Date   

JP: Vampires Suck #zaire #Brandy

Rachel
 

Who: Brandy, Zaire, various NPCs

When: January, 871 RoK

Where: A small village in the North


Zaire hated the North. Well, maybe not the North as a whole, since the culture did have its pleasing qualities, like the mead and the hearty meals, the warm fires and the warmer women, but Zaire hated the cold. He hated the way his skin prickled with it and the way his nose ran non-stop, and how it made his eyes and lungs burn, and most of all, he hated snow.


And unreliable fairy circles that dumped he and his ship's accountant into the middle of the bloody forest, in the middle of a bloody snowstorm.


While the two had dressed warmly, they were hardly expecting near-blizzard conditions and by the time they reached the nearest village mid-morning, both were shivering and miserable. Some chatter with the locals at the inn had the pair each buying a horse and then traveling a days ride north to their actual destination.


The entire ordeal was an exhausting run around and, more than once, Zaire had threatened his accountant, promising the man that his lead had better be worth it if he wanted to live to see the sea again. Not that he would actually murder a member of his crew, of course . . .


But the temptation had been growing hard to ignore - right up until an accord was reached, the deal struck, and the poor accountant was able to breath again.


"Yer lucky," Zaire warned, shoving open the door to the inn with one fur covered shoulder. "If that had gone poorly, Mr. Abadi, I woulda left ya here."


"Well aware, cap'n," the Southern born scholar replied with a resigned sigh.


"Rooms and food," Zaire said, pausing to pass off a few coins to his companion, trusting the accountant to be able to do that much at least. "We'll 'ead home tomorrow." Providing they could find a fairy circle, of course.  


Settling in front of the merrily roaring fire across the room, Zaire was halfway through a bowl of stew and a heavy flagon of ale before he finally began warming up - both in temperature and demeanor. Yes, he'd had to leave the warm comfort of the West to make this hellish trek North, but the payoff would certainly be worth the excursion if Mr. Abadi's figures were correct and woe to the man who would insinuate they weren't. The simple fact of the matter was that Zaire wouldn't truly be happy again until he was back aboard the listing deck of the Siren's Song and smelling the salt air . . .


Cooking in the winter in the North was a unique challenge, and it reminded Brandy of her "bottom of the fridge" posts on her blog. You have dwindling supplies in general because it is so hard to transport goods through the blizzards and ice, and what you have are the leftover quantities from other meals and shelf-stable staples. It was a puzzle to put together a meal, like a Chopped basket with meager ingredients, but it presented a fun challenge! Salted beef and bacon were her only proteins, and a challenge together as the salinity would be overwhelming. But if you slow-cooked the beef in lots of water with plenty of herbs, added potatoes an hour near the end, and topped with fried-crisp bacon, chopped, sprinkled on top with blanched carrot greens for garnish… it was a win. Brandy, who only lamented that she couldn't put the stew on her Insta!


Washing her hands in buckets of snow-melt was unpleasant but necessary, but the chill in her skin as she wiped sweat from her brow was nice. Now, she planned to get off her feet, have a drink…


Brandy looked up in surprise when she felt a gentle tug on her apron. It was the orphan boy who had helped clean up after her all day. He was a simple kid, but she adored him - he had lost both his parents to werewolves, and he was terrified of Creatures. Brandy had heard the stories, but since they were just stories on Earth, she hadn't really thought it was literal until now. Even though he was just a kid, she couldn't deny that he had seen what he saw…


"A strange man is here," the boy told her, his voice urgent but hushed, as if he didn't trust anyone else with his worry. "He's two different colors. Do you think he could be a…" He stopped, and Brandy could see his mind going haywire as he worried over the possibilities.


Brandy leaned down and kissed him on the top of the head, smoothing one hand over his curly strawberry blonde hair. "I'll go see, okay? You stay here and… watch the bread rise." He needed a task to keep his anxiety under control. The boy nodded, but he didn't let go of her apron until she moved out of his arm's reach, and his eyes were saying goodbye in the most heartbreaking way.


Not knowing what she was getting into, Brandy had to stifle a laugh when she spotted a familiar dual-colored face. When the boy said two colors, she thought he meant purple or green! Out of his line of sight, Brandy snuck up behind Zaire's chair and cupped her hands over the pirate captain's eyes.


"Guess who?" Brandy whispered, playfully dropping her voice an octave to disguise it.


Zaire's crew were family, brothers, and they took the business of watching each other's backs seriously, so when Mr. Abadi's dark eyes drifted over his shoulder, Zaire straightened just a bit in preparation for turning around to see what was going on - and then someone was covering his eyes and his accountant's chair was scraping loudly across the floor.


The female voice tempered Zaire's reaction just a bit and rather than driving an elbow back toward his assailant, he reached up instead and pulled the hands away from his eyes, turning in the same motion to find himself staring at one of the last people he'd ever expected to see again. "Brandy?" He let out a laugh, giving her a once over and finding that it was, indeed, the red headed wench he'd met last year. "Love, you nearly gott'cherself skewered! Jahid, put that away."


"You sure, Cap'n?"


Zaire waved away Abadi's worries, gesturing again to the sword in his crew mate's hand, "Ye don't need that, mate. This is Brandy."


"Brandy?"


"Aye," Zaire confirmed. "Like the drink." One speckled hand reached for the barmaid, inviting her to come and join them even as Jahid sheathed his sword again and settled into his chair with a wary eye. "Wasn't expectin' to ever see you again," the captain continued, taking a long pull from his tankard. "But your lovely face cheers this dismal place up right good!"


With a hearty laugh, Brandy accepted Zaire's hand and drew in to wrap her arm around him in  a quick greeting hug as she joked back saucily, "Get me wet first and you can skewer me all night long."


"Like the drink," Brandy echoed with a nod. The threat of danger didn't seem to register because Brandy offered her hand to shake Zaire's partner as soon as it was clear of a weapon. His name stuck because it reminded her of ISIS and their jihad, but backwards. "Jahid, nice to meet you!"


Accepting the invitation, Brandy sank into one of the two empty chairs beside them. She loved these seats because they looked like antiques… wide, sturdy, comfortable, even though they were probably just old. The cushion under her was no longer soft, but it had a curved wooden arm that she sling one leg over, and the other over that, because her feet needed no more pressure on the floor. Blogging was so cushy that she enjoyed doing time in a real kitchen just to remember what it felt like, but at the end of the day, she couldn't regret where she'd ended up.


"You two are a couple of fish out of water."


As Brandy reached out to shake Abadi's hand, not even the slightest bit put off by the fact that he'd been quite willing to murder her only seconds before, Zaire allowed himself the amusement of her play of words and wondered if, perhaps, he'd get the chance to skewer her again before the night was done.


Honestly though, he hardly remembered that night they'd met. The . . . broad strokes were clear but the details, well, he'd had a lot to drink that night and those finer points had gotten a bit muddled in his brain. Zaire watched her as she settled into the offered seat, those bits of fleeting memories tickling at the back of his head like the wisps of a dream and darkening his eyes with sudden desire.


"Fish out of water?" the imagery the words conjured up only added to Zaire's blossoming good mood and even Abadi cracked a smile. It wasn't a phrase Zaire had ever heard and he assumed that it was one Brandy had made up; he did remember her saying some rather odd things before he'd become too drunk and horny to care. Still, it was easy enough to catch her meaning and with a glance toward the accountant, Zaire ventured into a vague explanation, "Our business doesn't often take us this far North." A quirk of lips and a wink of gold in the firelight and Zaire continued, "I fuckin' hate the cold but this trip is lookin' up, love."


Brandy caught that shine in Zaire's eyes and felt a smirk pull at her lips as she thought back, as well, to their night together. She freely admitted to tokenizing him - it was hot as fuck to find a storybook villain that she could actually touch and get it on on the beach, under the stars. The only detail she remembered about him aside from the obvious was that he apparently had a bunch of kids, which had prompted her to be more proactive about finding birth control on this side. She hadn't worried about it because, frankly, she didn't feel much ownership of this body… but maybe it was time to.

Her lips pursed in surprise when Zaire said he was here for business. Pirates belonged on the water, she figured… although, the North seemed like exactly the source for those chests full of gold coins and jewels she saw in all the movies. Maybe he had just decided to cut out the middle man!


"But it's so cozy. The cold makes you want to cuddle up by the fire with mulled wine and…" Her eyes flicked to Jahid and she seemed to temper the heavy suggestion in her voice and intent as she concluded, "a great story." It was like a ski lodge! Just without the elitist skiing. They had food, even if it wasn't exactly diverse or interesting fare, but more importantly, they were stocked with booze like the apocalypse was coming.


Jahid Abadi had been with Zaire and the crew of the Siren's Song for almost three years, after the merchant ship he'd been working on had been boarded and taken as a prize. Captain Visser offered a place on his crew to any man who defected and Abadi hadn't regretted his choice for even a second since. In that time though, he'd come to know his Captain well and he easily recognized the look in Zaire's eyes.


With another resigned sigh, Jahid rose to his feet and collected his food and drink, making his way toward the bar while silently lamenting his luck. One whore in the entire damn town and she sets her sights on the Captain.


Barely sparing a glance for his accountant, Zaire turned his full attention back to Brandy, sliding his chair a little closer so he could more easily trace knuckles lightly over her cheekbone. "When ye put it like that, Brandy, love, the cold does sound much more appealing . . ." And made finishing his dinner far less so, when faced with such intriguing prospects for warming up. "I 'ave a room for the night." He held her gaze as he gave a playful smirk, "If ye join me, I'll even tell ya a great story."



Brandy felt a little bad when her coy insinuations led to Jahid's exit… but not too much. He had been ready to kill her a couple minutes ago!


The touch to her cheek and the sweet words of invitation piqued her interest… but, also struck her as a line that would work on a whore. There was no reason he couldn't tell her stories here, over mead. So the challenge in her eyes clearly said both I see you and step it up. "I also have a room..." she said, as if to make her point, when her mind turned back to the orphan boy in the kitchen, who had been worried about Zaire staying the night.


Suddenly, Brandy sat up and put her feet back on the floor. "I need you to do me a favor," she said, her voice oddly platonic, likely the first sentence she'd uttered that didn't include a double-entendre. For a second, she struggled to articulate what it was she wanted to ask, and then she concluded, "Just be cool?"


She rose to her feet and disappeared into the kitchen, returning with a boy - perhaps seven or eight years old - who held her hand like he needed it to breathe. She returned to her chair and pulled the child into her lap. "Gunther," she said, hugging an arm loosely around him for comfort. "I want you to meet my friend! His name is…" she paused, "Zee. He's a... sailor."


Gunther hesitated. He turned and tucked his head into her shoulder as he asked,  "Your friend?"


"Yes," Brandy said, smoothing her hand over the traumatized boy's head, and glancing to the pirate captain. She knew she needed to simplify for the child, but she pulled his face away from her shoulder and met the boy's eyes. "Friends love us and protect us and make us happy. Zee is a friend. Will you say hello?"


The boy finally unwound, a tiny bit, and regarded the pirate captain as a normal man. He still kept a handful of Brandy's apron, but he did look Zaire's way… "Hello, sir."


"Be what--?" Zaire had started to ask before Brandy walked away from him and disappeared into the kitchens. A glance around the tavern had him locking eyes with Jahid, returning the Southerner's curious glance with a quick shake of his head and a twitch of one shoulder.


And then she returned with a reddish haired boy whom Zaire immediately took to be her son. He was a timid little thing, climbing into her lap without hesitation, and the pirate was left wondering if he'd somehow stumbled into the middle of . . . fuck, but he hadn't the foggiest!


When they'd met in that beachside brothel last year, Zaire had entertained himself by taking the clues Brandy had given him about herself and fabricating a history. One of those thoughts had been that she was soon to be married and needed to burn off a bit of piss and vinegar before settling down. The apparent reality didn't seem too far off. Did she have a husband here in town as well? If her son was working in the kitchen, then did she own the place? Was her husband here?


The questions rattled quickly through Zaire's brain as he turned curious eyes from the boy, to Brandy, and back again. "Hello, Gunther," he returned after a moment, head tipping slightly as he regarded the child. Children often reacted better to his appearance than adults did, Zaire had noticed. Yes, they all stared, but a child stared out of curiosity rather than malice. "Yer mother's right; I ain't about t'hurt you, boy." He paused, "I 'ave a son near your age."


Mother? Brandy's eyes widened in surprise and looked back down at the boy. He did look like he could be related to her, and maybe that was part of why she'd taken such a liking to him. There was nothing she could say, though, because the boy absolutely lit up, a grin spreading across his face like she hadn't seen all day. Oh no, Brandy lamented to herself. If he started seeing her as a mother, he'd be devastated when she went back to New York, and he didn't need to lose another parent.


"Where is he?" Gunther chirped, as if perhaps there was a potential friend in store. He was the only child who lived at the inn, taken in by an older couple whose offspring were grown who ran the place, and this time of year, he didn't get out to play much. Brandy had plans to build a snowman with him tomorrow, but it wasn't the same as having another kid around.


Zaire's eyes lifted to Brandy as a look of surprised crossed her face and he could only attribute it to his comment about his son, though he couldn't understand why that would come as a surprise. Or maybe she was surprised that he, a salty pirate, was comfortable interacting with children?


"He lives in the West," Zaire answered, purposely vague. He smiled, leaning in a little closer, and gestured to his own face, "You see this? These marks? They say--"


Suddenly, the heavy wooden door to the dining room opened and a gust of freezing air and a dusting of snow rushed in. A man - moving at what could only be described as a determined stumble - made it only one step inside before he fell. He was holding his neck, and he was covered in blood. Everywhere. It was smeared all over his face, down his shoulder, and smeared even on his trousers. His skin was almost blue - from blood loss or the cold, or both.


"Holy shit," Brandy cursed, surging to her feet and setting Gunther back on her seat. "Stay right here, baby."


But before Brandy could make even one step toward the stranger, a dark figure appeared in the door, just behind the threshold. It grabbed the man's leg, still outside in the snow, and pulled. With a miserable shout of despair, he clawed at the floor, desperate to get inside...

To be continued...!


Re: The Babe With the Power #James #Sanya #Malia

Rachel
 

Sanya: "If he isn't mingling in the crowd, he must be in the castle," "I didn't actually expect Duchess Francesca to attend today,"


James: "There appears to be a disturbance at the stables" "Perhaps a squabble between stallions... or an interloper. I will send my officers to investigate" *weapons arrive* "Thieves perhaps..." "...There are many prizes and gifts being brought to the castle" "To not attend would only confirm in many eyes the rumors about the Duchess of the West. I do not believe the consort is all that pleased for her company".


More derisively than she should have, Malia laughed. She and James were well acquainted - she and Sanya less so. The young woman was not yet a Duchess, but she was close enough to be considered an equal, and thus Malia did not hesitate to loop her in on the gossip of the upper reaches of Eventyr. It was a sign of respect, of acknowledgement. The South had declined in reputation over the last decades, but it had an important history in Eventyr, and Malia did want Sanya's approval.


Facetiously, Malia joked, "Duchess Rossi eats rumors. If she had none, I think she would starve." Which said as much about her social standing as it did about her physicality - while the Duchess of the Western Plains did not look as emaciated as her people were said to be, with their economy in such decline, she was distinctly slender in a way that Malia's world with its supermodels lauded, but Malia herself found distasteful, proud of the firm-but-present curves she had cultivated in her otherworldly form.


Rumors circulated that Francesca's thin frame was due to her famous vegetarianism, which was much less common in Eventyr than it was in Malia's home world. Seeing one's family devoured by flesh-eating zombies could absolutely turn one off to eating meat, but there were fewer hipster joints offering high-protein alternatives here than in New York…


Despite the Duchess's lack of adherence to Eventyrian standards of beauty, Francesca had never seemed unable to acquire the marks she desired. The King she might have won, but Philip had lost his mind years ago. James was a more valuable ally, Malia knew, and he was hers. James' suiting up and claiming his bow only bolstered Malia. When the inevitable attack occurred, she knew that she would be on the better side of it.


"What do you make of the consort...?" Malia asked, abandoning political speech now that they were far enough away for that to matter. She stepped forward, to the wall's edge, and looked down at the beautiful young woman… who Malia might have liked well enough, but who distinctly did not fit in their circle.

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Re: Left My Baby Blue

Rachel
 

Francesca actually thought the guard was rather funny - but then again, she had always loved a good dirty joke. Years ago, now, she'd relished her nights in the bars on the coast, dressed as a commoner, hearing the deliciously crude language and graphic suggestions with an air of jest. But since assuming leadership, everyone watched their words around her. Always, "yes, my lady," or "apologies, my lady," except in the most intimate circles of friends and lovers.


Sarnai: "Your gift is a thoughtful one, Duchess, and I look forward to enjoying it."


"My pleasure, your highness," Francesca said with another curtsy out of respect. As she lifted her eyes to straighten, though, her gaze caught the figures of three of her peers - Sanya Nimr, heiress to the Southern Duchy, Malia Von Oehsen of the North, and James Castille, the infamous Greek Duke of the East, who looked to be suiting up as if he planned to go into battle… at a party?


He was an odd duck if ever Francesca had seen one. Authoritarian, but unambitious. Handsome, but without charm. She had done more research on the King's brother than she would admit…


"Our fellows in ruling Eventyr see fit to look down on us, it seems," Francesca said, with a pointed tilt of her head upward as she took a step closer to the consort. Though Altansarnai had higher status than Francesca herself, she was young and new in her station, and the optics of her sitting alone suggested she did not have the support of the infrastructure of Eventyr. Where had Philip gone off to? Signing a paper should not have taken this long… Francesca's eyes flickered to the horizon and the sun dipping beneath it. She could send Seo-jun to investigate soon. "Do you know them well, your grace?"


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Re: Dance Magic, Dance #Theo #Bert #Brandy #Bridgette

Rachel
 

Bert: “While she may not know, I for one do. If you look right over there, there’s a striped tent with a guard standing just out front. They should be taking participants whenever you’re ready. I believe they stop when the King stops taking guests, so you have some time.” “Sadly, gambling isn’t quite my style. But if you like, I can give you a bit of advice on the tournament.”

Tristan: "What kind of advice did you have in mind?" he asked the sheriff, noting that he wasn't himself a knight. "Have you participated in the tournaments before?"


"Avoid the pointy end of the lance," Brandy kidded. The movies really didn't do justice to seeing a tournament in real life - the smell of the horses, the shouts of the crowd, the clanging of armor into the dirt when a knight was unseated. She could see why so many people showed up to enjoy them, although she herself was just as likely to be a spectator as a vendor, pushing drinks to the sweating, thirsty masses. Continuing with a smirk, she added, "Stay on the horse…"


If the weight of the bag at Brandy's waist hadn't been such a constant, life-or-death necessity, she likely wouldn't have noticed when it was snatched. The pickpocket hadn't expected her to, either, so light was his touch, and thus his decision to casually continue walking past her was instantly abandoned when she tensed, dropped her mug, and met his eyes. He was a teenager, a commoner, clearly, with worn clothes and frizzy blonde hair that stuck up in spikes.


"Thief!" Brandy shouted, pointing, and the teenager ran for it.


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Re: The Babe With the Power #James #Sanya #Malia

turksgirl
 

Who: James Castille
With: Malia Campbell, Sanya Nimr other royal party guests
Where: Castle courtyard, King's City 
When: February 28th, evening
 
>>>>
"I am sure the King cannot have gone too far," Malia said, conversationally. The words themselves were reassuring, but her eyes moved toward where the courtyard met castle, then to the setting sun over the Enchanted Lake.
<<<<
"If he isn't mingling in the crowd, he must be in the castle," Sanya mused. 
 
"I didn't actually expect Duchess Francesca to attend today," she noted, recognizing who Sarnai was speaking to. But she didn't see anything particular about the party that merited much alarm. Why, then…?
>>>>>>
The Duke had thought nothing of bearing arms to the celebration, after all the werewolf had come from his forest and he was to be the executioner. And a man had to have some advantages of royal blood when he was denied a crown, or proper title. He stood between the two women scanning the crowd and the area around them.

His eyes shifted to the royal consort and the third Duchess, holder of the Western realm. His brow arched slightly that she was making conversation with the consort, James would have been less surprised to find her with Phillip. His eyes narrowed slightly, her man servant wasn't about.... He and Duchess Rossi very rarely crossed paths, but they knew enough about each other.

Turning away from the crowds he pointed to where the dogs had originated from... "There appears to be a disturbance at the stables" Castile assessed from their view point. "Perhaps a squabble between stallions... or an interloper. I will send my officers to investigate". The Duke seemed on edge however as his dogs swarmed about his legs whining still. Even the arrival of breastplate and a large green bow with a handful of arrows did not relieve the tension in his brow. "Thieves perhaps..." he continued to the duchesses, after talking to his officer in low tones. "...There are many prizes and gifts being brought to the castle".

He looked at Sanya, a rude comment on the end of his tongue about how Francesca didn't have a daughter to send in her place. But why berate the child for her parents' decision? James straightened his considerable frame and instead studied the two women below them, "To not attend would only confirm in many eyes the rumors about the Duchess of the West. I do not believe the consort is all that pleased for her company".

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A Pledge of Allegiance (BP JP) #James #Malia

turksgirl
 

(set a month or so after the virgin-solstice incident)


Early autumn in the Eastern Woods was undeniably beautiful. The trees' leaves turned all shades of oranges, yellows, and browns, and the crispness in the air wasn't yet cold, so only the faintest breath of steam followed the Duchess' breath when it left her lips. Her feet found the firmly-padded ground that marked the entryway to the Duke's estate, which was exactly as she expected of him. Well-kept, orderly.


Her half-dozen servants surrounded her - one ran to the door to alert the Eastern staff that their guest had arrived, some calmed the horses, another offered her leather gloves, which Malia pulled on gratefully.


Although she and James had maintained a good-but-ambiguous alliance since they met at the Queen's funeral, Malia had decided to take it up a notch and invited herself to visit when the summer finally turned. It was nearly impossible to say no to such a proposal from another high-ranking noble, but if anyone would have rejected the kingdom's norms, James would have, if he didn't want to host her. And so when he didn't object, Malia took heart -- perhaps this could be a fruitful visit after all. With that hearty levity in her chest, Malia made her way from the carriages to the grand doors of the estate.  


The estate was not as grand as in the North, it was more fortress than castle but expansive enough for the Duke. Its massive wooden beams and structures help to soften the stone architecture, as did the sound animals in the courtyard. There were more soldiers than servants, but the staff had been alerted to her arrival.


“My lady, the Duke is awaiting you in the library...if you’ll kindly follow me” a rather young man in uniform stated pleasantly.


Malia offered the young man a nod - he reminded her very much of her grandson, Jordan, a tragedy and a half ago, back when he'd worn that military garb with cheer and not quite so much heft.


The library? The very idea sent a bright, almost school-girlish smile spreading across the Duchess's face. Oh, what incredible stories these woods had to tell - the best of which likely made it no further than the Duke's own study… Shrugging off her warm wool traveling cloak into her servant's waiting hands, Malia followed the young man further into the handsome home.


The reading room or library was a sizable, although nothing compared to the king’s or even the Duchess’ formidable collection. A set of comfortable chairs by the sole window and fireplace made it cozy, a suit of green armor oddly facing the window seemed the only decor. The officer asked politely,  “May I bring your ladyship a drink?”


He kept his eyes casted downward before adding, “Perhaps something for you, my lord?” The helm turned slightly, and sun reflected off of brass and copper highlights. The armor seemed to copy the season, and the gauntlets raised slowly to remove the headpiece to expose a weary Duke Castile. “Tea, wine for my guest….” he replied before setting the helmet down with care and approaching Malia.


“Duchess, you are a vision as always. My apologies for not greeting you personally outside, I have just returned from my borders. Excuse my appearance…” James gave her a smile that was warmer than most received before bending to kiss her hand cordially.


"I have heard tales far and wide about the cider from this region, if you would be so kind as to indulge me," Malia said, sweetly, as she caught the boy by the wrist and offered him a smile so sugary it had to raise red flags. He was a dutiful lad, though, and promptly departed, leaving the Duchess to turn back to the Duke with the extension of her hand and returned the attention with the dip of her knees and neck. The setting sun cascading through the window across the metal of his armor was poetry on its own, she mused.


Formalities aside, Malia stepped in, chocolate hands drifting over the complex metal plate of James' armor, saying, "Let me help with all this. I can barely get my own corset off in the evenings," she joked, not inaccurately, although it was a struggle wholly Eventyrian. Spanx were not nearly the struggle of laces and leather. The Duchess moved in close, but her movements were subtle, unobtrusive, and waited for direction. He well might have told her to back off, and that was not out of the realm of possibility. "I would ask who you were worried about meeting… but I expect the better question is, who worried about meeting the…" Her hands skimmed across the iconic green metal the armor offered, "Green Duke of the East?"


Castile nodded to his steward as the young man departed to get the Duchess her request. The Duke smiled when she asked for cider, most nobles rather the wines of other regions. He tilted his head and his brow furrowed slightly as if he might refuse her offer...but he didn’t. The metal was oddly warm like the skin of a fine steed after a hard ride, perhaps it was the sun or some strange quality of the armor.


Removing his gauntlets and laying them down alongside his helm, Castile raised an arm to expose the buckles hidden under the pauldrons on his shoulders to remove the arm harness. Some might find the task beneath them, but James knew the underlying message in the offer. He trusted her… to a point, more than most.


“Unicorns….” he answered her question, and glancing out the window at the forest beyond and below the estate’s wall. “....that is….poachers….” James corrected himself turning his gaze down toward her slender fingers moving over ornate metal and supple leather. “No one hunts without permission here…” he said in a matter of fact tone. Outsiders often wasted resources, the forest and the Eastern Duchy’s populace had a fine balance and so as it was maintained everyone was happy… at least happy enough.


“And what brings the lovely Duchess of the North to my realm, aside from the changing of the seasons?” he asked in an uncharacteristically soft tone. His hand reached out to rest warmly on her half bare shoulder to make it easier for her to loosen a buckle. Calloused, roughened fingers played with the soft velvet of her dress just at the point where it met her skin.


Yes, the task was likely one usually relegated to squire boys, but Malia was curious about the armor and its peculiar warmth under her fingers only made her moreso. There were so very many stories about the infamous Green Duke, after all…


Like many noblewomen, Malia had enjoyed her fair share of trysts with knights and knew her way around a suit of armor - especially the removing of it. As he answered her question, Malia's hands worked at the clasps, her fingers lingering a heartbeat or two on muscles as she revealed them, her gaze unapologetically appreciative of each detail on his impressive frame. Unicorn poachers - that was bold of them, and Malia had to wonder if profit or desperation were the key motivators?


When his voice lowered and his hand found her shoulder, Malia invited the attention, stepping in close enough that she couldn't see the buckle itself, which meant her hand, working blindly, explored a bit more before finding purchase. "I came for the company. It's so cold in the North, even in the autumn," Malia answered, choosing her words carefully. "And lonely - especially since my husband passed."


James tilted his head curiously, watching her hands as his own explored tentatively just under the hem over her shoulder. “Such a beautiful lady should not spend her time alone… But I am...socially awkward...usually resulting in poor company” he replied twisting his fingers into the material of her dress.


The return of the young cadet with the cider and goblets made him recoil his hand like it had been burned. James loosened and removed the arm harness, frowning at the man. “Get out” he hissed hand moving for his sword hilt. The steward stumbled over his feet, “My apologies, my lord!”


The Duke stared at the abandoned pitcher and cups, before he moved slowly toward it. “Hmm…” the large man hummed out softly, before releasing his sword to grip the metal handle to tilt the container to fill the cups. “I don’t allow my men to see me in… transition…” Castile explained as he held out a goblet of cider with his unarmored arm to Malia.


Malia froze, gasping in her breath while, for a moment, she completely believed the Duke was going to kill the boy. But he was better versed in his Lord's peculiarities than Malia was and high-tailed it out of there, quick as a rabbit. At first, she assumed James was embarrassed to be caught in what might have been an intimate moment with her… and his explanation did not completely change her mind. As she relaxed, tension leaving her in a breathy chuckle, she noted, "We did tell him to bring the drinks."


His gaze dropped to where their hands met on the cup. “Do you think me crass, my lady?” James asked almost tentatively except when he looked up at her his mouth curled into a mischievous smirk, and his eyes glittered like the green armor he wore.


Accepting the cup, Malia made sure that her fingers brushed his, and his question drew an equally amused smile from her lips. "Crass?" A shrug, a friendly toast, a sip. Crass might have been in the top fifty words she used to describe James Castille, and so she didn't deny it. He would know well she was lying and she highly suspected she would lose credibility with the effort. "The truth is, my lord, I do not know what I make of you yet. You are not what you are supposed to be, given your station. As far as I can see, you do not make efforts to change that, to align closer to the expectation." A note of sympathy crossed her face, and she measured the wisdom in finishing her thought, but she decided to go on. Mincing words, she thought, wouldn't win her points, here. "And yet, you apologize for it - again and again and again." Already twice since she had arrived, and how many times before…


“I do not deny these things you say…” James replied as he removed the other arm harness. “...Indeed I believe you to be quite perceptive, and refreshingly… honest”. He smiled coyly at her, as if he knew this was not always true. And his fingers moved to the ornate buckle of the belt to his scabbard, dancing over the metal and leather.


“You would I rather be unapologetic for my behavior?” the Duke asked letting his eyes trail over the Duchess from above the rim of his cup. “My cuisses… leg harness… my lady” he said with a boyish grin. “Unless you tire of assisting me”.


"Oh, my lord," Malia laughed, shaking her head with an amused smile. "Is asking my preference much different than apologizing?" He seemed to care and not care in equal measure, and while that was confounding, it was also interesting. Was he simply crass and abrasive, or was he tortured by the isolation? Or was it simpler, and he was a fine Duke but out of his depth at court? She liked that he seemed ready to judge himself instead of her -  but if his apologies indicated a defensiveness, then her job became a lot harder.


But the smirking expression that accompanied his evaluation of her assured her that he knew well what she was. Fundamentally a politician, with all the doublespeak that came with the territory. It was entirely possible that this made them incompatible, but the invitation that proceeded defeated that thought and Malia took a determined final sip of her cider that made her smirk at the term young people used on Earth: thirsty.


Malia set her cup aside and stepped forward, her eyes dipping and her hands exploring a bit too much about the Duke's waist, taking her time. "One of my favorite poets - Nietzsche - once implored us to become who we are." Her hand gripped the hilt of his sword, idly, and her eyes flickered up suggestively although her voice remained so very conversational. "Apologize, or do not. All that matters is that you are authentically you." Finally, the belt loosened. "And that when I'm with you, perhaps I can be, too."


The Duke tilted his head shifting his eyes downward to watch her slim hands on the heavy, thick belt that held his weapon to his hip. “I must confess, I am not familiar with this… Nietzsche….he is a scholar from the East?”


"No - the North," Malia responded easily. Germany was in the northern hemisphere back home, and frankly her territory echoed it quite closely. An easy fabrication. She had, in fact, been memorizing and transcribing her favorite literary works over the years, fudging details to fit them them into Eventyr, and so any copies of a Nietzschean work would originate from her duchy. It made her feel so very much like Guy Montag in Fahrenheit 451!


His own large hand covered Malia’s to stop the scabbard from coming away completely. He seemed reluctant to be without the jeweled weapon. Castile took a step forward until there was hardly any space between them. “My Lady…..” Castile said her title almost possessively, in a soft tone.


He leaned forward and breathed into her ear, warm and masculine. “....Why are you here?”


There was such a power in his voice, even when he lowered it, that it sent a pleasant shiver through Malia's body, causing her breathing to quicken and her pupils to dilate, and her hand found his waist in an invitation for James to come closer still. But his question raised a red flag - he had already asked her essentially the same thing, and she wondered if raising it again indicated that he found her answer insufficient. It hadn't been a lie - she had come with every single intention of seducing the Green Duke. He was young, handsome, and powerful, physically and politically. He was an ally she wanted… no, needed, if her plans were to succeed. But he was such a wildcard, so unpredictable, all sweet whispers one moment, and nearly slicing his officer in half the next. That made this risky, but also interesting, exciting.


So instead of answering again, Malia returned his question with her own. "Why do you think I am here?" Fair was only fair - she had just give him the same honest assessment…


Half lidded eyes contemplated both her and the answer that came as a question. It was an artful dodge, truly the Duchess was far better suited to life in the courts than himself. “You want something…” Castile replied, his mouth curling at the obvious innuendo as he finally allowed the sword and scabbard to slid away from him. To be seemingly… disarmed.


James moved his hands to explore the neckline of her dress again, the fine embroidery and velvet that surrounded her neck and shoulders. His calloused fingers drifted to soft, supple skin and followed the long column of her neck. “You seek knowledge… and through it power” he continued as fingers tangled in her hair and were on the verge of pulling it.


“You’re not afraid, Duchess? Have you not heard the rumors… the stories? How I bath my armor in the blood of innocents, and eat their hearts on the nights of a new moon?” Castile smiled widely and laughed as he loosened his hold on her crown of silken tresses. He removed his own leg armor and breastplate to stand before her in nothing but mail and a tunic. “Am I frightening?” he asked giving a boyish grin that he was clearly teasing her, however the tales were quite scary. And he clearly revelled in them.


His fingers at her hem and throat were welcome, and a low sigh of approval indicated as much. When his fingers gripped her hair, Malia's head tipped back and her eyes squeezed closed for the space of a few heartbeats as the pain - palpable but not unbearable - awoke nerve endings in her body she hadn't known for some time…


When had she last enjoyed a rough lover? As a Duchess, even her very handsome, very fit knights all knew their place far too well to pull her hair - but it was a deliciously erotic sensation when contrasted with the warm, solid frame in front of her against which she pressed.


When he released her, the Duchess' shoulders relaxed but her feet stayed firmly put. Her dark eyes opened, and watched the reportedly-blood-soaked armor as it was removed, piece by piece. When he finished and offered his final question, Malia let an authentic, musical laugh dance out of her mouth and across the room… but, curiously, it held dark, minor notes, where her usual tone implied major ones.


"Yes. You're terrifying," Malia said, although her words had an eager admiration to them, as if she had just complimented James himself. When the duke stood, finally freed of his armor, she knew he expected her to deny any fear and offer a passive invitation to her body, like a good lady, but she went ahead and threw that out the window. Stepping forward aggressively, she shoved him backward with both hands… right into a plush armchair behind him. Hiking up her skirt with one hand so it was bare knees and thighs pushing that tunic up, and nudging the shoulder off her dress with the other, Malia climbed on top of the duke, bending down to catch his ear with her teeth, "I want you because you scare me."


Castile grasp her arm in one large hand and growled softly at the feel of little teeth gnawing at a lobe. His eyes looked up at her from under a heavy brow that furrowed deeply, before he pulled her harshly up his thighs to close the gap between them again.


“I’m a monster, my Duchess” he breathed out into the skin of her neck. Castile’s fingers returned to her hair and twisted into the ringlets tightly. This time he did pull it, just hard enough to tilt her head back. His eyes perused her jugular for a long moment, before he bit her neck hard enough to leave a mark.


“There are eleven dead maidens in my forest, what makes you think you would not join them?” he asked sliding a hand down to the front of her dress and gripping a fistful of the material. “You would look better in green…”


"Careful," Malia whispered when his fingers closed firmly around a handful of her hair, the warning heaved out between breaths quickened with excitement. At first, the warning might have implied she wanted him to slow down, but the press of her hand on the back of his head as the pleasured hiss that accompanied it said otherwise. When he released her, that hand darted to her own head, where she plucked out a golden comb near her temple. Holding it between their faces, she turned the exquisite decoration in the light just so... and the metallic shine turned blood red - the color of a deadly poison. One scratch and her victim would die choking - then all she had to do was drop a grape in the corpse's mouth before rigor mortis set in and oh what a tragic unforeseeable accident!  "As you can see... I am hardly a maiden."


Setting the tiny weapon on the book table beside them, Malia looked down and wondered for a moment at the entirely feasible possibility he might decide to rip the dress off her. His comment came so out of the blue that Malia took it to be unplanned - that, along with his mark on her throat, the pointed way he called her my Duchess… all pointed to a possessiveness that boded well for the alliance she hoped to establish. With a saucy smile that contrasted with her facetiously too-polite words, "If it does not please my lord," Malia invited, reaching around her back to tug at the ends of the laces there, "Take it off."


Castile arched a brow at the poisoned hairpin, a fitting weapon for a lady of the court. Being heartless he wouldn’t die, but it wouldn’t  save him from the agony of the poisons effect on his body. That she was armed was not surprising…. That she set it aside was.


“Hmmmm….you are an interesting creature, my Duchess” he replied loosening his hold on the fabric of her dress to instead fondle her through the material. Yes, she was a manipulator like many women he had dealt with of the court. Seeking power through their titles, bloodlines and bodies….and yet she was not, there was something beneath her elegant veneer that attracted him more than simple lust.


Castile tugged the top of Malia’s dress downward, but his brow furrowed slightly and his hand stopped between her breasts. “I can feel your heart beating like a fluttering bird inside a cage” he said in a low rumble.


Malia had allowed her eyes to drift shut, her hand braced on the duke's strong shoulder as she enjoyed the sensations of his attentions… but when he paused and his words struck her as so very strange, she blinked her eyes open, perplexed. It couldn't have been an allusion to Maya Angelou's famous work - I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings - although that was right were the former librarian's mind went. And her heart felt fine to her - rapid, but strong, without any of the skipped beats or palpitations of age that she'd become accustomed to on Earth. It must have been some odd form of dirty talk? After all, the Green Duke was odd as they came…


Her hand moved slowly, hesitantly, from his shoulder to his neck. Two fingers pressed against his adam's apple, where his pulse should have been...


Realization struck her like a physical blow. Her mind darted back to their first meeting, at the Queen's funeral, and the stories James had told her in the library about the 'Four Witches of Eventyr,' he'd called them. The one from the Eastern Woods stole hearts… or, traded them, if she remembered correctly. That idea that those stories were true - in a literal sense and not just a literary one - sent Malia's mind reeling, but she felt nothing but warmth and breath under her fingers. "Are you…" she intended to finish with ….quite all right, my lord? but what escaped instead was, "for real?"


James gave a rather bemused expression,  and replied “I believe I am real, therefore it must be so, my lady”. He turned her hand in his and kissed her wrist, rolling his eyes up to look at her. “I assure you I am not so unusual to be a fable of utter myth…..  Does it trouble you, my Duchess, that someone else has possession of it?”


He smiled wryly, “I believe you have enough spirit for us both, and the rest is yours if you want it”. Castile crudely maneuvered her hand between his legs, a lack of heart didn’t seem to affect the rest of him...physically.


Malia's brain raced, a million miles an hour. How did blood get to his extremities? Why was he warm? There was only one explanation: he had magic performing a vital function for him, every moment of every day. While she milked the magic she had at hand - small amounts of precognition - there were witches out there with abilities far and above her wildest imaginations. And she couldn't help but wonder if one of them would have a cure for her body on Earth, plagued with tumors and even more so with the chemotherapy meant to heal her that only made the aches, pain, decay worse…


His question was a good one, but it was utterly lost on the duchess as she tried to understand the basics of what she was encountering. How she felt about it would have to come much later. The wonder on Malia's face stripped away all the calculated, purposeful personas and when she looked back at the duke, her expression was one she might have offered to a god. "James," the familiar term wasn't intentional, but it was authentic. "You are not a monster. You're a miracle."


And from awe sprang a new sort of excitement, when her hand moved downward. Not the measured version she'd expected and practiced. Malia had known the duke's handsome smile, his broad shoulders, his impressive… stature would turn her on. She hadn't anticipated the fresh curiosity that made her feel like a maiden again as she bit her lip and explored the hard, hot flesh for a pulse that just wasn't there. It did not take more than a few of (her) heart beats for arousal to insist she skip ahead and soon her own fingers were tangled in his hair or clawing at his shoulders for stability…


It was much later that the Duke and his guest resided in the same chair, like a pair of sated animals. He lazily curled his fingers in the ends of Malia’s hair, never had someone known his condition and seemed attracted to it. Castile normally didn’t care if his partner in carnal activities was satisfied… Sometimes, he didn’t even care if they were even willing. And yet here he was caressing the Duchess of the North as if she were his finest treasure.


“My lady….” he purred in her ear. “...My men have prepared rooms for you and your handmaiden” he said pulling the lacing at her dress idley. “Dinner will be served shortly, and perhaps then you will tell me what it is you wish of the Eastern realm.”


He smiled slightly, “I can not flatter myself to think that your sole purpose for this visit was to warm my bed…” James looked at the books on the shelves around them, “These are not the knowledge you seek, tell me what you are searching for, my Duchess”. The Duke tied the dress and smoothed the fabric with all the care he would use with his own armor. Oh, she did fascinate him so.


Relaxing in a warm after-glow, Malia let her new lover tie up her laces while her hand traced along his thigh and down his knee, a gesture absent meaning except that she wasn't ready yet to disconnect. She thanked him for his hospitality with a smile and nod as he spoke, keeping her words for his more substantial questions - again raising doubt about why she was truly there. Now that the playing field was leveled and she had a monumental secret of his, she felt safer being totally honest.


"I have a hundred questions, of course. Your brother, your mother, the maidens in your forest, the witch there as well..." But she paused to shrug as her torso turned back to face him. "But I didn't come here to learn the answer to a question, or ten questions, or a thousand. I came here because I want to ask you any question, any time, from now and for years to come. And for you to ask me in return."


Parched, Malia found her way to her feet on tired legs and retrieved her glass of cider, taking a long drink from it. With a wry smile, Malia opened up a bit. "I do not want a husband. I do not want children. These are the ways women make alliances, usually; I have no interest." Returning to the chair, she lowered her voice a bit. "But together? You and I govern half of Eventyr. I am sure your history lessons were better than mine, but I haven't found yet an account of two duchies working together, truly and authentically. Imagine the power we could wield."


Castile inhaled deeply and closed his eyes, when Malia returned to his side. “I would answer each and every of your inquiries, my duchess. And I also have no wish for a spouse or offspring…” he replied before rolling his eyes to look up at her. “Is it only power you seek, my lady….. A duchy is not enough?”


He glanced over at a bookshelf, “There have been cases of the duchies working together, but nothing long term or that was not fraught with danger or fighting”. James turned back to the duchess, “I have no need for any realm other than my own…. But it does not mean I am not interested in your offer, my lady”.


James' responses sent the librarian's mind reeling. On the one hand, he was such an existential hero - a Meursault, a Sisyphus, as she had guessed ahead of time - who had decided to thrive in his position, even if it was unjust. But that confirmation awoke her inner Lady Macbeth, and there was this powerful urge to push him toward the greatness that was so clearly untapped…


But that hadn't gone well for Lady Macbeth, and so Malia held her tongue. "I respect that." Malia drew in closer, wrapping one arm around the Duke's wide shoulders and, conspiratorially, she smiled. "But I did not come this far… to only come this far."


“And what of the Western Duchy, have you allied yourself with them as well? Or is it only the bastard son of the King you seek?” He asked smiling slightly because many thought his ousted position would make him seek power one day. Royal blood in his veins meant nothing when it came to taxes and the crown.


But he was tied to his realm by the bargain that took his heart and gave him his armor. James wondered if the enchanted forest would stretch beyond its borders with him should ambition grow in the empty spot in his chest.


Castile pulled the Duchess closer to kiss the spot just above her breast where he could feel her heart. “Tell me, Malia…” he mumbled into her skin. “....that it is for the good of the realm. That Phillip has been irrational .That the people cry for justice….”


The king and his children were the last ties to a family he had. A family that had barely acknowledged his existence except when it was convenient for them. No, he had little use for ambition but revenge was a suitable substitute.


Malia's head tilted back and forth, a bit uncertain and plenty critical. "You know as well as I do that Francesca is…" on some other shit, "a wildcard. She barely pretends to be a Duchess anymore." A shrug, "And in the South, they are traditionalists..."


But when James drew close this time, even though his kiss was intimate, his words had a particular need to them, she stroked his hair in an almost motherly fashion.  With an amused smile, she didn't point out that the last thing James Castile worried about was the people crying out for justice. But if he wanted her to paint a rosy picture behind her ambition, that was not unreasonable, and when she spoke, her words were perhaps the most authentic of the whole evening. "Eventyr is everything to me. This Kingdom literally gives me life," her hand rested against his chest and the strange absence of a beat there, "As magic gives you life…"


"The King is unfit." Her words were a high crime, and she spoke them lowly. "He has asked too much of us all, but most of all, I suspect, his brother. His reign is over; he's a shell of a man, a husk of a king."


Castile smiled against her bosom, and tilted his head to look up at Malia. “Yes….” he replied softly, although there was no reason to lower their voices in the library. They were alone, and had been noisey enough in the carnel sharing of bodies to drive any of his soldiers from standing guard too closely to the door.


Her assessment of the Duchess of the West, almost made Castile laugh. Oh, how Francesca Rossi would fume over that. And drool over whatever rumors, and possible half truths were bound to hatch from her Northern neighbor’s visit to the green realm.


“...Unfit…” James repeated the word as if it were a promise more than a statement. Turning his head he looked up at her with a little smile that made him appear boyish. But his words were anything but childlike in nature, “...I do not like being used, my Duchess....” Castile’s eyes narrowed dangerously for a moment, and then the furrow of his brow eased.


“Do not betray me as others have done, Malia….” he purred her name out, using it for the first time. “....And my sword will be yours”.


Malia leaned in to seal his vow with a promise of her own: a kiss, worthy of a storybook.


End


Re: Jump Magic, Jump! #Bridgette #Theo

Steph
 

Who: Theo
With: Red, others
Where: Silver Tankard Wagon, Riverside Avenue, Artisan's Quarter, King's City
When: Thursday, February 28th, 872 RoK (Reign of Kings)

>>>>
"You smell like the sea," she said to the newcomer with a nod of greeting. "I like the sea. And I haven't seen any..." she paused to recall the words, "broad streets lined with jugglers. Can you show us?"
>>>> "I work down at the ferries," Zaire explained, the lie coming easily. "Transportin' goods from the sea t'the city."
"Kago Govender,"… "And what should I call ye, lass?"
>>>>

Well, Red wasn't calling Theo out on his deception about being from the City or any particular city, and he wasn't going to look that gift horse in the mouth. He'd enjoyed her advice thus far. She was like a useful version of Navi in the forest, and he didn't want to offend her or her little pixie friend and drive them away. He took another swig of his drink as she turned her attention to the newcomer.

This Kago fellow looked different. There was no denying that particular fact. Theo was used to people being different, though. He lived in New York City and worked in the entertainment industry. He had developed the skill of looking someone over without gawking at them over uncommon characteristics. Theo found it strange to think that sailors could really be that common in a landlocked city, but then  again…

With the lake and the rivers, there could easily be a whole network of waterways he still needed to learn about. If they were easier to use and more reliable than fairy circles, especially.

He stayed silent for the moment, though, letting Red take Kago's question however she wanted to.

<Tag!>


Re: The Babe With the Power #James #Sanya #Malia

Steph
 

Who: Sanya Nimr
With: James Castille, Malia Campbell, other royal party guests
Where: Castle courtyard, King's City 
When: February 28th, evening

>>>>
"Let us see what may be amidst other than my brother's lack of manners to not attend his own party for his offspring" the Duke said offering his hand to Malia first to assist her up the stairs. And then being polite enough to offer a elbow to Sanya, and not to voice that he suspected his half brother was off fucking some servant wench.... or trying to. He looked to the consort again.

"We may have to rectify that situation".
>>>>
"I am sure the King cannot have gone too far," Malia said, conversationally. The words themselves were reassuring, but her eyes moved toward where the courtyard met castle, then to the setting sun over the Enchanted Lake.
>>>>

Sanya knew she shouldn't have felt quite as surprised as she did that the Eastern Duke could just ask for his weapons around the castle. Bastard half-brother or not, he was still directly related to the king, and that gave him a certain weight and status even beyond his status as a duke. She gave one more look toward Sarnai and the king's empty seat next to her, shaking her head just a touch. The king had been there a moment before. But now…

Something odd was happening, that much was sure.

She did take Castille's elbow, when he offered it to her. Unlike Malia, she only needed one hand to raise the much thinner layer of her skirt up clear of her feet to ascend the steps. Malia's words, too, seemed a bit off in tone--too casual, almost. Or maybe Sanya was just overanalyzing the pitch. More evidence needed to be gathered before she could decide one way or another.

"If he isn't mingling in the crowd, he must be in the castle," Sanya mused. She hadn't seen any guards clearing a path across the single open drawbridge to allow the king through, and he wouldn't go anywhere outside the castle without some kind of entourage. Once they'd reached the top of the wall, she turned toward the party and scanned it, looking at all the players on the field now from a higher vantage point.

Servants were distinct in royal livery. The commoners who had made it into the party, too, stood out by their worn clothing. Even the ones who were dressed well were dressed well in the best clothes they owned and wore to any special occasion. The nobility, for the most part, wore clothes and discarded them well before the clothes actually showed any wear.

"I didn't actually expect Duchess Francesca to attend today," she noted, recognizing who Sarnai was speaking to. But she didn't see anything particular about the party that merited much alarm. Why, then…?

<Tag!>


Re: Jump Magic, Jump! #Bridgette #Theo

Manda
 

Who: Zaire

With: Bridgette, Theo

Where: Silver Tankard Wagon, Riverside Avenue, Artisan's Quarter, King's City

When: Thursday, February 28th, 872 RoK (Reign of Kings)


Theo: "Beg to differ," ... "When you learn how to look at a city, you see its history and its soul in the buildings and roadways. Even boroughs in the same city are vastly different."


Zaire's eyes drifted back toward the blond kid, a smirk playing at the corners of his lips. How poetic.


It did make him think though; when was the last time he'd taken a moment to appreciate the beauty around him? Not the sweeping pinks and purples of a sunrise or the way the sunlight sparkled on the sea, or even the softness of his wife's milk-heavy breasts, but the beauty in the everyday? The filigree on a pocket watch or the lace on a noblewoman's bodice; the graceful movements of a street performer . . .


Maybe Zaire was simply too jaded now. When he looked at the King's City, he didn't see those things, but rather the potential for a pickpocket, the privacy of an alley if a beating were in order, the ease of which to lose the guards amongst the crowds.


Theo: "This one, if I'm being honest, I'm still learning. I'm from the other city," ... "I'm Theo," he added. "Well met."


Zaire nodded at the greeting, finally turning his attention fully to his conversation partners, but didn't offer his name in return. They were both young and their fascination with the city reminded him of the first time Gunther, his cabin boy, had seen the tropical coasts of the West. The boy, born in the North, had been eager to see all there was to see, to dig his bare toes into the sand and catch crabs where the waves lapped the beach. And his crew had indulged the boy, taking him seining in the shallows, and then teaching him how to cook up the gathered bounty over red hot stones and wet seaweed, steaming the clams until they opened and grilling up potatoes and pork sausage to go with.


There was an innocence in that fascination and maybe that was part of the beauty Zaire was missing.


Red: "You smell like the sea," she said to the newcomer with a nod of greeting. "I like the sea. And I haven't seen any..." she paused to recall the words, "broad streets lined with jugglers. Can you show us?"


"I work down at the ferries," Zaire explained, the lie coming easily. "Transportin' goods from the sea t'the city." He had little interest in playing tour guide for a couple of out-of-towners but he also wasn't looking to draw undue attention to himself either. Walking them to the next street over, where a troupe was performing an entire play on stilts, would be easy enough until he could make his way back to his Brandy-love for a drink and a tussle.


"Kago Govender," he added, using one of the many aliases he employed outside of the 'safety' of the West. His eyes went to the red haired girl with the pixie, who hadn't offered a name. "And what should I call ye, lass?"


Tags

 


JP: Political Science #sarnai #Malia

Rachel
 

Malia always mused to herself that the library in King's City was like the one in Hogwarts. It had not two but three levels. Malia read everything within her easy reach. Eventyrian literature was not unlike that she had pedaled on Earth - there were mysteries, spies, monsters, and more. All  a quick and enjoyable way to become acquainted with the norms, lore, and language of her new world. Vampires did not drink animal blood, she had learned through a novel. And the ascension of royals was different from that of everyone else.


Today, Malia found herself elbow-deep in a novel about a knight in the west. It reminded her of Don Quixote, but the protagonist was far more grounded…


She had not worried over her attire since she had no agenda that day - while she had been unable to find a comfortable pair of trousers, she had opted for a simple blue dress. She read with her bare feet tucked up under her legs on a cushioned chair, deep in the library away from the windows. Her knight was falling in love, and she wondered if his intended would reciprocate. Were women required to? Would there be an authentic look into her perspective? Either way, it gave her quite an insight into Eventyrian culture…


It hadn't taken much for Sarnai to escape brunch early. A bit of poking at her meal, nudging the vegetables around her plate with her fork until King Philip took notice and asked after her wellness. "The babe is just giving me fits today," was her excuse, rubbing her palm lightly over the soft swell of her belly. "I don't feel much like eating."


He excused her readily enough, probably as eager to be done with the awkward meal as Sarnai herself was, and she'd beat a hasty retreat - but not too hasty. She needed to be away from him though, when every move he made reminded her of the still-fresh memory of his hands on her skin and his lips on her throat . . .


With her heart racing and her palms sweating, Sarnai made her way to the library. It was closer than the stables and as much as she longed to wrap her arms around Gan's neck and cry into his mane, people tended to take notice when she was there, as if worried she'd leap atop the horse's back and make a wild bid for freedom. Their worries may not have been completely unfounded, of course, but Sarnai found that there was less alarm from the other castle occupants when she went to the library instead.


It was quiet inside and Sarnai found that the scent of books was quickly becoming almost as comforting as the scent of manure and the musk of horses. She wandered through the stacks, her gown gathered in one hand and the fingertips of the other idly running over the spines as she waited for a title to catch her attention and distract from the anxious feeling in the pit of her belly.


In the end though, it wasn't a book that claimed her attention, but rather a woman. And more specifically, her bare feet. It was an odd sight around the castle, Sarnai had found, and it had her wandering just a bit closer out of simple curiosity . . .

The love interest remained elusive. Welcoming, but coy - a classic hard-to-get situation, which Malia knew from many an Earth novel. Absorbed in the story, she shifted in her seat, resting her head against one armrest and her legs draped over the other, book held over her head. Ohh, the knight was making a very persuasive bid for her affection! It was romantic as hell, but Malia had to stop and wonder - were knights supposed to be romantic? She knew rumors about their dalliances with noblewomen, but weren't they supposed to be pillars of nobility? Was that normal or not?


Her wonderings let Malia blink away from the book, even though she wasn't quite at a chapter break. Her face lit up as she saw a young woman looking at books. The librarian in Malia kicked in first, and she smiled, broadly. "Oh, you want that one - the black book with the gold lettering," she said, letting her own book rest, open, on her chest as she pointed. "It's about a girl who slays a dragon…" Quickly, Malia added, "That's not giving away the ending. The story gets much more interesting from there."


Sarnai nearly looked away as the woman, likely feeling the weight of her eyes, pulled her attention from the book, but her smile was bright and lit with an intriguing excitement as she spoke. So instead, Sarnai pulled the heavy book from the shelf and turned it over in her hands, fingertips smoothing lightly over the gold foil lettering. "A dragon, you say?" Well, that did sound interesting and, perhaps, the adventure would afford her a bit of an escape, if not in the literal way she often daydreamed about.


Malia nodded - she had learned much about how dragons operated from that book, and enjoyed the focus on a female protagonist. They were few and far between in these shelves…


Tucking the book into the crook of her arm, Sarnai wandered closer, her curiosity loosening those knots of anxiety. She didn't recognize the woman by sight, though she had to be of noble blood to have the freedom to wander the castle. Especially barefoot. "Who are--" She stopped, painted lips pressing in to a thin line as she caught herself. Her handmaid, who not only tended her needs but also gave her lessons in courtly etiquette, would have been beside herself.


So Sarnai tried again: "I am Altansarnai, Consort to the King." She drew to a stop a few feet away. "But I'm afraid I don't recognize you, m'lady . . ."


As the young woman came nearer and attempted formalities, Malia straightened and stood, a sign of respect. Barefoot, perhaps, but nothing could be done about that - her shoes were actually abandoned in the non-fiction section she'd spent the morning in.


The young woman could have been her granddaughter, she mused. Beautiful, well-dressed, southern, if she had to guess, and… oh, pregnant! The bump on such a slight form was subtle - not like her own had been.


The King's Consort. The words hit Malia hard, and her eyes fluttered and brows raised a moment. This was an... opportunity she hadn't anticipated at all.


The girl's self correction was so forced that Malia needed to circumvent it - doing so was a sign of power, suggesting that Malia was above the rules, but doubled as a silent sign of permission, suggesting Malia wasn't hung up on any of that.


"Al-ta-sar-na-y?" Malia asked, attempting authentically to pronounce the name and ignoring all the stuff that came with it, all the shit attached to a man. It was easy to see why this girl was in the shoes she was - lovely with her perfect skin, her petite form, her smooth hair. It was no wonder she had been sent to the Eastern Woods - all the wonder was why she'd come out.


Tit-for-tat, Malia offered her name. "I am Malia Von Oehsen," she said, without attaching titles, explanations, or anything else. "I am glad to meet you, in the best space in Eventyr."


Sarnai smiled but not because she was amused by the woman struggling with her name or how her tongue tripped over the unfamiliar syllables, but rather because this stranger was making the effort to learn to pronounce it correctly. It was more than Philip had done. "Al-tan-sarnai," she corrected gently, putting the emphasis on the second syllable.


When the much taller woman gave her name though, Sarnai's eyebrows rose in surprise. She obviously hadn't met the Duchess of the North in person yet, but a decent part of her days at the castle had been dedicated to learning the names, titles, bloodlines, and history of Eventyr as a whole. Chief amongst those lessons had been learning the names and pertinent details of those she'd eventually interact with. "Duchess Malia Von Oehsen." Of the North. "It is my pleasure."


She glanced around the library again, though she wasn't sure she agreed that it was the best place in all of Eventyr. That prestigious title belonged to the Grasslands and, more specifically, the people who lived there. "It is certainly the best place here, in the King's City." That much she could agree with, at this moment. In a few months time, when she'd delivered the King's child and was no longer being treated as if she were breakable, her opinion may be different.


"Please, just call me Sarnai."


"Al-tan-sarnai," Malia said, with much more success this time. Although she nodded to the girl's request, she needed to establish that it was not because she could not nor would not say her name correctly. She must have had her identity compromised in a hundred ways since she'd been chosen, and she didn't need another slap in the face of losing her choice of what she was called. "Sarnai."


Although there was a small prickle of pleasure as Malia's own name was recognized - wasn't that what she had spent these years conniving for, after all? - she still smiled modestly and concluded, "The pleasure is mine, my Queen-To-Be."


What the hell was this little girl doing with a title like that? She was still a child… although a careful wariness caught Malia before labeling Sarnai as helpless.


"I don't intend to obfuscate," Malia said, as if to explain why she had not offered her title or, perhaps, why she had not dressed up and was sitting in the back of the library, alone. "But I am… less than proud of my role in - the circumstances." She concluded, nodding at Sarnai's baby bump.  The regret in her voice was real, although misleading. If Malia had known then what she knew now, she would have sent her step-daughter, Anastasia. The Duchess sat back down - while it was common to stand before royalty, her towering height circumvented that dynamic. "I sent three girls away who, it seems, will never come home."


Obfuscate. It was a word that gave Sarnai pause and the slight tip of her head may have given that away, but she was quick to pick up on the context, all the same. Her hand came to rest on her belly, instinctively once attention was drawn there, and those complex emotions that were becoming all too familiar constricted her chest.


Ever since she'd arrived, since it had been clear that the King had planted his seed whether she wanted it or not, the focus had been on her slowly growing belly. It wasn't that Sarnai had any particular issue with having children - in fact, she'd always assumed that she would at some point - but never in her wildest dreams had she expected it to happen like this. The attention was a constant reminder that she couldn't remember that night, that eleven girls were likely dead, that every time she looked at him all she could think about was cutting off the very thing that had put her in this predicament, that she didn't choose this . . .


"No, they won't," Sarnai said, with an accusatory snap in her tone. This wasn't the place for the words that came next, where they could so easily be overheard, but the young warrior couldn't seem to stop them from spilling out of her mouth anyway: "Tell me, Duchess. Had you known, would you still have sent them?"


The young consort made it sound so simple. So black and white. To send or not to send… but that was not the question. The Duchess allowed the question to hang in the air and then answered, "I could not have decided to reject a direct and urgent order from the King." Since she seemed not to see the nuances, Malia laid them out.


"If I had not sent those young women, the King's army would have come to take them. Their invasion would have killed my own men, and the soldier's selection process," she cleared her throat, uncomfortably, long enough for the implied images of sneering soldiers rounding up all the young women they could find to choose the most beautiful... "would likely have traumatized many more than those three girls. And in the end, they would have ended up in the same place." At the least, Malia had been able to pump them full of hope, with sweet words about how they had been chosen, and they had gone to their apparent deaths with a sliver of optimism or elitism instead of just fear.


With a shake of her head, Malia concluded, "Knowing that, however, doesn't help me sleep at night." Which was true, although, again, misleading. She didn't stay awake fretting: she spent it planning on how best to capitalize on the unrest and distrust the whole charade had caused throughout the realm.


The alternative that Malia laid out was, indeed, horrifying and the Duchess wasn't wrong that it would have been far worse of an experience for everyone involved had the soldiers done the choosing. Sarnai also knew, that just like with the Green Duke, the Duchess of the North hadn't had a choice. To hear her tell it, Malia had done like the Duchess of the South and chosen the girls herself in an attempt to make the entire situation a little less horrifying. It didn't change things though, not really. Eleven girls were still dead, presumably, and Sarnai was still here, pregnant with a child she didn't want by a man she couldn't stomach.

Still, Sarnai had a hard time believing that any noble she met, on any given day, was an innocent lamb. But, maybe, she didn't need to accuse each of them upon first meeting. In fact, her handmaid would probably prefer she didn't.

"Of course, m'lady," she said after a moment of forcing her jaw to unclench and her shoulders to loosen. Still, her smile was a bit tight around the edges as she, apparently, absolved the Duchess of the North of wrongdoing. "We all do what must be done to best serve our King."


Malia watched the young woman struggle with the gray area, the tension screaming through her small form, and she finally appeared to come to grips with the reality… although, it was hard to tell from her curt words whether they were overly simplistic or just resigned.


"And our King, in turn, must do what best serves his people," Malia said. She lowered her voice a touch, but the words themselves were not incriminating - she well might excuse herself, if she were overheard, that she meant that the King must have an ultimate purpose behind his actions, but the purse in her lips - like she tasted sour milk - made it clear to Sarnai that was hardly her belief.


But the expression was fleeting, and then Malia continued with a formality that could only be facetious. "How unfortunate that the King, in his great… wisdom, had to cause so much pain." Every duchy lost beloved members of their communities, valuable members who would soon have becomes wives and mothers. Parents, friends, siblings were outraged. It was a hell of a political mess, and one that Malia doubted the unstable King was ready to clean up. She had certainly been given no apologies or reparations. "Across the entire kingdom."


The fine muscles around Sarnai's eyes tightened minutely, her head tipping just slightly as she read the implied meaning underlying the spoken words. Could it be that this Duchess of the North truly disagreed with Philip's actions? Even if she did, it wasn't as if Malia could say so outright but maybe if Sarnai were careful, she could find herself something akin to an ally. Or, at the very least, someone sympathetic to her plight.


She stepped closer and settled onto the edge of a plush armchair, setting the book in her lap and smoothing small hands over the leather. "I'd like to apologize," she started, the words not coming easily. "This transition hasn't been easy for me. I was never . . . important." At least, not outside her family and clan. Now, she was only important because of the child currently doing somersaults in her womb. "And everyone here is keen to forget that I had a life before this." She paused and pointedly touched her belly, "Before this."


Malia shook her head as the consort offered a totally unnecessary apology. It was a good sign, though, that perhaps she was winning the girl over. That would be a huge advantage Malia had barely even considered for what a longshot it was!


But as she continued, Malia's expression turned from confused to impressed. She allowed that emotion to shine through far more than her carefully-crafted mask usually allowed. "But my dear Sarnai, that is what you want." Maybe not in her heart, as a young woman who hadn't asked for this life, but as far as the political game in the capital here? "That means they're treating you as an equal."


With a laugh and roll of her eyes, Malia added a personal touch, "It took me years before every noble at every party stopped asking after my parents' health." An underhanded joke about her common history. As a student of literature, she had expected that a rags-to-riches narrative would win her points, but that had hardly proved so in Eventyr's highest circles of nobility. Apparently that was an American thing. She wondered, briefly, if the consort's royal tutor had even attempted to decode the elusive backstory of the Duchess of the North. There was so little in the past and so much in the present that few people, these days, worried over it. "If that child has earned you respect, prize that over understanding any day."


Oh. Well. Sarnai couldn't quite stop the obvious signs that she was working through the Duchess's words - the slight furrowing of her brow, the way her eyes got just a bit distant as they drifted around the library. Could what the Duchess said be true? Could it truly be that their focus on the present and the future, rather than Sarnai's past as a Burut warrior, meant they were taking her seriously? It seemed improbable, at first thought, but maybe . . .


Maybe she was powerful in her own right. Yes, the child was the key that unlocked the door and Philip, the shove through it, but now she was inside and she had a choice to make: allow herself to be pushed back against the wall or stand tall and claim her space. She didn't want this vapid royal lifestyle but there was little doubt that she would have to own it in order to not only survive but to thrive.


"Thank you, m'lady," she said after a moment, rising to her feet. "You have given me much to think about." This time, when she smiled, there was a playful sort of confidence there, "And when I've finished this," - she held up the book - "I'll be sure to let you know how I enjoyed it."


End!


Re: The Babe With the Power #James #Sanya #Malia

Rachel
 

Sanya: "A higher vantage point may allow us a better perspective on the situation, unless your handsome dogs' noses have caught an interesting scent?"


James: "Duchesses, stay close please...."


Malia assumed an entirely silent, passive role as events progressed. Though the dogs' exit allowed her to visibly relax, she made no comment when the duke ordered his armor and bow... although both were specifically forbidden at the celebration, without the King present, there was no one to tell his brother that he wasn't allowed whatever he wanted - obtrusive dogs or dangerous weapons or anything else… which was why Malia stayed glued to his side, accepting his hand to ascend the stairs with a friendly squeeze to his elbow before she continued up, needing both hands to keep her long skirt clear of her feet.


James: "Let us see what may be amidst other than my brother's lack of manners to not attend his own party for his offspring" … "We may have to rectify that situation"


"I am sure the King cannot have gone too far," Malia said, conversationally. The words themselves were reassuring, but her eyes moved toward where the courtyard met castle, then to the setting sun over the Enchanted Lake. If her assassin held up to what Malia had read in her book, the King was already dead and therefore wasn't going anywhere at all…

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Re: Puppy Dog Tails #Marcus #Kyky

Rachel
 

Marcus: "Shift change isn't for another hour," "I wouldn't call her dangerous,"


Kyky's hand popped up on her hip as red flags went off left and right around her handsome companion's words. He was lying or close to it... but that just meant this adventure was more than she'd bargained for. Well good! She was missing a royal party for this, so it needed to be worth it. She trailed Marcus through the door, and she couldn't see more than the curls on the back of his head in the dim light before he spoke.


Marcus: "That you, lieutenant?"


Alessandra ascended the stairs three or four at a time in her haste, knowing that the change was only a few minutes away. Her plan was to run as far as she could - optimistically she hoped he could get outside the castle walls, using her exceptional speed and strength as well as people's innate fear of her, maybe reach the outer city. Deep down, she knew she wouldn't make it, but the sliver of even false hope was all she had….


Until she heard a familiar voice.


She nearly bowled Marcus over as she rushed up the steps, but his solid frame and her abrupt hesitation turned her momentum into the fiercest hug of Alessandra's life. "Captain," she croaked ou.  Just seeing him decimated all her composure and resolve, and for an indulgent moment she didn't have, she relished that one of her final wishes had come true, to see the man who'd saved her life one more time. To say goodbye, and thank you…


But every fantasy she had entertained in that dungeon over the last week had ended with the same conclusion: Marcus could not come for her. "No, no, no… Marcus, what are you doing here? This is what he wanted!"


Her abduction had never been about her. The Green Duke had only ever wanted to lure infamous warlord Marcus the Vile into a vulnerable enough position to capture him, either by leading an ill-advised escape attempt or sending more Marauders they could use against him. And her longtime leader, friend, and lifeline had fallen right into it. For her worthless creature ass?


Alessandra's eyes darted up the stairs as if she expected to see James Castille waiting at the top of them, but all she saw was a pretty blonde girl she didn't recognize...


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Re: Dance Magic, Dance #Theo #Bert #Brandy #Bridgette

Vincent Gonzales <alchemicalnonsense2578@...>
 

Tristan found himself smiling despite himself as the barmaid teased him. She was more than a little charming, and easy on the eyes to boot. But, he reminded himself, he wasn't here for those kinds of adventures...even if it had been a while...No, this was a money making venture. He was here to make his life back home bearable. That was all. 

Even so, he knew it wouldn't hurt to be kind to those around him. Especially when they weren't busy giving him a look like he was a fucking charity case. Throwing constant 'thank you for your service' lines and talking about his grand sacrifice like it would magically bring his legs back. It had been so long, he realized, since he'd just had a normal conversation with people. Maybe that's what kept his feet planted, he wondered. In any case, he had time to get over to the sign-up booth, judging by the line of well-to-do's who still hadn't been let into the castle. So, he grinned at the barmaid and the sheriff, his mug clinking against theirs before taking a healthy swig of his ale.

"What kind of advice did you have in mind?" he asked the sheriff, noting that he wasn't himself a knight. "Have you participated in the tournaments before?"

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Re: Jump Magic, Jump! #Bridgette #Theo

Vincent Gonzales <alchemicalnonsense2578@...>
 

Who: Red and Asteria
With: Theo, Zaire
Where: Silver Tankard Wagon, Riverside Avenue, Artisan's Quarter, King's City

Zaire: "Truth is, there ain't much to see," <...> "You seen one broad street lined with jugglers, you've seen 'em all." <...> "There are some sights better than others, though."

At the sound of a stranger's voice so close to the table, the pixie shot up Red's sleeve with such sleeve it threatened to knock the wind out of her voice, but she steadied herself just enough to follow his gaze. Theo, ever the charming young man, waxed philosophical about the merits of a city's history and culture in a way that reminded her of one of her tutors when she was younger and she smiled in spite of herself. These two were interesting company, she determined, and she would have them show her the city. 

"You smell like the sea," she said to the newcomer with a nod of greeting. "I like the sea. And I haven't seen any..." she paused to recall the words, "broad streets lined with jugglers. Can you show us?"

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Re: Puppy Dog Tails #Marcus #Kyky

Vincent Gonzales <alchemicalnonsense2578@...>
 

"Shift change isn't for another hour," Marcus responded a little too-quickly for someone who supposedly didn't know their way around the castle, but the immediate concern left his guard down more than it should. Still, as they continued to move their way forward, his eyes caught the door just as Kyky pointed it out. 

"I wouldn't call her dangerous," he said even as he walked forward towards the stairs downward and the heavy iron door. 

Thankfully for the bandit captain, the latch for the door was on this side, and so he wrenched back the heavy lock and swung the door open. He began walking down the steps another set of steps just past the door and spotted light glinting off of bright eyes at the base of the stairs. His steps slowed, his grin faltering for a moment. "That you, lieutenant?" he called out, the charming tenor his voice had had gaining a rougher tone as he addressed a member of his crew. 

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Re: Left My Baby Blue

Manda
 

Francesca: "I fear that I have managed to incur the displeasure of the… strong, beautiful woman whom I will call my queen within a fortnight."


Sarnai's only response to that was the slight uplifting of one eyebrow as she regarded the Duchess over the rim of her glass. It wasn't so much what Francesca had done today, though the Consort certainly could have done without her earlier comments, but rather her presence. Everyone knew the rumors circulating about Philip and Francesca, and their very existence made Sarnai's position both precarious and embarrassing, whether the people believed what they heard or not. It was bound to make any woman a bit prickly . . .


Servant: *has a bottle!*


Francesca: "It is traditional to offer a gift to the baby, but I am of the opinion that the mother is as deserving," ... "I made this of rose oil, local to the Western Plains." ... "Enjoy it as you will, your majesty."


Curiosity had Sarnai ignoring the barking of the Green Duke's dogs as she leaned just a bit forward to more easily see the elegant little bottle. She knew better than to take it in her own hands though, instead nodding to a servant to receive it. Sarnai would examine it later, when she was sure it was safe. Not that she truly believed the Duchess would poison her here, in front of the entire Kingdom, but one could never be too careful.


"Thank you, m'lady," Sarnai returned with a smile that wasn't wholly forced. "What a--"


Guard with a Death Wish: "Oh ho," ... "The King will be too busy to rule now!"


The sentiments died on Sarnai's tongue as the whispered words managed to reach her ears and the gaze she fixed upon the man said all that needed to be said. How dare he speak such a way about his future Queen! And, maybe, there was an irrational part of her that still managed to be offended for the father of her child; it was one thing for her to think such treasonous words about Philip but quite another for one of his loyal subjects to do the same.


As the guards moved forward without hesitation, surrounding and disarming their comrade, Sarnai focused her attention back on Francesca. "Your gift is a thoughtful one, Duchess, and I look forward to enjoying it." And it was thoughtful! With so many of the gifts focused on things the royal baby would need - though perhaps need was a strong word, with so many of those said gifts being frivolous nonsense that Sarnai doubted she'd ever use - Francesca recognizing her as more than simply a vessel of new life was surprisingly appreciated.


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Re: The Babe With the Power #James #Sanya #Malia

turksgirl
 

Who: James Castille
With: Malia Campbell, Sanya Nimr other royal party guests
Where: Castle courtyard, King's City
When: February 28th, evening

Malia: 

"James," Malia said when she could breathe again, and her tone was not unlike the chiding one she used for a naughty child in the library or her own grandchildren. Immediately, she wanted to complain about the presence of dogs when so many party-goers were uneasy about the presence of a werewolf. But she paused, trusting that although the king's brother was flawed in many, many ways, he was effective as they came. If something was wrong, something was wrong. She hoped that wrong was the wrong she had planned, and so her words were phrased as a question, but her tone was impossible to read. Was it fear or anticipation? "What's wrong?"

Sanya: 
"A higher vantage point may allow us a better perspective on the situation, unless your handsome dogs' noses have caught an interesting scent?" Sanya suggested, very purposefully leaving the decision up to her elders.

The Duke nodded, it was sound advice it didn't matter who gave it. "Duchesses, stay close please...." he said in a low tone gaze shifting to cross the area around them. Pointing to a raises terrace that led up above the courtyards, he commanded his dogs "Clear". Wildly barking and snapping at nobles, workers, and commoners the wolfhounds forced the crowd to flee their presence as they took off ahead of the trio.

Hand on his sword hilt Castile moved forward with purpose his gaze shifting to the royal consort and the empty chair next to her. "Yes, an interesting scent" he replied to the extremely young Southern Duchess. Spying one of his men he motioned him over, and grunted  "Bring my Cuirass..... and my bow". Turning back to his elegantly dressed companions, he extended an arm toward the steps where his dogs waited on the landing.

"Let us see what may be amidst other than my brother's lack of manners to not attend his own party for his offspring" the Duke said offering his hand to Malia first to assist her up the stairs. And then being polite enough to offer a elbow to Sanya, and not to voice that he suspected his half brother was off fucking some servant wench.... or trying to. He looked to the consort again.

"We may have to rectify that situation".

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Re: Make Him Free #hawkins #alessandra

turksgirl
 

"I rather like lad myself" the young man replied unsure about giving up his identity to a stranger. He did have the man at a disadvantage having overheard his conversation with the she-wolf. His mother would tell him it was smart to keep his distance, but part of his horse like nature liked having company... a herd. Looking up from where he was crouched ahead of the sailor in the duct tunnel, he blew out a breath to move the hair covering his green eyes. 

There was something about Hawkins' face that his beard and long hair couldn't hide, something about his eyes. Biting his lower lip he said softly, "Manfred.... my friends call me, Manny....." A crooked smile curled one side of his mouth slightly, "Watch your head". He led the way moving in a sure footed manner, stopping along the route to wait for Hawkins.

Especially when they came to a gap where water poured down an abyss through an opening big enough to swallow one of them. "Do you think you can make the jump?" Manfred asked face showing some concern. Hawkins was a normal human and Manny had no idea of his abilities. He didn't wish to come this far to suddenly leave the man behind. "Tell me you can do this" he said blinking as he stared down into the darkness. They couldn't go back, they had to go forward.

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Re: The Babe With the Power #James #Sanya #Malia

Steph
 

Who: Sanya Nimr
With: James Castille, Malia Campbell, other royal party guests
Where: Castle courtyard, King's City 
When: February 28th, evening

>>>>
"Profound apologies, my ladies...my dogs... more spoiled than any child" Castile said mouth only slightly curling. Putting out a hand the pack swirled around the huge man whining and crying loudly, his brow furrowed deeply. "Something's wrong".
>>>>
She hoped that wrong was the wrong she had planned, and so her words were phrased as a question, but her tone was impossible to read. Was it fear or anticipation? "What's wrong?" 
>>>>

Sanya's first thought when she heard the disruptive dogs was to wonder where Moswen had gotten to. She'd left her familiar at the Southern Duke's estate in the Noble Quarter for a reason. At this party, she was better off with slightly duller supernatural senses, and whenever Moswen was near her, she'd always pick up on hypocrisy with more clarity, more immediacy. The last thing she needed was to let her tongue slip in present company. Her cat, fortunately, would be safe from these dogs--as long as she had listened to instructions and stayed well away from the castle. One could never be certain with cats.

Where Malia moved closer to the Duke and hos wolfhounds, Sanya found herself instinctively taking a step away, her gaze sweeping over the crowd, trying to see what had changed besides the disruptions caused by the dogs. She noted that the king's seat near the consort in receiving was empty, but no sign that anyone was trying to hustle the Consort away--though the guards were definitely eyeing the Duke and the disruption he'd caused.

A few, nearest the open drawbridge had halted the line of individuals with gifts in arm and started to direct them to move backwards, off the bridge for the moment. Sanya wouldn't be surprised at all if they were telling the peasants that it was a purely precautionary measure. It was the sort of precaution that would allow them to raise the drawbridge while dumping the fewest people possible into the rapids below in the process. 

She part wanted to move toward the Consort, Altansarnai, who was also from the South, just to be certain she was safe. Surely the king wouldn't have left her alone if her safety was at risk. (The king, who had sacrificed eleven other girls just like Altansarnai in the Eastern Forest.) She looked up toward the walls instead of letting her concern blind her to possibilities.

"A higher vantage point may allow us a better perspective on the situation, unless your handsome dogs' noses have caught an interesting scent?" Sanya suggested, very purposefully leaving the decision up to her elders.

<Tag!>


Re: Make Him Free #hawkins #alessandra

Ben
 

Hawkins took a moment to study the young man as he took his hood off. The young man’s long hair came as a surprise to him. Most men tended towards shorter hair the further inland he went, but this one didn’t seem to care. “Aye lad. That doesn’t surprise me. Let’s not take that wrong turn then.”


Hawkins noticed the young man studying him in turn, catching a judgemental look from him. Hawkins took a moment to brush his hair back and scratch at his beard, hoping it improved his appearance at least a little. He may just be a sailor, but he still took pride in his looks. Hawkins took the man’s suggestion and grabbed a torch from the wall next to him. If they were going further underground, it would certainly serve him well. “ What’s yer name, lad? It wouldn’t do for me to only call ye lad all the time.”


Hawkins nodded to the young man’s suggestion. He was already a bit bigger than the man, so it wouldn’t do for their progress to be stopped because he got stuck. Hawkins quickly stuck his cutlass through his belt and shouldered his buckler. He didn’t want them to get caught during their escape. Stepping forward he called ahead, “I’m right behind ye.”


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On Wed, Sep 19, 2018 at 11:29 PM turksgirl <armorangel68@...> wrote:
Manfred pulled his hood back as they ventured into the darkness of the opposite end of the dungeon. "Sorry about the smell" he said bending down to push open a metal gate that closed off a small archway. "The King's castle is more complex than others, and has luxuries that the Duchies don't possess. Aqueducts, and thankfully not the cesspool..........unless we take a wrong turn".

He glanced over his shoulder at the older, somewhat unkempt bearded man, the centaur in Manfred wanted to take a comb to the man's hair. His people took a great deal of pride in their manes, two legs or four. "You might want to take a torch, sir" he suggested nodding his head toward one on the wall. Why the hell was he helping this man? Maybe he believed that story about him being wrongly jailed, or maybe he just liked the way he called him lad like a favorite uncle.

Tilting his head Manny guessed the sailor was about his weight although he was shorter. "It's a tight fit, I'll go first..." he volunteered removing his cape and cowl and wadding it into a ball and tossing it through the opening. The thief gave a cocky smile before he slide sideways through the portal watching Hawkins the whole way.

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--
Benjamin Warner

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