Page 37 of 38
Re: The Isles of Aradia (IC/New Settlers Welcome.)
Posted: Sat Apr 13, 2019 8:26 pm
Contains collab-posts with IP & Skummy
Lord Mancel Ludlow
Sylvie Isle, Caybourne
Aimee was off having some last-minute dress adjustments due to an impromptu growth-spurt when a knock sounded at Mancel’s door. He inhaled deeply, closing his eyes before slowly letting the breath out. He knew who it was going to be. He fucking knew who it was going to be.
He put down his steaming mug of syvlbruuq-rum and padded his way barefoot to the door of his chambers. He swung it open and glared at Darius.
“Tell me you aren’t here to continue badgering me about this.”
“I didn’t exactly want to bother you on the day of your firstborn son’s wedding,” Darius shot back, brushing past him into the room without further ado.
“I’m honestly surprised you aren’t going on about that too,” Mancel muttered, shutting the door and returning to his spot on the couch with his mug.
Darius remained standing, taking a moment to examine the room. It used to be his, though nothing was the same as it had been when he was Casim’s age himself.
Of the bed chambers, this was on the smaller side and had no windows. In the winter, it was the warmest bedroom. Mancel had figured Aimee might appreciate it – she had no use for windows anyhow. And he didn’t particularly feel like looking out from himself at this point in time.
“Casim actually chose to go along with it, and he’s a man, so he had that choice,” Darius replied absently. “Plus, the Blackthorne widow is the same age as he is. I don’t see anything wrong in that.”
“Serenity had just as much choice in the matter as he did,” Mancel sighed, taking a long sup of his drink. “She didn’t say no. We’ve talked about this, Darius. How many more times are you going to flog this dead horse?”
“Until the damned thing listens to me.”
Darius sat on the edge of the bed opposite the couch, leaning forward to rest his elbows on his knees as he clasped his hands together.
Another sigh whooshed from Mancel’s nostrils as he tried to keep his patience. He took a moment to gulp down the remainder of his drink before setting the mug aside. He settled his cold gaze on Darius. “You left the family, I took care of your sister. This was part of the deal the first time I hauled you out of prison. You no longer had authority from the moment you nearly shamed their name.”
“I was seventeen-“
“Same age as Casim, yet you claim he is old enough to act responsibly,” Mancel growled in a low tone, not exactly raising his voice. But his words reverberated throughout the room. “Your argument is that of a hypocrite, Darius. You don’t have a foot to stand on.”
Darius’ knuckles turned white on each other and his jaw set. Mancel had some satisfaction in knowing Darius couldn’t turn this about on him. At the age of seventeen, Mancel had been a man for years already. There was no denying that, especially with the founding of the Ludlow Accord beside Keyair only a short while later.
“But she is fourteen,” Darius repeated, for what was surely the hundredth time in his failed monologues over the past few days since he arrived at the estate. “You can’t just give a child away.”
“Have you even spoken to her?” Mancel spat. He could feel the venom in his voice, but he didn’t care. “Have you seen that she is a woman? Seen the way she and the drow look at each other? She is no child, and you must put that stupid fucking notion out of your head. I have taken her on business ventures. She is smart, fast, calculated, and she could probably put you on your ass in a game of chess or in swordsmanship.”
Darius stood, a finger accusingly shaking before Mancel’s face. “Her intelligence does not belay the fact of her age, Mancel.”
“As evidenced by you, it would seem.”
The white-haired man restrained himself, despite the reddening of his face and the clenching of his fists. “You watch your mouth, old man,” he said in a husky voice.
“Or what?” came back the emboldened reply. “You’ll punch me? I’d like to see you try, kid.”
Darius whet his tongue to his lips, turning away to put his hands on his hips and just look anywhere else in the room than at Mancel. A sharp inhale, then he turned back. “I see I’ve caught you at a bad time,” he said, trying to soften his voice. “But this is important. We’re talking about the life of a young woman. It’s just going to be dust in the hands of that… barbarian.”
“I let your mother marry for love,” Mancel said, driving daggers deep into Darius’ gaze. “And look what happened between her and your father. You cannot guarantee love is always going to be there. An arrangement worked. It worked beautifully.”
“That’s not everyone’s experience,” Darius replied. “But can’t you say yourself that your relationship with Amarika was wrong?”
“Wrong?” Mancel’s eyes flashed.
“You were betrothed to her when she was ten years old. Aimee’s age. You played with her like an uncle would. Pushed her on swings. Sat with her at her dollhouse. And suddenly, five years later, you’re meant to fuck her? Make her have your own children? Tell me that isn’t wrong.”
“You’re not listening to me,” Darius insisted, his teeth baring in a grimace. “Serenity is not-”
“Get the fuck out,” Mancel roared, launching to his feet. “You want someone to blame? You need someone to blame? Then go find Elmer and bitch about it to him. You won’t change anything.”
Darius’ brow furrowed as he danced back a step to keep from Mancel’s reach. “Elmer? What the fuck?”
“He made the pairing. He gave me the pros and cons and I signed off on it. But you will not change his mind, nor mine. And you will not sully the memory of my wife,” he snarled, spittle landing on his beard. “Get out before I throw you through that door myself.”
Darius scuttled off, slamming the door shut behind him and Mancel collapsed back on the couch, the air leaving his lungs in a heave. Tears sprung to his eyes. He couldn’t stop them from spilling down his face or the grievous cries that followed. He buried his face in a cushion of the couch, willing it to stop. But it wouldn’t.
It would never stop.
Lord Darcy Piers
Sylvie Isle, Caybourne
As a member of the family, although not the Ludlow Accord itself, Darcy and his small entourage had been carted up the hill to the estate. By extension, as his companion, Lady Carmellia was assigned a room beside his. Their attendees were given bunks in appropriate parts of the estate for serving sorts or guardsmen.
With their servants exhausted from lugging their belongings about, Darcy agreed with their host – a chubby human who asked to be called Mac – that the estate’s staff should serve them their dinner.
As Darcy’s room had already been lit with candles and the fireplace had been stoked, it was chosen as their place of dining.
The dim lighting and comfortable atmosphere accented the romantic aura of the room. The large four-poster bed bore an inviting duvet in the plushest of red satins. Embers popped and crackled on the logs, and a deep red wine was poured alongside something foreign-smelling called Sylvbruuq. Darcy claimed he wasn’t above trying new things, but had to down a goblet of wine after tasting the damned stuff, to Carmellia’s mild amusement.
Dinner was served by two young common elf maids who insisted dessert would be an hour behind them. Apparently it was after their shift, so the steward himself would be bringing it to the new couple. If they could be called that yet.
Perhaps. Nothing romantic had happened beyond this dinner, unfortunately. Darcy had been the perfect gentleman across the Sorrows, plying his lady companion with good-humored stories and polite jokes. Even some rowdier ones to see if she opened up. But the woman was a polite statue. Not a bone of romance in her. She was pleasant company regardless, but the lack of spark concerned Darcy.
Meatballs were served with a honey glaze, sprinkled with saffron. Then there was roast chicken with a delicate, crumbly skin that melted in the mouth. With them were roasted potatoes and fresh steamed vegetables in a decadent gravy that held a hint of garlic.
Garlic. An unfortunate flavour to add to what might be otherwise called a romantic meal.
Darcy sipped at his wine, so distracted by his thoughts that at first he didn’t hear the soft knock at the door. After the second knock, he dabbed at his lips with a napkin, smiled at Carmellia, then finally spoke up.
“Come in, it’s open.”
He recognized the tall elf that entered, a tray balanced on his arm with subtle grace. Elmer Twicefeed hadn’t aged a day since Darcy had attended Elsik and Jacinta’s wedding. The two had never formally been introduced as Elmer had been busy with other guests, but there was a glimmer of recognition in his amber gaze.
Elmer stood at six feet and six inches with a lithe build. Despite the slender nature of his form, it was clear he was knotted with tight muscle like that of a swimmer or climber. Half his head was shaved in a style Darcy knew to be common in Caybourne, and by extension, Sylvie Isle. The rest of his long, flowing black hair fell over his shoulder. He wore dark slacks, brightly polished boots, and a black button-up blouse with the sleeves rolled up to reveal his runic tattoos.
Darcy had always thought Elmer had a kind, but slightly dark face. Like there was something deep in those eyes which told a story the rest of his face just couldn’t.
“Dessert is served,” the elf said as he began emptying the table and replacing their dinner plates with bowls of custard and gingerbread sticks. “Good to see you again, Lord Piers. Congratulations on the title.”
“Thank you,” Darcy replied in kind. “Mr Twicefreed, may I introduce you to Lady Carmellia of House Relvingold.”
Elmer gently took Carmellia’s offered hand and lightly touched his lips to her knuckles. “My pleasure,” he said, before piling up the last dish on his tray and readying to leave.
The woman had been enjoying this treatment, it was apparent most of her suitors could not hold a candle. To not only duel her well and respected father in magical combat, but to best him and show her such a romantic side she had not experienced before. Her face had been a range of emotions throughout the entire event of travel to now, it was clear she had never left the Mainland however on the boat.
The gorgeous young lady's eyes however, lit up in an interesting way that she was not very subtle at hiding when she had spotted Elmer come into the room. Certainly it could be explained away as natural attractions between elves that could happen but she seemed almost giddy and a little changed as Elmer and Darcy had their conversation.
"All mine, ah wait actually, he said Twicefreed-are you, are you the owner of the Manor in the Platinum Gardens then?" While it could be a bit rude of her to suddenly switch focus onto Elmer it might be understandable- to an everglowian the name would stick pretty heavily if they were paying attention. There was a subtle hunger to her though, she looked at his features as if memorizing them, much as she had with Darcy to size him up for a good mate.
“I am,” Elmer said with a smile. “I rarely get the pleasure of staying there, however, as I choose to serve the Ludlow Accord. You may occasionally see one or two members staying there in my stead.”
"Someone of your status? Then I must be right in trusting the Members of the Accord to be honorable folk then if that is the case" Her eyes seemed to focus in on his runic tattoos and flit up to his hair "You seem different to most elves I've gotten the pleasure to know in Everglow, where were you born?" Carmelia seemed to be wringing one hand along her dress a bit uncertain of something one could not quite say. She seemed to realize her faux pas and snapped out of it "Oh, my, lost myself for a moment- how rude to take up your time Mr. Twicefreed."
"Quite all right," Elmer replied smoothly. He must have seen Darcy's concern evident on his face because he turned to leave once more. He let himself out.
Darcy leaned forward over the table. "You seem quite taken with him," he teased although it was almost accusatory.
"Well, he's got that striking look does he not? you've met him before and known him for quite some time I'm sure-it was merely a fascination. He looks so unlike the people of Everglow much like those, erm, tropics peoples with the dark skin and hard faces. His shaved style, the tattoos on his arms, the way he presents himself. It's so unlike an elf to react in that way...much int he same way you have a very flair filled ambiance to you that is not typical of most normal humans, elvish descendant or otherwise" Carmelia was not one to stoke this fire, if he was expecting her to become flustered, she wasn't. She'd play it off as simple curiosity and mayhaps that was the case.
However, one could not ensure this to be the case and have faith in it alone, as a sheltered girl no matter how old could turn up many surprises when exposed to new experiences.
Another thing to worry about. She wasn't romantic with him, but there was something in her eyes when she looked at Elmer. He could only assume it was a drawing to her own race, even if he were different. Perhaps moreso because he was different.
Carmelia did seem to realize she may have shown too much interest and turned the conversation back to Darcy, but he wasn't fooled. His gaze lingered on her a little too long before it dipped to his dessert. He took one of the gingerbread sticks and dunked it in the hot custard, taking a small bite.
Carmelia, ever the naive girl sometimes, took this to mean if he suspected something he probably was put off a bit by her response and that would smooth it over. She couldn't get a potential suitor mad at her, especially while in his own hospitality, so she followed suit in how he ate his desert, not understanding the food as she crunched into it thinking it utterly sweet. She chewed anyways looking at Darcy, she began to notice something about the man t more time they had to look at each other.
There was this impossible determination within his eyes, an unstoppable lust for something or another, she wished to ask him about it so she swallowed her bite "You look so set on something Darcy, I didn't notice it before but you have intense eyes, as if you're constantly settled in for war"
"I know what I want," was his response.
His eyes flickered to her and stayed another long, hard moment on her face. Then he set down the gingerbread stick and wiped his fingers and mouth with the napkin. "What do you want?" he asked softly.
She took another crunch to delay the question for a moment before sighing and shaking her head before locking eyes with him.
"I have no Aradian clue my romancer," wisps of gold spilling off her tongue, "I'm not in Everglow guarding a temple, I'm here to view a wedding and all I can really think about is what I was taught. Produce as many children as I can and swing a sword, one of those will have to be given up to pursue the other." She looked down and then back up straightening her dress a little.
"I don't mean to seem as though I do not respect and enjoy the company you have kept me in, to allow me to such a wondrous place filled with new and exotic foods and delicacies. However I was never taught the nature of romance, never read the books other noble ladies seem to get into - I didn't gossip or consume the culture of the city. I worked my ass off to become a seraph and that's all I know about is fighting and what my father tells me is the duty of the house, that men don't care for romance it's all about productivity with them or some such drive."
She paused, seemingly catching herself in a tirade and settled, smoothing herself over, making the motions of a proper noble lady but she was clearly not mental equipped. Her siblings were certainly, but not her.
Darcy gave a gentle nod. “I would have to disagree with your father there. I believe romance is paramount to maintaining a loving relationship with one’s beloved. Where I enjoy productivity, there is life to be lived alongside that. If you and I were to marry, I would not expect you to simply churn out babies like a prized sow. Of course, it’s part of carrying on a lineage so at least one or two, but not…”
He paused, looking at his dessert with more suspicion than it deserved. But the expression faded quickly as he again returned his gaze to Carmelia. “Would you be happy with me?”
Carmelia blinked as if the sound was alien to her it would seem before she looked to the ceiling and began to visibly ponder that same question. Not vocally, but quite clearly.
"That remains to be seen I suppose - I just met you. Though if you are as passionate in love as you are in the arcane arts I don't think I could honestly resist it, pardon the pun but you do happen to have an electrifying personality. You're so upbeat it's a little contagious but it’s also confusing as to what I'm supposed to do with it. I'm used to twelve hour shifts of standing silently in one place at a time, not any of this." She gestured about the room they were quartered in clearly a little bit in over her head in ways she was only now starting to rationalize and digest.
Darcy couldn’t help but smile at her forwardness. Few women would speak of that with a suitor.
“Have you made love before?” he asked conversationally, taking another piece of gingerbread in his mouth.
"No, never have, since elves have to be in love to bear children it never seemed appropriate to do it simply out of some lustful desire. Then I took the vows of a Seraph to remain holy and that would mean to wait until the proper time in marriage before I can now anyways. Have you?" she retorted mimicking the chewing of the gingerbread still finding it woefully sweet but feeling she needed to chew on something at this point.
Ah well, they were being honest now. Darcy still couldn’t hide his smile. He spooned some more custard up with a new gingerbread stick.
“Yes,” he said. “Although it has been some time now, and I know there are no children at the cost of my lustful ways.” He flashed her a mischievous smirk before letting his expression fall back to something more neutral. “I envy purebloods for that – being in love is the only way to have children. So few humans or partbloods are prepared for the responsibility of raising a child.”
Carmelia blinked a few times before nodding, no longer in the mood for the overly sugared pastry.
"There is nothing wrong with Lust, we're taught that it's something of bad nature but clearly there was a need for it for all of us to procreate. I think that before we all huddled together this way and that people understood how to raise offspring far easier than it is today. Houses, alliances, birthrights... When I see High Feline families they always seem so upbeat despite their poverty, they party and laugh and sing and dance and raise cubs as a people... it does make me long for my own children though I make due in helping to rear my siblings into proper lords and ladies. That is one welcoming thought, for us to ever have kids they would at least have a family to help in raising them for what they should stand for."
A smile crept up on her lips innocently, thinking about children of her own and raising them for the betterment of the world.
“You would be part of all that if you agreed to marry me,” Darcy gently reminded her. “Our children would be raised as nobility, encouraged to take classes at the university, even fight in the battles that are worthy of fighting – such as the ones against demonkind.”
She couldn't help but chuckle and pat at her stomach looking down before raising her gaze. "That would be quite the legacy, to be able to see our children become warriors. However, here in the present I am not too used to such rich foods, I do believe I need to take a long stroll. If not I fear I will have some stomach issues."
Excusing herself she pulled a shawl around herself and smiled at Darcy as she began to take her walk out the doors, the fresh air of the night and the chill of winter perked her up and helped cool off the obvious redness to her face. She wasn't lying about the food but it was also getting a little intense in here and she needed the breather.
As she walked the garden quarter in the dark, she faintly heard a familiar voice. At the edge of a mixed orchard stood Elmer as he spoke in quiet tones with what appeared to be a gardener. The second man had shock-white hair, pointed ears, but the sturdiness found only in humans with dwarven blood. He laughed good-naturedly at some joke the black-haired elf had made as he turned to leave.
Elmer was left beside the orchard staring up at a tree in relative disapproval of its lateness to blossom.
Carmelia had just intended for this to be a simple walk, but she decided to make the most of it and meandered about, however slowly strolling towards the elven man. He was just so unlike his race she couldn't help but feel this shocking amount of emotion as she looked at him. She wasn't sure what in the hell the feeling was, her footsteps weren't noisy but weren't quiet.
"Something the matter with this tree, Mr Twicefreed?"
He glanced her way with a small smile, but his attention was quickly back on the tree. “Absolutely nothing is wrong with it,” he said, “aside from the fact it refuses to blossom. It’s the same age as the other trees here, in perfect health… but just suddenly stopped doing what it was meant to.”
A beat, a second and Carmelia's brain began to work as her mouth was moving.
"A late bloom can sometimes produce a more magnificent spectacle, it simply is a matter of patience, if one is to bloom early it could be over saturated with expectations, and wither as the new blooms take root. But a late bloom can provide a powerful finale to a season of beauty."
She didn't understand a single thing she just said, she just recalled what he mother said while tending to the horrible jungle that was their family's garden estate outside Everglow. Her mother grew every flower, tree, flora she could get her hands on all the live long day. Her name was a bastardization of an eastern flower one only found on places like Avamor, in the Eastern Reach, or Nagari.
The camellia was stubborn rooted in mainland aradia but somehow her mother found a way to make it blossom as it found its own comfort zone. He mother was a botanist and she would never understand that line of reasoning.
“That statement holds truth,” Elmer said.
He gave a soft sigh, then shook himself from thoughts of the damned tree. “I’ve watched this orchard grow. It reminds me of dear friends now gone and it always worries me a little when it starts misbehaving.” He gave the trunk of the tree an affectionate little pat. “Don’t grow old, Lady Relvingold. Not with humans. They’ll break your heart a million times over.”
He hesitated, then gave a shrug. “But then, they teach you many things. Like how to love, live hard and fast, and never take a single day for granted. Even we long-lived races should endeavour to have the fortitude and hope of the human soul.”
"That's something akin to what my mother likes to say whenever she's arms deep in her rosebushes, though hers is more about more plant garbage I frankly don't understand. I think I read Divankul's book on the subject as well On Immortality where he waxed melancholic about the loss of his family he actually loved and took comfort in a new fascination and familiarity with the Vennet family, though by that point he was mourning the death of Felix Vennet severely."
She had no emotion towards humans, they were patrons of the temples that was about the amount she tied in with their lives. The thoughts on this whole matter were of academics in her mind, mostly stemming through people like Elmer and like Divan who were well versed and steeped in humanity.
"Why do you continue if you have already learned from them? If the heartbreak is so great why would it not outweigh he potential for new knowledge and diminishing experiences?"
Genuine curiosity, a pureblood who knew nothing pondering a state of mind that only those who had been indulgent in the mortality of the other races could fathom.
“Because there is always more to learn, always a new person to meet,” Elmer replied. He leaned comfortably against the tree. “Their friendships are more powerful than with any elf I have met. They have this incredible passion for life that makes the heartbreak worth it.”
He glanced up. “This tree was planted by a human woman named Celia. Were she an elf, she would still be alive today most likely. Her body could have fought off the illness which took her and so many others. But without her death, I would not have known how much I truly appreciated her, how much I did take her presence for granted. With her husband gone, two of her three daughters dead… sometimes this garden is the only reminder of what it was to be her friend.”
A wetness glimmered in his eyes but did not spill. “I would ask her forgiveness for the mistakes I have made. Not that she would have ever known had she been alive today, but… I believe she would have understood.”
"That's...horrible, my apologies to dredge such horrible implications once again, I'll be on my way."
Without another word Carmellia, embarrassed and colored a bright flush began to swiftly trot away from the situation. Happening to bump into all of the man that was Drake the Lizard. She was a little shocked to see such an important man here, she couldn't fathom why he was up here instead of in town with his Lady Redoran, however the will to avoid any more faux pas with Elmer was far too overwhelming and she scooted about him.
This place had just become far more strange, not only had she met Twicefreed, but also she was now spotting a general here? Maybe she hit the proverbial jackpot? It could mend the bad blood her father had sewn in with Dul-Sansiska if she were to marry into a House allied with the Drow. Darcy was honestly sweet, and if what Elmer said was true, she might find herself utterly indulged in just understanding him as a human. However for his own points he was a pureblooded elf with strong genes and no history to call his own, that would be what her father would call a winning stud and to ditch her previous plans for a pure suitor.
However this was all just too much, Darcy had already been so romantic and shown her many a thing she had never dreamed of, Twicefreed was just doing his duties for the House he attended to - there was nothing that spoke she should pursue him. However something still stirred in her that she should do the natural thing and propose they have children, it was odd but she didn't reject the idea of it at all.
The Happy Trout, Lawoae
Sylvie Isle, Caybourne
The name of this town frustrated him. He had always had trouble with sounding out written words, but even when this town’s name was said, he felt like he needed to strangle a goose to get anywhere remotely near the right sound. His mother had tried to help him say it, but she twisted her own tongue in the process.
Both he and Gwynneth were accustomed to boat travel and mid-day was far too early to turn in at the Happy Trout. Where Grandfather Harold and his bodyguard Zlatkov were happy to sit about at the bar and drink and catch news, James and his mother had gone out on the town.
They perused an expansive art gallery, Gwynneth bought some quaint beachcomber-themed jewellery, and they stopped at a stall to try the local sylvbruuq. Gwynneth liked the strange taste, but James had to spit his out on the street with apologies to the vendor. Thankfully the High Feline seemed to think it was funny.
Another street vendor offered ten-minute portrait sketches for a few coins. So James and his mother sat still, offering the vendor double to sketch them together. That parchment was carefully rolled up and tucked under Gwynneth’s arm as they walked back to the Happy Trout.
Although the townsfolk hadn’t been invited to the Ludlow wedding, there was a Faire-like atmosphere on the streets. Most vendors were closing up with nightfall, but the bars were opening their doors and drunks were spilling in and out like the ebbing of angry waves.
James kept himself between them and his mother, using his large stature to hide her in his shadow. She was still young-looking and garnered a lot of attention with her plain beauty and luscious curls. To his frustration, James was often the only man that respected her when she was in the room. He knew why. But it was nice for once to be in a place where she was just another noble lady beside a soldier that none dared to approach.
He wore his family armor, having left only his helm back in his room at the inn. The slate grey and blue colors had caught the eye of many another noble, some of the gazes filled with suspicion while others seemed worried. His long brown hair was tied back in a messy bun at the nape of his neck, but only served to amplify the chiselled features of his face – a face far too mature for a sixteen year old.
So despite his worries, nobody hassled the pair. He opened the door of the Happy Trout for his mother and walked her upstairs, passing some young ladies on the landing. He gave a polite nod to them, only to find his mother’s room was a few feet away from them.
“I’ll see you tomorrow morning, darling,” Gwynneth said, reaching up to give him a peck on his cheek. “Be good.” He mumbled a goodnight, feeling his cheeks heat with the girls nearby to watch the exchange. But then Gwynneth was through the door and it shut behind her.
There were three of them, gathered around this little table in the lobby, speaking in worried hushed tones and watched over by a guard in golden plate armor. The oldest among them was also the most beautiful, and yet also seemingly the most anxious; there was a hunted look in her dark brown eyes, and her dress seemed ill-fitting, too loose across the chest and too long at the hem. There was one perhaps a year or so her junior, dressed in orange-and-smoke vestments, who looked to be explaining something important--she was pretty, to be sure, but her manner was too pale, too cool, too solemn by half. Finally there was the youngest, a girl about James' own age with an open, heart-shaped face and a beheaded spider crest sewn into the front of her dress which contrasted sharply with her cheery appearance. She was peering right at James.
"Hello!" this youngest girl said to him suddenly, making the other two look round to notice James as well. When their younger companion started talking, it was like opening a floodgate, and the words came out of her with startling rapidity; "You're VERY big. How big are you? Are you big as an Orc? Big as the Bloodhawk? Daddy says nobody's as big as the Bloodhawk. Who do you think would win in a fight--you, an Orc, the Bloodhawk, or Sir Tybolt here?"
That was apparently the name of their guard, who looked up in surprise and made to reply. "I--"
She didn't give him the chance. If anything, the words only came faster. "I think the Bloodhawk would win cos he has a magic sword you see it's all red and they say he killed over a hundred men at Medger's Spine single handedly and I'm supposed to marry his son, daddy says, his son's not so tall as him and that's a little bit funny I know that Aleysha Fennington do you know Aleysha Fennington you should meet her she's ever so nice but she told me that Jacques' secretly baseborn would you believe it isn't that funny but I think I'll marry him anyw--oww! Ameline, get off my toes!"
The dark-haired, morose girl had been waving at her chatty companion frantically trying to get her to stop, and had finally been forced to stamp at her foot beneath the table. Taking advantage of the pause she'd created, she turned quickly to James. "Please forgive my companion. She is...uhm...a bit much. I am Ameline Rookwood, this is Aislinn Corcoran, and the talkative one is Lucy MacNair. I don't believe we've met, Sir...?"
"He's not a Sir," the eldest spoke up, then paled slightly and put a hand over her mouth. "I...I meant no offense, my lord. Only I recognized your colors. You are the heir to Westgate, are you not?"
"Westgate? An Umbridge?" Ameline looked at James in a slightly new light, it seemed. A not entirely pleasant one at that.
Ah well, it was to be expected. After Harold’s theatrics at the Senate meeting, he’d let his hand show a little too much. It had others worried – what other secrets did the Umbridges know? Why were they interested? Although he doubted these girls even knew why the name had been shunned in recent days, some sort of gossip had spread.
“It’s fine,” James said, forcing a smile for the eldest – Aislinn. “My name is James Umbridge. The woman you just saw me with was my mother Gwynneth. I imagine we’re all here for the same reason.”
His eyes darted to Lucy. “Before I forget, I agree with you. The Bloodhawk is Stormborn and has years of experience on me. He would definitely win in a fight. As for your good Sir Tybolt, I would be honoured to cross blades with him some day in friendly sparring, but would not choose to go toe-to-toe in true battle. There’s generally a reason when a man is chosen for captain of the guard.”
He leaned comfortably against the wall, feeling it too presumptuous to sit with the ladies. “You can put me one notch higher than an Orc, however.”
"We are honored to make your acquaintance, James of House Umbridge." Aislinn's manner was still a little flighty, as if she was afraid James was going to hit her.
Tybolt said nothing when addressed, only offering a sullen look, while drumming his fingers against the haft of his halbred. James had heard a little about this man; he hailed from the city-state of Volmark on the island of Crsyantheum, a magnificent crystallized paradise made rich by its booming textile trade. They had a strange system of governance where the entire city was ruled by rich merchant-lord called Dukes, who would pick one from among their number every ten years to lead them as Archduke. Typhon was the latest to hold that honor, and though they were not a martial region, he had managed to arrange for his younger son to serve as a household knight for the Blackthornes. James had been honest in praising the man's martial skills though he might have left out that Tybolt was also known to be impatient, prickly, and singularly ill-suited to the position of Captain.
Lucy, who had been nursing her foot and pouting, perked up suddenly when he addressed her. "You must join us, James!" She pushed a spare chair out towards him.
Ameline did not look thrilled by the prospect, but Aislinn gave a weary smile and beckoned him over. "Might I ask how you know the bride? Or the groom, as it were?"
James took the offered chair with a smile. Lucy was overly friendly, it was almost exhausting. But he would take it over the cold indifference offered by the Rookwood girl. She seemed the most suspicious of them, while Aislinn just seemed tired.
“I know neither,” he admitted. “My grandfather used to have some dealings with the Ludlow Accord and they haven’t been able to get rid of us since. I’m fairly certain we were only invited because it would look strange if we weren’t there at this rate.”
Lucy leaned towards James and spoke in a very loud version of what was apparently meant to be a conspiratorial whisper. "My father says that your father caused some kind of dreadful hullaballoo in the Senate concerning Rivka, and now everyone thinks that's why you're here, because your father is up to some mischief--" there was a thud from beneath the table, and the girl jumped and squeaked. "--augghh, not again!"
"Lucy, please hold your bloody tongue," Ameline hissed.
Aislinn sighed. "She means no harm, my lord. She's only repeating what she might have heard the Bloodhawk say. I hope you know we do not bear you or your father any ill will."
“Well, my grandfather,” James corrected with a shrug. “My father’s long dead. Frankly I don’t think there’s anything to be worried about. He just implied that he knew Rivka was pregnant – and who knows if that’s even true – but it’s got everyone giving us the side eye.”
His gaze moved to Ameline. “If there is any mischief to be had, I’m not expecting it from my grandfather.”
"I'm...sorry to hear that," Aislinn said of his father. "My father never told me there was a generation between you and your Lord. He's gone too...my father, I mean." Her mouth tightened a little. "As if that's any comfort to you. And Ameline's father is still missing."
The Rookwood girl pressed her lips together and said nothing. It seemed she was far from eager to empathize with James.
When Rivka's pregnancy was mentioned, Lucy (who'd been groaning about how she'd been walking all day in heels and now this) perked up with sudden intent. She froze when she saw the look on Ameline's face.
"Don't." Rookwood said softly, her grey eyes narrowed, "You. Dare."
Lucy visibly struggled to restrain herself. She clapped a hand over her mouth, her little cheeks puffing out. After a long moment, she took a shuddering breath in, and turned her nose up. "I have no comment."
"Now that's a first."
Aislinn acted conciliatory. "We do not mean to make accusations. I am sure your grandfather is an honest man; I have never heard my father or uncle speak ill of him once."
"Are you married, James?!" Lucy's question was a sudden outburst, as if she had forcibly channeled her stifled tirade into this sudden change of topics. "If you're the heir to Westgate you simply must be married soon! Who will you pick? Claire Ludlow perhaps? Or maybe one of the Vennett cousins?" She leaned forward, her eyes bright with curiosity.
"I didn't have anyone in mind yet," James admitted almost shyly. "That's why my grandfather had me come along, I believe. Though not Claire Ludlow... my grandfather believes her role in the Accord to be too manly. Whatever that means. I reckon he just didn't approve of her being in the Senate meeting."
"I didn't have anyone in mind yet," James admitted almost shyly. "That's why my grandfather had me come along, I believe. Though not Claire Ludlow... my grandfather believes her role in the Accord to be too manly. Whatever that means. I reckon he just didn't approve of her being in the Senate meeting."
Lucy wrinkled her nose. "Your grandfather sounds funny. Daddy says there's lots of women in the Senate, so it's not a manly job at all!"
"I can guarantee you that your father didn't mean there's lots of women in the Senate in a positive light," Ameline remarked dourly. "You get exceptions like Lady Manford or Lady Karhall...just look how they treated Talia..."
"How rude of you to have a conversation about me without inviting me."
The new voice came from a figure that had appeared at the top of the stairs nearby. It was often said that Talia Blackthorne made for a pretty picture, though that did not entirely do her justice. Comparing her even to Aislinn Corcoran was like holding a candle up next to a star. Even in a satin bedrobe, with her hair pinned back in a messy bun and her eyes heavy from sleep, there was a kind of regalness and elegance to her as she descended the stairs. "I am not inclined to sleep when there are cries of distress outside my door."
Tybolt clamped a fist over his heart in salute. "Lady Sabre."
"Well we weren't only talking about you, Tali!" Lucy chattered excitedly. "We were just talking about that Senate meeting where your Uncle was dreadfully rude to you because of that Umbridge fellow, and as it happens, that Umbridge fellow's grandson is sitting right here!"
All the sleepiness seemed to have vanished from the Great Griffin's daughter. She now looked at James with a semblance of Ameline's suspicion--but there seemed to be more behind that sapphire gaze, a depth of knowledge that belied her years. "Indeed?" Her arms were folded over her breasts; the robe had slid from her a little, baring one white shoulder. She adjusted it back into place, her eyes sweeping over James' form as if analyzing him. "I overheard you saying that your grandfather thinks a woman's place in the Senate is too manly. What do you think has led him to believe this, if it is not too bold of me to ask?"
It took some aversion of his gaze to stay focused on the conversation rather than Talia's blatant beauty, but James availed himself of the others sitting about him for faces to look upon. Although he hid the slip well, he hadn't been entirely fast enough to deny himself the double-take no doubt Talia had seen.
"I can't apologize for my grandfather's behaviour, that's not my place," he said as introductions didn't seem in order. Each knew who the other was, and he was finding himself wondering if he were increasingly unwelcome.
"But I can apologize for what misogynistic tendencies seem to come with the Umbridge name. I'd like to think I skipped that particular trait among the men of my family. Harold, my grandfather, is a traditional man, set in his ways... he finds the idea of women not needing a man insulting, I suppose. Among other things."
His brow dipped for a moment. "Actually, Harold finds many things insulting. This wedding among them. But you'll have to pardon an old man for his antiquated ways."
"Indeed." Lady Sabre's gaze was stony, unreadable.
There was a moment's pause before Aislinn spoke up; the Widow Knox's tone was quiet, but sure. "Tali... whatever your uncle did, I don't think James was a part of it. Or his Grandfather for that matter. They only have something against the Accord, and the Bloodhawk used that that situation to punish you. It goes no deeper than that."
Talia closed her eyes at that, and sighed, and seemed to give off that aura again of a weariness--like an old woman's crushing weight of a lifetime of experience, behind the appearance of this young girl. "I hope I do not cause you offense, Lord Umbridge," she said after a moment. A sad smile touched her lips, and it made her seem all the more beautiful. "My Uncle is a powerful man...he has many spies, and agents, and lickspittles, and in a position like mine, one learns to jump and one's own shadow. But I think Lady Corcoran has the right, and I do not owe you my suspicion. And perhaps I do not owe it to your grandfather, either...though partially because of him, I lost a dear friend."
Tybolt seemed to bristle at that. "The hour is late, my lady."
"Just so." Talia gave her guard-captain a searching look, and some kind of silent communication or understanding seemed to pass between the two of them. "James, I must rest, so I shall bid you a good night. I apologize that I could not make for better company."
Ameline rose immediately, curtsied at him stiffly, and practically ran up the stairs to join Lady Sabre.
Lucy MacNair was a little more courteous, in her own funny way. "Good night, James! I hope I see you at the wedding tomorrow, and that you have a good wedding, even though your grandfather doesn't like the people involved in the wedding, and you dont really know that many people at the wedding, but I think it will be a good wedding--ooh I just love weddings!" And with an adorable little curtsey, she hobbled up the stairs to join her friends.
Aislinn Corcoran rose last of all. She had a knowing, sad smile on her face, in that moment looking quite the same as Talia's. "The masters of the Corcorans, House Knox, have a code they adhere to--A Knox Never Forgives, A Knox Never Forgets. I have always believed that is true of all the old martial families. You slight someone once, even tangentially, and you may find yourself never forgiven." She leaned down to give him a single, chaste kiss on the cheek. "You seem a good man, James. Give them time, and they will learn that as well." And with one final sad smile, she took her leave of him.
His fingers touched to where she had kissed him, embarrassed to feel warmth spreading across his cheek. However simple a kiss, it was a pleasant thing. As were the Knox widow's words.
Lucy was adorable but scatter-brained and obviously bad with keeping her thoughts to herself. Ameline had shown little personality, or her nature was always stony and unwelcoming. Talia was out of the picture with Titus Sabre bound to her. But Aislinn... she was sad and tragic, but sweet. Insightful even.
He hoped he would run into the girls again. Aislinn had at least taken the time to defend his position, and might make a good talking companion for the wedding. It would hopefully keep his mother and grandfather off his back for some time too.
Re: The Isles of Aradia (IC/New Settlers Welcome.)
Posted: Thu Apr 18, 2019 3:13 am
Casim stood in the sitting room of what was to be his and Rivka’s new quarters in the coming hours. Still as a statue, pliable as a doll as his ceremonial armor was fitted onto him. It had been resized and was more comfortable now, didn’t dig at the armpits as it once had. It made his body look like it was the strong, able form that Rivka needed to protect her.
He just had some misgivings about the head sticking up from the chestplate, between the gold-trimmed pauldrons. His red hair had been tamed again and again and finally greased down to keep it in place. But already, he felt a rebellious curl slowly creeping for his brow.
There was the din of chatter from two rooms over. Through the dining hall, the great hall was already milling with dozens of people. Over a hundred at least. It was more traffic than the room had endured since Keyair’s death. He’d always liked his parties, inviting friends and allies over for shindigs.
But Casim was not looking forward to this.
So as the servants adjusted the green drape of his cloak behind him, he found himself staring at his great-aunt Amayl. She had ducked in to tell Mancel to socialize with his guests, a command he begrudgingly obeyed. Now she was scrutinizing the unruly lock of hair coming loose from the grease.
She wore a deep purple gown with a high collar and long sleeves befitting a woman of her age, but still stylish enough that he knew it was most likely from Everglow itself. At her throat was a pearled choker with a green cameo at the center of it – depicting the crest of the Ludlow Accord. Rasheba had once said it was a gift from her father. The purple gown was accented by the same green, trimmed with a thin golden lining at the neckline, base, and cuffs.
“Why?” Casim asked her so quietly it might as well have been a whisper.
“Why what, dear?” Amayl said, finally giving in and reaching over to flatten the curl back against his scalp.
“Why did you write to Freyr and offer me to Rivka?”
Amayl acted as if she hadn’t heard, fussing over the clasp which held his cloak to his chestplate. Her face was drawn and her mouth tight. But she eventually stopped and stepped back, looking him up and down.
“Not much else to be done, I’m afraid. But it will do.”
“Please,” Casim asked, more gently than he wanted to. “Father and Mother just went along with it. And I don’t know why.”
Her lips tightened further until they almost didn’t exist on her face at all. Then she finally met his eyes. “Had I known this time was coming, with Amarika, with Jennifer, with Eason… I wouldn’t have. I wish I hadn’t. But I did.”
“Why?” he asked again.
Amayl made a snappy motion to the servants in the room and they quickly scuttled out, leaving her alone with Casim and his bannerman who respectfully ducked his head and pretended not to listen as he fidgeted with the banner – a guard from the Ludlow Estate. Amayl waited until he happened to catch her eye, then motioned he should leave too.
Alone, they stood silently a moment. Then Amayl sighed. “I forgot my place. I took a matter into my hands that was not mine to take, and stuck my nose where it did not belong.”
Casim blinked. These were not things he was used to his great-aunt saying. In fact, they didn’t align with her character at all.
“For a moment I fancied myself such as Keyair. He enjoyed matchmaking. Your mother and aunts weren’t the only ones he attempted to set up with good friends or nice arrangements. And hearing about Rivka… I saw the girl once, before her marriage to Jaster. She reminded me of myself at her age. Small, naïve, brand-new to the world of men and everything their existence entailed.
“When Jaster died, I took the opportunity before some other disgusting old man would. I connected her with you, because… because I know you were raised right. You’re a gentleman. You won’t do even a portion of the dastardly-“
She looked away sharply, touching her fingertips to her mouth as she shook her head. “I put her before my family, before you, with my own experiences. For once in my miserable life, I empathized too deeply. I shouldn’t have.”
He didn’t know what to say. So gently, he touched her shoulder. She didn’t resist and he pulled her into a hug. She sighed, far too stubborn to cry.
“I hope one day we will thank you.”
“I do too,” Amayl admitted. “I hope I truly did save her. And I hope I haven’t ruined you.”
Members and Honored Guests of the Heartstone Estate
The great hall was awash in festivity. Labouring all the morning, the servants had made this place shine with gaiety.
Pink, blue, and white blossoms adorned the room. Delicate flower garlands were offered at the door – even some of the hardened Ludlow Accord guardsmen deigning to wear them in celebration of their lord’s wedding. The dour captain of the guard Tazim only wore one after Elmer placed it furtively atop his dreadlocks unbeknownst to him.
From the coat room, fingerfoods and non-alcoholic beverages were offered with promises of a proper spread after the ceremony. This was to tide over those who had made the long trip up to the estate via carriage who were feeling just a little peckish.
The platform erected for the priest to stand atop was also decorated in bright festive colors. It had been covered in a lovely green rug in the Ludlow colors and was rimmed thick with flowers at its edges. The platform was pressed to the wall between the doors of the family oratory and the dining hall – the latter of which were shut for now.
Paris Kalani, the ordained priest of Aradia, stood leaning in the doorway to the oratory. He wore the ceremonial robes of a priest, but had forgone the cap that usually accompanied them. Instead his long white hair had been braided back tight to his scalp in a neat row to the nape of his neck. In his hands he held his parchments where he had noted down his sermon. A servant stood beside him, holding a small wooden box containing the ceremonial chalices that would be used in this wedding. They both watched the nobility mingling with open gazes.
The wedding was smaller than most holding this many important figures of Aradian society. In the time before the ceremony, figures milled about interacting with one another or seated themselves immediately as if they were to lose their seats. By the time Mancel Ludlow’s imposingly broad form dressed in ceremonial armor heaved up onto the platform, most of the nobility had taken to their seats and those that hadn’t quickly moved to do so.
Mancel looked over the faces before him, taking in who was here and who wasn’t.
On the bride’s side were the bannermen of House Blackthorne. The main house itself was fronted by Dominic Blackthorne, his wife, and two of their sons. Mancel couldn’t recognize everyone by face, but he knew the names on the list, the crests of their houses: Sabre, Monmoth, Manford, Karhall, Cogworth, Rookwood, Thormund, Waynrite, and Falmar. Then there were the drow, still an unfamiliar lot despite his more recent acquaintance with the people. One he clearly recognized as Xankresh Avani, but the rest of their dark faces were lost to his memory with one exception – but Drake sat beside Serenity on the groom’s side. And finally, the Vennets in the front row.
Some of the soldiers had spilled over to the groom’s side as there hadn’t been enough room. But it didn’t matter as the Ludlow side was fairly small. He was surprised to see the Umbridges at the back, but supposed they held more sway with the Ludlows than they did the Vennet side although the two houses traded regularly. Then there was Darcy Piers with his elven companion, the Piers children, his own two daughters, Claire’s new lady-in-waiting Nimbe, Amayl, and Rasheba. In amongst the other soldiers was Moxus, his huge hulking form dwarfing those beside him.
His gaze settled on the spot Amayl sat in. It was beside his own empty seat. He knew it was where Amarika was meant to be, passing back their boisterous toddler as Mancel returned to his seat. But he remembered Freyr, his eyes moving back to the bride’s side. Rivka’s mother was not present either.
Many things were meant to be that simply were not.
“Lords and Ladies,” he boomed out in his impressive voice – one that carried over waters and had commanded men. “May I present the priest Paris Kalani ordained by the Temple of Aradia in Everglow City who will be conducting this marriage ceremony of Lord Casim and Lady Rivka.”
Paris stepped up as Mancel stepped down and took his seat. The priest centred himself in the platform, parchments now gone as he made a motion to the steward at the dining hall doors. The common elf Crisben Bennett who had welcomed the guests at the docks swung the doors open.
Casim strode through, his bannerman a few steps behind his cloak. For those that knew him, he was unrecognizable. His bright red hair had been slicked back flat against his head and he sported a light beard – neatly groomed along his jawline. The crest of the Ludlow Accord was carried upon his chestplate and embroidered beautifully on the ceremonial cloak – the latter an item that would never see battle. At his hip was a longsword, sleek and well-polished. When he made it to the platform, or altar as it were, he removed his gauntlets and passed them off to his bannerman.
He turned back to face the guests. As instructed, he fixed his eyes on the top of someone’s head and began to recite his lines:
“I, Lord Casim of the Ludlow Accord, welcome you all to the union between myself and Lady Rivka Vennet,” he said, then turned towards the door he knew Rivka would enter through. His voice had come out at a good volume, but dropped in the next line. “Here comes my bride now,” he finished, making Rivka’s cue.
"Are you ready?" Freyr asked his daughter as they waited in the great hall.
"No," Rivka replied looking as though tears were ready to ruin her newly painted face, "I can't do this. Lets leave, lets just run. Casim will understand."
Freyr took her hand as if afraid she really would run.
"We have no choice." he said quietly, "Just smile, you can't let the Blackthornes see you nervous. Things will work out."
She didn't feel that way. She had been doing well keeping her resolve up to the wedding. She had been strong, she had chosen optimism. But now she felt helpless and afraid. She didn't know if it was the idea of being in the same room with Dominic Blackthorne or if it was the idea of knowing that once she drank that water she would be locked into a new life, again. Again, locked into a life she didn't control, a life she didn't know what to expect from.
The whole wedding idea made her uncomfortable. The de ja vu. The reminder of everything that had happened in the last year. It had been less then a year ago the last time she stood nervously next to her father in a white dress. Less then 9 months ago, she thought looking down.
The dress was a little more stylish then her last one but by no means form fitting. The empire skirt fanned out around her, layers of silk and rustling lace bustled softly on top of each other gracefully hiding her swollen stomach. In her hair were combs with small gemstones of Vennet colors. They sparkled against her black hair swept into an elegant braided bun, with a few wisps framing her face. She wore a necklace to match the combs. She wore another chain as well, this one harder to notice and tucked under her dress where the griffin pendent Talia had given her could not be seen. It was the last time she ever intended to wear it but she felt she needed some token to acknowledge, if only to herself, that Jaster was not forgotten completely.
She tried to craft a reply to her father, a good argument of why they should run. But she didn't have time. He gave her hand a tug, as the doors opened.
She took his arm and painted a perfect smile on her face. They passed the drow in the back rows first. Her eyes searched the attendees. She locked eyes with Maria for just a moment. She stared ahead stiffly though as they began to pass the rows of Blacktorne banner men. She felt the smile falter from her lips as she felt as though there were eyes digging into her. She risked a sideways glance before locking her eyes forward again, looking at Casim and plastering a smile on her face again.
A few banner men, including Sir Nance and Thomas Clayson, came behind carrying the Vennet banners.
And then they reached the dias. Freyr released her hand with a glance at Casim before taking his seat. He had left his second wife behind in Briochi so he sat by himself.
Rivka looked at her new husband a moment before addressing the crowd. He looked different, more like a man then a boy. She felt nervous, everyone was looking at them. She couldn't run now. She glanced at him again, could he protect her and her child? She opened her mouth and the first time the words didn't come. But she locked eyes with Casim licked her lips and said in the boldest voice she could muster.
"I am Lady Rivka Blacktorne of the house Vennet. I offer myself to you Lord Casim of the Ludlow Accord, so that my love may be yours now and forever."
She smiled shyly at Casim, feeling her cheeks redden a little before turning to look at the priest so he could begin his words she would hardly hear. She knew she needed the Lady's blessing now more than ever.
Casim returned the smile, his eyes moving across her. Not in any lewd way, just in a manner that easily spoke of his admiration for her appearance. He mouthed beautiful at her, knowing they weren’t meant to speak in this moment.
The priest looked between them, a small smile on his face. But then, he addressed their guests in what would be the start of his sermon.
“Children of Aradia. Thank you for coming together to celebrate and witness the union of these young nobles. Let us pray to our generous goddess to bless this couple throughout their life together.”
There was a general bowing of heads and some clasping of hands.
“Our fair Lady,” Paris prayed, “we welcome you into the marriage of Casim Ludlow and Rivka Vennet. It is known love is not always the reason for marriage in this realm, but you, glorious Aradia, are more than capable of planting the seed of love in our hearts. Let that seedling grow into a beautiful tree watered by your tears, that you may take the grief in life from these young lovers and allow them peace in their bound existence.”
The pause indicated the end of the prayer. Eyes opened and heads raised again. Paris Kalani’s eyes washed over the guests, his captive audience, and the bride and groom.
“It is an unusual circumstance we find ourselves in here today. With the grief of loved ones so close in the passage of time, a rare few of us wish to celebrate as is respectful of this special occasion. I know this to be true of both sides, on the groom’s, and the bride’s.
“Go into this marriage with the knowledge that the darkness will not prevail. All storms must end. And for the lightning, for the rain, new life comes forth. Do not hide from hope. It is said to be a dangerous thing, but not with you both at its hilt. Strike forward with hope into your new life together, and all that dare oppose you will fall before your steel.”
The servant who carried the box offered the chalices forward, indicating the end of a supremely short sermon. Paris gave one each to Casim and Rivka. He took a crystal decanter from the servant and filled both chalices with pure spring water. Gently, he took their arms and entwined them with each other so they each held their own chalice to the other’s lips.
“I, Lord Casim Ludlow, do declare my intentions to marry Lady Rivka Vennet. I do swear before Our Lady Aradia and the peoples of her Isles that I will be a kind and loving husband.”
Casim’s green eyes locked with her gaze. A shaky breath came from his lips, but he pushed on with the promise.
“My wife will live a life of peace and happiness, I will defend her from all evils, and forever show her kindness, love, protection, and respect.”
He hesitated, eyes flickering to the priest. “May I say more?” The priest inclined his head in agreement and Casim’s attention moved back to Rivka. Fear flickered in his eyes, but it refused to reach his voice.
“Rivka,” he said, not using her title and his voice was significantly softer so the back rows had to strain to listen. “In the short time I have known you, you have allowed me to discover new things about myself. You showed me what bravery really was. You have made me want to better myself, to be the man you deserve. I am in no way that man yet, but I hope in time I will learn that too. As we will learn love from each other. I look forward to a life spent with you.”
His voice dropped so low not even the front row could hear. “And our child.”
Rivka was a little surprised at the speed of the sermon. But both it and the prayer seemed appropriate. She was a little relieved to, she didn’t want to be up there long, she could feel the eyes examining her, trying to confirm if the rumors were true.
Their arms were intertwined and the chalices filled and handed to them.
Casim began his speech. Rivka looked at him but in all truth didn’t really listen. She was silently rehearsing her own lines. But she stared surprised as he added his own words. She smiled softly and looked down. She felt a tear in her eye. Our child. She was filled with a sense of relief, as if he had just promised her everything would be ok.
Then it was her turn and she started with the old memorized words “I, Lady Rivka Vennet, do declare my intentions to marry Lord Casim Ludlow. I do swear before Our Lady Aradia and the peoples of her Isles that I will be a loving and faithful bride. I will care for my husband in sickness and in health, and will lay with no other man so long as I am his. I shall show him naught but adoration, kindness and obedience.”
"I don't know what else to say," she added awkwardly at the end. She heard one of her cousins giggle, she never had nothing to say. A twinkle of amusement sparked in Casim’s eyes as he blushed.
"I promise to be a good wife... to be your friend... and to be there so you won't get lonely. We'll have a good life. And we'll have lots of children together... if that's what you want." she trailed off getting quieter as she spoke. Her face was a little red but she was smiling genuinely.
She put her chalice to his lips. They drank without spilling a drop.
"And with a kiss this union is sealed. I declare Lord Casim and Lady Rivka are now husband and wife, both of the Ludlow Accord, go in peace." she heard the priest say.
Her face reddened again as she leaned in, intending a quick kiss, that if it didn't contain love yet, at least contained affection.
Casim would have been ashamed any other day to think back on Elmer forcing him to kiss his own hand to get this right. But this was the moment it was meant to pay off. Such a simple thing, a kiss. So he pressed his lips gently but firmly to Rivka’s as his hands held her face. It was longer than any kiss on the cheek, but not so long as to make her uncomfortable or to force the need to draw another breath.
And the touch of her skin, her mouth to his, stirred something in him that for once made him grateful for his full-plate armor today in front of all these people. He was honestly surprised by that as he gently pulled away, trying to hide his astonishment with a quick smile.
Rivka was a little surprised by the way he kissed her. She felt the blood flow to her face. She smiled politely back at him as he pulled away, trying to stay guarded. She glanced out again at the crowd. It dawned on her then that what she really had to fear was the party afterward. She would have to be very careful what she said.
As things wrapped up and she saw Mancel coming up she quietly reached for Casim’s hand, hoping it would give her some comfort and sense of security. She felt he was sincere in his words from the ceremony that he would protect her and the child she carried.
Their fingers entwined as Mancel gave a quick rundown of where everything was – the latrines, dining hall, and the now open bar. People started getting up from their seats and servants moved in like birds of prey to shift the seating to the edges of the hall. Musicians followed up the guards that swiftly moved the platform off into the oratory, replacing it with their instruments.
Casim gently put his hand at the small of Rivka’s back, facing her. “We don’t have to dance long,” he whispered, knowing she likely wanted off her feet soon.
The musicians led gently into a piece by the great Hoven Beet, perfect for a slow start to a ballroom waltz. But no doubt they would pick up the crescendo as the night went on, the beverages were poured, and the dancing became rowdier with the progression of the celebration.
Rivka smiled at his words as if they were concealing a secret that everyone hadn't already guessed. She felt strength from his touch.
"I have to dance enough no one knows my feet are swollen." she whispered. She glanced around, no one was staring at them.
"But I'm not a good dancer so your feet might be sore soon to," she added with a little smirk. She let him lead her out onto the dance floor to begin their first dance. She hoped no one would be watching to carefully. They would have to mingle eventually but for now she could look around while she and Casim slowly moved to the music. She started to feel like she could get through this day.
Re: The Isles of Aradia (IC/New Settlers Welcome.)
Posted: Thu Apr 18, 2019 8:43 am
❧ Lady Sabre ☙
Her maids had spent the morning robing her in a gown of aquamarine satin. This was one of the finest garments she owned, hand-crafted by the finest High Elven clothiers in Brecilidia, tailored specifically for her. She'd received it for her eighteenth birthday, and this was a certain poetry to that; for his
eighteenth birthday on the very same day, her twin had received a knighthood. She could not deny that the dress made for a pretty sight. The aquamarine was slashed through with golden scrollwork in patterns so intricate it would take hours of inspection to notice every detail, and its shape left her back and the tops of her breasts enticingly bare. The corset about her waist was blood red, as was the glinting ruby set in the golden diadem over her brow; the bracelets on her wrists were gold as well, as was the choker-chain about her neck that interconnected in a tiny panther's head fashioned from onyx. But unlike her brother's gift, this gown had not come with honors or power or prestige. There was no protection for her in it, just further invitation for men's hungry eyes to crawl over what skin this dress had left bare.
Thinking of her last birthday made her sad. Jaster had been alive then, and just a knight, not a Lord. Joanna's children had been alive. Father had been clinging to life and in horrific pain, true...but there was no war. No death. No suffering. A year was such a short time for it all to vanish, really.
She started at the sound of her own name. Ameline had leaned over to her, looking concerned. She looked quite splendid as well; her jet-black hair was partially pinned into two buns above her ears, the rest allowed to hang about her shoulders, and her gown was dark grey with undercuts of orange silk. "You were glazed over," the Rookwood girl whispered, looking anxious. "Are you well?"
Talia gave her friend a quick smile. "Always."
In truth she should have known speaking to her lady-in-waiting like that would send the girl into a panic. Ameline's father had doted on her, and now he was missing and most likely dead; the Rookwood girl was likely terrified of having the same thing happen to her friends, so much so that she had apparently given James Umbridge an especially chilly reception the previous night.
Talia looked around for the Umbridge heir now, but seated in the place she'd been allocated for the ceremony she could barely catch a glimpse of the groom's side. She had a good enough view of the Blackthorne seating, though. And what a sight it made. Dominic had never been a man for opulence, which made the outfit he now wore all the more significant. Stories of the swathe of destruction he'd carved single-handedly through Medger's Spine had spread far and wide, and with the red slash-patterns across his blue coat, it seemed he wore the blood from the battle even now. About his huge shoulders hung a divided cape of black velvet, inlaid with red scrollwork in wing-patterns so that when he walked (as he had when entering the ceremony minutes ago with that cape billowing behind him and twenty Blackthorne stormtroopers marching at his heels) it looked almost like he was in flight. Gemstones of every color glittered on his fingers and about his neck, but most significantly at all was the ornament her wore upon his head; a structure of crystal spires that reflected the lights around him and reflected them in multiple colors. It looked more or less exactly like the Storm Crown that the Blackthornes of old had once worn. An act of hubris to wear such a thing, one might say. But she saw no disdain in the eyes of those that looked upon him. She saw only a peculiar kind of reverence...and fear. That most of all.
The Bloodhawk was watching the happy couple speaking their vows, while running his long, slender fingers through the length of his beard. His expression was completely unreadable. Talia wondered at how her Uncle felt about all this now. With the Knoxes subjugated, he could have ordered his troops to root out and hang the bastard pretender that claimed for Briochi, marry one of his sons to Rivka, and claim the North under his own jurisdiction. There would be no need to worry about any secret Blackthorne heirs falling from the girl's womb when he could keep such a thing so close. And yet he had not acted to reverse his decision. It gave her some kind of hope. He was still willing to let some things go...for now, at least. Goddess help them all if something changed his mind on that front.
Talia focused now on the couple of the hour. The heir to the Ludlow Accord was younger than she expected--his father was an aged man, and such men often had children in their thirties, yet this Casim was even younger than she was. As she watched him, she could not help but compare him to Jaster. The boy seemed in the grip of anxiety; he had dressed in full armor, as if he feared a hail of arrows would descend upon him at any moment, and his thin face was pale. He had the stretched look of someone who had been forced to do a great deal of growing up in a short amount of time. Despite Umbridge's insistence on the contrary, this boy had none of Jaster's power, and that much could be discerned at a glance--it took more than a bit of red hair to make a true Storm King. But those were cruel thoughts, borne of a bitterness over the death of a brother who was no longer with her; Talia remembered what Claire had said about their mother and sister, and she felt only pity for the boy Casim Ludlow. I hope you find some happiness. You have had enough misery for one lifetime.
That might yet become a reality, she thought. It seemed to her there was a mutual affection to the couple's interactions that Rivka had never shared with Jaster. Rivka looked happier too. And...heavier?
That was just her imagination, Talia hoped. But she did not like the way Jacques was whispering something to his uncle Axl, how he cackled between sentences like he knew something that everyone else didn't. At one point, she felt his eyes on her. She willed herself not to look round at him. The Bloodhawk was one thing, but his "son" was a mad dog she could no longer afford to antagonize.
Casim and Rivka exchanged drinks, and Talia reflected that the Vennett girl had made a conscious choice to name herself as both her birth name and
as Blackthorne. She wondered if that was some kind of capitulation to her Uncle, as if he did not go acknowledged in this he would rise from his seat and pulled Redwing out of nowhere and start mowing down the other guests. Then again, perhaps that wasn't entirely an unjustified fear.
The ceremony was coming to a close. Soon there would be dancing, and conversation, and drink. Talia wanted none of it. And yet she would partake, and flash her prettiest smile at those who wished her well while eyeing her chest, and get carted back to her husband's Villa at the end of it all to await the next function while the world went to hell around her.
He may be a friend to the Bloodhawk...but I must talk to Nestor. Changes must be made.
➴ The Griffin's Bastard ➶
The happy couple were swaying in the middle of the dancefloor. The guests were standing around them in a big circle. This was one of the many noble rituals that Arianne had never understood, this strange game of chicken where it seemed the first one to join the dance would lose...at least that's how she thought
it went. She had never paid all that much attention to her mother's description of how these functions were meant to go. Or anything her mother had tried to teach her for that matter.
Yet soon members of the couples' families had join them, and then the Bloodhawk moved out onto the floor. He had his wife in hand, which was a rare sight. Estelle Blackthorne had been born into the Waynrites, so she had their chinless features and tall frame, in addition to a stern and matronly manner more commonly found in members of the priesthood. The couple moved together smoothly, despite their considerable height difference, and the lights refracted through Dominic's crystal headwear would have made them look pretty if not for the coldness of their manner. The two looked like they could scarcely bear to touch each other.
Other partners moved out onto the floor. Yven Monmoth was with Briona Manford, while his heir Llewys had coupled with pretty Cecily Cogworth. Siegfried Rookwood almost made the mistake of partnering with Daena Thormund, but made a sharp right angle as the crowd drew them together and got with Lucy MacNair instead. Nestor Knox was among them as well, and the girl one his arm could only have been Aislinn Corcoran. The girl looked terrified, like she was afraid the new Lord Knox would bite her at any moment, but he was patient with her; at one point she almost fluffed one of the lifts, but her caught her smoothly and gave her a winning grin. The girl blinked, then returned the smile bashfully.
The prize couple of the floor was undoubtedly Desmond Karhall and Talia Sabre. They seemed to glide amid the other dancers like swans through a still lake, she in aquamarine, he in violet. For one of the lifts, Desmond spun the girl over his head at the center of the floor in an athletic maneuver that drew gasps and then bursts of applause from the onlookers. Arianne craned her neck to catch her old sparring partner's eye from across the floor, then made a pulling gesture with her fist. The Knight was so enraged that he almost dropped the Bloodhawk's niece on her arse.
The girl took it in her stride. Arianne had been taken aback by this twin of Jaster's; she had expected the twin to be essentially a female version of the lordling, all brash overconfidence and entitlement masking a deep insecurity. But other than her deep sapphire-blue eyes, the sister seemed completely the opposite. She was the absolute picture of composed control. Every movement, every facial expression, seemed choreographed and perfect, like some idealized vision of maidenhood. As she executed another impressive maneuver with Desmond, the onyx panther on her chest glimmered. This one wears many masks,
Arianne thought. As to whether there is substance beneath them...
Not all of the nobility were dancing. Arianne stood among the crowd, her back against a pillar, arms folded and legs crossed. Smoke drifted upwards from her new pipe, and through its veil she studied those around her. Sir Jacques, the Bloodhawk's heir, was bunched in a corner with his uncle Axl and Valus Thormund. His weaselly features were alive with mirth as he told some joke that had the others in fits of snorting, brutish laughter. Arianne liked it not at all. Just minutes ago she had seen the Headhunter leave the presence of those same men. Spinner had possessed a strut to his walk that made her uneasy. Jacques hired him for something and is rewarding handsomely. What could it be? And why has he not shared the news with any of us yet?
Arianne had meant to talk to J'Zara about it, but the High Feline was not in view, and leaving her post would risk the wrath of her charge's formidable mother.
As if her thoughts had been read, she heard a throat being cleared behind her. "Uhm...excuse me. Excuse me, Sir...or, my lady..."
She turned to see Penelope Blackthorne, the girl she was meant to be guarding, had addressed her. Briona Manford's beloved maiden daughter had turned a shade of red that clashed sharply with the scarlet of her hair and the brown of her freckles. "Uhm...I-I was just..." the girl's eyes flickered to the sword at Ari's side,then to the bow on her back. "I--I...uhh...I just wanted to...ask...if....uhhhm..."
Arianne crossed her eyes. "Bloody hell, girl. If you take much longer to say this we'll all be dead of old age by the time you get the first word out...and in my case that would be quite
an achievement. Spit it out."
The girl's eyes widened. Evidently she was not quite used to being spoken to in such a way by anyone who wasn't her mother. Perhaps it was the shock that made the words come out in an auditory blur; "IwantyoutoaskLlewysMonmothtodancewithme."
There was a pause. The Elf cocked an eyebrow. "Hmm?"
"Please." Penelope wrung her hands together frantically. "It's just...I don't want to ask him myself or he'll think I'm improper, or if I stammer than he'll think I'm some kind of dolt--"
"As opposed to asking some strange mercenary to speak for you. Which will make you look good...how?"
Penelope stared at her miserably. "Please."
"Girl, I'm the finest archer in this room, and almost as good with a sword. You own one of the largest private wealths in the realm. You could command me, for a fraction of that wealth, to perform any
depraved act of violence that could ever spring into your tiny little mind. And yet you would use my talents...to ask a boy to dance with you?"
The girl's mouth trembled. She did not respond.
Arianne gave a great sigh. I am too soft on these Blackthornes by half.
"For fuck's sake. Come on, then, let's go speak to him..."
Re: The Isles of Aradia (IC/New Settlers Welcome.)
Posted: Fri Apr 19, 2019 12:19 am
Ques Novich into Heartstone Estate
Divan ensured that everything was moved despite the fighting between the two lovers, Argavir would be here soon to talk with Vilhelm but he could no longer be bothered with this all. He had plenty of thoughts racing through his head, not the least of which being that Ornia needed to treat Reynis and needed treatment herself, so he had gotten them shuffled to get seen over and check up on while he went to handle other issues. Namely getting dressed to attend a wedding he was not welcome at, because as if he gave a shit, he wanted to talk to Freyr, get a good look at the Accord, and also pay Rivka a small visit as well. He snapped his fingers and robes of dark azure and blue green wrapped through his body. Matching pants soon joined the fray as rings adorned his thumbs, middle, and end fingers. His eyes became the familiar tint and red irised, his hair slicked and was braided into a small tail.
He was not a bit more of an imposing figure thanks to his sudden increase of muscle and so he made sure that the robes made it seem like he was still the slender and angular form he once was though this would prove foolhardy. He placed on fine suede shoes of auburn color and smiled, picking up a few anonymous wedding gifts only he could acquire and in a brilliance of light he was gone in the radiance of the sun. First step was to place everything into the holding area for gifts and the life, second was to ensure he was actively invisible to all but the high felines and those with enhanced magical senses, third he settled himself up in the rafter and watched from the shadows smiling and sketching as he watched the ceremony.
To see Rivka again, it was always a pleasure even if she didn't see him back at this point. He sketched and sketched as things went on, detailing everyone in attendance and the vows. He wanted to ensure something, and as things drew to a close he took his time with something far more personal. He used his life sense to confirm his suspicions, she was indeed carrying her child, so he got to work creating a piece for her to cherish and a note for her later on. As everything began to move and come alive he was silent and simply stayed above in the rafters, removing his magical stealth and simply just sitting quietly. There was much that would occur today if he was correct in his predictions, and it was time to observe as he packed his pipe with orc fist and tobacco and set it alight.
Heartstone Estate Reception Hall
So the day had come, Drake had finalized an internal decision an decided that this would be the day he made good on his own promises. His eyes were painted in icy blue facial pants that stretches out to his temples on either side and a stripe of white through a circle on his forehead. Adorning his ears were lade that hung on his lobes and two studs each in his upper ear, one was a set of moonstone and the other amethyst. His hair was style and he had actually worn a pair of padded boots today that looked relatively plain but were better than bare feet. It was a simply concession he made to Serenity as she said it would be improper of him to go in barefoot to attend a wedding.
He wore pants in tones of the same icy blues and greens, he wore a long sleeved tunic that actually hung loose along him of spider silk. The color was white and blue, with a symbol of a tundra drake emblazoned upon it's front. To each of his hands Drake wore a ring, one of Redoran and one of an unknown House., to everyone it would seem he was deliberately out of place but it was necessary for what came next. As the ceremony moved on he read into every motion and movement made by everyone in this chamber, there was tension to the air to pull all these factions under one roof and the heavily armored storm troopers and drow hands didn't make it any better. To allow everyone such security was an insane consideration, better to confiscate all weaponry from the grounds, he twitched slightly as he felt an unknown presence and looked about-seeing nothing he returned to the ceremony as it concluded.
As the dancing commenced, he had swept up Serenity supporting her from the bottom with his large hands and begun to dance her along slowly, comfortably, and as if there was no one there as he smiled having surprised her with the sudden movement. It made him chuckle a little as she made a face, she tried to stammer something out in a beet red face but her tongue was caught. Amayl's piercing disappointment and Darius' potent anger made Drake form one hand so his middle finger could sit upright at Darius' direction but lowered it when Amayl would see as she had done nothing wrong. He coudln't fathom why humans would be so uptight about such a simple movement. It was not as if eh was to take advantage of Serenity in this way, he kept his hands to her hips and allowed for her bottom to sit into his wrists and her arms about his neck so she would not fall.
Had he kept her low, even in her heeled shoes's she would come to about the middle of his stomach and that made him far more uncomfortable and denied him the chance to see her face despite her flustering or because of it. "It seems people find this improper, as if I were to have you come to my stomach, I will however ask are you alright. Beyond the embarrassment you're feeling of course" he wasn't an ass, he'd set her down if that were what she desired, but at the same time she was holding her own and she was being cared for like a lady should be. Drake was strong, this was nothing to him, not a straining muscle he was completely calm and looking back at her with a soft expression even behind the paints. "I know humans find this to be rather unsettling of course, but I've come to understand that sometimes it's best to melt the two cultures together; this seems to be one of those cases"
Serenity still couldn't form words, but she elegantly draped an arm along his to rest atop his shoulder, the other at her hip where one of his hands held her. She smiled and nodded. It was okay.
Maria and Garin
Maria flashed a smile to Rivka as she was passed, locking eyes with her dear Rivka to let her know it was all going to be okay. Turns out it was, which was welcoming as the ceremony moved forward and she and Garin took to the floor. Despite their familial bonds they began their waltz and worked into each other well. Garin left her to her grandfather, as he split from the scene for the moment and spotted Drake scooping Serenity up and gave him a disapproving shake of the head, to which he was given an upright finger in response as well as Darius Black it would seem. As Maria danced with her grandfather gingerly she also spotted the couple and she sighed, this whole day would be tainted by Drake going along with Xankresh's crazy schemes.
As Garin moved to chat with his son and check up on how the boy was doing, apparently no luck in getting the shy Aimee to talk to him, Maria looked back to her grandfather who was dressed n regalia worthy of his namesake. He was draped in a platinum colored longcoat with gold and silver trimmings, he wore nothing on his head today but it was polished to a shine and he was wearing a silver eyepiece instead of his eyes patch today so his runic eye was hidden but he did not look so intimidating. His shirt was a fine while blouse and his pants were a subtle black with red, blue, and green, his shoes encrusted with precious stones. A show of intense wealth out of the pirate king Xankresh.
"Before you even start with me child, no I will not get Drake out of this deal, he's mine to command not yours, so back off about it before I spin you right about" His voice was calm and collected, obviously cutting into Maria before she had a chance. She was dressed in an azure dress that was cut low so he chest was practically spilling outwards and the slits up to her hips to reveal her alchemically enhanced figure. She was adorned in painted colors of red to her lips and blue along her eyes, with the ring of Dul-Sansiska on her dominate hand and her hair set into a tight bun with two sticks stuck in to hold it together.
She made a face "Grandpa, it isn't right to marry such an innocent woman off to a boorish man like Drake, he's legitimately the worst person to give to anyone outside of Uncle. It's as if it were Rivka and Jaster all over again but with hundreds of years difference in age!"
"I'll hear of it no more child, enough, if you take issue take it up with Ludlow" with that he spun her and they continued.
Re: The Isles of Aradia (IC/New Settlers Welcome.)
Posted: Mon Apr 22, 2019 11:56 am
Collab with IP
As the chairs were shifted away and the dance floor cleared, Darcy found himself quite alone. Where Carmelia had been, now her chair was whisked away and she was nowhere to be found. Her attending was missing too, so Darcy could only assume she had slipped away for the ladies’ room.
But it did leave him in a lonesome position at the edge of the hall, watching as the bride and groom began their dance. Others joined them and he took a moment to admire Dominic Blackthorne’s imposing figure gliding about like a king.
He sighed. This was the sort of thing he had invited Carmelia for. But no, since dinner last night she had been barely a ghost at his side. And now she was… ghosting off someplace else.
Darcy liked dancing. He had the nimble steps and the smooth moves for it. To be absent a partner…
His eyes settled on Arianne and Penelope as they skirted the dance floor, apparently looking for someone. Now Arianne… she had been high on the list for some time. But truth be told despite her excellent genetics for the lineage he had in mind, she simply was too headstrong for such a thing as marriage. Loyalty? Difficult to tie down a mercenary both in business and in love.
But then, there was Penelope. He had hoped to encounter both she and her mother at the same time, but perhaps the approach of a man would simply summon the battleaxe.
Darcy was dressed in the colors of his House. Unlike some of the Ludlows, he had opted for comfortable clothes rather than ceremonial armor. He wore tailored black breeches with shiny onyx boots. Beneath his long violet dress jacket he wore a darker shade of indigo as his vest over the white blouse. From his neck dangled an amulet depicting a dragonfly in flight.
As a server passed, he snagged three goblets of wine and quickly found himself in the path of his desire.
“Arianne West,” he greeted, knowing it was not proper to address Penelope until he had been introduced, although he let his eyes slip to her as he smiled. “Lord Darcy of House Piers. You look well this evening. Here, a wine, ladies. Who is your glorious companion?”
The High Elf turned in one quick movement, her scarlet hair fanning out behind her like a sheet of copper, and her eyes settled upon him--what eyes they were, grey and green, like the forest during a rainstorm, set in a face sculpted to the pinnacle of Hrow beauty by generations of perfect breeding, and even in her rusted cheap armor one could see what a fine specimen she was...
"Fucking what?" Arianne said incredulously, peering at him and digging in one of her pointed ears with a finger.
A shame this beauty had the manners of a peasant fishwife. Her stance was cocksure and mannish, one hand resting on the hilt of her blade, and the image of swanlike elegance she might have been...but a mother, she would never be.
"My la--sir--Arianne." The Elf's charge peeked out from behind her bodyguard. "You must not be so rude!"
She stepped out of Arianne's shadow so he could see her. She was pretty but lanky, gawky, freckled, as was the way with Manfords. And yet the Stormborn blood was apparent in her, oh yes... in the unique scarlet shade of her hair, she could not have been anything else but a direct descendant of Jason Blackthorne himself. She curtseyed with the skirts of her modest green dress. "I am Penelope, daughter of Sir Roderic Blackthorne and Lady Briona Manford of the Great Riverford. Formerly... of the Riverford, that is." The mention of her father and castle seemed to have made her a little bit sad.
Arianne had been looking daggers at Darcy the whole time. She took both offered drinks, sniffed at them, then stuck them on a passing servant's drinks tray when she thought he wasn't looking. "Might I ask what business you have with my charge?" Her eyes narrowed. "Seeing as she's some...twenty years your junior, by the looks of you?"
"Bastard. I am not paying you this obscene amount of money to alienate other party guests." It seemed Briona Manford had arrived, caustic as ever. She was past forty, and yet still made for quite a sight; her dark hair streaked with silver was tied back into an elaborate bun contained within a hairnet of glittering opals, and her dress was green silk detailed with sky-blue scrollwork made in the pattern of interconnected, flowing rivers. "How do you do, Lord Darcy? Forgive my security detail, you know how overzealous these sellswords get once you wave a coinpurse in front of their nose...clear off, you."
Arianne blinked. "Are...are you talking to me?"
"Bloody hell these Blackthornes, the apple never falls from the tree does it? Well I'm hardly talking to my daughter, am I?" Manford barked. "You heard me, take a bloody walk!"
West's eyes narrowed, her ears pressed back against her head like an angry cats', and for a moment she seemed likely to knock the honorable Lady right out of her sandals. But instead she gave a stiff bow. "As you command." She turned on one bare heel and stalked off. Her hair, tied in a high tail, left a natural pinewoody fragrance in her wake, common to all Brecilidians.
Briona turned to regard Darcy, hands on her hips. "Well? Out with it then. I'll have none of this pretense of talking to my daughter out of nothing but politeness. What do you want, man?"
However much he had prepared for the possibility of dealing with Briona Manford on a good day, he was still somewhat internally set aback. He didn’t show his offense in any manner and instead gave a nod of assent at her brusque forwardness.
“I intend to ask your daughter for a dance,” he said with no uncertainty.
He met Briona’s eyes coolly while the polite smile remained on his face. He knew there was no avoiding offense with the lady, so he intended to be as cool as possible instead. Without fire and only steely determination she would remember him as steady-handed with a level head on his shoulders.
“I understand entirely if she is to be betrothed to someone and this is inappropriate,” he said with a hint of a question.
Penelope stood between them, looking back and forth, seeming mortally embarrassed and blushing right to the roots of her hair. When Darcy spoke of betrothal, she made a squeaking noise as if to speak, but her mother bowled right over her.
"Sniffing about for her maidenhood, are you?" Once again Briona seemed to have no patience for subtlety or innuendo whatsoever. The daughter's blush deepened so much that she almost went purple. The mother wagged a finger at him. "Lord Piers, do you know how many people I've had come after my Penny? I know my family are one of fallen fortune, but that does not mean my standards have dropped any lower. What brings you to her, eh? A fat dowry of Western gold, you think? That shan't be as much as it once was, I should warn you. Or perhaps you simply want the prestige of bedding a Griffin? I can tell you from personal experience that's overrated as well."
Penny covered her face with her hands. "Oh goddess, mother, please..."
Darcy’s tongue flicked at the back of his teeth, biting back a snarky comment. Oh, there were many things he could say, but none of those so forthcoming would retain the calm air he was pressing forward.
“A shame the man could not please you, Lady Manford. Though such aptitude does not come through blood, but skill,” he said with sympathy but immediately carried on.
“Stormlord blood does have its merits, but the sake of bedding a Griffin for that ‘trophy’ alone is not what I seek. In fact, phrased as such is somewhat repulsive.”
He glanced at Penny, knowing how truly humiliating this conversation must be to her young self.
"Yes yes we must maintain our airs and graces, this we know." Briona actually clicked her fingers at him like he was some kind of common servant. "Out with it, man! If you're not after gold or glory, then what is it you're after? And why should I accept it?"
Darcy took a sip of his wine just to spite her that second longer.
“I’m creating a strong magical bloodline.” He put a hand up to silence the woman before her objection could reach her lips, and without pause, he continued. “In return, I wish to aid in returning the Riverford to what it once was – if not better. I have gold, I have contacts, and I have lands about Everglow. With our houses combined, you stand a better chance of gaining power back in the region before your liege lord finds some other way to make the place useful. Which he will, most likely with or without your cooperation.”
Briona shut her eyes for a moment and said nothing. He saw another side of her then. The shrewish front she presented was one thing, but there was a leader here too...a conciliator. Penny was staring at Darcy, her eyes round as saucers. The poor thing looked frightened.
Lady Manford gave a quick, sharp inhale. "You ask a great deal of me, Piers. You ask that I must sell my Penny, my only daughter, to you as a brood mare, so that you might get Storm King children off her...but in return, you offer me something I scarcely dared imagine."
Penelope blinked. "But, mother...Sir Llewys..."
"I know, girl." Briona stroked her daughter's hair soothingly. "He would make a fine match, truly, if he would take you. And Yven is the least puffed-up of these Westerners...I daresay I might even grow to like the man, some day. But think on it, Penny. Think of our people, our subjects, crammed into shanty-towns in the City for the Bloodhawk's rats to torment...their every second is a waking nightmare, and I must do something to alleviate it. It is my duty as their leader. And it is yours as well."
Penny's eyes filled with tears as she looked at Darcy, then back to her mother. "But...but the Blackthornes can help us, too...Lord Dominic is my Uncle, he...mother, I don't want to!"
Briona's mouth, set in a hard line, trembled ever so slightly. She gave her daughter a hug. "I know, petal. I know." Her green eyes fixed Darcy with a glare. "You should know the Bloodhawk may take issue with this, as is his custom. My daughter bears his family name and so he has ownership over her...aye, and over my lands as well. Do you intend to inform him of your plans?"
He felt terrible. It was one thing to have this conversation in private with the girl’s mother, but to all but vomit these injustices upon Penelope was so unseemly. Even moreso than Carmelia, he knew he would have a hard time recovering a romance from this situation.
“I do want to give Penelope the chance to think on this,” he said softly. “So there will be a time before I approach the Bloodhawk on this matter, most likely when we are both in Everglow I will make an appointment with the man. I want you to be certain before I speak to him.”
He didn’t want to look at Penelope like that, but he forced himself to. Beyond those tears, he could feel her fear. Maybe even hatred.
“I am not a cruel man,” he told her. “And had I known there was another you fancied, I might have hesitated in this proposal. Above all else, I seek a wife that can love me as I will love her.”
Briona muttered something to her daughter, and Penny stepped back. She dabbed at her eyes with the sleeve of her dress, but when she raised them, their gaze was steady. There was some steel in her, then.
"I apologise for my behaviour, my lord." She gave another little curtsy. "I forgot myself. I am honored by your proposal."
"Good girl." Briona smiled at her sadly, putting a hand round her shoulders, then addressed Darcy again. "You are brave indeed to want to work on demon-struck land. And braver still, I think, to try and prize influence of the land off the Bloodhawk. I may be pleased to work with you."
Penny had been watching him with wet eyes, and when he addressed her, she blinked at looked down again. "I am...humbled by your generosity, my lord."
"We will keep in contact," Briona told him. "Let me talk to Dominic myself, to float the idea with him. We will let you know his answer the second we arrive back at the City."
Darcy offered them a polite bow, and pressed no further on the dance invitation. He felt like the wind had been knocked from him. “I would appreciate that,” he said. “You are more than welcome to visit my estate in the Golden Mile whenever you please, both of you. Enjoy the rest of the wedding.”
He quickly strode away, stealing a glance at Penny.
But it was all part of the process. He had hoped for that dance to learn of Penny’s life before any such proposition was put forward. To watch how she reacted to other young men on the dance floor, to see how they looked at her.
Despite all his preparations, he felt severely caught off guard. So he took another glass from a server – of which quickly told him his drink was wyvern-mead – but he waved them off. He was accustomed to the drink. And he needed something to calm his nerves after dealing such a horrible and deadly blow to that girl’s dreams.
Re: The Isles of Aradia (IC/New Settlers Welcome.)
Posted: Mon Apr 22, 2019 8:46 pm
➴ The Griffin's Bastard ➶
a collaboration with kotorchix
"The fucking nobility." Arianne knocked back another Wyvern-mead, scarcely wincing as the black liquer burned her throat. "You get some aging fop in a fancy coat trying to ply your daughter with wine and you don't even ask questions. It's insane. They're all mad." She downed yet another tankard, then rounded on the slightly terrified-looking barman when he failed to immediately follow up with another. "Come on, man, keep up! What am I paying you for?"
"It's an open bar, ma'am," the servant mumbled. "You're not
paying me. Plus, there's a nobleman standing right there.
"I know, I just don't give a toss." Arianne scowled at the party guest who was drinking by himself. "Jaxon Waynrite, isn't it? You're one of my uncle's lads."
The knight turned to look at her slowly. He was the youngest of the triplets, and his father's favorite to inherit the Waynrite lands. He had the same chinbeard the rest of his brethren did, and a pudding bowl haircut over his rheumy eyes...there was something in those eyes that made her uneasy. His gaze seemed...wrong,
somehow. "Jaxon Waynrite," he repeated slowly. "Yes...yes, that's my name."
"Drank a bit much, have you?" Arianne asked with an air of joviality she did not feel. The Wyvern-mead had made her head buzz a little, but she felt fully alert now.
Jaxon's mouth lolled open, and for a second she thought he would not respond, but then... "The Underking shall rise from the deep and the Slattern False God and all her bastard children will Burn."
Arianne's ears pricked up. "What?"
The knight's eyes glazed over, and when thinking back on it later, she could have sworn
she'd seen little plumes of smoke drifting from his pupils. But then he smiled, mechanically, like the muscles in his face were being held up by strings. "You're right, my lady, I have drank too much. i must get back to the dance." And he left her.
She watched him go, feeling gooseflesh rising on her arms. What had she just witnessed? But she had no time to think on it. Something dark closed in on the edge of her vision, and she started in surprise...but it was only Spinner.
"Do you still fear me, bastard girl?" the Headhunter rasped, the mismatched jewel eyes of his helm flashing in the lantern-light. "After all this time?"
"Don't see how you're going to get much drinking done with that ridiculous thing on your head," she told him, annoyed at being caught off-guard.
"I don't drink on the job." Spinner hooked his thumbs into his swordbelt. The handles of his blades gleamed. "I would expect you not to do the same."
"Don't be angry at me just cos you can't handle your dr--" Arianne paused, peering over the Headhunter's shoulder and realizing they were not alone. "Uh...might we help you, friend?"
A young white-haired man leaned casually against the bar with a drink in-hand - whiskey, it smelled like. He was tall, well-built, and had a very relaxed air about him despite being almost too close to them for comfort, like he was meant to be there. He wore brown breeches, sturdy boots, and a white shirt - casual attire. At his hips were a set of gold-hilted daggers.
He downed the drink, setting the glass down for a refill.
"Perhaps," he said with a friendly smirk. Although there was something dark and angry in his eyes. Something that simmered like a cornered animal. Quite relaxed, he took another swig as if he hadn't even said anything.
The Headhunter's armor rattled as he turned to face the man. The greathelm added almost six inches to his height; he leaned over the newcomer and his steaming exhalation drifted from the breath-holes like the smoking maw of a monster. His fingers drummed a pattern on the hilt of his scimitar.
"Friend," he rasped, "I am not a man you want to keep waiting. Speak your business willingly, or I'll prize it out of you."
The man was unshaken. In fact, he took the opportunity to examine the Headhunter's helm more closely as he sipped at his whiskey. "See the young girl over there in the drow's arms?" he prompted conversationally. "What are your thoughts?"
Arianne almost choked on her Wyvern-mead upon seeing the pale man's reaction. She decided she rather liked this stranger, whoever he might be. At his word she turned her head to look out at the girl. She wore a lavender-hued dress so light in color it was nearly white if not for the shadows of its skirts. She was petite yet her bared arms were not those of a flabby noble unaccustomed to exercise. She was uncommonly fit for her age and position. Her dark hair was brown but almost held a plum-like hue to it, bundled up into a delicate bun. Atop her head was one of the flower garlands handed out at the doors. Miss Serenity Piers, Maiden of Sylvie Isle.Her appearance was one thing...but her partner was quite another. Some hulking Drow, countless times her own age and almost twice her size. She recognized the man as the one they called A'Draak. Apparently he'd been present at the Riverford, but seemed to bear no marks from that ordeal. She took a moment to think of what she'd heard of recent Ludlow Accord family history, and came to a conclusion.
"I say, friend," she spoke up, her ears twitching. "That fellow with her wouldn't happen to be her betrothed, would he?"
"Unfortunately so," the stranger said, a touch less friendliness in his cheerful tone. "I am in the unfortunate position where I am without gold at this point in time. It's never served me well, it seems. But present circumstances aside I do possess other resources with which to pay you for a task."
He met Arianne's eyes, his blue gaze twinkling. "A large yacht is one. Or a future favor. Among other things." He looped a thumb through his belt. He was all but ignoring the Headhunter at this point.
Undeterred, Spinner moved between them like a metal shadow. "I would take that boat, lad. Aye, and I would take far more than that as well, if you are suggesting what I think you are." The eyes on the greathelm seemed to shine with avarice. "Killing that creature would be a pleasure, to be sure, and I could reap a fine reward from tanning his muddy hide. Yet your family is highborn, I can tell that much from your look...and so, I want your lands. A keep." The demon's head turned to regard Serenity where she danced. "Aye...and I'll take the girl as well, I think. She would make a fine prize."
Arianne, who had motioned for the servant to make himself scarce the second the conversation turned awry, did not look at them but focused on her Wyvern-mead. One of her ears was perked up--the pale man would be able to tell she was listening.
"Your friend is charming," Darius chuckled to Arianne. "I think he just called me pretty."
There was a pause. One could almost hear Spinner's patience snap, and for a moment Arianne assumed that this brief The captain took a single, rattling breath. "Do you want to know how else I took you for a nobleman? Because you don't believe in fair pay for fair work. You don't know the essentials of this trade, do you, boy? No Mercenary fights for a niggard. Mind I don't see you around again. That fair hair of yours would make a very fine trimming for my cloak."
And with that, he stalked away, his cloak of skins billowing out behind him. Arianne let the silence drag on for another moment.
"You're either very brave to talk to my captain like that, or very stupid. I happen to believe those aren't mutually exclusive things to be. You're lucky he's in a good mood...though you'd be hard-pressed to tell with that bucket on his head." Still without looking at him, she pointed over her shoulder with one thumb. "If you want me to kill that big fucking lummox for you, it had better be a big
"I imagine an even bigger favor as I don't want you to kill him," the stranger said. "Gold is only an issue as I am yet to rob anyone." He put his hand out to Arianne. "Darius Black. I believe in fair pay, but not to small-dicked dolts that like to dress up in others' skin to compensate for something. I want a mercenary with balls."
"Why, you are
brave. And definitely
stupid." Arianne lifted her tankard and examined the reflections in the metal to check that Spinner was out of earshot. She did not want her new employer to wind up with a scimitar in the gullet before they had even set out terms of contract. It was no surprise that this Darius Black had such a particular lack of fear in this instance. She'd heard the name before; a pirate of some renown, apparently, though one she had never had the pleasure of dealing with. Such renown tended to give men a kind of cheery recklessness that seldom led them anywhere good. Arianne had never been substantially impressed with those in the piracy profession--she had no moral qualms with stealing, but a lifetime of fighting fat merchants and cheap rent-a-swords often resulted in even the so-called fiercest of pirates being little to no good in an actual fight. No wonder he's paying for someone to fight in his place.
Then again, perhaps that was unfair--the stories had said this
particular pirate was fair of face, and she could see that
was very much true. Maybe there was something else worth liking about him. And so, when ensured the coast was clear, she shook his hand with ladylike mock-daintiness. "Arianne West. The Griffin's Bastard. Though I suspect you know me already. I don't have balls, as it happens, which is a problem for most."
She turned in her seat to survey the dance-floor. "I'm in the middle of another job. I can scarce afford to go without gold for a task. So I sincerely hope your cause is an exceptionally
"It is noble," Darius said as he finished his drink. "This is to save a fourteen-year-old part-elf from an arranged marriage to an old drow in his five hundreds. She is property of no one, but if none of her caregivers will do what needs to be done, I will."
He flashed her a smile, but this one was sadder than the others. "The more I watch her, the less I see of myself in her these days. I thought she was going to be a fiesty one, take after our parents. But she's been so brain-washed that she fully accepts her role as a prize sow in that brute's arms. I don't know if that spark of resistance exists at all."
His eyes stayed on the dancing couple a long moment. Then he turned back to the bar. "I am considering speaking to Garin over there as a last defense at the docks should the drow get past you. I don't doubt your capabilities - I have
heard of you indeed, but I don't know Drake as well as I would like."
Arianne's mouth twitched. The fucking nobility and their arranged marriages.
She'd always lived something of a hedonistic life, sleeping with whomever she pleased, and the thought of marriage never appealed to her--but ever since she'd been a little girl she'd seen what these unions did to noble children. The grew up to be soulless, bitter husks, forced to raise their young before they'd had any kind of life experience. All spinning wheels in a great mechanism, grinding their young up and spitting them out. She remembered Jaster's rant on the boat--the poisonous influence of his forefathers on what could have been a good man. Oh, if she could disrupt that endless grind that they put those youngsters through, even just once...the Bloodhawk would be angry at her for offending their hosts, no doubt. But she could cross that hurdle when she came to it.
As she watched the couple on the dancefloor, she saw A'Draak make a taunting gesture at Darius, while his hand was cupped in a compromising position around the comparatively tiny girl in his arms. My child,
Jaster had said. Mine.
A disgust came to Arianne then, a disgust at the idea of the 500-year-old man and the bearded old sailor in charge of the Accord signing away the life of a child...and the idea of this Drow being proud
of what he'd done, sauntering in the middle of the floor waving her about like the Headhunter with one of his trophies. Arianne detested unfounded pride. Looking again at the size and strength and arrogance of the Drow, she also knew in an instant that it was going to awfully
satisfying when she took that pride away from him.
And so she gave a single nod. "Ask the Drow if you like. But you won't need him." She stretched, catlike, a plan already forming in her mind. "Where do you want me? Name a time and place. I'll make it quick."
Re: The Isles of Aradia (IC/New Settlers Welcome.)
Posted: Wed Apr 24, 2019 2:52 am
Maria and Rasheba
Reception Hall, Heartstone Estate, Caybourne
(Collab of Skummy and Kotor)
Maria, having danced her way a bit and drank down three goblets worth of brandy, was ready to do something a little bit risky and probably ignorant. She was going to find a hot girl to chat up because she was ready to forget about her troubles with the house and her uncle and everything, for the chance to meet some new bloods that maybe weren't prudes like every bitch back in Everglow. She surveyed the hall and pulled the sticks from her bun letting her hair fall about her head as it was starting to give her a migraine. As she walked casually her silken dressed swayed this way and that before she spotted Rasheba looking somewhat bored but attentive to everything. She was build like a mountain snake, but lax at this point. She seemed the type to knock more than a few people off their step if she wanted. Just the type Maria was into, and perhaps she wouldn't mind a bit of flirtations.
Maria herself was not built up all that much, she had strong arms and a tight core from swordplay and weights but in this alchemical form they smoothed out and resembled closer to high elvish curves than the hearty packed in muscles that drow carried with them. In her normal form she could be confused with just a cross dressing man for all anyone cared, her resting bitch face and flat chest combined with her physical fitness and short stature made people sometimes doubt she was even a lady. Now she looked a picture of pure obscuran beauty like the stories of old used to talk about before most drow women started banging humans and other elves and the race had few purebloods left like the others.
As she approached finally as she cleared her throat and smirked "Hello, if I am following right I think you're Rasheba Heartstone yes? I'm Maria Mabusa, or Lady Dul-Sansiska as it were back in Everglow. Couldn't help but notice you've got nobody on your arm and I thought we could have a chat" She was not always one for subtleties, as in ever, but she wasn't going to be stupid either. The tones were there if one were perceptive, but also she was restrained as she knew the large overhang of prejudice about this sort of subject.
"You assume correctly," Rasheba said with an expression that only edged on a smile. Her gaze washed across Maria in a swift, appraising glance. Something glinted in her eyes - recognition, perhaps. "Swift sermon, wasn't it?"
Maria flitted her eyes about as Rasheba gave her the once over, smiling a bit bigger and placing a hand to her hip. "Quite so, the priest is someone with a lot of experience and a lack of cares to give upon formalities. I can respect that, what do you take of these festivities? I quite enjoy Caybourne to say the least, it feels like I'm back in Veroma it feels ancient I understand that has nothing to do with what I just asked of you, just came out by reflex" she chucled a bit annoyed that she flubbed up in such a way to make her seem as though she was wholly disinterested in the proceedings of today. That was a lie, she was happy for her dear Rivka and would be spying her out soon enough to hug on her- but the discussion of Drake had soured her mood a little bit s she bore witness to him fully entranced in Serenity Piers.
The look Rasheba gave her indicated she knew very well that Maria was on the tipsy side. Her smile became more genuine. "I myself am not ready to take part, I must admit. Where is your partner for this evening, Lady Dul-Sansiska?"
"I do not travel with one, as I am a bit of an oddity to be perfectly frank, and while I love my nephew he's a bit young to escort me about at only ten" she stole a glance as Garin talked with Saki and pushed him off to go and see Rivka and her cousins over some such of a thing. "I either intimidate others greatly or disgust them, some such of that; so I'm used to being without company, why may you be unattended to this day Lady Heartstone?"
"Haven't had the time, I suppose," Rasheba said, clasping her hands before her as she looked out at the dance floor and the sea of bodies. "Courtship hasn't been high on my priorities. Marriage is another matter entirely. And those I would have asked to be my companion in a platonic sense are taken up with trivial matters such as... flower garlands or serving drinks."
Her gaze lasted a little too long on Drake and Serenity. "I was unprepared for a celebration. Perhaps that is it."
"Heh celebrations of a sweet young girl being safeguard from tyrants" she let slip bitterly before blinking "Sorry, I have a history with Rivka, treated her like my younger cousin since she was born, I can get a little bitey about her. I'm not one for courtship and I'll never get married, so those matters don't ever weigh on me- however that is not to say I would not have partners if given the chance, not heartless. Just not exactly one who goes through traditions and rituals to attain my slice of happiness." Her eyes scanned and saw an unknown elf talking to Freyr, she couldn't tell it was her own uncle in her altered state of mind. His build too bulky, too high, and he looked nothing like Uncle. Maybe a new Hand she let her eyes come back to Rasheba.
"Odd question, but will you be one of Rivka's protectors now that she's part of the Accord? I may not know much about you but I do know you're a swordswoman by the build of your arms and the strength of your core, you're relaxed but ready to leap into action in a moment's notice even right now as we chat" her eyes had settled along Rasheba's shoulders drinking in the muscles underneath before snapping back up a shade of rose under her grey skin.
The human woman caught the drow's slip and tried to stop her amusement from reaching her eyes. "That's what I've been told I am to do, yes. Though things change, and I believe Rivka already has a good squadron of capable protectors. Thomas, Carndas, among others. But should she require a female protector, that would be me."
A smirk touched the corner of her mouth. "Shieldmaiden is the correct term for what I am. Though I can be many things should the need arise."
"That was my ancestor's title or so I'm told, 'Dul-Sansiska the Shield Maiden who turned into Aradia's Avatar and saved the people of Everglow' or something of that nature is what I was taught" she couldn't help but chuckle and shrug "Thomas is a good boy, don't know anything about Carndas though....anyone but my Uncle, he says he'll protect her always but he's never around so how the hell is he gonna do anything. Sorry that's just a sore spot right now, I think Rivka could get a lot of confidence out of you. She's sweet but she hasn't quite mastered the art of confidence. You'd be a good role model for her, you're strong in an of yourself"
"I suppose I'm a swordswoman by official stance, but it's mostly defensive styles until my brother or one of my other guards kills whatever's attacking me, I'm a bit spoiled by my father being a legendary warrior and always protecting me when he isn't off slaying demons. I think you an my Aunt Mossa would get along great if she wasn't so depressed form the incident at Riverford. I don't know if you know her but she was the strongest woman in the world and could hurl warhammers like cannonballs cross the battlefield at her enemies. I look up to her a lot" she smiled warmer now looking at Rasheba.
"What kind of journeys did you go about? You're obviously traveled, I can tell by your eyes- they've seen the world in ways people like myself and Rivka haven't"
"It all started with a boy," Rasheba said with a vague wave of her hand. "You know how it goes. Young girl falls for dashing adventurer, runs away to be with him, he breaks her heart, and she needs money to go home. So she does what a girl is forced to do in financial strain."
Maria wasn't quite expecting that answer, but she had a look about her "I think I can understand that, what might that girl have had to get herself into to find her way back home? Boys can be quite....immature about the feelings of a lady to be sure" she seemed to be little bit closer to Rasheba now, not by a noticeable amount, simply to hear better really. She had a kind of curious and excited stare to her that said a lot.
"It was prostitution or mercenary work. I chose the latter. Thank you, Mr Bennett." The common elf had just whisped by, depositing a wine in Rasheba's hand and a wyvern-mead in Maria's. Rasheba turned her attention back to Maria as she took a sip. "I liked my work so much I didn't go home for several years. Kept making the mistake of falling for adventurers, though. Vices are a cruel thing to beat."
"That...they can be" Maria sighed and smiled waving at the steward, appreciatively for the booze "Mercenaries are the lifeblood sometimes of a functioning balance of power, and it's not exactly a bad thing to fall for others. soon enough one may find exactly what one needs after enough bad ideas come round" She downed half her wyvern mead in a gulp happily "I'll bring it straight to the point I suppose then, you seem like an upfront woman- if I were to propose we spend a bit of time secluded form others getting to know the other better in the way you're probably already well aware of, what would be your reply? Don't worry, I'm not some babied little noble girl, I want your honesty" while she had gotten a little closer to drunk she was still very coherent but her cheeks had begun to flush. Her eyes locked into Rasheba's, a serious expression searching for an answer from this woman.
"Some babied little noble girl wouldn't even ask," Rasheba said matter-of-fact. She was quiet for a long moment, her expression neutral as she seemed to think something over. She took a long sip of wine, mulling her words about in her mouth. Finally, she made eye contact with Maria again.
"I have never loved a woman, nor her body. I've never tried."
Maria's eyes seemed to droop heavily as the silence wore on, it was a weight that she knew all too well but they snapped back as hey eyes met back to Rasheba. "That is....an interesting and honest answer, not one I would have thought to be said. I hazard a guess as to what you may think of me personally then, you've only now just met me-do you fancy what you see?"
"You're certainly an attractive young lady," Rasheba responded. "You're bold. You know what you want. But that is where I have my weakness - I don't know what I want." She finished her glass of wine in one very unladylike gulp. She set it down on a passing server's tray. "Come," she said, taking Maria's wrist and leading her across the ball room, dodging dancing couples.
They passed through a door beside the open bar room leading to a corridor. They took a series of quick turns before Rasheba dragged Maria into a neatly organized linen closet. Some mops were resting in a corner and the walls were lined with shelves of clean linens and blankets. Still, there was enough room for at least eight people to stand. Rasheba closed the door behind them and turned to face Maria.
She looked uncertain, her eyes darting away like she wasn't sure she was comfortable doing this. But they were alone.
"It's quite normal not to be sure of what one wa-" she quieted as she was led off to a secluded area and smirked but saw the nervousness playing across Rasheba's face, sighing and placing a hand on Rasheba's shoulder "Rasheba, if you are not comfortable then don't push the subject, you seem to be at a loss. Drow can be pretty empathetic, we've seen it all and feel the emotions pretty strong. Do you actually want to continue this? Or would you rather talk about what's weighing down that beautiful mind of yours, because not only do I see anxieties but also a bit of guilt behind your eyes, like you don't want to let yourself explore when there's work to be done" Maria's alchemy was still imperfect and she figured she had about fifteen minutes before it finally collapsed or she took another dose, it felt as though she could shrink back any moment and she was wary to keep that in mind.
The woman stood there uncertainly before almost collapsing against one of the linen shelves in a relieved slump. "I am honestly curious, but you're right. I just... can't bring myself to relax. With even a more familiar masculine figure. I haven't been able to in... years."
"Hmmmmm, well I'm not exactly pushy, so that's all okay dear. However I'd like to hear what is weighting upon your mind. As for your, lets call it short term celibacy, I'd wager you need to let go of some of the responsibilities you're pushing down onto yourself before you crack and let your hair down. Not precisely with me, I'm not implying that, I mean in a general case you're going to break if you wind up too tightly." She had a softer smile now and decided it to be better to let the alchemical reaction tick down in this time if she was not on a mission of thrills it would serve to return to her normal form in a small time and pop back in when she went back to socializing.
Simply put the reaction wasn't always comfortable for long duration
A smirk passed Rasheba's lips at the use of 'short term'. But she seemed a little more comfortable in her skin now that the pressure was off. She could have outright turned Maria down, but she was fighting with herself over whether it was the right thing to do. For now, it was.
Whether she would find herself comfortable in the arms of another woman was a question for another day.
"I don't know why I'm even talking about my lovelife," she admitted with an embarrassed touch of her hand to her face. "It's such a menial affair in the great scheme of things."
"Is it now? There's nothing menial about healthy relations and affairs, all mortals need to vent their sexual frustrations and find themselves in intimacy. I can understand your embarrassment, no offense but humans aren't exactly good at this stuff, you're of a culture of high and tight barely touching one another, barely mixing in with one another except on a wedding night. Of course, I'm not saying you're this or that, but seems that you don't have an outlet to speak up, where drow tend to let ti hang out. Indulge me" Maria stayed a comfortable distance away fro this woman but was also pressing on her to release some of her built up frustrations, knowing it wasn't good if she just kept it sealed tightly "Besides I'll trade you tit for tat and answer whatever you ma wish out of me in return"
"My sister died recently, and her daughter. Her youngest son was kidnapped. I know there are people out there searching, but it feels wrong because its not me out there. I... I feel this... I feel there is no peace until I have at least found the boy. I doubt it will be my pleasure to kill the murderer of my sister and niece, but that small mercy would just... be enough."
Maria's lips hardened into a line "I see, so that why the Ludlows were headed to Ques Novich; much as I hate him my uncle is not one to let this go...If you wish to find him so badly why have you not? Is it a matter of security for the estate? Or that you cannot seem to make a decision and felt tortured by the fact you don't know which route to take in life. My sympathies for your family and you of course, that goes without saying, I will not press in on that as I'm certain you do not wish to have some stranger digging about"
"I've been ordered to be Rivka's bodyguard," Rasheba explained. "Had I been here at the time, I would have set off immediately in search of him, and the murderer."
"I see, a silly question, but do you trust in others to return the boy and to find the people responsible? If you feel strongly to the contrary it may be of note to speak with Mancel to be allowed the chance to track them. I simply put this forward because you are one guardian, and for the foreseeable future if it is not to be stopped, this place has General Drake to guard it. Rivka Vennet is my dearest friend, I can make arrangements to have a Mabusan take your place to guard her day and night if it means to allow you a chance to fulfill your want. If you know anything about us Mabusans its that we take pride in martial service and she would be a top of the line bodyguard" Maria was dense sometimes but caring, she didn't understand the full depth of what the issues were and had a very superficial point form which to stand on the matter where her family would have a more nuanced way of perception. Her face was clear she meant the best intentions, even is misguided.
Rasheba vaguely waved the notion off. "I appreciate it, Maria. But the trail is already cold. Until more news arises, there is nothing to be done."
She was silent a moment, resting a hand on one of the shelves as she idly picked at a loose thread of a blanket.
"Is seven years a short time to you?" she finally asked. "For celibacy, that is."
"Biologically it would technically count as one year for me, so yes years are like snapshots of time in the fact of a near century of life. Is that how long you'd had to do without?" Maria dropped the rest of the subject handily when told, but still had a caring expression as her body reverted to her small stature and her body had a hard time clinging to the dress now "Don't mind that, my body change wore off is all" she held the chest up with one hand fully still rapt in attention
Rasheba blinked as the magical mask fell away. Her mouth opened for a long moment, silence filling it. But then she seemed to come back to her senses and shook her head. "How long I've... chosen to do without," she corrected. "Have you ever experienced something so... drastically world-shattering you just can't return to doing anything like it again?"
The linen closet door snapped open and Crisben Bennett stood there, mouth agape. "Uh... excuse me, ladies," he apologized. "I just dropped in for some... napkins."
He awkwardly edged around Maria, reaching for a shelf. Retrieving what he needed, he scuttled out again with a blush on his features.
Rasheba smiled awkwardly. "Never mind. Come, let's return to the party. But first, perhaps we should... fix your dress."
Maria smirked "Fair enough" at the correction, but before she could answer the small embarrassing interaction through and she chuckled "Oh don't you worry" the child sized elf reached into a pocket within one of her breast areas and pulled out a tiny cake like substance wrapped in cheese cloth, she unraveled it and allowed her dress to fall away for a brief moment before hiking it back up and returning to her gracious elvish appearance "A small frame is good for a fight, but in social instance I've had one too many people refer to me as little girl that I devised this for social events" she straightened her appearance and smiled
"Rasheba, I'd like to keep in correspondence afterwards, if you would not mind such"
Rasheba's brow quirked at the wardrobe malfunction but there was little other reaction. "I don't mind at all. I could always use the penmanship practice."
"Ah lovely then, my own is a bit lacking even as I write up official documents, never understood ow people do that. Otherwise we should get going before someone less refined as dear Mr. Bennett come across us" With a smile and a whisk she began to sashay back to the party, with only the lightest teasing to poke the implication of future romantic involvement to play in Rasheba's mind sometime in the future.
Rasheba shook her head and returned to the grand hall, another glass of wine pressed into her hand by the common elf steward.
"How did you know I needed one?" she teased as she knocked it back like it was a shot.
Divan and Freyr
Reception Hall, Heartstone Estate, Caybourne
(Collab of me and Dinth)
Divan saw his opportunity as Rivka had to dance about and socialize to finally step to his friend, or rather who he still hoped was his friend despite what he had done. In a muted flash he was in front of Freyr who seemed to not be in any true amount of business or discussion, simply alone with his thoughts. Divan's hands were arisen in a surrendering fashion to show he was not here to begin a shouting match, he had certainly changed since Freyr last saw him. Though the change was certainly muted as he was presenting far more normal than how he would otherwise for the benefit of not causing a scene. However under the robes muscles could be seen and he had possibly grown a complete foot enhancing his position.
"Hello Freyr, we haven't had proper discourse in a number of months and I felt this would be the only time I'd have you unable to refuse an audience with me. I'm well aware you didn't invite me, but then again if the Void can't kill me, there's no way I'd miss my niece's wedding" He paused and lowered his hands letting the statement sink in for but a singular point of time "I came to offer my apology and an explanation, for everything, and to let you know I will no longer aid Vilhelm....and I notified my brother to handle the matter if at all possible. I saw him for what he was in a moment of him seething at one of my nieces, Aoria, you've met her in passing a few times. That opened up my eyes as well as the odyssey I embarked on late last year after the Riverford fiasco"
Divan had a solemn face, a show of his true personality without the dumb veneer of the perfectly optimistic noble "I was an idiot, I think it began when the plague hit that I just went completely insane because more of my family was taken from me and when I saw you hand off Rivka to...that asshole i snapped and took it out of the very people I love so much. That doesn't excuse my actions, and this motion hardly makes up for it, but I can't help but want to have my family back and protect you as I assured Felix I would. That's kind of hard if we're openly hateful towards one another and not speaking about how fucked this entire situation is, but you have every right to hate me as much as you want because I was just as bad as the Bloodhawk when I gave Knox the chance to besiege the Riverford and let my guard down for but a moment for Rivka to be attacked while my back was turned"
A pause, a licking of the lips "Whatever the outcome, Rivka will never be without my protection again, even if I take a backseat to the Accord she will always have me for the rest of her life to destroy everything that may come against her. As will everyone in Briochi, it is as much home to me as Ques Novich if not more”
Freyr looked at him with a stern but sad look in his eyes.
“I was a fool. “ he said. "after I lost Tevon and Marina. It just felt like everything was falling apart. Briochi never really recovered from the plague, so much was changing, I didn't want our house to disappear, to fade away. I didn't want to destroy the legacy my fathers left to me."
"I wasn't just trying to be selfish. Rivka, she always wanted to marry a handsome knight, she always said so." he glanced at Casim and laughed mirthlessly, "She deserves to be the lady of a great house. But maybe I was being selfish. I knew the Blacktorne reputation, I knew Jaster was said to be a womanizer, that he and his whole family could be haughty. But I thought Rivka would be happy anyway. That she could make him love her. I thought who wouldn't want a woman like her as a wife? But I should have known Dominic was using us. Lord Blackthorne's assassination at the wedding, the war that led to Jaster's death, then the sudden alliance, everything. It almost seems like it was all planned, like Rivka and I were just little pawns to play our little part in the Bloodhawk's grand chess match."
He turned to Divian and sighed, "But you played your part too. I should have seen Lord Dominics back stabbing coming, but yours? After all the years you've known me? I don't know what your playing at now but I won't be your pawn either. Rivka has Casim and the Ludlow Accord to protect her. She has Maria, she has me. We don't need you. I' won't set myself up to be betrayed again, and Rivka is not a pawn."
Divan sighed deeply and shook his head "She was never a pawn, she is my everything, she is who I fractured my soul to save in those dire hours when I could not save that sweet little boy and that woman you loved. She is what reminds me of my failures of your friend when I should have been watching over you like I promised Felix I would. There is no game, no play, it is finished. I went into the Void and became one again, I got to rescue my daughter from the clutches of the demonic, I have my baby sister back home resting. The fuck else could I be playing at? I made my mistakes and I'm owning them" he stood firm, his eyes sullen and tired of this fighting, he could see all the pain he had inflicted on Freyr and it broke him.
"You are under no obligation to forgive me, to trust me, to give me an opening. You should understand this has never been some overarching plot, this was me being an immature fool because I felt used up and discarded. In a moment of weakness a little weasel found his way to me. I ruined everything, I am the end of all things, and I destroyed what family I had with my reckless abandon and rage. I am sorry, and if you truly feel that way- that you do not require me to defend you as I have for decades, then I will simply take my leave from your lives forever and be on my way." a pause, a break in the indulgence.
"This is all my fault, and I will carry that weight, so do not blame yourself in this end. You did what you felt was the right decision with what options you had and in a place of utter darkness I lived in for a century. If I can do nothing more as your friend, then let me at least shoulder what pain you have on my own so that you can move on and rebuild Briochi without this darkness continuing to haunt you. With that I will take my leave and be gone from your life as you request, for good, so that you may forget what pain I brought in my hour of arrogance" Eyes of pleading, wanting to help one final time, honestly in his face, Divan was offering a chance to take on the penance of these dark days. He was sincere, he would disappear form Freyr's life, from Rivka's-everybody's if that would help heal the wounds he sowed.
Freyr just stared at his oldest friend for a while. Divian had warned him the marriage into the Blackthornes was a bad idea and he hadn't listened. He remembered how Divian had held him after Marina died, all the effort he'd put forth to save Rivka, how they'd grieved together over Marina and Tevon and all those who hadn't made it. He didn't want to lose him.
"Your not the only one who made mistakes." Freyr whispered looking across the room at Rivka and her new husband. "I can't blame you for everything."
"I'm sorry I ignored all your advice." He turned back to Divunkul and looked him in the eye, still speaking quietly, "Was this a mistake too? What other choice did I have? I couldn't send her back to Briochi with Vilhelm making his bid for my place. I had so little time, I had to take the first opportunity I had. Everything has gotten so out of control, I need all the friends I can."
"I will choose to trust the Accord, trust the fact that Mancel and Casim know loss just as painful as the two of us know all too well. You made the right call this time, the Accord will be a great ally, you've met Drake correct? Know he's betrothed to the Serenity Piers? That means that you'll have the full might of the entire Drow backing you and not just Maria and Ques Novich, I think....I think this is where Briochi turns over and recovers" he faced Freyr, searched the man's face for a moment and sighed more
"You did what you could with what you had, and now it's time for the hard part. Letting her go and trusting the Accord to not give in to the Blackthornes who will most certainly try to bully them as the same as the do everyone who is not the Drow. Rivka is old enough now that she's ready to understand the world is hard, to fight for her right to bear her child and raise them. Casim is a good boy, he wants to raise that child as his own with Rivka. He's not a coward, he's shaking but standing strong, he's got bigger balls than I ever did and by Aradia that means something."
"I think Rivka can be happy here, it's not too far from Briochi, and Maria Vale is a bustling mini Everglow. She's not so fragile as to break, I can't tell if it's because she stared death in the face and walked away once before but that Lady of yours has the heart of a damned drow to weather all of this."
"Beyond all that Freyr, are you going to be okay? I fear for your health, the fact you're still with that....well I'll put it kindly, that loveless wife. I know the Vilhelm fiasco has put a weight on you, but I will assure you that if Argavir does not solve this by the time you have gone back to Briochi then I will guide Maria on the pathway to fixing this. However that is but a recent development of the past six months, you have been fading for years now. I need to know if it can be overcome, and if not what do I have to do to save you" his face was more serious now, they were not fixed but their genuine discussion had awoken Divan's long held need to keep Freyr safe and functional, he had turned his attention form Rivka now to the man in front of him regardless of how the two were in standing this moment.
"You'll tell me then when Briochi is safe?" Freyr said, "I thought it would be years before she could ever go back."
He looked across the room at his daughter again, "She will be happy. She always finds a way to be happy. I'm the one who's always lost in worry.I don't want her to have to grow up, Divian, to carry all that worry on herself. She's still a little girl in my mind. But she's not a child anymore, she can't be one. I just hope she finds a way to be a woman like her mother, that she'll think and live like Marina, not like me."
He smiled, "If she does Casim will be a lucky man."
Then Divian switched the conversation to Freyr.
"I don't know if I'll ever be alright." he conceded, "My second marriage that was another of my mistakes. She flaunts her affair and what can I do about it? I never tried to love her, she never tried to love me. I know it makes me look weak. Maybe I am weak, maybe that's why she does it. What does it matter though? There's nothing you can do to save me, I'm dried up and alone now."
"But if Rivka has a son..." he whispered.
"I can't put that all on her." he shook his head. "All I have is my people, Briochi. I betrayed them in hopes of a legacy. That's where you can help me. I need to rebuild their trust, an heir is useless without a land and people. The Blacktornes aren't our only enemy... the demons. Is this whole world doomed? What can a man like me do?"
"I'll be letting you know when I can claim it safe, yes, but that could take me months beyond simply removing Vilhelm. Marina was the best thing that ever happened to you Freyr, she reminded me of Reynea. She was such a sweet child. I watched the two of you grow up you know, it was cute, if Rivka is even a fourth of her mother there is hope for us yet" he chuckled the last bit out and sighed as Freyr detailed ho not good he was and how not alright everything was.
"You're a man in your forties, you've got years left on you Freyr, annul the marriage and get her out of there. Show her you're done with being a punching bag you both can't stand the sight of the other. find someone you actually like and go from there. You have time, don't waste it, and you're not alone, just because I choose to not love after Reynea doesn't mean I cannot, it means that nobody can replace her in my heart. If that's how you feel stand up and be at peace that you still care for her memories and hold them dear always. Carry them in pride doing what she would want from you, and don't worry when you fail, that's what I'm here for."
"As for your people, you're not the only one to have hurt them. I used my position to let Vilhelm sink his fangs down on their exposed neck and for that I'll have to repair what I exploited in my own way. I doubt anyone views it as that, they just know me as a kind old man who cares for them deeply. Some who are loyal to you view me with a disdain, and that's proper. The best way we fix this is ousting any remaining Blackthorne influence and reinforcing the solidarity of Briochi, we remind everyone we're in this together." he paused and brought it forehead to Freyr's, a gesture well known as the symbol for unconditional love between drow, mostly used between parents and children or siblings, with a kiss being added between lovers. He patted his friend lovingly on his shoulder rising back up.
"Demons are one thing, I invaded the Void and I can do ti again if that's what it takes to save this world. So you let me carry that weight on my shoulders, so long as there are drow there is hope against all demonkind. Arkon is another matter, but all said and done they want into the Vaults, they want Ques Novich. Blackthorne will never breach the Shield, that wall cannot be broken by mortals. So I say this, even if the entire world is against us I'm not backing down to play in the mud, I'll rise back up and fight like a Drow."
"I think it best you try to encourage Briochi accept outsiders, and that I work on getting the country a stimulus set up to help gear you for working with the Accord. Bringing funds will help repair some infrastructure and entice others to come for healthier wages and a better life in Briochi, especially when you're being backed by the owner of the Maiden's Shield Trust Bank system. You will be able to tell your people that you and I reached arrangements to start rebuilding Briochi to be better and brighter than ever. Or at least that's a theory I have on the matter"
"I suppose I could go after one of the Blackthorne bannerman's girls" Freyr joked, a rarity for him.
"No Divan, I don't think I'll remarry." he said shaking his head. "even if I did get rid of Allana. The practical thing to do would be to find some low noblemans daughter, some girl about 22, plain and unpretentious to bear me a couple of sons then live out her life comfortably as I aged and wasted away. That would probably be what's best for Briochi, but not what's best for me."
"All this serious political talk," he said, "This is a party, this is a party for my little girl. Old folks like us we may be fading away, stuck in our loss and sadness. But Casim and Rivka, they're the future and lets hope a joyful, peaceful one with no more sudden loss for either of them."
He looked over at Rivka who had taken a break from the dancing to sit and drink some water. She was smiling and laughing as she spoke to her husband and a small group of well wishers around them.
"They’re so full of hope." Freyr said with a genuine smile.
“You truly have the heart of a drow, my friend” a very genuine compliment was for anyone to be refer to as drow by a drow, a high honor to be considered one. “Live your life to its fullest then, but don’t cower behind self-deprecation, be a bold ruler in the time you have and live it up.” as Freyr pointed out they should be having fun at a party and how bright Rivka and Casim seemed Divan started to laugh, and hard.
“You’re not old and I’m only in my thirties!” He joked back still guffawing at the whole situation and letting the serious tones wash away “Go and enjoy yourself Freyr, I am going to have some fun of my own, I’d suggest you still socialize and get out there. As you say, tis a party!” with a firm patting of the shoulder Divan spun about and lit up his pipe. He jumped up over the length of the hall over the party guests and landed among Xankresh and Maria returning to the party after her rendezvous with Rasheba.
The looks on their faces were priceless as he set his eyes a lite, he puffed some smoke as he left the hall and entered outside so as not to fill the party with obnoxious narcotic smoke. He was not yet ready to meet with Rivka and face her, and honestly he wasn’t even invited so he was more interested in surveying the grounds.
Re: The Isles of Aradia (IC/New Settlers Welcome.)
Posted: Thu May 02, 2019 6:39 am
❧ Lady Sabre ☙
a collaboration with Dinthalion
She changed partners; from Desmond Karhall all in indigo with a cockatrice feather on his hat, to Willem Worcester in his purple-and-yellow finery, to the Bloodhawk's younger son Geoffrey who was as cheerful and unlike his supposed father as ever. She longed to be paired with Yven, or Llewys...or Kavin. But it seemed the ebb and flow of the dance constantly left any of her friends a step away from her. One time, when a Blackthorne guard pushed into the crowd to forcibly cut between herself and Llewys, Talia began to find it a bit suspect.
I am being watched.
The Bloodhawk's eyes were on her. It seemed he considered this odd variation of solitary confinement to be part of his punishment for her. It seemed not to be enough that she was not allowed to contact her allies--it went so far that she was not even allowed to be near them. She became to used to the idea that when she suddenly found herself paired with Nestor Knox, she nearly tripped.
"Good evening, Lady Blackthorne." Nestor's smile was charming, but as ever, it had that wolfish edge. "That is a splendid dress. Elven, is it?"
They pulled into one of the turns, but Talia had gone stiff as a board and barely even followed the steps. Her words came out in a hiss. "You lied
"Slander. I would never lie to you, dear." Lazily, he corrected her positioning by putting one hand on her hip--she almost slapped it away. "Everything I told you was the truth. I promised you my brother's head, a more united realm...have I not delivered both?"
Talia tried to keep her composure, and failed. She pulled away from the Grand Warlock sharply and stalked away to leave him alone on the dancefloor. She pushed between a pair of knights, breaking free of the situation...
“Rude of you to leave so suddenly.“
Talia jumped. Improbably, though he hadn't followed her, Nestor had appeared by the pillar next to her, leaning against it casually.
“I think it's ruder to use magic in a public place like this.“ She tried to keep her tone even but was furious he'd gotten the drop on her once again.
“True. I'm sure it won't please your Uncle's bannermen. Hmph...my fellow bannermen, I ought to say.“ Nestor clicked his fingers and a long, ivory smoking-pipe appeared in his hand. “It is a part of my identity, however. Much as it is yours.“
“Keep your voice down! If my Uncle finds out...“
Nestor snorted derisively. “I haven't been spilling your precious secrets to Lord Dominic, I assure you.“ With one hand, he made a beckoning gesture to the flaming sconce on the wall; the twisting orange fire seemed to bend to his will, twisting its way down to his pipe to light it, then snapping back to its last position. “When we first met you had cause enough to distrust me. I have been working towards this from the start, and in order to achieve what we both agreed
was the best outcome--“
“Is this the best outcome?“ Talia gestured around her. “I have yet to see proof that it's so. What I see is you working with my uncle to form a hegemony, one that you used me to help accomplish. It's awfully convenient how the new Mannister and Highcliffe alliance has been diverting money to the Eastern Reach as you all slided into Blackthorne ownership. Why, it looks as if the plan was to personally enrich the Three Towers all along.“
The Grand Warlock's eyes gleamed. “You're too clever by half, girl. I know I've upset you, but it was not my intention. Let me make it up to you. Your uncle's stormtroopers have been tasked with isolating you...so pick someone you would like to talk to. You have one choice.“
she wanted to say. But it only took her a second to realize who she really needed a moment alone with. “...the Bride. Rivka.“
“Well, go and speak to her then.“ Nestor turned away, exhaling a cloud of multicolored smoke. “Don't let me keep you.“
At first, Talia was puzzled. But when she turned to look at the high table, she saw the nearest guard; he had sagged against his halbred, eyes flickering shut. Tentatively, she stepped past him, and he did not move to stop her. She kept moving, then, keeping her pace even and quick. One by one, almost by magic, the obstacles in her path seemed to drop away. With a deep breath, she smoothed her skirts and approached the bride.
"Greetings, Lord and Lady Ludlow." Talia took care to use Rivka's new title, though it sounded strange to her own ears. Rivka had never truly been a Blackthorne, she thought and seemed a Vennett even now; maybe this new identity was one that would welcome her better. "I know the past months have been trying for the both of you. I wanted to personally express my well-wishes, as well as those of my sister-in-law Attia, who could not be here."
Privately, she doubted said sister-in-law even realized that Rivka was getting married. The woman lived in her own little world, muttering about mirrors and talking water to herself, completely oblivious to the realm collapsing around her. Talia was thoroughly grateful for her absence, both to spare Rivka the sight of her, and because she could not imagine the burden of this next part with a prying rival at her side.
She took a long breath in. "Rivka, I was...I was wondering if I could speak to you for a moment. In private. Just about...about our old family."
There was no way to completely avoid her old family at this party and Rivka knew that. But there were so few of those affiliated with the Blacktornes that she actually knew that it was easy to keep the interactions to quick, shallow exchanges of pleasantries. She hoped to deal with Talia in the same way. She didn't know if her former sister-in-law was an ally or a spy to be feared.
"Thank you Lady Sabre." Rvka replied to her well wishes with a forced smile and a desperate attempt to hide the nervousness she felt. "You look lovely. I love your dress."
In the back of her mind she wondered, would her daughter grow to be beautiful and graceful like that? but she reminded herself to keep her mind from wandering. It became apparent quickly that Talia would not be deterred by idle talk of fashion. The smile faded from her face and her nervousness became apparent for a moment. But she couldn't turn her down, she knew she could politely beg the conversation off until later then avoid her all night, but she felt she needed to hear what Talia had to say. She glanced at Casim then quickly around at all those near them. There were so many guards.
"Of course." she said with a soft cautious smile. She took a few steps away from Casim but kept a distance from Talia as well as she looked for somewhere they could speak.
Talia brought the girl to a little cove betwixt two pillars. There was a couple there, a knight with some handmaiden, he with one hand resting on her leg as he whispered in her ear and she giggling like a child. When they saw who had come to claim their spot, however, they became immediately solemn and made themselves scarce rather quickly. The man gave Talia a disgusted look as he went, like she was something he'd scraped off the bottom of his boot.
Quite a reputation I'm building for myself.
Talia looked about anxiously to ensure there were no prying eyes upon them. She had virtually no doubt that there were, and knew also there was no way to hide from them short of magic. She wondered for an instant how Rivka would react if Talia produced an elaborate mirage charm right in front of her. The North was not as unfavorable towards witchcraft, she knew...how desperately she wanted someone to confide her secret to, with Jaster gone and Kavin captive by duty. But Rivka was still only a child, and had suffered enough without the added burden of this knowledge. But perhaps it was that desire to share a secret, however, that was key here. Talia was sick of this uncertainty. She needed confirmation.
She took a deep breath. "I...there is no proper way to..." She shook her head, forcing herself to stay calm for the girl's sake. She put a hand on the bride's arm. "Rivka, you know you can trust me, don't you? You've seen how my Uncle treats me, you know he is no friend of mine, that he will not hear a thing I tell him...so you know that if there's...if there's something...something you wished to tell me. Something that you feel I needed to know. About Jaster, perhaps. You can say it to me." She gave the girl a silent, pleading look. "Please."
Rivka’s eyes drifted downwards as Talia spoke, she still watched the young woman’s mouth but she couldn’t make eye contact anymore.
When Talia finished she was silent for a while. She licked her lips nervously and touched her face. She opened her mouth as if to talk but changed her mind.
“I...” she started looking down. Her back was to most of the party goers as she looked up again at Talia. She looked her in the eye for a moment then sighed.
“You’re uncle, he threatened me,” she whispered, “you can’t say anything..”
It wasn’t like she would be able to keep it quiet much longer and she felt for Talia and the grief she must still feel. But it was still frightening to say.
“I didn’t remarry so quickly because I forgot Jaster or I didn’t care about him.” Rivka went on quietly, a tear starting to form, “I.. I’ll always remember him. ...I’ll always have a part of him. “
She touched her stomach gently then looked up to make sure Talia understood.
Rivka paused again then continued very quietly . “I think it’s a girl.”
“So the Bloodhawk won’t have to worry.” A tear was still on her cheek but there was resolve in her eyes and her voice got a little harder, “and I won’t let him hurt her.”
"Oh goddess..." Talia suddenly felt weak. She leaned back against the pillar behind her, taking deep steady breaths. She felt as if a great weight had been taken off her shoulders...only for an even greater one to be put on in its place. "You...you could have just taken a solution of pennyroyal, Rivka. I read about it once, in an alchemical textbook. Such a simple thing, it would be, to avert so great a price. Could you not bring yourself to do it? What, for the love of my brother?" She put a hand over her mouth, feeling the dangerous sting of potential tears in her eyes. "Be damned, he was only with you once. You are fifteen. What infinitesimal odds were there that my brother could have his heir from that, let alone leave you loyal enough to carry it? Oh, but there is some fell curse on my family...each of us is strong and quick and clever and fair of face, but each of our lives is short, and ends violently, and our legacies left to fester and be picked over by carrion crows. Maybe that is the price we must pay."
She missed her fool of a twin then more than ever, and her brother Gordon...and Mother, her most of all, and Talia felt like her heart might burst in her chest. She had a wild urge to run to Ameline, to Lucy, to Kavin, round them all up and sail back to the West, away from all of this. But there was no escape. There never would be. And this situation was no longer about Talia, no matter how much it hurt her. It was about Rivka.
And so she took a long moment to consider her next words, arms folded over her chest like a lock and eyes shut tight. Finally, she opened both, and embraced the girl.
"Jaster is gone. But if he were here today, at this wedding..." she broke off for a moment. "...I know what he would want me to do. That child he gave you is as much yours as it is his, Rivka...but it has my blood as well. My Uncle might be happy to play the kinslayer, yet I will not stand by and let him. My power is a feeble thing these days, I fear, but I swear to you...I will do everything I can to ensure your child is safe. And I will ensure that House Sabre does, too. You have my word as a Blackthorne."
Rivka wasn't sure at first how to react to Talia's words. At first she felt anger, she wasn't the first to mention pennyroyal, the first to suggest she 'take care of it' it some other way. But this wasn't Talia's or any of her maids or even the Bloodhawks decision to make, it was hers and she'd chose. But the rest of it left her a little perplexed. She had never seen Talia be open like this, never seen her with her guard down. Instead of the perfect but cold beauty Rivka had always assumed her to be, she saw a vulnerable and scared human being under the mask. She was being sincere, not demanding or judging. And somehow it was comforting.
Rivka smiled wiping another tear from her face and whispered, "Thank you."
She didn't know what she or Talia or even Casim could do , but with a new ally she felt renewed hope. She squeezed her former sister-in-law's hand.
"And I hope someday when its safe she can meet her aunt." she added, glancing around to make sure no one was watching them.
Talia followed the girl's eyes; a Blackthorne guard had stepped forward, peering at them in confusion. It seemed whatever time Nestor had brought her was up. She touched Rivka's cheek, gave her a nod, then moved away quickly.
She would need to find Nestor again. But first, she would need to talk to Kavin.
Re: The Isles of Aradia (IC/New Settlers Welcome.)
Posted: Thu May 02, 2019 7:03 am
Collab with Skummy
Arianne West would be a formidable opponent to even the most skilled swordsman, and that was what Darius was counting on. But Arianne had confirmed that she and her two companions also needed a getaway. So Darius was on the prowl for another interested party – one that could stay and keep Drake busy on the shore if the need arose.
For a long moment he considered Rasheba. She was well into her drink, but that had never been an issue before.
It was with some surprise when he saw her hold her stomach and stagger from the room like she was going to be sick. That was a sign of her age, it would seem. Her constitution wasn’t what he remembered it to be.
So he returned to his search.
His gaze settled on a drow. He might have dismissed him along with the other drow at this wedding if a hint of recognition hadn’t tugged at his mind. Darius meandered through the crowd, scrutinizing the man. Where had he seen that familiar profile before?
When the distant memory finally connected with his grey tissue, he stopped dead in his tracks.
Garin the Maelstrom. What in the ever-loving fuck.
Garin had set Saki back on the route for talking with Aimee, explaining she was blind so that was probably why she wasn't responding well to him but he should try a different tactic. He sighed and looked about, obviously missing a companion as he took several large swings of alcohol. He had tried to approach Talia for answers but they had been waiting on that, two soldiers had shuffled into his way and they shared a brief conversation that seemed to amount to him steering clear of Talia. He was ready for a fight but they shook their heads and he seemed to growl at them and turn away, forgetting the whole thing.
With that he stayed afloat but was beginning to wane in his partying and had been making his way to the door. He had spotted Drake and Serenity after their dance together and made a face, a face that Darius could tell was one of disapproval as he viewed the two and he had begun to make his way to the pair to tell them something when his peripheral caught the intense stare of Darius and he swiftly turned on his boot and approached in several long steps. His blue eyes and blonde hair were mismatched on his grey skin and hard features. He wore his trademark longcoat and a white shirt, with normal silken trousers in the color of naval blue. His hip had a cutlass strapped to it, he was someone's security detail that much was clear.
"It would seem you to be eyeing me, may I inquire what for stranger?"
He seemed to have made no obvious connection on who Darius was that was for sure, but he was not as tall. Darius seemed to loom a bit over him and the man had to crane his neck slightly to catch him in the eyes. However he seemed to be a rather laid back personality and aura, with just a slight fuming nature to him for some reason.
“You’re shorter than I expected,” Darius pouted.
"Oh, well, what the hell were you expecting? Some kind of man-mountain screaming about oatmeal and throwing eggs?"
Garin placed a hand at his hip with a quizzical look on his face.
"You one of my secret admirers? Lookin for love in all the wrong places?" he cracked a smile "Or you a sea dog and know who I am, but see I don't quite live up to them old stories?"
“Darius Black, Ghost of the Sorrows,” Darius introduced himself, shaking the man’s hand. “I’ll have to admit you were one of my idols as a child.”
"Oh well that's lovely, I heard you gave my grandfather a few popped blood vessels for how you kept stealing from him. Made me smile, knowing that old idiot got a few kicks thrown his way. I'm glad my stories inspire the youth, even if I'm not quite the crazed man I used to be."
His grip was firm, weathered and beaten like he had been seafaring for a lifetime.
"So Captain," he used the term as a respectful nod from one leader to another. "What can this old dog do for you?"
While he was a pup in the years of drow he was a man who had gone about a lifetime of work for humans. "Cause I ain't sure why someone such as yourself would even be here actually, but if you're aiming to steal something or make off with one of the fancy drow boats I can help with that - you'll need one of the cats to run it though."
“Just celebrating my cousin’s wedding,” Darius said with a casual shrug. “And planning to kidnap my own sister from her fiancé.” This last word, he directed a raised brow in the direction of Drake’s turned back.
Garin didn't waste a beat.
"If you're talking Drake, I'm more than happy to oblige, I think Xankresh is an idiot and Drake's a pussy for simply going along with his inane plans. Or he's a pervert who’s into little girls, regardless I don't want to see the two get married."
Garin had an obvious level of discomfort with Drake form previous encounters, and wasn't shy about jumping into things with a man he literally met thirty seconds ago.
"I go by Garin Dul-Sansiska now by the way, I'm the younger half-brother to Lady Dul-Sansiska if you're wondering why I don't quite like that mountain over there."
“Diplomatic relations go over my head, to be honest,” Darius said with a brief smile.
“I already have three people to keep Drake busy if he catches on to the plan. Your part in this would be allowing them time to make an escape. I imagine whatever diplomatic ties you have to the man can be used to wave off the incident if it does come down to a battle on the docks.”
He made sure to catch the drow’s eyes. “I will not have a death at my cousin’s wedding, however. This operation is to have absolutely no fatalities.”
"You think I'm an idiot?" Garin said bluntly. "I wouldn't kill Drake, you know my Uncle Divan is at this party right? I know you know Divankul Dul-Sansiska, if I killed Drake my head would be served up on a platter in about three seconds. However my sister is sympathetic to all the concerns you might have, Mossa might be too, so between us we will cover you so they won't come bearing down on your ass with a fleet full of ships. Otherwise you would have an angry pirate king aiming to kill you."
A brief moment as someone passed by and he sighed cracking his knuckles. "I'll play dirty with Drake and keep him on the docks, or at least to where he can't swim after you guys. Dude is all about physical fitness though - you've seen how massive he is. So I hope your other conspirators are used to fighting at least orc level opponents before because he's like if you bred an orc with a drow and a damned ox. I'll talk to Maria see if she can't delay him if he finds out, I'd rather not have it resort to a fight."
“Regardless, if it does, I’m sad I can’t be part of it,” Darius said wryly. “I’m going to be trying to convince Serenity to come willingly, or carry her onto the boat if she won’t.”
"Hehe oh hell not you ain’t. Drake's scary as they come, he could probably kill us if he's trying for it. If it comes to having to carry her off just watch her head, you might not be used to having someone draped over your shoulder and you could beam her, and hard. Trust me, I've done it a few times, it makes prisoners way more pissed later... not to say your sister is a prisoner."
He held up a hand knowingly.
"Tell me when I need to head to the docks, I'll be there, I'll make sure he doesn't get off of them and that he doesn't die. But you have to act fast, best guess? The moment he finds out he'll go full apeshit, if you hear him shouting you're in trouble especially if you're already in town, and you need to hurry at that point because if Drake's pissed he'll apparently start using ice magic which I didn't even know was possible and he might freeze the water around your boat. Oh and if he has a sword he will try to use it to harpoon your ship, I've seen him do it before to a pirate vessel.”
Darius whet his lips and hissed a sigh through his teeth. “Wonderful. This is going to be fun.”
Re: The Isles of Aradia (IC/New Settlers Welcome.)
Posted: Sun May 05, 2019 2:27 am
Am I a bad person?
a collaboration with kotorchix
Jaster clenched his fists. Are my family all bad people?
Not since the Undercroft of the Riverford had his thoughts haunted him as this one did. He could not make his mind turn away from it, and yet every time he faced it he felt the shock of revulsion--it made him want to physically lash out, to scream obscenities and break whatever he was holding. Jaster realized now that he'd always taken something of his own view of the world for granted. He'd had a sureness, a certainty, that even in his darkest moments had kept him fighting. He thought he was a hero, a great warrior, a force for good. Arianne had made him realize that it was not his own
good, or even the general conception of good, that he'd been fighting for. These thoughts had made him view everything in a new light. The looks the peasants fleeing the Riverford had given him, were those the looks with which they greeted heroes? What of the burnings in the marshlands, the culling of peasant villages, were those the actions taken by good people? Or the culling of the Manfords that had been going on for generations? Perhaps Dominic and Jacques were not the outliers Jaster had thought of them as being. Before, as the Drowned Man, he had thought the problem was that he had failed
to be a hero. Now he suspected that it was his idea of what a hero was that had been his failure.
It seemed to him that his thoughts had split into a discourse between two different men. There was the man who'd been dredged from the Whiterush, the mercenaries' deformed, miserable squire haunted by dreams of a past life. And then there was the other,
the grey-eyed red-haired spectre that spoke in his father's voice. The other
spoke in chastisements, whispered of manifest destiny, unfulfilled legacy. Take the child,
the other whispered. Reveal yourself and they will bow to you, capitulate to your every will. You are the blood of Jason Blackthorne himself.
His friends and family and allies were close, so close. Just meters away, his sister and cousins...and his bride, her too. What would Rivka say, if she saw him now? He had been certain she'd give him the child...my child, mine
....but Arianne's words haunted him. The girl did not love him. And even if she did, what kind of man would exploit that admiration in such a way? For her own good,
the other whispered. But who was he to decide that, he who had no conception of even his own good?
Am I a bad person?
"Lad! What are you playing at??"
Jaster looked up in surprise. He did not have to look up very far. Standing over where he sat was the Ludlow's dwarven chef. She was a middle-aged stonedaughter with a severe look, her apron stained with something that looked suspiciously like blood, and a wooden spoon still in her hand.
"You going to sit here scowling at your boots all day?" she prodded him on the chest with the ladle. "You're in our way. If you're not going to do your job and stand guard, you can ruddy well get out of my kitchen!"
Being threatened by a servant was merely the latest in a long line of humiliations, and so he could hardly bring himself to be offended as she bossed him out of his seat in the corner and out the door. He stood by himself in a corridor for a moment, then shoved his hands in the pockets of his spike-studded leather coat and stalked away by himself. Arianne would likely be irritated that he deserted his post. There was an irony in the fact he could not even do well at the simplest servant's job. Porters bustled around him as he made his way down the corridor, though they thinned by the end where three Blackthorne soldiers were playing dice.
One of them looked up at him as he passed, squinting. "Do I know you from somewhere lad?"
The second shrugged. "He's just got one of them faces."
"Half'a one of them faces, more like," the third crowed, and all three cackled with cruel laughter.
Jaster's maimed hand curled over the handle of the longsword buckled to his left hip. Are my family bad people?
He walked aimlessly through the Ludlow's estate, losing track of his position, lost in his thoughts amid the white stone and pretty green lawns. The other whispered to him with every step; take the child, take the child, take YOUR child.
And do what? Where would he go? How would the Accord feel about their prized Stormborn heir being snatched away from them? He had no doubt in his mind that they meant to call the child Casim's. The thought of his own male heir being called the child of some other family incensed the other
part of him so much that when he went into a corner and almost bumped into a finely-dressed red haired youth he almost drew his blade outright.
He stepped back, bowing briefly to the man before him. "Apologies, my lord."
The youth blinked, wiping at his face guiltily. "No, no, my apologies. I shouldn't have been lurking here as I was."
His gaze stopped on Jaster's scars for the briefest of moments before he saw past the deformities to the person beneath them. The pause allowed Jaster the time to see the glimmer in the lordling's eyes, but what tears there were to spill he had already smeared across his cheek.
"Those look new."
Why the fuck must they always ask about my face?
Jaster's mouth twitched in irritation. He had an excuse ready and planned, though. "From Medger's Spine, my lord. Got too close to sorcerer's witchfire. Couldn't be helped."
He had been keeping his eyes dipped deferentially, but now chanced a glance at the boy's face. He did a double-take. The boy was small, thin and soft-looking, and though he had the appearance of a new squire--a priviliged youth having been put through a recent rough training regimen and thus having become very fit in a very short amount of time, giving them a strained and stretched look. This description, and the colors on the lordling's outfit, made Jaster realized he was speaking to Casim Ludlow himself.
His good hand curled into a fists, and he had to clench it with the other, as if afraid that it would fly into the boy's face and smash it unbidden. My child. My bride. My legacy.
The other hissed like a serpent. Mine, mine, MINE.
When he noticed the wetness in the boy's eyes, he felt taken aback. A craven and a thief,
the other sneered. This is your replacement. Your better.
"Have you been crying?" he snapped. "What's the matter with you?
His tone had been too harsh. He remembered the station he was supposed to be fulfilling, and dipped his eyes again. "I mean...I merely wished to express my concern, my lord. Apologies.
Casim almost laughed. It was somewhere between a chuckle and a choke, and together they didn't make the most pleasant sound. He leaned back against the wall, running his hand down over his face. Whatever rank he might have over Jaster, he didn't show it in that moment.
"I know, right? A beautiful, kind and gentle bride, and I'm out here hiding from our own wedding party like a drippy-nosed kid. Trust me, I'm asking myself the same thing."
He stared at the floor a long moment, his hand on the hilt of his own sword as his fingers messed with the pommel.
"I keep asking myself why I allowed this to happen. I know I shouldn't doubt myself, but... fuck. This isn't just my life. It's hers now too. It's finally setting in, that... this is it. Our life begins here and I'm responsible for it."
He shot Jaster an almost baleful glare, but it didn't seem to be directed at him truly. "Fuck, man, why am I talking about this? Who are you anyway?"
Jaster untensed slightly when the lordling seemed to fail to notice his outburst. A dullard and a thief,
the other whispered, as his eyes strayed to the boy's swordbelt. Look at him. He can't use that. Tell him who you are, and then cut him down for daring to steal from you.
He paused for a moment after listening to the boy's talk about feeling responsible for his new bride. "I heard...if it's not too bold of me to say, my lord, I heard your bride's last husband failed her. Spent one night with her, then threw himself off a tower the second the war soured on him. Left it to his Uncle to clean up the mess. You may feel...this way, but you could never do her worse than that Griffin."
"Puh, you believe that nonsense?" Casim said with a wave of his hand. "I won't speak ill of Jaster Blackthorne. Death isn't failure. It's just... damned bad luck. He honestly might have failed better had he been alive to fail, like I am. Not saying that I will fail Rivka, but..."
The lordling bit his lip and huffed a sigh. "I can't face that woman, either. Talia. I'm just... stealing her brother's bride like a thief in the night. Her brother's corpse is barely cold and I'm..." He hesitated. "I'm expected to act like this is the happiest day of our lives. It's so... fucked up
Jaster stepped back, hanging his head so his face was hidden in shadow. He took a deep breath before giving his reply. "My father used to tell me that there was no evil in arranged marriages. No matter if you were wedding a grieving widow, or a child half your age...that it wasn't about what seemed appropriate, but for a greater good. The greater good of the Household itself, and its legacies. What do you make of that?"
"I think we're conditioned to think the House comes first, not our lives and how we spend them, or who we spend them with," Casim said, somewhat more subdued. He was fidgeting with his sword again. "Rivka could have been allowed to grieve, to let out everything she feels before she's suddenly expected to fill the role of a wife at my side. A year, two. I'd still be here. Likely still unattached."
The dark look in his eyes said it though. They couldn't
because of the child within Rivka.
"I will say one thing I dislike about Jaster Blackthorne," Casim said abruptly. "I do wish he had not spent that one night with Rivka. 'Cause hell if I know what I'm doing, and he most likely did." But a smile cracked his features despite admitting he was all but a virgin.
Jaster drew a hand across his eyes. Our lives. How we spend them.
"You're right, I think," he said after a moment. "But...you shouldn't assume Jaster Blackthorne knew what he was doing--at anything, for that matter. I don't think that lad ever had a single right idea in his whole sorry life. Begging your leave, my lord..."
He gave a stiff bow, and moved away, leaving Rivka's husband behind him.
Re: The Isles of Aradia (IC/New Settlers Welcome.)
Posted: Mon May 06, 2019 1:08 am
Collab with IP
Claire avoided the dancing. She couldn't bring herself to cross paths with the Bloodhawk, let alone touch him should they happen to partner. Talia had reassured her that she doubted the Bloodhawk's involvement in what had happened at the Ludlow Estate, but the mere thought was still something too awful to think of while attempting to celebrate her brother's wedding.
Lyron was another matter. He had abandoned Claire and Nimbe to the buffet table in the Dining Hall to join the dance with all the nimbleness of a slender buck. From where the girls stood, they occasionally caught glimpses of their white-haired cousin as he weaved and spun and switched partners back and forth.
"I didn't know he could dance so well," Nimbe whispered, popping a candy almond between her pink lips.
Claire idly stirred her wine by rolling the goblet in the palm of her hand. "He's always loved dancing. And he's far better than I. If you get the chance to ballroom dance with him some day, he's quite a breath-taking partner."
Nimbe stole another almond from its artistic stack on the buffet table. Holding it carefully between her fingertips, she sucked the sweet honey from the top of it. Claire gave her elbow a quick smack.
"What?" Nimbe asked innocently.
"Don't eat it like that. It's provocative."
Nimbe gave her an odd look before putting the whole nut in her mouth. A light blush colored her cheeks, but she didn't look entirely convinced. She tucked the almond into her cheek and her mouth moved about as her tongue worked at the candy. "Provocative to whom? Nuts?"
Claire fought her own blush as she realized Nimbe had no clue what she was on about. "Don't suckle in the presence of men," she said firmly instead. "You'll give them ideas. Like that Blackthorne soldier over my shoulder- don’t look!” She turned Nimbe’s shoulder away so she wasn’t openly gawking at the man. “Goddess.”
“You seem… really uptight,” Nimbe murmured, her blush intensifying now that she had seen the man’s hungry gaze on her. It was a rarity indeed to be spotted beside Claire and be the centre of attention. But Nimbe’s pink dress that matched her little pink lips made something about her pop. She was a vision, especially with the addition of Claire’s whitegold necklace and earrings with rose quartz – a gift from Amarika on Claire’s sixteenth birthday.
“I…” Claire stammered. She closed her eyes briefly and took in a breath. They opened again. “I am. I’m so scared something… that something is going to happen here. Something really, really bad.”
“I don’t know,” Claire sighed. “Maybe. Or something demonic.”
Nimbe gently took her hand. Her fingers were sticky from the sweets. She squeezed. “Nothing demonic. Divankul is here.”
“What?” Claire raised a brow. “I would have thought I would notice him. Where did you see him?”
“I don’t think he wants to be seen,” Nimbe admitted quietly. “He’s in the rafters in the Great Hall, and he looks a bit different.”
She released Claire’s hand and took another few candies, filling her palm with them.
Claire wiped her hand inconspicuously on the skirts of her dark green dress. She turned away to look out the massive dining room window at the garden, trying to find some solace in the blooming white sylvbruuq blossoms. Beyond the flowers on the lawn, a group of younger nobles had started a game of ball in their good clothes. Grass stains abounded already, as did dirtied, smiling faces.
Gradually her gaze settled on her own reflection staring back at her in the glass. She looked regal, with her dark hair coiled down the sides of her face to rest wavy curls on her bosom. The dress was of two colors – the upper half was a soft off-white shade, lined with black lace and gold trim at the waist. The skirts themselves were a deep jade green to match her jewellery. And her gold jade amulet winked salaciously between her breasts like it knew a secret she didn’t.
The strange shrieking noise came from behind her. It was the kind of clearing of the throat used to attract attention, but the man's voice had cracked on the last syllable as if from nerves and it had swung up an octave to acquire a hysteric screeching quality. As if to mask this strange outburst, he put one crushed-black-velvet glove over his mouth and faked a coughing fit, pale-faced and wide-eyed. His elven companion gave him a withering look. They would have made for a handsome pair if not for their manners. The cougher had a black coat trimmed with silver and a little green mantle he kept thrown over one shoulder; he was not a tall man, no bigger than Carndas, but the stubble on his slender jawline and the clearness of his green eyes made him a wholesome kind of good-looking. His companion looked to be the epitome of Brecilidian breeding, tall and broad-shouldered and slender, his skin almost as pale as his platinum-blonde hair. He wore a magnificent indigo coat with glittering silver buttons fashioned to look like snowflakes, and a messenger hat with a cockatrice feather sat just above his long, pointed ears. He would have been quite beautiful if not for the sour look he was giving Claire, as if she had just thrown a cup of wine at him.
The coughing man recovered from his fake ailment and took a deep breath. "Uhm. How do you do, my lady? I just....I just noticed you from across the room and thought you were fair." He blinked. "Not fair as in, mediocre. Fair as in attractive. You are, I mean." He stared at her for a moment, than as if suddenly remembering, he stuck his hand out for her to shake. It took him a moment to recall it was the same hand he'd been coughing into, and he withdrew it quickly. "I'm Kalmar. oh goddess. Kavin Falmar, I mean. Lord Kavin Falmar, of Green Gable in Fallowfield."
The Elf watched his companion's breakdown contemptuously, waiting for him to finish, then bowed to Claire. "And I am Sir Desmond Karhall, heir to Frostfall. We are pleased to make your acquaintance."
Claire didn't know how to respond for the longest moment, the first introduction so disjointed and the next so concise. She bobbed a curtsy in kind to the elf, a smile on her features to the blabbering man. She knew both names and family crests but had yet to put faces to them until now.
"I'm Fair-... oh, look at that, it's contagious. I'm Lady Claire of the Ludlow Accord. I too am pleased to meet you both."
"Are they allowed to do that?" Nimbe's hissed whisper sounded at Desmond's elbow.
"Uh, and meet my lady-in-waiting, Nimbe. Forgive her, I'm still teaching her court etiquette. She's referring to introducing oneself to a member of the opposite sex."
"Hello." Nimbe put another almond in her mouth with a smile.
The fact that Claire's response had been coherent seemed to make Falmar even worse. He folded his arms and peered at her shoes, unable to meet her eye; his hands were visibly pinching into his own forearms. It seemed like being here was some kind of torture for him.
Desmond, on the other hand, had seemed glad to lose all interest in Claire completely when Nimbe had appeared and was now fixated on the servant like she was a museum piece, his long ears perked up with interest. "Fascinating. From whence came your bloodline, child? You have the look of the old ones about you."
The talk of ancestry seemed to make whatever ailed Kavin spill over, like he could bear it no more.
"By the Void, I can't do this," he rasped, rubbing his eyes. He gave Claire a pleading look. "You know we're sworn to the Bloodhawk, yes? As his bannermen."
Nimbe's mouth opened to answer, but Claire pressed forward first.
"I was going to overlook that fact," she said, her voice losing its pleasant tone. Why be so angry at his men too? She tried to catch the tone before it could abandon her entirely, but the next words were cold too. "I know who you are. What is it you can't do?"
"I was at the Senate. I saw him talk down to you." Kavin wrung his hands together, leaving marks on his black velvet gloves. "He...he means to propose a marriage between the two of us. Or if you refuse me...not that I'd blame you...to Desmond instead."
Sir Karhall was not even listening anymore and was instead trying to study the shape of Nimbe's ears.
"And that's what I can't do. Not cos--" he growled in frustration, turning away from her for a second. "Not because I don't like you. It's because it doesn't feel right to me...to try and force it."
Claire couldn't hide her surprise. Her mind raced as she tried to think of a reason why. For the longest of moments she said nothing. Nimbe's eyes were glued to her, wide and waiting for a coveted response.
"I... thank you, for your honesty," she finally stuttered out. She blinked in confusion, but the pieces were falling together. Rivka, she thought. Rivka's child. He needs someone he can trust to keep tabs on it. Make sure it doesn't...
"Feelings of attraction or not aside, I'm grateful you told me and didn't try to cover it up as some pretence of courtship. There are men that would do so." Her eyes settled on Desmond, the way he was all but eye-humping Nimbe. "Transparency is nice for once in this game of roles."
Nimbe finally seemed to realize Sir Karhall's fascination and a light blush settled over her features, reaching up to the tips of her pointed ears.
"If this Blackthorne conspiracy wasn't in play, why shouldn't I marry you?" Claire asked with true curiosity. "Nothing I've heard of you speaks ill. And you're rather fair yourself if you don't mind me saying."
"I suppose I owed you that much." Kavin was talking at her shoes again, unable to meet her gaze. "I...heard what happened to your mother. And your twin. I'm sorry. I felt as if you had suffered enough. I have...a friend, who's going through something similar."
Desmond ignored Nimbe's shyness. "I am no expert, but with the crook on the interior lobe...one of the old peoples of the silkwood, perhaps? But that would be impossible. Naught's been heard of them for generations."
When Claire asked her last question, Kavin paled again and he pulled at his collar, stammering his words. "Well, I am not of the highest birth. My family are farmers, not fighters--the rest of the West looks down on us. They chose me because...well, because of your father's birth. Plus there's...ah...there's someone--"
"Sheeplord, you look as if you will faint at any moment."
Kavin started, but then his demeanor brightened. "Tali!"
"She." Talia's aquamarine gown glimmered in the lantern-light; she looked paler and thinner than she had at the Senate, and sadder besides, but for this group she had summoned a gentle smile.
"I haven't seen you in months," Kavin said anxiously, embracing her. "What's happened?"
"Little and less. That is what troubles me." She laid a hand on his cheek for a moment, then looked to Claire. "I'm glad we finally get to speak face-to-face, Lady Ludlow. But we had best keep it brief. I am not sure how much time we have."
The Blackthorne girl looked over her shoulder at the nearest Blackthorne soldier, the one who'd been eyeing Nimbe. The man had a curiously blank expression and was staring into space. Sir Desmond, as well, seemed unusually occupied with Nimbe, almsot to the point where he was hearing nothing else at all.
Talia threw the elven knight a glance, then spoke quickly and quietly to Claire. "You know of the marriage pact? I fear it is not the end. I know Rivka is with child. If your father rejects Kavin, and Desmond, and any other suitor, my uncle will find some excuse to keep a military presence on the island. I do not think he killed your mother, or your sister...but I fear what he will do about my brother's child."
"Then for now I must accept the proposal," Claire said.
Her eyes moved between Talia and Kavin, feeling that spark that had just flamed within them both. It was far too a familiar thing, one that made her feel giddy and outright uncomfortable around Nimbe's half-brother. But the urgency of Talia's comment had her pass the obvious attraction to the back of her mind.
With Karhall's attention so intent on Nimbe, Claire felt she could speak about him without him noticing. "We could just marry him to my lady-in-waiting, he seems more than infatuated." It was a joke. Not a very good one. Had Nimbe not been such a perfect distraction for this conversation, she might have shooed the man's attentions away herself.
"I believe you, Talia. We have a month, maybe two before the child is born," she went on. "I can convince my father of the wisdom in our marriage, although he will not be pleased - with the Bloodhawk, that is, not you, Kavin. He's interested in trade, not who has the longest sword, so you're practically perfect for a husband. But he does hate being bullied."
Nimbe's blush was deeper than ever, but she had tilted her head to allow Sir Karhall a better look at her features. Claire's gaze settled on him and soured into a glare. But she daren't break whatever spell the girl had over him at this moment.
A peculiar disquiet passed over the faces of Tali and Kavin when Claire said she'd accept the proposal.
"Well." Kavin took a breath. "There it is, then."
"Yes." Talia opened her mouth as if to say more, her red lips parting prettily, then seemed to think better of it. Little spots of color had appeared on her cheeks. "I...congratulations on your engagement."
They peered at each other, then both began to speak at the same time, causing them both to dissolve into awkward stammering.
"I didn't mean to--"
"No, it was rude of me--"
"Lady Sabre." Whatever spell Desmond had been under seemed to have passed, and he had turned from Nimbe to notice Talia. His grey eyes narrowed, ears flattening back against his head. "I did not know the Bloodhawk would be so pleased to allow you to grace Lady Ludlow's company."
Talia shut her eyes and sighed. "You have the right of it, cousin." She gave Claire a significant look, putting a hand on her arm. "You made the wisest decision in the circumstance, Lady Ludlow. I hope we have a chance to speak together again soon."
And with that, she slipped away.
Kavin looked upset. He rubbed his eyes, then looked to Claire. "Pray...excuse me a moment, my lady. There is much I must reflect on."
When he departed as well, Karhall remained. The Elf gave Nimbe one final curious look, then promptly turned his back on Claire as if she wasn't even there and stalked away into the crowd, leaving the two ladies alone at last.
They remained silent a long moment before Nimbe finally spoke up. "You... you're getting married."
"No," Claire said firmly, her brows drawn. "Not like this. I don't have a baby in my belly, and I am my father's daughter. I do not take kindly to being bullied."
"What are you going to do?"
"I don't know yet. But I'll think of something."
Re: The Isles of Aradia (IC/New Settlers Welcome.)
Posted: Wed May 08, 2019 11:19 pm
( Be advised this post has graphic descriptions of violence and assault of a sexual nature )
Collab of myself and Kotor
Heartstone Estate and Ludlow Estate, Cayborune
Divan was unconcerned with what transpired within the great hall, far too noisy on many levels and he would get his chance to speak with Rivka at a later time, if she wanted anything to do at all with him. So he set off on his secondary objective and was floating above the Ludlow Estate on Caybourne momentarily. He performed a quick scanning spell and found it layered with a small skeletal force of guards keeping watch. It hadn't bee touched really since the murders except to clean everything up in a way, that was okay he wouldn't need the corporeal evidence to satisfy the conditions. As he landed inside he was nearly caught by someone, but managed to return to his invisible state providing the sentry a kind of shiver that put him on guard. A quick choke hold later and he was out, Divan began to peruse the area, taking his time and ensuring he wasn't caught by wandering patrolmen. He floated through the quite and empty halls and felt the stagnation of the air with each breath, it was a carcass where there was once love.
A shame, that was.
Without hesitation he began to track own the ethereal tracks of wherever had been here last. He knew it to be a shapeshifter at the very least by description and he could tell it had taken the form of one of a drow. It's smiling distortion gleaned at him from own the hall form what appeared to have been one of the girls' room. Possible spared from death by virtue of Drake's presence being upon her and the risk being too great to encounter the giant elf and be destroyed, then it would have been Serenity Piers' quarters then. Mayhaps that was what spared more death form following, Drake's presence was an imposing one and it lingered even now. His powerful aura of ice and snow was ever present within the halls and the creature probably knew it could only garner a few targets before its window closed again.
Divan would have reached out at the apparition but he felt it refuse his dark tendrils of probing inquiry with a powerful mental and spiritual bondage, his weakness. He was never a mentalist and would never be one, and his ability to break past spiritual barriers was limited by how much power he could pump out. Which in this case was limited, thus he was stuck having to follow down a different course of action, he followed its trail to the basement and there he saw the tangle of forms in an odd state of deformation. It was Jennifer Ludlows last imprint upon the world and it was warped and fading fast, had he been aware months ago he could have come by and retraced her entire day's journey to understand the full story but now there was only droplets of information left for him to inquire before it died completely.
The difference between those of power and those of not, the imprint of a demon could last months where the imprint of a young woman could fade for the most part within weeks, with only the strongest emotions holding fast. Divan steeled himself and imbued the power Metheryl had used on him, copying it and using the stolen seer powers of his daughter to override whatever smokescreen the demon's own energy was placing on the final moments of Jennifer. With a breath he moved in and was assaulted by a whole new sensation. This was so unlike Metheryl and Kraai entering his mind, and he felt he would loose his stomach in but a moment's time. Then darkness, and then.....
… so big. She sighed into his embrace as the drow ground her against the wall, his hot breath on her forehead. Her feet didn’t touch the stones but she couldn’t feel them. They no longer felt part of her, swinging as they were, only the hot throbbing sensation within her. Her nails dug into his shoulders as she gasped, as his thrusts grew faster and faster. She stifled her own scream into his-…
… changing. His former red eyes turned a terrible shade of yellow as he peered down at her, still inside her. And the smile that spread across his face was not that relaxed post-coitus grin. It was predatory. It kept stretching. Further and further, across his face, until his jaw all but unhinged. She tried to scream, but no sound came out. And all she could feel was the throbbing. That terrible throbbing that pulled her entire self to centre on their melded groins. She was nothing in that moment. Only the blood that thrummed in aching pleasure whilst she laid there, dying.
… found her strength. She clawed at him. He slapped her across the face but she didn’t stop to feel the pain or the shock, adrenaline urging her on. A foot came up, kicking him in the jaw and ejecting him from their locked embrace. She rolled, clambering across the floor on her hands and knees. But he reached out, snatching her by the hair. She screamed. Nobody heard her down here. She yanked harder, ignoring the pain, and felt a terrible rip of her scalp. She collapsed, her head in her hands as she shrieked. He set back upon her, gripping her throat as he again entered her. She forced her head aside, her teeth diving deep into the flesh of his arm, but there was no response. Why was there no response!? WHY!? Where was the crunch of gristle and bone!?
His form was entirely undone now. But still she was pinned beneath him, tears staining her cheeks and mixing with the blood that streamed down her face. Whatever it was about her neck was not a hand, whatever it was her teeth impaled was not flesh. And she could taste death. Its texture was like love, in that spiky enticing way it jolted through the body. But its taste was black. The weight lifted from her and the taste evaporated in her mouth as substance gave way to nothing, but there was no fight left in her. Her nails dug into the stone floor, trying to drag her away from the monstrosity at her back, but her body would not-…
… her over onto her back. She whimpered, peeking through blood-crusted lids at the vision beyond. And it was terrible. A towering column of smoke and scales with a set of glowing amber stones that pierced her soul. Just looking at it felt like she was already gone. A hand emerged from the shadow, wrought of iron and stone, encased in black mist. Above her head, it formed a fist. And her own voice came out of that thing.
“You won’t be alone for long.” Then darkness.
Divan awoke, screaming loudly and forcibly, he had felt ever single grating inch, the tear of the scalp, the utter sense of isolation and terror. He clutched his stomach, his mouth, his head and tried to ensure he was all there indeed. He was still connected but thanks to he life having ended he was free to press out into the ether and try to speak "I saw what you did to her, and if it is indeed the truth in what I witnessed, I will find you for this...." he felt himself become lightheaded and he collapsed the connection ceasing. He awoke a few moments later, head abuzz in pain, and followed where the trial led next. Though he was sickened to his core he had to ensure all proper investigations were compiled so he could track the monster and fully understand what was going on. This was no ordinary shifter and he knew that much by how it continued to resist his attempts to pierce its sphere and locate where it hid or hunted.
He held his stomach as he pushed his way into the now bare looking master bedroom of the estate and saw Jennifer's ghastly form over top a very pregnant Amarika. He sucked in a deep breath and lunged for the shapes, screaming as he felt the conscious mingle into his own and overtake him...
… was wrong. Jenny never cried, not over anything. Not even boys, however many she loved or simply lusted over. Die? What did Jenny mean? Had a man finally broken her heart? She tried to keep her voice steady, but whatever Jenny was hiding behind her back frightened her. Had Jenny gotten pregnant? Was she hiding pennyroyal? What a terrible burden to have to carry, if only it weren’t that…
And then she was alone. The knife was gone. Her child was gone. The life within her was gone. And she watched dumbly as her blood also left her. But at least Mancel wasn’t going… at least he was here. Howling, clutching, trying to hold that blood inside where it belonged…
She watched sadly as Mancel and all the shapes faded away, as a little hand plunged into hers and squeezed tightly.
Divan awoke to feel the fresh tears of Amarika's flowing freely form his face, he could feel her wilt and languish, he was sure that time the monster had certainly taken notice and possible the souls trapped within had felt someone was tugging at their impressions far away. By any measure they could feel anything in their prison, he knew their essences were within the demon, as he was firmly aware this creature was just like him. A Devourer of sorts, but where he ruthlessly dispatched of morsels that steered their way into his line of offence, this one hunted prey to suckle upon their fonts of bright emotion and desire. "Demon, reveal your secrets to me, expose your true name, I will find you regardless...ugh" he felt his head slam into the cold stone floor as his mind went blank and the connection severed once again
The pattering of rushing footsteps woke Divan, they had found their friend unconscious and were on high alert looking for the intruder it would seem, he groggily stood up and was gone before they ever made it to check the master bedroom. He rubbed at his temple somewhat as he found himself back inside the courtyard of the Heartstone Estate and groaned as the knife feeling still in his stomach. The investigation was taking its toll as he could, and probably would always, have some semblance of those two within him just as he could feel the small nonexistent tugs of Kraai and Metheryl at the corners of his reality. He grumbled and lit up his pipe, smoking heavily from it as he considered his options, it as then the ghost shape began to say something from beyond his senses and he had to cease his break.
He might have missed it had he not returned to the party with the thoughts of Jennifer and Amarika still staining his mind. But this thought, this identity called to him from the orchard. He witnessed it, crystal clear with no distortion, a frank reflection of a younger woman brandishing a weapon. A blade, he set himself one more time to relive someone else's life and prepared for some odd tangle of understanding, he stepped inside...
… it wasn’t something that could be spoken of. How would she gather the words? Was it something to share, that she had looked death in the face and spat in its eye?
A vision of a young lady’s hands, the palms bandaged. In the background there are apples on the ground beneath the tree.
… best for rumors to abound instead. None would understand what she had done. None would believe how great a threat such a thing was.
A vision of a blade being drawn with those same bandaged hands. The wielder takes a swing at the air beside the tree, stopping a single inch from its bark.
Another vision, of her hand reaching, straining from a bed for the same blade. A column of smoke and metal and stone and darkness is atop her, pounding into her as its clawed hand grasps her neck, tighter and tighter. Her soul begins to slip. She feels others around her. So many. Their anguish, their horror as another joins their ranks.
The blade plunges into the demon. It shrieks. A rush of power enters her body, too many minds to count flash behind her eyes. And relief. Joy. Strength. She flies across the room and hits the wall, slumping in a heap as the demon fades from existence, ichor spilling on the ruined sheets.
… she would be here. Protecting her family.
Divan gasped and he saw the image of a strange high elven fellow overtop him, with a questioning look in his eyes as he saw a patron unconscious under the orchard trees still with a burning pipe clutched in his mouth. He blinked a few blinks and shook his head, the connection ceased and he did not feel the same tug of the demon's influence, however he knew who this person was and respected not to try and mingle with their present day mind. A powerful pact had been sewn here and it was not of his right to try and violate the sanctity of promises to the self. He arose and dusted himself off, offering his hand to the high elf with the strange hairstyle and elegant armor.
"I'm Divankul Dul-Sansiska, don't mind me, I just am not used to melding myself with imprints and it's a painful process" He said it as if it were the most normal thing in the world or as if this man could even fathom what the fuck this weirdo just said.
"Elmer Twicefreed. I know who you are.," the elf said, a frown of suspicion on his face. "What imprint do you speak of?"
"Amarika, Jennifer, and this one- Jennifer's last strained moments of life, Amarika contemplating the loss of her child, and this one's resolve to defend her family to the bitter end. An imprint is a strong emotional sequence held in place by magic, thus I relived the most horrible pain all three of them experienced for myself while I looked into this, causing me to black out periodically as I did so from the sheer amount of pain all of them suffered" his statements were so matter of fact, but he had a sympathetic face, he felt actual empathy for each of them having had to live ti out for himself and knew for the two that their pain was unceasing even now, if this creature were like him.
An expression crossed Elmer's face as he reached up and took down his flower garland from his head. Something verging on anger. No, no, it was rage. His teeth gritted as he stepped in close to Divankul so his voice was little more than a venomous hiss against the drow's face.
"This is no time for such things. An investigation is being held. Do not interfere with this wedding. This family has suffered enough without your meddling. Speak no further on the matter this day. It is not your place."
Divan's gaze leveled on the elf and he simply puffed at his pipe "It is, actually, this creature is so far out of your league you don't stand a fucking chance without me. Your investigation will turn up little more than echoes, while I'll be hunting a creature far older than all of us. I never intended to bring this up, humans are fragile and can't handle a lot of stress at one time. I understand your position, it's the same one I would take were anyone to want to bring harm to the Vennet family, so do not misunderstand my tone for apathy." With a straightening of clothing Divan evaporated into light, taking a new spot a bit far and away from everyone to contemplate his findings and try not to let them overwhelm him. He felt pity for the Accord, and he understood the righteous indignation Elmer felt, it was a mirror of how he felt whenever someone chose to attack the Vennets. However he was far more intelligent on the subject of demons and would not be swayed by notions of boundaries or discretion, the Accord could not hide that they had no leads and no way to find Eason nor did they stand a chance fighting against this other threat. They would already have their hands full.
He sat and meditated perched up in a higher part of the cliffside, reaching out to try and communicate with the self beyond the rift of time and space in order to draw upon the knowledge of what he was choosing to go up against.
Re: The Isles of Aradia (IC/New Settlers Welcome.)
Posted: Wed May 15, 2019 1:10 am
Rivka felt a little better after her talk with Talia. She felt a confidence even if it was a quiet one. What could Talia really do for her? She was just a woman like herself, but she felt a relief after opening up. Maybe being honest had been a mistake, maybe Talia would use it to earn her way back into her uncle’s graces, but her words had reassured her. She had to trust at least a few people.
Rivka didn’t see her new husband around but she figured he was doing his political duty and mingling and networking. She was trying to avoid doing her duty, avoid the polite conversations. If she stood alone someone would approach her so since she couldn’t find Casim she did see her cousin Jana, frowning and leaning against a wall staring at the dancers. She walked up to her.
“It’s a party.” She told her, “Why don’t you dance and have some fun.”
Jana laughed dryly, “It’s not a party Rivka, it’s a just a power play. The Balcktornes are here to show off their might and numbers, that’s why they brought all of their bannerman and guards and mercenaries, and the Ludlows want to show off that they just stole from the most powerful house in Aradia. This isn’t about you or Casim.”
“I think I’ll like it here though.” Rivka said.
Jana smiled more kindly this time, “Of course you will. Your new husband seems nice, not some self absorbed brute like Jaster Blacktorne. You don’t have to worry about him cheating. To him you’re a prize he never thought he could earn, even in your, chubby state I could tell you already have him wrapped around your finger. Not that you’ll ever be cruel to him but I bet you could.”
“And I’m glad for my sake too, that Mellissa and I won’t be forced to be with one of these Blacktorne brutes.” She added looking at her sister who was dancing with a bannerman’s young son a carefree smile on her face. When the song ended she loped up to them, taking a cup of wine on the way. Her face was red and a bead of sweat dripped down but she smiled broadly.
“Rivka!” she greeted and without much of a pause, “So where are these accord cousins you promised to introduce me to? None of these other boys has asked me to marry them yet, though I had one who was interested in something else.”
“Your drunk.” Jana scolded, “You’ll marry whoever father tells you too.”
“He’s done a great job finding one for you, old maid.” the younger girl of 16 replied with sas. Imploring Rivka she asked, “where is he?”
“I think he’s over there.” She pointed.
“You didn’t tell me he was elven!” she said, “Introduce us! That’s your job as the lady of the house.”
“I don’t really know him yet.” She said, “I can ask Casim, if I can find him…”
“I want to meet him now, before some other girl does.” She implored. It was then Rivka saw a man in Blacktorne colors approaching them. Acting as if she didn’t see him she took her cousin’s hand and began to meander purposefully toward Lyron. It was a good excuse to avoid any contact.
Having never been a shy girl there was no awkwardness for Rivka in approaching him with her two cousins in tow.
“Lyron. I hope your having a nice time, I saw you dancing.” She said with a smile. “I’d like you to meet my cousins Jana and Mellissa.”
The two curtsied politely, Mellissa flushed a little looking a little shyer then she had 5 minutes ago.
The young elven man’s white hair had loosened from its tail at the nape of his neck, a few strands leaning out from his forehead. But despite his dishevelled hair and the energy he had expended in dance, he only bore a slight sheen across his skin. He beamed at Rivka and her cousins, offering a gentlemanly bow. Obviously the dancing had him in great spirits.
“A pleasure,” he said. “Might I say Rivka, you look radiant in your wedding gown. I’m going to have to find who designed that for you and have them make my suits. Isn’t she a vision?” he asked of the cousins, smiling.
Rivka smiled, "You'd have to ask Elmer about the dress maker. I do like it. But you should see some of the dresses at the Emporium in Everglow. It's a shame Lady Attia couldn't be here."
"Your suit is very nice too." Melisa said a little shyly, "There are a lot of skilled dress and suit makers in Briochi too."
"Thank you. It sounds like I will have to visit one day," Lyron said cheerfully, collecting a glass of wine from a nearby server and nodding his thanks.
"I've never been to Briochi. I've heard the mountain air is beautiful and crisp, however. A little less salty than the air whipped up around here, I hope."
Gently, an arm slipped through the joint of Rivka's as Casim reappeared at her side. He looked tired, but smiled none-the-less. "It's not salty, it's invigorating."
"I always liked Caybourne better," Lyron said with a shrug. He downed his wine. "Attia was the one with the large cat, wasn't she? Sabre?"
"The air in Briochi is fresh and wonderful." Rivka agreed, "A little cold but you can smell the pine trees. But I' like the breeze here too."
"Yes Lady Attia Sabre . Her 'cat' was very friendly though. She was my best friend." She glanced at Mellisa who gave her a hurt look, "my best friend in Everglow."
"Who couldn't even find time in her schedule to come to your wedding." Melisa huffed.
"Probably because the Ludlow Accord holds much less interest to her then the Blackthornes." Jana muttered to herself putting a hand near her mouth, then speaking louder to Rivka added, "But you'll always have us."
Melisa looked antsy and glanced at Lyron.
"I think I'm going to go dance some more." she directed the words at Rivka, pretending to ignore Lyron as she took a single step as if to leave. Jana rolled her eyes.
"I might accompany you if it pleases the lady," Lyron said innocently, stepping forward and smoothly slipping his arm through Melisa's. "I believe I have a few more dances left in me."
He really was a good dancer. Mellisa was too and she began to relax a little as she started to just enjoy herself.
"This is so much fun." she told him grinning, "You're excellent dancer. It's been so long since I've been to a real party!"
"Thank you," he smiled, "I didn't get a chance to dance at the last party. The Sabre's Masquerade Ball in Everglow."
"I didn't even get to that party." Melissa replied. "I had to go back to Briochi right after Rivka's first wedding. Father wouldn't let me stay to attend her. It wasn't because he was worried about my safety, he just doesn't care about any of his daughters, just his son. I'm almost 17 and he hasn't even started looking at husband's for me. And my sister is 20! I guess he'll just say yes to the first person that asks him. And I'll just be stuck living in some little foresting town and never get to dance again. So I want to have fun while I can."
She smiled at him but it faded suddenly when she thought of all his family had been through recently and here she was whining about her life.
"I guess I'm still pretty lucky though." she added, "We should just have lots of fun tonight and forget everything else."
"Not being expected to marry is a privilege, I feel," Lyron said as he dipped Melisa in the dance. He righted her, his hand on her waist. "I'm in a difficult position with my older brother gone run-about. I'm the last male heir of my name. But I don't wish to marry- not for a while, that is, I mean."
He abashedly glanced away. "I'd like to become a knight first. That would be nice."
"Maybe for a man its a privilege." she replied. "For a lady your life can't begin until your married. There's nothing for me to accomplish. I'm stuck a little girl under my father's thumb. I can't have any adventures, any life. I'm nobody."
She looked disappointed when he mentioned knighthood. She shrugged and smiled though.
"Thank you for the dance." she told him, "I wish you the best on your goal of knighthood."
Re: The Isles of Aradia (IC/New Settlers Welcome.)
Posted: Wed May 15, 2019 6:27 pm
Joint post with IP
Mancel had folded his mouth into the shape of a smile, trying to keep the twinkle in his eye just for the sake of his son and new daughter-in-law. But the more nobles congratulated him, the more servants plied him with food and drink; he just wanted to go to bed.
Thankfully one of Aimee’s maids was chaperoning her and the drow boy who had taken an interest. Mancel could feel the smile shrinking into a grimace, his fists clenching. The child was harmless, the maids mindful of Aimee’s fright and of her social ineptitudes.
He had to turn away another drink, knowing the moment he started he would not stop until he was in a coma. Crisben Bennett stopped at his side, glancing at the lord’s empty hands.
“The platter that young lady over there is carrying about has non-alcoholic drinks,” he said softly.
Mancel only nodded. Before he realized some sort of thanks were in order, Crisben was gone. He leaned his back against the doorframe to the oratory, glancing inside to find the priest Paris Kalani polishing up the pair of ceremonial wedding chalices as he sat on a pew.
Quite suddenly, he felt a hand on his arm and he was being pushed into the oratory. Claire closed the door behind them, sparing Paris a glance before turning steely green eyes on Mancel.
“What have I done now?” Mancel grumbled, his gaze moving between the door and his daughter.
“The Bloodhawk has arranged a marriage with me. To Kavin Falmar, or Desmond Karhall. I accepted the former.”
Blood rushed behind his eyes. Her next words were almost washed away by the roaring in his skull. But he gritted his teeth over his tongue, keeping any harsh thoughts from spilling.
“It’s a ploy to keep one of his bannermen here in Caybourne. To watch Rivka’s child.”
“Then why, pray tell, did you accept?”
“Because if I didn’t, he would find some other way to put his men on our land. None of us would settle for a military presence not our own here. I dare say you hardly trust A’Draak Morvala enough for that. I don’t want to risk war between our Houses, so agreeing to a betrothal buys us some time.”
“Not much time,” Mancel muttered, almost to himself. “Did Dominic have the gall to approach you himself?”
“No,” Claire explained, “Kavin Falmar actually came clean with why the marriage was being proposed. That’s why I chose him rather than Desmond Karhall. He was honest.”
“Falmar’s the one with the goats if I remember correctly…?”
“Sheep. They would hold good trade potential if the marriage does end up going ahead,” she said, the vehemence in her voice and eyes fading now. It was replaced with a solid neutral expression – one he knew too well from her mother. It was the face she made when she was trying to hide her feelings of sadness.
It was strange seeing Amarika’s face on Claire. And all at once, he felt the rage boil back up. Not just at the Bloodhawk, but at the thought of a man taking his child to bed in a loveless marriage. One that wouldn’t have a shred of the passion and love he had felt with her mother.
Claire didn’t deserve that.
“I’m going to tell Dominic Blackthorne that any incursion of his men in our territory, I will take as an act of war.”
Claire’s expression rapidly changed to alarm. “You cannot be serious, Papa. We have a fleet, but not the sort of-”
“He’s throwing his weight on us smaller houses, demanding that we do his will like he’s some sort of fucking king,” Mancel spat. “He has no rule over us. If I give you away to his bannerman, we’re as good as one of the shitstain houses wedged firmly under his taint.”
Surprise at her father’s use of language aside, Claire put her foot down: “I won’t let you.”
“I will not
be bullied by a prick who thinks-”
“Listen to me, Papa,” Claire growled in a low, even tone. “The marriage will not happen. I will ask for a long engagement and Kavin Falmar will be stationed here to await our wedding. He will never be left alone with Rivka’s daughter.”
“Daughter?” Mancel echoed, somewhat taken aback by her cold calculation and the way she shut him down.
“Whether the child is female or not, that is what we say they are. We will have a number of years to shake the Bloodhawk and his interest, able to pass the child off as a girl if it is indeed born a boy.”
“This is assuming he ever loses interest,” Mancel frowned. “And assuming the Bloodhawk doesn’t just pay off any maids and nannies to absolutely confirm it is not male. And what of Falmar?”
“I have a hunch that once the child is proven female, Dominic Blackthorne will pull him back to the mainland and suddenly become very disinterested in the engagement. I have a feeling Kavin loves someone else, so I doubt he would stay interested himself without the forceful hand of his liege lord. And I’m certain Rivka would work with us to ensure the child only ever has the most trusted staff.”
He unclenched his fists. His focus shifted to Paris, politely continuing to polish the chalices and pretend he wasn’t privy to this treacherous conversation. Treacherous
. Mancel’s beard bristled and he spared Claire a glance.
“Could we replace Rivka’s child with a girl?”
“A lookalike, maybe,” Claire mused.
“This is a conversation for another time,” Mancel said, surprised to find his voice mellow and his heartbeat pattering down to something resembling normality. “As for this engagement… if the Bloodhawk forces the marriage, what will you do?”
“Kavin Falmar is a good man. The trade network would be expanded. It would be everything we were looking for prior to… all that happened this year.” Claire dipped her eyes. “You never cared for a warrior house. He’s from a house of farmers. It would work.”
“Politics and resources aside,” Mancel reached out and gently gripped her shoulder. “Would you be all right?”
Claire stood there, her face downcast back into that neutral expression. Then some of her father’s fire stirred beneath her brows and she glanced angrily away. She swiped at her eye. “Despite current appearances, yes.”
“Rivka’s death in childbirth could always be faked.”
Mancel and Claire stared over at Paris. He had finally set the chalices back in their case and was just sitting there, looking at the lord and his daughter. He gave a little shrug of one shoulder.
“There are potions that still the heart to only a few beats each minute. As for the babe, it can be replaced long enough for the death of Jaster Blackthorne’s child to be confirmed. Sadly – but to our benefit in this case, dead newborns are not hard to find.”
“That’s horrible,” Claire mouthed.
“But an option,” Mancel agreed. He nodded. “We’ll look into this after the wedding, Paris. But we will need to speak with Rivka on the matter. Regardless… it looks like this engagement is a reality, even if the marriage itself might not be.”
Claire gently squeezed his wrist. “And if it is, it will still be okay.”
He looked down at his daughter. Although tears glinted on her lashes, they had not fallen. The steely determination had returned and he realized to his surprise that it was his
. That expression was the one he had worn all through his early years as Lord of Caybourne under the tutelage of Keyair Heartstone.
“I love you,” Mancel said, wrapping her in an embrace against his chest. There was some stiffness as Claire adjusted to the surprise hug, but then she melted against him. “I don’t tell you that enough.”
“I love you too, Papa. And I promise,” she said, pulling back. “Everything will turn out okay.”
Reality pulsed with each staggering step. She clawed at the wall, feeling the doorframe of the linen closet pass beneath her nails. Her stomach blistered with acid and all she could think was a phrase on repeat: I wish I would throw up. I wish I would throw up.
Rasheba burped and felt her way along until she knew she could pass the hallway. The chasm between one wall and the other lasted forever, but finally her weak fingers closed about the doorknob to her bedroom. Despite the burp she felt no better. Her throat burned.
She had to lean against the wall, fumbling with the handle again and again before she managed to firmly grip the damn thing. Turning it was an entirely different issue. Her wrist didn’t respond the way it was meant to. She muttered a curse, but it sounded less than even a hiss between her teeth. Her foot gave way beneath her and she irritably kicked off her shoe to get some even footing. With a kick of her other foot, she freed herself of both shoes and finally turned the fucking thing.
With the door open a crack, she slowly eased her way down to the floor to collect her shoes. But once down there, she realized the predicament she had left herself in. She had to get back up
She pushed the door open and threw her shoes through. Slowly, she slithered her way inside on her hands and knees, sometimes on her face and feet. With a final effort, she kicked the door shut and laid there on her back, staring at the ceiling as it warped and twisted.
The spark of realization allowed her to sit up – at least, to rest on her elbows and look at the door. She hadn’t used her key.
locked the door.
With Claire on his arm, Mancel navigated the partygoers. There were still some dancing, but the dance of choice was ballroom now. Claire’s little elven maid appeared at her lady’s side and Mancel glanced over at her in confusion. The girl had practically materialized beside her.
“Do you know magic?” he asked over Claire’s head.
“No, my lord,” Nimbe said, her tipped ears perking slightly. “I know people who do if you would like me to find them…?”
Mancel shook his head and brought his mind back to the task at hand: The Bloodhawk.
There was a dais set up on one edge of the dancefloor, seating a family of four. And what a sight that family made. Estelle Blackthorne was barely past forty and yet already seemed half a harridan. Her chinless, grey face turned about to inspect her surroundings, thin lips screwed into a rictus of disgust, like she suspected that merely being here would dirty her neat dress and the barbette hat that covered her limp greying hair. She was tall for a woman, but even seated, her husband dwarved her. Larger than any man had any right to be, Dominic cast a long shadow over the other guests; the Bloodhawk's fingers were steepled at the place where his aquiline nose met his flowing long beard, and his cold grey eyes swept over whomever he was speaking to constantly as if searching for weaknesses. Beside the not-so-happy couple lounged their sons, two boys so unlike their supposed sire that it seemed almost suspicious. Jacques, the elder and heir, dressed in imitation of his father; his coat was crushed blue velvet slashed with red satin undercuts that looked like open wounds, and the mantle he wore draped carelessly over one shoulder was patterned with crimson threadwork made to look like the wings of a soaring hawk. The knight's hair was pulled back into the Bloodhawk's tight knot, and he had even attempted to grow a beard, though he had only produced a light-orange fuzz over his upper lip. His face was narrow, pinched, and weaselly, his smile cruel. Even his posture seemed insolent, slumped as he was with one leg thrown over the arm of his chair as he ate chunks of apple from the tip of his dagger. Beside him, last and least, came the younger son Geoffrey. The boy was thirteen, still a squire, but seemed to have all the cheer and goodwill that the rest of his family lacked--his plump face and soft curly hair gave him a look of innocence.
As Mancel and Claire drew closer, the crowd parted a little and unveiled the party who were addressing the Blackthornes; it was Garlon Holloway, the old Lord of the Green Grove, and the youngest of his many daughters Lord Holloway was past sixty, but seemed to be in denial about that; his gut was visibly held in place by a girdle beneath his green coat, and there was something suspicious about the fullness of the brown thatch atop his head. The girl, however, was as pretty as all the rest of Garlon's progeny; about Casim's age, with bright green eyes and long black hair like silk. There was a naivete to her, as well--upon approaching the dais she tripped a little on the hem of her dress, and though she laughed off her mistake, the color seemed to drain from her a little. Something strange happened then--Jacques perked up suddenly, like a hound that had scented blood, and watched the girl with a new interest.
Garlon was maundering away as the Ludlows came within earshot, his chest puffed up with pride. "--a record harvest, old chap, like none you've ever seen. My grandson Theodor oversaw its taking himself! Spring is truly back again, I say, and we don't need the Riverford for--"
"Father." Jacques spoke up suddenly. He tipped his dagger to point at the girl. "I want that
That was greeted with an awkward pause. Garlon's mouth sagged. The daughter looked back and forth between them, visibly puzzled.
Dominic turned slowly in his seat to look at his son, speaking in his grim baritone. "You've been resistant all this time. Why the sudden enthusiasm?"
"I told you I'd pick one if I wanted it." Jacques gave a weaselly grin. "And I want
"Excuse me!" Garlon interrupted; he seemed to still be confused as to what exactly was happening, but he could tell it was nothing good. He put an arm round his daughter. "Are you referring to my Vanya, sir? You should take care how--"
"This doesn't concern you, old man." Jacques' tone was indifferent. "You're boring us. Why don't you waddle off and inflict yourself on someone else? Leave the girl here. I have a proposition for her."
Garlon reddened. "Now listen here, you little shit, I--"
Axl Waynrite came at him as if from nowhere. He clamped steel-clad fingers about Lord Holloway's neck and seized him by his scruff, shaking him violently. The two guards bearing Greengrove's white-garland banner took up their spears, but were stayed by the rattle of ten Blackthorne swords around them. All the while, Waynrite was shaking their lord like a kitten as Vanya backed away, hands clamped over her mouth. Jacques had burst into cruel laughter as if this was a jester's show.
"You want to finish that sentence, you flowery fucking ponce?
" Axl hissed, baring crooked yellow teeth. He shook Lord Holloway so hard that the old man's wig fell off and splashed into the pot of pea soup on the table. "Or you want to do what Lord Blackthorne says?
" With only a few whispy strands left on his scalp, Garlon looked even more pathetic than before; his face had gone purple from the chokehold. "I'll--I'll go--acckh--
Jacques waved a hand and Axl released the man, letting him fall to the floor in a heap. With a leer still on his face, Jacques reached into the soup-pot and slopped the Lord's wig back on his head messily. "Then go, and leave the girl. Have a care how you speak to your betters in the future."
Vanya watched as her father's guardsmen took her sire and hauled him away, dripping and filthy and humiliated. When she turned back to the desk, the heir to House Blackthorne was beckoning her.
"Come here, girl." Jacques's face twitched when she failed to comply immediately, and then darkened. "You'd better
She dipped her head meekly and stepped up to the dais. Jacques pulled her rudely onto his lap, and whispered something in her ear that made her quake.
Dominic, who had watched the display impassively, turned his eyes up to Mancel. "Lord Ludlow. And his maiden daughter. You may approach. Watch the soup on the floor...Lord Holloway seems to have spilled some."
Mancel saw his daughter’s lip curl in disgust at the Blackthorne heir’s actions and had to give her arm a firm squeeze. He could feel her pulse quickening beneath his hand, but judging by the flush of heat radiating off her it was not fear.
He certainly understood. Slowly, his arm fell away from hers and he found his knuckles gripping the pommel of his sword. He saw out the corner of his eye that Nimbe was gripping Claire’s other arm, as if to restrain her from doing something rash. Another moment, and he realized she was positioning herself as if to wedge herself between Claire and this monstrous family.
But he had no Nimbe to restrain him. So he bit his tongue as hard as he could. But finally, it snarked out.
“Your son appears to have forgotten his manners at my son’s wedding,” the words came out low and steady.
Jacques snorted as he slid a hand down Vanya's bodice. "You hear that father? I misbehaved at this peasant's wedding. Fucking spare
Geoffrey's former cheer had finished. He was giving his brother a reproachful look. "That was unchivalrous, brother."
"Unchivalrous?" Jacques crowed. He took his hand out of the girl's dress and used it to twist his little brother's ear. "What would you know about chivalry, brat? You're just a fucking squire, and you're going to stay that way til you're old and bent and disgusting like great-uncle Edwyle--"
"No I won't!" Geoffrey wailed, trying to pull way but only making the pain worse, and his eyes started watering. "Cousin Tali says--"
"Cousin Tali, Cousin Tali,
" Jacques mocked in a whiny imitation, twisting his brother's ear all the harsher. "But she's a Sabre now, isn't she? Doesn't matter what she thinks--"
"Boys, stop fighting this instant!
" Estelle shrieked.
Jacques let his brother go with a shrug. "He was saying treason, mother. Tis no fault of mine." As Geoffrey subsided, rubbing at his reddened ear and sniffling, the elder heir stuck his hand up the Holloway's girl skirt, making her squirm.
Dominic ignored the whole exchange completely as if his sons were not even present. "Sir Jacques meant no disrespect to you or your son, Lord Ludlow. Garlon Holloway clearly threatened him, and he was merely showing....discipline. What do you wish to speak to me about?"
“If he means no disrespect, he will release his hold on that girl this moment. Regardless of her father’s… mistakes
, she should not have to pay for them.”
Mancel’s gaze drilled holes through Jacques, not for a moment looking at the Bloodhawk although he was whom Mancel addressed.
"Am I not allowed to show affection for my betrothed?" Jacques stroked her hair, smirking, as she trembled in his grasp. "Oh, but you are a prude,
old man. Surely young love is something you must have experienced once...long, long ago, by the looks of it."
Dominic turned his head slightly, giving his son a cool look for a moment. "Sir Jacques, I believe Lord Ludlow has made a reasonable request to speak to us alone. This is legal business, negotiations, a vital part of any Lord's duty."
"But of course. Run along, then, my love." Jacques yanked Vanya to her feet, then pushed her off the dais with a slap on the backside.
"I haven't seen you in months, Dominic, and now we cannot even eat a meal as a family?" Estelle complained.
Dominic's brows drew together in a hard V. "I told you to quit my sight, woman.
" The Bloodhawk spat that last word like a curse. "Your nattering wears my patience, and this business does not concern you in the slightest. A few months
is too short a time, I feel."
Estelle looked for a moment like she was on the verge of tossing her wine goblet at her husband, but then she gathered up her skirts and her dignity, rising from her seat. "Come, Geoffrey. Let's get you some ice for your ear. Perhaps we might speak with young Vanya as well."
The three moved away, Vanya looking just as uncomfortable as she had been with Jacques when with his mother.
Dominic turned his stormcloud gaze again onto Mancel. "We are quite alone, Lord Ludlow. Unless you count Sir Axl, who I assure you is just as qualified in political matters as myself or my son."
Jacques chortled. "My uncle, the scholar."
“Your bannermen approached my daughter,” Mancel said. He maintained the same level tone, but he could feel the veins thudding in his neck. How the men in this family treated their women was disgusting. “Might I ask why they seek her hand in marriage?”
Claire’s gaze flicked to him. This wasn’t what he was meant to be doing. He was meant to be simply accepting it. But no. His blood had been stirred. He wanted this asshole to say it to his face. Or for his whelp to shit something out his mouth worthy of a slap to the back of the head.
"How clumsy of them." Dominic turned his gaze to Claire for a moment. There was a trace of disdain in that look, left over from their previous encounter in the Senate. "I apologize for the sheeplord, your ladyship. We have floated the idea in past council meetings that we might propose to wed a bannerman to you. And Falmar no doubt considers himself up to the task, perhaps roping Sir Desmond in with him as well to fortify his undoubtedly feeble courage."
"He's getting notions
from being around your whore of a niece too much, father." Jacques bared his teeth.
"Perhaps." Dominic looked once again to Mancel. "That said, perhaps there might be an advantage to the Sheeplord's hubris. Your family is a rising power, and there are advantages to be gained from allying with a family like my own. Perhaps if the Sheeplord turns your daughter's stomach...and I would not blame her for that...she might instead prefer Sir Gaheris Warthorne of Nchurdamz?"
“I think I would prefer an honest farmer to a lustful barbarian,” Claire said without hesitation. She had warded Nimbe off to her side by now. “Kavin Falmar would be my choice.”
Jacques cackled again, the same irritating, obviously-fake laugh he'd done before. "Lustful barbarian, eh? I'll tell him you said that."
"Sir Gaheris is a chivalrous knight, and the Warthornes are among our most valued bannermen," Dominic said in the same flat tone that a stablemaster might use when trying to sell you their shoddiest horse. "But I am pleased that Lord Falmar seems to have... charmed you, nevertheless. Perhaps you might suffer him to remain with you a while so you might continue your courtship, as we certainly have no use for him?"
“He may remain,” Mancel said. “But Claire will be attending to her duties in the Senate until mid-year when I have a new representative assigned. Whether he wishes to go with her or stay here, we can accommodate him either way.”
"Excellent." Dominic pushed aside his uneaten plate of food. "I believe Kavin may remain here as necessary, with a...small....security detail, with your permission."
He raised his eyes for a moment, as if puzzled to find that Mancel was still there. "Will that be all?"
“I believe it will,” Mancel said. Without further ado, he took Claire’s arm and led her away, Nimbe in tow.
Axl let loose a grunting laugh as they went. "Pawned you off on the fucking Falmar.
Mudblood and sheepfucker ought to get on like a house on fire, I say."
Mancel stood still in his tracks. Claire grabbed at his arm in turn. “Papa, come on. It’s not-”
He shrugged her off and stalked back. Axl Waynrite was a good four inches taller than he, but Mancel met his gaze with ease as he stood far too close to the man. “What did you call my daughter?”
Axl Waynrite's rheumy eyes peered at Mancel curiously through the dual slits of his Y-shaped visor, as if he didn't understand why Ludlow would take issue with something so factual. "You deaf as well as a peasant, old man? I don't repeat myself for the likes of you."
There was a strange silence about the two men – a knight insulting a lord in his own home. Despite his beard, the firm set of Mancel’s jaw was clear. His hand was closed about the hilt of his sword. With a lightning fast jerk of his head, he rammed his skull into Axl’s helm. The hollow dong
echoed around them. He heard Claire exhale in exasperation.
Axl took a single step back. His eyes studied the ceiling above them. Then, ever so slowly, they dipped down to meet Mancel's. But the lethargy of that movement belied how fast the big man could really go; in one snappy movement, he snatched three feet of Blackthorne steel from the holster on his back--
The Bloodhawk did not have to shout his commands, or even raise his voice. His resonating baritone cut through all the other noises of the party. The blade stopped an inch before it would have cleaved in Mancel's head. All eyes turned to the dais. Lord Blackthorne rose from his seat, stepping around the table. A hush had fallen over the whole area; a crowd had formed to watch. "Lord Ludlow. Did you just strike one of my sworn bannermen, my own brother-in-law, uncle to my sons?"
Jacques watched his father go, his eyes wide, hungry; he wanted to see his father inflict horrible pain on their host. He lived
to see it.
"I do not think this bodes well for the future of our alliance." With one long gloved finger, Dominic pushed the sword away from Mancel's head. His abominably large figure overshadowed Mancel completely as he approached, blocking out the lantern-light; it seemed not to be a man the Lord was facing but some vast dark monolith like the black marble cliffs of the West. "I have done you many courtesies, Ludlow. I allowed you to wed my useless nephew's widow and have access to the lands she will inherit. I have offered your insolent daughter a bannerman of her own choosing. And yet you seem eager to get into a fist-fight with Sir Axl. I wonder if anything will sate you. I wonder how long you will keep trying my patience."
The new voice came from a tiny, trembling page in Blackthorne colors. The lad had been waiting at their elbows for his Lord to finish speaking, trembling all the way up to his little feathered hat.
The Bloodhawk turned to look down at the boy, who was less than half his size. It was like watching an elephant speak to a mouse. "I am rather busy, Jason."
"It's...it's really quite important, my lord." The boy swallowed, wringing his hands. "Cardinal Steerpike said for your ears only."
Dominic gave Mancel a look, then sunk to one knee, seemingly completely unafraid of the sword at the other Lord's side. The page still had to crane his neck to whisper the message in The Bloodhawk's ear.
"...interesting." Blackthorne's mouth twitched beneath his beard in something that almost looked like a smile. "I must attend to this matter. Axl, Jacques, with me."
Axl had been looking at Mancel and panting, his bullish shoulders rising and falling and his rheumy eyes filled with fury. He had not put away his blade. When Dominic gave the command, he looked affronted. "What of this lowborn scum, my lord?"
"Do as you're commanded." Dominic beckoned to Jacques, who looked equally disappointed. As the entire Blackthorne party gathered about them, the Bloodhawk turned to give Mancel a final look, as if he'd forgotten the other man was there. "You are a lucky man, Ludlow. It seems I have had a death in the family. So it seems we must continue our discussion later. Don't go anywhere...or else I will
And just like that, Lord Blackthorne, his heir, and all their stormtroopers were gone, marching out of the party in neat formation.
“That was a moronic action,” Claire said plainly.
“I know,” Mancel growled back. He looked at her, a red mark forming on his forehead. For the first time today, the grin was genuine. “But it felt right.”
“Who was the death in the family?” Nimbe asked, her eyes trailing after the Bloodhawk and his posse.
“Not the right Blackthorne, that’s for certain,” Mancel muttered.
“People are staring,” Claire said, stepping closer so her voice could be lower.
Indeed many eyes were on them, but darted away at Mancel’s gaze and the now bright mark on his forehead. He gave a wave of his hand to Claire and Nimbe. “Go back to the party. We can speak more on this whole marriage business later. I’m going to go lay down in my chambers.”
“Because your head hurts?”
“Because my head hurts.”
Re: The Isles of Aradia (IC/New Settlers Welcome.)
Posted: Thu May 16, 2019 3:14 am
a collaboration with skummy
She was alone, out in the garden. No guards, no friends, no hangers-on. She was just there,
perched on the edge of the white marble water-fountain, her back to him. As he watched, she untied her hair, letting her scarlet tresses fall about her shoulders. The way she did it reminded him of their mother, and it made his heart ache.
She looks the same,
Jaster thought, and that somehow made him feel both better and worse. I've changed so much. Lost half my face, half my hand, lost everything that made me who I was. She is my twin, and we have been nigh-inseparable since the day we were born...but will she even know me anymore?
Jaster was hidden behind a wall, hood drawn up over his face, watching her through the window. Arianne had told him not to contact anyone he knew, else they betrayed him to the Bloodhawk. After speaking to Casim he felt as if the Rivka situation had passed out of his hands. It was all happening to someone else now; to this couple, he was nothing but an unhappy memory. But what if his twin had come to think of him the same way?
She never would.
The Other admonished him over Rivka, but in this situation, it whispered words of comfort. You are family. You were born together, two halves of the same person. She was meant to rule at your side. They might dress her in their colors, but Talia Blackthorne is not a Sabre.
But he couldn't.
If he went to her and she didn't know him, what then? What of the--
His train of thought broke violently as he heard voices from down the corridor. People approaching. Turning his back to the wall and drawing his blade, he assumed a guard's stance and waited for the new arrivals to pass.
"For the last time, do not treat me as some fuckin' old frailty!" a loud, boisterous noise "Stop following me I can control this thing myself, go off and party among them all I have no need for you." the sound of polished wood wheeling along stone.
"My lady you know I can-" her voice was roundly cut by the whooping of a cane through the air and a brief cessation of movement "Shut your mouth and get going, I wish to be alone away form the pity and the 'oh my, gave up her body for the cause' piss off!" with a noise of something solid connecting to flesh the quick sound of feet shuffling and rolling wood returned. The wheeling stopped as she approached the young man, she made to move past him but she seemed to make a face as though a flicker snapped in her brain and she turned the chair she was bound to in a ninety degree turn to face up to the young lone guardian.
Her eyes were a hard crimson but her body had a weakness to it, though they were not visible in her loose flowing red tunic there was scaring throughout her body and she had been pieced back together bit by bit. Her shiny off lilac hair was braided nicely and laid upon one shoulder and deigned with jewelry to signify her importance, the blanket along her lap simply to keep her warm though she was displeased to have been made to keep it on her person. It was a fine quilt depicting many scenes of one sort or another, more than likely hand crafted in months of recovery.
Laid across the woman's lap was a well polished and kept redwood walking cane, it looked pristine as if it were used more as a threat than for actual movement. Her eyes didn't leave the young man, they looked up at him suspiciously "What, pray tell, are you doing out this far? The party is inside, and there is nary a noble about aside from myself in these parts boy." Mossa Redoran sat before Jaster Blackthorne, the last time they had seen each other was in the war room planning to withstand the siege of the Riverford together, and again when her soldier saved him form the Void Elf though they never spoke then.
She looked aged, no long wearing her plates of armor and wielding giant weapons, now looking like a frail little woman though still youthful aside from some burns that crept out here and there form her fabric. However the intensity of her eyes was the same as when she had brazenly stepped in to aid the Blackthornes against the forces of her brother.
Jaster had not been expected to have been addressed at all, let alone by someone with whom he had met before. His first instinct was the pull his hood down even further over his eyes. This Drow had fought Knoxes for him before he had been the Drowned Man...but he still was not entirely sure he trusted her. The Bloodhawk had fought Knoxes and Demons too, after all. Until he could see the bigger picture here, Jaster resolved to maintain his suspicion, though it occurred to him that pulling his hood like this would likely arouse her
suspicion as well.
"Erm." He cleared his throat, trying to coarsen his voice into anonymity. He adopted his best imitation of the brogue spoken in the fishing villages of northern Stormrise. "I...I'm a security detail fer Lady Talia, ma'am." He pointed out the window with one thumb. "She wants teh be alone, y'see. But I can't leave her. Cap'n's orders. So I'm keepin' a watch on her."
This plan will fall apart very easily if she asks Talia about me,
it occured to him after he was finished speaking. He cursed his own stupidity. If I went to Talia, I could let her do all the thinking again. Goddess, wouldn't that improve my lot.
"Isn't it Lady Sabre? As well I thought Talia was only permitted the hand picked guardian of Tybolt after Sir Druun was dismissed back to Coldharbour?" she looked past to the garden and squinted "If you say so, however the Lady Sabre would not mind a wheelchair bound lady herself to mingle abouts and away form her? Mayhaps you should simply follow me inside and keep watch that I don't attempt to strike her with my cane" she bore a wry smile as she looked back to the young man.
She began to turn her chair to face the garden and wheel herself off and away, slowly but diligently as if to fact check what this young man had said, as though she weren't to buy it without definitive proof by her so called ward. She doubted Lady Talia would have too much agony over one woman being there abouts her presence. She couldn't be certain, his hand didn't look like it closed right but that could be any number of things wrong with him, but his facial burns might have been a result of him laying on something of intensive heat for an extended period.
Jaster's mouth gaped open when the Drow spoke casually of the Bloodhawk's security arrangements. Bloody hell, she knows more than Arianne does.
He was so nonplussed that he almost missed the fact that Mossa was wheeling herself out to blow his cover. Fortunately for him she couldn't go very fast.
"Wait!" he stepped forward, then remembered his cover. "Ah...it's not fer me to give yeh orders, m'lady, but she's best left alone." Luckily enough, he knew of an excuse that would not be so easily refuted. "She's in mourning, yeh see. Her father going last year, and then her brother, only a few months back. And with her husband not here...I'm sure yeh understand."
"Titus hasn't been with her since they got married, she does fine managing the Sabre House when she's in Everglow. According to reports Attia stays up in her chambers drunk or high most times with Kavi only leaving her side a few times per day, with nobody else there someone has to keep that House form falling in on itself, as Everelda left for Verdant Lea, and then back to The Tropics" she paused and turned a bit edging to return to facing him. Her crimson eyes locking back in on his blue.
"So I wouldn't think she's defeated quite yet" she said the next words carefully and smiled a knowing grin "However you are correct, I should not interrupt such a Lady in her time of respite from the busy whirlwind of a wedding party." she tapped him in the chest with her cane "But I wouldn't leave her alone for too much longer if I were you, who knows who will come out here besides a feeble cripple like me" with that she turned completely and began to wheel herself off even quicker than before not giving time for any reply, thinking enough had been said already in a place like this.
Left behind was a pendant, a tower shield on a silver chain, it had to have fallen from Mossa's person as she wheeled herself out in a hurry. It shimmered with enchantment, clearly it was an item of power and had some writing on elvish scrawled on it. She was already speeding off, so he wouldn't be able to catch her if he wanted to keep his cover, but it would be a waste to not at least give it a glance over.
Shouldn't leaver her alone for much longer, eh?
Jaster reflected on that for a moment before he realized the Drow woman had power-wheeled away from him, leaving a gift behind. "Uh--thank you!" he called after her. "Goddess, now
you go quickly..."
He picked up the shield and studied it carefully. The Redoran woman had recognized him, there was no doubt about that. Between the symbol of protection and the advice she'd left in her wake, he could not help but feel that she at least wanted
him to succeed. Perhaps he was walking into a trap. He could practically hear Arianne's admonishments but they suddenly seemed to be fading from his mind, from his conscience. Yes, maybe this was all some elaborate trap that he was about to spring. But what good came from this skulking and staring out of the shadows? It accomplished nothing. Rivka might have moved on...but he refused to accept Talia had. She was his family. The same went for Geraint, for Yven, for Llewys, even for Kavin. None of them would ever do him wrong, he saw that now.
And so, slinging his shield over his back and lowering his hood, he stepped out into the clearing. He took a long breath in. I will say her name, and she will know me in an instant. She always keeps her composure, no matter what...but this time, I think, she may shed a tear. I'll be home. Home at last.
Slowly, she turned. He was taken aback to see there were already tears in her eyes.
There is something wrong here.
The hairs on the back of his neck were standing up. He took a step forward. "Tali. It's me."
Her eyes widened...not in surprise, but something else. She rose to her feet and backed away from him quickly, putting a hand over her mouth.
"It's me, Tali. Your brother." The moonlight was on his uncovered face, on his good side. Why couldn't she see
him? "Don't you r--"
"Get away from me."
He choked back his words. "What?"
from me." Talia's tears glistened in the moonlight. She still had that look...horror
he now realized. She was afraid of him. "By the Void, you're dead,
the whole army watched you fall from the tower--" She grabbed fistfuls of her own hair as if to tear it out. "I'm mad,
I'm going mad
oh goddess--you're dead, they're all dead, there's only me--what are
Jaster didn't understand. He felt the harsh disparity of sundered expectations--the way his burst of optimism had allowed him to foresee this encounter, the tears and embraces, versus the cold unknowable reality of what was happening before him. "Tali, please, it's me.
I lived. What do you mean you're the last? What of Murtagh, of Joanna?"
The name of the older sister made Talia cover her eyes as if in agony. When he stepped closer to her, she recoiled--"GET AWAY
FROM ME!"--and he felt the spark of mana radiate off her. The shock manifested in a fountain of blue sparks, so strong it knocked him off his feet, and by the time he came to his senses she was gone.
What was that?
His muscles felt like they were made of treacle after the shock, but somehow, he was on his feet and moving. He had an awful suspicion, but he had to know...
The guards who had mocked him earlier were no longer at their dice. They stood together in a tight circle, muttering in worried tones.
Jaster grabbed the tallest one by the shoulder and wrenched him around. "What's happened?"
"FUck are you talking about, cripple?" the guard growled. "Get yer hand off me or--"
"I made," Jaster adjusted his grip and grabbed a fistful of the man's goatee. "A polite request. Don't make me repeat myself. Tell me what happened."
The man evidently felt the strength in that grasp, for he waved his comrades off, eyes watering. "There was another demon attack. At Tumbledown Falls. The castle was ruined. Lord Wyatt is dead...as is his wife."
They're gone, they're all gone, I am alone, and my mind is falling apart.
❧ Lady Sabre ☙
The spectre of her brother had seemed so real, and when she had lashed out at it it had hit something tangible, to be sure. But that didn't mean it was real. Nothing seemed quite real to her anymore. Demons walking the realm as they had not done for centuries, all seemingly for the express purpose of targeting her own
family...goddess, she had not even been close
to Joanna, who had been shipped off to an arranged marriage when Talia was still scarcely more than an infant. But in their encounters Talia had taken for granted the attachments she had to her older sister; when one thought of a Blackthorne, one pictured some smirking master-swordsman greedy for wealth and influence at the expense of all those around them. Joanna had been the opposite of that. Sunny, sweet-natured, optimistic. Not at the end, though. The war had taken her first child, the Bloodhawk her second. Lady Wyatt had spent the last months of her life bed-ridden and inconsolable, refusing to answer Talia's letters.
Talia had always privately entertained a notion that one day she would meet her sister, be able to help
her, perhaps. There had been the looming threat of the Bloodhawk, of course, but...there was no chance of it now. The totality of Joanna, everything she was, gone in an instant. And not even extinguished as part of some political game, or as a result of her own illness. It was Demons. Demons again, just like...
...just like at the Riverford.
Crouched in a dark corner of the Ludlow's library with her head in her hands, Talia went suddenly still, like a deer that had detected a threat while grazing in a glade. She had come here for isolation, for quiet, terrified of another encounter with some ghost of her past, but in the silence she found she found a sudden burst of mental clarity. The demons came for the Riverford, which made sense, because it had crippled trade routes and many in the midlands were now starving because of it. But Tumbledown Falls? A squat little castle built around a stony waterfall? What possible advantage could that have?
None. They were looking for something.
Talia rose to her feet. And what did the two attacks have in common? My siblings were at the center of both.
She took a breath. "Sir Tybolt!"
She'd commanded her guardsman to leave her alone, and he'd had trouble finding her when she'd run from him upon his delivery of the initial news. He had stayed close, though, and when summoned, he came quickly.
"Do you still have the parchment? Let me see it." She held a hand outstretched.
The knight gave her a peculiar look, but fished in the pockets of his blue cloak and produced the message nevertheless. "I am...sorry for your loss, my lady."
"It wasn't your fault." Talia scowled at the words scrawled before her. They spoke of demons in the night, slaughter, ruin, and they made her feel that yawning sense of despair and madness again. She forced herself to focus. "Lady Joanna was in the midst of another fit of despair, having cut her wrists, and was attempting to climb out of the window to fall into the Falls. It was only then we noticed that where her blood touched the water below, the whole river ran red, and daark shapes began to form beneath it...
why didn't you tell me this?"
"You seemed already distressed enough without the gory details, my lady..."
Oh, I wish Valar were here in your stead.
She brandished the message at him. "But this is important,
Sir. The demons did not rise until after my sister's hysteria, do you see? The old texts I would study as a child would describe the extent to which bridging a portal from the confines of the Void required vast expenditure of mana, per Kalakhot's Eighth Law of Transcendental Metaphysics, such that it could only be drawn from the inherent transmundane energy present within--"
Tybolt was gazing at her blankly.
She sighed. "They need a blood sacrifice to cross into the terrestrial realm, I mean. But to move a whole army, one would need the blood of hundreds. This eyewitness account claims the demon attack began immediately after Joanna bled into the river. Between this and the death of my brother at the Riverford, there must be some
"My lady, you are in mourning." Tybolt shook his head. "You forget that your brother died at the end of the battle, and was in a prime target for demons attacks besides--"
"But the battle started with the sacrifice of hundreds, the downing of the Knox ship! What if they meant to come for my brother?"
"...it is not my place to question you, my lady."
No, you fool, question me more, argue with me, it helps me think.
But she could not force him on this matter. "I am close to something here, I know it. Stand by the door if you please, sir, and see to it that I am not disturbed--turn away anyone who seeks to enter, be it a servant or the Bloodhawk himself. I must search through the tomes here."
The knight bowed, took his halbred, and went to his station.
Talia rolled up the sleeves of her dress and pinned her hair back in a tail, her eyes scanning the bookshelves. She might have complained at the size of the library in comparison to the vast archives in Griffin's Peak, but she also felt that some handwritten tomes that were not
written by Westerners may prove more useful in this instance. She needed only to search for a short while before she found it, a great dusty leatherback; in gold filigree along its spine, An Accounte of The Greate Demon War, by Brother Arrimond.
She wrestled it off the shelf with some difficulty, heaved it onto a stone table, and pulled it open, wincing at the musty smell of its ancient yellow pages. Seizing a lantern from a sconce nearby, she studied the words and began to read. It was difficult work. Brother Arrimond had a talent for making vast and epic battles seem boring and stuffy. She found herself skipping whole paragraphs describing a particular demon's pustules, or the intricacies of ration distribution among House Unferth's archery corps. It was not the kind of thing one would read for fun, but Talia relished the work; it kept her mind from wandering into places she could not afford for it to go. The mana pool within her sizzled.
...a yea, verily did the High Elf king Leghelien Third of Name ride forth from the Greate Riverforde with his dear friend Bonnie Sir Tomás Corcoran, and they did sing moste boisterously withe all theire gaye and mightye men as they wente...
Talia flicked angrily through ten pages of song lyrics without reading any of it.
...but hark, for their gaiety did become moste ruinede by a queere sighte, for beneath the lighte of the Blue Comet did come a moste fearful racket, and there did come the vile Wyrm Androvax, most cruele daughtere of the foul Underkinge. And Leghelien did tremble to beholde the timorous beaste, but Bonnie Sir Tomás did send up a crye and set his speare at rest, but the lighte of the Comet did blinde the bolde knights, and when Androvax did make her descente, the fellowship did burne most awfully beneathe the Wyrmfire...
The Comet. There was something tangible. Talia hurried to another shelf, grateful that someone had bothered to organize all of this, and selected another old tome--The Astronomye of the Firmament, 0AE-300AE.
At least this book had illustrations, Jaster would have said. The diagrams were marked helpfully, and it even had an index section, which Talia was able to use to locate the Comet.
...dark omen of King Balthazar, First of His Name, Lord of the House of the Black Thorn, Lord-Paramount of the Thunderlands, Sovereign o'er the West and Harbinger of the Storm. The Comet did streake across the heavens at the outsette of the Demon War, hailing from the Westerne Lands, bringing ruination in its wake.
Talia stepped back from the book, putting a hand on her forehead. Did this mean...the Demons had come out of the West? She was close to something huge here, she could feel it--
There came voices from down the hall. Tybolt speaking, angrily. The scrape of metal. Then silence.
Talia tensed. The library was completely silent...and dark, as well. Suddenly she wished she had taken her guard inside with her. She went to take her lantern, but realized that if she was in danger, the last thing she wanted was to stick a light to herself for an assailant to track her through a dark room. Taking a deep breath, she hurried to the edge of the nearest shelf, trying to make her footfalls as quiet as possible.
Jacques stepped from the shadows.
She stopped in her tracks, clenching her fists. "Sir. I have no business with you. Let me pass."
He said nothing, only took a step towards her. He was smiling, rubbing his gloved hands together. There was a glint to his eyes that she liked even less than normal.
Talia refused to back off. "If you have a quarrel with me, cousin, let me remind you that many of my husband's men are--"
Casually, he reached out and punched her in the face.
Talia's head was rocked back, stars exploding before her eyes. A firmament.
She sank to her knees, head swimming, hands clamped over her mouth where it felt like her lip had been smashed open.
"...I am so tired,
" Jacques was saying as he leaned down over her, "Of hearing you brag
about all the cards you hold. The way I see it you're not worth much anymore. Isn't that right, lads?"
Other men came from the shadows behind him. Axl Waynrite. Valus Thormund. And a third. For a second, Talia's watering eyes widened as she thought the demons had come for her; but no, this was merely a man...albeit a man in a terrifying suit of dark armor, with a head made to look like some twisted metal hound. Behind him, he dragged a corpse. Tybolt looked strangely peaceful in death, even with the lumpy, ragged mincemeat that had been made of his neck.
"Told you to leave that at the door," Jacques snapped.
The armored man took Tybolt's blue cloak and used it to wipe away the gore on his curved sword. The Blackthorne colors became smudged with filth. "I must have my trophy." The man's voice was an echoing rasp inside his greathelm. "This one is the Archduke of Volmark's son, or else you could have just killed him yourself. A lock of that hair, perhaps..."
"Take it somewhere else. Or you don't get what I promised. Go and keep watch at the door."
The greathelm seemed to gaze at the Blackthorne Heir with its glimmering, jewelled eyes. It wearer turned and swept away into the dark, his heavy patchwork cloak the last thing to vanish around the corner of the bookshelf.
Jacques pointed. "Lift her. One to either arm."
Talia had been on her knees all the time, hands clamped over the wetness spreading from her split lip, her eyes following the men around her. She felt...anticipation. At the very moment she was curiously blank, curiously calm. But there was something inside her, something that wanted to get out, bubbling up like bile. Valus, fat and clumsy, fumbled as he took her left arm. Axl wrenched her right back painfully, yanking her to her feet.
"I'm glad we finally get to speak alone." Jacques approached her slowly, fingers steepled. "I wanted an audience for this, but...what? Are you saying something?"
Talia's lips, half-swollen, had been moving soundlessly. Now she spoke louder. "I said...does your father
He powered his fist into her stomach, so hard it nearly lifted her off her feet. She let out a choked scream, trying to bend double, but Valus and Axl forced her to remain upright. She hung limply between them, gasping for air, her insides burning.
"...don't interrupt me," Jacques finished casually. "Father says you shouldn't die. Kinslaying is a crime, after all. But...ahh, but...
" he smiled again, wisely, like he was advising a small child. "You just had to interfere with me, didn't you? Had to make a spectacle out of it, in front of all my men. I can't have you questioning my power. I am the heir
to House Blackthorne, you understand that?"
"Yewwwh..." With her stomach still feeling like it was packed with hot led, her words came only with difficulty, but she bared her bloody teeth at him and forced them out nevertheless. "You...bastard fuck
Her cousin slapped her, lazily, across the face. "Mind your fucking manners. I've got a solution, Lady Sabre. Everyone saw you defy me outside the Knox grounds...but they saw you walk away, free, unharmed. Nobody
does that, you understand? Nobody
questions my authority, and gets to just walk away." There was that glimmer in his eyes again, the one she couldn't identify. He pulled up the hem of his coat, and drew from his belt a silver dagger. Its wicked point seemed to flash in the lantern-light. "I won't kill you. But I am going to leave you with a few...marks. I want everyone who looks at you to understand...that they shouldn't try my patience.
Axl was doing his grunting chuckle. Valus, on the other hand, stank of sweat; beads of it were forming on his forehead, rolling down into his neckbeard. He said nothing, but the stench off of him was filling her head, and coupled with Axl's snorting and the pain she felt it was as if her every sense was overwhelmed, but even through all this fog a single thought was clear to her.
My family died so that you could be Heir.
Gordon. Jaster. Joanna. Their mother. Even their father, though he had been a monstrosity by the end of his life, had at least kept a stable ship. All gone now. Replaced by Jacques. Replaced by a rapist who butchered prisoners of war, honorable men, whenever he felt like his supremacy was under threat. This was the future of the family that had raised her. She heaved in deep gasps of air, trying depeerately to stay in control. It wasn't working. She wasn't sure she wanted
it to work. When he cut her face the first time, and she felt her own blood running down her face, it barely even hurt her.
Jacques leaned down to her eye level. There was a solemn look to him now, like she was spoiling his fun. "I don't much like the way you're looking at me, cousin. I feel as if you don't understand.
"You should run.
"Eh?" he mimed cupping a hand around one ear. "Say again?"
"You should...run." Talia's skin was tingling, like millions of tiny fireworks were bursting beneath its surface. "You don't...understand...what you're dealing
Jacques licked his lips. "I told you about that bragging, Talia. Axl, open her dress." A rough gauntleted hand ripped into the front of her gown, tearing through the High Elven satin and baring her breasts. With an almost gentle sigh, Jacques laid the point of his knife against one nipple, drawing a spot of blood. "I'll take these first, I think, then what's between your legs. Not that your husband makes much use of them, see, but I think the future of the family will be more secure if you dont have the use of..."
Talia was not sure, looking back on it, if Jacques ever understood what was happening to him. He did not notice when Valus and Axl recoiled back from her, as if she had suddenly become unbearable to touch. Neither did he seem to comprehend when her hands closed around his neck, the white lightning already coiling from her fingers. The mana within her was singing. Why had she been afraid of this? This was beautiful.
This was what she was meant
for. The electricity jolted Jacques once, twice, his skeleton flashing through his skin...and then something struck her on the head. The light faded, the mana within her cut off, and she was falling...
...until she was awoken by a woman's screaming.
"MY SON, MY BOY, AUGGGHHH
Talia's vision was blurry, her head pounding from whatever had hit her. There were men all around, surrounding her in a tight circle. Her father's men...her brothers'...her uncle's. The Bloodhawk was here, as were they all. Monmoth and Rookwood and Thormund and Waynrite and Cogworth and Karhall, all gathered but for Kavin, all watching her. Estelle Blackthorne was on the ground, her arms coiled around the body. The magic had not ruined him overmuch; in death, Jacques was still recognizably Jacques. His eyes might have been blank, he may have been missing hair, his flesh might be blackened about his neck, but the ghost of his final weaselly mirth was still frozen on his features. I win, whore,
that look said. I told you nobody walked away from me unharmed.
"My Lord," one of the guards said hoarsely between Estelle's shrieks. "She wakes."
Dominic turned his head slowly to regard her. The look made her recoil. She realized now she had never seen true
anger on her uncle's face until now.
"Get the woman out of here," the Bloodhawk commanded. There was a strained edge to his baritone that she had never heard before. "And the remains as well."
When one of the stormtroopers touched Estelle to try and move her, she shrieked so loudly that everyone in the room recoiled. It took minutes to force her out of the room, and the body with her. With her gone the room remained crowded, but Talia felt as if she were alone with her uncle, so great was his presence.
Dominic's shadow fell over where she knelt. "You killed my son." It was a statement of fact, not a question.
Talia's mouth was bone-dry, her mana reserves utterly depleted; she pulled the remains of her dress around her to cover herself, shuddering. "Uncle, I never meant to--"
"Never meant to?" His voice was still quiet, but his nostrils flared. "You do not even care to deny it?"
"I saw it, my lord," Axl grunted, stepping out of the shadows. "She shocked me, then killed my nephew. If I hadn't given her the flat of my sword, she'd--"
"I understand what happened." Dominic cut over him harshly. "What interests me is the method. You know full well that magic is forbidden in our bloodline, girl. You ought to have outed yourself long ago, and accepted your penalty for the good of the realm. If Axl had not impaired you, who knows how many you might have killed?"
"Not only a kinslayer. But a witch." Jaxon Waynrite stepped closer. His eyes were unfocused, and his words were slow. "First the demons killed her brother. Then the elder sister. Clearing the line of succession, see...she
"What?" Talia's mind was reeling, she barely even knew
this man. "That's...I couldn't even begin to..."
Valus came forward then, pale and quaking, dabbing at his neckbeard with a handkerchief. "That's why she killed Sir Jacques, Lord Blackthorne! She's coming for your seat! Jacques didn't even mean to attack her, I heard her call him a bastard, she's trying to--"
"Dominic they're lying to you! You know they're lying!" Talia voice sounded weak and desperate even to her own ears. "Please--I know
I hid my magic but I controlled it all these years, Jacques was trying to maim me, he hired mercenary to kill my guard, just question--"
"Witch." Jaxon had spoken slowly before, but now he cut over her harshly, and the rest of the Westlords joined in.
"Witch!" Axl spat on her face.
"Witch," Valus nodded decisively.
Shiera Karhall exhaled a tendril of pipesmoke. "Witch."
Her son Desmond sniffed dismissively. "Witch."
"Witch." Quella Cogworth's mouth was a hard line.
Siegfried gave her a dour look. "Witch."
Ameline's mouth trembled, but she turned her eyes down. "...witch."
Yven alone had said nothing. His sapphire eyes, the same blue that he had passed onto the twins through their mother, were filled with hurt. "Your own cousin,
She could only give him a pleading look. "Uncle, please...for the love you bore my mother..."
But he only shook his head, and turned his back on her. That hurt more than anything else. It was a nightmare she had lived countless times since she had discovered her magic, but it was one she had always subconsciously dismissed as a paranoid fantasy. She buried her face in her hands, curling into a ball on the ground. Don't cry. They want to see you cry.
"Witch," Dominic said quietly, and at last. "Talia Sabre. By the power invested in me by the Senate of Everglow City, I charge you with kinslaying and witchcraft--"
Her last plea, desperate and broken, came unbidden from her bloodied lips. "Uncle PLEASE--
"--and sentence you to be brought to the Gallows in the City, where you will be hanged, drawn, and quartered without trial."
A blur of motion. A metal hand crashed into her face and the world spun away from her. Lying on the ground, blood and half a tooth dribbled from her ruined lips.
Let Titus call me pretty now.
The thought rose to her mind unbidden and she laugh, high and humorless and hysterical.
"She's gone mad," a voice said.
"Put her to sleep," said another.
"Let me." A third voice, a new arrival in the room, a voice she thought she recognized.
She sank into delirium, and when she woke, she was in darkness. Men were handling her roughly, ripping off her fine fabrics, tearing away her jewellery. Someone pushed her into a chair and yanked her shoes off; she gasped as she felt calloused hands grab a fistful of her hair.
"You won't be needing this where you're going, love," a voice whispered in her ear.
The knife was half-blunted. Her hair was not cut so much as it was ripped from her scalp. She let out a single high, screamy sob.
"What? Gonna cry, witch? Kinslayer? Traitor?
No. No, I won't. I'm strong. Mother used to say I was strong.
And so Talia bit her tongue and clenched the fists tied behind her back and did not
cry as the knife came down again and again in the darkness, accompanied only by jeers and snorting laughter and the soft, soft sound of long silken red locks hitting the floor. When it was over, they pushed her to her feet; the ground beneath her was wooden, she felt, like the deck of a ship, and at last they flung her into a small room, no larger than a privy. The door clanked shut behind her. Talia curled into a ball on the ground, trying to hold it back, nails digging into her bare shins. Mother used to say I was strong.
She remembered Alyssa Blackthorne, and her eyes that were just like Yven's. She imagined her mother seeing her now, imagined seeing the feelings of betrayal in her mother's eyes. Talia imagined her mother turning her back on her.
The tears flowed freely then, and she was sobbing uncontrollably, and she heard the men laughing outside her door, and she knew that she was not strong. She had lost.
Re: The Isles of Aradia (IC/New Settlers Welcome.)
Posted: Fri May 17, 2019 1:22 pm
Divan felt the sundering of someone’s soul from their body echo out in a pitiful scream of surprise and then felt the reverberations of some excess of true mage potential ring out through the atmosphere. It felt as though one had summoned the very nature of the world to bend to their will in that moment by the authority of their line. He went immediately to investigate and what he saw shocked him, still invisible he had flashed into the study quietly and bore witness to Talia Sabre unconscious as two banners barked at each other about what had just occurred. He smirked and his suspicions proved correct, the electrified remains of Jacques did that much as Talia laid there breathing shallowly. He dared not to interfere at this junction, lest the lingering spell work its way into him. Sure it probably wouldn’t kill him but it could stun him long enough for one of these insignificant apes to swing their clumsy blades towards his neck.
With a shimmer he was gone once more, left to ponder what he saw and what he felt, Talia was indeed the line of Jason Blackthorne. It sang through her veins now so clearly ivan was having a hard time forcing it away. She had the power if properly nurtured to exceed the mortal confines of magic and ascend back to a potion not held by humans for hundreds of years. However she faced a harrowing at this juncture, he could already feel the mass of anti-magic rushing outwards towards her position. It was Dominic, followed by probably his entire court.
However more and more empathetic ripples were beginning to occur all over the estate, it was blinding him almost. Emotions were flaring up everywhere and the magical assault had broken him out of his concentration. They blared out and demanded to be noticed and observed clearly and pointedly. It would make things so much harder if what he had seen was to be true, someone big was about to come down upon this estate but he couldn’t be sure if that was it, or it was yet to come. His bridge to the seer sight had been severed, and he grumbled some as he tried to ease the echoes in his mind once again.
Celebrations had been going non stop since Fang’s arrival, and many Kyn had come to give their marking to follow for House Kyn and serve the greater good of the world by Fang’s side. He had made it clear he was no noble, no lord to step over his fellow Kyn, but he would be a living beacon for all Kyn to follow. Fang had proven himself in battle against numerous Pride youngsters eager to take the aging Beast Tamer down a peg of his overly passionate words of calling up the Kyn. One to one, two to one, a whole pack against one elder Kyn it all ended the same, Fang’s body was impenetrable and his fists were like boulders.
Fang was the world master of the Stone Fist martial art, a style of tempering one’s body to be dense as a mountain and with blows that strike like boulders. It’s a rigid and powerful style that one can only get by breaking down the body and building it back up. Harnessing the power of the world to weigh oneself down and carry that weight. That’s at least how the old cat talked about it, he harnessed every ounce of energy in perfecting it so he could one day become and invincible claw to be swung down on the oppressors of his fellow Kyn. It worked, everyone who challenged him was roundly beaten with nary a scratch for him.
More drinking, feasting, and partying ensued each time and more an more came to the cause. Silvers and Gold had convinced other to join in and Chestnuts and Holly had come over form Slyvie Isle and had begun conversing with people as well and pretty soon half the High Feline population of Maria Vale wanted to leave and follow Fang to help rid the world of slavery once and for all. An older Kyn named Wilek had joined in and at first he seemed somewhat hesitant and wanted to hear exactly what Fang had to say. His interest piqued but his skeptical nerve screaming such a thing was not possible. Fang took it upon himself to personally inform Willek that is was indeed possible, from Grimal to Beast Tamer, that if all the tribes would unite that there would be great joy for all Kyn on the path to freeing the world form its bond.
With an offering of moon sugar and wines, Willek joined in the festivities, whether or not he was sold on the idea could wait as he rejoiced in celebrations with the Kyn and partied alongside Fang and the old timers like himself. There was dancing in the ancient tribal dances of homelands, songs, games, carrying on, and the transfer of Tales of the Shade. There were times of respect and offering to be given up to the Shadewalker for bringing them all together.
For a time, it was as if the world was merely lit by the fires of community and the shade was upon them, their creator watching on, and the mantle of the night emboldened them to continue their rousing and affectionate celebrations with renewed vigor.
Re: The Isles of Aradia (IC/New Settlers Welcome.)
Posted: Fri May 17, 2019 3:35 pm
this post contains graphic scenes of a violent nature for mature readers only
“You should have come back to the Tropics with me,” Tazim sighed, impassively staring out at the crowd. He had removed his flower garland and crushed it beneath his foot, remaining at his post by the door to the grand hall.
“As far as the Birhor of our tribe were concerned, your mother and father were married. Just no court of law this side of Aradia would see it that way. I think I prefer it to all this pomp and bother.”
Amayl drew her lips tight and glanced at her uncle. Although the relation was such, they were close in age, she only two years the junior. “I have no intention of returning to my birthplace. I’ve had enough of savages for a lifetime, thank you.”
“I would term this more barbaric than what happens at weddings back there,” he muttered back. “Savagery abounds all over this world. You don’t need to be wearing tribal clothes to be the worst savage. I would say the most horrific wear suits of armor. Or ballgowns.”
Amayl gave him a pointed look, but he wasn’t looking at her dress.
“Tell me about the allegations Harold Umbridge has made against you.”
“You lack any form of subtlety,” Amayl hissed.
He turned his black eyes on her. “It has been said before. Tell me.”
Amayl frowned, clasping her fingers together as she glared down at them. Anyone else and she would have told them to take a long walk off a short pier. But Tazim was blunt, honest, and would not tolerate gossip. No doubt he was trying to find the truth to some nonsense he had heard.
“He has accused me of keeping the Malabre Marauders alive,” she said, keeping her voice down. “The same pirates that I spent several years of my life with, and Elmer and Harold wiped out when they came to rescue me.”
“That’s absurd,” Tazim said drily, turning his attention back out to the crowd. “A little old lady in her seventies, committing acts of piracy. Ridiculous.”
“There have been attacks on Westgate’s harbour. Looting, vandalism, robberies, the works. They spelled out their name in blood across the docks, yet no bodies were found and there are no missing persons.”
“Is that all?”
The corner of Tazim’s mouth twitched. “Does he have anything that could be proof?”
“No!” Amayl exclaimed, looking at him in shock. “There is nothing that could tie me to them, other than-”
Tazim’s hand shot over his shoulder and pulled his greatsword halfway free of its sheath, but the disturbance had halted with the Bloodhawk’s command. Amayl couldn’t see over the crowd, and pressed close to Tazim, whispering. “What was it? What happened?”
“Lord Ludlow headbutted Sir Axl Waynrite. Things seem to be under control.”
Amayl blinked. “How impulsive of him. Since Amarika’s death, he just hasn’t-”
She startled, a hand fluttering over her chest. Tazim glowered at Crisben Bennett who had appeared at their side. “Watch yourself, elf. Human hearts are weaker in their old age.”
“Oh shut your face,” Amayl cussed. “Bennett, what is it?”
“I didn’t mean to frighten you,” Crisben said apologetically. “Lady Rasheba has asked to see you in her chambers. It appears to be a delicate matter.”
“Delicate?” Amayl echoed. That was not a word she would associate with her niece.
“Feminine,” Crisben corrected, his voice conspiringly quiet.
Neither was that. Amayl shot Tazim a concerned glance, but he remained at his post as she strode through the hall and out to the corridor. Crisben was right on her heels. She felt movement behind them and glanced back to find a posse of Blackthorne men and guards moving through the corridor after them. But they took different paths and Amayl was around the corner and at Rasheba’s door in no time.
She paused at the door, glancing to Crisben. “I may need your help, stay with me.”
Turning the handle she walked in. Rasheba’s sitting room was in order, tidy and clean as per usual. Amayl had never known another woman to live so precisely with such minimalistic impact on her environment. There were never clothes strewn about, never a book out of place or face paints left out.
So the single sheet of parchment left out on her desk drew Amayl’s attention. She crossed the room and picked it up, turning it over in her hands. It was blank.
“Was she going to write a letter…?” Amayl murmured. Crisben shut the door behind them. “Rasheba…?” she called. “Are you here?”
Her gaze fluttered to the bedroom door as a tall figure moved through it. He was a rough-looking character, hardly noble, with a poorly shaven face and limp blonde hair tied back in a tail. Just the sort of man Amayl might have caught the young rambunctious Rasheba with in her early adult years before the girl moved out. But his expression was confused, not that of a man sated by a woman. And he wore full plate, his hand on the hilt of a heavy mace hanging at his belt. “What is this, Crisben?” he asked. “Where’s the girl?”
“Who are you?” Amayl demanded. “What are you doing in my niece’s chambers?”
“Shit.” Crisben spat. He darted for the door, pointing back at Amayl. “Keep her mouth shut, Zlatkov! I’ll find her.”
Amayl didn’t have the chance to utter another word as the ruffian had crossed the room and enclosed a hand over her mouth. Her scream was stifled, and she kicked, but her heeled shoes only made faint dong sounds against his armored shins. One large hand gathered her wrists together, tight against her bosom as he pushed her back into his chestplate. His grip was that of a crushing snake. There was no escape.
Mancel clawed at the belts and buckles that held his ceremonial armor on even as he walked down the corridor. The music from the party had started up with renewed gusto and he wondered how he would ever get rest with all the damned noise. He passed a pair of Blackthorne soldiers in the corridor to the library, barely sparing them a glance. He’d had more than enough of Blackthornes for today. If they wanted to read up on manners or some sort of decency, all the power to them.
He managed to get off the bracers, and had them dangling from a pair of fingers as he approached the door to his chambers. Turning the knob, he walked in only to stumble over something – a woman’s shoe. He blinked, glancing about, before realizing that the dark room had an inhabitant.
“Whoever you are, I’m in no mood for games,” he muttered, his hand on the hilt of his sword. What kind of cruel joke was this?
He blinked, his eyes adjusting to the darkness before realizing the woman laying facedown on his bed was the all-too-familiar form of his sister-in-law. He released the sword, crossing the room and gently turned her on her back. Her breasts were all but spilling from the bodice of her green dress and he hastily reached down to pull the hem back up.
“Gee ov.” She pawed at him, a burst of alcoholic vapors reaching his nostrils. “Nod whore.”
“Just fixing your dress, Rasheba, no need to worry.” His brow furrowed and he looked back at his door before returning his attention to her. “I think you got the wrong room.”
“Dis my room.”
“No it isn’t, come on.” Mancel reached around her waist and shoulders to ease her up into a sitting position. “Look at you. How did you get in such a state?”
Her head fell back of its own volition and Mancel struggled to get her back upright. Her head fell the other way, chin in her cleavage. He sighed. She mumbled something into her breasts that he didn’t catch, so he tilted her head back up, supporting it. “What was that?”
“Sumwun… broke in room.”
“Yes, that was you.”
“Yes, once you’re in your own bed,” Mancel soothed, his head beginning to pound. Headbutting hadn’t been the best idea. He had to remember he was an old man now. It wasn’t easy… neither was trying to pick the damned woman up when she was sloppier than strands of wet dough. “Come on, I need you to stand with me.”
Rasheba giggled. It was a silly sound from the warrior woman he knew. She threw her arm around his shoulders and pressed her face into the side of his neck. “Yor bed’s nice.”
“No, no. None of that.” Mancel finally got her feet to the floor. “I’ve never seen you drunk before. This is… something. Now, one leg in front of the other. No, in front. That’s it, lass.”
Step by painful step they made their way to the door. Mancel turned the doorknob and pulled the door back only to find Crisben walking past at a great stride. “I know you’re busy, but-”
“Oh, Amayl was just looking for her! What in Aradia’s name was she doing in there!?” Crisben reached hastily for Rasheba, sweeping her up into his arms. She giggled again, making a faint yay sound. “My lord, I’ve got this handled from here. We’ll make sure she’s tucked into bed.”
Mancel shook his head and closed the door as Crisben carried her off. Then he stumbled over the same fucking shoe. Catching himself on the wall, he bent to pick it up and shuffled through his dark room trying to find the other. It had made it onto the bed. He set the pair beside the door to return them later. Then he collapsed onto his bed, armor and all.
A strange ache seeped through his heart, throbbing with the same pounding of his forehead. He had truly thought some drunk partygoer had crawled into his bed to try something with him. A fresh widower, mourning the loss of his wife at his heir’s wedding. The perfect vulnerable target.
Then he was of two minds. A woman wishing that upon him would be using him for something. But he missed Amarika so badly. He could almost feel her smooth skin beneath his fingers, just reaching across the bed to an empty space.
He wished he had asked Crisben to get him a drink when he was done. He didn’t want to weep like a babe again tonight. At least the drink numbed thoughts into a bleary haze of nothing.
“Was that a scream? What the fuck is happening out there!?”
“I have no idea,” Crisben shot back, kicking the door shut behind him. Rasheba flopped about like a limp fish in his arms. Amayl strained against Zlatkov, her silent screams renewed. “I’m just thankful Ludlow didn’t look out of his room. Blackthornes everywhere.”
“This doesn’t change the plan. They’re not here for us.”
Amayl’s wide eyes turned, unable to see the man who spoke behind her and her captor. But she knew that voice far too well. Her heart sank deep within her, her heart quickening as she tried to put the pieces together, then wished she hadn’t. She begged. Pleaded. Her eyes welled with unbidden tears, rolling about in their sockets as she ached to turn, to look that man in the eye. To beg him not to hurt her. No, to hell with her. To not hurt Rasheba.
Zlatkov turned and she could finally see him.
Harold Umbridge stood in the doorway to Rasheba’s bedchamber. He stood tall and noble, looking every part the noble lord with his whitened hair and beard. His steel armor shone beneath his navy-colored cloak which was hemmed at the throat with mottled gray fur. Over his heart was a large brooch, with the symbol of House Umbridge carved into its gray slate surface – two ancient gears entwined. But his cold blue eyes were not that of any lord. They were those of an animal seeking vengeance. Recompense.
“Hello my betrothed,” he said, taking slow steps over to Zlatkov. He traced a loose strand of Amayl’s hair down the side of her face and she trembled, much to his evident delight as he smiled. That smile was terrible. Wolfish.
“You’re wondering why I’ve gathered you and your niece here with my men today,” Harold said. His eyes moved down Amayl’s form and she shuddered at the thought of lust, but he had none to give her. Her body was old. Dressed nicely, but old. Grandmotherly. Still, he removed his glove and closed a hand over her breast. Tears popped from her eyes and she tried to turn her head away, but Zlatkov was an immovable statue. She closed her eyes and Harold chuckled.
“Don’t fear, old girl,” he hissed, stepping closer and laying both hands over her bosom. Zlatkov adjusted so her wrists were held up at her throat. Harold massaged firmly and she shut her eyes all the tighter against him. “We’re far past this, aren’t we? Pleasures of the flesh are met with dead skin now. Dead nerves. It’s felt, but it means nothing. Like scar tissue.” His thumb roughly pressed into her nipple and she flinched. “Useless. Childless. Untouchable.”
He released her and her eyes fluttered open as she gushed out a breath into Zlatkov’s hand. Her eyes darted to the side, to Rasheba. Her niece’s eyes were open as her head lolled over Crisben’s arm but she wasn’t all there. Harold stepped away, out of sight, and Amayl renewed her attempts to scream, to fight, to claw, to kick. But nothing changed. Harold returned, a flask in one hand and a cloth in the other. He poured out a clear fluid on the cloth, then held it ready. Zlatkov moved his hand and in the moment before Amayl could fill her lungs to cry out, Harold had the cloth forced over her nose and mouth. Zlatkov gripped her head, holding her up by her wrists at her throat and his hold on her skull. But the fight drained from her as the scentless fluid worked a terrible, dark magic on her body. Her strength drained and she all but ragdolled into the brute’s arms. He caught her, no longer restraining her, and swept her up into his arms, her head resting back on his shoulder. He watched her a long moment.
“She still breathes.”
“Excellent,” Harold crowed. “Amayl, we’ve set up a show for you. Come now, into the bedroom.”
Fear racketed through her mind, but there was no response from her body. Shallow breaths passed her lips, her heart still thrummed, but she could not move a muscle other than the slow twitch of her eyes back and forth. Rasheba was carted into the room before her, and Zlatkov followed Crisben in. They turned, Zlatkov blocking Amayl’s view as he seated her in a high-backed chair, supporting her head and neck so she sat upright. Harold threw a pillow from the bed at him and he used it to prop up her head. The brute moved away, revealing Rasheba splayed out on the bed.
Wake up. Wake up! WAKE UP!
Harold leaned over the bed and gripped the neckline of Rasheba’s dress. He gave Amayl a slow, cruel smirk. Then he ripped. He clawed away her flimsy undergarments, baring Rasheba’s naked body to the cold air of the room. Amayl couldn’t even close her eyes if she wanted to. She did. She really wanted to. But she dared not either. Not when it was she who was at fault for this.
The Lord of Westgate began working at his pants. “Had you accepted my offer all those years ago, I wouldn’t be forced to do this, my dear.”
Amayl’s eyed swivelled to Crisben. But he didn’t meet her gaze. He was watching Rasheba’s face for any sign of wakefulness. There was none.
“Look at me, bitch.”
Her gaze travelled laboriously back to him. He grinned, nodding his head as he whipped out his member. She didn’t look at it. She just stared at his face. Just stared as he spat on his hand and rubbed it a few times. Stared as he entered Rasheba. The thrust forced a grunt from the Heartstone woman despite her incapacitated state. Amayl’s inners were trembling. She could feel the fury, the hatred, bubbling inside her as fear gave way to rage. And Harold’s eyes stayed locked with hers.
You’ll never get away with this. You’re going to die. She could only hope her eyes spoke the words loud and clear. But Harold’s grin remained as he ruined her unconscious niece.
“Her eyes are open again,” Crisben muttered.
“More wine,” Harold panted, still going. “Or just… the fucking… potion.”
Crisben took a small vial from his belt and dribbled a few drops in through Rasheba’s open mouth. But by that time, Harold had spent himself. He heaved over Rasheba’s prone form, a chuckle spilling from his lips as he glared at Amayl.
“It could have been us. It could have all… been… us.”
Amayl could do nothing. Her eyes filled with tears. Grief, rage, she didn’t know. Harold picked himself up, putting his manhood away and tightened his pants. He swaggered across the room and took Amayl’s chin in his hand, tilting her head back to look up at him.
“Nobody needed to die, my love. Amarika, Jennifer… this… none of it had to happen. You and your fucking Marauders, wiping it in my face that the pirate took from me what was mine. My woman. My dignity.”
Something must have changed in her gaze. His brow quirked and he gave a quick bark of laughter, then a lazy slap to her face – not strong enough to leave a mark, just knock her head a different direction so she was staring aimlessly at the ceiling.
“Zlatkov, wrap her up. Crisben, pen the letter. Hopefully whatever the Blackthornes are up to will provide us enough distraction to get out through the cellars.”
He took Amayl’s shoulders and dragged her onto the floor. She laid there on her face, eyes glued to a few strands of the rug as she listened to them step around her. Fabrics rustled, there was the sound of a pen hitting the side of an inkpot. A drink was poured. She was rolled harshly over on her back by a booted foot and Harold grinned down at her.
“What do you think of the paralysis potion?” He teased. “From our experiments, only a specific antiserum will cure the effects. But you won’t be needing that. You’re an old girl. Things will work out on their own after a few months of being bedridden.”
Zlatkov reached down and scooped her up, careful not to grip her too tightly. She wondered why. Why would handling her roughly matter at all anymore? She was as good as dead. It didn’t matter. Nothing mattered. Even Rasheba. They were going to kill her. Her and her niece. But despite all these terrible thoughts, they blended away as Zlatkov carried her through to the sitting room. Amayl watched as Crisben waved the formerly blank parchment through the air, drying the ink now on it. Harold appeared at her side, holding a goblet of wine. He took her hand and closed her fingers about it, despite the fact she could not grip. Crisben took her other hand, pinching her fingers over the parchment. All three men stood, holding her still as her eyes made their way to the page.
“On the count of three,” Harold said.
Her head rang. Her eyes had never shut, even after she lost consciousness. They were open a slit, blood matting the lashes of one, but darkness still enveloped them. Slowly, so terribly slowly, vision nibbled its way back. As did feelings. She knew instantly that her arm was broken. The pain was unbearably similar to that of when she had fallen from a horse in her youth, only it had been the other arm. And she could do nothing. She couldn’t cry out. She couldn’t scream. She couldn’t even knock her knuckles to make the barest of sounds, to beg for help.
She was in a pool of spilled wine. She had fallen on her side, the goblet pinned most uncomfortably beneath her. Her head had hit the floor, hence the blood. But there wasn’t much. Or if there was, she couldn’t distinguish it from the wine.
On the floor beside her, she saw it. The letter. Crisben had done his best to mimic Rasheba’s hand and the wine now staining the words, muddying the ink, certainly helped hide the fact it was a forgery. Her eyes blearily scanned it. Something about Eason. About guilt. About how Rasheba couldn’t stand about doing nothing, apologies to Rivka, apologies to the Ludlow Accord. Too many apologies. But Crisben had captured Rasheba’s frustration, her anger. And he had spun a story about how Rasheba left to find Eason on her own. A very, very feasible story. One that would ensure nobody would look for her.
She had been set up to look like she had read the letter and taken a turn. Fallen. Her paralysis wouldn’t be suspicious. The men would never be caught. Crisben, traitorous Crisben, would never be caught. Even if he remained in this house, wandered the halls like he was the innocent everyone had thought him to be.
So Amayl wept into the spilled wine and her blood, her tears flowing and smudging the forged signature of Rasheba Heartstone.
Re: The Isles of Aradia (IC/New Settlers Welcome.)
Posted: Mon May 20, 2019 9:51 am
Dorvan Arkon and Company
Cok-Vadan, Great Tower of Arkon
Dorvan sat at the circular table with his family members in the Great Tower of Arkon, their father would be returning finally from the Void after countless centuries. They sat in order, form Kor to Dorvan, in silence. Kor read two tomes of Divankul Dul-Sansiska’s work: On Spell Architecture and the introductory text On Arcanum, Flux, and Mana: How the Building Blocks of Basic Magic Power Existence well worn down copies he had read over a hundred times over previously. To him it was more or less entertainment despite how Dorvan only saw the dry ramblings of a self important heretic. Dorvan was certainly literate, but he was far more concerned with moving pieces about the board. He had been building up to today for a century and he wasn’t about to stop now, no become distracted.
Lillith was the same depressing soul she always was, looming to Dorvan’s side and just painting something on a small canvas in blues and greens, purples and oranges. He couldn’t understand her artwork but it was always soaking with self pity for what occurred between her and Makiel and Dorvan couldn’t stand her presence. Makiel himself was beside Kor and was actually sleeping as they waited, completely nonplussed of the whole situation, a disgrace. Finally there was Tresa between Makiel and Lillith, the crazy cunt of a necromancer who was responsible for, who in Dorvan’s opinion, was the most sadistic and disgusting elf he had ever laid eyes upon. He was not better than an orc with his barbarism.
The children of all the siblings were in attendance, lined against the curving walls of the tower in a broad semicircle. There were Kor’s children: Malak, Ovima, Vasilia, and Dorvan’s favorite Lleran. Then came Noramel, dressed in fineries and glaring down her father Makiel for having brought her into this world and hurting her mother, he always had to make sure she wasn’t actually killing him, her physical strength was intense. Lazarus was next, the most disgusting and vile being he had ever had the displeasure of meeting, a necrophiliac and chronic molester-he had to fight Lazarus every step of the way to keep his paws off Ornia and her children, his children. Add to that being a sadist and an extremely powerful witch hunter and he was a danger to everyone, leering even now at Lillith.
Finally came his own children that had not betrayed him, the unholy triplets: Naka, Killik, and Bolak. They were his first and nearly killed their mother, drow weren’t built for multi-fetus pregnancies but it happened all the same amazingly. They were close, good men he loved dearly, and loyal to a fault. Naka had a blood fetish and was fairly cruel to opponents that would rather surrender instead of fighting till the death. He wanted battle constantly to fuel his love of blood and Dorvan could respect that. Killik was a model knight, built like a long stone and with the strength and speed of a rapid mountain snake. Lastly Bolak was a regular aristocratic son, a wealthy taste and capable, nothing more to be said.
At last a rift opened up before the table and out came something of a surprise, he wasn’t sure what to expect but it wasn’t a massive lizard man standing over them all with a sheen of long white hair. He looked to be in ceremonial garb and looking over, hissing lowly before lurching away to allow a second entity to come through. This one was just as strange as the last, it was a man with a shaved head, a glassy left eye with a scar overlapping it and a beard greying int he middle. He wore barbaric clothing and had a glimmering staff that was a long blade on the other end of it. He glowevered at the assembled children and sneered at his disgust with the lot of them in one way or another. His father’s left and right hands of his demonic court it would appear to be, as the next form to step forward as the rift shut behind was an extremely noble looking obscuran elf with red markings all along his face and draconic steel eyes.
His long platinum hair was tied back and braided down to his mid back, with strands coming loose about his forehead. He was smaller than Dorvan remembered, only about six feet in height, but his aura was ominous and filled the room. His steel eyes were not of anything but pure judgement as he appraised his family who he was not seen in flesh for hundreds of years by this point. His loyal hands stepped aside and he fixed his fineries. A crimson longcoat that reached to the floor, and a billowing blouse and tight hosen underneath, a wedding band along his left wrist from a long dead culture. He sighed and shook his head, pulling out an ornately carved bone pipe and placing in something that smelled utmost foul in the air and smoked.
Dorvan couldn’t recall much of his father, all of he and his siblings were born over three thousand years ago and at this point it was hard to remember everything, they couldn’t even remember most of their original broods of children over the centuries but knew that many had died, turned away from the House, or otherwise given up and were no longer recorded. What stood before was what his father had become, once Arkon the Preserver, now the High Demon known as Dosagik Arkon. Powerful enough to warrant his own realm and be considered as a general for Mordeghast in the Void. He, along with other High Demons after Verimthrax’s death, had tried to assume the position but the power vacuum was too much and his father was never strong enough to claim the title of Underking for himself. From there on he was simply just placing his children up in order to have them succeed in toppling the surface world before a new Underking could arise so he could simply live in the terrestrial world unopposed thanks to his duality as an immortal obscuran and an immortal demon and hold dominion strong enough to win.
Kor failed, and by the time Arkon recovered its strength Mordeghast had overpowered Arkon’s void court without much issue and assumed dominion over the Void for his own purposes. Since then it’s been about playing into Mordeghast’s cards and hoping for a time in which he could still fulfill his own plots. As it was clear, Mordeghast saw the drow species as a non-issue and something not befitting of his vision, Arkon still a prideful original elf at heart hates this image and wants to make sure he has true control in some regards when this is all over. At least that’s what Dorvan had pieced together. He knew his father was still angry over Ornia escaping and Divan’s escapades in the Void. However he seemed moderately calmer now.
“I’ll make this quick, easy, and painless” his voice was smooth like silk and refined as such “Kor will be in charge of envoys, we need several different points to come together, including Valar to come home. This will help to ensure a firm grip” he turned to the next sibling in like “Tresa, begin work on a final more virulent copy of that plague that struck those northern humans some years back, I trust the alchemical team has done their job right, it will make an excellent tool in the upcoming war if the humans attempt to interfere”
Another shift, another speech “Makiel, you know where to go, scour Amora and find the fucking Heart already, your team is already being assembled, step to it soldier” the second eldest shuffled upwards and left the room without a word or a passing glance towards anyone. “Lillith, stop moping about and begin to organize those banners, have them be prepared at the utmost we’ve no time to lose on logistics. Ensure that Al-Zehin knows the score and the survivors of Dul-Sansiska get themselves into gear to gain access to Ques Novich”
The steel gaze locking into Dorvan’s “Find that priestess, the children, and the artifacts they stole- nobody gets caught by Divan or you will die, avoid any and all drow parties, and ensure that this is done post hate. I have a plan in the works but I’m going to have to have all of you working at you best and fastest possible, Dorvan take Lleran for insurance- we will be granting him some new enchantments for the role” with that the meeting was dismissed, no formal hello, nothing to the offspring, simply orders as they were about to be at truest war and it as in those twilight hours that it would be made or broken accordingly. Dorvan arose, called for his sons, and they were off to gather the troops and the court to properly find his despicable breeding partner and bring her back into the fold.
Re: The Isles of Aradia (IC/New Settlers Welcome.)
Posted: Sat May 25, 2019 4:57 am
Collab with IP and Skummy
Drake was outside, he had escorted Serenity out of the festivities as they had become more of a drunken pissing contest than anything and since neither one partook in alcohol or smoke it was deemed to be not the scene for now. Instead he now had offered up his arm and begin to slowly walk about the grounds talking. Nothing much in particular really, mostly about thoughts of nobility and the state that a wedding was simply a show of force between the three major powers. That of Blackthorne, the Drow Lords, and the North Easterners; although to call the last one a major power was more of a piteous statement though he would not admit it. Only the Drow had the military and political clout to make any true threat to Blackthorne, and they were wedging themselves firmly in the ‘didn't care’ category as far as recent events after the Riverford.
He did not delve deeper into the discussion beyond the surface level comments, it was rather boring and uncouth for a day of celebrations meant to distract and give respite from the weeks on weeks of utter mourning. And Serenity hadn’t responded well to any of the talk. So the large drow had spun to talking about some of his tales of adventurer to keep Serenity amused, he had just begun into a tale about trying to wrestle tundra drakes when he felt the reverberation of magic course through the atmosphere and centralize somewhere beyond the two but within the grounds of the estate and his hairs stood up on end. However something of a passing whisper told him to calm down and he knew it was Divan speaking. He sighed and shook his head, forgetting the story and instead simply just letting silence fill the air.
"The night sky is a marvellous thing to behold," he blurted at random several moments later, simply trying to distract his racing heart to calm itself. Something was making him anxious and he wasn't quite sure about whether or not it was the magic, or something else. But with Divan edging on him form somewhere, he was sure that if there was something to come of notice that he of all people would be on top of it and that he was merely being paranoid.
"You are quite breathtaking tonight, Serenity, it has been a pleasure to spend this day with you"
Her blush dusted her cheeks, but the look she gave him was enough to express she knew he wasn't himself. She tucked her hands behind her back as they walked, gazing upwards at the sky.
"As it has with you, Drake. But your mind is elsewhere. It has been since we danced."
"Yes, yes it has been, you're perceptive," he smiled and looked down to her then back up. "I'm having nagging sensations that things are not quite right, as if I should be looking around every corner that something may be occurring. That and I don't exactly like to be around humans as you well know, those that are not you and your family I mean." He stopped and seemed to look around trying to pinpoint something, but it faded and he shook his head.
"I've felt as though people have been judging me since the saw me enjoying my dance with you, it has me on a kind of edge." He tried to relax his shoulders and then he just sat down in the grass along a pathway and laid down looking up. "Would you care to spend a moment in the grass with me Serenity? I promise not to allow your dress to stain, I just want to have a moment to clear my head while I am simply enjoying your presence."
He looked a bit more like him now. He had started to block out the nagging feelings and the judging looks especially since they were more or less alone on the grounds. Not even Elmer was watching for them, it felt isolated in a good way.
Serenity nodded, taking his hand and leading him off the path. She had collected a black woollen shawl from the coat room when they left, and this she draped on the ground before sitting down on it.
"We have been judged," she said. "But let them think what they want. They wonder at what this means for the Ludlow Accord. What it means for any who oppose us. They wonder whether the drow will become more powerful for this. They wonder why me. And of course, they wonder at you."
She smiled, a small smile. "You have mystery. I hope one day you'll share with me all that makes you an enigma. The mention of you being a king, for example. And those ice drakes."
Drake looked over to her and simply nodded a slight nod. "I make you this promise, come the next few days after this wedding I will let you know my story of who I am."
He seemed to stare up at her, still laying in the grass. "I've never seen your beauty from this angle before, it's quite a sight to look up at someone." A chuckle and an easing of the conditions of the night's stress. Her blush furthered. "You are correct though, we will always be judged, but that should not matter."
He seemed to ease off the throttle and just look at her, he seemed to drink her in as to how she was right then and save the image for later of how much of a noble she actually was compared to the shyness and courtship they had previously been going through. He blinked, reached out one of his large hands, and patted her hand softly with it, enveloping her own with a warm soft touch.
"You really do make life bearable for me, and I thank you for it, forget waiting a few days, I'll let you know at least why I tend to be so, well, let’s use the term cold, towards so many."
He was about to prop himself up to sitting when he heard the noise of someone approaching and he jolted a little back into standard operating procedure. His darkvision made it so he saw Darius coming up to them at a slow pace and his eyes narrowed as to why in this damn moment some was coming to ruin his fun with his betrothed.
"Serenity, it would seem that explanation will be put on hold, we have a visitor."
"Darius," Serenity said, a few moments before the usual scope of human vision would allow her to make out who he was. "I'm surprised you're not inside enjoying the party."
Darius gave a tight smile, no genuineness to it at all. "Getting a bit stuffy in there. Listen, we need to talk. Like, alone."
Serenity gave pause, as if waiting for him to go on, then looked at Drake. Darius gave a sigh which hissed between his teeth. "Maybe we could walk the grounds while we do. Let... Drake enjoy his... grass, and starlight and... whatever else."
Serenity's brows knitted together, but she stood and gently draped her shawl over Drake.
Drake arose in that moment and gingerly placed his hand to Serenity's shoulder, his eyes staying focused on Darius but a moment longer. He ensured the shawl would not fall from him and sighed, he had many things to say to Darius, all of them full of venom for the kind of man he was. With a kneeling he touched Serenity's forehead to his for what seemed like an utterly long moment, he had a strange feeling in the pit of his stomach and he wanted to her to stay. Something had him on edge about what Darius could just go on and on about during their talk.
He brushed her face and smiled. "Please, don't be too long, it's not quite the same without you"
With that he gave her a small but deliberate kiss to the lips and patted her head, his way of showing her utmost affection.
"I'll be back soon," she said, touching his hand before turning to follow her brother. Darius glanced back at Drake, the curling of his lip and the slant of his gaze clearly indicating his dislike for the man.
The white-haired man knew what that kiss had meant. That spark of murder in his gaze was all the evidence Drake needed.
He wanted to tell Darius to piss off in that moment, to steer clear away from Serenity and to leave them both alone. Honestly he felt more like punching than anything but he was restrained, the knot in his stomach growing tighter but he turned and began to walk, allowing for the shawl to stay draped on his shoulders as he began to walk to allow them a pace to begin their own walk and not be a disturbance any longer.
He didn't like Darius, not at all, but that was no excuse for him to force about his will on a member of Serenity's own family. He'd just have to deal with the feeling, it wasn't as if Serenity didn't know Drake better than anyone, and Darius wouldn't go so far as to hurt her to get his way.
Some time after the two had left the drow's sight, the crunch of footsteps was heard upon the path nearby. A tall man in slate-gray armour with an aquatic blue cape was walking with his head down, studying the gravel beneath his armored boots. He was much younger in the face, unexpectedly, than his build would usually allow for a human. Maybe sixteen, seventeen, barely a few years older than Serenity. But there was something in the way his hand casually draped over his sword, that he knew the weapon intimately.
He was yet to see Drake, but stopped to pick something up off the path. It was a super smooth stone. He seemed pleased with it in a childish manner, rubbing his thumb over its silky smoothness.
Drake's eyes tracked over the new arrival in the moonlight of the grounds, and his footsteps were swift, he was upon the man. Someone to test out how to speak with normal humans it would appear. He seemed to materialize from the darkness, careful to hold his hand to his side to catch the man's arm if he were to try and reach for his blade. This was but a boy, a child, he could be spooked easily so Drake cleared his throat as he came closer to spur the boy out of his trance.
"Hello, I've been left to my own devices for a spell and was wondering if you would enjoy having a discussion outside of....well the many rauckus human partygoers inside" He smiled and stood in his best non-threatening manner possible.
The stone was forgotten in a flash, the boy's hand tightening about the hilt of his sword. But when his eyes landed on Drake, he seemed to relax. He knew there was no threat here. So he bounced the stone from one hand to the other.
"General Drake," he said with a smile. "I hear you've been given Serenity Piers as your soon-to-be-wife. Congratulations."
Drake gave a simple nod, acknowledging but also maintaining himself in the position "It is one of my happier points in this life, she is very special to me and I thank you for the congratulations given... You're... James Umbridge if I'm seeing right. I would suppose you accompanied Lord Umbridge in order to try your luck with the westerners, did it go alright?"
His shoulders relaxed, his posture less strained, and in all he seemed to give James a semblance of calming down as he himself was tightened until the words began to come forth.
James chuckled. The stone bounced back to the other hand. "It seems most are already betrothed, uninterested, or have some bone to pick with my grandfather. It doesn't bother me. I'm not particularly in any rush to get married."
"I see, well all is well then, I was not so interested in this betrothal at the start in complete honesty, I figured it to be some kind of ridiculous ploy... but then I simply began to talk to her and pieces fell into place. Though I cannot say I favor her elder brother Darius. To put it bluntly he brings out the barbarian in my blood whenever our paths cross and I've only known him for all of a singular day by this point."
"Darius... I saw Darius Black here," James said, frowning. Realization seemed to dawn upon him and he uttered a short sound, somewhere between a laugh and a choke. "He's her brother? Wow... You know, they still haven't found the Dalman heir he kidnapped a few years back. There's a few rumors now that it was a murder, not a kidnapping."
"Wait, kidnapping? All I ever know of him was Serenity said he just up and left one day and never really came back..."
Drake seemed to sense about in his mind, tracing back, Darius' utter contempt when Drake wouldn't play ball, the insults, the edge towards violent behavior, his sudden appearance in order to confront Drake and his insistence that he take a walk alone with Serenity, no guards, nothing. Anger seemed to well up behind his eyes but he kept his cool, breathing a heavy breath as he asked his next question calmly.
"I see, that's unfortunate that it would happen, would you mind telling me if you saw perhaps the shapes of a man and a woman about Serenity's height possibly walking the grounds as you came about here?"
His fists clenched up and he was trying to steady his heart rate, if all was normal and he could be assured that Darius wasn't pulling a trick he could easily catch up to them and end their discourse.
If not, he was going to rip that fucker's head out through his asshole and beat him to death with it.
James hesitated, glancing over his shoulder, then shook his head. "I'll accompany you. Surely he wouldn't hurt his own sister? But if he planned to leave with her, the docks...? It just doesn't seem a very fast escape plan. Maybe he took a horse?"
"A horse.....a fucking horse, stolen right from the stable- he'd need accomplices." His mind flashed to Garin, Maria, and some of the Westerners. "That sack of void filth... James you're going to want to cover your ears for this one and duck your head. I am able to do something that will be damaging to you otherwise. Please stay back" with that he began to walk forward, carefully folding the shawl, removing his boots and earrings, his rings, and taking off his top shirt and wrapping everything aside from his boots within it and carefully placing it to the ground and making sure it was neatly sat.
Going ever forward his heart began to beat rapidly as the rage began to flow as the pieces started to click into place one by one by one by one and he mapped out the logistics of such a plan in his brain. He knew what they planned to do, or he had a rough estimation of the most rational course of action. Then screaming began, it sounded distant form himself but he felt the pain in his throat and the welling deep in his diaphragm and knew it was him screaming. It was primordial, primeval, it was animalistic. It was an all-consuming rage that was rarely seen outside of the madness of the void, and it was all stemming from one man. It was like a thunderclap across the island, every single people in every which way could hear it crystal clear.
It rang out, Divan had appeared behind James and clamped his big hands over the young man's ears and held them there to protect him from the pain, others were not in the courtyard near enough to have their hearing damaged so it was a non-issue otherwise. The screaming went on for moments and then words that shook the ground sprang up.
"DARIUUUUUUUSSSSSSS! BY THE POWER OF THE NORTHERN KING, BRING SERENITY BACK! I'M COMING FOR YOU, I WILL FIND YOU, AND YOU WILL HAVE TO FACE ME LIKE A MAN!"
With it over Drake turned, breathing heavy, giving James a look and knelt onto one knee.
"If you still wish to help me then hop on my back, if this is too much for you I completely understand, you owe nothing to me. You have already given me everything I need."
One look at James and one would know that he was in over his head. His brows were high on his forehead and he glanced awkwardly at the drow who had materialized behind him to cover his ears. But then there was the offer of a piggyback ride and James blinked, drawing his sword and giving the most 'what the hell' shrug a man in fullplate could summon.
"Uh, Void-shit, I'm in."
So the man of six-foot-seven approached the drow of six-foot-eight and accepted the offered support to get into position on the bent drow's back.
"Onwards, noble steed."
Drake nodded and lifted the only slightly smaller man with legitimate ease, as if this full plated teenager was nothing to him but a training bell. A sword came swinging in on an ornate sheath, it was his blade and he nodded to Divan who nodded back smoking. Drake began at a steady pace holding James’ legs under each of his mighty arms but then he began to pick up speed as they approached the gate.
"You'd best hold on to my chin or something friend, I'll be going quick," and with that he actually slowed down a few paces, each accompanied by a dipping of the stance as he scooped up each of Serenity's shoes. This seemed to only incense his anger more and he was off like the most well-bred stallion there ever was.
So long as James held fast he wouldn't fall, but the careening speed Drake ran with carrying James in his full plate would make one wonder what could this man have done unburdened and with full control of his upper body. He was like lightning, the ground blitzed underneath and he made split second calls to avoid any and all obstacles in his way rather swiftly. His mind ablaze with fury and barbaric reserves of stamina and resentment that someone had taken his betrothed, a woman entrusted to his security and status as a man meant to protect her. He hadn't been there for her, to see the signs, to care for her in the way one should.
He was just as angry at himself as he was at Darius, he couldn't tell at this point if he was really going to end the man's life or just hit him so hard in the face his grandchildren would feel it. He just wanted to save Serenity by this point, and that's when his senses began to kick back in. She wouldn't want him to hurt her brother, he had made a mistake, it could be worked out once they were back together and Drake was simply frustrated and confused and lonely. It would be okay.
“What did you want to talk about?”
Serenity didn’t like the pace they were keeping. This was no casual stroll. “And my shoes are not made for this speed, Darius.”
“Sorry,” he said with a smile, but he was distracted. His hand was on the small of her back, practically propelling her forward. “There’s something I want you to see before it’s too late.”
“Too late?” Serenity muttered, tripping over herself as they just walked faster. “What is this? What are you talking about? Too late for what?”
“You always asked too many questions,” he said with another smile. A fond, sad one. “As soon as you could talk, it was always, why, how, when, where, who? Good to know some things don’t change.”
She shoved his hand away, stopping in her tracks. He turned back to her, frustration etching across his face. “We don’t have time for this, come on! Just trust me.”
“Why should I?” Serenity asked, folding her arms across her chest. She regretted giving Drake the shawl. The air was nippy and the shawl could serve as something of a security blanket in a case like this, where she was scared and uncertain. “Is there any reason for me to trust or not trust you? Tell me where we’re going, and I just might make up my mind.”
He wasn’t expecting her snap and he paused, mouth wide open for a moment as he stumbled for an explanation. “In Lawoae,” he said, “there’s something I want you to see. It’s a surprise. I can’t tell you what it is, or it will ruin everything.”
“Right in the middle of Casim’s wedding?”
“Yeah, sorry. But it can’t wait. It’s a good surprise, I promise.”
Her brows knitted back together and she adjusted her footing, almost to dig her heels into the path more. They stood in the animal husbandry quarter. “Are you stealing a horse?”
“We are, yes,” Darius said, his grin back as he snatched her arm and dragged her along. She couldn’t fight him and was forced to trot alongside him at a pace far too uncomfortable for any lady’s shoes.
“Why couldn’t we have just asked the stablemaster to borrow one?” Serenity whined, her arms wrapped about Darius’ waist as he rode in the saddle before her. She inched uncomfortably in her place on the saddle, no place for her bottom to actually perch other than the ridge of the saddle’s back. With every fall of the horse’s gait, she bounced. It felt horrible. “Or two.”
The horse’s heavy feathered hooves walloped the ancient stone bridge as they flew across it. She grunted, trying not to wiggle too much. She squinted her eyes against the wind as it whipped past them and she missed her shawl all the more. Her arms were bare, her light blue dress hiked up so she could actually straddle the horse. Darius had insisted she wouldn’t last the ride side-saddle and she found herself agreeing with him. One of her shoes fell off and she gave a cry.
“My shoe! Darius, we have to go back.”
“No time,” she heard swipe back to her on the wind.
“What do you mean, no time? It’s my shoe. I need it to walk wherever we’re-”
She stared at the back of his head. There was no response. He rode the horse harder, and her fingers gripped at his waist. Surely not. Surely not. In the belligerent stare she gave his white locks, she forgot to tense her other foot and her remaining shoe fell off, clopping away in the dust of their horse’s haste.
“Stop the horse,” she said in a small voice. He didn’t respond. So she filled her lungs and yelled in his ear. “Stop the horse!”
“I can’t do that,” he said, tilting his head just enough that the words would travel back to her. They were off the bridge, careening down the twisting hill leading to the town of Lawoae. “Hold tight,” he warned. She obeyed, but all the while, she looked at the ground as it rushed by. There was no place soft enough to do well in a landing if she threw herself off. A fall at this speed might as well kill her. It would certainly break her neck. So she gripped. But she bent her knees, bringing her feet up to the horse’s flanks so she could position herself less on the saddle.
But there was a terrible rumble beneath their feet. The horse began tossing its head in fright. Then words boomed all around them, like an attack on all their senses: DARIUUUUUUUSSSSSSS! BY THE POWER OF THE NORTHERN KING, BRING SERENITY BACK! I'M COMING FOR YOU, I WILL FIND YOU, AND YOU WILL HAVE TO FACE ME LIKE A MAN!
“Fuck!” Darius reached back, gripping Serenity’s leg to ensure she was staying on the upset horse. “Fuck, fuck, fuck.”
She trembled, staring in horror back the way they had come. What was that!? Northern King? What!? They careened into the town of Lawoae, darting down a side street.
“Darius, let me off. Let me off! He’s going to kill you. Everything’s fine, just let me go!”
“Shut up!” Darius said, glancing back for a moment. But with his head ducked and turned back to her, he didn’t see the hanging sign with a beautifully painted anvil on it. Serenity did.
“OH fucking shit!” Darius gripped his sister by her leg as the horse bounced along. She was no longer gripping his waist and he had to twist in the saddle to grab her and pull her unconscious form around to drape her over the saddle before him. He wrangled the horse back under control, but again kicked its sides, hastening it towards the dock at the greatest speed the poor, panting thing could go.
He pulled her hair back from her face, finding a cut in her hairline. He winced, trying to tend to it while racing the horse along the promenade towards the docks. It wasn’t bleeding too badly, but it was deep. He tore a strip from her dress and pressed it over the wound, yanking the horse around to a stop on the pier leading to his caravel – still unnamed. Frothing at the mouth, the horse reared and Darius took the opportunity to slide from its back with his sister in his arms. The poor beast took off back into town.
“Garin, I fucked up,” Darius called, jogging along with Serenity hanging from his arms. “I fucking brained her.”
Garin brought the caravel about and had tied to down to the last posts of the dock, there would be just enough room to aboard and set right off form the docks. He would have loved to simply steal the Gracious Ornia but it would draw too much attention to take such a ship. With that underway he made his way down the gangplank and came face to face with Arianne West, who had already made her way down to the docks before Darius and Serenity had yet.
"A LITTLE TO THE LEFT, KORSO." The willowy Hrow was gesturing up at the dockworker above, mounted on a huge crate held aloft by a rope pulley. The Griffin's Bastard had taken very little care in dressing for battle, it seemed. She still sported a rusty ironscale haubrek, with boiled plates over her arms and shins, but wore no helmet, and had only fingerless leather gloves for her hands and a strappy Brecilidian insole-strap that left her feet mostly unprotected. Her armaments, too, were sparse. A cheap-looking longsword was sheathed at her hip, and a peculiar bladed bow was housed in the empty quiver across her back. Arianne did not look like someone who was prepared to fight one of the most fearsome men in the realm.
"YOU SURE ABOUT THIS, BASTARD?" The docker wore the red surcoat of an Eastern Reachman. He patted the roof of the crate. "HE GETS AWFUL CRANKY SEALED UP IN THIS BOX, SO HE DOES..."
"AYE. BELIEVE ME, I'M COUNTING ON IT."
The Elf turned away from him and took several large steps, skipping gracefully from one bare foot to the other over the planks, as if measuring something. When addressed, she looked up at Garin in mild surprise.
"Well hello there Arianne, guess you're the other one Darius pulled in on this, well good to know he actually has a good eye for quality professionals."
"Eh? Oh, you're one of Dul-Sansiska's lot, aren't you?"
She turned to inspect some arrows laid out over another crate. They were an unusual sight; some had little cloth sacks tied to their points, while others looked to have been carefully brushed with some kind of liquid. "Quality professional. Everyone on this job keeps talking about my quality, but it seems like our employer doesn't trust me enough to handle the operation alone. I'd hardly call that a show of faith in my quality." She turned on one heel to peer at Garin, her long pointed ears pressed back against her head. "So tell me...what's the boss paying someone of your standing for this? He told me he had nothing to offer as payment, and yet he can somehow afford to bring in highborn knights..."
"Consider it more like a favor I'm doing him, I used to be a pirate captain by the name of Maelstrom about twenty years back, and I'm technically retired and learning about knighthood. I also happen to think that the idea of General Drake taking a fourteen year old to be with him is horribly disgusting and I won't stand for it. Plus, I'm aware of what the General is capable of more or less, and I've prepared some countermeasures for him."
Garin was dressed in his classic longcoat, with a cutlass to one side of his hip and his ornate wheel lock strapped in on the other. He had leather gauntlets on his hands glimmering with enchantment and a leather plate over his white shirt but under his coat. It had elvish writing on it to symbolize more magic sewn into it. Beyond that his boots had been swapped out for battle read ones and his pants were spider silken.
His fingers had two rings a piece, one his signet ring sitting on his right index, then some kind of set of different rings on the ring finger and two more on his left hand at middle and pinky. He wasn't taking any chances with Drake.
"It may seem off but it's kind of like Branch insurance, you can never be too careful even when you've hired an elf to do the job. As another elf can make it just that much easier anyways."
"I didn't know sea-pirates held such a high value in the personal autonomy of young girls." Arianne gave him a steady look as she began to choose arrows from the stash, seemingly at random. "Most of your friends in the trade would be quite happy to get this child away from her family under the pretense of this all being in good taste, and then start humping on her as soon as--"
A huge, guttural roar echoed down from the side of the hill, ringing through the crisp air of the spring night. Arianne's long ears pricked up like a doe's; she studied the horizon for a moment, one eyebrow cocked.
"--as soon as you've gotten her in open waters," she continued after a moment, completely unphased, as if nothing had happened. "And I still don't think this is a question of this Darius being thorough. Truth be told, seems like he's scared. Not entirely sure why, as I'm not too impressed by the target myself. Granted, it's an awfully big target." She picked up an arrow and made a jabbing motion at him. "But I've always believed that leaves more room for these."
"Yeah, pirates are horrible scumbags, but I'm also more into actual women- not fucking little girls. Honestly mercenaries like yourself aren't much better in that department. I've heard The Headhunter's reputation, that's one I'd rather not cross."
The roar had thrown him off, he'd never heard anything like it before and it unsteadied him a little inside, but his resolve was clear. As the arrows was jabbed at him he rolled his shoulders in a shrug of acknowledgement. "Do what you need to do, Darius is right to be scared if he is, drow masters have hundreds of years on a human most times with little fear of pain and death. You'd have to be mad to go against them or take on of their trinkets." He checked his wheel lock over and pulled some tucked in scrolls from his belt.
"I have a few solid fireballs, and some disorientation spells as well if you'd like any, I'm the type to over prepare because playing fair is for idiots who die in the fight. It's best if you try to kill him, I doubt you will with the fact his skin is as hard as rocks, but it's the mentality that should work out."
Arianne gave Garin a withering look. "I'm sorry--are you here to fight this man, or to suck his cock? You talk about him like a blushing maiden talks about her favorite knight. Now I have no objection to you... expressing your admiration, as it's likely to slow him down anyway, but at least tell me bef--you're late."
That last was addressed to Darius, who came charging in on a stolen horse. As he dismounted and shambled closer they could see he was carrying a barefoot, disheveled girl of fourteen years or so, unconscious, with a hastily-bandaged bloodied gash on her forehead. Arianne tensed when she saw that, her grey-green eyes narrowing and her ears pressing back against her head, and Darius' addressing only Garin seemed to annoy her even further. The Hrow pressed two fingers into a spot on the supine girl's neck, then gently lifted the bandage to study the wound.
"Well. Your new role as caretaker seems to be off to a great start. Don't hit the child's head off of things is generally something your learn in the early days of parenting... " Arianne paused again, her ears perking up as her eyes studied the way Darius had entered. She made a jabbing motion over her shoulder with her thumb, indicating the caravel. "He's coming. You two should really get on the boat."
She drew her sword one-handed and thrust it point-first into the planks at her feet, then leaned casually on its crossguard and studied her nails. Waiting.
"Man I really do not like you at all." Garin had narrowed his stare at this woman, she was just as rotten and bitchy as any westerner-must be a side effect of always being in totalitarian rules.
As Darius came in screaming about how he'd banged up Serenity on the ride over had audibly sighed and pushed his face into his hands. He ripped a pouch off his belt and laid it in him quickly after Arianne was done chewing him out.
“Told you not to do that, don't let Drake see her like that or he will actually rip your skull out and then beat you to death with it."
The pouch contained bandages, some healing poultice specifically for this type of injury, and a wrapped piece of permafrost that was cold to the touch even through it's thick wrappings.
"I'll hang back but I'm not getting aboard, you don't know what he's got planned, oh mighty West."
Garin pushed Darius past himself and her and took up a position ready for Drake to arrive. "Darius, just let us do what you asked us here for, get your sister aboard and cast off as soon as is feasible." With that he stationed himself near a crate and waited as he now heard the thumping of heavy feet rounding the corner to square up against the two elves.
Drake was rounding the corner as Darius was making his way up the gangplank with Serenity draped limply in his arms. Garin could see him go from honestly reasonable looking, calm enough to waste time talking with, to flashing with such an intense murderous glare it seriously made him shiver. He had some knight on his back, that when he let the other man down, it was like two giants at the edge of the docks. One clad in plate, the other a steady stone statue who was already drawing his double edged blade angrily which prompted Garin to get himself set. He wasn’t going to waste time talking, he’d surely rush them.
He did but not in the way Garin thought, he set his feet to the ground and bared his teeth. His body began to shimmer a brighter white and ebb off a cold aura, and he let himself fly down the dock leaving his partner behind him and he was looking at though he was going to should check past them and use his blade to parry any strikes. His main objective was reaching the ship so Garin held off and let Arianne handle this until he needed to take action.
If he moved now it could cause confusion and get them both hit.
Arianne smiled a nonchalant, knowing smile when Drake made his appearance. "If you come any closer," she told the enraged Drow, casually, "I'm going to make a dreadful fool out of you."
He did not heed the warning and charged nevertheless. The sight of near-four-hundred pounds of grunting, shirtless muscle powering towards her and waving a broadsword did not seem to increase Arianne's understanding of the situation at all; instead, she gave a little sigh, crossing one arm over her head, taking her elbow in hand and leaning to one side, stretching. All the while, Drake came closer and closer and closer, the deck thundering beneath his feet, and Arianne had not even picked up her sword yet--had in fact closed her eyes, and he was mere meters away, and her limbs were so thin and her stature so short in comparison to this mountain of a man bearing down on her that it seemed like she would be squashed flat—
Her movement, when it came, was lightning-quick. She wrapped one hand around her blade's hilt and the other round its pommel, and pulled, as if it were a lever. The wooden deck in which it was buried gave a crack, splitting, and then splintering. Suddenly Drake was not running forwards--he was running down. The now-unsteady planks gave way beneath his tremendous weight and shattered; his lower half went spilling into the water below, and he was halted.
"Oh dear. A bit stuck, are we?" Arianne crouched down beside him, resting her cheek in one hand. "You know, you're somehow even slower than I expected you to be. I would advise you to sit there for a while and think about you've done, friend." She wore a new smile now, a wicked, daredevil smirk. "Because there's no fucking way you're getting anywhere near that child again."
Garin was surprised at how cool she could be and how pompous she could act when she had a raging barbarian staring her down. Her blood must've been even colder than Drake's, at this distance Garin could tell that the man was only semi-conscious by now. His eyes had gone white and the shimmering mist was powerful ice magic. He was unleashing his signature 'Northern King' or something that he had described it as one, which the pirate never understood what he meant whenever he used the phrase. All it meant was he probably only half heard Arianne's spiel.
He saw two arms shoot out to either side and ice begin to spread out around where he was half submerged and the unmistakable 'I'll kill you and eat you' voice that he knew Drake got when he was actually pissed.
"See there's a difference between me and you, I don't lose," he heard ebb out as Drake pulled himself easily form the drink and formed ice up around him as he regained solid footing on the unimpaired boards of the pier "So how about you get the fuck outta my way, West, you're not going to kidnap that girl. Not while I'm still breathing." With that he looked up and seemed to do a bit of math in his head.
"James. Hit Garin real hard for me. I'm getting to that ship."
He was priming himself and Garin knew what, so he fired the fireball and set up a displacement spell behind it. The fireball was fizzled but the displacement hit. Knocking his footing out and stopping him from making a leap over Arianne to the boat as he was about to do. He recovered easily enough and rethought, instead just putting his full powered weight into a serious punch that seemed to become encased in hardened packed ice as it moved for Arianne. Drake was obvious the slower one here. He was built for mounted combat and hitting hard, not hand to hand skirmishes.
"Drake you can't win this one! Stop fighting and surrender, just let Darius take his sister away from here, you know what you're doing is wro-" a shiver ran up his spine as he sensed a powerful force moving at high speed towards them and he saw the vision of a drow he couldn't recognize flying overheard, observing the fight like some sick voyeur. "The fuck?" he shook out of it and primed another magic shot.
"Sterling banter. I can tell you are a man of superior intellect." Arianne watched Drake rise from the water and fumble around, stymied by Garin's spell. She looked bored. "I must admit, your commitment to raping this child bride of yours is really quite astonishing--I'm sorry, are you trying to punch me in the middle of a swordfight?!"
When Drake's fist came barreling towards her, Arianne snapped to the left, letting it sail past her. Her blade lashed out like a striking adder, scraping across the Drow's throat. If it was any ordinary man, he'd be twitching on the deck, his life's blood pumping from his neck in a gory red river. Instead, the edge screeched like it was being dragged along against solid rock.
"Oh for fuck's sake, Smithee." Arianne examined what was left of her sword; the cheap metal had twisted, blunted, and become coated with a thin layer of hoarfrost. "Everyone else gets enchanted elven steel, I get stuck with a strip of parchment with a handle on the end."
As she said that, she was already dancing back out of Drake's reach. The breeze seemed to carry her light frame like a leaf, sweeping her into the air, and she alighted with catlike nimbleness onto the crate dangling above them on the rope pulley.
"Alright." She drew her bladed bow and notched an arrow in it in one quick, snapping motion. "We're past Plan A now...think we're somewhere near Plan E."
She slashed out with the bow, the ropes were severed, and the crate was falling. It landed with an almighty crash sending wood splinters soaring into the air, slotting between two other crates and barring Drake's passage for good. The chains holding the crate shut had been loosened by Arianne's docker ally, and now, its lid slumped from its moorings and thudded to the deck like a solemn mark of punctuation to the cacophony before it. There came a strange noise from the shadows within the crate; something was moving in the shadows, something was alive in there, something huge...
"Have you met Nestor Knox's wedding present to the happy couple?" Arianne had her wicked smirk again. "Bit of a mixed blessing if you ask me. God knows how he intended for them to feed it."
The sound came again--not a growl, but a trumpet. The great beast came lumbering from its cage. Grey it was, with skin like leather, and great flapping ears. Meter-long tusks of ivory sprang from either side of its long trunk, and its small eyes seemed filled with fury--and fixed on Drake.
"Get him, Jumbo," said Arianne, and gave the creature a prod on its arse with her bow.
It let loose a mighty trumpet of rage, then charged, making the entire deck tremble dangerously beneath it. Without looking round at Garin, Arianne fired her notched arrow--straight at James.
James had only just caught up, clanking up in fullplate. So there was no stealth in his attack on Garin, sword raised to fend off an attack as he swept in. But the sudden appearance of the flying drow was to his advantage, closing the distance with Garin with the charge of a bull. His sword swung back, the pommel readied to smash Garin in the side of the jaw.
Garin was so distracted by the elf taking flight that he never really noticed James Umbridge closing the gap between the two of them. It was by luck he was able to get his gauntleted hand up to protect his face, and even then he felt it strain. His swords was still sheathe so he let his dislocation spell fly out into James' chest to get him off and away. "I know he's just fooling a young guy like you to fight his battles, but seriously I don't want to hurt you so you should really back off." He drew out his cutlass ready for anything when the elephant's crate dropped with a massive thunk and out stormed the almighty beast, which charge straight at Drake. The whizzing sound of an arrow flying through the air made Garin take a half step back as he prepare against James.
The Umbridge boy had to rely on his armor rather than his flexibility to keep him safe from Arianne's strike. But he did manage to tilt his body away enough to take the arrow on one of his pauldrons rather than his center. It harmlessly plinked off.
The beast's appearance clearly rattled James, having never seen anything like it before. His blade was still ready to fend off any blows, but he seemed to have no interest in attacking Garin while that... thing stood.
Then the thundering sound of giants charging filled the air, as the thud thud thud grew powerfully vibrant and Garin could feel the dock strain underfoot. One side was Drake, having retrieved his sword and making some kind of 'bring it on' motion as he charged this rampaging mass of grey. To the other a powerful beast that in any other case would be a death sentence, then they clashed. Drake ran full force and then launched himself up and over letting his body hit onto the beast's back. The elephant for its part seemed to be trying to shake him off as he began to roar commands in his weird void he used to scream too loud before.
"By the power of the frozen north, listen to my call, you are beast feared and mighty but now you must fall, give unto me your loyalty to spare you from thine blade, work for me as I set you free journey to the glade!" He was roaring some ancient command tongue he probably learned with tundra drakes if Garin remembered he used to use them in combat forever ago. Maybe it would work on an elephant? Garin swung back needing to keep his eyes on James and swinging his cutlass as a warning.
Arianne might have helped but she seemed to have lost all interest in the fight, as if her work here was done. She sat on the crate, one long leg tucked up beneath her while the other dangled over the edge; her hands were busy stuffing herbs into a smoking-pipe.
"Kick him in the balls, Jumbo!" she called down to her animal ally as she did this. "Right in his kiddy-fiddlin'--"
And then, all at once, she froze, her entire demeanor changing. Her ears perked up, pupils dilating, and she gazed up at the sky, her casual demeanor gone. It seemed the Griffin's Bastard had detected something that no-one else had.
"They brought a third." That was addressed to Garin. "Told you we needed one on the boat--"
She blurred into motion, sprinting off the edge of the crate, and then diving. She slid seamlessly into the waters below with nary a splash, and vanished. Garin had been utterly ditched, left alone with only two armed adversaries and an angry elephant for company. It seemed that whatever deal Darius had struck with the Hrow, her protection did not extend to co-workers.
Divan had been watching over the battle taking its course, but when it became clear the outcome, his perception shifted to boarding the caravel. He was aboard in no time flat already within the cabin Serenity was being kept in, with Darius held by his throat after he valiantly tried to pull his blades on Divan.
"Little boy, I'm not going to argue with you, I'm faaaaar stronger than you realize," the drows eyes were glowing bright white, his hair in a wild standing flow, and his strength was astonishing. In that moment he let Darius go dropping him back down, he was no true threat as Divan began to walk over to Serenity without further delay.
"We should be getting you home Serenity, when you awaken this will all be a fuzzy dream because Drake slipped his grip and you cracked your head on the hall floor." He incanted something of a light transport spell and the room began to whiten as he touched Serenity's head and, nothing. Divan rethought and casted anew, nothing.
"The fuck is going on, don't have time for this bullshit" he grumbled to himself and tried to simply cast basic levitation, nothing. Recovery, nothing. He cast examination spell, nothing. Nothing was working on her and that's when he noticed her stomach aglow with each of his failed attempts. He studied it for a long moment and saw a peculiar set of patterns and symbols he had never seen before. Rune-like forms of circles and triangles. Someone was protecting this girl with high-tiered magic, and this was a warding spell that cancelled out magic cast on her. Probably in a small field spanning her person.
Darius was obviously in no mood for banter as he had been the first time he and Divan crossed paths back on the Untamed Isle. "Get the fuck away from her." His blades were fully drawn and he leaped at the drow.
A quick rounding, Divan's fist going towards Darius' stomach as his head lurched forward and another hand held a disorientation spell primed to knock the man off balance. He was not afraid of Darius at all, if anything, he was being a mere pest. "I'd suggest you stop while you're ahead boy!"
But despite the choking of a moment earlier, Darius was already thinking on his feet. He dodged the punch, his blades slicing up at Divan's outstretched spellhand.
Divan smiled, and launched the spell point blank though it would miss, the blades did find purchase but they quickly hit a difficulty in trying to pierce magical reinforcement and simply gave him two small cuts. Divan closed the distance even more becoming all of Darius' view and seeming to exert his power in even greater amounts to show Darius the full depths of just what Divan was. It was like staring down a giant mana well.
"Darius, the most you can do is give me a few nasty cuts, you're a hundred years too young for someone at my level." He reared his head back, and went full in on a headbutt into Darius rather than casting anything more. He didn't want to hurt him too badly, that wasn't the point, but this was getting aggravating. "Don't make me start actually casting spells now"
Darius stumbled back a few steps before regaining his footing, shaking his head and blinking away the stars that no doubt found their way into his vision. "I'll take a few cuts over letting you take her away from me," he snapped. "Leave. Or we have a real problem and no amount of spells is going to stop me from slicing that smug grin from the lower half of your pretty new face."
There was something in his eyes. Something that said he was no longer the witty young man. No, this was the pirate coming out. The man that would kill to have his way.
Divan looked back at Serenity, narrowed his eyes and looked back to Darius. "Now who’s the monster? Drake loves her more than you ever will, and you steal her from him for your own petty reasons. You are disgusting, well and truly Darius, and you should be ashamed of yourself."
“Oh fuck off.”
Divan’s hand moved and he snapped his fingers, a spell he had noticed pouring over Serenity shattered, forwarding the knowledge of what its structure was to Divan but not yielding to him its secrets, though it could help him to understand just what the hell that ward was doing on her body. It had been over the ward, placed after. Recently.
"However, Arianne's coming back, and I'd rather not tangle with her, so you win. I'll leave."
He silently allowed for a book to appear under Serenity's unconscious body, something she would need to read to understand the gravity of who Drake actually was. On the Revised History of the Northern King: How Xankresh Avani Warped the Events of the Downfall of A'Draak Morvala. If he couldn't be here to tell her himself, the book would suffice.
"Know this, there is no greater pain than the loss of another, you've inflicted a mighty blow to one of the strongest men in Terros because of your own whims. Drake will not rest until he sees Serenity safely returned to her family, I hope you enjoy running because it's all you will do for the rest of your miserable life until he catches you. You are why I find humanity so disgusting at so many points in history."
With those final words drawn he was gone in a flash, the cabin fell quiet, and the ominous aura of death was finally gone.
The very second that Divankul was gone, there came a splashing from the edge of the deck. A thin arm, sopping wet, lashed out and grabbed the edge of the railing, followed by another, and for a second it seemed like a fourth assailant had arrived to take Serenity away until a familiar face, plastered over with it's soaked scarlet tresses, poked into view.
"Hrrrng rrn," she said; there was a dagger clutched between her teeth. "Rrhh, brr thrrr frrrcking Vrrrd..."
With a mighty heave, she pulled herself up onto the deck and collapsed in a puddle, panting. It seemed to take her a moment to remember why she was there and she immediately sprang up, taking the dagger in hand.
"Where's the--?" she looked at Serenity, at Darius, back at Serenity again. "Ah. I missed it, didn't I?"
"It was Divankul Dul-Sansiska," Darius said, shaking the drops of drow blood from his blades. "New face, but I'd recognize that arrogant voice anywhere."
He set his blades down on the ground beside Serenity - they'd need a wipe down before being returned to their usual haunts across his back. He had managed to bind Serenity's head in the time it took for the brief battle to take place outside, and the groggy fluttering of her lids displayed her semi-consciousness.
"The fuck's this?" Darius tugged a book out that had apparently been nudged under Serenity's limp body. He used it as a head support for her.
"Flew all this way to give you a book, did he?" Arianne wrung out her braid, spilling water on the deck. "How considerate of h--hang on a fucking second. Am I along for the ride now?"
The ship was dangerously far out at this point. The fact that the Elf had managed to reach it by swimming at all was a miracle and seemed to have taken a lot out of her. She went to the edge of the deck, made a sort of mock-lunge as if to jump over, but then slumped miserably to the ground.
"My squire is going to get himself extremely killed," she said glumly, then looked to Darius. "Please tell me you're going back to the City."
"I'm that predictable unfortunately," Darius said, gently brushing Serenity's hair from her face. "And you, with a squire? Seems so formal."
"Shame. It'll be the first place the Drow will look. Now don't get me wrong, I'll fuck him up as many times as you need me to...but you're going to have to put me in contact with a better blacksmith first." She waved the dagger; upon closer inspection it appeared to be the remains of her longsword, having shattered on Drake's hide. "Looks like my Uncle's had enough of the party--the whole Armada is leaving. We might be able to slip through unnoticed if we join with their fleet."
When Darius mentioned the squire, the Elf made a growling noise, crossing her long legs beneath her and folding her arms standoffishly. "Don't get me started. The boy's a bloody burden. Dredged him out of a river a few months back and I've been saving his worthless hide ever since." She stuck out her bottom lip and blew strands of wet hair out of her eyes. "Got some words of advice for you--never take pity on anyone or anything. Especially not a highborn...even if its family."
There was a moment of silence. Arianne sighed, stood, and strode over to where Serenity lay. "That's a nasty lump you gave her. We ought to keep something cold on it, to reduce the swelling. She'll have a splitting headache when she wakes, I suspect...but at least she will wake." The Elf's tone had a surprisingly gentle edge to it. She turned away, a frown playing across her features as if her own compassion irritated her, and crossed her arms over her chest as if hugging herself. "She'll thank you, I think, some day. Not for the wound, for taking her away. Being out of that....situation. It will do her some good."
"I hope so," Darius said softly. His past rage with Divankul was draining away and he just looked down at his sister with a mix of emotions upon his face.
He eased down to sit cross-legged on the ground beside Serenity, glancing up at Arianne. He slid one cutlass across the floor to her boot. A few drops of Divankul's blood dotted the deck in its wake.
"Until we can get you a better blade. It worked well enough to slice Dickankul."
The Griffin's Bastard peered down curiously at the offered blade. She hooked her bare toes beneath the handle of the sword, then flicked it upwards, catching it with her right hand while it was in midair. The Elf turned it to and fro in her hand, testing its weight, then spun away and gave a few practice slashes at the open air.
"My captain uses a curved blade like this, but longer. Claims it's good for cutting heads." She ran a slender finger down the weapon's edge, then slotted it into her scabbard with a satisfying-sounding clink. "Thank you."
She gazed out to the sea for a moment, then shook her head angrily. "Fuck it. I'm spoiling for a drink. Got any Wyvern-mead on board?"
There was no Wyvern-mead.
Re: The Isles of Aradia (IC/New Settlers Welcome.)
Posted: Sun May 26, 2019 1:56 pm
Collab with Kotor!
Garin and Drake: Dock Battle
Garin managed to use the time James was being terrified of the massive elephant to scale over the crates and prepare himself for the fight of his life. He saw the ship was already managing to take off and he sighed, resigning himself to possibly die saving Serenity form whatever hell a fucking barbarian warmonger could come up with. He checked all his rings, saw to it that his armor was strapped down, and pulled out his pistol. There were sounds of Jumbo continuing the battle it out with Drake but eventually the beast was made the heel to the overlord’s power and fists and it seemed to quiet and trample off down the dock. As if by clockwork, Drake was over the crate wielding his blade and seeing the caravel take off, before Garin could react two items were thrown from Drake’s person directly at the boat. In that moment Garin too the time to shoot Drake from thirty feet and hit him squarely in his side.
By this point Drake as he was known was gone, replaced by some immoral monster fueled by hate and magic. The bullet didn’t even register as burrowing into him at explosive force. Though his body was so strong in managed to only hit into the muscle and never really find purchase beyond moderate disability. Garin groaned and took a few steps back, as Drake charged him, fully intending to swim the entire way out to the fleeing boat and get aboard. Garin was meant to stop him and so he rushed forward as well but tried to stay loose.
It failed, he caught an elbow straight to the face and a sword to his gut. Thankfully due to shield enchanting the later it only pieced enough to bruise up Garin’s stomach and knock the wind form him. Perfect position for a fireball punch straight into Drake’s sword shoulder, which was reflected somewhat by his icy aura but he still felt his fist connect with Drake’s body and sear at his skin. Garin rolled off as Drake went in more and whiffed his next strike. Garin couldn’t match him for blows but he could weave about them, to which he fired a dislocation at Drake’s forward knee as he repositioned and too the time to slash upwards, it was blocked effortless but he took a few bouncy steps backwards using up another scroll.
Drake was defensive and moved ready to deflect the spell, but Garin fired it over Drake’s shoulder. It was a mere flare spell meant to get his mind thinking about what garin could feasibly do. In this state Drake’s tactical mindset was out the window or he’d already have been routed. It was because he was in such a state any of this were possible. Had he thought logically and clearly as he always had instead of reacting to his emotions, the three would’ve never gotten to this point and would probably have been returned to their respective houses, to stand trial for kidnapping. In the wake of the distraction Garin used a charge of quickening to quickly reload his gun and fire, this time as Drake’s thigh. He used quickening three more times as Drake began a charge, once to load one final shot and fire at his chest, right at his heart, once to withdraw his jack knife from his boot, and finally the remaining time to stab said knife into his stomach, using a dodge charge on his other enchanted ring to accomplish getting past his strike.
His gauntlets were enchanted with strength so he wrenched the blade one way, it was dwarvish steel so it managed to cut him depe enough, He meant o disembowel Drake, but the pommel of the man’s blade cracked into the back of Garin’s head so he only managed a one inch cut before his grip loosened and he rolled away. However he was now bleeding sufficiently, Darius might not have wanted death, but Garin knew he wouldn’t live if Drake did. He reached to the back of his head and discovered it bleeding heavily, regretting giving his medical supplies to serenity right about then. He had two charges left of dodge at that potency, he had only one charge in both the feather ring and the flight ring, it would make him lighter and let him quickly fly his way out of here. He had one displacement, one fireball, and an explosion. He was out of rounds and powder for his pistol, his knife was dug into Drake’ stomach and his cutlass wouldn’t last much longer. As he thought Drake was moving slower but still coming, an unstoppable force.
Garin loaded up all of the scrolls in his hand at once and threw his Cutlass full force at Drake who sundered it with a swordstrike. In that moment of reeling defenselessness Gairn threw the supercharged spell and started to spin and run as fast as he could, luckily his boots were haste enhanced as the fiery explosion hit Drake and slammed him back into Jumbo’s crate. Garin panted hard and looked behind him, and groaned as he saw the image of a burned and bloodied up Drake getting up, and roaring another roar of hatred and pain, before running full bore like an animal at him, ready to cleave him. The explosion had moved the knife enough his guts were beginning to push out of the gap.
The motherfucker was half dead and still fucking moving, this shit was more than enough for an entire garrison worth of human foot soldiers but this walking tank handled it like a champ. Garin resolutely decided to ditch this plan, he had done his part and began feather and flight. He lept from the dock as Drake reached him and destroyed where he had just been with his cleaving strike. Garin sighed and sent himself towards the quickly vanishing Caravel.
Drake could be found in a sitting position as the crate was finally lifted and a slumbering elephant was settled further inland. James would be able to see just how much damage the General had taken. His stomach wound was stitched to keep him from dying but needed immediate attention. He was covered with burns, cuts, impact marks, and three different bullet wounds leading bleeding holes thought he lead balls had been removed. Standing over him was an imposing figure in and of itself, the drow that had covered James ears, it was clear he had been doing his best to keep Drake alive but there was little for this man to do for such serious wounds. There was a need to healing magic and surgery possibly in store for Drake at this level of harm. The fact he had kept moving was a miracle of all things and he was still conscious….in a way.
James and Divan would be able to see clearly the tears running down the man’s face openly, not from pain, he was beyond that. It was from his failure to protect someone he cared about, it was the sadness that he had let his anger control him and that he might’ve given Serenity the idea he was truly a monster, it was the fear he’d never see her again and th ecurshing weight of hundreds of years flooding back over him.
“I told you, you were a fuck up and nothing would ever go right for you, now look what you did! Alyssia’s dead because of you getting jealous! I took her fair and square you shit!”
Drake’s body was cold, frozen to the touch, ice had formed all around the tattered remains of the dock and his pants. Bits and pieces of wood, metal, flesh, scattered and becoming covered in a layer of frost that was expelling from him at a rapid pace. Divan would place his hand on James ot walk him away fearing Drake’s powers could unintentionally harm the boy. The frost kept creeping and it slowed his pulse down so the bleeding nearly stopped. Soon all around him was frost and mist rising up as it hit the water. The tears kept flowing.
“I will protect you always, Serenity. I promise that much I can offer you.”
“You are merely a dog of mine, a dog of war that I can throw about my enemies until either you or them lay dead in the ground. Never forget that A’Draak.”
“You help me forget how much my life sucks, Serenity, why did I not protect you more?”
“Because you’re nothing but dirt, lowly dirt that can get a little angry and cold, you lost her because you are worthless
“I would have done differently, but I felt the rage boil up and hold on”
“YOU NEED MY RAGE! OUR RAGE! IT IS WHAT GAVE YOU LIFE IN THE DARK! DO NOT DEFY US!
“I want her back…..I want her to be with me….please do not force me to be alone again, I-I cannot stand to be alone….”
“STOP SNIVELING! YOU ARE JUST THE SAME LITTLE BOY FROM SO LONG AGO, WE SHOULD NOT HAVE LET YOU COME BACK INTO CONTROL! YOU LOST US THE GIRL!
There it was, back in the place of white and memories flying abound, disintegrating and reforming, shuffling, a place within the key to Drake’s continued existence. He had been pulled away, from it all, to stand before them
again. He stood, small, tight bodied, hundreds of years younger and wearing his training gear. He could feel Alyssia pull to one side of his arm and Serenity to the other, he saw the nightmarish visions of Xankresh and his men pull Alyssia away and ravage her fully before his eyes while his body was heavy as stone. He felt Serenity be pulled and saw the visions of her brother and Arianne and Garin doing the same to her and saw both their lives be pulled away from them. It reopened the wounds and scars that had long since closed over the centuries and he felt every single mark and blow come upon him. His trial, he could not overcome it the first time and this time was no different.
The forms were upon him now, one was the dark shade of Obscuran, glaring down at him with malice and destruction, ready to take command once more. The other was the lighter shade, the one of magic who would imprison him once more within that which provided him his power. He felt utterly defenseless as the onslaught continued, and when it was over he was on the ground wheezing for air and unable to find respite as they came upon him and dragged him up.
“BOY YOU WERE NOT READY, YOU LOST US THE GIRL, YOU FAILED US ALL!
“You must be retained we cannot afford you destroying reclamation at this stage, our mission is nearly fulfilled, Xanvani is close at hand. We will seal you once more
“No...but...but….I was only just out, you have kept me here so long I have not seen the world, all you allow me is to feel the guilt and the pain and the memories over and over. I don’t want this!” His voice was softer, not the overly booming raucous of the obscuran and not the smooth reverberations of the magic. He was merely a boy, that’s all he had ever been when he mantled this unto himself, so much of his life was simply living through the pain and turmoil these two caused him every moment. He felt himself crying and struggling against their grip harder, he id not wish to be sealed again, not now, not ever, Serenity had set him free and she was no longer here to protect him from these two.
The thunder of a horse’s hooves on cobblestone sounded along the misty expanse of the docks. The horse’s rider wore the golden-edged plate of a high-ranking Ludlow member and a green cloak bloomed out behind horse and rider.
Elmer pulled the horse to a stop, slipping from its back and gently soothing it, patting its nose as it huffed in the strangely chilled air. The elf peered through the mist, beyond to the ship in the distance as it sailed away – a ship he knew, having seen it under construction at Shelter. Then, his gaze flitted to Divankul and a very confused-looking James Umbridge. Finally, he looked at the Northern King.
He left the horse and it stood quietly, frost forming on its hide. Elmer removed his gauntlets, dropping them on the docks as he walked across the frozen planks. The tattoos wrapped around his arms lit with a red light, and as he stepped, ice gave way beneath his feet. It wasn’t until he stood at Drake’s side, gazing out at the ship again, that he halted. Around him, the ice began to melt as warmth radiated from him.
And he laid a hand on Drake’s shoulder. Heat stole through the Obscuran’s body. It knitted his flesh back together, within him. It flickered about in his blood, steaming its way through to his heart, up to his head, down through his soles. It was nothing to heal the hurt the drow felt. But it did melt the ice.
Elmer said nothing.
“WHAT IS GOING ON?!
” everything was rumbling around them as they were straining with a still fighting Drake, he began to feel….warmth, care, compassion. Magic that was unknown to him but feared by the light shade. “It’s an elf, an old one at that, he’s come to help the boy! Quickly, stow him!
"An Elf? Elmer? Only one shot"
“ELMER! SAVE ME I’M IN HEEEEEEEREEEEEE DON’T LET THEM TAKE ME! HELP!” He was pulled rougher by the spirits trying to pull him into the black void where he would be detained and they would regain control. However outside Elmer would feel the empathic imprint of a child screaming bloody murder that he needed to be saved, he was to be locked away again by, Them? Whoever them was they would not win this fight. His warmth increased, his arm wrapping around the giant’s shoulders and a soft but firm embrace to show him he was not alone in this world, not anymore, he didn't have to be.
” The shade was screaming pulling with all its might to wrench Drake down into the hole as the light shade pushed and groaned. “It is too late! He’s regaining control!
” warmth radiated, and the apparitions could no longer hold Drake, he was burning hot to the touch. The wounds of the past sealed shut and he felt strong arms around him and smiled as he regained consciousness. He blinked out the bleariness of his eyes and wiped away the streams of tears as he looked to the one friend he had left in this whole fucking world, Elmer Twicefreed had just saved Drake’s life.
"Elmer" He said with a bittersweet smirk, happy to see the elf but saddened to know it meant his shame was known "I couldn't do it, I couldn't keep her safe...I lost control, and I just wasn't good enough to keep them from taking her. I'm sorry, she's gone, Serenity's gone"
Elmer pulled back from the embrace but kept one warm hand closed over Drake's shoulder. "It's not about being good enough. I can see that's Darius' ship. Your trust was betrayed. And that is not your fault."
Drake nodded glumly and looked to his chest, his stomach, saw his wounds had been knitted to a semblance of wholeness and that he had not frozen the docks over in his torment. "I want to go after her, I don't want to hurt anyone, truly. But I don't want them to hurt Serenity further on than what they did already in getting her here. I just want to fix things Elmer" It was finally by this point he could tell others were nearby. James, and Divan, the latter of which he was not too pleased with but his arrival must've meant he had come to help and had been unable. He reached out as he began to press himself up, he needed a bit of help though.
Elmer caught Drake's hand and elbow, steadying the larger man until he could stand on his own. He glanced to Divankul and James. "What was her state when you saw her last?"
"Uh," James stammered, finally sheathing his blade. "She'd been knocked out. I dunno if Darius meant to hit her that hard, but..."
"He wouldn't," Elmer stated. "Umbridge, isn't it? Take that horse and report to Tazim Chakif, the Birhor Captain in the great hall's entrance. Inform him of what happened here and that Elmer and Drake are following Darius' ship to return Serenity. He should not send any more men. We can handle this - it's a family matter."
James nodded and quickly mounted the horse, galloping away with a wisp of mist curling behind him.
Divan sighed "So you're the one who had the ward set on Serenity then, I see, then I've unintentionally meddled with you once again ti would appear" He was quick to explain "I'm the one who shattered your scrying spell, as if that wasn't obvious" His face was like stone, business, and he snapped his fingers, Chestnuts appeared perched on his shoulder somewhat drunk and confused but saw the expressions played out on everyone's faces and began to trot off toward the Gracious Ornia
"Save the chewing out for later Elmer, my ship will take you to Everglow in around six hours at full burn, Chestnuts will guide the ship and there's plenty of fuel. There should be some replacement clothing for both of you. For what it's worth I'm sorry, I really was trying to save her and get her back to safety"
Drake could feel Elmer tensing up with rage and he had to squeeze on the smaller elf's arm and give him a pleading look to let it go "Thank you Divan, ensure that everyone is kept unawares of what has transpired with the family, I would rather Maria not attempt to warn Garin"
"I'll do what I can Drake, just go get your woman and let's not pretend we've suddenly become friends, I'm just a megalomaniac asshole with a sympathy for losing someone you love" with that Divan turned on his heel and began to move away as Drake made his way to the boat waiting for them.
"Elmer....I have a lot to tell you, I'm going to explain everything, even what you may already know about me. You are my only friend left now, and I don't want to keep secrets anymore, I'm tired of being alone." The look in Drake's eyes were clear, this was not the same man Elmer had seen first coming up the steps of Caybourne. This was a scared fucking child in a giant's body.
Something in Elmer's gaze was reassuring - that whatever Drake had to say, he was there. He'd listen. Maybe even understand.