Topics

A Beauty Half-Betrayed #Theo #Andy #Zaza

Vincent Gonzales
 

Who: Antiphales
With: Zaza, Theo, The Witch Queen
Where: The Witch Queen's Palace, the Jewel of the Desert
When: May 16th, 877 ROK - Evening

Andy was the last one to take a seat of the group - the seat at Esperanza's right hand. How fitting that could have been, he mused, once upon a time. In a different life when he had been more than a blade in the dark. But that wasn't the lot life had chosen for him and - despite his best efforts to shun his fate and forge his own path, it was only by a mix of luck and daring that he'd managed to keep her alive. He'd entrenched himself so deeply in the lie that there was no going back now. Every moment he breathed in front of his dear friend was a falsity that could be shattered at any moment, and with it their trust. Damn whatever gods watched them for it. 

Forcing himself to focus on the moment in front of them, Antiphales shook his head silent at the offer of a drink - he never accepted drinks he didn't pour himself. If they were to be killed here for some perceived slight, he wouldn't die with his insides burning and his organs shutting down. 

As Esperanza went on to address the Witch Queen, Andy opened his bag slowly, deliberately even as his eyes stayed on the group across from them. He knew better than to dart into his bag suddenly. Pulled out a bundle of silk and velvet in a vibrant read, he uncovered the finely crafted glass bottle and displayed it for their host to see clearly. 

"And as a show of appreciation and meeting in good faith, we come bearing a small gift," Andy handed the bottle and it's wrapping off to a servant. "A bottle of perfume made especially to match the refined sensibilities of our company. One of a kind. Never again will a bottle of this fragrance be produced," he said with finality. After all, he'd made it himself, he should damn well know. "If it pleases you, Your Eminence," he added, nodding his head in deference again. 

tags!

Steph
 

*nudge to Antiphales*


On Fri, Jun 12, 2020 at 12:03 PM Steph via groups.io <singer.of.the.lost=gmail.com@groups.io> wrote:
*nudge to Antiphales*

On Mon, Jun 8, 2020 at 3:32 PM Silvy <afranklin09c@...> wrote:

Who: Zaza

With: Andy, Theo, The Witch Queen

Where: The Witch Queen's Palace, the Jewel of the Desert

When: May 16, 877 ROK - Evening


Esperanza bucked the urge to look as Theo's touch at her elbow sent a very different warmth flushing over her skin than the heat of the sun bearing down on them the whole day long had imparted. It was deeper, burned worse, and if she looked, there was simply no way she could hide it. Instead she smiled face-front, murmured the quietest thankyou, and smoothed the diaphanous fabric of her skirts over her thighs as servants darted here and there to attend as needed.


"Of course," She agreed, her back straightening and fingers closing delicately around the offer of a golden cup. As much as she doubted the Witch Queen would invite them all the way here only to poison them in her own courtyard, she still waited a beat to make sure that the warmth in her chest wasn't the rough cut of smoky quartz nestled against her breast. 


It was time well spent, though, explaining that, "My Queen," For she was, for Esperanza chosen her, in a way the people of the South had not and much to her own misery if not, necessarily, regret, "We've come to extend a formal invitation to the Peacekeepers' summit."


~tags~

 

Steph
 

*nudge to Antiphales*


On Mon, Jun 8, 2020 at 3:32 PM Silvy <afranklin09c@...> wrote:

Who: Zaza

With: Andy, Theo, The Witch Queen

Where: The Witch Queen's Palace, the Jewel of the Desert

When: May 16, 877 ROK - Evening


Esperanza bucked the urge to look as Theo's touch at her elbow sent a very different warmth flushing over her skin than the heat of the sun bearing down on them the whole day long had imparted. It was deeper, burned worse, and if she looked, there was simply no way she could hide it. Instead she smiled face-front, murmured the quietest thankyou, and smoothed the diaphanous fabric of her skirts over her thighs as servants darted here and there to attend as needed.


"Of course," She agreed, her back straightening and fingers closing delicately around the offer of a golden cup. As much as she doubted the Witch Queen would invite them all the way here only to poison them in her own courtyard, she still waited a beat to make sure that the warmth in her chest wasn't the rough cut of smoky quartz nestled against her breast. 


It was time well spent, though, explaining that, "My Queen," For she was, for Esperanza chosen her, in a way the people of the South had not and much to her own misery if not, necessarily, regret, "We've come to extend a formal invitation to the Peacekeepers' summit."


~tags~

 

Silvy
 

Who: Zaza

With: Andy, Theo, The Witch Queen

Where: The Witch Queen's Palace, the Jewel of the Desert

When: May 16, 877 ROK - Evening


Esperanza bucked the urge to look as Theo's touch at her elbow sent a very different warmth flushing over her skin than the heat of the sun bearing down on them the whole day long had imparted. It was deeper, burned worse, and if she looked, there was simply no way she could hide it. Instead she smiled face-front, murmured the quietest thankyou, and smoothed the diaphanous fabric of her skirts over her thighs as servants darted here and there to attend as needed.


"Of course," She agreed, her back straightening and fingers closing delicately around the offer of a golden cup. As much as she doubted the Witch Queen would invite them all the way here only to poison them in her own courtyard, she still waited a beat to make sure that the warmth in her chest wasn't the rough cut of smoky quartz nestled against her breast. 


It was time well spent, though, explaining that, "My Queen," For she was, for Esperanza chosen her, in a way the people of the South had not and much to her own misery if not, necessarily, regret, "We've come to extend a formal invitation to the Peacekeepers' summit."


~tags~

 

Steph
 

*gentle nudge to Zaza*


On Fri, May 22, 2020 at 1:21 PM Steph via groups.io <singer.of.the.lost=gmail.com@groups.io> wrote:

Who: Theo

With: Andy, Zaza

Where: The Witch Queen's Palace, the Jewel of the Desert

When: May 16, 877 ROK - Evening


Witch Queen: "Shall we sit?"


Zaza: "...It's good to see you well."


Andy:  "Please, after you, Your Highness."


Manners, snapped the voice of the diadem in Theo's mind as he at first started to take a step toward the chairs. It gave him just enough pause that he heard Uncle Andy give the most courteous "After you," and he remembered his own manners. Maybe he was more hungover than he thought. His mother had taught him so much better than to just barrel ahead. Ladies first, always.


The Witch Queen smiled almost warmly to Andy at his display of courtesy, though that warmth didn't quite meet her calculating eyes.


Theo matched Andy's gesture with a curt bow of his own and waited for the Witch Queen to approach a seat before he did the same. One of the servants moved in quiet as the dead to help the queen into her seat with an outstretched hand. Theo moved up beside Zaza to do the same, though even as he did, a little part of his heart panged in that too-familiar way. An echo of an old break.


Once the ladies were both seated, and the two lions had settled on either side of the grand chair that the Witch Queen had claimed, Theo chose the open chair to Esperanza's left, leaving the chair to her right to Andy. Servants started to flutter around them with trays of fresh fruit and golden chalices of some kind of drink. Theo waved them back with a polite declination. The last thing he needed right now was mystery drink.


"Your Eminence," he said, in his best courtly-manners voice. Calling her the Witch Queen to her face just seemed like a bad idea, even if it was a moniker she'd seemed to embrace as far as he could tell. "Thank you for accepting our request for an audience."


The Witch Queen raised a hand in a gesture bidding Theo to be silent. The lioness's tail twitched, just slightly, one way and then the other, attentive. Theo stilled.


"Let's not dance around," the Witch Queen said, looking toward Esperanza. "Why have you requested an audience?"


<tag!>


Steph
 

Who: Theo

With: Andy, Zaza

Where: The Witch Queen's Palace, the Jewel of the Desert

When: May 16, 877 ROK - Evening


Witch Queen: "Shall we sit?"


Zaza: "...It's good to see you well."


Andy:  "Please, after you, Your Highness."


Manners, snapped the voice of the diadem in Theo's mind as he at first started to take a step toward the chairs. It gave him just enough pause that he heard Uncle Andy give the most courteous "After you," and he remembered his own manners. Maybe he was more hungover than he thought. His mother had taught him so much better than to just barrel ahead. Ladies first, always.


The Witch Queen smiled almost warmly to Andy at his display of courtesy, though that warmth didn't quite meet her calculating eyes.


Theo matched Andy's gesture with a curt bow of his own and waited for the Witch Queen to approach a seat before he did the same. One of the servants moved in quiet as the dead to help the queen into her seat with an outstretched hand. Theo moved up beside Zaza to do the same, though even as he did, a little part of his heart panged in that too-familiar way. An echo of an old break.


Once the ladies were both seated, and the two lions had settled on either side of the grand chair that the Witch Queen had claimed, Theo chose the open chair to Esperanza's left, leaving the chair to her right to Andy. Servants started to flutter around them with trays of fresh fruit and golden chalices of some kind of drink. Theo waved them back with a polite declination. The last thing he needed right now was mystery drink.


"Your Eminence," he said, in his best courtly-manners voice. Calling her the Witch Queen to her face just seemed like a bad idea, even if it was a moniker she'd seemed to embrace as far as he could tell. "Thank you for accepting our request for an audience."


The Witch Queen raised a hand in a gesture bidding Theo to be silent. The lioness's tail twitched, just slightly, one way and then the other, attentive. Theo stilled.


"Let's not dance around," the Witch Queen said, looking toward Esperanza. "Why have you requested an audience?"


<tag!>


Vincent Gonzales
 

Who: Antiphales
With: Zaza, Theo, That Queen Lady
Where: The Witch Queen's Palace, the Jewel of the Desert
When: May 16th, 877 ROK - Evening

At the entrance of the witch who called herself queen, Antiphales called back on his training and knowledge of southern customs and bowed at the waist, head down, eyes up as he watched her enter, then rose to stand before her as her servants went about provided seats for the witch first, then her guests, then the lions. He'd half expected her to leave them standing, but he wasn't going to question the move. 

Instead, he gestured to the queen, "Please, after you, Your Highness," the former assassin offered with a smile that didn't reach his eyes. She thought of herself as a queen, here and now, and he had little in the way of contesting that with all of the changes the world around them had went through. So, like any smart man did, he was rolling with it. Time to see where this went. 

tags!

Silvy
 

Who: Zaza

With: Andy, Theo

Where: The Witch Queen's Palace, the Jewel of the Desert

When: May 16, 877 ROK - Evening


>>>Andy: "Don't let her see your discomfort. It will only embolden her," he warned


At Andy's suggestion, her large, rounded ears flicked forward with the slightest hint of annoyance, as though to bring attention to themselves. How did he expect her not to show whatever discomfort she felt, as clearly as though she were wearing a sign on her chest? It was, after all, the last time Zaza ventured this far South that she earned the curse that kept her painfully, blatantly honest. Still, she pursed her lips and nodded. 


>>>Theo: "I don't envy the task at hand for the other delegations--except maybe Jaya dealing with the Pirate King because the worst that happens there is still probably a beach party--but even though ours requires a careful hand, the Witch Queen hasn't been... duplicitous."


Antiphales was generally right. But as she allowed her gaze to wander to Theo, reluctant, and uncertain whether she would agree with him about Jaya's own task...


>>>The M'Fing Witch Queen: "That I am not," *flanked by lions and servants and dramatic entrances, oh my*


Esperanza took a breath and held it tightly in her chest as she forced her back to straighten and her eyes to abandon her childhood friend in favor of the Southern Queen. She didn't smile - couldn't - but she did adopt a practiced dip in acknowledgement of the elder Karim's arrival, honed in the fire of the Southern courts. A soft "Thank you, Your Grace," breathed past her lips as she forced one foot in front of the other to approach the chairs. "It's good to see you well."


Which wasn't a lie - obvious though that might have been to most present company. Certainly, if she were to lose her good friend and find herself cursed over the Witch Queen's installment in the South, it would not do to see all that anguish wasted


~tags~

 

Steph
 

Who: Theo
With: Andy, Zaza
Where: The Witch Queen's Palace, the Jewel of the Desert
When: May 16, 877 ROK - Evening

Zaza: "She appreciates a forward approach..."

Andy:  "Don't let her see your discomfort. It will only embolden her."

*Yet don't lean into an overabundance of false confidence, as that might prick against her sorceress instincts,* Minnie added into the chain of advice, unheard by anyone but Theo. Her voice was clearer, her presence and grip on reality more firm as the soothing tea settled in  Theo's stomach. Just what he needed, he thought sarcastically, rolling his eyes just slightly, even as the more sound part of himself--the part that had driven him to become one of the founders of the Peacekeepers, affirmed that it was exactly what he needed. It was what they all needed: More resources on their side.

With his next sip of tea, the flavor seemed more tenable, his instincts a little keener, his tongue a little less sharp in his mouth. He lifted the cup again toward Andy, as if in a toast, and this time, when he said, "Thank you, uncle," it rang with a greater measure of sincerity. "We're here with a specific purpose. We should be forward about our purpose and not deviate or do anything that could be perceived as disingenuous. As long as we do that, we don't have reason for discomfort." He got to his feet then, setting the cup aside. "I don't envy the task at hand for the other delegations--except maybe Jaya dealing with the Pirate King because the worst that happens there is still probably a beach party--but even though ours requires a careful hand, the Witch Queen hasn't been... duplicitous."

"That I am not," the woman herself said, stepping out from an archway and into sight. The Witch Queen was dressed in the austere way of the Southern Desert, cream linen dress with golden threads of embroidery creating patterns at the edges, a few small glass beads for emphasis. Around her throat, she wore a pendant necklace made of turquoise and gold, designed in the shape of a hawk with its wings spread in flight. Elegant beaded slippers covered her feet, and her dark hair was pulled back from her face in a braid.

Though she was Sanya Nimr's grandmother, and at the very least somewhere in her late sixties in age--and as rumor had it, likely significantly older--there was a certain vitality in her appearance. Her hair showed no strands of grey. Her skin was smooth. The kohl around her eyes gave them an almost predatory edge.

A few steps behind her paced a maned lion and a sleek lioness, each with a metal collar at their throats. If rumors were true, the lion was her son-in-law, the former Duke of the Southern Desert. The lioness was her own daughter, the former duchess, who had betrayed her.

"Lady Esperanza, it is a pleasure to see you once again," the Witch Queen said, almost demurely.

Several servants appeared from various arches, carrying chairs with them. They made a bit of a wide berth around the two lions as they placed one chair for the Queen and her three guests, and then two large pillows, one on either side of the Queen's chair, for the lions to lay upon. All this was done so quickly and quietly that Theo barely had time to blink at the near-choreographed precision of it.

"Shall we sit?" the Witch Queen said invitingly.

<tag!>

Vincent Gonzales
 

Who: Andy
With: Theo, Zaza
Where: The Witch Queen's Palace, the Jewel of the Desert
When: May 16th, 877 ROK - Evening

Antiphales' brow quirked in slight disapproval at his nephew's apparent distaste for the tea, but otherwise he gave no indication that he particularly cared about the feedback one way or the other. He wasn't the drunkard stumbling around like he was on death's door, here. He had his own demons to battle on a mission like this, the last thing he needed was to also need to babysit his nephew. 

At word that the queen would likely be here quite soon, Antiphales' gaze moved instead to Esperanza and he leaned in. "Don't let her see your discomfort. It will only embolden her," he warned, though he tried not to make it sound like a reproach. Those in power, he'd learned, loved nothing more than to be reminded that they were your better. And that wasn't the kind of footing you wanted to start off on for any sort of negotiation. 

tags!

Silvy
 

Who: Zaza

With: Andy, Theo

Where: The Witch Queen's Palace, the Jewel of the Desert

When: May 16, 877 ROK - Evening


From the corner of her eye, she watched Antiphales, a small smile tugging at the corner of her lips. It was good, to see Theodore taken care of - she couldn't rightly do it herself. Not without, perhaps, hurting his pride, or flustering him, or putting some other unknown strain on the delicate thing their friendship was, now. Besides which, she really just wasn't the mothering type...


And anything Zaza might have thrown together into a tea from this garden might as well have killed him, so it really was better to leave the science to Antiphales.


She lifted her chin and gaze to more fully look upon him with that same, small smile - a touch encouraged, now, though her brows furrowed above the laugh in her eyes. It echoed in her voice: "Well," Esperanza shook the water from her hands, as the anxious twitching of the tail beneath her skirts betrayed her mood, "Is that all." Sandworms and zombies, but at least no vampires... 


Her ears twigged Theo's apology, though, and brought a sneaking glance that way, even as she busied herself with drying her hands on her scarf. "I think...she'll be along soon," She offered around the awkward moment wherein she realized responding to that apology wouldn't do either of them any good. Because she wasn't upset at him, even a little, despite that the thought of vampires hiding round every corner had raised gooseflesh across her skin... "She appreciates a forward approach..."


~tags~

 

Steph
 

Who: Theo
With: Andy, Zaza
Where: The Witch Queen's Palace, the Jewel of the Desert
When: May 16, 877 ROK - Evening

At least, Theo supposed, he could get Zaza to talk to him a bit by panicking her unnecessarily. He tracked Uncle Andy's movements through the garden rather than letting his gaze settle on her, much as he wanted to watch her take off that scarf and reveal her features more openly. He wasn't entirely sure what he'd do if he ran into Sanya, considering how little he felt Zaza deserved the curse that she now bore, but he doubted it would be polite.

As he was following Andy's flower-picking path, Minnie popped into view--just his view, he knew, but still, she was becoming more tangible again after all the sobering up he'd been doing. She tilted her head to one side, and the other, rubbed her chin thoughtfully, nodded approvingly.

*A symbolically purifying flower, too,* she noted after Andy gave his explanation and his tea over to Theo. Theo took it, and he couldn't help shooting a glare at the space that, to everyone else, was entirely unoccupied. *Your uncle is correct, for the most part, but at least in my time, changelings were the real concern in the South.*

"Thank you." Theo took a sip of the tea, choked slightly on the flavor of it, but swallowed anyway. "Even if I've tasted better perfume," he added. "At least the Witch Queen and Francesca haven't ever really gotten along, anyway, so she'd probably turn back any troublesome vampires. I always get a bit on edge with traveling, I guess. Sorry." The apology was aimed toward Zaza and her nerves most of all. "When do you think that she'll get here? Does she strike you as a 'wait until the darkness has fallen' kind of a queen?"

<tag!>

Vincent Gonzales
 

Who: Antiphales
With: Esperanza, Theo
Where: The Witch Queen's Palace, the Jewel of the Desert
When: May 16, 877 ROK - Evening

Antiphales had regretted the decision the moment he had agreed to accompany his nephew and long-time companion on this damned fool's errand into the desert. And the further along the trip they got, the worse his mood soured. Weren't there knights better suited to this trip? Actual nobles who could handle this sort of thing? Of course, his lush of a nephew wasn't making things any easier, forcing himself to sobriety and suffering because of it. 

As his nephew asked questions that would do little more than scare the former Lady of the South, Antiphales stood, bent over a flowering plant in the corner of their sitting room. He ran his fingers over the spiny leaves, smelled the lavender colored flowers and nodded to himself, pulling a small vial and pruning knife out of his pack. He ran the knife along one stem of the plant, collecting both leave and flower into the vial, stashing the knife and pulling out another vial, dropping in a few drops of an oil-like substance, shaking it vigorously and walking over to his untouched tea. He poured the entirely of the flowery substance into his tea and slid it over to his nephew. "For the headaches," he reported without explanation. "If your stomach turns or you get the shakes, tell me."

Settling himself back in his seat, grumpily looking at the door, he shook his head, his expression softening just a little for Zaza. "Vampires don't like the arid heat this far South. It's why there were very rarely reports of their kin when you lived in this region," he said to calm her nerves. "You're much more likely to find sandworms or zombies in the desert than zombies."

tags!

Silvy
 

Who: Zaza

With: Andy, Theo

Where: The Witch Queen's Palace, the Jewel of the Desert

When: May 16, 877 ROK - Evening


The day had been spent draped in light, pale blue fabrics to keep the sun off her skin, an old familiar tune that had been easy to slip back into. She had spent years of her life in the heat and the sand of the Southern Desert, made her home in it, and she could only give so much in the way of advice in how to deal with the grit of the sand and the burn of the sun bearing down on them. Too much more of it was simply knowing how to put up with it.


Thankfully, once they made it to the palace, there were plenty of shaded places to linger, and even just having running water nearby seemed to make the place seem cooler in comparison. So as they waited, she loosened the gauzy scarf around her hair and face, working her jaw as the fabric unraveled and let her ears free. "V--" Her gaze cut sideways to fix on Theo, brows furrowing for a moment. 


"Well I wasn't," She chided, half teasing and all serious! "I don't think..." Zaza's dark eyes traveled round to Andy, as she sought to brush her hair out and around the low-sweeping, anxious curves of her ears. She didn't want to hide them... it wasn't as though the Witch Queen wouldn't know what to expect. "I don't think there would be vampires out this far, do you?" 


It seemed to her a long way to travel, and even if by night there would be a danger of catching some sun on one side or the other of the trip. "Maybe in a box," She mumbled thoughtfully to herself as she made her way closer to a fountain that seemed to glitter even as she reached out to run her hands under the flowing water. 


~tags~

Steph
 

Who: Theo
With: Andy, Zaza
Where: The Witch Queen's Palace, the Jewel of the Desert
When: May 16, 877 ROK - Evening

Theo wasn't sure what he liked least about this whole excursion, but the fact that he was sober was definitely close to the top of the list. He knew, logically, that he had to keep a clear mind in order for his abilities to work to their fullest, in order to keep an eye out for immanent threats to his safety, in order to discern if the Witch Queen intended them harm. Not to mention, she'd probably smell the hypocrisy on his breath and curse him. She was a dangerous woman, not to be taken lightly.

But sobriety had left him with headaches the whole dusty, gritty journey down here, and the headache of having the girl he shared his mental space with chiding him for his flippant behavior lately. Minnie did not approve of Theo abusing the fact that he had easy access to cleansing rituals as an excuse to get away from the burdens that came with being somehow supernaturally blessed with a pure heart. All of his internal conflicts were just made worse by the fact that he was on this mission along with his childhood crush (who he still didn't know how to really talk with like they used to before she got married and then the world went sideways) and his uncle (who was no longer secretly an assassin but still had all the perception of an assassin).

They'd come by river, at least, but even traveling upriver through the desert, the wind caught the sand and flung it at you, and it got absolutely everywhere. It only grew more and more oppressively hot the further south their ship went, until they finally docked at the Jewel of the Desert, the capital of the Southern Desert and home of the Witch Queen. The Witch Queen's welcoming committee escorted the Peacekeepers to her palace, led them to their quarters, provided them with water to wash up and food to eat, and notified them to go to a particular garden once the evening sun stated setting and the air cooled somewhat.

So, now they were waiting in a surprisingly lush green garden with at least three sparkling fountains pained blue to make the water in them sparkle all the more brightly. Fruit-bearing fig trees dotted the garden here and there, and white star jasmine climbed lattices and sent out a heady floral scent. Other flowers in a rainbow of colors bloomed in beds. It was all so well-cared for that it encouraged a sense of wonder. So much life grew here in such a barren place.

The sky wouldn't hold on to sunlight for too much longer, but at least as the sun sunk lower and the shadows grew longer, the air was cooler, too. All they needed was for the Witch Queen to arrive, so this meeting could start. Sooner all this was done, the sooner he could be safe in the Island Castle in the People's City.

"An evening meeting like this. Are you not worried about vampires?" Theo asked aloud--the question more aimed to the voice in his head than either of his companions, though maybe Andy and Zaza had input there, too. 

*They don't tend to venture into the desert. Too little protection from the sun. You shouldn't have to worry about that,* Minnie whispered back, the voice that only Theo could hear.

<Tag!>