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Fair Trade

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Re: Fair Trade

Post by Ninmast » Fri Feb 09, 2018 3:58 pm

Yuki smiled as the ecstatic half-elf shot through the place. With her zeal, if it had been anyone else, the princess would have been worried about the state of her precious library, but she had seen how meticulously Aileen kept her store and felt no concern. When the noise finally settled down, she decided to track her down and found her surrounded by a nest of books, already with one open.

The princess' smile faltered at the question, however, confusion evident. The idea that the particular volume was anything special, or that anything had happened to its fellows, was clearly news to her, especially when she answered Aileen's question. "Overstock sale. Mother was there for poetry, and it caught my eye on the way out. Boxes of them, discounted down to move. Mother said they weren't moving because female writers weren't suitably respected at the time."
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Re: Fair Trade

Post by Rock Splitter » Fri Feb 09, 2018 6:58 pm

Aileen was shaken. It was one thing to be reminded Princess Yuki was much, much older than her youthful beauty betrayed. What the book-loving mage could not fathom was how the owner of such a priceless tome could be unaware of its value.

She struggled for words, staring up at Yuki in disbelief. “B-but... This was written by the Queen of Spears! The Old Kingdom condemned her for witchcraft but she was a heroine... This! This is has to be the only copy of her book left.”

Aileen flipped the well-preserved pages, breathless. “Her training, her rise to power... The taming of Imsae, her dance with Prince Folorond and the campaign against the Yumbari, its all here. And more!” She shut the mythic account and clutched it close, too overwhelmed to read further.

“Your Highness,” she began, already bowed. “This is a precious cultural heirloom. There is no safer place for it to rest than in your keeping, but please... Please permit me to show this to one of my collaborators in Haegan so that she can transcribe a new copy for print. It would be a godsend!”
-.-. .-.. . ...- . .-. / --. .. .-. .-..

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Re: Fair Trade

Post by Ninmast » Sat Feb 10, 2018 3:17 am

The princess frowned, but in thought, not scorn. "If it is so precious, perhaps you should confirm that your associate is up to the task. I can always see it to you at another time, then it is not put to undue risk, yes? But I have no qualms with it being duplicated if you trust her with the task. I apologize for not being better informed as to its importance, Aileen, as that has disturbed you. But being distant from society means distance from its changes. I leave my lands rarely by intent."

Where a Haegan young woman with Yuki's legs would have sat and crossed them in all of their splendor, Yuki knelt on the cushion with her legs folded beneath her, and her expression took a darker ambiance. "I cannot say I am surprised at the outcome, however. Men have historically feared women with power and persecuted them in their fear. Even I, in their foolishness, have been targeted under such charges, though obviously they knew not what they dealt with if they were comparing me to some mortal witch. Surely you and Neelia have had similar problems."
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Re: Fair Trade

Post by Rock Splitter » Mon Feb 12, 2018 1:03 pm

"Oh yes! She's very skilled," Aileen assured her. "If also a bit..." She tried to find the right word for the monster in Haegan's library. The princess did not wait.

Aileen seemed to shrink as she spoke, holding the precious book close like a teddy bear. "Well... I can't say I'd disagree," she offered, looking away. "If certain men knew what I... What Neelia can do... They would - agh!" Aileen's whole body clenched and trembled, then relaxed. "It's alright!" she gasped, and caught her breath. "I still don't have the energy to change. I'm fine."

There was a brief, very Neelia-like edge to her tone before she resumed her usual meekness. Aileen slid Armies and Companions off her lap to rest on the cushion before Yuki.

"You've blessed me with yet another favor, Your Highness. I shall see to it the first new copy is given to you just as soon as it is prepared. That's the least of what I aught to repay to you."
-.-. .-.. . ...- . .-. / --. .. .-. .-..

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Re: Fair Trade

Post by Ninmast » Mon Feb 12, 2018 1:13 pm

That got a raised eyebrow from Yuki, though she didn't seem offended. "I would rather have my own copy back."
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Re: Fair Trade

Post by Rock Splitter » Mon Feb 12, 2018 1:19 pm

Aileen turned beet red. " Oh! No, no, no, of course! Id didn't mean to insinuate - " From there Aileen's apology was made faster and faster, making less and less sense, until she exhausted herself. "I'm sorry," the frazzled mage said finally. She nudged the book closer to it's rightful own with one finger tip, trying to touch as little of it as possible.

"And I will make sure," she added, "That um... my associate at the library understands as well."
-.-. .-.. . ...- . .-. / --. .. .-. .-..

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Re: Fair Trade

Post by Ninmast » Mon Feb 12, 2018 1:21 pm

"Of course," the ice princess replied gracefully. "I understand. I see, you meant in addition to it. I appreciate that. Shall I leave you some time to read, then?"
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Re: Fair Trade

Post by Rock Splitter » Mon Feb 12, 2018 1:25 pm

"Oh! I don't mean to shoo you away, Your Highness." Aileen froze, realizing how stupid that sounded. "N-not that I could, or would ever want to but," she paused again and took a deep breath, stopping herself. "I would love to enjoy my afternoon here. It's such a blessing, Your Highness. Thank you."
-.-. .-.. . ...- . .-. / --. .. .-. .-..

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Re: Fair Trade

Post by Ninmast » Wed Feb 14, 2018 1:24 pm

But Yuki only smiled. "It was my offer, after all. You needn't feel guilt. I shall return at luncheon or if any news with Rock-Splitter arises. Please enjoy your reading." And the imperial princess gave a single bow and vanished into the breeze.
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Re: Fair Trade

Post by Rock Splitter » Mon Mar 12, 2018 11:12 am

The Princess was on her way elsewhere. Aileen had to wonder at the way she traveled through thin air. It didn't seem too bold to suppose Her Highness could reach any part of her estate quick as thinking. The moment she thought to check on Aileen again, she would be there. Realizing her time allowed alone in the Royal Library was precious, Aileen quickly picked up the the last, most precious copy of Armies and Companions. With it, the mage snugged down into her cushion and was cupped in comfort as she read with bated breath.

With such a thrill through her, Neelia began to stir at the back of her mind. The giantess cared little for books. She was amused, though, to find she was surreptitiously reading along with her lesser half. Armies and Companions was very much a tale of feminine might. Whoever this "Queen of Spears" woman was, she couldn't hold a candle to Neelia's power. Still, Aileen's lurking alter ego began to enjoy the story almost as much as her, and was willing to keep quiet.

Aileen smiled, knowing Neelia was secretly paying attention, and turned the page.

*****

Meanwhile, away in the room Yuki had appointed for him, Rock laid paralyzed in bed. His new arm was still forming. Flesh and bone were all knitting together anew by the blessing of the Princess' magic. Slowly.

It wasn't pretty.

The air in the room was saturated with the iron taste of blood, and more humid than other parts of the castle would have allowed. All from sweat, which soaked the ceremonial bandages he wore, and the short, hot breaths that beat out a constant cadence of mumbling behind his tribal mask. With his eyes so heavy, less than half open, most would have seen him and thought the man was delirious, even driven half mad from the pain.

Maybe so. But one with senses as sharp as Yuki's could judge his condition much more closely. To her ears, Rock's ceaseless murmuring formed the softly spoken words of a prayer, which he repeated. Over, and over, and over again. His language was Phoan, and known to few but other Pho, but the pleading need for relief was unmistakable. Whatever gods or spirits to whom the shaman prayed, they seemed unable or unwilling to ease his suffering.
-.-. .-.. . ...- . .-. / --. .. .-. .-..

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Re: Fair Trade

Post by Ninmast » Mon Mar 12, 2018 2:35 pm

"Whoever you pray to, my dear statue," Yuki's voice came to him as she stepped into the room once more, "perhaps they feel this is more than generous for your bull-headedness."

She came up and as she had done many times before, she checked the bandage, the bindings and the progress of his regrowing limb. "Though know that I did not select this method to torture you. It is the method of restoration I have at my disposal. That it is slow and painful is due more to the extent of the process required to regrow your entire limb. It is coming along smoothly, if that is worth anything to you."

Yuki motioned and a table rolled over to her on command, formed of ice as it was. Atop it was a tray with a glass on it, filled with some sort of liquefied food. Another motion lifted his torso up so that he wasn't laying flat on his back by way of elevating the table in that manner. She brought the cup around gently. "Now, then, time to eat, you need to stay hydrated."
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Re: Fair Trade

Post by Rock Splitter » Wed Mar 14, 2018 1:05 pm

Rock glared at her. The expression was difficult to read in his tired eyes. Their golden color was dimmed buy exhaustion, but Yuki could tell. The spirit behind them was still very much alive, and did not welcome her presence. Rather than a deep and smoldering resentment, as with Neelia, the Princess glimpsed something different in Rock.

It was shame.

With a mere gesture, she helped him into a sitting position. He groaned as much from pain as resignation. For a long moment, the shaman did nothing, seeming to refuse food in silent protest. Then, using his good arm, he hooked a thumb under the chin of his mask and lifted it partway up his face. The Pho guarded their faces closely, believing them to be a physical part of their souls. Rock bared his just enough to eat. He had a handsome jawline, though his cinnamon-colored skin was slicked with sweat and shaded with thin stubble. He ate with some difficulty, having to hold his breath.

When finished, Rock set his mask back in place, and fought his pain down enough to address the Princess. Slowly, and clearly, but he did not look at her.

"How long... would you have kept me if... Aileen... did not convince you?"
-.-. .-.. . ...- . .-. / --. .. .-. .-..

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Re: Fair Trade

Post by Ninmast » Wed Mar 14, 2018 1:15 pm

"Forever."

It was an unhesitant answer as the princess returned the glass to the tray and motioned it along its merry way, but it was also without elaboration. He had asked a simple question and she had answered likewise. The lack of hesitation seemed as if she saw no qualms with doing so, indeed, as if it were her divine right of conquest, or some such thing. The table soon wheeled itself back in with a bowl of water and a damp cloth, and Yuki took it for the next step, where she would dispassionately wipe down the sweat from his body with all the emotional connection of a shift nurse. Even as she undid his shirt, which she had done several times earlier throughout the day, and wiped down his (pun) chiseled chest, there was no reaction from her. She might as well have been polishing a dish for all of her sentiment.
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Re: Fair Trade

Post by Rock Splitter » Sat Mar 17, 2018 7:36 am

"Then... I was right to trust her."

Realizing this, Rock's breathing slowed and steadied. A sigh escaped him. The look in his eyes, while still weary, held less pain. It seemed his prayers had been answered.

When Yuki had finished the chore of tending to her former trophy, Rock's head rolled to one side. He met her icy stare and held it with a firmness of spirit that bode well for his recovery.

"You were right to punish me," he admitted. "And you fought with honor. Your mother would be pleased to know it... Your Highness."

Having addressed her properly for the first time, and not the last, the shaman was finally overcome by the sleep of exhaustion.
-.-. .-.. . ...- . .-. / --. .. .-. .-..

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Re: Fair Trade

Post by Ninmast » Tue Apr 24, 2018 2:31 pm

Yuki's cold gaze only got icier at that comment, at his audacity to mention her mother, though how he knew of her was a mystery. No, he must have been referring to her comment before, how her mother would be ashamed if she threw them out. That must have been it, and even if it wasn't, the man was unconscious, and rude as he was, he was trying to mean well with his words. So it was she left him be ...

* * *

It was many, many hours later, when the allure of books wasn't quite enough to offset the growing grogginess in Aileen's little body despite her long nap earlier, when Yuki entered accompanied by an aroma Aileen hadn't smelled in the palace before. Certainly, the dinner they had chatted her progress through the books over had been quite delicious, and full of more of those complete proteins the princess seemed to think her body needed. And whatever alchemy that was, it had been working. The fatigue from a transformation like that normally took days, maybe even a week, to fade, but she felt almost back to normal. But now, accompanied by one of those blue flame lanterns like a will-o-wisp, the princess of the castle came with hot tea, and the smell that came with her resembled mint and ginger with a mildly sweet undertone.

She brought two cups, already filled, and a pot, and again kneeled on the other side of the table from Aileen. "Rock-Splitter is bathing, but where you come from, it is not quite dawn yet. As I see it, we have two choices. I can rush you back as soon as he is ready and you can open your store, or you may stay in the guest quarters again and leave when the two of you are fully rested."
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Re: Fair Trade

Post by Rock Splitter » Wed Apr 25, 2018 11:16 am

Royal cooking did wonders to ease the aches and pains that Aileen always felt after having an episode. That, and quality time with a good book was exactly what she had needed to feel like herself. She was deep into the pages of Armies and Companions when her nose caught a whiff of wonderfully made tea, heralding Yuki's return.

Aileen closed the book as carefully as before and sat up straight, tucking her legs neatly under herself and doing her best to appear attentive of the Royal Presence. Although, she was also feeling just a little more relaxed than before. Part of her dared to look upon Yuki as a friend. Wasn't she? The little mage fidgeted - doubting, fearing. Her better judgement was leery of doing anything the Princess might condemn as unduly familiar. Aileen decided she would be careful.

"Again, I'm grateful for your hospitality, Your Highness." Aileen bowed as Yuki set their table, and righted herself only when the Princess was seated. She took the offered cup of tea and enjoyed it's warmth in her hands as she listened to Yuki's proposal.

"Well," she said after a moment's consideration. "I wouldn't mind getting an early start. It wasn't quite meant to be a holiday, but my time here really couldn't have gone better. Thank you, Your Highness. I would have loved to stay for as long as you pleased, but I really should get back. Zuzu is a lovely bird, but he gets into things if he's left alone too long. And, Rock well..."

She paused to think. "He's... Well, suborn. But he knows when he's been beat. The Pho are a proud people, but he is unlike his kin in many ways. I don't imagine he'll want to linger here. Once gone, it may be a thousand years or more before you see another of the masked people in your lands, and that may be best."
-.-. .-.. . ...- . .-. / --. .. .-. .-..

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Re: Fair Trade

Post by Ninmast » Wed Apr 25, 2018 2:20 pm

"I am not opposed to company," the princess corrected levelly. "It has been a pleasure having you here, Aileen. Rather, I am opposed to intruders who treat my land as something to take for their own. My mother even once entertained dignitaries, to my recollection." She took a sip of the green tea to give pause. It was certainly true to its aroma. The little alchemist would identify the ginger most easily, but the mint, if her taster was keen enough, appeared to be catnip, and the sweet undertone too subtle to be cane sugar. Stevia leaf, perhaps?

"The men of other nations came and spoke honeyed words to her," Yuki continued, her gaze cast down into the depths of her cup in recollection, "but they did so from what they perceived as a position of superiority. They questioned her legitimacy and conducted their treatises scornfully, as if merely entertaining her with a formality. All of this, she endured. She was charismatic, laughing so naturally along with them as if she found their jokes at her expense as amusing as they did. She let them go through all of their motions, smiled through casual mentions of their assorted military might and so-called ancestral claims, even helped smooth over disagreements between them over the boundaries of what they claimed. And then, when the final draft was drawn up, and they had laid claims to great swaths of the Frozen Lands and written out oaths of affiliation for her, she politely refused to sign. Their false sweetness faded rapidly into open vitriol at that and they ultimately stomped out, swearing oaths of vindication."

She took another sip as she concluded, bringing her eyes back to Aileen. "None of the ambassadors of Man survived the Frozen Lands to return to their homes, and when their armies came, none reached our citadel. These are the kinds of mortals I shall never tolerate. All are mere thieves and brigands, no matter their methods or what names they give to themselves."
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Re: Fair Trade

Post by Rock Splitter » Thu Apr 26, 2018 6:02 pm

Aileen sipped at her tea, grateful for it's warmth and impressed by it's flavors. It also helped calm her nerves. Which was timely, as the princess shared a story of how great and terrible her Mother's power over The Frozen Lands had been. There had always been stories of men and whole armies vanishing, but having their fate made clear made Aileen feel all the more fortunate to be held in some esteem by the princess. As powerful as her mother had been, Aileen believed Yuki was stronger.

The mage took a longer sip of her tea, drinking enough of it's goodness to make her ears twitch with joy. She finished the last and sighed with contentment.

"Again, I can't help but feel blessed to be sitting here, Your Highness. I've no doubt your home will stand the test of time, as it always has. Though I can't say the same for mine." She giggled anxiously, her thoughts again turning to Zuzu and her shop.
-.-. .-.. . ...- . .-. / --. .. .-. .-..

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Re: Fair Trade

Post by Ninmast » Thu Apr 26, 2018 11:29 pm

"I understand," Yuki replied with a small smile. "We will leave when Rock-Splitter feels himself presentable. Until then, let us enjoy our tea."
(Time lapse to heading back at your leisure, maybe with Rock reflecting on his new arm. Either way, ball's in your court now.)
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Re: Fair Trade

Post by Rock Splitter » Tue May 01, 2018 11:50 am

Haegan was warming to a pleasant Spring when, for the second time in as many days, winter struck hard. The mermaid banners that hung from the breezeway flapped and froze in twisted folds, all pointed away from where center of an icy blast from the blue. There, the Princess of The Frozen Lands stood, looking just as composed as out of place. Her landing had sent many of the street folk running, too panicked to notice the two other figures in the royal entourage.

Rock Splitter grasped a sign post to steady himself after the shock of the landing. Aileen, only a little better for her second time flying with the Princess, staggered and slid on the freshly frozen cobblestones. Rock's new arm caught her. It was pale, with none of his ceremonial bandages, but strong. The little mage was put back on her feet, and she smiled up at him. "Oh! Thank you. I think I'm alright now."

Rock nodded, and Aileen's smile weakened. The Phoan had always been one of her best agents, and not much for long conversation. Ever since losing to Yuki, though, he had been particularly prickly.

Is he mad at me? Aileen worried. She looked to Yuki when Rock did. Or her?

"Princess," he began. Even without a hole for his mouth, the shaman's mask never hampered hard clarity his voice. "I will keep my promise. Before Summer wanes, you will have what you asked."

"W-well, demanded is more what she did," Aileen pointed out with nervous laughter. Rock turned from them and walked.

"R-ock! Already?" He didn't stop, so it seemed so. Aileen called after him again waving. "At least tray to take a horse this time!"

The Shaman didn't turn, but raised his new arm and offered one wave goodbye.

Aileen sighed as was still. "He hates horses," she said. "I've not a clue why. Or how he can stand just walking everywhere. I can fly a little when I have to... Um, but in no way like you can, Your Highness!"
-.-. .-.. . ...- . .-. / --. .. .-. .-..

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