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Pasion Pasiva

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    http://www.valucre.com/index.php?/page/world.html/_/world/genesaris/orisia/orisia-lore-r343
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  1. They knew each other far too well to play games. From fire to ice, they moved seamlessly from joy to anguish, with never a moment in the strange and foreign inbetween land. There was no gray for them, there was no lukewarm, no temperate season of contentment. They could only ever be very good or exceedingly bad, and they both knew that things were quickly devolving. There was a silence between them that stretched out to uncomfortable lengths. She spoke, but he was measuring his words -- more than that, perhaps, he was measuring his behavioral response. She imagined a dam between them, and on the other side was a depthless collection of unspent rage. There was a crack in the constitution of the dam and she could see a trickle of his ire seeping out, wetting the surface of his face. It was really only a matter of time until it broke open and the flood waters of hate carried her, and him, away. But why… She racked her brain trying to think of what she could have done to displease him. They had shared a private moment some nights ago. It had been quiet and sweet, and both had shown a sort of reserve that only belonged to true lovers. Neither willing to wound the other, neither willing to be unkind. She had left him, because the whole thing had been so strange and the tender shoots of her love for him felt strengthened. There was nothing in this world that frightened her quite so much as her feelings for him. Feeling that she was certain were not properly returned, or that were perhaps, liable to make a fool of her. She was too proud, too self-centered, or maybe just too afraid to ever have listened to the whispers of affection that so often cried out for her to touch him. But that night things had changed. That night, he had revealed a vulnerability that broke her heart and made her flee. However, unlike every other occasion, she had returned from it. She didn’t leave him broken hearted for long. She sought him out, she eased his pain, and she closed her hand around his and led him back to their bedroom. Beyond that, things had seemed well. He had become soft, and she had become receptive. She woke to the sensation of his arms around her, and he opened his eyes to the sight of her pressing close to his chest, seeking his warmth before climbing out of bed. It was a sort of normalcy that didn’t really belong to them, and it was obvious by how quickly her tone changed that she had never fully accepted it. That perhaps, was the bigger betrayal. “Everything,” said Roen after having approached the bed. She hadn’t seen him come. Her mind had been drifting, and her eyes -- golden and warm -- had worn a faraway look that only now as he reached down to touch her cheek managed to settle on his face. There he was, and there she was -- watching him suspiciously. She half expected the single finger to turn into a full, open-handed slap, though it never happened. Instead, the finger grazed down the corner of her lips. “All.” She swallowed, harder than she intended, and the gesture seemed dramatic and full of guilt. She turned her head away, and sighed. He would catch a breeze of her cool breath across his knuckles, before she pulled fully away and sat up straight once more with the pillow still firmly held to her chest. Those eyes of hers stared up into his, examining his deep set frown and the severity of his sensual mouth. It made her sad to admit that a smile did not belong on his face. He was glorious in his rage, but only when it was like this -- elegant, simmering, dangerously quiet and still. There was a thrill to it that she was ashamed to admit she enjoyed. But this was not the moment to appreciate that. “Where you kissing another man in my throne room?” It wasn’t often that Gabriela was caught off guard, at least not when it came to information. After Ryzerus had visited her, she expected this conversation. She had imagined that Roen kept eyes on her at all times, beyond those of her ladies in waiting. But then, he had never brought it up, and she began to believe that maybe she had gotten away with it. Not that there was anything to get away with, other than hiding the shame of being so awfully out of control of her life. She knew Roen wouldn’t have had the patience to play this game, to keep the information of her adultery to himself for every long, especially not when it could so easily translate into the game he most enjoyed -- inflicting pain, pleasure, and humiliation upon her. And there had only been one other person in that throne room. That’s what surprised her. Not that he knew, but that Ellie had told him. “What did you do to her?” She asked, suddenly furious. The halfling would never betray her, not unless placed in unimaginable duress -- and that is exactly what Gabriela imagined. She was outraged that the fiend had laid unkind hands upon such a small and innocent creature, and all worry for herself seemed to go out the window. She was pulling away, sliding away, getting up and off the bed from the other side, dragging with her a sheet in crimson, which she wrapped around herself, while her golden hair fell behind her like a veil, near white in the dim light. She came around the corner of the bed to where he was standing. “If you hurt her Roen -- if you mistreated her! I will never forgive you.” She didn’t think of explaining herself, but by not doing so she accepted the full weight of the blame. But there was much to say, explanations and reasons -- words that could save her. Yet, Gabriela was a fool for others and seemed unwilling or perhaps unable to see that the devil did not care about how he had come to acquire the information, much less what she thought of his means. All he cared about was knowing if it was true or not. Disgusted she shook her head and turned away toward the hearth and the fire he had lit. “Kissing implies that I wanted it -- asked for it. I was kissed. There’s a difference.”
  2. I'm here :( So sorry for pulling a disappearing act on ya! Hope all is well on your end and hopefully we can get back to writing fun things <3

    1. Pasion Pasiva

      Pasion Pasiva

      It's alright! Hope you're doing well and that the squishy is doing well!

  3. “You will remember,” he said, and smiled -- and she looked at him with doubt. But it faded away the more she studied his face. His smile was so weak and tired, it hardly curled the corner of his lips. It was a sad smile, one that recognized her own pain and bonded with it in a way no one ever had before. They were both hurting, they were both missing the same person, and it felt oddly comforting. He understood what it was to lose Gabriela, because they had both made her into the bright star at the center of their universes. But she was devoid of the rage and contempt that her elder sister harbored. She was only filled with a mournful sort of longing that the Blood God also felt. How many times had she sat, tearful and exhausted because she knew in her heart that Gabriela did not love her -- not in the real and purposeful way that a mother loved a child. It was duty that kept her safe under the shadow of the Black Queen, but not love. Yet love was all the little girl had ever wanted. It felt like the only thing she required. She would have given up everything and more, she would have sworn off blood of any sort -- promising to never have an ounce of it again -- if only it could be replaced with an ounce of her mother’s love. She looked at him now and she saw the same sad resignation. He would have done anything for Gabriela to love him. Raspberry shared his empathetic smile then and reached up to pat the back of his hand. “There, there, uncle…” she said sweetly in that musical voice of hers. Her comfort seemed to reawaken him from his own painful reverie. He plucked her off the ground and held her to his chest, sitting her on the perch created by a strong arm under her bottom. Slender, white arms automatically shout out and wrapped around his neck. She kept herself close to him and smiled when he sought her face. She was a beautiful child, perhaps the loveliest ever seen. The shape of her face was perfect, her cheeks were round, her nose a button, and her lips were a perfect miniature replica of hers. Devoid of lust and desire, this little rendition of Gabriela became an enchanting creature of beauty and delight. Bright eyed, and with a perfect complexion. She was very well the child they could have shared -- made whole with those scarlet eyes of hers. “You will remember that you are not alone, my sweet darling, that there are those in this world that still care for you because of who you are, Raspberry. Not for how well you can mimic your mother’s mannerisms.” “I don’t just want to mimic her,” the little girl replied as she was swept up into a set of spins. She squealed in delight and gripped her arms tighter around his neck. “I see how others love her. I see how they are devoted to her. I want to inspire that,” she confessed innocently, “I want to be like mommy because mommy is good, and kind, and gentle. I want to be good, and kind, and gentle too.” A gift was given then, one the likes of which the small child had never received. It was the first heartfelt gift anyone had ever given her, and it made her crimson eyes swell with tears for the second time that night. She heard, dutifully as he sang and committed the gentle melody he hummed to her memory. She went so far as to try it on her own to make sure she had it correctly. And when it was all said and done, and he was merely swaying with her and looking at her, and she in turn was doing the same, she did something that was as unexpected as it was impulsive. Raspberry leaned forward and kissed him full on the cheek. She was sweet-smelling like her mother, though hers was a perfume of freshly picked flowers and the sweet nectar they often released. “Whenever you sing this song, think of me, my princess, and know that I will always be thinking of you. And in return, whenever I sing this song now, I will think of you and wish that you were with me. This will be something that we share, just you and I – our little secret, between king and princess.” “I like this secret,” she confessed, “-- but I won’t keep it from mommy. I’ll tell her about it when she comes back. She would like this song. I know she would.” She said this so earnestly that perhaps the elder would be touched, or perhaps hurt at the memory of having shared such sweet songs with his true princess. But the point remained, little Raspberry was full of hope. And perhaps she would lend some of it to him. “Then it will be our secret, us three…”
  4. She moved like a woman in a dream. Everything felt as if it were filtered through a fog, and she couldn’t clear her mind -- not even now that the nullification field had dropped, not even now that the ship had finally landed, and not even with the knowledge that soon they would be out and about upon solid land. There was a distance to her that made her feel painfully isolated. And as she stood besides her companions, listening to the very polite, physical manifestation of the ship’s artificial intelligence, she felt like she was standing on the other side of a great gulf -- hundreds of miles away from those who were helping her. There was no way to articulate her feelings, so she didn’t try. She was quiet and she listened. Her golden eyes were heavy with weariness, but she kept her posture straight and remained as vigilant as always. She felt the strain of moving through a set of automatic responses, but she pushed forward regardless. After being presented with a rather stunning ring, she too shared Reinhard’s sentiments. “Yes, please extend our most sincere gratitude to the captain. I hope I’ll have the chance to meet with him again.” It was a subtle request, an odd thing to make, but one that she made regardless of shame. She still needed Dominic and his ship, though she loathed the form of transportation there was no denying how essential it was when moving across such a massive continent. She needed him to stay, she needed him to maintain his strange desire to lend a helping hand to her and hers, without asking for a thing in return. So she made her rather inelegant plea, and hoped that he would hear it himself -- that he would understand that she hoped, he would be here when she returned. As for the stunning ring, she slipped it onto her ring finger without a second thought. It just so happened to be the only finger it fit comfortably upon, and so there it remained. The red band, and three black stones, were quite a statement and quite visible upon her pale hand, but she thought nothing of it. Anyway, it would probably be better if she was perceived as unavailable -- and a ring on the right finger sometime’s had a way of fending off unwanted attention. ~*~ Henrik was a sweet and kind man, though his appearance was nearly as gruff as that of Reinhard's. She wasn’t surprised. It would seem likely that a good person would know and befriend other good people, which led her to a curious realization. The people she surrounded herself with, beyond her small ragtag team of randomly assembled individuals, tended to be for the most part not good people. She had never taken into consideration that this was a direct reflection of her own moral worth, but it made sense. She attracted the mean, the cruel, the violent -- was it because she manifested these things? The question burrowed itself into her mind, refusing to be forgotten while her attention was drawn elsewhere. Henrik took them to a set of rooms, a large suite of three bedrooms, and an ample living space, all of it modern and tastefully decorated. It was a breath of fresh air after having walked through devastating poverty and filthy surroundings. But she had to wonder at the price, a burden that Reinhard had shouldered on his own. It added to the mounting weight of guilt on her shoulders. First Elie, then Dominic, and now Reinhard -- had she really fallen so low? She was use to being a provider. This strange dependence on others were strange and difficult waters to navigate. The rooms were divided. Reinhard would have his own, and the three ladies in waiting she had kidnapped from Patia would share another. Everyone insisted on Gabriela having her own room, which only made her feel worse. But the thought of being alone was simply too alluring for her to put up any kind of an honest fight. So she slipped away as soon as she could and closed the door behind her to a modest sized room, with a modest sized bed, and found herself beyond thankful for everything she had been given so far. She thought of a bath, but before she could get very far in removing her clothes -- just after she shrugged off her coat and draped it over a chair -- there was a knock at her door. Before she could answer, Winter let himself into the room and closed the door behind him. Gabriela was more than a little surprised by the forwardness of his intrusion, bt the look on his face as he leaned against the shut door made her still and silent. “Are you aware that you are with child, your Majesty?” “I beg your pardon?” she asked, her eyes narrowing into a frown. Instinctively her hands rose to rest on her flat belly, a protective gesture that frightened her. Her hands immediately dropped to her sides and formed into fists. “How could you know that?” She demanded, frowning at the medic. “You couldn’t possibly know that -- much less with the certainty to march into my room and announce it like this.” She was annoyed -- and frightened. She was quite moody to say the least.
  5. There were dreams -- strange, wonderful, and even frightening dreams -- but by the time her eyes opened they were gone and all that was left of them was a fleeting sense that she had been very far away from here. Here, being, the soft nest of silken sheets in shades of crimson and black and the sea of overly-stuffed pillows she had curl up against. It was a little disorienting, to say the least. And for a moment she had to lay there trying to figure out if she was truly awake or if she had in fact just rolled into another dream. Even he had made an appearance in her dreams, standing besides her, touching the side of her face with a tenderness she was only now learning to appreciate and even enjoy. But she was certain it was a dream, because when her eyes did open and managed finally to settle and look beyond strange golden-red glow of the room that fell on everything save the dark shadows cast by the canopy of his bed, she saw him standing at a distance with his arms crossed and his hip against his desk. She couldn’t tell that he was looking at her. “I am tired,” she complained by way of greeting, slowly pulling herself up into a sitting position. She was gloriously nude, though there was a sheet thrown tastefully across her lap, hidding the most tempting of her charms. Though he had discontinued the ritual of binding her wrist together while she slept, at least for most of the nights they shared together, he still seemed utterly unwilling to allow her a scrap of fabric with which to cover herself with when they were alone. And so she stretched her limbs, which were long and slender for her petite frame, and then curled herself back in tightly on her side, finding that her cool place among the silken sheets and pillows was still perfectly shaped and just as comfortable as she had left it. “I feel like I could have slept for a few more hours if you hadn’t been so rude.” It was a complaint, but it was mild and charming with the slight slur of sleepiness that accompanied it. Gabriela pulled a pillow over her face and hid from the slowly dimming glow of a nearly ended sunset. Even under the protection of shadow, she still felt the discomfort of the sun. It was too warm, it was too bright, and so she blamed the strange churning of her stomach on that. She had to take a moment for the swirling sensations to ease away, and when they were gone, she marveled at how tired she actually felt. It was like her body was made of or full of lead, and it made every part of her, down to her fingers and toes, feel like they had done too much. “I don’t think I should have anymore of your blood,” she said from under the safety of her pillow. The fabric was cool, not as cool as her own skin, but it still felt oddly nice -- as if she were fevered. She sighed, a sound that was lost within the stuffing of the plush pillow, and then nuzzled her cheek against it as her arms came around to embrace it. It almost appeared as if she were trying to smother herself, until at last she pulled it away and down her body, covering the swells of her breasts that had been steadily rising and falling. Fully covered, and still on her side, she looked back to Roen. He was clearer now, and the room grew dimmer and dimmer, until all that was left was the flicker of flames. She propped her head against a hand, which in turn was bent at the elbow and pressed into the mattress. She looked at him, and smiled. “Is this what it’s like to be hungover? I’ve been meaning to ask… What a strange sensation.” She looked away, golden eyes flickering past him to the window situated directly behind him, framed in thick curtains and a beautiful wooden frame, which was elaborately carved. It was made to look like a paintain’s fine frame, and so it made the light up city scene beyond into a glorious piece of living art. Her smile grew even warmer, and more private, as she looked out over Patia. But there was a pulling, a drawing, that made her look back at Roen. He hadn’t moved. He was still standing quite still, and his eyes seemed rather unkind. Unintentionally she pulled at the pillow and pressed it a little tighter against her chest. She knew that look, even when it teetered on the edge of ardor -- she knew the resting pulse of rage just beneath the surface. So her lips pressed and her smile melted away into a serious line. “What’s wrong?” she asked, in an oddly icy tone. She had awoken with a desire to tell him about the strange sensation that her dreams left her with, but it was forgotten the moment she saw the shadows across his face. He sunk into them so beautifully when he was mad. Any other person would have guessed him to be Tenebre’s beloved, and not her -- not she, whose skin made the perfect canvas for warm light to flicker and dance over. Not she, who in darkness, seemed to radiate a pale, silver glow. Not she, but he -- he who stood now, flanked by shadows and caressed by their cold, dark shades.
  6. Everything I wanted was in my hand I gave it all up for a better man Beat me down but on the ground I stand Sitting in the back, baby how do you lie? If I'm about to crack, keep the pedal in drive All this time the joke was all on me Blame all your life on me Just blame all your life on me I give it all for free Blame all your life on me Hear me with the wind again Hear me with the wind I hope I have lost a friend again I have lost a friend I hope, how the story goes
  7. I had a summer lover down in New Orleans Kept him warm in the winter, left him frozen in the spring My, my, how the seasons go by I get high, and I love to get low So the hearts keep breaking, and the heads just roll You know that's how the story goes One, two, three, they gonna run back to me 'Cause I'm the best baby that they never gotta keep One, two, three, they gonna run back to me They always wanna come, but they never wanna leave Ex's and the oh, oh, oh's they haunt me Like ghosts they want me to make 'em all They won't let go
  8. There were things happening, things that she should have been paying better attention to but she wasn’t. Her mind had become a tumultuous place, and without the aid of her heightened senses, everything that was in her peripheral remained in peripheral. For one, she should have taken notice of how tired Reinhard was, or the fact that he was taking drugs to make up for the lack of rest he had been suffering since this whole thing started. Even without her abilities, she should have suspected that the man was not taking proper care of himself. He was awake and standing outside the door to her small shared quarters at dawn, and he was still standing there when she woke up at dusk. She didn’t bat an eyelash about it -- she didn’t seem to notice much these days. Even the oddly and constantly drunk Elie was for the most part ignored, just as everyone else was. She was full of worries, doubts, and suffering from painful heart aches. But when the loyal old man took a knee by her side and leaned in close to her -- when she in turn looked at him -- she saw the naked truth of his neglect. Even freshly invigorated with Winter’s potion, she could see it etched into his eyes and the deep spider-web of wrinkles that spread from them. He was tired, but alert. “That would be… Most unwise, my dear.” For the first time since this started, she experienced a touch of curiosity. There was a distance in Reinhard's eyes as he spoke, as if he were remembering and speaking at the same time. It was the sort of thing that only a human could do so perfectly, and she loved him for it. It was the frailty of human memory, the amount of work it took to recall past events, the sort of careful doubt that came with reiterating what was thought to be true. She watched him, enchanted by his frailty but reminded of his strength, loyalty, and displeasure. Oh yes -- he was quite displeased. “At least allow me to escort you to a friend’s tavern, and provide you girls with rooms. I know a place your lot can be safe.” “Reinhard,” she began, biting at the corner of her plump, bottom lip. She was going to shake her head. She was going to tell him that time was of the essence and that she couldn’t risk losing even an hour for the sake of precaution. But she saw it in his face, clear as day and dug into the trench-like wrinkles of his face. He was at his wits end with her. He had taken just about enough of her etrigue and he wouldn’t put up with anything else that he didn’t deem necessary and reasonable. So she gave in, a thing that she didn’t often do -- and nodded her head instead of shaking it. “That sounds like a good idea.” When he agreed to comply with her request -- her favor -- she felt a great weight lifted off her shoulders. It was the first step in a long and dangerous journey, but at least it was the first step. No more stagnancy. No more sitting around waiting for promises to be kept. She was going to get her throne back… But at what cost? She heard a small voice ask in the back of her mind as Reinhard lifted her hand and kissed her knuckles. The Black Queen, the queen of nothing, frowned and reached out before he could pull away. She caught his hand and held it in both of hers. She held it cupped close to her body. She was cold, even with the nullified zone at full power, her blood ran ice cold. “You’ll be careful,” she said softly, quiet enough for just him to hear. “It’s not a request, Reinhard -- it’s an order. You’ll be careful, and you’ll come back to me.”
  9. “If we’re being honest, my sweet Raspberry, I had hoped that wouldn’t be the case. You are only as strong and sharp as you know yourself to be because you walk in your mother’s footsteps. Yes, there is merit in the hunt itself, but we are not meant to dine on such filthy creatures. Even the Black Queen is known to partake in the blood of others—devils, High Lords, and even…” The child regarded him curiously, her eyes wide. She wanted to tell him that the decision had been left up to her and that she wanted to be like her mother. The way Gabriela described it -- didn’t always make sense, but she saw the swell of pride it caused in her mother’s golden eyes and she craved to be the source of similar pride. So when she had been asked, the child had decided to pursue a life similar to her mother’s. It also seemed to put others at ease, when they learned that the little girl had no taste for human blood. Except that she did have a taste for it, one that she had buried deep and forgotten about. Even so, it was very strange to hear it be said that her mother fed from the blood of the devil and the high lords and even… “Even who?” she asked eagerly, suddenly quite enthralled with the knowledge that was being given to her. She was pushed to the outer rim of the kingdom, where she would be safe and sound. But she was pushed out of adult matters as well. She didn’t know much about her mother or her siblings. She had no idea what happened within the family. This was the first time she had ever even heard a story told of how her mother fed, beyond the whispers of her hunting trips. And now she wanted to know it all. She couldn’t abide the elder withholding from her. Drawing close and clutching at his hand, she looked at him with all the fierceness a child could produce -- which was quite a bit -- and shook him gently, “who?! You? Has she had your blood?” “...Next, she’ll have you clawing through the dirt looking to feed off worms and insects…” “Oh no,” she said brightly, “no, no -- it’s not like that. It’s not! I hunt, just like her. My guardian, well, he use to be my guardian but he’s been gone a long time now,” she looked away suddenly, turning toward the moon. She was thinking of Titan, of that strange creature that loved her so and whom she had loved in return. He was her only friend, but he had been gone for nearly a year now. The memory of him was vivid, fresh, and painful. “We would go into the jungle and he would teach me how to properly stalk prey. Jungle cats mostly, but also wild boar. When we were in Versilla, we hunted wolves and bears. It was dangerous but fun.” She smiled, bright and charming, selling him the idea of hunting animals rather than humans. Perhaps she was more convincing than her mother could ever be, because she lacked the moral edge that Gabriela often used. It was about sport for the child, it was about running free and wild. But still, she saw his disapproval and she inched back, not afraid, but sullen suddenly. “You don’t like me anymore?” He smiled at her, just a little, and it eased her fears away. Without reassuring her, not that he had to after giving her such a dazzling smile, he went on to commend her reaction to Vivian’s attempts to control her. She was pleased by this reiteration of her position above Vivian, and even her High Lord. Would that they could hear it! She thought pointedly with a frown. And then, before the frown could melt away he caught her round the chin and tilted her face towards the moon yet again. Big, crimson eyes blinked up at him, perplexed at the liberties he took. That doll like face lit up silver and white with moonlight shining on it. But even the muted colors of the night did little to remove the brilliant red of her eyes, the crystal like glints of light that sparkled around two perfect, small, pupils that grew large the longer she looked into his face. “But don’t be silly, my love...There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the way you look. You are every bit as beautiful as your mother, though I might say the Bartolome in her runs thickest in you. Those gorgeous eyes, how they enchant me so!” He was stroking her cheek when she rebelliously pulled away. “That’s not true. I am all DuGrace, just like my mother,” said the child ignorantly, as if she had never heard tell that her mother was indeed half Bartolome. The silence that stretched between them was not awkward, although she had shown some displeasure. Perhaps it was because he was patient and kind and understood the child’s deep rooted desire to replicate all that made Gabriela so beloved. The little girl was starved for affection, so she did her best to behave like her mother did. So many loved her, she would do anything to have just one person look at her the way so many look at her. However, unlike Dollya, little Raspberry didn’t hate her mother for this. Rather, she looked up to the woman and idolized her. She wanted to be beloved, she wanted to be gentle and sweet, she wanted to be everything that earned Gabriela so much devotion. But she knew that she wasn’t. There was something wrong with her. “We both know your mother isn’t dead. She’s out there, somewhere, sulking and brooding in the shadows, licking her wounds and trying to muster the courage to return.” Raphael had taken her hand, and she had not pulled away. She stood there besides him, her small ice-cold hand in his and her pretty face tilted up. When she had told that man of her suspicions about her mother’s true state of being, he had urged her to accept her mother’s death. It had hurt, but it hadn’t hurt enough to make her believe any less that Gabriela was alive. But to hear confirmation of her hopes and dreams, it made her eyes well up with tears. These tears matched her smile, and then her laugh, as she was twirled round and round. “And we both know that she will return, but only when the time is right—when she is ready. That could be days, weeks, months… maybe even years from now. So no, my love, I am not here in search of your mother. I’ve not come here out of some sense of guilt. I am here for you, my Raspberry, and you alone.” The joy died out of her, and then she refused to move -- she refused to twirl anymore. She stood, dead weight upon her two feet. It was a small relief to know that he had actually come for her. There was an overwhelming sense of sadness that she could not escape. It felt like it was going to swallow her up. Gabriela was alive, she believed it with all of her heart and soul -- but it would take time, maybe a long time, before she would ever see her again. The thought depressed the child, and she who was not trained to hide her emotions, showed the bitter disappointment clear as day upon her lovely face with a trembling bottom lip and downcast eyes. “Will you stay with me for a while, little one? The night is young, and there’s much I would show you before the sun rises.” Raspberry nodded her head. “What will I do without my mother? I am alone…”
  10. He was different than the other two High Lords. Although he did not seem to embrace the sadness that walked hand in hand with his isolation, she knew it was there -- perhaps masked with another name and felt with different sentiments. Whatever the case, she caught on to the flicker of emotion that manifested itself in a swirl of power. She felt it, like the sudden strength of a powerful gust of wind, but did not see so much as a strand of her hair flutter out of place. Ryzerus smiled and she felt a deep pool of blackness gather, still and quiet, in the pit of her stomach. She saw it in her mind's eye. A tar-like lake that did not so much as reflect a single gleam of light, but rather swallowed up every wayward ray that had the misfortune of dropping across it. It was the manifestation of her hate, a vision that formed somewhere in her dreams many years ago and with time had grown from a small pool of black to this massive body of abysmal substance that weighed her down, that made her feel bloated with hate. His knowing smile triggered it. She knew he would come back someday, that he would make good on her promise, and that he would ask for something dispicable. That was the price she decided to pay, but it unsettled her -- and she knew that it would until the day he came to claim his favor. “I see you have grown, and in such short time, my Queen. My Black Queen. I will do as you ask, but be warned -- once you retake your throne, you can never leave it again. And I am not responsible for the cruelties that will befall your usurper son.” “You see nothing,” she replied, standing up straight and gathering her hand back to her side. She stared up at him, and matched his height in pride if not in actual stature. The fear of him, of what he had done and what he could do, was neatly tucked away for now. There was something else at work, and it was dark and terrible. That pool of black fed her blood, made it thick and powerful. “I am the same bloom you’ve always seen, the same woman standing before you now as the day you took me by force in that Cathedral -- the same. You just never cared to see it. But mark my words, High Lord, even you, my new friend, will one day regret the fact that you underestimated me.” Again he smiled, he spread his wings, and then he was gone -- leaving behind a single thought. If you need me, use the rose. One favor was all she was willing to owe the Condor of Genesaris -- just one. “Burn this, will you?” she said aloud, after having reached up to pluck the black rose out of her hair. She was holding it out, a beautiful bloom of night-colored velvet petals, tightly bound around an invisible center. It was as strange as it was beautiful, but she knew that it could and would be destroyed. But she couldn’t do it. Not without calling attention to herself. So she turned her head and regarded the little halfling who had so bravely come to her rescue. Even the sight of little Elie, curious and worried, could not sway the hatred from Gabriela’s tainted blood. She looked, unkindly upon the little creature. “Burn it, and bury the ashes.”
  11. Gabriela sat forward in her chair, with a single pale hand gripping the worn armrest. Her fingers dug into the upholstered fabric, but she was so very distressed that she didn’t have time to even think or comment on how strange the material felt. Her eyes were on the horizon, from which a blue-metallic structure could be seen protruding from the otherwise flat landscape. It was a wall, she knew, but her mind didn’t really have the capacity to admire its size, it’s gleaming color (even in the very faint evening light), or it’s purpose. Her mind was elsewhere -- like taking careful measure of her surroundings to better gauge the possibilities of the airship that carried her falling down from the sky and crashing into the earth below. Winter had been kind enough to supply her with a steady stream of that wonderful sedative, which she still wasn’t particularly how she had managed to keep down. Anything that wasn’t heavily diluted with blood always had a tendency to make her violently ill. And yet the potent medication had been taken straight and its calming effects had been powerful -- but not powerful enough to remove the edge of her own imagination. And there was much and more to be worried about now that they were finally upon the brink of their destination. Why here -- she had asked herself, late into the morning, when she felt the weight of exhausting trying to push her under the surface of consciousness. She had been sleeping on the bottom bunk of a cozy little room she shared with Elie. The little halfling had taken to her schedule, and was fast asleep the moment the horizon broke with the light of day. But Gabriela couldn’t sleep, and so she had wandered out, and kept herself isolated for most of the day. Now that dusk was finally settling down the exhaustion of a long day spent worrying was finally catching up on her -- that and the fact that she was hungry. It had been about three days since she last had a drop of blood, and normally that wouldn’t have been a problem. She could go nearly a week and a half without feeling the worst pangs of hunger. But two days into this forced fasting and she felt like she was about ready to request the bottle of lamb’s blood. Lambs blood -- it made her think of Last Chance again, of the dark and dismal world she was about to willingly step into. That’s why she picked this place. She knew of it’s seedy reputation, and felt it was the only place to find what she was looking for. Money. Lots of money. Fast and without too many questions. She tapped her foot nervously and crossed her arms. She felt like she was going to throw up, her stomach twisted up and churned and she had to remind herself that there was nothing left in her to spill out. Still, a single dry heave escaped her and was caught behind the back of a small, white, trembling hand. She felt the force of it shake her entire core, but settled once the initial shock of it left her system. It was embarrassing to say the least, but one glance up and she saw that no one had noticed -- or at least that everyone was far too polite to notice. She had been like this for most of the trip. Looking paler, wearier, and all around unwell. Of course, when concern did prompt someone to ask what was wrong, she assured them it was the flight. It was a questionable response, but everyone seemed to accept it -- except Winter. He continued to poke and prod, trying to discover if there was anything else, anything at all, that could possibly be wrong with her. It added a thick layer to her already mounting anxiety. Was there something wrong with her? She didn’t know… “Reinhard,” she spoke up, probably startling most in the room. She could be so quiet sometimes, so still and silent. She was leaning over her armrest, looking back at the small group of followers she had managed to gather. Her eyes were set on the giant of a man, her newly appointed guard. She smiled at him as he approached, and when he was within hearing distance, she spoke to him in a low and gentle voice. She wasn't trying to keep it a secret, but she didn’t want to make an announcement either. “When land, and finally get off this god forsaken death trap, I don’t want you to come with us.” She motioned to the rest of the women, the three ladies in waiting who sat around a table, each one busy with some sort of project. “We’ll focus on finding a safe place to stay, but you -- I need you to do me a favor. I trust you know your way around the questionable type of place we will soon be inhabiting, so I want you to spread the word, let everyone who should know-- know -- that I have arrived. I want the right people to catch wind that the Black Queen of Orisia is here, and that she’s looking to make a deal. Can you do that?” She reached out, she touched his hand and held it gently -- her grip was cold as ice. “Please?”
  12. There was something about knowing a truth but also, not knowing it -- or rather -- not hearing it. Such was the reality that Gabriela had occupied for the better part of five years. When they first met, when they exchanged gifts, when they spoke gently to each other and didn’t dare even to touch -- she had known then that she loved him. Mysterious, dark, and alluring creature that he was. She had loved him. But there was much and more to him, layers like a rose shedding wilted petals, that simply had to come to light. Their love faced many challenges and it would have never survived the least of them if it wasn’t for Roen. His conviction, perhaps his obsession. That’s what he called it. That’s what everyone called it. It’s not, however, what she called it. His obsession had seemed, in her private mind, the most pure devotion that she had ever known. But the truth set her free -- the truth made it all abundantly clear. He didn’t chase her because he put her first above the rest, he chased her because he hadn’t -- and because in doing so he had made a mistake that he would willingly make again, over and over. It was less about her and Rou, and more about his pride and his word. But it was also her pride and her word, her promise to keep Raspberry, Dollya, and Lucis safe. It wasn’t a promise born out of love, but it was at times, the only thing that ever centered her. They were at odds then, and they were at odds now for his apology was not an apology, it did not meet the expectations of true regret and more importantly repentance. He did not repent. He would do it again if he had to. Such was his sense of duty. A sense of duty that would not extend to her, her word, her honor, or her promise. It hurt, but not nearly as much as she imagined. There was a dreadful numbness creeping inside of her. A sort of realization that she had always known this. He had picked someone else over her. He was kneeling before her, she hadn’t noticed him move. The turbulent sea of his own emotions was a storm she could not watch or admire. She was too far gone observing the deathly still waters of her own feelings. Nothing stirred, nothing rippled, no breeze blew across the surface of her hurt to inflame it to agony. She felt an ache, but it was dull and manageable. Yes, it was very manageable. So when he kenlt there, imploring her with his crimson eyes, she had room to really see him. “She used me.” She was sad that he was poorly handled and used. It showed in the way her brows gathered, the way her eyes took him in with pity. She knew a thing or two about being used. She loathed the thought of him being poorly treated by one so close. “Look -- look, listen to me.” He held her hand and explained things -- things that she wanted to laugh at but didn’t. She would never let another stand for her, take responsibility for her words and her actions. She wouldn’t allow such a injustice to her pride and ego, but it had happened. She understood. She was the beloved of many, the protected dove of those who would just as easily put her in a gilded cage rather than see her feathers plucked by another. It was such an odd sense of love, but love nonetheless, she reasoned. She understood him. It hurt. The dull pain was there. But she understood him. “She knew that I would let no harm come to her that evening, and so she did what was henious and unspeakable. I came between her and the justice she deserved because I had to. I could do nothing else.” She disagreed. He could have done so much more. He could have trusted her to be a just and honorable queen, to punish the woman in accordance to her crime. He could have trusted her as the ruler he so desperately wanted her to be by his side. But he didn’t. She didn’t say this. She merely stared at him, her lips ajar, just a hair’s width, as she gave his hand a squeeze. “I nearly married her, but I didn’t. No. I did not marry Rou. I did not marry her because I was in love with you, for whatever it was worth. A great deal of heartache, abandonment, pain, but… but for it all, we are here, you and I, together in shared distrust and mutual dislike. Almost lovers, never friends.” Never friends… “The choice was made years ago, when I told you that royalty never walked alone.” He named her lovers, her suitors, her countless fiances -- but she didn’t budge. There wasn’t a flicker of his guilt on her face. She watched and listened, as he had begged her to do, and felt only the dull throb of something familiar. It was in her chest. It was the scars of that awful creature in Orisia -- the one that dug its blackened nails between her breasts and tried to rip her heart out. She had been so sick after that. Infected and dying. Dying slowly. That’s what this felt like. Every breath made her chest hurt, but not badly, it was all very manageable. “I am sorry for the pain I have caused you, Gabriela. I am sorry for allowing another to come between us. I am sorry for…” “Stop,” she said aloud, the first word since this had started. She didn’t pull her hands away, she didn’t twist to hide her wrists, she sat there and simply shook her head once. “Don’t apologize for what you know you would do again. It’s worthless. You’d pick her again. You’d pick just about anyone over me, if it meant honoring your word. I understand.” More was said, quiet words of reproach for what she had done, and what he would do. There was that sense of devotion she had once believed in -- but it was not that anymore. It was something else, and she didn’t understand it. She sat quietly, her hands in his, her head inclined towards his, doubled forward to hear him, to see him. “...I want you for the rest of your natural life, forever if need be. We can forge a better path than the one we have walked.” He had been kissing -- running his lips along her palm, tasting the lines of life, death, marriage -- those delicate lines that gypsies read and lied about. He knew her fate better than anyone, for he commanded it. It made her want to cry, but instead she just smiled, weak and defated as his lips trailed up to her wrist. Here she sucked in a breath, a shallow inverted hiss as he pressed his mouth to the quick pulse -- quick because of his nearness. “Roen…” she complained, but he held firm and tight and bit her. He wasn’t elegant, he hadn’t the teeth for it, and he tore her flesh roughly and with much force. But still, he tore, and a shallow, jagged scratch appeared from where a few droplets of black blood quickly gathered. Horrified, she watched him close his mouth around the blood and taste. Cold, cold and coppery, and with a curve of sweetness that lingered on the tongue. He suckled, and she closed her eyes and felt the pain ease away into quiet euphoria. She stopped pulling from him and settled, settled there with closed eyes as he drank something that wasn’t meant for him. The tiny, shallow wound opened for him and his suckling, it let out a ribbon of black to lace his tongue and flutter down his throat. And when he was done, when he pulled away looking as if he was about to be sick, she clutched her bleeding wrist and held it to her chest. Embarrassed. He untangled the mess of nerves that she had become and pulled her wrist back. He was kissing again, biting, but not breaking the skin. She hadn’t noticed it, but she was shaking -- trembling. “I want to bite. I want to tear you open.. This obsession, I know why you run from it. I’m sorry.” He bit again and she winced and prepared for the sensation of him breaking her skin. It didn’t come. He resisted, and she, she didn’t know if she was glad for it or disappointed. She sat, staring at him again with a tortured expression, her lips still ajar. “But I cannot stop. It will be this way forever. I will have you until there’s nothing left to have..” She was never more afraid of him than she was then. Never more concerned for her safety than this moment. She believed him. She heard him, for he had begged her to listen -- and she heard him. His confession. This was less about the past and more about the future. She was his obsession, not his love, not his beloved. She felt the dull ache and finally recognized it for what it was. Heartbreak. She took her hands from him and touched the edge of the sofa. Pushing forward, she sat on the very edge of the cushions and loomed over the devil. Wayward strands of hair fell over her shoulders, thick waves of lush gold that caressed his face as she leaned down and kissed his forehead. And then she was holding his cheeks, keeping him in place, and tracing the length of his brow with her lips -- kissing him. How she loved this strange, wicked, awful, terrible creature. How she loved him. She was up on her feet and stepping beyond his reach. She was leaving...leaving the room, leaving his presence, leaving the confession that he had made while the taste of her blood spread across his tongue and lingered. He was powerful, he was mightier than she would ever be. But her blood was cool and calming, her blood was old and wise, and it didn’t simply pool in his belly, it spread through him. It brought him down a degree or two, or three or four, however much he allowed. She was inside of him, just as surely as he was inside of her. But she was gone now. Gone away to think, to cry, or perhaps to plot. Who could ever tell with Gabriela -- sometimes, she didn’t even know. There was something about knowing a truth but also, not knowing it -- or rather -- not hearing it. Such was the reality that Gabriela had occupied for the better part of five years. When they first met, when they exchanged gifts, when they spoke gently to each other and didn’t dare even to touch -- she had known then that she loved him. Mysterious, dark, and alluring creature that he was. She had loved him. But there was much and more to him, layers like a rose shedding wilted petals, that simply had to come to light. Their love faced many challenges and it would have never survived the least of them if it wasn’t for Roen. His conviction, perhaps his obsession. That’s what he called it. That’s what everyone called it. It’s not, however, what she called it. His obsession had seemed, in her private mind, the most pure devotion that she had ever known. But the truth set her free -- the truth made it all abundantly clear. He didn’t chase her because he put her first above the rest, he chased her because he hadn’t -- and because in doing so he had made a mistake that he would willingly make again, over and over. It was less about her and Rou, and more about his pride and his word. But it was also her pride and her word, her promise to keep Raspberry, Dollya, and Lucis safe. It wasn’t a promise born out of love, but it was at times, the only thing that ever centered her. They were at odds then, and they were at odds now for his apology was not an apology, it did not meet the expectations of true regret and more importantly repentance. He did not repent. He would do it again if he had to. Such was his sense of duty. A sense of duty that would not extend to her, her word, her honor, or her promise. It hurt, but not nearly as much as she imagined. There was a dreadful numbness creeping inside of her. A sort of realization that she had always known this. He had picked someone else over her. He was kneeling before her, she hadn’t noticed him move. The turbulent sea of his own emotions was a storm she could not watch or admire. She was too far gone observing the deathly still waters of her own feelings. Nothing stirred, nothing rippled, no breeze blew across the surface of her hurt to inflame it to agony. She felt an ache, but it was dull and manageable. Yes, it was very manageable. So when he kenlt there, imploring her with his crimson eyes, she had room to really see him. “She used me.” She was sad that he was poorly handled and used. It showed in the way her brows gathered, the way her eyes took him in with pity. She knew a thing or two about being used. She loathed the thought of him being poorly treated by one so close. “Look -- look, listen to me.” He held her hand and explained things -- things that she wanted to laugh at but didn’t. She would never let another stand for her, take responsibility for her words and her actions. She wouldn’t allow such a injustice to her pride and ego, but it had happened. She understood. She was the beloved of many, the protected dove of those who would just as easily put her in a gilded cage rather than see her feathers plucked by another. It was such an odd sense of love, but love nonetheless, she reasoned. She understood him. It hurt. The dull pain was there. But she understood him. “She knew that I would let no harm come to her that evening, and so she did what was henious and unspeakable. I came between her and the justice she deserved because I had to. I could do nothing else.” She disagreed. He could have done so much more. He could have trusted her to be a just and honorable queen, to punish the woman in accordance to her crime. He could have trusted her as the ruler he so desperately wanted her to be by his side. But he didn’t. She didn’t say this. She merely stared at him, her lips ajar, just a hair’s width, as she gave his hand a squeeze. “I nearly married her, but I didn’t. No. I did not marry Rou. I did not marry her because I was in love with you, for whatever it was worth. A great deal of heartache, abandonment, pain, but… but for it all, we are here, you and I, together in shared distrust and mutual dislike. Almost lovers, never friends.” Never friends… “The choice was made years ago, when I told you that royalty never walked alone.” He named her lovers, her suitors, her countless fiances -- but she didn’t budge. There wasn’t a flicker of his guilt on her face. She watched and listened, as he had begged her to do, and felt only the dull throb of something familiar. It was in her chest. It was the scars of that awful creature in Orisia -- the one that dug its blackened nails between her breasts and tried to rip her heart out. She had been so sick after that. Infected and dying. Dying slowly. That’s what this felt like. Every breath made her chest hurt, but not badly, it was all very manageable. “I am sorry for the pain I have caused you, Gabriela. I am sorry for allowing another to come between us. I am sorry for…” “Stop,” she said aloud, the first word since this had started. She didn’t pull her hands away, she didn’t twist to hide her wrists, she sat there and simply shook her head once. “Don’t apologize for what you know you would do again. It’s worthless. You’d pick her again. You’d pick just about anyone over me, if it meant honoring your word. I understand.” More was said, quiet words of reproach for what she had done, and what he would do. There was that sense of devotion she had once believed in -- but it was not that anymore. It was something else, and she didn’t understand it. She sat quietly, her hands in his, her head inclined towards his, doubled forward to hear him, to see him. “...I want you for the rest of your natural life, forever if need be. We can forge a better path than the one we have walked.” He had been kissing -- running his lips along her palm, tasting the lines of life, death, marriage -- those delicate lines that gypsies read and lied about. He knew her fate better than anyone, for he commanded it. It made her want to cry, but instead she just smiled, weak and defated as his lips trailed up to her wrist. Here she sucked in a breath, a shallow inverted hiss as he pressed his mouth to the quick pulse -- quick because of his nearness. “Roen…” she complained, but he held firm and tight and bit her. He wasn’t elegant, he hadn’t the teeth for it, and he tore her flesh roughly and with much force. But still, he tore, and a shallow, jagged scratch appeared from where a few droplets of black blood quickly gathered. Horrified, she watched him close his mouth around the blood and taste. Cold, cold and coppery, and with a curve of sweetness that lingered on the tongue. He suckled, and she closed her eyes and felt the pain ease away into quiet euphoria. She stopped pulling from him and settled, settled there with closed eyes as he drank something that wasn’t meant for him. The tiny, shallow wound opened for him and his suckling, it let out a ribbon of black to lace his tongue and flutter down his throat. And when he was done, when he pulled away looking as if he was about to be sick, she clutched her bleeding wrist and held it to her chest. Embarrassed. He untangled the mess of nerves that she had become and pulled her wrist back. He was kissing again, biting, but not breaking the skin. She hadn’t noticed it, but she was shaking -- trembling. “I want to bite. I want to tear you open.. This obsession, I know why you run from it. I’m sorry.” He bit again and she winced and prepared for the sensation of him breaking her skin. It didn’t come. He resisted, and she, she didn’t know if she was glad for it or disappointed. She sat, staring at him again with a tortured expression, her lips still ajar. “But I cannot stop. It will be this way forever. I will have you until there’s nothing left to have..” She was never more afraid of him than she was then. Never more concerned for her safety than this moment. She believed him. She heard him, for he had begged her to listen -- and she heard him. His confession. This was less about the past and more about the future. She was his obsession, not his love, not his beloved. She felt the dull ache and finally recognized it for what it was. Heartbreak. She took her hands from him and touched the edge of the sofa. Pushing forward, she sat on the very edge of the cushions and loomed over the devil. Wayward strands of hair fell over her shoulders, thick waves of lush gold that caressed his face as she leaned down and kissed his forehead. And then she was holding his cheeks, keeping him in place, and tracing the length of his brow with her lips -- kissing him. How she loved this strange, wicked, awful, terrible creature. How she loved him. She was up on her feet and stepping beyond his reach. She was leaving...leaving the room, leaving his presence, leaving the confession that he had made while the taste of her blood spread across his tongue and lingered. He was powerful, he was mightier than she would ever be. But her blood was cool and calming, her blood was old and wise, and it didn’t simply pool in his belly, it spread through him. It brought him down a degree or two, or three or four, however much he allowed. She was inside of him, just as surely as he was inside of her. But she was gone now. Gone away to think, to cry, or perhaps to plot. Who could ever tell with Gabriela -- sometimes, she didn’t even know. There was something about knowing a truth but also, not knowing it -- or rather -- not hearing it. Such was the reality that Gabriela had occupied for the better part of five years. When they first met, when they exchanged gifts, when they spoke gently to each other and didn’t dare even to touch -- she had known then that she loved him. Mysterious, dark, and alluring creature that he was. She had loved him. But there was much and more to him, layers like a rose shedding wilted petals, that simply had to come to light. Their love faced many challenges and it would have never survived the least of them if it wasn’t for Roen. His conviction, perhaps his obsession. That’s what he called it. That’s what everyone called it. It’s not, however, what she called it. His obsession had seemed, in her private mind, the most pure devotion that she had ever known. But the truth set her free -- the truth made it all abundantly clear. He didn’t chase her because he put her first above the rest, he chased her because he hadn’t -- and because in doing so he had made a mistake that he would willingly make again, over and over. It was less about her and Rou, and more about his pride and his word. But it was also her pride and her word, her promise to keep Raspberry, Dollya, and Lucis safe. It wasn’t a promise born out of love, but it was at times, the only thing that ever centered her. They were at odds then, and they were at odds now for his apology was not an apology, it did not meet the expectations of true regret and more importantly repentance. He did not repent. He would do it again if he had to. Such was his sense of duty. A sense of duty that would not extend to her, her word, her honor, or her promise. It hurt, but not nearly as much as she imagined. There was a dreadful numbness creeping inside of her. A sort of realization that she had always known this. He had picked someone else over her. He was kneeling before her, she hadn’t noticed him move. The turbulent sea of his own emotions was a storm she could not watch or admire. She was too far gone observing the deathly still waters of her own feelings. Nothing stirred, nothing rippled, no breeze blew across the surface of her hurt to inflame it to agony. She felt an ache, but it was dull and manageable. Yes, it was very manageable. So when he kenlt there, imploring her with his crimson eyes, she had room to really see him. “She used me.” She was sad that he was poorly handled and used. It showed in the way her brows gathered, the way her eyes took him in with pity. She knew a thing or two about being used. She loathed the thought of him being poorly treated by one so close. “Look -- look, listen to me.” He held her hand and explained things -- things that she wanted to laugh at but didn’t. She would never let another stand for her, take responsibility for her words and her actions. She wouldn’t allow such a injustice to her pride and ego, but it had happened. She understood. She was the beloved of many, the protected dove of those who would just as easily put her in a gilded cage rather than see her feathers plucked by another. It was such an odd sense of love, but love nonetheless, she reasoned. She understood him. It hurt. The dull pain was there. But she understood him. “She knew that I would let no harm come to her that evening, and so she did what was henious and unspeakable. I came between her and the justice she deserved because I had to. I could do nothing else.” She disagreed. He could have done so much more. He could have trusted her to be a just and honorable queen, to punish the woman in accordance to her crime. He could have trusted her as the ruler he so desperately wanted her to be by his side. But he didn’t. She didn’t say this. She merely stared at him, her lips ajar, just a hair’s width, as she gave his hand a squeeze. “I nearly married her, but I didn’t. No. I did not marry Rou. I did not marry her because I was in love with you, for whatever it was worth. A great deal of heartache, abandonment, pain, but… but for it all, we are here, you and I, together in shared distrust and mutual dislike. Almost lovers, never friends.” Never friends… “The choice was made years ago, when I told you that royalty never walked alone.” He named her lovers, her suitors, her countless fiances -- but she didn’t budge. There wasn’t a flicker of his guilt on her face. She watched and listened, as he had begged her to do, and felt only the dull throb of something familiar. It was in her chest. It was the scars of that awful creature in Orisia -- the one that dug its blackened nails between her breasts and tried to rip her heart out. She had been so sick after that. Infected and dying. Dying slowly. That’s what this felt like. Every breath made her chest hurt, but not badly, it was all very manageable. “I am sorry for the pain I have caused you, Gabriela. I am sorry for allowing another to come between us. I am sorry for…” “Stop,” she said aloud, the first word since this had started. She didn’t pull her hands away, she didn’t twist to hide her wrists, she sat there and simply shook her head once. “Don’t apologize for what you know you would do again. It’s worthless. You’d pick her again. You’d pick just about anyone over me, if it meant honoring your word. I understand.” More was said, quiet words of reproach for what she had done, and what he would do. There was that sense of devotion she had once believed in -- but it was not that anymore. It was something else, and she didn’t understand it. She sat quietly, her hands in his, her head inclined towards his, doubled forward to hear him, to see him. “...I want you for the rest of your natural life, forever if need be. We can forge a better path than the one we have walked.” He had been kissing -- running his lips along her palm, tasting the lines of life, death, marriage -- those delicate lines that gypsies read and lied about. He knew her fate better than anyone, for he commanded it. It made her want to cry, but instead she just smiled, weak and defated as his lips trailed up to her wrist. Here she sucked in a breath, a shallow inverted hiss as he pressed his mouth to the quick pulse -- quick because of his nearness. “Roen…” she complained, but he held firm and tight and bit her. He wasn’t elegant, he hadn’t the teeth for it, and he tore her flesh roughly and with much force. But still, he tore, and a shallow, jagged scratch appeared from where a few droplets of black blood quickly gathered. Horrified, she watched him close his mouth around the blood and taste. Cold, cold and coppery, and with a curve of sweetness that lingered on the tongue. He suckled, and she closed her eyes and felt the pain ease away into quiet euphoria. She stopped pulling from him and settled, settled there with closed eyes as he drank something that wasn’t meant for him. The tiny, shallow wound opened for him and his suckling, it let out a ribbon of black to lace his tongue and flutter down his throat. And when he was done, when he pulled away looking as if he was about to be sick, she clutched her bleeding wrist and held it to her chest. Embarrassed. He untangled the mess of nerves that she had become and pulled her wrist back. He was kissing again, biting, but not breaking the skin. She hadn’t noticed it, but she was shaking -- trembling. “I want to bite. I want to tear you open.. This obsession, I know why you run from it. I’m sorry.” He bit again and she winced and prepared for the sensation of him breaking her skin. It didn’t come. He resisted, and she, she didn’t know if she was glad for it or disappointed. She sat, staring at him again with a tortured expression, her lips still ajar. “But I cannot stop. It will be this way forever. I will have you until there’s nothing left to have..” She was never more afraid of him than she was then. Never more concerned for her safety than this moment. She believed him. She heard him, for he had begged her to listen -- and she heard him. His confession. This was less about the past and more about the future. She was his obsession, not his love, not his beloved. She felt the dull ache and finally recognized it for what it was. Heartbreak. She took her hands from him and touched the edge of the sofa. Pushing forward, she sat on the very edge of the cushions and loomed over the devil. Wayward strands of hair fell over her shoulders, thick waves of lush gold that caressed his face as she leaned down and kissed his forehead. And then she was holding his cheeks, keeping him in place, and tracing the length of his brow with her lips -- kissing him. How she loved this strange, wicked, awful, terrible creature. How she loved him. She was up on her feet and stepping beyond his reach. She was leaving...leaving the room, leaving his presence, leaving the confession that he had made while the taste of her blood spread across his tongue and lingered. He was powerful, he was mightier than she would ever be. But her blood was cool and calming, her blood was old and wise, and it didn’t simply pool in his belly, it spread through him. It brought him down a degree or two, or three or four, however much he allowed. She was inside of him, just as surely as he was inside of her. But she was gone now. Gone away to think, to cry, or perhaps to plot. Who could ever tell with Gabriela -- sometimes, she didn’t even know.
  13. There was something about knowing a truth but also, not knowing it -- or rather -- not hearing it. Such was the reality that Gabriela had occupied for the better part of five years. When they first met, when they exchanged gifts, when they spoke gently to each other and didn’t dare even to touch -- she had known then that she loved him. Mysterious, dark, and alluring creature that he was. She had loved him. But there was much and more to him, layers like a rose shedding wilted petals, that simply had to come to light. Their love faced many challenges and it would have never survived the least of them if it wasn’t for Roen. His conviction, perhaps his obsession. That’s what he called it. That’s what everyone called it. It’s not, however, what she called it. His obsession had seemed, in her private mind, the most pure devotion that she had ever known. But the truth set her free -- the truth made it all abundantly clear. He didn’t chase her because he put her first above the rest, he chased her because he hadn’t -- and because in doing so he had made a mistake that he would willingly make again, over and over. It was less about her and Rou, and more about his pride and his word. But it was also her pride and her word, her promise to keep Raspberry, Dollya, and Lucis safe. It wasn’t a promise born out of love, but it was at times, the only thing that ever centered her. They were at odds then, and they were at odds now for his apology was not an apology, it did not meet the expectations of true regret and more importantly repentance. He did not repent. He would do it again if he had to. Such was his sense of duty. A sense of duty that would not extend to her, her word, her honor, or her promise. It hurt, but not nearly as much as she imagined. There was a dreadful numbness creeping inside of her. A sort of realization that she had always known this. He had picked someone else over her. He was kneeling before her, she hadn’t noticed him move. The turbulent sea of his own emotions was a storm she could not watch or admire. She was too far gone observing the deathly still waters of her own feelings. Nothing stirred, nothing rippled, no breeze blew across the surface of her hurt to inflame it to agony. She felt an ache, but it was dull and manageable. Yes, it was very manageable. So when he kenlt there, imploring her with his crimson eyes, she had room to really see him. “She used me.” She was sad that he was poorly handled and used. It showed in the way her brows gathered, the way her eyes took him in with pity. She knew a thing or two about being used. She loathed the thought of him being poorly treated by one so close. “Look -- look, listen to me.” He held her hand and explained things -- things that she wanted to laugh at but didn’t. She would never let another stand for her, take responsibility for her words and her actions. She wouldn’t allow such a injustice to her pride and ego, but it had happened. She understood. She was the beloved of many, the protected dove of those who would just as easily put her in a gilded cage rather than see her feathers plucked by another. It was such an odd sense of love, but love nonetheless, she reasoned. She understood him. It hurt. The dull pain was there. But she understood him. “She knew that I would let no harm come to her that evening, and so she did what was henious and unspeakable. I came between her and the justice she deserved because I had to. I could do nothing else.” She disagreed. He could have done so much more. He could have trusted her to be a just and honorable queen, to punish the woman in accordance to her crime. He could have trusted her as the ruler he so desperately wanted her to be by his side. But he didn’t. She didn’t say this. She merely stared at him, her lips ajar, just a hair’s width, as she gave his hand a squeeze. “I nearly married her, but I didn’t. No. I did not marry Rou. I did not marry her because I was in love with you, for whatever it was worth. A great deal of heartache, abandonment, pain, but… but for it all, we are here, you and I, together in shared distrust and mutual dislike. Almost lovers, never friends.” Never friends… “The choice was made years ago, when I told you that royalty never walked alone.” He named her lovers, her suitors, her countless fiances -- but she didn’t budge. There wasn’t a flicker of his guilt on her face. She watched and listened, as he had begged her to do, and felt only the dull throb of something familiar. It was in her chest. It was the scars of that awful creature in Orisia -- the one that dug its blackened nails between her breasts and tried to rip her heart out. She had been so sick after that. Infected and dying. Dying slowly. That’s what this felt like. Every breath made her chest hurt, but not badly, it was all very manageable. “I am sorry for the pain I have caused you, Gabriela. I am sorry for allowing another to come between us. I am sorry for…” “Stop,” she said aloud, the first word since this had started. She didn’t pull her hands away, she didn’t twist to hide her wrists, she sat there and simply shook her head once. “Don’t apologize for what you know you would do again. It’s worthless. You’d pick her again. You’d pick just about anyone over me, if it meant honoring your word. I understand.” More was said, quiet words of reproach for what she had done, and what he would do. There was that sense of devotion she had once believed in -- but it was not that anymore. It was something else, and she didn’t understand it. She sat quietly, her hands in his, her head inclined towards his, doubled forward to hear him, to see him. “...I want you for the rest of your natural life, forever if need be. We can forge a better path than the one we have walked.” He had been kissing -- running his lips along her palm, tasting the lines of life, death, marriage -- those delicate lines that gypsies read and lied about. He knew her fate better than anyone, for he commanded it. It made her want to cry, but instead she just smiled, weak and defated as his lips trailed up to her wrist. Here she sucked in a breath, a shallow inverted hiss as he pressed his mouth to the quick pulse -- quick because of his nearness. “Roen…” she complained, but he held firm and tight and bit her. He wasn’t elegant, he hadn’t the teeth for it, and he tore her flesh roughly and with much force. But still, he tore, and a shallow, jagged scratch appeared from where a few droplets of black blood quickly gathered. Horrified, she watched him close his mouth around the blood and taste. Cold, cold and coppery, and with a curve of sweetness that lingered on the tongue. He suckled, and she closed her eyes and felt the pain ease away into quiet euphoria. She stopped pulling from him and settled, settled there with closed eyes as he drank something that wasn’t meant for him. The tiny, shallow wound opened for him and his suckling, it let out a ribbon of black to lace his tongue and flutter down his throat. And when he was done, when he pulled away looking as if he was about to be sick, she clutched her bleeding wrist and held it to her chest. Embarrassed. He untangled the mess of nerves that she had become and pulled her wrist back. He was kissing again, biting, but not breaking the skin. She hadn’t noticed it, but she was shaking -- trembling. “I want to bite. I want to tear you open.. This obsession, I know why you run from it. I’m sorry.” He bit again and she winced and prepared for the sensation of him breaking her skin. It didn’t come. He resisted, and she, she didn’t know if she was glad for it or disappointed. She sat, staring at him again with a tortured expression, her lips still ajar. “But I cannot stop. It will be this way forever. I will have you until there’s nothing left to have..” She was never more afraid of him than she was then. Never more concerned for her safety than this moment. She believed him. She heard him, for he had begged her to listen -- and she heard him. His confession. This was less about the past and more about the future. She was his obsession, not his love, not his beloved. She felt the dull ache and finally recognized it for what it was. Heartbreak. She took her hands from him and touched the edge of the sofa. Pushing forward, she sat on the very edge of the cushions and loomed over the devil. Wayward strands of hair fell over her shoulders, thick waves of lush gold that caressed his face as she leaned down and kissed his forehead. And then she was holding his cheeks, keeping him in place, and tracing the length of his brow with her lips -- kissing him. How she loved this strange, wicked, awful, terrible creature. How she loved him. She was up on her feet and stepping beyond his reach. She was leaving...leaving the room, leaving his presence, leaving the confession that he had made while the taste of her blood spread across his tongue and lingered. He was powerful, he was mightier than she would ever be. But her blood was cool and calming, her blood was old and wise, and it didn’t simply pool in his belly, it spread through him. It brought him down a degree or two, or three or four, however much he allowed. She was inside of him, just as surely as he was inside of her. But she was gone now. Gone away to think, to cry, or perhaps to plot. Who could ever tell with Gabriela -- sometimes, she didn’t even know.
  14. The elder spoke, and she listened. She listened in a way she never listened to Dollya or Vivian, and least of all Gabriela. She listened in a way that denoted that she understood, at least on some level, that this creature was old and wise -- and that he had something to teach her, even if she didn’t understand what it was. Perhaps it was the gift that fate gave onto youth, a curiosity and wonder for the old and marvelous, which facilitated the transferring of information and the inheritance of knowledge. Such was the power of her focused stare, as she stood there watching Raphael explain where his song came from and what the tapping of his foot meant. “It’s hard to study your surroundings and the people around you if you’re always talking. When you are silent, there is naught to do but listen and observe -- to learn and educate yourself. Even when you feel that you know what the other person is thinking or you’re certain that you are correct -- stop and listen. Only once you fully understand the other individual’s premise for debate, at least to the best of your comprehension, can you finally engage them.” He smiled -- charmingly, and his features became quite handsome. Raspberry couldn’t help but smile back at him, her pink lips spreading into a small, puckered smile. She wasn’t at all sure what she was smiling about, his words had only left an annoying sentiment behind. “But what if you can’t ever be certain of your understanding? What if you live your whole life afraid to open your mouth, to say anything, for fear of looking like a fool?” she wondered if he would think her foolish for asking, but she had the die-hard impulse of youth as her guide, and even with his wise counsel, her curiosity made her tongue dance and dance. She had a sea of questions to ask, and expected a whole world of answers in response, “It would seem that young Vivian would have you become a woman before your time.” The elder had touched the tender spot under her chin and had tilted her head from side to side. When he tiled her features toward the silver moonlight, she resisted and pulled away, looking at him with a frown that was deeply etched into her lovely little doll-like face. “Vivian is my servant, she doesn’t tell me what to do -- she’s here as my regiment, until I am of proper age to control Brightstorm. Even if she doesn’t like what I do, she can’t make me stop doing it.” The girl, not more than eight years old in appearance, was a tiny horror -- and it showed. Though beautiful, angelic, and enchanting with her features, she was a strong-willed and spirited child. She was also lonesome and afraid. It was with her own reflection that she played, and with the expressions that she made to herself, that she learned how to act. No one taught her these things. She was a brat out of necessity. “What’s wrong with how I look?” she asked finally, implying that she understood that it was her features, which had caused such a reaction in her uncle. In these words there was truth, a shaky sort of confidence that threatened to buckle and break under the weight of her uncertainty. Didn’t he like how she looked? She was trying to look like mommy. Perhaps to save her feelings, he took to a knee. “But where are my manners. Your Majesty,” he said lovingly into her hand as he plucked it and kissed her knuckles. This smoothed her hurt feelings, and made her smile once more. “It has been far too long since last I saw you. I remember how welcoming you were when first I arrived here in Orisia, all that time ago. I apologize that I’ve not come sooner--life can be busy, and if not busy, most certainly complicated. I trust you’ve been well, yes?” The child nodded, her big crimson eyes wide and trusting. What a joy it was to be asked how she was -- what a wonder to have such a massive creature taking a knee before her as if she were some great queen. She had to struggle to contain her excitement. But her giddiness showed around the edges of her poorly constructed social mask. Her lips were twitching, soon she was grinning. “That you’ve been properly fed and allowed to exercise your abilities, as to keep your senses from dulling?” At this she frowned. “What do you mean? I eat what I want...stag, boar, wolf...anything I can catch within the the Light side of the Ellwood Forest. Mother’s very strict about me wandering into the Dark Side -- where the poppy fields are. And I exercise plenty -- my senses are perfect! I heard you tapping your foot from the end of the other hall,” she turned, her dress fluttering around her knees as she pointed to where she had come from. She shrugged and regarded the man once more. “Why are you here, Lord Raphael? Surely you’re not looking for my mother. She’s dead,” she explained, putting a severe emphasis on the word dead, while attempting not to roll her eyes.
  15. The elder spoke, and she listened. She listened in a way she never listened to Dollya or Vivian, and least of all Gabriela. She listened in a way that denoted that she understood, at least on some level, that this creature was old and wise -- and that he had something to teach her, even if she didn’t understand what it was. Perhaps it was the gift that fate gave onto youth, a curiosity and wonder for the old and marvelous, which facilitated the transferring of information and the inheritance of knowledge. Such was the power of her focused stare, as she stood there watching Raphael explain where his song came from and what the tapping of his foot meant. “It’s hard to study your surroundings and the people around you if you’re always talking. When you are silent, there is naught to do but listen and observe -- to learn and educate yourself. Even when you feel that you know what the other person is thinking or you’re certain that you are correct -- stop and listen. Only once you fully understand the other individual’s premise for debate, at least to the best of your comprehension, can you finally engage them.” He smiled -- charmingly, and his features became quite handsome. Raspberry couldn’t help but smile back at him, her pink lips spreading into a small, puckered smile. She wasn’t at all sure what she was smiling about, his words had only left an annoying sentiment behind. “But what if you can’t ever be certain of your understanding? What if you live your whole life afraid to open your mouth, to say anything, for fear of looking like a fool?” she wondered if he would think her foolish for asking, but she had the die-hard impulse of youth as her guide, and even with his wise counsel, her curiosity made her tongue dance and dance. She had a sea of questions to ask, and expected a whole world of answers in response, “It would seem that young Vivian would have you become a woman before your time.” The elder had touched the tender spot under her chin and had tilted her head from side to side. When he tiled her features toward the silver moonlight, she resisted and pulled away, looking at him with a frown that was deeply etched into her lovely little doll-like face. “Vivian is my servant, she doesn’t tell me what to do -- she’s here as my regiment, until I am of proper age to control Brightstorm. Even if she doesn’t like what I do, she can’t make me stop doing it.” The girl, not more than eight years old in appearance, was a tiny horror -- and it showed. Though beautiful, angelic, and enchanting with her features, she was a strong-willed and spirited child. She was also lonesome and afraid. It was with her own reflection that she played, and with the expressions that she made to herself, that she learned how to act. No one taught her these things. She was a brat out of necessity. “What’s wrong with how I look?” she asked finally, implying that she understood that it was her features, which had caused such a reaction in her uncle. In these words there was truth, a shaky sort of confidence that threatened to buckle and break under the weight of her uncertainty. Didn’t he like how she looked? She was trying to look like mommy. Perhaps to save her feelings, he took to a knee. “But where are my manners. Your Majesty,” he said lovingly into her hand as he plucked it and kissed her knuckles. This smoothed her hurt feelings, and made her smile once more. “It has been far too long since last I saw you. I remember how welcoming you were when first I arrived here in Orisia, all that time ago. I apologize that I’ve not come sooner--life can be busy, and if not busy, most certainly complicated. I trust you’ve been well, yes?” The child nodded, her big crimson eyes wide and trusting. What a joy it was to be asked how she was -- what a wonder to have such a massive creature taking a knee before her as if she were some great queen. She had to struggle to contain her excitement. But her giddiness showed around the edges of her poorly constructed social mask. Her lips were twitching, soon she was grinning. “That you’ve been properly fed and allowed to exercise your abilities, as to keep your senses from dulling?” At this she frowned. “What do you mean? I eat what I want...stag, boar, wolf...anything I can catch within the the Light side of the Ellwood Forest. Mother’s very strict about me wandering into the Dark Side -- where the poppy fields are. And I exercise plenty -- my senses are perfect! I heard you tapping your foot from the end of the other hall,” she turned, her dress fluttering around her knees as she pointed to where she had come from. She shrugged and regarded the man once more. “Why are you here, Lord Raphael? Surely you’re not looking for my mother. She’s dead,” she explained, putting a severe emphasis on the word dead, while attempting not to roll her eyes.