Re: Not a Soul Up Ahead #Brandy


Who: Manfred

With: Tristan,Brandy

Where: The Silver Tankard tavern, King's City

When: Sunset, Tuesday, March 11th, 872 RoK

Manny had been sitting at the side of the tavern trying to keep his head low, as his eyes followed patrons coming and going, but mostly staying. He had split off from Kiki when they had entered the King's City, she wanted to see the royal announcement from the Royal Scholar and General. He had other plans which included lining his pocket with coffers. Still he strained his sensitive hearing to pick up bits and pieces of the topic at hand...

The royal consort and her baby... the enchanted forest...Marcus the Vile...The Green Duke...a bounty...knight...creature hunter... The humanoid centaur frowned at that, but his thoughts were disrupted by the barmaid berating a boy selling meat-pies. Maybe she had a sixth sense because soon the man doubled over in pain. Manny liberated some of the man's funds from his table as his friends carried him for the door. And then all hell broke loose....

Manfred was on his feet notching his bow, "Stand away, quickly!"


Re: Got Your Back If You Got Mine #Marcus #Jude

Silvy <afranklin09c@...>

Who: Jude (as Juliette Mackenzie)
With: Marcus
Where: The Crooked Fox, King's City
When: Tuesday, March 11th, 872 RoK

"Travel is as eventful as you make it," She offered with a shrug, and only the briefest glance backward to acknowledge that the brewing brawl wasn't quieting down any time soon. She got her bottle, anyway, and that was what really mattered, she decided as she took a quick swig before turning her attention back to Marcus.

"Anything I can help with, this... business?" Sure, she maybe already knew what it was, but what good was giving away one's hand before one had to?

More noise came from the bar as a stool clattered over to the floor and the struggle saw its first blood - but what caught 'Juliette's attention and drew it back again was the curious exclamation of My ear! That mongrel bit my ruddy ear!

Biting wasn't exactly out of place in a barfight, though. When the opportunity arose, it was a good way to throw one's opponent off their game... but the odd noises didn't stop there, and something seemed... off.



Re: This Is The Exodus #Killick #sarnai

Silvy <afranklin09c@...>

Who: Killick
With: Erden, Altansarnai - CLOSED SCENE
Where: Merchant's Quarter, King's City
When: Tuesday, March 11th, 872 RoK

He drew nearer the crowds just in time to see them descend into chaos. It seemed at first, from the outside, a riot - but what decision could have been arrived at to be so disagreeable, Killick couldn't imagine. And as he made it close enough to spot the woman he'd been tasked with getting out of the city... he realized there was something wrong with the way some of the crowd was moving. Her guards crumpled. Her handmaid panicked-

He hadn't been close enough to hear the Royal General's declaration, but as blood started to spill Killick took off at a run. His build allowed him to push easily through the panicking crowd, and his stature let him see flashes of the Consort as she fought her way through the masses.

A voice in the back of his head called him to stop and help. Told him that people were dying, terrified, hurting each other in their haste, and that the suddenness of the situation implied a villainous actor. Someone had to have brought those things in, with their eyes struck by madness and mouths dripping red. Herded them into the square...

The distraction of his thoughts, wrapped up in the moral dilemma that was save the princess or save the people, saw one get near enough to snap at him with broken, stinking teeth.  He didn't have time to waste wondering whether it was one of those things - he shoved the man back into the throng and used the diversion of his thrashing to get around the thick knot of people.

He had a duty to the Consort. He had a duty to Sanya.

But he'd lost sight of her, and now could only look to where she was headed, hoping for no more interruptions. Ignoring that not all the screams around him were of fear. Pretending he had any idea what was going on, or why, or what hands were involved...

He didn't have time to think about it, and once again caught sight of the Consort's jet black hair - even a glimpse of her face as she hit a snag in the crowd, and so he cut his path anew. Her lady dropped back, pulled away from her and Killick's instincts tore at themselves, but he forged on until finally he closed the gap between them.

"Your Highness," Killick all but shouted over the crowd as he reached out for her arm - knowing that doing so was probably on a long list of bad ideas given the myriad circumstances working against them in that moment. "Come with me - we have a friend in common," He told her, hoping it would be enough to calm any threats with that knife and remind her of what they were supposed to be doing before the whole place went to hell.

~tags kinda~


Re: Am I the king of nothing at all? #Sanya


Who: Rafael Gonzalo

With: James Castile, Royal General Gonzalo, Malia and Sanya (peripherally)
Where: Merchant's Square
When: Tuesday, March 11th, 872 RoK


For the last few hours, Rafael had simply been another face in the crowd. He'd kept his distance from the barriers that separated the nobility from the common folk, and with his rather bland travelers clothes, there was little to draw the attention of those nobles who could actually recognize him by sight alone. Not that a single one, existing in their own bubbles of self importance and cut off from the very people they lorded over, had done more than glance at the commoners.

Rafael had stayed though, waiting and watching and wondering just what the bloody hell was taking his father so long. He'd waited so long that, around the time Francesca had taken her leave, he'd actually begun to worry that something had happened to the Royal General and was considering tracing the most likely route from castle to Merchant's Square when the wagon arrived.

Critical eyes narrowed, taking in everything that suddenly began happening around him. He saw the guards double over in pain, his father mount the stage and deliver his proclamation, he saw the Consort slip into the crowd, and then it was chaos. Zombies poured from the wagon, soldiers turned, and Rafael found himself fighting his way through the panicked crowd, his gaze locked on James as the Green Duke advanced upon his father with sword drawn.

He didn't know if James planned to kill the Royal General or not, but whatever the Duke's intention, Rafael wasn't taking chances. "Duke Castile!" he shouted, but his voice was swallowed by the screams around him.

"My lord, don't ki--" A hand closed around Rafael's leather pauldron, dragging him to a stop as teeth snapped at his face. He drove a dagger through the creature's temple and it fell like a sack of potatoes, and then he was leaping over the barricade and running up the steps of the stage, sword in hand as James reached his father . . .

James: "If death rules this day, you'll not be the one to dispatch it Gonzalo!" *feint!* *punch!*

Rafael had no idea what had come over his father - well, he had some ideas - but he sure as hell wasn't about to play spectator while James and Mathias went toe to toe. His father had been his hero growing up, but even still, Raf wasn't positive his father would come out on top if that happened.  

So while Mathias stumbled back from the blow, Rafael darted in between the two, sword drawn but not raised as he squared off with James. "My lord, wait! Please! I ask for mercy on behalf of my father . . ."



Re: In the so-called Land of the Free #Jaya #Kira


Who: Kira
With: Jaya, Bridgette, Open
Where: Artisan's Quarter, King's City
When: Sunset, Tuesday, March 11th, 872 RoK

Kira did her best to keep up with what Jaya was saying. It would've been a bit more difficult to believe, but since she was actually experiencing whatever this was herself, it made it a little easier. 

Naturally, she was heavily distracted with the scenery around her. She tried to pay attention though her gaze was constantly shifting from her roommate to everything but. The buildings made of stone and wood. The passersby in antiquated clothing. Even the scent of the meatpies were momentarily distracting considering she hadn't eaten anything all day.

Managing to force herself to focus, she nodded slowly. Kings and Queens, adventurers slaying monsters... It sounded like something out of a book or movie! She opened her mouth to reply but couldn't as another woman approached them and addressed them. Unsure how to respond, or even if she should, she remained silent. It likely a better idea that she let Jaya do the talking for now.

Re: In the so-called Land of the Free #Jaya #Kira

Vincent Gonzales <alchemicalnonsense2578@...>

Who: Bridgette
With: Kira, Jaya, Open
Where: Artisan's Quarter, King's City
When: Sunset, Tuesday, March 11th, 872 RoK

Despite her best efforts upon their safe return to the Eastern Forest, word had spread among the Small Folk like wildfire of the adventure the Red Witch had taken Asteria on. Bridgette wasn't exactly sure how it spread so fast, given that pixies didn't speak, but it was only a matter of days before she'd found herself being pestered by the a gaggle of pixies to take them on her next adventure.

They'd be all around her when she woke and when she laid her head down to rest. She found herself nearly surrounded by fairy circles constantly, and could hear the gentle flutter of dozens of wings as she went about her business. Finally, she had relented.

She made no promises but transport to the Kings City for one day, and transport back. And, so it was that she found herself stepping through a fairy circle with a napsack (of fairy make, of course) holding four adventurous pixies who peaked out of the opening with eager anticipation. “Out of sight, little ones. You know the rules,” she muttered, eyeing her surroundings.

The fairy circle at her feet had seen its last use, in some rich Merchant's garden in the Artisan District, but with the number of pixies she was travelling with, that was hardly of concern. The sound of crowds killing about the city filled her with that familiar sense of longing she'd had every time she came back here, but she reminded herself that these streets were no longer her home.

Jaya: "Do I sound crazy? I bet I sound crazy. We could get some drinks. Or I know a good bakery. Or, one of those meat pies back there?”

Bridgette heard a familiar voice as she rounded a corner and smiled instinctually, approaching the young hooded woman she'd traveled with so recently.

“No crazier than asking the Witch of the South to clear the lands of cursed storms, surely,” she responded with a grin even as her eyes took in the stranger. “You have many friends, Jaya. Does she know the pirate captain as well?”


Re: They Can't Mess With Us #Theo #zaire


Theo: "Aye, sir, captain, sir," ... "Jimmy, Captain says the cargo's to be stored in the brig."

"The brig?" Zaire heard Jimmy ask, but he knew the boatswain would do as he was told and, apparently, Antonio wasn't quite done yet.

Antonio: "One more."

Mystery Girl: "No, no, no - I've changed my mind…. frightened… don't want to go…"

Zaire kept his face carefully neutral as he watched the two interact, reserving judgement for the moment. He wasn't sure exactly what was going on here but it was quickly becoming clear that this wouldn't be a simple cargo drop.

"This way, love," Zaire said gently, stepping back and waving the girl forward with a sweeping gesture. It was quickly followed by, "Chione!"

"Aye Cap'n?"

"Make our guest comfortable."

Chione looked as if she'd swallowed a bug but she didn't say a word, just tipped her head in a silent order for the girl to follow her.

Antonio: "This is the last of the cargo. Thank you, Captain. Bon voyage."

"Aye," Zaire nodded, momentarily ignoring the rythmic thumping coming from the ship on the next dock. She was a person, not cargo, and Zaire was tempted to say as much aloud but Antonio was already turning away and mouthing off to Francesca's man wasn't likely to be a good idea. Their partnership was still far too new for that.

"Ahoy!" came a sudden shout from the rigging, drawing Zaire's attention upward and then outward as the pirate pointed. "Eyes up, gents!"

Hold Door: *cracks and bursts open!*

Zombies: *pour out!*

"Fuck!" Zaire snapped, meeting Chione's eyes for half a second as he drew his spadroon. Protect the girl.

"Aye," she answered, drawing her own blade and hustling the girl up the gangway.

"Ready sails!" Zaire shouted to the men already on deck. "Weigh anchor!"

As Zaire turned his attention to the zombies pouring over the side of the ship, he could hear his Quartermaster shouting orders to the crew, Jimmy yelling for them to get that bloody cargo aboard! and then Zaire was raising his sword and slashing through the nearest zombie. He just needed to buy some time for them to out some space between the ship and the docks and, apparently, he wasn't doing it alone. Mr. Alby appeared at his side then, axe in hand, and beside him Chaz, Jimmy's brother, but it was Theo who's eyes Zaire met for half a second. "With me, lad!" he ordered, shoving a rotting body away from him and seizing the moment to draw the dagger from his waist before plunging it into the eye of the nearest attacker.



Re: Not a Soul Up Ahead #Brandy


Tristan: "It makes you wonder how much is fact or fiction," "Not that I doubt your knowledge, of course."

"I'm pouring beer," Brandy countered, joking quick on her feet. "Maybe don't take me as an authority on werewolves…" She smirked, laughed, and kept listening.

Tristan: "Men like that, though? They're bound to spin up tales to boost their reputation and scare people off." "I could do with the extra coin, as much as the next guy, but I think I'll stick to dragons and vampires, for the time being,"

Dragons, like werewolves, Brandy knew nothing about except the gossip that came through her neck of the drunk-ass woods. But vampires, she did know, and the mention of them piqued her interest in a less… performative way. The barmaid was a fun caricature, but at the mention, she broke character for a breath and her expression sobered a touch...

Tristan: "I'm Tristan, ma'am.""We've actually met before," "The day of the storm, when the King..." "I'd met you briefly at your stand, as well as that nobleman. Sheriff...something or other."

She thought back to that day and honestly didn't find much. There'd been a noble, but she didn't recall his name nor barely his face. There had been a thief! Her magical purse had been stolen, and then a storm had come out of nowhere. She had to stare at Tristan's face for a long moment before she remembered: "Oh - the knight! I bet your tournament was cancelled, huh...?" She smiled. "Well, Tristan, nice to meet you. Officially."

A chorus of shocked gasps drew her attention away, though. A man was on the floor, on hands and knees, retching. Brandy assumed he'd drank too much, until she noticed it was the man who'd bought that meat pie. Probably got fucking food poisoning - these vendors were so unsanitary. You can't have meat resting at room temperature for hours! No wonder he was sick!

"Take him outside," Brandy ordered, and then, with a nod of her head, asked one of the kitchen girls to take him a jug of water.

Two men hauled the sick one to his feet, dragging him to the door… and found that it would not open. Which caused the men, who had each had a few drinks themselves, to glance wonderingly at the lock that was clearly, visibly on the inside and did not seem to be in place. Was it blocked, or…?

Before they could decode the mystery, the sick man let out a terrible cry. But instead of crashing to the floor, he surged up, grabbing his friend and - to Brandy's horror - sinking his teeth into the man's throat.

Screams went up all around the dining room, punctuated by the crashing of the ceramic jug of water to the floor and the wail of the victim as blood spurted onto the floor.



BP/JP: Taco Tuesday #Jaya #Brandy


Who: Jaya, Brielle

Where: Near a taco truck in New York City

When: Summer 2021

Usually, Jaya packed lunch, but between her last temp job and her current one, she'd just barely run out of grocery money the day before pay day, and she had no time to stop anywhere inexpensive to pick up a reasonably-priced sandwich on her way to work after the paycheck actually hit her bank account. It was undeniably frustrating, but that was why she was out around a new office building looking for a new restaurant for lunch, crossing her fingers she could find one that was priced for temp workers, not CEOs.

Thank goodness for taco trucks. With any luck, this one wouldn't be full of disease or rats or cockroaches. She couldn't afford to lose any days of work right now.

After she checked the menu on the taco truck window, she decided that her budget could take it. She was the sort of freshly-paid rich that always made her feel a little bit risky. Besides, if she ran out of money for meals Earth side, she could always find a fairy circle, dive over to Eventyr, and feast with her gold coins aplenty. An hour in Eventyr was half an hour on Earth, well within the confines of her little lunch break.

Once she had her chicken burrito in hand, she turned and spotted a convenient stone ledge surrounding a planting box full of flowers where she could sit and enjoy. There was a woman already sitting there, but it was a city. There was enough space. Invasion of a little bit of personal space could only be expected, and really Jaya didn't want to go back into the cubicle yet. This was her break, and no one could make her digitize files on her break if she was nowhere near her computer.

She unwrapped the top end of the burrito, took a bite, and smiled. Not bad.

Brielle might have looked like she was balancing a taco in one hand and her phone in the other at level Expert Millennial, but she was in fact taking notes about the very food she seemed to be neglecting. Flavorful - marinated and cooked off-site, she guessed - but a bit messy, which was less than idea for a food truck. All their customers were dining on the go, so why would they leave the carnitas stewing in their juices before serving...?

But just when her notes turned to the decidedly negative and she started formulating a joke that involved an analogy between the carnitas and an obese senator, a young woman sat down beside Brielle. With a burrito! She hadn't tried the burrito, but this was make-or-break. If the eating experience was half of the taco's, this truck was off the list of ten best budget lunches in NY for sure.  

"Hey, are the burritos good?" Brielle asked, with a friendly, charming chirp in her voice that tempered what she knew was an invasive violation of social norm. After a beat, she smiled and excused herself on the back end. "Sorry, I'm Brielle. I'm writing a culinary review for El Diablo here. Nice to meet you…?"

Jaya did not expect the woman she sat down next to to start talking to her. It wasn't really proper etiquette--or, maybe sometimes it was, if you were in downtown Manhattan. There were more than enough YouTubers making funny question videos out here that it shouldn't have startled Jaya quite as much as it did. She finished chewing her bite of burrito and swallowed carefully, so that she wouldn't choke on her words or embarrass herself too much. Brielle's camera was at least faced down, not recording, as far as Jaya could tell. Food blogger? That wasn't so bad. She put on her best polite office smile--the one that apparently wasn't quite enough to get her a permanent job anywhere.

"Jaya," she replied, not offering her last name. "As for the food, it's a cheap street burrito, so I'm not expecting much here. They spread the toppings throughout the length, so it feels like I'm getting a decent mix of rice and beans and everything else in each bite. The meat's well-seasoned, not offensive..." She looked down at the napkin she was holding around the burrito and its aluminum wrapping, and she could see that it was already getting damp from burrito juices. "Little bit drippy. I should grab another napkin." She noticed Brielle's tacos as she said that, and she had to laugh. "Maybe you should, too."

"Right?" Brielle laughed - the sound more aggressive than feminine and she made no attempt to apologize for the fact - and she nodded as she gingerly set the taco down on the concrete beside her. "Drippy is not good for street food. Are you going to hit up a job interview with pico de gallo and carnita stains on your blouse? Come on, this is the hashtag big apple…"

Yeah, that was a good angle for her post. That box checked in her mind, Brielle tucked her phone away and looked over at her dining-slash-bench partner. "Jaya, huh?" Her mind wandered to another world and the very compact little woman by the same name that her alter-ego Brandy had sold a room out from under once or twice. "I know another Jaya… but she lives abroad." It was kind of a unique name, though, and so Brielle wondered. "You travel much?"

Jaya laughed with Brielle, the food critic's commentary resonating with her experiences in a satisfying way. Words could be a meal all their own when they were well-spoken. Although she didn't think she'd ever heard of Brielle or her blog before, she was tempted to pull out her phone and look it up right then and there. That felt like some kind of bad form, though. So instead she did her best to manage the burrito drippage with the napkin that she had in hand.

She was a little surprised when Brielle said she'd met another Jaya, but maybe somewhere abroad it was a more common name. There was no way that this random stranger could be talking about abroad as in Eventyr, after all. If she were, though, how would Jaya know? Jaya looked different on the other side. And, even though she used her own name in Eventyr, maybe if others knew how to cross over, they didn't. Still, she covered he surprise with a fresh laugh.

"Oh, travel?" Jaya asked, shaking her head. "Sure, when I have a couple of pennies to rub together after I pay rent and student loans, I go to the travel agency and drop them in the tip jar just so I can stare at the pictures of exotic lands. Be right back." Was she as witty as Brielle? Probably not. She grabbed a few more napkins, set them down between herself and Brielle, and then shook her head. "You get to travel much as a food blogger? Must be like taking on a whole new identity."

Brielle laughed wryly in commiseration about millennial finances, and turned an appreciative glance toward her lunch-mate. That was a smart joke! Brielle might find herself using it with a loosely-cited credit to a pretty young woman with what she pegged as a Bollywood sort of charm to her. She added, "And if you're lucky, the air conditioning is busted and you can pretend the sweat pooling off you is from the Caribbean sun… No sticky sunscreen needed!" With a laugh, Brielle offered half-hearted jazz-hands. "Hashtag win-win, right?"

Attempting another bite of her taco was kind of a disaster and the poor thing fell apart completely, which left Brielle trying to wipe up pico- and meat-juice from her chin and fingers awkwardly, although her total absurdist laughter at it mitigated any embarrassment in the direction of the cooks. Wiping up, Brielle shook her head, "Nah - I stay-cate when I can," fairy circles made that easy, "but even bankruptcy doesn't wipe out student loans, so, seriously, the struggle is real."

When Brielle built off of Jaya's joke instead of dismissing it or making her own, Jaya felt herself relax just a little bit more. You could meet a lot of clever strangers in the city, but it felt less common to meet tones who made her genuinely laugh, who really understood the situation. What it meant to be post-college, not have a stable job. Not have that omnipresent parental safety net to fall back on, either.

"I hear you," Jaya said. And then, playing from the taco truck, she heard the latest super-pop summer jam of the year performed by that awful wanna-be boy band. Jaya groaned. "Okay, the burrito wasn't half bad, even if it was soggy but their taste in music? No. Not eating here again. How can anyone tolerate this, let alone call it art?"

"Oh. My. Effing. Gawd," Brielle seconded with her own groan, loud and obnoxious as she tried to drown out the song with her own voice. Standing hastily, tucking her phone in her back pocket, Brielle continued to complain.  "What did we do to deserve this? They should keep this garbage exclusively for interrogating Isis in Club Gitmo…" One more bite of her taco and then Brielle was gathering up leftovers with garbage to toss away. "It's inhumane because it's so catchy, it gets stuck in your head and then you're forced to torture yourself all day long. Downright insidious."

Jaya broke out laughing at Brielle's incredibly accurate assessment of the music. Who had given this random woman on the street the permission to be so clever and witty, just sitting there and brightening everyone's day? Jaya would have to make sure that she followed her blog now, if only to get a little more of this humor in her life.

"It's a dangerous mind toxin," she agreed. "And you know it was factory-produced by committee, too. 'Let's throw together the beats from Get Lucky with the sense of the horn section in Uptown Funk and lyrics about your beautiful girl that any boy band from the New Kids on the Block through One Direction could be caught singing. It's all stealing success, not making anything with actual depth or meaning."

"This is what old people must feel like," Brielle said, when her laughter died down, and then she raised her voice to a higher pitch to imitate a child. "Why does everything have to have depth and meaning, moooom?" And then lowered it again to respond, "Because I have one life to live and zero time for ear-garbage!"

Impressions done, Brielle looked back at her companion with a deadpan expression: "Mortality, huh?" Then a chuckle, but it was time to move on. She had her notes and a local review, and more than a few jokes in mind to spice up the commentary, so she stood up. "Nice to meet you, Jaya. Follow my blog!" She beamed and added, "I can tell your comments are going to kick ass."

Jaya had lost track of time, but as Brielle stood, Jaya pulled out her phone and realized she needed to get back to the office. She wouldn't be late if she hustled--and hustle wouldn't be a problem, considering she had a full stomach, a smile from good conversation, and an upbeat earworm to escape.

As she stood, she flicked open her phone's browser and did a quick search for Brielle's blog. "On it," she replied with a grin. "See you around, Brielle."


Re: Am I the king of nothing at all? #Sanya


The Green Duke was not the type of man to say he enjoyed simple pleasantries but Elliot seemed to make the trivial less intolerable. The Duchess of the North, and their Southern counterpart were far more intriguing than the wait for the Royal General and Scholar.... His eyes narrowed at the arrival of Gonzalo by some sort of wagon.

Gonzalo: "Lords and Ladies of Eventyr," "Men, women, and children! You have come to hear a pronouncement, and I have come to deliver it--and so much more."

Lady Nimr commented quietly on the General's pale countenance, and Malia questioned on Fischer's absence. Elliot was silent as he stood up between the three nobles, "Uncle James?" The armored Duke raised a single finger to his mouth at his nephew, but didn't take his eyes off the Royal General.

Gonzalo: "You look to the Royal Family and us, their most honored and faithful servants, for guidance and direction. You cling to the shadows of times past, when Royal figures brought clarity and direction in times of darkness. I stand before you today to declare that the only monarch that will rule from this day forth in all of Eventyr is Death."

Castile unhooked his cloak in preparation for serious battle. He heard Sanya announced zombies were on the loose. And he was surprised to feel Malia's hand on his wrist. 
 "Do not kill him," Malia warned. "He hopes to die tonight. Incapacitate him instead; he may have information for us." If any one else had dare to advise him on how to dispatch a target they would have to see to their own head.... Instead he grunted out a sound of compliance, as his face disappeared under the green helm.

"Elliot, the tunnels!" he barked before his sword cleared its scabbard and cleaved a zombie from the tip of his head clean through to the groin. James whistled and the sound gave a hallowed echoed from inside the helm. But it brought the sound of his hounds barking and snarling as they came to their master's bidding. "Duchesses, go with the Prince... I'll will follow....once I am done" James ordered cutting the head off another undead warrior. "To arms, fools!" he shouted to the few guards that hadn't eaten the meat pies.

The Green Knight marched straight for the General. "If death rules this day, you'll not be the one to dispatch it Gonzola!" he snarled feinting with his sword arm, but slamming an armored fist into the man's head. He'd keep the bastard alive as the Duchess requested, information was a weapon in its own right. But it didn't mean he had to be noble about it. 


Re: BP/JP: Friends with Benefits #Brandy #zaire


"We was arrested," Zaire confirmed, arms wrapping gently around the toddler as she leaned back against his bare chest and rubbed at tired eyes. "Myself an' Jimmy, 'is brother Chaz." Had Brandy met Chaz yet? Zaire wasn't sure, since the carpenter's mate rarely joined them at the brothels where they often met up. "The Duchess - that bitch - meant to 'ang us, alright. She wanted t' make a show'uv it by findin' the rest'uv the crew and 'anging as many'uv us as possible." That wasn't the interesting part of the story though, not really, and it wasn't the part that he wanted to get off his chest.

"She 'as a vampire bodyguard, Brandy-love," he said, meeting her eyes. "Southern born; mere slip'uv a thing, he was." He continued, telling her how Chaz had been the first taken and interrogated, and then Jimmy the next night, and how Zaire hadn't understood what she was doing until it was his turn. "She'd used the vampire t' get my men to tell 'er where the Song was anchored and by t' time it was my turn, she'd taken the ship, killed ten'uv my crew, an' forced a surrender. It was personal. We'd taken a prize that'd meant the death'uv someone close to 'er."

"Shiiit," Brandy cursed, listening at first in shock but that expression melted into sympathy at the mention of his lost men. The faces of the crew she'd met sprang to mind - the pretty woman and tattooed guy from the tournament, Gunther… but instead of asking, Brandy instead just reached out to give the captain's hand a gentle squeeze and continued to listen.

Zaire's eyes drifted out over the water, lingering on Bahari who had gotten distracted by a seashell and abandoned her task of crab fishing. "So I did what I 'ad to t' save my crew. She knew the location of a prize that no man had yet been able to claim, a prize guarded by a dragon, an' I made a deal t' recover it." He touched the side of his neck opposite the mess the vampire in the North had made, where instead two small incisions had healed, neatly hidden in the dual colors and speckled patterns of his skin. "An' allowed the vampire t'ave his fill."

"Again? Oh god, that su…." Brandy stopped short of making an entirely inappropriate pun and, with an apologetic wince, instead shifted to sit up on her knees to look closer at Zaire's neck, her thumb running over the small, almost surgical incision. On one side, a nasty scar - the other, a neat one, imperceptible if you hadn't known what to look for. How could the same type of creature be responsible for both? She didn't know much about the Duchess' lackey, but they did know that the vampire in the North was new… so there was an obvious answer here: "This one's gotta be old as fucking dirt."

With a sigh, Brandy nodded as she (incorrectly) assumed the end of the story. "So that's when you escaped? That's smart, Z. Make her think you're doing her a favor and then make a break for it. The old 'got an inch, take a mile'...." With a smile, she added, and a playful touch of Dira's cheek, "Where I'm from, we say if you give a mouse a biscuit."

Zaire held still and allowed Brandy to examine the two small scars on his neck, watching her face from the corner of his eye. There was sympathy in her eyes and it was that small hint of obvious understanding that he'd been seeking. Brandy witnessed what happened in the North and she'd know how much it had cost him to allow it to happen again.

"Nah, lass," he said, shaking his head. "We found that dragon, we did." And perhaps coincidentally, Dira chose that moment to shift around in his lap a little so she could close her hand around the key hanging around his neck. The key that he'd found himself oddly drawn to in the sea dragon's lair, out of all of the priceless treasures surrounding them. "And we slayed it, took it's horde, and brought it back t' the Duchess jus' like I swore we would." It had been a gamble but he'd read Francesca right. She hadn't been interested in upholding the King's laws but she had been interested in doing business.

"If we'd've taken our freedom and run, she'd never'uv stopped huntin' us. She'd'uv torn the West apart." He nodded toward the water again, "Maybe even found this place." The smile he fixed on her then was undeniably cocksure as he explained further, "My crew is wanted all over Eventyr, love, but 'ere in the West, we operate with a bit more freedom - and now I've ensured we got even more."

"You're shitting me," Brandy said, incredulous at first and then simply dumbfounded as she shook her head and her eyes grew distant, unfocused, as she tried to picture what slaying a dragon would entail. Bits of movies like Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter jumped into her mind, creatures the size of small planes with fire breath and razor tails, and quickly she shook them from her head - they were no more a reference for Eventyrian dragons than Twilight had been for the vampires she'd seen in the North.

"So, what, you got arrested and almost hanged with your entire crew, but you more or less came out ahead? You are on another level, Captain," Brandy concluded. But as much as she wanted to kick back and hear the story in full, she couldn't help but remember that, miraculous survival aside, they hadn't exactly been on the best terms before - and the fact that his kids were here probably meant his wife wasn't far, and what even were the implications of that?

As if to test the waters, she asked, "So, did you save a dragon scale for me?"

Zaire chuckled, absently smoothing his hand up and down Dira's back as the toddler's eyes drifted shut. He did have a way of clawing himself and his crew out of what seemed to be impossible situations, didn't he? In fact, all his life he'd been dodging death in the most miraculous of ways--

But he stopped that thought before it was even fully formed, unwilling to dwell on it and, perhaps, use up the luck that had brought him this far . . .

And her question proved a suitable distraction, as well, prompting his eyes to her face as he tried to read the intention behind the words. He was always bringing gifts and trinkets home for his wife and kids and he'd be lying if he hadn't considered grabbing something for Brandy when they were digging through the piles of treasure in the dragon's lair. But he and Brandy hadn't been talking then.

"Brandy-love," he started, "I miss ya, I do, but I need ya t'understand. I 'ave two lives that I lead." He nodded toward the water, "What 'appens out there stays separate from 'ere. This is what I come back to after a hunt, love." He shook his head, "The fightin', the killin' . . ." He settled his eyes on her in a knowing look, "The fuckin'. Ain't none'uv it mix 'ere. Elle, she ain't stupid, but she ain't want t' 'ear it, either."

An old sitcom episode played out in Brandy's mind. Short, balding, shouting George Costanza explaining: If Relationship George walks through this door, he will Kill Independent George...! So a more playful smile than Brandy expected played across her lips, with the ghost of a laugh behind them as she finished the quote, "A Zaire divided against himself cannot stand?" Cupping his speckled cheeks in each hand, Brandy laughed and assured him, "I get it."

Brandy shifted, letting her weight settle into the sand at the pirate captain's side as she considered her words. "But your argument only holds if we're just fucking." The baby was asleep so Brandy didn't worry about her gestures as she pointed, "If you want to separate what happens down there," she pointed, "from up here," finger tapping his chest, above his heart, "then we don't have a problem. I'll fuck you all day long," she finished with a smirk.

But it wasn't that easy, and so she turned away, picking up a fistful of sand and letting it fall through her fingers. "But the thing is - the same day you told me I wasn't just a fuck, you got touchy about your wife…"

"It must be hard enough to try, on any given day, to be two different men: husband or captain." Looking back, Brandy felt her lips purse as her jaw clenched, betraying her discomfort, but she pressed on. There was a sort of resignation in her voice, and as she tried to shrug it off, she fell back to her elbows in the sand. The sunshine was hot on her neck, sand warm on her elbows, and she knew she would want to swim soon. "If I make you feel like you now need to be three? I'm not surprised you pushed me away. That's too fucking much."

What happened 'down there' and what happened in his heart were two completely separate things. Sex was just sex and he could enjoy the act with any woman who'd caught his attention, or any woman who was willing. It was enjoyable and certainly one of his favorite pastimes, but his relationship with Eloise wasn't built on or around it - it was built on years of trust and understanding, an intrinsic knowledge of what the other needed at any given time, shared sorrows and joys, a love and devotion toward the life they'd built with each other . . .

And no woman, not even Brandy, could fill Eloise's place in his life.

But her words made him think that just maybe he was understanding what she was saying. He'd never felt guilty for having a sexual relationship with Brandy and he'd never felt guilty for being fond of her in the way he was, but he had been hesitant to talk about Eloise and his life with her. Brandy had misinterpreted his words and reaction and that had led to so much confusion between the two of them. Confusion that he needed to try to clear up.

"Brandy," he started, touching the back of her hand with his fingertips. "Eloise is my wife, the mother of my children - all'uv 'em - but she's never seen the things I'm capable'uv. She knows, but she ain't never seen me kill, never seen me maim; she ain't never seen the side'uv myself that my crew sees - that you've seen. 'Cause'uv that, Eloise keeps me from the drop-off."

It would be so easy to lose himself in the violence, like so many other pirates did. Alby and Chione were willing and able to do terrible things while in each other's company, but oddly enough, they also provided for each other what Eloise and the children did for Zaire. Yes, they fed the violence when it was needed and also helped each other walk back from the brink . . .

But Zaire knew himself. If he lost this paradise and the people who made it such, he'd lose every bit of his soul along with it and then he truly would become Scourge of the West - a man with nothing left to lose and nothing left to fight for except his own powerful greed. His conscience would shrivel and dry and die, like a starfish left in the hot sun.

His tone softened as he continued, "I think'uv ya as a dear friend, Brandy-love, but I don't love ya, lass."

Brandy listened with open ears, trying to wrap her head around what Zaire expressed and to be cognizant of their huge cultural divide. His wife was a kind of anchor, she surmised, an escape from the harsh realities he had to deal with on a regular basis. And not just killing sailors taking over a ship, but sometimes offering your neck to a vampire…

As a professional foodie, whose rock bottom involved sleeping on her father's couch, Brandy couldn't totally understand, but she watched Zaire's face as he spoke, and the emotion she saw cast over his face caught her attention. It served to teach her that she had a lot more listening to do, and so she just nodded in quiet acknowledgement.

It was never fun to hear that your lover didn't love you… but Brandy supposed that it was those words - love, friend - getting in the way. "I'm down with being ---," Brandy corrected herself with a small smile and a nod, "I am glad to be a dear friend."

She made sure that there was no transition, because "but" or "so" or "and" did not do the job. There was no connection; his feeling were his, and hers were her own, and the best they could do was understand and appreciate the other's. So, Brandy tried.

"I don't want to be your wife. I don't want to have your children." A joking smile, "They're cute as all get out without me." Looking at her hands where her fingers had seized a seashell, Brandy fought back the urge to say ...but I do love you. Her thumb moved slowly over its bumps, and she tried to be more specific. "When I cook a new meal, I want you to eat it. When I hear a song that gets my heart beating, I want to dance with you." Venturing to be a little more vulnerable than she usually allowed, Brandy concluded, "When I feel afraid, I wish you were closer..."

She shrugged. "Maybe that's love. Maybe it's friendship. Maybe it's something else entirely. I don't think we need to have a word to make it meaningful."

When Brandy turned her attention to the seashell in her hand, Zaire instead kept his gaze on her profile. It was happening slowly, this understanding between them, but it was happening and that was the important thing. So while Brandy listened and absorbed, Zaire offered her the same kindness in return and it was easy enough to glean the meaning behind her examples - she wanted to spend time with him and that was likely why the fairy circles continued to spit her out near him. Well, that was easy enough to do, right? After all, he wanted to spend time with her, as well, but he could hardly have her showing up on his beach any time he was home . . .

But it was her admittance of wanting him near when she was afraid that had his lips parting, and her following words that had his eyes drifting away from her again. It was friendship, he silently insisted, but also maybe a different kind of love than the one he shared with Eloise and that was fine, right?

With a bit of careful maneuvering, Zaire settled the sleeping Dira in the sand beside them, using a piece of driftwood to quickly fashion a sunshade of sorts out of a light woven blanket. When she stirred, he rubbed her belly until she stuffed a thumb in her mouth and settled back into sleep.

Then he was able to turn to Brandy and give her his full attention, his dark eyes meeting the lovely blue of her own. "Brandy-love," he started, taking her hand in his. "I want t'spend time with ya too." If she meant nothing to him then she wouldn't have distracted him from his escape at the tournament in the East, she wouldn't have occupied his thoughts when they were apart and he wouldn't certainly wouldn't have allowed her here, on the Island.

"You're important t'me and I want our friendship to keep on." He reached up and brushed her hair back, tucking a bright lock behind her ear, "And it sounds as if ya do too, so there ain't no reason not to, yeah?" He gave a quick shake of his head, "We ain't need a word t' make it so." Why try to define what they had? Why try to fit their unique relationship into a box when there wasn't actually a box to fit it?

Brandy smiled. She let the expression linger on her face while Zaire put his baby daughter to sleep, watching with admiration the ease with which he sheltered her from the sun and comforted her until she drifted off. It was definitely hard to imagine the same hands capable of maiming - but not impossible. People were multidimensional, and this was a reminder not to forget that the guy in her bed was still sometimes a murderer.

But soon, that sincere smile, that happy expression, that didn't last long. Within moments, amusement twisted its authenticity. "Gotta be careful, Z," Brandy said. His words weren't exactly out of a romantic comedy, but that was never what she wanted. All that shit was fake. Instead, Brandy craved clarity, and, having that now lifted such a weight from her shoulders and made her joke resonate as just that. "All this talk about spending time and being important and the next thing you know, you'll be committing infidelity."

Brandy stood up and said decisively. "I promise I'll go home after, but I did not come this far to not go swimming." Her hands began exploring her new outfit for anything she could discard, and soon her corset fell into the sand. Apparently the whole skirt was attached, but she could roll and tuck it up so her feet would be free. Boots were easy work to unlace. Sand in her toes felt like heaven, and so she did not hesitate to send a spray of it toward the pirate captain as she took off for the waves. "It's freezing at home right now!"


BP/JP: Friends with Benefits #Brandy #zaire


Who: Brandy, Zaire, various NPCs

When: August 871 RoK

Where: Lake City

With a wide hat shadowing his face and a tattered cloak around his shoulders, a bottle of rum tucked against his side, no one paid much attention to the man sitting just inside the mouth of the narrow alley between the tavern and the tanner. To anyone curious enough to glance his way, he was just another old drunk, half passed out and hoping for a handout, and Einar Larsen played that image to his benefit.

His eyes drifted closed and ears that were still sharp despite his age tuned in to the snippets of conversation from people passing by: two working girls complaining about their madam skimming from the till, a young mother scolding her son for stealing a biscuit from a baker's cart the next street over . . .

As interesting as that all was though, what Larsen was really waiting for - here in the mud at sundown - were the soldiers who would inevitably begin trickling into the bar and, hopefully, some overheard hints of when his Captain and crewmates were to be hanged. Chaz and Jimmy were like sons to the old sailor and while the crew of the Siren's Song may not have been able to do anything to spring the three from the Duchess' dungeons, Larsen would be damned if he wouldn't be right there to bear witness to their executions.

His eyes opened as footsteps sounded from further down the alleyway and Einar's hand strayed toward the dagger at his waist but all he saw was a red-haired tavern wench throwing kitchen scraps out. There was something familiar about her though, something that had him leaning forward to peer at her a little closer . . .

The ginger barmaid paused at the door, setting her now-empty bucket up on her ample hip, as the drunkard's movement caught her attention. She tilted her head curiously, finding the face somehow familiar. it took her a moment to place him, but when she did, concern pinched her brows. Usually, she found Zaire's crew inside the bar. Was he spying, perhaps? On what?

Brandy had only arrived midday to the beautiful city that reminded her of Venice - Lake City, the locals told her. The abundance of fresh seafood had her finding her way into the kitchen instead of the front of the house, but she was fairly certain she would have heard about the Siren's Song if they were in town. She remembered Jimmy's loud announcements well! The last time she'd seen Zaire, he had seemed to be on the low and in a hurry...

Brandy made sure the door was closed behind her, and the bucket right in front of it that would cause anyone who came through to stumble, then made her way over. Brandy placed one booted foot up on the wall behind her as she leaned and greeted, "What's good, friend?"

As the redhead's eyes lit with recognition, any doubt in Larsen's mind quickly faded. This was, indeed, the girl that their Captain had taken a fancy to; the one likely named after her father's favorite drink. The old carpenter had heard from Alby and Chionne that they'd run into her a few months back when they'd caught up with that handsy bastard, Lambert. They'd said the Captain had even taken a moment to stop and have a drink with her after the grisly deed had been done . . .

"Ain't nuthin' good," Larsen answered honestly, but quietly, drawing one knee up to prop an elbow on. How much did she know? Enough that she'd sent Gunther to crew with them, enough that she'd helped Visser and Abadi fight off those vamps up North. Enough that he could give her the bad news.

"Any day now three'uv our crew'll be swingin' over the canals." He nodded toward her, "Our Cap'n among'um."

"You're shitting me," Brandy exclaimed, words sharp but volume low. Her eyes squeezed shut as her brain tried to reject the information, but the unpleasant image the pirate painted was too vivid and all she saw in the blackness of her eyelids was a noose around Zaire's speckled throat, the thick rope against the vampire's scar…

She shook the thought from her mind. No - it wasn't possible, she tried to rationalize. Zaire had chopped off a vampire's head with that toothpick sword of his. He hadn't just gotten arrested. Most times she'd seen him, he'd been living it up without much concern for who saw him - why had the authorities decided to target him all of the sudden? Was that why he'd been so secretive at the tournament? "The fuck happened?"

"T'is the way'uv things. We're all'uv us wanted men, lass," Larsen answered with a somber shake of his head, his eyes intent on her as she processed the news. "S'only a matter'uv time before our luck runs out."

With a sigh, the old pirate ran a fingertip over his full moustache, his thoughts again lingering on Jimmy and Chaz and how unfortunate it was that their lives would be cut so short when here he was, living far longer than most sailors oughta. "An' that Cap'n'uv ours, he ain't exactly blend in with a crowd," he added with a knowing raise of eyebrows under the floppy brim of his hat. "All it took was bein' in the wrong place at the wrong time and the Duchess's men snatched 'em right up."

"That motherfucking bitch," Brandy cursed under her breath. She hadn't heard much about the Duchess, which had mostly implied she sucked at her job. People of the West walked on eggshells around powerful merchants and certainly tread carefully with the local spy guilds and the sheriffs were legit, but Brandy had never heard anyone actually worry about the Duchess. Brandy had branded her a Kardashian - working the brand, maybe, but mostly a bag of hot air…

Until she wasn't. Until she had Zaire's life in her hands.

"Way of things? No," Brandy shook her head, sudden resolve seizing her. Zaire wasn't swinging yet. And it was not cool that his crew had already taken him for dead. "Z's not just a pirate, and you see it as much as I do." She had no idea how to back up that claim, but all the same, she knew it. It wasn't like she knew what a regular pirate was like, but there was something in her gut that knew Zaire wasn't one. "And he's not going to be brought down by some wrong-time-wrong-place bullshit."

Maybe she was just in denial. Brandy had little to no idea how the legal system in Eventyr worked, but she wasn't going to let ignorance stand in the way of hope. So she looked down at Larsen, turning and placing one hand on her hip. "What do you need?" Brandy asked, frankly. She was good at getting things, and she wanted to contribute. "I'll get it. What do you need?"

Larsen's gaze narrowed as he watched this redheaded girl - likely from the North - react to his words. Her refusal to accept that, sometimes, this was just the nature of the beast, had him feeling sympathy for her - and also maybe a bit of curiosity about her feelings toward his Captain. It was naive to expect Zaire, Jimmy, and Chaz to be allowed to simply walk out of the dungeons just because they all desperately wanted it to be so but that didn't stop Brandy from believing it all the same.

Larsen himself had seen countless pirates hanged for their crimes, sometimes his own crewmates. He'd seen strong Captains, good leaders, lose their lives at the end of a rope and as much as he agreed that there was something different about Captain Zaire Visser, at the end of the day he was still just a man.

"Information'd help," Larsen answered. "But mostly we need a miracle, lass."

"Information is easy," Brandy answered with a nod. Find the right person, get them drunk, make them comfortable. It meant her ceviche wouldn't pan out, but the owners would be happier to have her at the bar anyway. As she turned back toward the door, she concluded, "Z'll work out the miracle."


It had been a month now that the Siren's Song had been anchored just off the Island, since Zaire had walked up that familiar gated path to the equally familiar house, since his wife had laid eyes on him for the first time since thinking him dead. She'd broken down in tears at the sight of him, injured and moving slowly, but alive.

So he'd taken the time to heal, to surround himself with people he loved and allow the normalcy of day to day life on land to soothe frayed nerves. He helped to make meals, tend the garden, chased his children along the beach while pretending to be a fearsome kraken, and at the end of the evening he helped to tuck them safely into bed. It wasn't a pace that he could keep up forever; eventually he and his men would get antsy for the hunt and they'd set out again. For now though, Zaire allowed himself to simply enjoy the moments while they lasted - moments had he had come so close to never witnessing again.

Moments like this one, for instance.

"No Dira, like this," Bahari explained, reaching out and taking the fishing net from the toddler. "You gotta 'old it like this . . ."

Dira, of course, was far more interested in trying to drag the net down the beach, watching in fascination as the water moved through the netting, how it dug small trenches into the sand and how quickly they filled with water and were smoothed out once again.

"No!" the five year old Bahari protested, pulling again on the net before whirling to face her father. "Papa! We can't fish if she won't let us use the net!"

"Shh," Zaire soothed, running one hand over Bahari's voluminous curls. "It's time t' eat anyway, love." He started out of the knee-deep waves, making his way toward the basket Eloise had packed them before they'd set out that morning. Inside was bread and cheese, salted jerky and boiled eggs, and while it had taken a bit of persuasion to get Dira to abandon the net, Zaire managed to get both girls settled in the sand with their early lunch.

"You gonna be with us long, Papa?" Bahari asked, scooting a little closer and peering up at him with wide brown eyes.

"Bit longer, yeah," Zaire answered. He'd stripped his shirt off not long after they'd reached the beach, leaving him in just a pair of knee breeches, and he laid back in the warm sand to enjoy the October sun as it climbed higher into the sky.

Bahari nodded, her eyes going back to her meal, and then she said, "Good. I like when yer 'ome."

The words warmed Zaire's heart and he gave her a smile as he squinted against the sun. "I like when I'm 'ome too."

When Brandy stepped through the fairy circle, she was surprised. With every expectation to end up again in Lake City, she was caught off guard to find herself in a thick of tropical woods. As she listened, the sound of lapping waves at the shore not far away became clear as well…

Immediately, her mind turned to the tale Zaire had shared, months ago now, about a man who had come through a fairy circle and been stranded on a deserted island. Sure enough, she looked down to see the fledgling ferns encircling her feet withering - the magic was used up. Panic quickly surged through her veins. Why was she here? And, more importantly, where was here?

"Shit," Brandy sighed out, trying not to panic. "Shit, shit, shitshitshit…"

Her clothes were long as always, in sleeve and skirt, but the fabric was at least light and loose, as her outfit in summertime in New York had been, and didn't hinder her as she broke into a panicked sort of jog toward the sound of the water. If this was a sick joke and she was back on the coast, then the boardwalk would be visible from the shore…

But the treeline broke, and Brandy was ankle deep in the waves before her momentum stopped even though her heavy breathing did not. Casting her eyes about, she didn't see brothels or bars or… much of anything? No, not so - it wasn't the city-scape she expected, but there was life here. She wasn't deserted, thank-fucking-god.

Her relief, though, gave way when her eyes zeroed in on the closest group of people - children and, presumably, their father?  Brandy paused where she was, waves wetting the hem of her skirt, squinting, as recognition lit up her pale features...

A peal of giggles erupted from Dira's mouth as Zaire, flat on his back in the sand, lifted her above his head and blew raspberries on her bare belly.

"Papa! Me next!" Bahari insisted, abandoning the jerky she'd been gnawing on to crawl across the sand and get right in her father's face. "Do it t' me!"

Laughing, Zaire set Dira on his stomach and turned to the older of the two girls. "C'mere, Bahari," he started, reaching for her, but a sudden flurry of movement from further down the beach claimed his attention and he blinked in surprise at the familiar figure who tore out of the trees, stopping just at the surf.

"Papa, who's that?" Bahari asked, but Zaire was sitting up and setting Dira aside so he could climb to his feet.

"A friend," was his vague answer, one hand coming up to shield his eyes from the sun. No, it was Brandy, alright - but what the hell was she doing here? His eyes went, naturally, to the path that lead to his home, where Eloise and his two older daughters were busy mending clothes. There was no reason for any of them to make their way to the beach and, even if they did, Brandy was a friend and nothing more. "Bahari," Zaire said over his shoulder, "check the crab pots, aye?"

"Aye," the five year old answered with only a moment's hesitation, her feet taking her slowly toward the water's edge but her curious eyes were focused on the red-haired stranger down the beach.

"Whataya doin' 'ere, Brandy-love?" Zaire asked once he was close enough. "Not that I ain't glad t' see ya."

Brandy blinked rapidly - it might have looked like she was clearing the blinding sun from her eyes, but there was an unmistakable sheen of tears there as well. Her feet should have made their way back to dry land, but instead, she waded through the shallows toward the man she had been convinced would be a ghost next she saw him…

"You're alive," Brandy said, but the words sounded more like a question. Her hands twitched upward as she wanted to touch him to be sure, but she lowered them quickly. His speckled skin was bare and vividly real, with beads of moisture and dustings of clinging sand… but, remembering too clearly how prickly he had been in their last actual conversation, her fingers instead found her own hair, raking back short ginger locks from her face. "Mr. Larsen half convinced me you were already dead, and then even the rumors dried up…" With a tight laugh, strained with emotion, Brandy trailed off and then could only say again, "You're alive."

Zaire's eyebrows lifted in reaction to her words, her entire bearing. The relief, disbelief, that she felt was clear in the tears shining in her eyes and the way she almost seemed to want to touch him . . .

It was such a stark difference to the way Eloise had greeted him that Zaire couldn't help but compare the two. His wife had nearly leapt into his arms, apologizing when she hurt him, kissing him and crying and holding him close and then, afterwards, insisting to look over his wounds, to feed him and see him to bed.

When Brandy hesitated, Zaire reached out and took her hand, drawing her closer. "Aye," he answered with a small smile. Regardless of how things were left between them, he still considered her a friend and right now, his friend needed some reassurance. "Aye, Brandy-love, I'm alive." What had she heard? Obviously the rumors that the Siren's Song had been taken but there were so many tales and rumors floating around about the crew now that he couldn't be sure. "When'd ya see Mr. Larsen?" he asked. "What'd he tell ya?"

Brandy moved in when the Captain took her hand, her other gripping his arm as if to assure herself he was real, then traveling gently up to his neck - scarred still from the vampire he'd fought off, but neither broken nor strangled as she'd seen in her nightmares too many times after Larson's grotesque prediction. Although it was unwise and she knew it, Brandy had been unable to help googling medieval hangings and the research had only made her more upset.

Since the timeline was different between Earth and Eventyr, Brandy had no idea when she'd run into Larsen. "In Lake City. He said the Duchess was going to hang you." So she had gone to work, finding off-duty soldiers to ply with drink until they got careless trying to impress her. "Then some drunk-ass guards told me that she was going to wait until they had the whole crew…"

Suddenly, Brandy laughed. Being able to touch him seemed to wash away the worries and the tension, and a flick of her wrist to wipe a tear from her cheek and indulged a smile - god, she was so glad he was here! "I told him you'd think of something! How did you escape?"

Brandy's tale made sense. Being ashore in Lake City when the Song had been taken by the King's Navy meant that Mr. Larsen had avoided being arrested at all. Instead the old carpenter had kept his ear to the ground until Zaire, after his release, had sent a man to find him.

"I didn't escape, love," he admitted, his own smile widening as she brushed a tear away and expressed what seemed to be her unwavering faith in him. Wrapping an arm around Brandy's shoulders, Zaire ushered her back toward where Dira was digging through the food basket for the honey biscuits she was sure where tucked in the bottom.

"Sit and I'll tell ya 'bout it," he urged, settling back down into the warm sand. Reaching out, he pulled Dira into his lap and then pushed the basket toward Brandy, "Help y'self if yer 'ungry."

"Papa, b'skits," Dira insisted, pointing one chubby finger toward the food but her dark eyes were fixed on Brandy.

"After yer cheese," Zaire answered, absently. "Brandy, this is Dira, m' youngest." He nodded then toward his elder daughter, who was busy reeling in a crab pot, "And Bahari." Then he gestured toward the beach, the water, the trees behind them, "And this is my 'ome."

Zaire's words only intrigued her more, and Brandy gave Zaire's arm's a slap with a disapproving purse of her lips. "Fucking tease," she joked and easily moved closer, her arm wrapping around his back as his did around her shoulder.

Brandy had no children herself, doubted she ever would, but she loved them. A hearty smile split her face when they approached. The baby had one hand in the cookie jar, so to speak. "Hi there, cutie pie," she greeted pleasantly. The older one was probably barely eight and already trapping crabs, and Brandy raised a hand in a wave before turning to observe the island paradise that Zaire called home. She almost joked that she didn't know how he could leave…

But she did know. Probably the same thing that had her leaving air conditioning and indoor plumbing to be here. Worth it, she thought to herself as she turned her smile back to the pirate captain and settled into the soft sand beside him. "Beautiful."

"So come on," Brandy prompted impatiently as she chose a piece of bread from the basket and examined it a bit too curiously before taking a bite. There was a lot you could learn about a place and its people through their food. It was slightly sweet - sugar, yes. And - coconut? Clever. "What happened?"


Re: Am I the king of nothing at all? #Sanya


James: "My prince...nephew..." "The Duchess Malia Von Oehsen of the Northern realm..." "...And Lady Sanya Nimr, daughter of the Southern Duchy and the realm's representative..."  "...Crown Prince Elliot Paxton".

Malia played her part well - as a grandmother, she knew well how to both bestow warmth and love but also stay a step away from instructing the child. In this way, she loved Elliot. He was a sweet boy. He was also a nice distraction until the Royal General appeared. She rose to give him a play-curtsy, then gently ruffled the hair on his head and elicited a childish giggle.

James: "I commend you on the defense of Headmaster Von Essen, Lady Nimr...."

Elliot: "Uncle, will it be much longer?"

Sanya: "I wish the defense had not been necessary, if I'm being entirely honest," "The young crown prince should be safe from such threats. It's unfortunate--"

Allowing James to address the child, Malia jumped on the Duke's words to echo them. "And I, as well," the Duchess told Sanya. "The headmaster was innocent of his charges, in my opinion. He must have been set up - likely by a noble threatened by the college. I am certain our Royal Scholar will investigate the wrongdoer first thing in the morning."

The Scholar - Merthin Fischer - was the only Malia had known since she'd arrived in Eventyr, and for a while, he had attracted her so with his eloquent lectures, thoughtful books, and hazel-emerald eyes that she had once considered poisoning his wife. Nothing put butterflies in Malia's stomach like an intelligent man; but alas, there hadn't been enough room for upward mobility to merit the effort. Suppressing a smirk, she did recall the night she had caught him alone in the library...

James: "Three representatives of the kingdom and we play second fiddle to a feline..."

Malia's laugh at the joke faded quickly as the heralds sounded and it appeared the ceremony was beginning. Respectfully, she folded her arms in front of her. Why had they chosen such an odd mode of transportation...?

Gonzalo: "Lords and Ladies of Eventyr," "Men, women, and children! You have come to hear a pronouncement, and I have come to deliver it--and so much more."

Sanya: "He looks paler than I recall. I think something is wrong."

Malia's breath quickened as she nodded in return. Gonzalo had the same deformities, the same gray hairs: he was familiar. In all but his demeanor. He was pale, and there was a youthful energy that did not quite fit. She had always known him to be calculating rather than ostentatious; in fact, she had fully expected that the well-spoken Royal Scholar Fischer would be giving the announcement.

"Where is Merthin?" Malia said, her distress showing as she addressed the Scholar so informally.

Gonzalo: "You look to the Royal Family and us, their most honored and faithful servants, for guidance and direction. You cling to the shadows of times past, when Royal figures brought clarity and direction in times of darkness. I stand before you today to declare that the only monarch that will rule from this day forth in all of Eventyr is Death."

In a panic, Malia turned and opened the leather book she had left sitting on her seat and opened it as quickly as her hands would allow. And was horrified to find Camus there:

"...the condemned man had to hope the apparatus was in good working order! This, I thought, was a flaw in the system; and, on the face of it, my view was sound enough…"

The passage would have meant nothing, had Malia not just reread Camus' The Stranger because the protagonist reminded her so of James. Her mind needed to work a bit to recall the context, but she did: a man, sentenced to die of beheading, resented this form of execution because it required the condemned to participate - even hope for - his own efficient death.

Malia looked up. The armed guards who should have been swarming the stage were on hands and knees on the ground, looking sick. They must have been poisoned! This plan was bigger than even she could have imagined.

Sanya: "Zombies,"

"Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ," Malia muttered under her breath, the same exclamation her parents used.

Every instinct told Malia to run, to grab up Elliot and Sanya and go, but she paused. Her hand shot out to grab James' armored wrist, the one that would be headed toward the hilt of his sword. "Do not kill him," Malia warned. "He hopes to die tonight. Incapacitate him instead; he may have information for us."



On Thu, Feb 21, 2019 at 02:23 AM, Steph wrote:
"You look to the Royal Family and us, their most honored and faithful servants, for guidance and direction. You cling to the shadows of times past, when Royal figures brought clarity and direction in times of darkness. I stand before you today to declare that the only monarch that will rule from this day forth in all of Eventyr is Death."

Re: This Is The Exodus #Killick #sarnai


Rebecca: "Milady… I have never seen that serving girl before."

Sarnai turned, following her handmaid's line of vision just in time to see the girl Rebecca spoke of disappearing into the crowd. Before the Consort could devote much time to deciding whether that was peculiar or not, her attention was claimed by the guards nearest her as they, one by one, doubled over with hands clutching at their stomachs.

"Rebecca . . ." she started, apprehension tightening muscles and causing the fine hairs along the back of her neck to stand on end. Something was wrong.

Royal General: *rolls up in his meat wagon* "Lords and Ladies of Eventyr," … "You look to the Royal Family and us, their most honored and faithful servants, for guidance and direction. You cling to the shadows of times past, when Royal figures brought clarity and direction in times of darkness. I stand before you today to declare that the only monarch that will rule from this day forth in all of Eventyr is Death."

Zombies: *here to fuck your shit up, bitches*

Sarnai blinked, her brain refusing to process exactly what was happening and it seemed she wasn't the only one, as the crowd around her all exchanged confused looks only seconds before chaos erupted.

In her arms, Erden let out a wail and Sarnai's wide eyes went from the zombies pouring out of the wagon to the nearby guards and then Rebecca was grabbing her sleeve and demanding Sarnai's attention.

"Now, Highness," she hissed, pressing a short dagger into the Consort's hand.

Sarnai hesitated only long enough to swing her gaze toward where she'd last seen Sanya and then she was slipping through the barrier and into the press of panicked commoners. Small and agile, it was easy for Sarnai to navigate through the roughly jostling crowd, but Rebecca - far taller and more robust than the petite Consort - wasn't having as much luck. A glance back found the handmaid struggling against a man holding her arm and, clutching her son more firmly to her breast, Sarnai leapt forward to drive her dagger through the man's throat.

"Come on, Rebecca!" Sarnai ordered, starting forward again as the man stumbled backward and was immediately consumed by the crowd.

There was 'daylight' up ahead, so to speak, and suddenly the crowd parted and the press of bodies eased and Sarnai was a good four or five paces down the street before she realized that Rebecca wasn't with her. Whirling, she spotted her handmaiden, the woman who had been her near constant companion for the last nine months, being dragged to the ground by the very man - zombie? - Sarnai had just killed.

Rebecca let out a shriek, batting at the bleeding man with both hands, but then suddenly another person grabbed her and sank teeth into the soft skin of her arm . . .



Re: They Can't Mess With Us #Theo #zaire


Zaire: "Pass that on t' Jimmy, yeah? To the brig with 'em."

Theo: "Aye, sir, captain, sir,"  "Jimmy, Captain says the cargo's to be stored in the brig."

With the boxes on their way, Antonio added, "One more."

He turned back to the carriage, held his hand out, and helped a young woman safely to the ground. She was a commoner by her simple clothing. She would have been lovely with her voluminous curls and her soft chocolate skin, except for the quiet, desperate look on her face. She gripped Antonio's arms tight and whispered quickly.

"No, no, no - I've changed my mind…. frightened… don't want to go…"

Antonio shushed her comfortingly at first, pulled her in for a reassuring hug, then answered her more firmly than his body language suggested. "It's too late for that."

This surprised her. As a volunteer, it seemed she had fully expected the right to change her mind. She withdrew and stared at Antonio in dumb horror, and then cast that glance Zaire's way - she recognized him, clearly, but she continued to try to bargain with Antonio. "My lady said…"

Antonio cut her off, and there was a derisive amusement in his voice. "...and when you see my lady next, you can tell her how terribly unfair I've been."  

The young woman's mouth opened and her eyes narrowed in outrage - this was a terribly underhanded insult in some way. But before she could begin to make a scene, Antonio addressed the captain, let the young woman go. "This is the last of the cargo. Thank you, Captain. Bon voyage."



Re: Not a Soul Up Ahead #Brandy

Vincent Gonzales <alchemicalnonsense2578@...>

Tristan almost immediately took note of how the bartender looked at him when he took it upon himself to join their conversation. Was that...? I mean, he was pretty sure that she just checked him out. It'd been...a little longer than he'd like to admit since the last time a woman had looked at him like that and the boost to his ego was more than a little appreciated. So much so that he found himself nodding along without really listening, right up until she started screaming at some kid with some meat pies. He let out a hearty chuckle, watching the kid scurry before Brandy's ire could follow him out the door.

Brandy: "The thing is? Marcus commands werewolves. Creatures. Literally. This is un-fucking-heard of. The Green Duke is scary in his own right, but no one thinks he secretly has a zombie army or, like, carniflower seeds or something. Marcus is on another level; they don't even have stories on his level."

Did she say werewolves?! Those were real?! Of course they were, Tristan, don't be an idiot. You're a knight in shining fucking armor, here. "It makes you wonder how much is fact or fiction," he noted with a nod. "Not that I doubt your knowledge, of course. Men like that, though? They're bound to spin up tales to boost their reputation and scare people off."

Brandy: "You hoping for that bounty?" She smiled flirtatiously and spoke quickly, almost as if her questions were more statements. "What's your name? I'm Brandy." 

"I could do with the extra coin, as much as the next guy, but I think I'll stick to dragons and vampires, for the time being," he said, grinning without realizing it as he leaned in as well. "I'm Tristan, ma'am."

"We've actually met before," the knight added after a moment's hesitation, unsure if it'd sour their interaction, which had been a very nice change of pace for him. Since when did he flirt with barmaids?! "The day of the storm, when the King..." he trailed off, knowing full well he didn't need to finish that sentence. "I'd met you briefly at your stand, as well as that nobleman. Sheriff...something or other." Tristan shrugged, not thinking it mattered much. What was one noble versus another, anyway. They were all pretentious pricks from his experience.


Re: Got Your Back If You Got Mine #Marcus #Jude

Vincent Gonzales <alchemicalnonsense2578@...>

Who: Marcus

With: Juliette

Where: The Crooked Fox, King's City

When: Tuesday, March 11th, 872 RoK

"Seen better days, me and mine," Marcus responded with a sigh as Juliette sat, not bothering to stand and greet her like any proper man would. Not that many would mistake him for such to begin with.

He eyed another patron who looked hungrily at his business partner's bottle, but he was alone and wouldn't make a move without friends. If he was smart, at least. "Thanks for meeting me in the city. I've got I'm looking into around these parts. Travel was uneventful?"

Marcus had called the arms dealer out here for just that, arms. While some key items from his armory had been stolen, he knew he needed replacement gear. But, more than that, he wasn't ignorant to the fact that Juliette was sharp, quick, and dangerous. Perhaps she knew a thing or two about the other things he was here in town for. He hadn't exactly been quiet about the fact that he was here after his stolen goods, after all.


Re: In the so-called Land of the Free #Jaya #Kira


Who: Jaya
With: Kira, Open
Where: Artisan's Quarter, King's City
When: Sunset, Tuesday, March 11th, 872 RoK

As they walked, Jaya wasn't the least bit surprised to pass by a street vendor hawking meat pies for anyone who passed by. She could just imagine food critic Brielle turning her nose up at the smell of them, able to name just what spices were too heavy-handed. Brielle, who was Brandy. And now... Kira.

There were a few people milling around with those pies in hand, eating them like they were perfectly okay pies, though. Jaya shook her head, trying to focus. The pies were a distraction. Her roommate was in Eventyr!

“Where... are we?” It was undoubtedly a strange thing to ask.

"This is the Artisan's Quarter of the King's City in the land of Eventyr," Jaya answered. "The most well-kept secret fantasy getaway in all of New York City." She picked up her pace a little bit, turned down a street that would take them more northward, toward the Merchant's Quarter. "You know how sometimes I go spend a couple of days with friends? My friends include a literal noble sheriff and his party of adventurers who go running around slaying monsters and saving damsels. Right now, I'm a little late to a big announcement. They're about to choose a new king--or queen! Since there's not a bunch of chanting and celebrating in the streets, I'm guessing they haven't made it yet..."

Which was strange, considering how late it looked to be getting. Just past sunset, already! She looked over at Kira. "Do I sound crazy? I bet I sound crazy. We could get some drinks. Or I know a good bakery. Or, one of those meat pies back there?"


Re: They Can't Mess With Us #Theo #zaire


Who: Theo
With: Zaire, Siren's Song NPCs
Where: King's City, lake docks
When: Tuesday, March 11th, 872 RoK

Sure, Theo's joke landed, but before he could go on with making friends with these wonderful pira--sailors! They were legitimate sailors, he reminded himself yet again--the shipment that they were going to be carrying arrived. He took the bottle of rum given to him by the captain and held it, watching the exchange between Zaire and Antonio with the same interest he would have given a plot-relevant video game cut scene.

Store the crates in the brig? The... six-by-three-by-three rectangular prism crates that reminded Theo very much of coffins, even if they weren't in that coffin diamond shape? If it phased the captain at all, he wasn't showing it, and neither were any members of the crew.


"Pass that on t' Jimmy, yeah? To the brig with 'em."


"Aye, sir, captain, sir," Theo said quickly. One of the other sailors snagged the bottle of rum from him as he turned to find Jimmy and relay the message, bounding up the gangway.

From the vantage point of the deck, he happened to notice the ship a couple of berths over, tied up to a nearby pier. Considering the hour, it wasn't too surprising to see most ships were quiet for the evening, but this one... He thought he could hear a sort of off-rhythm thumping coming from it. And that large hatch in the center of the deck, the kind that could be opened to store away whatever goods the ship was transporting, was it bouncing upward repeatedly, or was that just him...?

"Jimmy, Captain says the cargo's to be stored in the brig."

A sailor up in the rigging gave a sudden shout, and there was a loud cracking noise from that odd thumping ship, as the central hold burst open, and suddenly man-shaped figures started clawing out of it, climbing over each other's backs, swarming across the deck.

Something... strange was happening...


Re: Am I the king of nothing at all? #Sanya


Of everything that Sanya had experienced thus far in this long afternoon wait, the most surprising thing of all suddenly shifted from how tardy the Royal Scholar and General were to the Green Duke's laughter. She didn't generally think of him as someone capable of that amount of mirth or excitement over anything much, but there he was, while Elliot petted Moswen and Moswen accepted the human contact with an air of dignity that some members of nobility would have a hard time of replicating.

"I wish the defense had not been necessary, if I'm being entirely honest," Sanya said. "The young crown prince should be safe from such threats. It's unfortunate--"

Her words were cut off with a sudden sound of herald's trumpets, piped across the square. She looked up to see an unfamiliar herald bound onto the stage playing that trumpet, with the Royal General's banner in clear display.

She looked quickly around them, something prickling down her spine. She noticed the soldiers eating meat pies. This wasn't unusual in and of itself--soldiers and guards had a tendency to keep well-fed but not overstuffed, especially on long duty shifts, when they had access to food. But also there was also suddenly a large wagon pulled up in the nearest wide thoroughfare that led into the square. It reminded her of the sort that would be used sometimes to bring a large load of prisoners to or from the city.

The sun was fully down now, the sky that twilight blaze fading out into dark blue dotted with stars. Maybe the prickle down her spine was just the chill in the air, but...

The Royal General himself bounded off the front of the wagon. She didn't recognize him until he cast back the hood of the cloak he'd been wearing and strode forward onto the stage that had been readied for him and the Scholar to make their announcement. The Scholar was nowhere to be seen, but the General was recognizable for the sword he wore at his hip, the emblem of the Royal General emblazoned on the back of his cloak. And, for those who were close enough to him, of course the missing two fingers from his left hand, the lost ear half-concealed by his grey-streaked dark brown hair.

"Lords and Ladies of Eventyr," he bellowed. "Men, women, and children! You have come to hear a pronouncement, and I have come to deliver it--and so much more."

Sanya leaned close to Malia and James, shifting her weight slightly, standing a bit straighter, her voice soft as she whispered to them. "He looks paler than I recall. I think something is wrong." Emphasis on the word wrong.

Sarnai's guards--the ones who'd been eating the meat pies, were looking a little bit ill, like they might start retching right there where they stood.

"You look to the Royal Family and us, their most honored and faithful servants, for guidance and direction. You cling to the shadows of times past, when Royal figures brought clarity and direction in times of darkness. I stand before you today to declare that the only monarch that will rule from this day forth in all of Eventyr is Death."

He swung his arms wide, and two cloaked figures standing by the wagon he'd leaped from moved to throw its doors wide. The people nearest the wagon immediately started screaming as figures emerged from it and lunged at them. The figures that came from the wagon moved in odd, jerky, stumbling lunges. And they groaned.

The stench hit suddenly, sickeningly heavy. The stench of death, rot, and decay. The stench of...

"Zombies," Sanya said, her tone disbelieving. Her eyes, her nose, her ears all confirmed it, but her mind didn't want to. A zombie plague here, in the city, would be devastating. It couldn't be...

But on the stage, General Mathias Gonzago laughed as the screams rippled outward and the crowd within the square began to churn...


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