Topics

Don't Make Me Play Pretend #Malia #rafael

Steph
 

Who: Malia

With: Rafael, Mathias Gonzalo

Where: The Castle, King's City

When: March 14th, 872 RoK - Late Afternoon


Malia felt more and more anxious with every step she took, up to the tower that once housed the sequestered Royal Scholar and General. Because the quarters were safe and secure, they became the jail-slash-prison cell to keep Mathias Gonzalo for these few days, and the Duchess of the North kept her distance. She learned her lesson back at the bank, and had no interest in any guards, nurses, or the General's son himself hearing her called "man killer" …


But now that the General was declared healthy, after all this time, and so Malia ventured upstairs, pausing outside the General's room to smile, tightly and unhappily, at his son. Rafael's expertise had been invaluable during this whole awful process, reluctant as he seemed to step into the role fate seemed to have crafted for him.


As soon as she met Rafael's eyes, though, Malia felt how difficult and fraught the whole situation was… and, with sympathy in her gaze, she asked, "Would you prefer to question, or to listen? I am comfortable with either."


Wearing: https://i.pinimg.com/564x/22/cd/87/22cd8772e23f3c570d319ef7bc93df15.jpg

Manda
 

Who: Rafael Gonzalo

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

Wearing: https://i.pinimg.com/564x/48/d6/40/48d640dd409377d6cf6b5a6758a2e93b.jpg


Rafael hadn't actually been in the same room as his father since they'd made their way to the castle, but that didn't mean that he'd been far. In fact, he'd barely strayed from the tower unless absolutely necessary and once word came that Mathias' fever had broken, it was only a matter of time before the nobles would descend upon the Royal General.


Luckily, it seemed only Malia was free to question Mathias. Rafael didn't know her well, but he was sure that she was marginally less inclined than James was to eviscerate someone with little provocation . . .


Malia: "Would you prefer to question, or to listen? I am comfortable with either."

Rafael's jaw clenched at the look of sympathy she sent in his direction. No doubt she'd heard the rumors of the terrible things his father had said while under the fever's influence . . .


There was nothing to be done for it now, though, so he cleared his throat and opened the door, "I'll follow your lead, my lady."


There was a fire crackling softly in the fireplace and a few candles lit, but the lighting was dim when they stepped inside. "Good afternoon, father," Rafael said, crossing the room and opening the curtains to let in the late afternoon sun. He remembered his father doing much the same for him, not long after his rescue, claiming that the sunshine would make him feel better . . .


"I'm happy to hear you're feeling better."


tags

 

Steph
 

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."

<Tag!>

Rachel
 

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?"

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Manda
 

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?"


tags

 

Steph
 

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.

<Tag!>

Manda
 

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 . . .


tags

 

Rachel
 

Rafael: "Yes, father," "do you?"


Mathias: "Everything," "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."


"That may well be the outcome here, we ought not pretend otherwise," Malia said, with a slow nod of concession. Gonzalo had been an asset to Eventyr for most of his life - resolute, wise, and intelligent - and it was only consistent to hear him pass the judgment on himself that he would have passed on another. He was a man of integrity and honor… which made his fall so very confounding. If he had indeed betrayed Eventyr, would he not make the case that he had been out of his mind and therefore could not be responsible for his actions? With the leadership of the nation in tatters, now, such an appeal may well have worked. 


Rafael: "Who was it?" "Who approached you, Father?" 


Malia waited a breath before she added her own encouragement. "General Gonzalo, we respect that you intend to take responsibility - but we must know the identities of your conspirators as well." He had hardly acted alone: the chaos in the city implied the coordinated efforts of dozens of people. Who were they, and why had they done this? 


It might not have been necessary for the General himself, but watching the strain on Rafael's face as he listened, as he spoke, compelled the Duchess to add: "Help us understand, and perhaps we can help you." 


Tags

Steph
 

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

Gonzalo looked into his son's eyes and nodded, just slightly, when he made eye contact--a silent understanding, a quiet confirmation. Perhaps he recognized how important the truth was to his son in that moment, considering Rafael's relationships. Maybe it was just the simple comfort of knowing that Rafael hadn't bothered with idle promises of safety rather than execution. By contrast, he met Malia's statement with a shake of his head.

"To best help the city and Eventyr, this isn't a time for clemency," he said.

The disgraced Royal General began the tale.

"She came for Merthin." 'She' was the only word Mathias would use, which underscored the status of the woman he was accusing. "Her guard… he came for me. I should have recognized him for what he was--vampire." Mathias grimaced - for now, in hindsight, it was obvious, but never before had the General seen a vampire able to walk among humans with such restraint. And they had all watched him do just that, at Francesca's side, for years.  

Mathias told all that he could recollect. The vampire had toyed with him - torturing him by alternating between the pleasure of the feeding and, at Mathias's resistance, withdrawing it and just allowing him to feel the pain in force. The pleasure outweighed the rest, though, and Mathias licked his lips, took in a deep breath, and he almost smiled, like remembering something so exquisite it deserved to be experienced again, and again, before exhaling sharply and shaking his head against the memory.

But the vampire had been interrupted. His mistress ordered him to stop, insisting that they only needed "one of them." Mathias spoke true, but he spoke to Malia - knowing his son's relationship with the accused made this incredibly uncomfortable to speak about. He left out the details of the woman's undress, the sheen of sweat on her pale skin, the obvious smell of sex that made obvious the success of her seduction of the Royal Scholar.

"They argued," Mathias went on, and closed his eyes a moment as he tried to recall. "He was angry with her. He called her treacherous, and it seemed that, perhaps, his attack on me was personal. That made sense; vampires rarely take victims of my years. He was punishing her, for letting someone go." He shook his head. "I did not recognize the name - Cohen? Owen?"

<Tag!>

Manda
 

Malia: "General Gonzalo, we respect that you intend to take responsibility - but we must know the identities of your conspirators as well." … "Help us understand, and perhaps we can help you." 


Mathias: *nods* … "To best help the city and Eventyr, this isn't a time for clemency," … 


Rafael wanted to be wrong. He wanted his father to tell him that it hadn't been Francesca, that it had been anyone other than her but there was no denying that look on Mathias's face. It had been Francesca, with her shining hair and the smile that made Rafael's heart beat faster, with her too-skinny physique and vampire bite that he'd tried so hard to convince himself was anything but . . .


His sorrow was two-fold, though, and the words his father continued with had Rafael's brows knitting. Mathias may have been convinced that the only way out of this was his death but Rafael hadn't gone toe to toe with a horde of zombies and butted heads with the Green Duke just to see his father meet the executioner's axe. If there was a way for Mathias to walk away from this alive, Rafael planned to see it happen. 


Mathias: "Her guard… he came for me. I should have recognized him for what he was--vampire." 


Rafael's eyes lifted, remembering the slight man from the party; the one whose attention he and Francesca had avoided by ducking into the alcove in the garden, who'd rode up front with the carriage driver on the way back to Lake City. His father hadn't been the only one who hadn't paid the vampire much attention and it was uncomfortable to realize just how close Rafael had been to the creature without realizing.


And the tale Mathias spun wasn't easy to hear, bringing back dark memories that Rafael had been struggling for years to process. He knew firsthand how confusing that mix of pleasure and pain could be, how sharp the feeling of betrayal when his body responded even as his mind recoiled, and without realizing it, Rafael drew inward. His shoulders hunched as he leaned forward, elbows on his knees and his head in his hands, and he wished that he didn't have to hear this. He wished that his father hadn't had to experience such a violation, that Francesca hadn't been involved, that everything could just go back to normal . . .


Mathias: "They argued," … "He was angry with her. He called her treacherous, and it seemed that, perhaps, his attack on me was personal. That made sense; vampires rarely take victims of my years. He was punishing her, for letting someone go." He shook his head. "I did not recognize the name - Cohen? Owen?"


Rafael's head snapped up, realization hitting like the icy shock of a northern stream. Not Cohen or Owen . . . cwn annwn. Rising from the chair, Rafael couldn't help but pace across the room, hands balling into fists in an attempt to quell the anxious tremor there. This was his fault. His father had been tortured, half-turned, forced to release a plague on the city because of him, because . . . 


Because Francesca hadn't been able to turn him over to the vampire. 


tags

 

Rachel
 

Mathias: *tells the tale*


Malia felt her blood boiling as the General's words stepped so carefully around the name of the one they had all dreaded he would speak. Francesca's convenient disappearance and subsequent power play had been so outrageous that there was no way Malia could suppose she hadn't been involved… 


The Northern Duchess tried to justify her outrage to herself, to say she was angry because fracturing Eventyr was dangerous for the realm. It would cause fighting and death, and they had seen enough of that already - at Francesca's own fucking hands. 


But the truth was simple: Malia was angry she hadn't thought of it first. 


Her own sights, though, were not on a single region of Eventyr. She wanted the whole thing. And perhaps, just perhaps, the chaos would give way to an opportunity she could use.


Malia's dark eyes lifted when Rafael stood and paced, and she berated herself for not watching the young General-to-be more closely. Sketched imitations of the works by Renaissance painter of the same name had shown up in her book over the last few days, so she had no doubt he was important, even if she did not know how. He had been engaged to Francesca once upon a time, her research had unveiled, even though the engagement had been brief and he had never been a political player since.


"We cannot fight a traitor we cannot name," Malia said, again choosing the inclusive pronoun. "Francesca Rossi was behind your infection - the cause of this entire tragedy?" The Duchess's posture softened, and she went on to ask, with a softer tone as if allowing the General to hedge. "You suggest she is under a vampire's control?" 


Nothing in the General's tale suggested he knew the turn of events afterward, so Malia wetted her lip in hesitation - it was improper to give information to the subject you were trying to extract information from, but Malia believed every syllable from Mathias's mouth and knew his experience and perspective could make all the difference. And James, who surely would have been ripping out fingernails by now, wasn't there to criticize, was he?


"The West has seceded from Eventyr. Francesca calls herself a Queen… Is there anything more you can tell us?" 


Tags!

 

Steph
 

Malia: "We cannot fight a traitor we cannot name," "Francesca Rossi was behind your infection - the cause of this entire tragedy?" "You suggest she is under a vampire's control?" 


Malia: "The West has seceded from Eventyr. Francesca calls herself a Queen… Is there anything more you can tell us?" 


Mathias looked up to the ceiling as if he could see through it to some higher purpose to guide his next words, distress playing across his face as he learned that the West had seceded. When he looked back to his son and then the Duchess, his expression bore more resolve.


"If she is further fracturing our land in its already fragile state, the threat is greater than you could understand," he replied. "The crown represents not only a mundane political authority over the people, but a mystical authority over this land, and worlds beyond it. The head that bears the weight of the crown must also bear this burden. The darkest times in our history arise when the monarch falters and fails in their duties.


"Could we hand the crown to one who had vanished in the deep woods and could be under the influence of one of the Great Old Witches? An unproven consort? A child? Would the people accept it if the crown was placed on another head when there were such obvious choices from the bloodline? Could we name one of royal blood and appoint a steward? Merthin and I debated in circles for hours."


He looked to Rafael intently, almost apologetically. "Yes. Francesca Rossi, Duchess of the West, is responsible, and she is not enthralled. At the least, she is a co-conspirator with the dark creatures, these vampires. I do not say this lightly. We must preserve the unity of our land."


Manda
 

Rafael stopped near the window, his back to both his father and the Duchess. He didn't see anything beyond the slight distortion of the glass though, his attention focused on steadying his breathing as he tried to sort through thoughts and feelings and the implications of everything his father had revealed. 


Francesca's change in demeanor that night had been curious. Rafael had dwelled on it for days afterwards, trying to make sense of everything that had happened, but in the end he'd decided that it didn't have to make sense; they were both broken in their own ways and still, even all these years later, unable to be what the other needed. His love for her wasn't enough. While that reflection had led him to the conclusion that she hadn't meant what she'd said, those words had also done the job she'd intended - driving him straight out of her arms to never come back.


He'd taken it one step further though, selfishly seeking out the only other person who'd hurt her more than he had: James Castile. He doubted she knew about him agreeing to hunt down Marcus's wolf for the Green Duke and he didn't really care if she ever found out. It had been his own private fuck you to Francesca.


But she'd saved him that night. Forcing him out of her home and back to his own without him any the wiser to the danger he'd been in. And both Francesca and his father had suffered for it. 


Malia: "We cannot fight a traitor we cannot name," … "Francesca Rossi was behind your infection - the cause of this entire tragedy?" ... "You suggest she is under a vampire's control?" 


Rafael couldn't stop the flinch that seized his muscles as Malia spoke Francesca's name, but he was shaking his head. Francesca wasn't the cause, not wholly. He'd had an unintentional part to play, as well. Would Philip still be alive if he hadn't captured Castile's werewolf? Would Francesca and the vampire's plans have continued on, regardless? 


Malia: "The West has seceded from Eventyr. Francesca calls herself a Queen… Is there anything more you can tell us?" 


Mathias: "If she is further fracturing our land in its already fragile state, the threat is greater than you could understand," he replied. "The crown represents not only a mundane political authority over the people, but a mystical authority over this land, and worlds beyond it. The head that bears the weight of the crown must also bear this burden. The darkest times in our history arise when the monarch falters and fails in their duties." … "Could we hand the crown to one who had vanished in the deep woods and could be under the influence of one of the Great Old Witches? An unproven consort? A child? Would the people accept it if the crown was placed on another head when there were such obvious choices from the bloodline? Could we name one of royal blood and appoint a steward? Merthin and I debated in circles for hours."


Rafael turned from the window then, beckoned out of the darkness of his own mind by these secrets his father shared. Worlds beyond? What did that mean? And he was sure his father didn't mean the literal crown but certainly the title of monarch, so did that make Francesca the keeper of worlds? And, though her, the vampires?


He opened his mouth, perhaps to ask these very questions, but Mathias wasn't finished and the pinch of eyebrows, the apology in his father's tone, had Rafael's throat closing with emotion.


Mathias: "Yes. Francesca Rossi, Duchess of the West, is responsible, and she is not enthralled. At the least, she is a co-conspirator with the dark creatures, these vampires. I do not say this lightly. We must preserve the unity of our land."


"Then we go to war?" Rafael asked, directly. "We take back the West, undo the laws Francesca has passed and unite Eventyr again?" It sounded so simple, of course, but Rafael knew it was anything but. They still didn't have a King or Queen sitting on the throne, no one to unite the South, East, and North and civil war was hardly a thing to enter into lightly . . . 


But there were ways to end a rebellion quietly. A carefully placed arrow from far away, a sharp blade slipped silently through the space between ribs . . . a cwn anwnn's nose and a battalion of well-prepared soldiers. 


The thought left Rafael with an uneasy knot in his stomach because no matter what they chose, it would mean Francesca's destruction. 


"Did you and Merthin ever come to a decision about our next ruler?" he asked from his place near the window. Maybe giving what was left of Eventyr a King or Queen was the first step to take?


Tags

 

Rachel
 

Mathias: "If she is further fracturing our land in its already fragile state, the threat is greater than you could understand," "The crown represents not only a mundane political authority over the people, but a mystical authority over this land, and worlds beyond it. The head that bears the weight of the crown must also bear this burden. The darkest times in our history arise when the monarch falters and fails in their duties."

"Worlds… beyond?" Malia echoed, leaning forward as she studied the elderly general's face. He had to mean her world. He had to! Her mind reeled, wondering how many such worlds there could be, and what Eventyr's role was in regulating them… but her intent searching found no answers. Were Mathias's words a platitude, a rehearsed line that suggested his country exceptional? 

Pressing would have been suspicious, so Malia let her response drop even though she knew her search into the meaning of those words had only just begun. 

Mathias: "Could we hand the crown to one who had vanished in the deep woods and could be under the influence of one of the Great Old Witches? An unproven consort? A child? Would the people accept it if the crown was placed on another head when there were such obvious choices from the bloodline? Could we name one of royal blood and appoint a steward? Merthin and I debated in circles for hours."

Yes, Malia screamed in her mind. Yes, the right choice for monarch was not in the bloodline - but there were nobles ready to step up in the vacuum of power. For that brief moment, Malia's heart rate skyrocketed and she desperately hoped that the lack of ideal choices had compelled the Royal General and Scholar to consider changing the laws that had left Eventyr in this total disaster of leadership… 

What was blood? What was gender, anyway? Choose the leader whose fate was entwined with Eventyr, who would sacrifice anything and everything for its prosperity… 

Mathias: "Yes. Francesca Rossi, Duchess of the West, is responsible, and she is not enthralled. At the least, she is a co-conspirator with the dark creatures, these vampires. I do not say this lightly. We must preserve the unity of our land."


Rafael: "Then we go to war?" "We take back the West, undo the laws Francesca has passed and unite Eventyr again?"  


Malia's lips pursed. War was a daunting prospect - with King's City devastated, hundreds or thousands dead, they would need to bring in soldiers from the duchies and that was an improbable feat. Then, their men would be tired, marching into a land where not only were their opponents rested, fed, and invested in protecting their home but also aided by who knew how many vampires? And without a king to lead them? No, they needed a smarter solution… 


Rafael: "Did you and Merthin ever come to a decision about our next ruler?"


Malia cut in before the general could answer. She would not have been among those they considered, and therefore, Malia knew that anything Mathias said - any suggestion that it ought to be Elliot or even James or that ungrateful bitch consort - would shoot the Northern Duchess's newly budding plan in the foot before it took off. 


"Without the Scholar, any decision is irrelevant now," Malia said. "Besides - Eventyr is no longer what it was. A leader must be chosen for this time, tumult and all."


tags!

Steph
 

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

>>>>
"Did you and Merthin ever come to a decision about our next ruler?"
...
 "Besides - Eventyr is no longer what it was. A leader must be chosen for this time, tumult and all."

>>>>
Though it was a serious moment, a soft hint of a smile crossed Mathias's face. It did the old general proud to hear his son draw reasonable conclusions, project a course of action, and ask thoughtful questions even when a noble of higher rank was in the room. Rafael, perhaps, in the right circumstances, could rise to take a place of significance in the future of Eventyr. Maybe even rise to become the Royal General one day, if he set his mind to it. If they didn't need to dwell further on matters of the past, then they could turn their minds toward the future. Or maybe this was an old man's dreaming.

"I agree with the duchess, to an extent," he said. "The decision we would have made before the succession of the Western Duchy may not have been the one we would reach now. If we'd reached a decision sooner, this might not have happened, but Merthin was..." Frustration played across Mathias's face, and he shook his head as he paused and considered his words with care. "Well, scholars and soldiers see the world differently--but even for a scholar, he was exceptionally enamored more by the attention he gained from his title and less by its actual responsibilities. I will tell you what we were closest to agreement on, and advise you to choose a strong General and wise Scholar to support the Dukes and Duchesses, and the new royalty."

He closed his eyes, as if to organize his thoughts. "We agreed that Altansarnai had the strongest claim. Though she had not quite been appointed as Queen, she had brought forth a bloodline heir. But her youth and experience concerned us. We agreed that if we chose her, we would want to appoint some sort of regent or council of regents while she learned how to rule. We hadn't agreed on who might best serve as that regent. The Southern Duke's history and lineage showed greatest promise to me--or the Southern Duke and Northern Duchess together, as she--"

He paused nodded his head respectfully to Malia "--you have experience rising to power, assuming your position, and gaining the respect and obedience of your people though you stepped into the role as relatively unknown outsider. But the fact that the Southern Duke never came to show his respect to the Consort and her child personally was concerning. He and the duchess may well have been sick, poor timing, but--has Duke Khalil been in contact, at all?"

<Tag!>

Manda
 

Malia: *war is dumb* … "Without the Scholar, any decision is irrelevant now," ... "Besides - Eventyr is no longer what it was. A leader must be chosen for this time, tumult and all."


Malia did have a point, Rafael silently agreed and his nod proved it. Knowing who the General and Scholar had chosen could give them a starting point though. Eventyr needed a leader, after all. 


Mathias: *proud of his boy!* 


It was only chance that had Rafael's eyes on his father when a ghost of a smile crossed Mathias' newly lined face and the pride the Hunter saw there took him by surprise, warmth spreading through his chest. It was absurd, really, that even at nearly thirty years old that spark in his father's eyes could elicit such a juvenile response, but the harsh words that Mathias had thrown so carelessly while in the thick of the fever had cut Rafael deeply. It was nice to know that even if the sentiment behind them had been true, Mathias felt more than simple disgust and disappointment for his youngest son.


Mathias: "We agreed that Altansarnai had the strongest claim. Though she had not quite been appointed as Queen, she had brought forth a bloodline heir. But her youth and experience concerned us. We agreed that if we chose her, we would want to appoint some sort of regent or council of regents while she learned how to rule. We hadn't agreed on who might best serve as that regent. The Southern Duke's history and lineage showed greatest promise to me--or the Southern Duke and Northern Duchess together, as she--"


Altansarnai. Interesting. Rafael's head tipped slightly, the movement almost canine as he considered that revelation. He hadn't known the Consort personally but he was familiar with the Plains people and their fierceness in battle; chances were Altansarnai had been raised on horseback and, despite her youth and gender, had also been trained to fight as well as any man in her Clan. 


Truth was, he wasn't completely sure that a warrior Queen wasn't exactly what they needed in their current political climate . . .


Mathias: "--you have experience rising to power, assuming your position, and gaining the respect and obedience of your people though you stepped into the role as relatively unknown outsider. But the fact that the Southern Duke never came to show his respect to the Consort and her child personally was concerning. He and the duchess may well have been sick, poor timing, but--has Duke Khalil been in contact, at all?"


Rafael's attention went to Malia just as his father's had and he took a few steps away from the window, almost as if he were nearly ready to return to his chair. Last he'd heard, no news had come from the South but he'd leave that to Malia to confirm and, instead, he said, "The Consort is gone; the new prince, as well." He cleared his throat and ventured a bit closer, "It's likely they didn't make it since the Green Duke hasn't been able to find any sign of them on his travels out into the city." Here, he hesitated, "There are rumors, though, that she was seen fighting off one of the winged vampires and many of the commoners believe she and her son made it out of the city alive . . ."


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Rachel
 

Mathias: "I agree with the duchess, to an extent," "The decision we would have made before the succession of the Western Duchy may not have been the one we would reach now. If we'd reached a decision sooner, this might not have happened, but Merthin was..." "Well, scholars and soldiers see the world differently--but even for a scholar, he was exceptionally enamored more by the attention he gained from his title and less by its actual responsibilities. I will tell you what we were closest to agreement on, and advise you to choose a strong General and wise Scholar to support the Dukes and Duchesses, and the new royalty. We agreed that Altansarnai had the strongest claim."


Malia barely stopped herself from screaming, but there was not enough self-control in the world to stop the sharp inhalation that signaled her unbridled rage. The consort? They had been considering the consort? The Duchess surged to her feet and paced the room, unable to contain the adrenaline surging through her veins. 


Mathias: "Though she had not quite been appointed as Queen, she had brought forth a bloodline heir. But her youth and experience concerned us. We agreed that if we chose her, we would want to appoint some sort of regent or council of regents while she learned how to rule. We hadn't agreed on who might best serve as that regent. The Southern Duke's history and lineage showed greatest promise to me--or the Southern Duke and Northern Duchess together, as she--"


Malia couldn't control herself. This never happened. She knew that a careful, deliberate appearance was everything in politics, and she was no hot-blooded youngster. She could play the long game…


But she couldn't help it - a hand pressed against her forehead, as if the General's words were giving her a migraine, heavy breaths, steeling herself by staring up at the ceiling, gripping her hips hard enough her knuckles turned white. 


Not only had Mathias wanted to give the Kingdom to a common-born teenager, but he wanted the Southern nobles to advise her? Were she and James - who had been here, fighting through all the chaos - chopped liver


No wonder this fucking hack had fallen to the vampire's power. He was as weak as he looked. 


Mathias: "--you have experience rising to power, assuming your position, and gaining the respect and obedience of your people though you stepped into the role as relatively unknown outsider."


The words hissed out of Malia against her will: "If I'm worthy to advise, I am worthy to…" Only grinding her teeth stopped the rest of the sentence, and she tossed a glance at Rafael - she intended it to be cautionary, to assess his reaction, but her glare threw daggers instead. 


Mathias: "But the fact that the Southern Duke never came to show his respect to the Consort and her child personally was concerning. He and the duchess may well have been sick, poor timing, but--has Duke Khalil been in contact, at all?"


Rafael: "The Consort is gone; the new prince, as well." "It's likely they didn't make it since the Green Duke hasn't been able to find any sign of them on his travels out into the city." "There are rumors, though, that she was seen fighting off one of the winged vampires and many of the commoners believe she and her son made it out of the city alive . . ."


"Commoners are stupid," Malia snapped, keeping near the wall as if the distance from father and son might obscure her irrationally anger. "Shall we wait for the return of the true queen as we have the return of Princess Bridgette for these five years?" It was absurd. "We cannot search the kingdom, top to bottom, for some rumored leader to save us…" 


Taking a deep breath to steady her voice, Malia managed to sound rational, finally. "Those of us who are here for Eventyr will rule Eventyr." 


Get back to business. Get back to business. Get back to business… 


"The winged vampires," Malia said, and ventured a step back toward her seat when she felt a bit more centered. Royal General Mathias Gonzalo might have been an absolute moron, but he was an expert on creatures. She'd read all his books. "Is there any precedent for them? Where did they come from? What are the implications?"

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Steph
 

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

>>>>
"The Consort is gone; the new prince, as well." ... "There are rumors, though, that she was seen fighting off one of the winged vampires and many of the commoners believe she and her son made it out of the city alive . . ."
>>>>
"We cannot search the kingdom, top to bottom, for some rumored leader to save us…" ... "Those of us who are here for Eventyr will rule Eventyr."
...
"The winged vampires," ... "Is there any precedent for them? Where did they come from? What are the implications?"
>>>>

While Rafael explained the situation with the Consort, Mathias made a pointed effort to keep his attention on his son and respectfully away from the Duchess, but his gaze flicked her way a few times as she fumed. When she addressed the matter of leadership, with slightly more control than her first frustrated reaction, he merely dipped his head to her in silent deference.

Sometimes the best response to nobility was no response at all.

Besides, he felt his own measure of frustration over the news Rafael provided. He let out a sigh, shaking his head. "If we had agreed, a day sooner, if Merthin had been more decisive, the Duchess's plans would have been cut short, the Consort's place solidified, the void filled. And those who are here for Eventyr would have unity under the crown, even if Francesca still chose not to stand with Eventyr."

He shook his head then, letting this tangent go by the wayside. "A man cannot live by what might have been. Only what is, now. The Consort is as Bridgette, then. An appealing fairy story, not a viable plan. These vampires, though... The Creatures of Eventyr each have their natures, and it is the nature of vampires to lure their prey in with seduction, lust, sexual need.

"There is nothing innately wrong with passion and romance." Mathias might have given Rafael a bit of a look at that, knowing how his son fared in relationships. "But, I'm sure you know, vampires take this to an unhealthy degree. Their needs consume their partners. And, sometimes, they take their partners and change them into new vampires. More of the same, historically-speaking. But, maybe, if dark magic were involved, some licentious ritual, some sacrifice drawing on the most profane corruption of passion, a new, more powerful form of vampire could be born of it... And one aware and capable of dark rituals to create new creatures would be a great threat, indeed."

<tag!>

Manda
 

Malia: *NOBLEWOMAN TANTRUM*


Rafael wasn't expecting Malia's rather extreme reaction to the news that Sarnai had been the General and Scholar's choice but he also knew better than to allow himself a reaction; Malia certainly outranked him and he had no intention of inviting her ire. So he, like his father, kept his eyes averted as he finally settled back into his chair, awkwardly allowing Malia the privacy to . . . work through her emotions. 


Malia: "If I'm worthy to advise, I am worthy to…"


Rafael glanced at Malia just in time to catch the glare the Duchess threw in his direction. He wasn't sure what he'd done to catch her attention and he couldn't quite stop the narrowing of his eyes in response. Malia wanted to be Queen. Somehow Rafael wasn't surprised by that. She'd appeared from seemingly out of nowhere, married her way into a duchy and then had become its sole ruler with the death of her husband. She was ambitious, without a doubt, but had she truly expected to be chosen as Queen before the Consort? That seemed incredibly naive to him. 


Malia: "Commoners are stupid," ... "Shall we wait for the return of the true queen as we have the return of Princess Bridgette for these five years?" ... "We cannot search the kingdom, top to bottom, for some rumored leader to save us…" … "Those of us who are here for Eventyr will rule Eventyr." 


Convenient for you, Duchess. Rafael didn't say such aloud though. 


Malia: "The winged vampires," ... "Is there any precedent for them? Where did they come from? What are the implications?"


Mathias: … "A man cannot live by what might have been. Only what is, now. The Consort is as Bridgette, then. An appealing fairy story, not a viable plan. These vampires, though... The Creatures of Eventyr each have their natures, and it is the nature of vampires to lure their prey in with seduction, lust, sexual need." … "There is nothing innately wrong with passion and romance." *pointed look*


Again, Rafael kept his mouth closed but he couldn't stop himself from shifting uncomfortably in his chair, his brown eyes drifting toward the fire. Passion and romance had no place in Rafael's life anymore and hadn't for a long time. Francesca's recent actions had only made that even more apparent. 


Mathias: "But, I'm sure you know, vampires take this to an unhealthy degree. Their needs consume their partners. And, sometimes, they take their partners and change them into new vampires. More of the same, historically-speaking. But, maybe, if dark magic were involved, some licentious ritual, some sacrifice drawing on the most profane corruption of passion, a new, more powerful form of vampire could be born of it... And one aware and capable of dark rituals to create new creatures would be a great threat, indeed."


James had recognized the winged vampire as one of the Eastern maidens who had been chosen for King Philip. Could that simply be coincidence? It maybe could, Rafael admitted, but he hardly considered it likely. If Poppy, who was last seen alive in the Eastern Woods roughly nine months ago, had been somehow turned into one of these winged vampires . . . 


"A dark ritual in the deep forests of the East, maybe?" Rafael ventured, his eyes landing steadily on his father again. "Perhaps one involving twelve maidens and a grief-stricken King," he paused, swallowed, "who had been having an affair with Francesca?"


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Rachel
 

Mathias: "...I'm sure you know, vampires take this to an unhealthy degree. Their needs consume their partners. And, sometimes, they take their partners and change them into new vampires. More of the same, historically-speaking. But, maybe, if dark magic were involved, some licentious ritual, some sacrifice drawing on the most profane corruption of passion, a new, more powerful form of vampire could be born of it... And one aware and capable of dark rituals to create new creatures would be a great threat, indeed."


Raf: "A dark ritual in the deep forests of the East, maybe?" "Perhaps one involving twelve maidens and a grief-stricken King," "who had been having an affair with Francesca?"


"Francesca played Philip like a fiddle," Malia concluded, the distasteful curl on her lip broadcasting her disgust and the resulting nausea loud and clear. Malia understood it, instantly, because the plan had crossed her own mind - many times. But she had never been able to risk Eventyr in her pursuit of status. Killing the king had been her most extreme move, but she had made it only once the king had lost all confidence of the people and she'd set James up as the clear successor…. 


Malia had never expected such a betrayal from a quarter of the kingdom. Her jaw clenched, but she gritted out, "So… you suggest that Francesca Rossi is the greatest existential threat Eventyr has ever faced?" A breathy exhalation betrayed how very floored the Duchess was to speak those words...


"But..." Malia pushed, and the intensity of her panic redirected to a focused steadiness now, as she placed her hands on the back of her seat and leaned forward. "How would Francsca know how to execute such a ritual?" Perhaps the king had told her? 


But that wasn't the most compelling question, was it? 


Why? Why would a Duchess do this? 


"Why… why would Francesca want to open a plague on Eventyr? Or, two plagues?" The zombies and the winged-vampires both… 


And, unbidden, Malia's eyes darted toward - and then settled - on Rafael. The truth was that Mathias knew Francesca no more than Malia did, but Rafael knew the rogue duchess on a level they couldn't dream. 


Malia's lips didn't move - her dark eyes smoldered with expectation as she held Rafael's gaze. Was Francesca power-hungry? Out for revenge? Or just the vampires' pawn...? 


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