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

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

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

Post by Kotorchix » Sat Apr 13, 2019 8:26 pm

Contains collab-posts with IP & Skummy

Lord Mancel Ludlow
Heartstone Estate
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.”

“Get out.”

“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
Heartstone Estate
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.


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

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

Post by IronParagon » 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.

"Talia!"

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?"

Never. 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..."

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

Post by Skummy the Kitty » Fri Apr 19, 2019 12:19 am

Divankul
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.
__________________________________________________________________________________

Drake
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
Heartstone Estate

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.
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Credit to Sammy and Nicodemus; one created my set for me, the other drew the source image as a request.
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Re: The Isles of Aradia (IC/New Settlers Welcome.)

Post by Kotorchix » 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.

Monster.

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

Post by IronParagon » 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 fucking favor."

"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 noble one."

"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."

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

Post by Skummy the Kitty » 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.
Image
Credit to Sammy and Nicodemus; one created my set for me, the other drew the source image as a request.
Thank You Both!

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