends. Nestor Knox might be many things but you know he's better than his brother who was your husband. He can help you, if you give him the chance. I know Jacques will be there, and I'm afraid of him too--I think everyone is. But you can't let him stop you from living, Aislinn. You can;t let him control your whole life like that. Remember your ancestral crest--you are a lioness. What are you?"

Aislinn closed her eyes, and for a moment it seemed like she wouldn't respond. But then she nodded, and spoke quietly. "A lioness. I'm a lioness."

"You're damned right," Lady Sabre smiled, and that made the widow give a choked chuckle that was half a sob and embrace her. Talia rubbed her back soothingly as she returned the hug. "It's alright, it's alright. I'll be there with you the whole time. Come, now--the sooner we go, the sooner we get it over with."

They disembarked the Panther's Paw at high dusk. Talia took the lead, arm-in-arm with Aislinn. In one of Lady Sabre's spare dresses and some lavender perfume, you might never have known the young widow had been in a state of paralyzing distress just minutes before. The ladies-in-waiting came behind them, then a column of her honor guard, knights in silver-and-gold plate with Sir Tybolt of Volmark at their lead. Behind them came handmaids, Birhor staffers, and Feline servants to carry luggage. The docks at Caybourne made for a splendid sight, as one would expect of a seafaring household, though the elven steward who greeted them did not seem eager to collaborate with the splendor of his surroundings.

"It is my honor to welcome all of you to Sylvie Isle, my ladies," he told them, though he most certainly did not look honored. "If you proceed up the pass, you will come to the town of Lawoae, where you have been assigned free lodgings for the night."

"Well met. We are not to be housed within the Ludlow's estate itself?" Talia inquired.

He looked like she'd just spat on his boots. "If Lady Sabre demands greater accommodation, she may speak to Elmer--"

"Lady Sabre does not demand anything," Talia said quickly, not wanting to cause a scene. She curtsied. "This will suit us well, and we are in turn honored by your hospitality."

"Hmph." The Elf was already looking away from her to great the next guests. "Indeed."

A servant carrying a lantern on a tall polearm was assigned to them, and with nary a word, began to lead them down a twisting alleyway and into a pass between two hills. The sun vanished over the lip of the hill as they went, and the world around them began to darken. By the time the sky had turned a dark blue and the stars had come out, they were still walking with no sign of the town in sight.

"If I'd known we were in for some hiking, I would've worn more suitable shoes," Ameline remarked dourly, limping slightly in their wake.

Something's not right here. Talia cleared her throat tentatively and addressed their guide. "i beg your pardon, friend, but are you sure we are on the right path?"

The servant gave them a nervous look. It was difficult with the scant light from the lantern, plus the cowl covering the woman's head, but it almost seemed as if she were sweating. "Apologies, m'lady, but...but Lord Blackthorne made it very clear he did not wish to run into you on the way to town. If you take my meaning."

"Only too well." He doesn't want me around his bannermen, or the Knoxes. Keeping me separate from any potential allies who might be feeling sorry for me after that show in the Senate. It couldn't be helped. She would not be surprised if the Bloodhawk had taken some measure to stop her from even talking to her uncle Yven during tomorrow's feast. "Lead on, then."

It took the better part of an hour before they made their way into Lawoae, coming in the back way over a little humpback bridge. It was a pleasant little settlement, with its short square buildings giving off the kind of upper-class aura that must have helped to ensure its place as the noble's stopover--it was difficult to turn one's nose up at these white stone pillars and smiling villagers. The inn that had been selected for them was a small one, based at the far end of town. As they passed one of winesinks, there was a commotion that spilled out onto the street; two men in glinting silver armor, one piling on top of the other and bashing his face over and over again with a metal goblet while their fellows cheered them on, gathering around to jeer and mock and shout encouragement. Aislinn's grip tightened on Talia's arm.

Their inn was called the Happy Trout, according to the metal plaque that hung off of the door, which was in the shape of a grinning fish. As Tybolt tipped their guide and began to make arrangements with their innkeep, Talia looked at that sign in bemusement, and Ameline muttered "at least the fish gets to be happy about something." Little Lucy MacNair was still catching her breath, pink-faced and rather disheveled looking. Talia doubted she'd ever walked so far in her life. They were sent up to their assigned quarters with promises that a hot meal would soon be sent to follow them.

"You can stay in my chambers, if you wish, Aislinn," Talia told her companion, taking her hands.

But the young widow only shook her head. "No. I cannot cling to you for all of this ceremony. I must learn to walk alone." She took a breath. "Thank you, Talia. For helping me remember my courage."

"You do not need to thank me, my lady--you accomplished this by yourself." Talia stepped back. "I will be right next door if you need anything."

The chambers had the same pretty, pale charm as the town itself; it was compact and snug, with a small feather-mattress bed and a simple vanity table up against one wall beside a wardrobe. Talia thought about settling in for the night, but something still troubled at her. So, instead of calling for her handmaids, she sent for Ameline.

The pale girl was still dressed when she came into the room, and looked somehow even more morose. "Tali, I can't feel anything below my ankles. I hope you have a very good reason for this."

"I..." Talia had been gazing out the window when her friend had arrived, and now she turned away from the both of them, trying to think how to phrase what she needed to say. "Ameline, I'm going to die soon."

The Rookwood girl stared at her for a moment. "Oh." A pause. She seemed so disarmed that she forgot to be dolorous. "Are you...are you sick?"

"Maybe they'll tell you it was because I was sick," Talia's laugh was humorless, wringing her hands together as she paced back and forth. "Most likely my Uncle will just forget all his pretensions and gut me with my father's own blade. It will happen either way, and he will be the one to do it. The world is becoming the Bloodhawk's and there is no place for me in that world, don't you see? One by one, he takes away my friends, my allies. Kavin will be married to Claire Ludlow. Llewys and Cecily will be put together as well, I suspect, and I hear Lucy may have to marry Jacques, that poor girl. My brothers are dead, or gone. Joanna locks herself in her chambers and won't answer my letters." She took a breath. "He'll take you, sooner or later, Ami. For all you know this could be the last time we speak to each other.

"Now, I'm not looking for comfort." Talia stopped and looked her old friend steadily in the eye. "I've been thinking about what Briona Manford said back at the teashop. She was right. I've waded into a situation far over my head, and now there's no way out, and I'm finished. It's only a matter of time. So I need you to promise me...and maybe you can make Yven and Kavin and Lucy promise as well, if it comes to it..." She paused for along time then. It was surprisingly difficult for her to say. "...I need you to promise me that when the time comes, you won't let me drag you down. Whatever happens to me, you have to stand back and allow it. Because if something happened to any of you, on my account...I couldn't bear that."

The Rookwood girl's eyes were wide with hurt. "Tali, you shouldn't talk like this. You're frightening me."

"We're not children anymore." She laid a hand on her friend's arm. "I know how I used to talk, back then, about how we could all grow to be great heroes, but we don't get to do that, do you understand? Because this is the real world, and if the last year of my life has taught me anything about the real world, its that we all end up like Aislinn Corcoran. So I need you to promise me." She paused, her eyes stinging with unshed tears. "Please, Ami."

There was a silence that seemed to last for hours, before Ameline gave a single nod. "I promise."

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Re: The Isles of Aradia (IC/New Settlers Welcome.)

Post by Skummy the Kitty » Thu Apr 11, 2019 9:25 am

Maria Dul-Sansiska
Aboard the Gracious Ornia enroute to Caybourne

She....was not happy to hear that her Uncle was alive and welcome in Ques Novich to say the least, it diminished her standing that she couldn't just get rid of her one insane uncle that had caused this entire mess in the first place. Arkon, The Riverford Massacre, the attack on Rivka and her having to flee out here to Caybourne, The Vihelm matter, the growing tensions everywhere. All his fucking fault, he could have just stayed out of it and things might've just gone smoother, and now he was screwing with her in Ques Novich by delaying the Rangers for weeks on end with misdirection, redeploying troops looking for ghosts of Arkon in the mountains, it made her see a bit of red.

She drank from a goblet as the boat swayed, it was formerly her Uncle's, a specially commissioned ship from Nagari with iron plates along its hull and a magical propulsion system operated by a Wild One named Chestnuts. The ship was imbued with specialized buoyancy protections and a strange defense system that radiated off of symbols. Divan had been a part of its design after his sister mysterious disappeared and he was supposedly so uptight about ever order being followed to the letter. It meant the ship ride took far less time than otherwise, but it was still enough time for Maria to stew on just how much of a nightmare the past few months had been. His damned fault for everything...

Garin was outside on the ships bow watching as the island of Caybourne began to radiate in the distance, he was full of thoughts on how to feel about Divan's survival and thriving. something had happened but he wasn't saying a thing about the mess. Maria was furious he was still alive while Mossa was relieved and Argavir was nonplussed of the whole affair, as he had completely vanished from any known region, only to show up weeks later. Xankresh had no reaction at all, simply said he was going to be away until the Ludlow wedding commenced.. Now was that time and Xankreh was aboard his own private vessel with Mossa, Argavir was missing, claiming business elsewhere and when pressed he simply gave a half answer and was gone from sight. Barakul could not be here as he and the Mabusa Clan had to get started on anti-arkon and demon exercises and exercise their ancient duties or some garbage.

Maria was left int he protection of Garin, Saki who was of course brought along, some woman form Veroma, and the attendants. Not much of a detail but if push came to shove Xankresh would be there with his Hands. Garin was on edge about this whole thing and it wasn't sitting right- the war between Knox and Blackthorne ended far too easily and cleanly for a true war. He smelled conspiracies, and salt water, he'd have to get to Titus and the other New Age Knights after the wedding to discuss this with them- they might've been good for nothings in combat but they were his friends and had plenty of influence to start reaching around for what was going on. To that effect Titus was nowhere to be seen for months and it was beginning to grate on Garin's nerves, as House Sabre was being run solely by Talia and he couldn't tell what was going on on that whole affair. Nothing was adding up and he needed more evidence before he brought it up to his Uncle and Grandfather. Best to stay quiet until then, he didn't need to find Axl waiting for him in some dark alley to beat his brains in, fuckin Waynrites.

Niri was not what Maria may have been expecting for protection, a relatively youthful girl with a half shaved head and jade eyes. Some kind of martial student, though by weapon or by hand was unknown. She was around Maria's age but without the consistent spoiled brat look or pissed demeanor. She was clad in a simple white shirt and brain pants, flipping a dagger around her hands in boredom, trying not to cut herself on the sharp blade.

"Can you not?" Maria asked, or demanded, in agitation her nerves frayed by her Uncle making her seem incompetent to her family. She was wearing a long gown of purple with a slit up to her hips on either side and simple shoes, having to keep appearance of a regal lady and all that when they had to face the other Houses even in passing. "Kind of in the middle of being pissed"

"Oh my apologies your bitchy highness" Niri spat without giving her a glance, a roll of the eyes and a throw of the dagger as it sailed across to the other side of the room "Unlike most I couldn't give a shit about how you're feeling, just because Master Divankul is making your life harder is no reason to be a pouty shit over it" He tone was rural, mountainous, no sign of affluence or pedigree in her tone-a warrior peasant. "I'm gonna go find your brother, you both annoy me but at least he's not going to keep drinking and throwing hissy fits" with that Niri exited the cabin and left for Garin, whom she spotted on a bolted chair on the bow in his classic outfit, he seemed to have duplicates of it or something.

"Garin, your sister is horrible, you're moping as well, where's your son?" Niri was pretty cut and dry, no nonsense, a simple commoner who learned how to fight and was able to get passage to Veroma for training. Nothing more to the woman really. She did have a soft spot for bright eyed Saki though who was just happy to be with his dad along for the ride to serve at another event as an up and coming page.

"Not sure, probably below deck with Chestnuts and the attendants asking the cat questions while he steers this thing" Garin's eyes hadn't left the slowly oncoming landmass lit up in the dusk with laterns. His mind began to switch over to Drake, he still hadn't turned down the offer-not good, he'd have to try and lean on him that it was a bad idea for a man his age to be with someone like Serenity Piers. There were many things wrong with that picture that Garin simply wanted to not even have to worry about and made a mental note to get on Drake's case, maybe with Maria's hep, to get him to just go home with Mossa. This whole situation was all kinds of wrong on an entirely different level than the Blackthorne problems.

Niri made her way below deck and saw Chestnuts hard at work on some kind of stone tablet messing with water magics and the like, she could not even begin to fathom how such a small thing could be making this ship move of its own volition with no sails. in other parts of the hold were sleeping attendants, ready to wake when they docked to carry all of Maria's items, in an opposite bunk was a sleeping Saki waiting for his father. The boy was tired after insisting he help load the ship because he needed more muscles to protect everyone. He was a sweetheart, too good for this family in her opinion. She decided to sit down and rub the boy's back as he slept, no need to wake him until the ship met land and then he could get back to what he was good at.

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Xankresh and Mossa
Aboard the Fading Patience

Mossa was not about to let this issue with A'Draak stay lying down, he'd taken her most powerful general and used him as a pawn to go be married off to some merchant daughter all to have a little more control over the East. The thought of it infuriated her, not because of the woman's age per se but the fact she had no say simply because Xankresh wanted Drake to do as their supposed agreement stated. "Why do you have to hate ADraak? Seriously let whatever in the past go and give me back my General dammit!"

Mossa had withered in her time recovering, she was no longer in casting but had to take it easy for another week as her bones began to set in, only then could she begin ramping up rehabilitation and training. Her muscles were gone leaving before what fatty tissue elves had, mostly around the chest and waist areas for Aradia knows why, making her a very feminine picture where once stood a proud warrior. Her ire had not faded int hat time though and she was as livid as ever. Her clothes seemed to suit her, a crimson blouse and and ankle length silk skirt in the hue of violet, she looked like if her face wasn't so youthful she'd make a perfect grandmother almost.

"Woman, I told you before, no dammit! You and Maria will not stop pestering me about it- the offer was made and I accepted. The Accord has one of the strongest trade connections in the world. Might as well strike a solid allegiance with them now before the Bloodhawk sink his teeth into them like he does for everyone. I know damn well if we have out foot in that corner Mancel won't budge on anything that overgrown gingerhaired has to say, and that's for the best. Now get out of my quarters! We're nearin' the island..." Xankresh was wearing his captain regalia of a longcoat, open white shirt, and his hat. His runic eye was uncovered for the time being and both his hands were about int he quarters as well as a relatively unknown looking fellow, possibly a steward or advisor.

Mossa had only her attendant at the moment, a soft spoken common elf from Alegora who had been called in to just help Mossa get around and keep her company. She was happy to help her Lady and for the promotion, she unbraked the wooden wheels of the chair and began to wheel her off gently. "Milady, don't take it harshly, I'm sure King Avani had his reasons for being snappy. Tis been a hard time for us all has it not milady?"

"Indeed Susi, indeed it has been, but that's not excuse for his behavior towards me and the family" she sighed and went to go light her pipe but Susi plucked it and at first Mossa thought she was preventing her from one of few joys, no she was repacking the fragrant tobacco and preparing a match. As Mossa puffed the smoke into her mouth she felt herself soften, at the very least this woman was a decent companion who understood her Lady "Susi I have a feeling this is to be a wild wedding"

"I would sadly, have to agree after what I've heard of the other weddings" With that she and Susi remained on deck as Caybourne became a massive island rather than a spot in the distance, they were nearing it.

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Drow Lords
Arrival on Slyvie Isle, Caybourne

Both ships docked around the same time, unlike with the westerners who put on so many shows of power and the like the drow seemed a somber bunch, more along the fact they had been feuding with one another rather than anything specific. They met Crisben with curt politeness and followed the guide into Lawaoe, Mossa was honestly the nicest out of everyone complimenting the steward on his seriousness and discipline from her wheelchair. Their servant basis followed discreetly behind of course, With Saki proudly leading the line hefting a trunk on his shoulders like a strongman despite being eleven and keeping order as he marched, followed quickly by the others. Two cats seemed to appear from below deck after having sailed the ships, without interpreters their mewling was unknown and just sounded like housecats but they wound up figuring out that the High Felines were situated over on the main island, and produced a small skiff to skim themselves over to their people while they waited for the elves to party with the wedding. This would leave the ships unmanned until the scheduled departure with nobody capable of operating them.

The drow were placed in the Grunting Mare, kept enough away from the westerners to not be caught in a fight out in the midst of the streets, Xankresh and his crew turned in for the night, but the servants and attendants had brought musical strings to be played in the midst of their time here while the lords and ladies slept. Maria was in no mood and simply stayed with Niri while Garin went to get hammered and possibly figure out more about what he was trying to prove. Saki went with him of course to get drunk with his father, which left Mossa sitting in the cobbled streets in the lantern light with Susi as she was handed a tankard from an erupted tavern. Despite the horrible nature of westerners Mossa admired watching bar brawls, and drank at her alcohol while the attendants took up to playing mountain elvish strings to the sound of ruckus the soldiers were producing.

While everyone could get to hating each other in the morning this was far too entertaining to pass up a chance of enjoying even in a far more well to do city such as this. It was a time for the servants to get their fill of fun before the nobility went about pretending to tolerate one another for a point of time over a boring wedding.
Image
Credit to Sammy and Nicodemus; one created my set for me, the other drew the source image as a request.
Thank You Both!

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