Re: Don't Make Me Play Pretend #Malia #rafael


Mathias: "Everything," he said. "I remember everything. I will not run from the shame of what I did or avoid just judgment. I deserve nothing less than summary execution for the shame I've brought to this title and the Royal Family."

There was a heavy onslaught of emotions that his father's words brought with them, and they crashed over Rafael like an icy wave that seized the lungs and stiffened muscles. Rafael lowered his eyes as his jaw tightened and he found his gaze landing on his clenched fist, the knuckles scabbed and bruised. Knuckles that had caused that bruise on his father's cheekbone, stark against Mathias' pallor. 

He didn't want his father to be executed, no more than the child of any traitor ever did, but Mathias had betrayed his position, his very profession. How, with all that he knew of vampires and creatures, had he allowed this to happen? 

"Who was it?" Rafael ground out. "Who approached you, Father?" He knew who it was, though not the specific vampire that began the turning, but he needed to hear the name aloud. He needed his father to speak her name, to confirm what Rafael already knew . . .



Re: These Mascara Tears #Marcus #Killick #sarnai


Killick: "Oh-" Well. That much was true, the thanking, but everything had happened all wrong. "We were - distracted," He pointed out helpfully. "It wasn't meant to go that way..." … "But I didn't do it for thanks, or money-- compensation." 

Sarnai's lips pressed together, one side drawing downward in a half-frown as she considered that. She'd just assumed that Sanya had arranged some sort of payment and, well, maybe she had, to be given upon completion of the job, but then circumstances had changed all those carefully made plans . . .

Killick: "You needed help - I wanted to help you. And if I hadn't been there to see what was coming... who knows where I might be now?"

Dead, he meant, or turned and feasting on human flesh. Or sacrificed so some noble could survive instead . . . 

"But . . ." Sarnai paused, chewing her lip as she considered those who had helped her thus far. Sanya, of course, and now Killick, and both seemed to be doing it out of the goodness of their hearts but why? In her limited experience, people seemed far more likely to turn on her - like Malia, who had seemed to kind at first, or outright throw her to the proverbial wolves, like James Castile. Yet, Sanya risked everything to arrange her escape and Killick may have taken the risk because it had seemed a simple task - smuggle her and Erden out of the city - but he was still traveling with her. He could have left them on the banks of the river and gone about his life without fear of further retribution . . .

"...why?" she finished. "Do you not have family? A place to go?" She knew very little about her traveling companion, after all. He was likely from the West, judging by the occasional accent that slipped through in his speech and that lined up neatly with the fact that he seemed to be better on a boat than a horse, and he knew a surprising amount about babies - far more than she did . . . but none of that told her much of anything. "I know so little about you . . ."



Re: These Mascara Tears #Marcus #Killick #sarnai

Silvy <afranklin09c@...>

Who: Killick
With: Erden, Altansarnai, Marcus
Where: North and Norther
When: March 11th, 872 RoK - late afternoon

Killick, by severe contrast, had never quite got the hang of horses. The balance was all different from the listing of a ship, and he was fairly certain that this beast was out to do him in. Still, they hadn't exactly their pick of the stables, and he'd rather the new mother get the gentler of the pair, whose only apparent vice was being quite stubborn about mealtimes. And so far, he'd been able to rein in the more headstrong mare on the occasions she felt a particular way about something. Most especially, his difficulties sitting a horse...

But still, he'd taken to leading - he had a good head for parsing the map and even better when the stars shone overhead. It let him think, too, quiet and to himself the way he liked best, and that was precisely what he was at when his peripheral vision caught movement. Just enough to startle his breath out of pattern, but he only sat straighter and pulled 'Muriel' a little more to the side to make way.

"Oh-" Well. That much was true, the thanking, but everything had happened all wrong. "We were - distracted," He pointed out helpfully. "It wasn't meant to go that way..." Nor were they really meant to head North, where if the tales were true there was near as much potential for danger as hanging back in the city. "But I didn't do it for thanks, or money-- compensation."

Not that he'd turn away the offer if and when it came, but... "You needed help - I wanted to help you. And if I hadn't been there to see what was coming... who knows where I might be now?" Dead, maybe. Or back on the Song, even...



Re: Don't Make Me Play Pretend #Malia #rafael


Who: Mathias Gonzalo
With: Malia, Mathias
Where: The Castle, King's City
When: March 14th, 872 RoK - late afternoon

"Do you remember anything, from the period while you were… ill?"
"Yes, father," he added, eyebrows rising in question, "do you?"

If Mathias recognized the anger seething beneath his son's expression and actions, he didn't acknowledge it. He allowed himself to be shephereded back into the bed, when in the past he would have insisted on sitting at a table for such an important discussion at the very least. No, even that first question stirred up cold fear and bone-deep weariness within him. Guilt, embarrassment, shame. He looked away from both the Duchess and his own son, not quite willing o meet either of their eyes.

"Everything," he said. "I remember everything. I will not run from the shame of what I did or avoid just judgment. I deserve nothing less than summary execution for the shame I've brought to this title and the Royal Family." He said all of this levelly, like he'd already weighed it out and consigned himself to his fate.


Re: I Know Fake Happy #Bert #Sanya


Who: Sanya
With: Bert
Where: A private room in the Merchant’s Quarter
When: March 14th, 872 RoK - Late Afternoon

“As a matter of fact, I am. After all, I’m only a simple Sheriff. What would my Lady have from me?”

Bert bowed his head slightly at the compliment. “I was only doing my duty, m’Lady. I couldn’t stand to see the people of the city harmed anymore.”

Though Sanya had heard a lot about Bert's character, stories could paint all kinds of pictures. Stories could be told by anything. There was nothing like sitting right across from a person to get a sense of who they were. Moswen leapt up into her lap, and she scratched the cat's head gently. As far as she could tell, Bert spoke without hypocrisy, which was refreshing from any of the nobility. So often, they spoke in two ways at the same time, cloying for favors and hiding their thirst for power.

"I expect you're leaving the city to do that same duty, to see to your lands and your own people," Sanya said. "Though you haven't been a Sheriff long, I've only heard your name spoken with the highest regard. A fair adviser. But, it makes me wonder, do you intend to swear fealty to Lady Francesca and sever ties to the throne that granted you that land and title?"

The words were pointed, but Sanya's tone was soft, her posture relaxed and curious, not judgmental. She wanted to understand this man. After all, if he did care about the city and its people, maybe he'd also care enough to help her.


Re: Don't Ask Me How I've Been #Jaya #Kira #Kyky #manfred


OOC: Writing out of turn because my centaur muse is twitching.

Who: Manny
With: Kyky, ,Jaya, Kira, 
Where: Brickstone Tavern, Merchant's Quarter
When: March 14t, 872 RoK - Late Afternoon

Manfred's brow arched and he glanced around the table at the other patrons. Thankfully most were too involved in their own problems to wonder about what a temp job or credit card debt was? The girls talked so strangely and yet he seemed to understand that where ever they came from it had it's share of problems like Eventyr. He looked up at Kyky when she said he could go home too, and that no one was probably looking for him. He smiled a little at her, he'd be a piss poor thief if he let someone get a good enough look at him to catch him.

Jaya, he was pretty sure that was her name said something about looking for fairy circles to go home and maybe heading in the same direction as him. "My family lives to the North-Western plains, in the furthest borders. Unicorns and pixies are usually found in the Eastern woods....." which wasn't exactly opposite of his home but on the other side of the Northern mountains. His fingers smoothed the crows feathers he was using for the fins on the arrows, the scavenger birds were in abundance in the city now. "But I could go with you there...until...."

He shrugged his shoulders unsure what would happen or what the girls were exactly looking for than a portal...Manfred had never had a fairy circle take him anywhere than within Eventyr's realms. He looked through his unruly hair at the quiet one in the group, Kira... "You do art?" he asked curiously, there were plenty of artists in the places people had money. She seemed to be in a funk, after effects of what happened clearly.

"You'll need horses".



Re: If I Smile With My Teeth #Brandy


Brandy: "Not a bad party, huh?" Brandy asked, gesturing at the spread. "She clearly wants everyone drunk and horny by sunset," so the vampires would have a buffet of their own, she assumed, and added dryly, "but then again, what good hostess doesn't?"

It was exactly where Zaire's thoughts had gone and part of him wished Brandy hadn't vocalized it, so he could have continued to believe that he was simply being paranoid. But if she was getting that same feeling then it meant that he'd made the right decision to pull his men out before sunset.

Brandy: "What do you think this party, even…. is?"

"She's strengthenin' 'er powerbase," Zaire answered softly, eyes drifting over the food again as he consciously decided that he wasn't going to eat a bite of it. "Seducin' 'er way into friendships. S'easy t'get whatcha want when ya got vampires workin' for ya." He hated saying it out loud, because it was precisely the situation he'd ended up in only the evening before, but it was true. And it would be easier for her tonight; a vampire's persuasion, combined with sweet words whispered into the right ears, made for an easily struck deal. "After t'night," he added, with a knowing lift of his eyebrows, "there ain't be anyone in t'West who'll stand against 'er."



Re: Don't Make Me Play Pretend #Malia #rafael


Mathias: "I wouldn't be if you hadn't been there. Thank you, my son" he said to Rafael. "Duchess, a pleasure, as always."

Rafael didn't answer his father, even though propriety said to at least acknowledge the thanks Mathias had given him. Fuck propriety; Rafael was hurt and angry and embarrassed and a simple apology wasn't going to change that, no matter how much he understood his father's inability to control himself while struck with the fever . . .

Malia: "Rest, my lord," the Duchess bid. She hoped that approaching the matter softly would persuade him to be open and helpful. "Rafael - perhaps another pillow for your father?"

Biting back a sigh, Rafael went to the chest at the foot of the bed and opened it to find extra blankets and, yes, pillows. While his father was still standing, he took the opportunity to straighten those already on the bed, to add another, to refill the glass of water on the bedside table. It was all done without emotion, just a task to be completed, because if he allowed himself to engage with the storm rising inside him, Rafael wasn't sure he'd be able to hold it back.

Malia: "Do you remember anything, from the period while you were… ill?"

Rafael's eyes cut toward his father's face, watching carefully as Malia's question made its way into the world. It was The Question, wasn't it? Did he remember nearly becoming a vampire? Releasing a horde of zombies on King's City? Begging his son to kill him without any sort of care as to how it would affect Rafael?

Jaw clenching, the creature hunter dragged a chair with him as he circled the bed again, setting it beside Malia's and sitting down beside her. "Yes, father," he added, eyebrows rising in question, "do you?"



Re: If I Smile With My Teeth #Brandy


Zaire: "Saw that, love," "Ye got stickier fingers than a pirate."

Brandy gave his hand a playful slap as she chided, "Give me away, why don't you?" After all, the infamous captain drew quite a bit of attention - at least, from the people who weren't already too tipsy to care, whispering intimately half cloaked behind a curtain, or dancing near the singer and small quartet of musicians. "Meet any other rogues?" There must have been a fair population of outlaws drawn to the outlaw Queen, after all...

But her tone was joking because while usually the penalty for theft could be severe - Brandy had her fair share of nightmares about losing a hand ever since she'd realized her compulsive kleptomania - there was a strangely ordered sort of lawlessness hanging in the air, and the fact that Zaire and his crew could mingle freely was a stark reminder of that. No one yet knew what the rules would be in the West, yet, and everyone - including the pirates - would walk on eggshells until they did.

"Not a bad party, huh?" Brandy asked, gesturing at the spread. "She clearly wants everyone drunk and horny by sunset," so the vampires would have a buffet of their own, she assumed, and added dryly, "but then again, what good hostess doesn't?"

It was easy, given Brandy's experience with vampires, to suppose that a bloodbath waited after nightfall - but that couldn't be the new Queen's intent, could it? "What do you think this party, even…. is?"



Re: BP/JP: The Woods are Lovely, Dark and Deep #francesca #James


Castile rolled himself onto his back pulling Francesca on top of him, and as soon as the dirt and grass touched his back he looked disoriented. “Frannie?” a nervous tone croaked out of the man. He looked around with wide eyes, his mouth opened to say something and only a strangled noise came out. “Frannie!” he sobbed out, her name seemed to be the only thing that was allowed to pass from his mouth.

He tilted his head, and touched the bruises left on her skin. Face contorting in guilt and pain, blue eyes blinked up at her. Reaching up with both hands he cupped her face, pulled her to him to kiss her face feverishly. “Frannie” James crooned as he inhaled the scent of her like it was life itself.

Lifting a hand toward his own face he made a claw like gesture. It was still there, the other, the wolf, behind his eyes. She had to be careful.

Francesca found herself on top of James, and the sensation took her back to that riverbed. Without the "wolf’s” mind games, Francesca stopped second-guessing herself. He might have been watching, but if he wasn't intervening, then he was proving that he could be trusted to keep his bargain… so Francesca threw herself on James, as if he was the only thing that kept her heart beating. His kisses on her face were heaven, and her hands found the familiar softness of his hair as she eagerly returned them.

She quickly deduced that he couldn't speak to her, and she frowned, even if the sound of her name in his voice - his authentic voice - felt like water on the lips of a man wandering through the Southern desert. None of this matched what she had read about Changelings, but she could think of no other explanation, and so she ignored all metacognition and focused on the moment…

"I love you," Francesca whispered, breath hot against his ear. "I miss you. I love you, I miss you…" words devolved into groans against skin, as Francesca tried to enjoy every moment of this gift. She pleaded, shifting her weight in turn, "Make love to me, Jamie…"

But they couldn't ignore the elephant in the room and so she murmured. "Jamie - if I should marry him, say my name. If not, say nothing…?"

He held her like it might be the last time, burying his face against her neck. James sighed softly at her words, clearly he had missed her as well. Writhing under her legs, he fitted himself to her… Hands moving up and down her back, as he pulled her to his chest.

His eyes flicked up at hers with the question, and James bit his lower lip. He looked torn, and frightened. “Frannie” he whispered her name, but shook his head. No. Undulating beneath her, he laced their fingers together. He mouthed the words silently, find me.

Francesca moved with him, slowly and purposefully, enjoying every thrust and every caress even though her body hurt like it never had before. She cried freely, finally letting out all the emotion she had to manage, and it was awkward to sob while she kissed him but it was also the most healing thing she could imagine. The way he held her hand was almost more intimate than the rest, and she drew it up to kiss his fingers. They were still cold, but she didn't mind it, now.

His signals confused her, and she blinked through tears and tried to watch his face closely. It was hard, given that she had spent now two years consciously avoiding his face because the expressions there so frequently frightened her. He said her name - so yes, she should marry him? But he was shaking his head, and what words was he mouthing? She recognized them because they were the same ones he had said before.

"Where, Jamie?" Francesca asked. She had read everything she could find about changelings - Francesca had never spent so much time in the library in her life - and most scholars agreed that they were parasites that lived inside the person they replaced. But there were a few who believed the victims were imprisoned somewhere else, usually somewhere far beyond where most Eventyrians dared to venture: an island far out in the Western Ocean, or a cave in the Southern Desert. Or deep in the Eastern Woods, where James had been lost. But that didn't make sense. "Aren't you here? How can I find you if you're here?"

He kissed a bruise on her wrist and nuzzled her skin, needy to remember what had been. James eyes looked at her keenly, and he placed a his fingers at her temple. He grunted softly, pushing up into her. His time was limited, and he was only the beginning of the world tipping in a strange direction. A garbled sound escaped his mouth, as he shuddered with a burst of life and death as he reached his apex. “I love you, Frannie…” he whispered as his eyes grew dull.

"Jamie," Francesca cried out with him, his sincere declaration of love, the look on his face, and the increased pressure sending her over the edge and her muscles spasmed around him as crippling pleasure coursed from her core to every cell in her body…

His hands slid down to sit idly on her thighs, and the frown returned to the Duke’s face.He stared up at her, “He’s here….” Castile said making the same clawing gesture at his face. “...his strength, tenacity, mostly his anger...we tried to rid ourselves of those other parts… the rabbit, but he is a willful creature”.

A hand reached up to caress her shoulder, and then he roughly pushed her off of him. “He permeates us with useless feelings” Castile grunted using his hands to brush dirt from himself before he tilted his head at her, and thrust it out to offer her assistance in standing whether she wanted it or not.

“Don’t defy us, Francesca… and we’ll keep the pretty parts of your James for you. Instead of letting him erode into the dirt and roots, to fade away with time. We only want to steal your dreams, it’s such a small thing”. He smiled in that mirthless way, “No more open defiance, Francesca… we’ll even let you have your way in private, and we’ll let your James out of the cage….”

She could still feel the warmth of that climax when the light faded from his eyes, and she was shoved to the ground, where she laid, limp and still except for the sobbing she couldn't stop. She shook her head at his offered hand, but he pulled her to her feet anyway. Her body tensed, and as she caught her breath, she became more aware of her injuries, the scratches on her back, the bruises, the pain between her legs that she suspected would leave her limping for days. She wanted to pull away, but she didn't, just lowered her head and fought with herself.

Find me. Maybe if she had been a knight, she could have quested into the forest to see if the Changeling had hidden James somewhere there, but she wasn't. But maybe, if she could see her James again, she could get more information, information she could use to do something. So she nodded.

"I'll play the part," Francesca agreed, her voice soft and strained. The weight of the decision crushed her, and she was overwhelmed by the thoughts of what this would require. "Please just… don't smile. I can't bear it."

Pausing Castile nodded his head, “We can do that, my lady”. His expression was solemn, and then as if someone had prodded him… Castile removed his torn tunic top to gallantly cover Rossi’s torn dress. His guards came running up over the hills, the captain shouting “Sir, we heard screaming”.

A strong arm wrapped around Rossi’s shoulders and the Duke lied easily, “’s been dealt with, but my lady requires rest and a healer”. He lifted Francesca without effort, and carried her back to the coach. Men scurried out of the way, and brought horses about chattering like rabid squirrels. Looks being tossed between soldiers but none dared to contest the story.

Castile climbed in and held Francesca in his arms like a prized possession for the entire ride back. “The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep….” he mumbled and stroked her hair. He look down at her face, and petted her cheek sweetly and said in a soft tone, “We’ll take care of you, Francesca”.

Francesca hid her face against his shoulder, curled up in his arms and hugging herself tightly. When the guard didn't question the carniflower story, she became sure she would find no sympathy among his men and her handmaiden, Flora, would take both Francesca's condition and the men's silence as a signal she wasn't safe herself. She didn't want to think about what would happen when they returned to the estate - it would be messy with their mothers and with the question of pregnancy up in the air, they might be able to downplay the incident but they couldn't ignore it...

It was torture to be stuck in the carriage alone with James, his arms around her, but she didn't dare to pull away or complain. Over time, she stopped crying, but it was replaced by a shiver that she couldn't help, even though she wasn't cold. She turned her face away when he touched her and the chill in his fingers made her shudder, and she was anything but reassured. He could hold her and stroke her hair, but he had just as easily choked her and mused about killing her. Maybe he believed that, even if she didn't, so, resigned, she simply responded, "I suppose we'll see."


Re: BP/JP: The Woods are Lovely, Dark and Deep #francesca #James


For a moment the noble bared his teeth at her like an angry animal, lips curling back. Clearly her words had some effect on some part of her betrothed. Castile straightened and looked down his nose at Francesca. “ are not” he stated coldly. “Love is nothing without love in return. You are a reminder...of when we were less…”

Turning on Rossi he gripped her with both hands around her slim arms and pulled her against his chest. “You are so beautiful, Francesca… you make the sun jealous” he whispered in a breathy sigh near her ear. “Do not think so highly of yourself that we would not take you here and now, if it pleased us…” he grunted out before reaching up to push gloved hands into her hair and clamping down to tangle the golden tresses in his fingers.

James tilted his head at her for a moment, and went dead silent. Something flickering behind those dull eyes, “You were my world, Francesca…. My heart...but now it belongs here”. He untangled his hand, and the longing in his voice flattened back out to a drab monotone. “Do not anger us, my lady. We will be wed, the realm will be mine…. You may fuck whom you please, and perhaps we shall grace you to bear an offspring” he smiled unpleasantly and released her completely.

His breath on her ear, echoing the same words that had made her swoon years ago, effectively dredged up the same longing that she heard somewhere in the back of his voice. And he felt so familiar, smelled so familiar… it isn't him, she reminded herself. She pushed away from him with a snarl, choked sadness mixed with her anger, "Take his words out of your mouth."

She couldn't be surprised, then, when he grabbed her hair and pulled her head back, making her eyes water and drawing a cry from her throat. At first, his threat terrified her and she froze, squeezing her eyes shut as she resolved not to antagonize him… but with fresh anger in her heart, fed by that expression of anger she had managed to elicit, Francesca asked herself why. She wasn't afraid of sex; she had even done it with this body. He disgusted her, but he wasn't disgusting. She dreaded their wedding night because that was when she would no longer be able to say no - but there was power, she knew, in being able to say yes...

Then his words softened again like melting butter, and she thought she finally realized why he spoke of himself in the plural, for the next moment he made an awful comment about children. The thought of procreating also horrified her - but it wasn't time for that yet, and she could trust her potions.

He had a higher status. He was stronger. But he couldn't weaponize this against her. With blue eyes smouldering, her hands tugged at the laces of her dress, and the coldness in her voice rivaled his as she taunted. "I don't know - you can't smile anymore. Maybe you can't fuck, either."

Eyes narrowing he reached for her bodice and pulled her to the ground, his own weight bearing down on top. “No, not like some lovesick boy, my lady” he snapped, teeth clacking at her ear. Castile pulled her hands back and up, “You think you control anything here, in this place? This is my domain, fair Francesca”.

His mouth curled, eyes glittering like a predator. Castile inhaled deeply his eyes half closed, “Say it, my soon to be wife… I know you desire it, tell me how you hate what we are. I shall go easy on you perhaps…” He leaned in and licked her face. “So angry, it would be so much better if you were afraid”. His gloved hands pulled and tugged at her voluminous skirts.

At first, James' weight on top of her was overwhelming - but she knew she just had to hold her breath a moment and he would let up. He wouldn't pin her down too much; he would want to watch her bosom move. He did, and freed her of her top. Branches and rocks prickled at her back, but she paid them no mind; she was glad to see that stupid green fabric in the dirt. "And this domain is mine," Francesca countered, as her heartbeat rose; his sheer masculinity did start an yearning between her legs.

In turn, she grabbed the neck of his tunic and tugged, and it ripped down to his navel. It opened the opportunity for her to run her hand down his nicely-muscled torso… but instead, she shoved her palm on his cheek to to turn it away from her, refusing to indulge his request for her words or her fear. He looked just fine from the neck down....

"I didn't ask you to go easy," Francesca said, sounding somewhat bored even if there was a scowl on it after he licked her face like a dog. Bruises would only work in her favor.

When the chilly forest air hit her bare thighs, her voice was a bit lower, and she ordered, "Take your gloves off."

James grinned, and then he pulled off one glove and dragged the fine leather along her skin. Over her breast, slapping the gauntlet lightly against her flesh like a teasing hint. “We know what would hurt you, dearest Francesca” he said slyly putting a hard emphasis on the C’s in her name. But still he pulled the other glove off, and ran a cold hand against her skin.

“Hmmmmmm….. Lovely” he rumbled out moving his hands to the fastening of his breeches. There was no preamble, or foreplay. Castile simply pushed Francesca’s legs apart with his own, his fingers gripped her legs sure to leave bruises. And he paused…. And cool fingers drifted around to the juncture between her thighs… inquisitive, and then he leered and pressed down hard.

“Interesting, my lady...unexpected…” he smiled, pulling his fingers back and to his mouth.

The emotions that should have accompanied James' attentions were muted by the sensations. She hadn't experimented much with temperatures and she found it strangely exciting. The warm leather brought forward soft gasp, his cold hand a prickling of her skin that sent a shiver through her, goosebumps across her pale skin, and caused her nipple to harden… She ignored his words, and decided to replay the refrain about making the sun jealous in her mind. He sounded like a snake anyway, hissing out her name, and she wanted to hear his voice as much as she wanted to see his face.

When his hands found her legs, Francesca provided no resistance. Her eyes were closed, deliberately, and she hadn't expected him to touch her before he entered her.

Sapphire blue flew open as she arched, first in the surprise pleasure of the touch and then again when it became too severe, just to watch him put that finger in his mouth. In this state, her capacity for pleasure and pain were closely intertwined, and the strange action pushed her toward the edge. With a saucy smile that seemed to be a challenge, her eyes seemed to ask what he was waiting for….

Castile snorted like an animal, and scowled at Francesca. Gripping her legs tightly he pushed up and apart wider than necessary, and unceremoniously thrusted his engorged member into her core. It was more like a rutting beast, except for when he reached a hand for her throat. A grin curled his mouth, there would be bruises and leaving his mark on this fine skin pleased him.

He hammered into her like a ram laying siege to a castle. Castile might as will have been beating Francesca with a metal rod, it would have been just as brutal. There didn’t seem to be any pleasure in him other than trying to hurt her in a mockery of what had once been something special.

Pain ripped through Francesca, and it tore a cry from her lips. She couldn't see any comparison between this man and the boy who had been so considerate, even in his excitement, on that riverbed years ago. He didn't seem concerned about anything except hurting her, and she choked when his hand closed around her throat and her hand lifted to try to wrench it away…

But instead of fear building in response to the pain, Francesca felt hope. She fought him, leaving fingernail scratches on his neck, pushing against his weight holding her down, forcing him to hold her harder, to leave darker bruises. She couldn't control the sounds coming out of her mouth - everything from cries to gasps to curses and also the occasional groan of pleasure. Her body was warming up quickly, and while she wouldn't doubt that some of the moisture between them was actually blood, the stretched feeling of fullness was maddening as always and the power behind his thrusts ensured quick pulses against her most sensitive spot.

But the one noise she did intend to make was a scream, as loud as she could to ensure at least some echoes would make it back toward the guards. "Not even your mother will be able to say you didn't rape me now." And while that would have been overlooked between man and wife, she was still the maiden daughter of a Duke, and after this, she would be covered in dirt and blood and bruises…

“Clever girl….except they are my men, and the forest is fraught with dangers. Maybe I’ll just kill you… save myself the trouble you’re bound to bring” he said thoughtfully, fingers tightening on her neck.

“You think anyone cares if we rape you?” He laughed mirthlessly, “Perhaps you should have been more discreet with your own in discreeeeeh?” Castile’s face went flush and his hand loosened from its death grip.

He leaned in close and breathed out in a ragged whisper that was barely audible. “ me…” His eyes flickered with something, “..Find me, Frannie”.Blinking his eyes the light behind them faded, and so did Castile’s venom.

“Insufferable whelp…” the man said at seemingly no one. “... pathetic little rabbit…” And then Castile seemed to focus back on Francesca underneath him. His eyes narrowed and he growled low and deep. Rubbing his chest he looked frustrated.

“Why?” He grunted grinding his hips into her. “What’s so special about you Francesca Rossi?” Castile pushed a hand against her just under her collar bones. Pinning her but no longer choking her. “What is it that makes us spare you?”

Francesca wanted to believe he wouldn't actually kill her - he would be instantly accused if she disappeared with him in the forest after two years of insisting that she was terrified of him, and Duke Rossi was a dangerous man to cross - but logic became impossible when James' grip became tight enough that she couldn't breathe. Her fingers prying at his to release her did nothing. The struggle she was putting up meant her oxygen didn't last long, and her vision began to blur…

It was sickening to think that his climax was the only reason she was alive. She gasped for air as tears fell out of her eyes, and she knew she needed to try to get free but it seemed hopeless. Then, she heard his whisper and she immediately and desperately reacted. "Jamie, Jamie, Jamie," Francesca pleaded. She had no idea what he meant - find him? Help him? "Where are you? Don't leave me alone with him…"

In a flash, the voice was gone and the threat was back, but Francesca had to hold onto hope and so instead of begging for her life, she begged for her James. "Come back, Jamie, please come back."

A hand glided down the side of her face in an almost gentle manner. “The rabbit loves you so much…” Castile purred softly looking down at her. “...little boy lost...looking for his sun in the darkness…” His hand slid down between their legs, stroking her and he leaned, in an almost intimate fashion, close to her face. “He’s why we want you…” Castile smiled at her begging for something that was so near and yet so far away.

“You want the rabbit...your boy...don’t you Francesca Rossi?” he breathed out, as a large, calloused fingers touched her. “He misses you so much, we can feel it… Do as we request and we’ll let him out just to play with you. The good, sweet boy…. “ Castile gave a lazy smile, and said in a tempting tone “...we would give you such pleasure, Francesca Rossi”.

Francesca whimpered softly. He was tying her brain, heart, and body up in knots. One moment his hand was choking the life out of her, the next he was making her squirm in completely the opposite way. She was still crying, but she was listening, trying to decipher his words as if they were another language. And she found herself nodding - if her James, the boy in the trees and the riverbed, was the "rabbit," then she did want him...

James' false voice was making her promises that she didn't understand, but somehow she wanted to believe anyway. This marriage was inevitable, and god knew she couldn't endure this treatment every night. His voice, now soft, made it easy to believe that she could just agree, to be compliant and have her wishes granted. Be a duchess alongside the monster, but have her James to hold her at night?

She found herself clinging, hard, to his broad shoulder, fixated on the sensation between her legs because it was the only one that made sense. Everything else was a mess. She wanted to nod and agree and hope it was true and that she would live through today and maybe find a middle ground between them that she could live with since she couldn't fight the wedding anymore…. But, biting her lip, Francesca insisted. "If you can do that, give him back to me now. Let him tell me."


BP/JP: The Woods are Lovely, Dark and Deep #francesca #James


Who: Francesca and James

When: 861 ROK

Where: Eastern Woods

Francesca bought herself two years more of freedom. First, she had begged Rafael to insist on their previous engagement. It hadn't worked since the Duchesses of the East and West could not be dissuaded, but the inter-family tension Rafael caused delayed the date her wedding to James could be scheduled.

And when it came time, Francesca ran away. She hid with Miguel Gonzalo, who had married a commoner and been ostracized from his family, and returned home with the guards who located her only after the date had passed.

The second time the wedding was scheduled, she feigned an illness.

The third time, she took a potion from a wise woman who gave her an actual illness…

But Francesca knew there would be no delaying anymore. Her mother watched her like a hawk, more than tired of having to compensate for Francesca's obstinance with political legwork, and had even punished her by making her wear this godforsaken green gown. The fabric had a lovely shine to it that glowed in the sunlight, and had it been any other color except the one in the trees around her, Francesca would have adored it. But it seemed to attract more of James' attention than usual, and that made her skin crawl.

The wedding would be in a month's time. Final preparations this week, then she would go home, pack up her life, and return with her trunks of possessions three days prior.

Today, her fresh hell was touring sites for the ceremony. Since this new date would be in the spring rather than the winter as the last time, they would take their vows in the forest, with its flowering trees and singing birds.

Francesca hesitated to take James' offered hand to help her out of the carriage, but there was no way around it, so she tried to make her forced smile as polite as possible as her feet found the forest floor.

"It's too bright here," Francesca said, immediately finding fault as she had done with the last three sites they had tried.

James let a tight smile curl his mouth, an expression of amusement at his fiancee’s complaining. “You’re right, Francesca…. Clearly we must transverse deeper into the forest” he all too readily said in reply. He breathed in the scent of the woods deeply, and turned to grin at his betrothed. “That color is delightful with your skin tone, Francesca. We approve….”

His fingers stroked the hilt of his sword on his other side, and then his hand came up to dismiss his guards to drop further back so they could walk in privacy. James clamped his elbow and her hand to his side, “...However this game you have been playing to avoid our union grows tiresome, and I want my realm”.

Francesca frowned and gave the fabric of her skirt a particularly angry tug away from her feet so she could walk without tripping. Her fiance had grown from a cute boy into a handsome man, especially with his well-muscled physique, and Francesca even liked the roguishness to the style of his casual clothing for the day, but he never gave her much time to forget how frightening he could be. The way he spoke of his armor as if it were its own person always unsettled her, but the way he touched that hilt at the same time he complimented her struck her as vaguely sexual, and she bristled. Was he going to want that creepy monstrosity in their bedchamber with them? And just as her thoughts meandered to the uncomfortable reality that she was going to have to deal with their wedding night in just a month, James drew closer and touched her. She pulled away and cast a glance over her shoulder at the Eastern guards who were falling back. Francesca had tried to find one or two among the ranks who she could entice into looking out for her, but with impressively little success. They were either very loyal, just as sadistic as their lord, or just as scared as she was...

The woods, that smile, that sword - all things he knew she loathed, and when spoke, saw that was all intentional.

Good. It was satisfying to know that she had taken two years of ruling away from him. He was old enough to be Duke already, but his mother didn't have to concede the title yet because it was traditional for that to happen at the same ceremony as the wedding. Francesca wondered if she was just making things worse for herself once she could no longer go home without his permission - her mother's advice not to "make an enemy of her husband" ringing clearly in her head - but the thought of marrying this creature was just so upsetting that she couldn't help doing everything she could to put it off.

"My health is hardly a game, my lord," Francesca said, careful with her words but unwilling to concede that any of this had been intentional. She remembered his threats well, and refused to give him a reason to follow through on them. "Perhaps you should find an Eastern bride who is less sickly. Your children will be healthier for it."

“No, it is lady. But seeking shelter with Gonzalo had nothing to do with issues of health, and I will seek no other” he slowed his pace to reach out gloved fingers to touch a bush just budding flowers in the shade of the trees.

James turned to look upward at a particular tree, “You climbed this one when we were younger...oh, how our mothers fussed at the two of us”. He blinked and pressed his palm against the trunk as if he could absorb the past into himself that way. He turned to a guard and ordered in precise terms, “Have this cut down”.

The woods were quiet, with only the crunching of twigs under their shoes and the chittering of insects. “Why do you persist in prolonging the inevitable, my Francesca?” James asked as they continued through the woods, branches and foliage pulling at the fabric of their clothing as if vying for their attention. The sound of chopping in the distance as a memory was cut down to become nothing more than firewood.

“I will be the Duke of the East…..” James waved his men to enlarge their perimeter and fall back. His words were for his betrothed’s ears only, and it allowed her to speak more freely although he would brook none of her insults. “....the Green Duke”. He smiled in that unpleasant, yet charming way at her, “And you will be my bride”.

Anger flared in Francesca's chest. Her mother couldn't have made up an excuse for her after the guards found her with Miguel? Or had James found out another way? It could have been her brothers; they were James' peers and she had been dumb enough to be grateful for them socializing with James during their time in King's City because it meant she didn't have to. For a self-indulgent moment, Francesca let herself hate her mother and her brothers - and, hell, even her father who wanted her to be a Duchess more than he wanted her to be happy…

Francesca watched with confusion at the tenderness with which he touched the flower, and then the tree. And then she had that odd feeling that maybe this thing that looked like James did remember their childhoods. She looked up at the branches overhead; she didn't recall this tree in particular because they had climbed so many. But the memories of all those days came flooding back with the invitation. James would boost her up when she couldn't reach, comfort her when she fell and scraped her hands, or grab an especially red apple for her when she couldn't reach…

So she was shocked at his order. "What? Why…?" Francesca protested, before she huffed. No reason, probably, except to upset her. She wished it wouldn't work, but it did. Her teeth clenched and her eyes moistened.

With the guards out of earshot and so much vitriol burning in her chest, Francesca answered his question, her voice low but she wouldn't mince words. "Why do I prolong it? Because you killed my fiance and you're wearing his face. You're perverting everything that he was!" Francesca resisted the urge to put her hands on her hips, not wanting to project aggressive body language if the guards could still see them. "You make me sick, and every day I don't have to see that excuse for a smile is a blessing."

He walked with her, more tugging her along now. “Your James was less, you remember a gullible, naive boy. Just as I remember a girl, who was faithful” Castile growled at her. “I cut down the tree because it is false, a your affections, Francesca”.

His mouth twisted into a grin, “How quickly, my lady, forgot her James once I was entrapped and snared like a rabbit. And now that we have grown teeth and become a wolf, she seeks the company of others….. Tell me, Francesca…. Do you truly remember who I was, or just the dream attached to those memories?”

The more James pulled her, the more Francesca fought back, but it was difficult because they were far enough into the wood that those small leaves and branches would get caught in her hair or on her sleeve and the struggling made it a hundred times worse. "All I have are dreams now, don't I?" she snapped.

His words burned like acid, all the worst things she had expected him to say, if ever they met again. Calling her faithless, regretting the true love she had always known he had for her, implying she had left him to die. I know that if I was the one missing, James wouldn't rest until he'd found me, she had told Rafael, tearfully, the night of their engagement party. She had said it... but still coaxed his golden-skinned hand up her skirt not ten minutes later.

"If you want to call me a whore, you can just do it. I know you're not worried about offending me," Francesca spat. And although this was the part where she ought to defend her honor, she didn't. Her emotions were tumultuous - maybe she knew there would be no end to this cruelty and she was determined to stop letting it get to her, maybe she wanted to hurt him, maybe she just wanted to convince him that she was an unsuitable wife. Maybe she just wanted to surprise that smug grin off his face. "Because you're right. I fucked Rafael before James even disappeared. And when I needed a new husband, I chose Rafael because he was good."

"I loved James because he was a good, worthy man, who made me happy, not because he was the only one who could," Francesca said. James had been a kingdom away for most of her days, and she hadn't been willing to waste her days pining for her visits… but that was a very knightly notion, and she recalled James saying such things to her. Then she paused, and studied the man's strange face. "Is that why you're insisting on marrying me? Do you think, somehow, I'm still your one true love?"


Come Back to Me #Brandy #zaire


Who: Brandy and Zaire

When: March 11, 872 RoK - 11pm

Where: Captain's Quarters, Siren's Song

Brandy shot awake, pushing herself up off the mattress, gasping for air in a panic, until she felt arms - safe and warm - enfold her. Shuddering, it took a long moment for her own arms, shaking, to return the hug, delayed as it was for her to realize it was comforting.  

Slowly, pieces came together. The movement beneath her meant she was on a ship. A pirate ship: the Siren's Song. Zaire's ship, that had stalled in King's City's port while the captain had retrieved her from the Silver Tankard tavern. She had only been alive when he got there because there had been a knight, one who seemed determined to make no more than a fleeting appearance in her memory, who had fought off the zombies with her peripheral help…

Making their way to the port had been all adrenaline. Being cleared for bites all medical; treatment for other injuries unnecessary, as Brandy did not have them. Despite several terrifying encounters where Brandy had, rather creatively, fought of her attackers, none had gotten her, but her brain as yet wasn't sure of that fact.

The tremble in Brandy's body was clear, and she whispered, tensely, "Am I okay?" Just as quickly as her hands moved over Zaire's firm form, searching for the imperfections that she couldn't handle, but also couldn't ignore. "Are you, Z…?"

"Aye, Brandy-love," Zaire soothed, pulling her down into his arms. "We're both safe now." They all were, miraculously, since somehow his crew had managed to come through the entire ordeal without any casualties, though Jahid had been bitten and was currently under careful observation until he came through the fever. Even Killick had gotten out of the city, though not on his father's ship and not alone.

Who was the noblewoman with the baby? It had been the thought that had dominated the pirate's mind since he'd laid down and, combined with Brandy's fitful sleep, meant that the pirate hadn't slept for more than a few moments at a time.

He'd immediately jumped to the conclusion that the child was Killick's; that his son had gotten tangled up with some Southern born noble and planted his seed there in her belly. And there was a part of Zaire that was proud and another that was hurt that Killick hadn't mentioned a son or daughter when they'd seen each other only a few days prior. But then, when had either given the other a chance to share news like that?

The bed was narrow, not really meant for more than one person in it, but that just made it easier to pull Brandy's trembling body tight against him so Zaire could press a kiss to her forehead and rub a comforting hand up and down her back. "Ain't nothin'll 'appen to ya 'ere," he assured her in a whisper. "As soon as we're able, we'll getcha t'land an' find ya a fairy circle to bring ya 'ome again."

Brandy nodded, but it was almost all an automatic response because she barely heard the words themselves. She didn't need to, though, because she knew she was safe there, with him, and it wasn't an intellectual matter but a physical, perhaps even chemical one. Adrenaline had kept her alive, but now it made her feel starved for the others. Even in the dim light, Brandy could see the spatter of blood on her clothes - zombie blood - and it seemed to upset her because in a clumsy rush, she pulled the fabric away from her skin and whispered quiet, desperate pleas for Zaire to help her…

She couldn't calm her breathing, not really, until she'd rested for a few thousand rapid heartbeats with her bare skin against his, when the calming comfort of oxytocin caught up with her. Brandy asked for a drink for her dry throat and barely acknowledged what the liquid was that the captain offered her, and only then did Brandy start to feel like herself again.

"The crew, are they…?" Brandy asked, and accepted Zaire's vague assurance they were okay. If there had been a loss, she would have seen it - the captain was a true father to his crew, and he couldn't have lied to her. "The city, though? The city was fucked." Brandy bit her lip and blew out a breath she wasn't trying to hold. "King's City is… DC, and it got fucked. What does that mean?"

Zaire sighed, eyes going to the ceiling above his bunk, absently watching the candlelight flicker in familiar patterns across the flowers carved into the wood there. He didn't care about the King's City, not really; not in the way he would care about the Island or even any of the cities in the West, but the loss of so many lives was a tragedy.

He didn't want to tell her how far reaching the consequences could be, though. He didn't want to tell her about the threat of disease, how the zombies could spread from the city and ravage the countryside, because there was a selfish part of him that was afraid he'd lose her forever. She could leave Eventyr, go back to her New York, and why would she come back after this?  

But he had to tell her something.

"All depends, love," he answered, and there was a shrug in his voice, if not his shoulders. "We 'ave outbreaks in the West but never in such a large city, not for centuries." He paused, considering what could be the next steps, then continued, "Help'll be called in, from t'other Duchies. Means less soldiers and guards, means more crime with resources stretched thin." Just the sort of situation that a man like him could exploit. "News'll come in dribs an' drabs. Next we make port, we'll 'ear rumors, I'm sure."

"It's going to be fine," Brandy said, more to herself than to her partner. Hearing the words helped. Brandy's biggest worry, of course, was that the zombies would multiply until they had a total apocalypse on their hands, but Zaire didn't seem worried about that and it made sense.

"At home, we have lots of movies about zombie outbreaks," her favorite was Train to Busan, but that was effectively ruined now, wasn't it? "But in every story, the first outbreak is always the only one. The infection spreads quickly, and then it's too late. That won't happen in Eventyr. A lot of people knew what to do..."

Including, notably, the pirate who had fought through the horde to come find her, even though he had a perfect escape route away from the danger. Gratefully, she hugged Zaire closer, pecked a kiss on the first bit of skin she could reach, just below his collarbone...

And then, maybe a little hysterical, Brandy found herself laughing. "That's the first thing that came to mind? Fewer guards?" Eyes alight with amusement, Brandy's fingers ran through the rough texture of his beard and shaky laughter gave way to an authentic smirk as she teased, "You practically have dollar signs in your eyes."

Zaire found himself smiling, amused at how she'd picked up on that little detail and noting how it seemed to chase some of her anxiety away. "Dollar signs?" he repeated, then remembered her mentioning that currency in her world was made of paper rather than coin. Just like she'd explained what 'movies' were.

"Less guards may be good for us, lass, but ain't for most," he admitted, a bit reluctantly. "Means travel will be more dangerous, towns'll see more violence." He trailed off, not wanting to go into detail and inadvertently convince her that returning to Eventyr wasn't a good idea, but the thought had a stab of guilt following close after. If he truly cared about her, wouldn't he want to know she was safe, even if it meant not seeing her again?

"Brandy-love," he said, the amusement fading and leaving his face grave and his eyes serious. He reached up and pushed her hair back, thumb scrubbing lightly over a spot of blood on the side of her neck. "I ain't gonna lie t'ya. It could get dangerous 'ere now . . ." And it wasn't as if he could take her to the Island, even if he knew she'd be safe; not even he could juggle the sort of situation that would arise from having his wife and mistress in such close proximity to each other.

Brandy picked up quickly on Zaire's hesitation, his caution, and it sobered her, wiping the humor from her face, shallow and short-lived as it had been. She was quiet for a long moment, trying just to listen, to read him, and her hand caught his, pressing his palm against her throat and covering his hand with her own for a moment before she kissed the inside of his wrist.

"You think I should go home?" Brandy inferred, question direct but her tone low and inquiring. He had saved her life, and she was rather inclined to respect his opinion on how not to squander the favor. It was the obvious solution - go home, wait it out. Watch Netflix and go to brunch and make videos and try not to wonder whether the realm had been overtaken with the undead, or who was declared king, or what the pirate crew who were starting to feel like family were up to in the chaos of it all. Because it was equally likely they were suffering as prospering…

Brandy propped her weight up on an elbow, and a thoughtful finger traced down Zaire's face. "I'm not one of your crew," by that, Brandy seemed to say that she wasn't sure what value she really had to him. She knew he cared for her - he had shown that well enough, but he had said explicitly that he didn't love her, and it wasn't like she was much help on the ship. Sure, she could cook, but she found pirates ate mostly for utility. Brandy sighed, frowned. "If you think it's best, I'll go." She would miss him, though, desperately, and the thought contorted her face with sorrow...

Zaire could see the wheels turning as Brandy wrestled with his words, easily picking up his meaning though it was clear she didn't like it. "It ain't that I want ya t'go," he quickly clarified, mirroring her movements by pushing himself up onto an elbow, as well. "I want ya t'be safe, love."

He sighed again, eyes sweeping around the room as he considered their options. "I can keep ya 'ere. On the ship," he mused. "But I can't bring ya 'ome with me . . ." Not to the Island, but he could bring her West . . .

Though it almost sounded as if she didn't want to leave and, if that were the case, then who was he to force her? "Would ye stay?" he asked, after a beat of contemplative silence. Because if she wanted to stay, then he needed to find a safe place for her, but if she didn't then the entire conundrum was moot. "In Eventyr, I mean. Do you want to stay 'ere?"

Brandy's expression morphed as easily with her thoughts as his words - considering, about staying on the ship, but incredulous about the "home." He wanted her to be safe, and to that she nodded respectfully, but it was a complicated situation and sooner than later, he was opening the question up to her perspective.

"Stay?" Brandy could only shrug. "No - not stay." Her instinct was to joke, and she did, "I mean, aside from Netflix and indoor plumbing," she hadn't expected the jokes to land, but the humor in her expression cooled quicker than usual anyway, "I have my fans, my friends, my dad at home. I'm not going to disappear off the face of the planet." Which was obvious, but the hyperbole did highlight a point. She'd been missing calls - a lot of them, from family and work - lately. "But I am spending a lot more time in Eventyr than I thought I would. It can be dangerous, but it's exciting, too." Her pale palm smoothed down Zaire's arm, and her eyes followed it. "And when I move back and forth, it gets harder to find you."

Zaire's eyes had drifted as she spoke, a frown forming along the dappled skin between his eyebrows. No matter how much they'd discussed it, the pirate didn't fully understand Brandy's life in New York and the things that seemed so important to her. Wanting to see her friends and father though, well, that was something that he could understand. Family was important and that was precisely why his stayed safe on the Island - except for Killick, of course . . .

His eyes settled back on her face though, when she mentioned that it was hard to find him. "Fairy circles," he muttered, shaking his head. He didn't have a good solution for how difficult it could be to find him; he couldn't sit still, waiting for her to reappear and, being aboard the Song most of the time, meant that a fairy circle could drop her closer to where he was at any given moment - only to have him bypass that bit of land completely.

"But . . . will ya come back, love?" Despite how exciting she found his world, he was still worried that once she got home, her good sense would kick in and she wouldn't come back. And he still wasn't sure that would be the worst thing. He touched her face, thumb carressing over her cheekbone, "Is this t'last time I'll see ya?"

The sort of frustrated confusion that crossed Zaire's face betrayed with the idea of fairy circles brought instead an amused smirk from Brandy - she knew that her heart always pulled her in Zaire's direction, but when she couldn't find him? Those were fun adventures, too. Sometimes, she got what she wanted; sometimes, she got something else entirely. Once, she'd ended up at a tournament in King's City, totally confused as to why until the pirate had shown up dripping with suspicion…

Fun times.

"I'll come back," Brandy assured, with a nod. It wasn't a wise decision, by any means, and frankly she did not understand the mechanics of it, but she felt it. And where she and Zaire had maintained similar postures thus far with words, their assurance prompted her to move on top of him, her legs astride his. They felt close and secure. Her hands cupped his face, gently and affectionately, as her nose rubbed against his, and she smiled. "I'm not a smart gal, Z. But I know what I want... What I need… I won't be away for long."

Zaire let a smile drift across his features, his hands coming to rest on Brandy's waist as she climbed atop him and promised she'd come back. It was both what he wanted to hear and exactly what he didn't and even the mild stroking of his ego couldn't quite shake away the worries that settled into his gut.

Sliding his hands up her back, Zaire held Brandy close, instinctively knowing that to get through this night she'd need the physical contact - and a distraction. "Can't resist me, aye love?" he asked, adding a self satisfied smirk for good measure. The worries would still be there come daybreak, but knowing Brandy was safe at his side at least until they docked at Lake City in a few days made it all a bit more bearable.



Re: Don't Make Me Play Pretend #Malia #rafael


Rafael: "I'll follow your lead, my lady."

Malia nodded, and led the way into the Royal General's chamber. He seemed to have worn himself out, with the days of fever, the fighting and the screaming it caused - with unnervingly perceptive insults hurled at her and, she expected, Rafael as well. Now, he looked a decade older than he had when last she had seen him… a week ago, now? Two? Time had gotten so confused.

Rafael: "Good afternoon, father," "I'm happy to hear you're feeling better."

Mathias: "I wouldn't be if you hadn't been there. Thank you, my son" "Duchess, a pleasure, as always."

It was uncomfortable, for Malia, to see this twist in Mathias's fate. One day, he was respected, at the top of his career… and then an awful illness hit, and now he was thin, weak, gray, disgraced. Malia, who knew what it was to be old and facing a terminal diagnosis, empathized with him. Her smile was gentle, as she shook her head, and she settled into a chair at his bedside in an attempt to appear more the nurse than the interrogator.

"Rest, my lord," the Duchess bid. She hoped that approaching the matter softly would persuade him to be open and helpful. "Rafael - perhaps another pillow for your father?" Malia said, in an attempt to help facilitate the reconciliation between father and son. Even if Mathias had certainly made that his intention by his welcome, if Rafael felt half as uncomfortable as she did in the same room with a man with a creature's fever a few hours ago, it was necessary.

"Do you remember anything, from the period while you were… ill?"


Re: That's When I'd Get Knocked Down #Theo #Tristan


Who: Theo
With: Tristan
Where: Merchant's Quarter, King's City
When: March 14th, 872 RoK - Late Afternoon

"Yankees or Mets?"

Theo hadn't exactly been trying to get away with a neat and tidy clean lie. If his mentor knight was from Earth, he wanted to know it, without a doubt. So Tristan's very direct, very Earth-specific question brought a beaming smile out of him, and he didn't bother to hide it. Instead, he held a closed fist up for a fist bump as he replied.

"Mets, man. Hope that doesn't make us mortal enemies, after all we've been through these last few days," he said. "I wouldn't have thought for a second you're actually from my neck of the woods. You had me fooled. The knight gear, your skills, everything. You must have years of experience here. I only just stumbled my way through..."

He checked his volume as he spoke. As excited as he was, there was no telling how the locals might react if they were too open about being from an entirely different world. In his experiences thus far, he'd seen that some could be a little bit suspicious about perceived witches, after all. It wouldn't be any kind of good to get thrown over the waterfall because he said the wrong thing at the wrong time.

"I've got a recording session on the twenty-third. Since I was only planning to be here for the announcement, I didn't think it was going to be a problem, but we're almost three days deep, and no exit in sight. Best as i can tell, time's a little faster here, so I probably haven't missed it yet..." It felt like a huge weight off of his shoulders to just be honest and direct about why he needed to get home, and where home was, exactly. "Do you have family missing you? Work?"


Re: Don't Ask Me How I've Been #Jaya #Kira #Kyky #manfred


Who: Jaya
With: Kyky, Kira, Manny
Where: Brickstone Tavern, Merchant's Quarter
When: March 14t, 872 RoK - Late Afternoon

"No, you didn't make a mistake, following me," Jaya said to Kira, shaking her head. "If anything, I could have been more honest with you. I mean, you probably wouldn't have believed me, but..."

Jaya's eyes were drawn to the movement and color of Manny's unusual daggers. Hey, she had what essentially amounted to a cloak of shadows, so she wasn't going to act too weird about in anyone else's odd personal possessions, but those daggers did seem very fine, at the very least. If the flow of conversation weren't more about staying, leaving, and hard realities, she might have asked him where he'd gotten them.

She could see how Kyky wanted her to contribute, and it wasn't exactly hard. "Yeah, getting dropped from temp job to temp job, living paycheck to paycheck, just barely scraping together rent... It's been nice to have an escape to a place where I can make a difference."

Sure, that difference mostly involved being the secretive assassin for hire known as the Ghost Blade, but it also meant traveling with Lord Bertilak and Kyky and other adventurers, and doing things that really seemed to help people.

"From the sound of things, we'll have to leave the city if we want to find a fairy circle to get home," she said. She pushed a plate of food a little closer to Kira--all of it vegetables and fruit, no meat. "Same direction as home for you, maybe, Manny. We'll need strength for the journey. Maybe we'll get lucky and meet a unicorn on the way, or come across a pixie dance party with plenty of pixie dust to make a fairy circle with. And I bet we can get some art supplies pretty cheap right now, if you wanted to do some drawing on the road. There are some beautiful sights, Kira."

Maybe mentioning Kira's craft would help snap her out of that tight ball of stress and trauma?


Re: Don't Make Me Play Pretend #Malia #rafael


Who: Mathias Gonzalo
With: Malia, Mathias
Where: The Castle, King's City
When: March 14th, 872 RoK - late afternoon

General Mathias Gonzalo was an old man--there was no getting around that any more. He'd lived through so many dangerous situations, and every experience had given him preparation for the next challenge, the next creature to slay, the next warlord to confront. The fact that he was an old man meant he was a skilled man, and he took no small measure of pride in that fact. But, up until now, he'd always managed to carry himself as a skilled man, not an old man.

His grey-streaked black hair was limp, grayer. His skin just faintly more pale and translucent as his age showing more in his weakness. Maybe, given time and fresh air, he would regain composure. Maybe he was doomed to die for what he'd done before that could happen.

Even frail, he didn't forget his manners. Much as he wanted to turn over in his bed and cover his face from the sunlight, it no longer burned the way it had. The Duchess was here, and proprieties had to be observed. He pushed his covers aside and rose from the bed, giving a bow. It might have been a bit more stiff than in days past, but it was a bow, all the same.

"I wouldn't be if you hadn't been there. Thank you, my son" he said to Rafael. "Duchess, a pleasure, as always."


Re: I Know Fake Happy #Bert #Sanya


Who: Bert

With: Sanya

Where: A private room in the Merchant’s Quarter

When: March 14th, 872 RoK - Late Afternoon

The last few days had been some of the toughest in Bert’s memory. Starting with Kyky disappearing into the crowd after the zombie outbreak, it had become increasingly difficult to keep the peace. Much of the city had been overrun, and it was all he and the remaining soldiers could do to help push back the horde. Thankfully, Bert’s experience with zombies had been helpful in rescuing more than a few people trapped in their homes. A few days later, news came into the city from the West of a new queen. Spending a night thinking through his options, Bert thought it best to go speak with his new Queen and discuss where he fell under her leadership. After all, he already had the trust of the people in his shire, and it would go a long way to help the transition if they had a familiar face to turn to.

Bert had been on his way out of the city when he had been stopped by a woman in a brown cloak, who upon closer inspection he discovered was the Lady Sanya Nimr, a powerful woman from the South. He quickly dropped to a knee, before being lead to a private room nearby.


"You must be wondering why I stopped you before you left the city,"


"First, I wanted to thank you personally for your service these last few days."


“As a matter of fact, I am. After all, I’m only a simple Sheriff. What would my Lady have from me?”

Bert bowed his head slightly at the compliment. “I was only doing my duty, m’Lady. I couldn’t stand to see the people of the city harmed anymore.”


On Mon, May 20, 2019 at 1:04 AM Steph <singer.of.the.lost@...> wrote:

Who: Sanya

With: Bert

Where: A private room in the Merchant's Quarter

When: March 14th, 872 RoK - Late Afternoon

Typically a person leaving the city for points west would leave out through the Soldier's Quarter, but considering its current state, Sanya had not been the least bit surprised to catch Bert leaving the city through the Outer Wall in the Merchant's Quarter. She'd heard that he had gone above and beyond in assisting in the immediate aftermath of the disaster, and she knew  that the king himself had bestowed land and title to him due to the good deeds he had performed in the past.

If all she knew was true, he wasn't a fearful man or one of the nobles who were more concerned with wealth and status than responsibility. And, if he was responsible, there was a chance she could count on him.

So she sat across the table from Bert in a fairly plain cream dress, tawny brown cloak over her her shoulders, hood down. She didn't even wear any of the typical gold and jewels of her station. Her cat Moswen's collar was overtly fancier than anything she was wearing, really.

"You must be wondering why I stopped you before you left the city," Sanya said aloud to him. "First, I wanted to thank you personally for your service these last few days."

She paused there, though, to judge his reaction, to get a better feel for him. How did he take praise?



Re: Better Hope I Don't Blink #Bridgette #James


Who: James aka Green Duke
With: Bridgette aka Red Spirit
Where: The Enchanted Woods, Eastern Realm
When: March 14th, 872 RoK - Late Afternoon
The young woman smiled sweetly, nodding in agreement at the Lord's proclamation. "No place for solitary travelers indeed," she said, falling into step beside him. "I'll help you find your spring, then," she announced, stepping under a low-hanging branch and over roots that stuck out of the ground of the thick wooded forest.
"You'll need it, if you hope to get close enough to the unicorns to ask permission to use their spring."

The armored man paused mid-step, and stated a little indignantly and ire "These are our woods. We need no ones' permission to do anything, girl". The Duke's brow furrowed deeply and he glared at her for a moment.... And then he raised a gloved hand and ran it over his features, "Forgive us, young lady. We have been under....duress.....Hearts grow hard and weary". Eventyr was out of balance and so was he, his other half was loud and demanding for blood and revenge. It had judged and was ready to dole out punishment. James felt like a man sliding down a muddy embankment toward dark waters below....

"We know where the springs are.... it is not the unicorns I fear that will give issue" the animals were vain, and unfortunately good nature and gullible. How else did one catch such a magical creature with a virgin?


BP/JP: Some Sort of Happiness #francesca #rafael


Who: Francesca and Rafael

When: Summer, 859

Where: Gonzalo Family Estate, Western Plains

Rafael couldn't sleep. He lay staring at the ceiling, his thoughts occupied by Francesca. It seemed like a lifetime since he'd thought of her, though really it had only been a few weeks since James had reappeared and their engagement dissolved, but life in the Gonzalo household had been a whirlwind of drama.

Just this week, for example, one of the servants had delivered a baby - a baby fathered by Rafael's brother Miguel. Normally, it was a turn of events easily swept under the rug, except that the two were insisting that they were in love and Miguel was even insisting that he marry her. The entire thing had their mother in a tizzy, going on and on about how improper this was, how scandalous, but for Rafael it had been a welcome reprieve from the spotlight. Even Mariana had quipped that he should be thanking Miguel for screwing up so thoroughly.

And then Francesca and her mother had practically shown up on their doorstep, traveling home from the East and expecting a place to stay the night that wasn't an inn. So they'd all sat through a somewhat awkward dinner, followed by drinks and dessert, and as soon as was appropriate, Rafael had said good night and made his escape.

With a sigh, he sat up and leaned over to light a second candle, stuffing another pillow behind his back and settling in with his father's latest book. His brain wasn't absorbing any of it though, instead wondering if Francesca was awake and how her reunion with James had gone . . .

The answer to that question came with a knock at Rafael's door.

Her better judgement would never have led her to her ex-lover and ex-fiance's door hours after the whole family retired, but her better judgment had gone out the window half a bottle of wine ago. She'd had to hide the drinking - she had feigned an illness to convince her mother to come home from the East early - but she knew Rafael wasn't going to judge. It was what she liked so much about him; he wasn't a stick in the mud. He was fun. Or, he had been…

"Are you asleep?" she called, voice low to avoid alerting servants. She saw light under the door, after all. She took another swig from the bottle had held cradled at her side… the red wine was going to stain the soft, white cotton nightdress she wore, but she couldn't bother to give a shit at the moment. She knocked again, quietly.  "Hapha...:"

Rafael's eyes lifted from the page he'd read and reread three times now, going instead to the door as first the knock came, then Francesca's whispered question, followed up by that familiar nickname . . .

He pulled his lower lip between his teeth, worrying at the flesh as he tried to decide whether to answer her or not. Before he'd made up his mind though, he was setting the book aside, climbing from the bed and shrugging into clothes - a simple linen shirt over comfortable knee breeches. He went to the door and opened it just enough for her to slip inside, then closed it tight and turned to her.

She looked as lovely as ever with her wine-flushed cheeks and pale hair hanging around her shoulders. His eyes automatically drifted down over her body, but there was no reaction to the press of pink-tipped breasts against the thin nightshirt. Still, he found himself swallowing back nerves as he said, "Hi, Francesca."

She wanted to offer her body to him - she could see him looking at it, and his lips looked full and pouty as ever - but she knew too well that he wouldn't be tempted and so instead she pushed the bottle of wine into his hand when she entered the room instead. Lust was a wonderful state, but drunkenness could do in a pinch.

"Hi, Francesca?" she repeated with a sneer, disappointed, and there was an unmistakable slur in her words. She stepped away, tossing a hand in the air as she railed: "Not Fran, not Franny… Francesca." She settled on the nearest seat she could find, the edge of his bed. Her palm ran over the disturbed blankets for a long moment, feeling the residual warmth there, as she frowned and wondered what it would have been like, if she had been here when he would have been happy to have her on this bed….

Her hands ran over her face, then through her loose hair, that she pulled into a fist as she looked back toward Rafael. There was a desperate misery in her voice as she choked out, "We're still friends, aren't we?"

Rafael took the bottle when Francesca's pushed it into his hand, thinking that maybe it was a good idea that she'd handed it over considering the way her words all ran together as she spoke. He followed her back toward the bed, setting the bottle on the table beside it, and not bothering to answer her criticisms of how he'd chosen to greet her; she was moving on anyway.

It wasn't so much her question that caught him off guard, but rather the emotion that accompanied it and Rafael found himself sinking down onto the edge of the bed as well, just far enough away to be 'appropriate'. Were they still friends? Truth was, Rafael wasn't sure what their complicated history made them anymore; things had been left on such an awkward note. But . . . that didn't mean they couldn't be friends.

"Of course," he said, after a pause that was maybe a beat too long. His face creased with concern and he reached out to touch her, fingertips brushing along her knee in a chaste movement. "Fran, what happened?"

Francesca's hand opened beside his, palm up, inviting him to hold it, no different than she might have done with her mother. She wanted so much more - she wanted him to toss her down on the bed, run his hands up her thighs, and show even a fraction of the passion he once had - but now, she had at least an appreciation of the concern on his face. He would probably struggle for the rest of his life, but at least he hadn't stopped being a good man. Maybe that would be enough...

"It wasn't James," Francesca whispered. Her eyes squeezed shut, and the uncomfortable image of her fiance easily formed in her mind. Handsome face, empty eyes, voice like chalk. "It looked like him, yes, but it was like… whatever took him in those woods had scooped James out of his body, and didn't bother to put anything in its place." Tears spilled down her cheeks as soon as she opened her eyes again. "He walks and talks like James did, and they're still going to make him Duke and make me marry him, but it's not him."

She wiped her cheek and bit her lip, hesitating but less than she would have without all the wine. Her mother had told her never to say the words ever again - to accuse the King's brother and soon-to-be Duke - but it blurted out of Francesca anyway: "I think he's a Changeling."

Rafael slipped his hand into Francesca's and it was such a familiar gesture that, for a moment, he could almost imagine that nothing had changed between them, but then she was talking about James and reality crept back in again. Everything had changed.

What she said had Rafael's eyebrows lifting, his lips parting in speechless shock, and he glanced toward his bedroom door, as if someone would overhear them. "A Changeling?" he repeated, voice low, and he found himself scooting a little closer to her. "But that's--" he shook his head. Was it crazy though? Even he himself had disappeared into the night only to come back forever changed and James had been gone a year.

"Franny . . ." Rafael had no idea what to say though. He wanted to comfort her, to assure her that everything would be fine, that maybe James just needed time, but could it be that simple? It certainly hadn't been for Rafael.

In lieu of words, he reached for her, initiating the contact that would pull her in closer so he could wrap his arms around her shoulders. She still fit perfectly against him and he found himself brushing her hair back, pressing a soft kiss to her forehead, wiping a tear from the corner of her lips. This was his fault. Not all of it, maybe, but enough for guilt to settle its weight on his shoulders. "It's not fair," he said softly.

"You don't believe me?" Francesca whispered, voice lowering enough to show her devastation, and she tried to give Rafael credibility. He knew how trauma could hurt a person; Francesca had seen it, seen his withdrawal and his outbursts, and because of that, she assumed she knew what happened to men who were taken. "You're still you, Hapha. You might have gone to hell and back, but I always knew you..." James had been gone far longer, but there was so little of him left that Francesca was quick to decide it was either a creature or witchcraft, and Changelings were known to target nobles…

If Rafael didn't agree with her, then it threw her most solid theory into question. She buried her head into the crook of his neck and his shoulder and sobbed. She was devastated, but she had a strong pair of arms to hold her, a soft voice to reason with her. This was enough, she decided. At least Rafael saw her pain.

It wasn't that Rafael didn't believe her, it was just . . . there were other, possibly more plausible, explanations to be ruled out before jumping immediately to James is a Changeling. Hell, it could be argued that Rafael was a Changeling, and he wouldn't have been the least bit surprised if some of the more superstitious of their servants whispered those very worries amongst each other.

"Fran, that's not . . ."

"Hapha, if you're my friend, I need you… to marry me," Francesca pleaded, drawing back just a touch to look at his face. She was the Duke's daughter, and with that much status, it made little sense to beg a minor would-be lord for a favor, but she didn't care. Voice choked, she continued, "At least I know that you love me."

Rafael swallowed back his words, his throat going dry at her whispered plea. Hadn't they decided that marriage was a bad idea? But he did love her, even if he had little interest in bedding her anymore, and that seemed to be preferable to marrying James Castile, who may or may not have been a creature now. And it wasn't as if Raf wasn't attracted to her anymore; she was still just as beautiful as he'd ever thought she was, and he still enjoyed her company . . . so maybe that would be enough?

"I . . . I do love you, Fran . . ." he started, and found himself nodding as he made up his mind. "I'll talk to my parents and," he paused, licking his lips, "and we'll do it. We'll get married and then we can find some sort of happiness. I promise."

Francesca overflowed with gratitude. It wasn't as good a match, and she couldn't be sure her parents would agree. But if Rafael claimed to love her, and she him, maybe they had a chance that her father's affection for her would change his mind. Her mother would roll her eyes, but everyone knew that a Duchess was only worth her salt if the Duke was on her side… or dead.  Her smile was tight, her eyes red, but relief washed across her features like daylight.

Her hand lifted to touch his lip when his tongue darted out, but she stopped short. Instead, she offered a rather tame compliment, "You're cute, Hapha."

She wouldn't be a Duchess, married to Rafael, but she didn't care about that. Comfort and happiness were more important than power or a title, which he could give her, as long as they were on the same page. She knew it was no small task she was asking. She wanted to kiss Rafael as she nodded, but instead, she scooted over on the bed, laid her head on his knee as if she were a child, and, overwhelmed, kept crying until she fell asleep...


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