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King last won the day on February 11

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About King

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    The Virtuoso
  • Birthday 01/11/1990

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  1. King

    So, It's been a hot minute

    I'll be in touch. : )
  2. King

    So, It's been a hot minute

    @Noko Hi, friend.
  3. Paris awoke the next morning with purpose still hot in his veins, a gently snoozing she-cat huddled close to his side, her head tucked comfortably beneath his right hand. He stroked his fingers through her luxuriously dark hair, raked at her scalp with the supple leather of his gloves, and traced the profile of her ears to stir her from what he’d hoped had been a good dream. “It’s time to wake, darling,” he whispered down to her, the heaviness of lethargy in his voice hinting at his own exhaustion. Sleeping in the wilds was never restful for the crown prince, no matter how he tried to comfort himself. He awoke stiff as a board every time, and it took longer than it ever should have for him to regain his limberness. “We’ve business to attend to.” As the she-cat peeled herself off the crown prince’s flank, shuffling off to pester the good knight in their company, Paris rose to his feet and did his best, though with little success, to stretch and shake the stiffness from his limbs without pain. He grimaced as he rolled his shoulders, grunted as he twisted left then right, and groaned as he leaned on his legs, stretching the back of his knees. It was a long, tedious process, but one that left him feeling revitalized with an abundance of youth. Once the others were fully awake and prepared, he addressed them together. “We’ve not much longer in our journey, but I want to stress the importance of all of your safety. This needn’t be the end-- of this situation or any of you, for that matter. If, by some heathen miracle, we find ourselves outmatched, we are to retreat. Do I make myself clear?” He awaited their nod or spoken word of affirmation. “I will return with the royal guard and crush them beneath my heel for their impudence, should that need arise. But I’ll not suffer the loss of anyone here. You are mine,” he said with a sudden possessiveness often absent in his soft, velvety baritone, “all of you, and I’ll not part with any of you.” Plucking his sword from its resting place on the earth, the crown prince made way to his steed and climbed atop it. “Let us once again ensure my rule.”
  4. Rune finishes thumbing through the large stack of papers, feeling somewhat unsatisfied with the results. While his stack of informative pages are somewhat larger than Sybil’s, it’s still much less than he originally hoped for. Just because there are bread crumbs there doesn’t mean they’ll lead him to where he needs to be. “Better than nothing,” he says to her, though it’s more for himself. Meanwhile, their companions continue their silent work, which he both admires and despises. “I’ll go through these,” he says, merging his pile with Sybil’s. “You’ve done good work.” A hint of a smile pulls at the corner of his lips—Thank you, it says. “Well, that is good that it was here,” he says. “That means the information from our employer wasn’t wrong.” That’s always a good thing. “Hopefully, some of these other pages will tell us where it is.” He falls silent as he keeps reading, learning about the rise and fall of the city’s lord in just a few pages. It seems to be the cycle of things in this hellish southern region. When their partners finish their duties and hand over their papers, the picture in Rune’s mind becomes clearer. It was the artifact they seek that brought about this ruin. The lord’s people turned on him, claiming he’d kept it for himself. His wife, his children – they’d schemed and murdered him. Yet, none of them were able to acquire it. The lord’s manservant had spirited it away, promising to keep it close to his lord, and protect them both for all eternity. But the lord was dead… his house in ruins… his town deserted and then overrun with tribes. “The crypts,” Rune says. “We need to search the crypts.”
  5. King

    This promise

    Cornelius paused at her question, not in search of an answer, but in respect of the memories they’ve shared. Despite a house full of siblings, a father that guided him and a mother that loved him, Lyonene is the only one he’d come to love in such a manner. It could have been any of his beautiful sisters, and yet, it was her. He’d loved her from the first time he’d laid eyes on her, and from that moment, their days had been filled with promises of how their life would be-- always filled with sunshine, happiness, and children to fill their palace. Standing there in the snow with her now, he could see how foolish he’d been. “Forever,” he finally replied, his tone as bitter and cold as the snowstorm brewing around them. “You’ve always been mine, Lyonene. Mother, she brought us into being so that we could love each other. And I do love you-- more than anything.” He turned to face her, her hand still in his, a blade in in the other. “I’ve made my decision and I will live with that for the rest of my life, but now, sweet sister, you must choose.” The little space that managed to exist between them disappeared with a single step toward her. Cornelius cast his great shadow over her, an obelisk of regret, self-loathing, but most importantly, hope. The sword he’d been holding vanished from his hand in a cloud of light, and with his freed palm, he gently cupped his sister’s cold cheek. His fingers were warm like the sun, turning her skin rosy and pink, and he brushed his thumb over her full lips. “It is me or the family, sister. We can no longer have both,” he whispered into her mouth, leaning in but not yet daring to kiss her. “I choose you. I will always choose you.” For the first time in their life, unbound by formality and traditions of court, Cornelius kissed her. It was a hungry embrace if ever there was one, and he drank of her taste as breath and soul until he felt he might explode. And then he kept kissing her, pulling her close with both his hands so that she might feel the man he’d become. He kissed her longer than he’d ever believed he might, an harder than any man had the right to. Claimed her as he’d dreamed of doing for so many years-- as was his divine right. And when he was finished, he sighed, content, but lingered close enough to feel the heat on her lips. “Choose me.” It was not a command-- it was a plea.
  6. King

    once upon a time

    Alexandros took his time washing Lyrei’s hands, and not for the sake of the cleanliness (though that focus had not lessened in the slightest). The cloth his brother provided was soft, silk most likely, once a soft lavender but now dark with fresh water and his blood. He scrubbed her hands with the slow, firm reverence of a warrior polishing their blade. Finger by finger, palm after palm, and even her thin, dainty wrists, he washed and polished until her supple skin glistened in the sunlight. “I’ve not read many romance stories,” Alexandros admitted, folding the damp, bloodied cloth and setting it aside. He took another from his sibling and began cleaning his face, gingerly padding around his nose. He could feel the bruise eagerly setting in. “Politics, economics, strategy… those are what occupy my study.” He grimaced wiped away some blood from under his nose. “Adventure, too,” Andross added. Alexandros cut him a sharp glare, dulled by the swollen nose at the center of his face. “Yes,” he agreed. “And some adventure stories, as well. There’s romance there, I suppose, but I doubt it’s-- well, I doubt it’s like the romances you’ve read, my princess. Yours sound lovely.” He’d not shame her with the tales of men bedding bar maidens, whores, or busty princesses. It seemed all heroes were rewarded with such payment. “Perhaps I’ll read one.” He paused, looking at Lyrei. “Or, perhaps you’ll read me one?” It was a request more than a question, a silent plea that she might find it within herself to bless him with her company once again. A few moments of silence passed before he found his feet beneath him, his senses fully returned, and he stood to make himself tall once again. His nose had stopped bleedin, and though there was an ache, he found it worth enduring if only to pose himself in better standing for an elven goddess. Again he folded the cloth and tucked it away, still finding it uncouth for a woman to witness such horrendous things like bloodshed, and stepped closer to her. “I would like that very much, I think,” Alexandros said to her. “To listen to you read… but, uh, yes, also see you again, Lady Lyrei.” He nodded though no question had been asked. “Yes, I would very much love to see you again… should you find such prospect appealing.”
  7. King

    Repeat After Me

    The An’She’s sharp wit, and sharper tongue, caught the coachman unaware. Scowling furiously, he opened his mouth to verbally lash the woman for such a blatant disregard for propriety, only to be silenced by the heavy hand placed on his shoulder. It was a gentle touch, more pleading than commanding, though still with the firmness required of nobles when handling their subordinates, new or longstanding. “It’s quite all right, Noel,” Dominique murmured to the manservant appeasingly, sincerity lilting the richness of his baritone. “I don’t suspect that the Lady imagined her night would end in such a manner. Given her repertoire of past experiences, it would be ignorant of us not to expect a somewhat caustic response. Besides,” he continued, straightening the jacket of his suit as he stepped forward. “She is my wife. She is allowed to indulge cheekiness from time to time, should she desire.” Dominique moved forward after that, his candle lit, and joined their wicks. “It isn’t ever what people expect,” he replied, foregoing the pretentiousness of giving her a charming smile to punctuate the claim. There existed no charm that would alleviate the weight crushing down on her as reality settled comfortably into place, and no balm to place upon her pride to soothe the pain and ache of the emperor’s scorching rejection. “These marriages are a matter of judicial mandate, nothing more. Even this”—his red eyes lowered, dropping his gaze to the candles between them before flitting back to her—“is, legally speaking, more than is allowed. But this custom is important to my family and I’ll not see it forgotten.” Though he may not have been an An’She nor a prevalent member of the emperor’s court, the de Castelle name possessed power and influence enough; much of which had been carried from the old world. As Rou’s frustration mounted, Dominique watched in silence, studying her, seeing the way she moved, fidgeted, and listening to the changes in her breathing. He watched the way her golden eyes shifted in the darkness, scattered an unable to focus; the way the corners of her lips turned down, then to the side as she chewed on her venomous barbs, deciding it better to swallow them down than unleash them upon him (for reasons unbeknownst to him). Then there was the way she turned her head, just enough to bring her ponytail over her shoulder, only to snap it sharply in reverse like a master’s whip. Of all the tells he readily discerned in that moment, all of them spoke of her rage, of her hurt, of her ever burning fire and relentless frustration. But beneath that molten surface, hot to the touch, he could feel fear. “Give us a moment.” Dominique’s red eyes widened as she plucked the candle from his fingers and deposited it alongside her own in the hands of her attendant, seemingly just as confused as the vampyre lord. Then her hand was on the lapel of his suit and pulling him behind her, leading him back to the carriage. Noel stood in stark opposition to her command by way of gesture, only acquiescing when a baffled Dominique, still hostage to his surprisingly bold and demanding wife, nodded in agreement. He didn’t speak as she pulled him in after her, nor did he protest when she placed him in the seat opposite herself. It was his turn for boldness when her knees framed his hips and she sat comfortably in his lap, and two large, strong hands found her the swell of her hips. It wasn’t answer enough, and so she took his chin in her hand, firm but careful, and spoke down to him as only a Lady could a Lord. “I do,” he finally replied in an even tone, his composure reclaimed. His breath was warm cinnamon on the cool night air. He said nothing else and set to task. When they were finished and Rou had taken her destiny in both hands as much as the Lord Father’s edict allowed, the rungs of the carriage’s heavy curtains sang as they slide to one side, enough for Dominique to extend a single arm through the parted window. Snapping his fingers, Noel retrieved the inked quill and the tome of contracts. He passed the quill first and then, with noticeable ease, supported the enormous book with a single hand. Dominique signed with an elegant flourish, his signature a work of art, the drying ink thus solidifying the arrangement and bringing about a true end to the ceremony. “Noel,” he called out from the shadows of the carriage’s interior. The manservant nodded in acknowledgement. “See to it that Fowler is made aware of the change in plans. He can stay in the servant quarters for now, until better accommodations can be arranged.” “Yes, my Lord.” The window closed, the curtains slid shut, and once again Rou and Dominique were encased in shadow.
  8. Rafael thought back to the many lessons his mother had taught him, combing over the wisdom she’d sought to instill in her young son, and remembered a saying that had, unlike many of the others, stuck with him over the course of his immortal life. Nearly all men can stand adversity, my sweet son. But if you want to test a man’s character, give him power. One day, she’d said to him, you will become a man that wields more power than any should ever have the right to possess. What will you do with it, beloved? Will you make me proud-- or will you crumble beneath it, as your father has? As he looked down at his daughter, her small hands deceptively delicate, he couldn’t help but wonder his mother would think of the man he’d become. He’d posed the same choice to Lucia, and unsurprisingly, she’d answered as he believed she would. Despite the hate Lucia harbored for her mother, born of jealousy for her father’s affection more than anything else, she and Irene were of the same essence. She was but a sliver of the Black Queen’s soul, but that sliver, whether they desired it or not, linked them in a way that shamed even the cousin’s notoriously powerful blood bond. Listening to his daughter now, indeed, Rafael did not doubt the ache such a sight must have stirred within her. She’d loved Irene once upon a time, and if her words held even a fraction of sincerity now, it was clear she loved her still. “If it is as you say it is, princess, then you and I desire the same thing.” Rafael took a seat upon the lip of a small fountain, keeping Lucia’s hands hooked on the tips of his fingers. It was not from exhaustion that he’d lowered himself, but rather the desire to be leveled with his daughter. He wanted her to see into the depths of his blue eyes without the need for craning her neck; he wished to speak to her as an equal. “Your mother, she doesn’t believe that I am capable of loving her-- not purely and truly, at least. Perhaps I am to blame for that. I have been cruel to her in the past, and though she has provoked my every retaliation, I… I am to blame for succumbing to my baser instincts and indulging her.” He rubbed his mouth thoughtfully, his expression harrowing as the memories exhumed themselves from the depths of his mind and played against the back of his eyes. He inched Lucia closer, just enough to gently thumb the back of her hand. “But this, this was my attempt at atonement. I wanted to show her that she meant more to me than a name or crown. I wanted to show her that she was my equal and that this was our home-- not her prison. I told her that she could leave, that I would not follow nor would any of my agents. That I would wait for her. That we, her family, would wait for her. I have her all the power and freedom she could ever desire… and still, she felt the need to push further.” Rafael frowned, casting his gaze down across the cobblestone. “I want her to stop hurting, too. I wish that I could-- not make her happy, for there is far too much of her father in her, but at least make her content.” It was a moment later when Rafael rose from his seat, Lucia still in hand, his gaze now studying the daunting castle before them. The song of the artifcers’ busywork echoed out from the inner chambers as they continued deep into the night, and the chirping of birds and insects provided a soft underlining tone. “But she must want the same thing, princess. You cannot reason with someone who does not wish to see reason. Whatever I might say to her, she would only see as a ruse to shackle her to my side once again. Whatever I might do, she would only see as a betrayal of my promise. One she is expecting me to make.” Of course, it wasn’t her – it was Tenebre. He could feel the shadows lurking, watching, waiting for Rafael to succumb to his weakness and seek his beloved empress out. And then he would take Fatima away, just as he promised he would. “All I can do is wait,” he admitted. “Though it brings me no joy.”
  9. King

    Repeat After Me

    Dominique balanced the length of ruby red candle on the end of his long index finger, the relatively – but not perfectly – smooth road of earth unable to influence an offset in either direction. It was only the second time in all his immortal life that he’d been made to participate in such an ancient tradition, and like the first, he felt a dull pang of anxiety in the pit of his stomach. Though it was not born of a deep-seated love and longing for joy, like with his dearly departed Lisanne, but rather, it was born of uncertainty, and to some degree, wariness. While neither his nor his family had ever been particularly powerful in the royal (now imperial) court, they like all others possessed their share of spies and contacts. He’d heard stories of the woman that was to become his wife this night, the An’She that, prior to her ascent in Umbra, had burned Patia to cinders—and even after her ascent, resorted to the same unsavory behavior and reduced another manor to ashes. All without so much as a reprimand to her name. She had spent her days beyond the law, above the table, bedding the emperor and living as she desired with little care for consequence. It seemed those wild days were behind her now, even if by another's hand. Rou Ji was a living legend beyond the court and company of the elder vampyres, a champion among the people of the Dominion, where they embraced all that she had managed to accomplish for herself in so little time. Whether it was what she’d intended to become or not, she was proof of the heights any could reach in the Red City so long as they possessed the desire and a will strong enough to pursue it. The fact his retinue, so far displaced from the heart of the city and its happenings, knew quite well of his bride and all that she’d achieved (and likewise hadn’t), was proof enough of this phenomenon. Had he been a lesser man, jealousy and insecurity may have taken their turns poisoning the proverbial well long before he first laid eyes on his bride-to-be. It was a tall—nearly impossible, some might say—order to fill the shoes left behind by the lord father; and this was something that, in what little wisdom he’d managed to gather from his parents before their departure, accepted without complaint. Thus he resolved not to worry about the woman’s past, no matter how sordid the details, nor exhaust himself trying to be that which he could never become. Rafael was her emperor, true enough, but after the flame of his candle ignited the wick of her own, Dominique would be her husband. Her first, if the rumors had been accurate, and by the traditions of the old world, her last. There was power in that fact, he’d realized days after the missive had reached the doorstep of his estate, and for a man of his particular nature, that would power would suffice. The carriage that spirited Lord Castelle to the edge of his lands was of a gothic fashion, its dark wooden edges slick, its corners ornate and curved grandly, its windows heavily curtained, and its eerily silent progress illuminated by a single lamp. The flame burned softly against the greasy glass that contained it, as steady and constant as the stars on a moonless night. The steeds that lead its journey were large, as umbral horses were known to be, with coats that shimmered like obsidian in the night. But there were scars along their muscled flanks, their snouts, and a careful step to their gait that suggested they’d long-since been retired from the fields of battle. Venturing this far out into the lands beholden to the lord was likely the extent of their excitement, and the same could be said for the aged coachman driving them on with half-hearted snaps of the reins. They came to a halt not ten paces from Rou’s retinue. Despite his senior age, testified by the startling white hair, pale as fresh snow, beneath his cap and neatly trimmed beard to match, and the wrinkles on his brow and around his sunken eyes, not shallow, but deep and well-settled in to his narrow face, the coachman moved with a youthful vigor to his step. Smooth, unhindered by time, with all the fluency of a dance practiced over many decades. He bounded from the comfort of his seat and landed a barely audible thud of his boot’s thick heels, and after giving a curt nod of acknowledgement to the awaiting party, made his way to the side of the carriage. The door opened with click of the handle, and standing aside as not to obscure their view, the coachman spoke. “Lord Dominique de Castelle.” Dominique emerged from the coach’s hold not a moment later, a noble of dark skin and deep ruby eyes that seemed several shades darker than the candles they both carried. His wore a suit of royal blue, bands of luxurious silk tapered and fitted to hug him without stifling his movements. Upon his ring finger he bore the signet of his house, an Atitland wolf-spider encrusted with canary-yellow jewels, and around his right wrist, a thin chain-link bracelet of silver, the largest of which bore a trinity of initials. The candle, he carried in his left. His glass-like nails were shorter than she’d likely be used to, the fashions of court somewhat less taken to here in his lands, though they retained their luster and, as the light of the lantern showed, lethality. Full lips, a sloped nose, and a strong chin rounded out the list of his assets. “You look stunning,” Dominique said after a pause, one long enough for him to fully appreciate her beauty. Rou was every bit the woman the rumors claimed her to be, full-figured and yet supple and lean. He could see, without difficulty, why so many had been taken by her charms-- the emperor, included. Tilting his candle out toward the coachman, who sparked a match to light its end, he continued. “It would seem that the emperor’s fortune has favored me. I consider myself a lucky man.” He strode forward unabashed, yet not with the eagerness of a spoiled man gazing upon his latest acquisition. The way he moved was very matter of fact, a punctuation to the unspoken truth of this arrangement: this was their new reality, whether they liked it or not, and there was no going back. Tipping his candle forward, Dominique lit the wick of Rou’s own, and let their flames linger as a single entity as a long silence slipped through the emptiness between them. “Welcome home, Lady Castelle.”
  10. I lost my faith I'm losing my religion everyday Time hasn't been kind to me, I pray When I look inside the mirror and see someone I love, Oh, someone I love
  11. Marcellus straightened the jacket of his suit for a third time. Though the seamstress swore she’d tailored the rich fabric perfectly, enough that he could tuck a neat, slender dagger in the waistband and move without issue, it all still felt too tight. More worrisome, there was no way to fortify the silk, not in time for him to make the woman’s event. He’d become used to the heaviness of his reinforced plate armor after centuries of knighthood, the thicker, reinforced plates now like a second skin. In the attire he’d donned that night, a sharp two-piece suit of black silk, Marcellus felt utterly exposed. The knight had come to this strange, hellish place on the hope of finding her, and now, he could only hope it hadn’t been in vain. At the front door, Marcellus did as he was bid, lifting his arms as so that they might wave their wand about his person. He hadn’t realized its purpose until an angry shriek sounded from its end as it passed over his waist, bringing the both the guards’ attention to his concealed dagger. They frowned in unison so perfect it must have been practiced, and then the man carrying the wand made an expecting gesture with his free hand. “I hadn’t counted on sorcerers being here,” he said, the richness of his baritone layered with resignation. Reaching back with his right hand and tugging the weapon free in as disarming a manner as he could muster, he produced the dagger, its ornate handle glinting, its blade hidden in a supple leather sheath. “It’s good to see she’s being careful.” She hasn’t forgotten everything I taught her. The men shared a curious look, then after another wave of the wand that yielded no sound of protest, they permitted him entry. The lights running rampant in the belly of the establishment bordered on the profane to his heightened senses, and with a hard blink and brief grimace of discomfort, Marcellus’ eyes adjusted to the scene within. There were so many people present, some familiar, others strangers, that it seemed impossible they would all fit in so small a space. Their voices formed an incoherent roar like the ocean on the exhausting itself on the shore, ebbing and flowing with the tides of music. Inelegant-- it was the first thought that came to mind, and for a brief moment, he could hardly believe he thought himself foolish enough to find her here. What would she be doing amongst such a raucous crowd? “You came!” As his hazel eyes scanned the crowd he saw the devil, comfortably seated at the bar and in strange company, though no less melancholic than when they’d last crossed paths. He saw Shanna a moment later, a favored of the emperor’s congregation, as he continued to search, his senses cutting through the crowd with renewed purpose. It wasn't until his eyes neared the end of their broad stroke that he saw her, Irene, his Queen, unceremoniously thrown across a bench next to a face he recognized, but not one that accompanied a name. And for the first time in his immortal life, Marcellus knew fear-- raw, irrational fear that sank into him like the cold and seized the slow beating of his heart; that terrorized something primal and instinctive inside of him. He nearly screamed in horror. He could smell her flesh, alive and sweet. He could hear her heart hammering away in her chest. But most terrifying of all, he could see the fresh blood coursing through her veins. Mortal’s blood. At a loss for words, their reunion soundly spoiled, Marcellus retreated deeper into the crowd. He needed time to collect his scattered thoughts, and in that moment, the vacant stool at the bar seemed a beckoning haven. He moved through the swaying mass of peoples with all of the unnatural grace and effortlessness she had since lost, weaving through the bodies like water between stones. He needn’t think to balance himself, to manage his stride or sway his muscled arms, for these things came to him as naturally as the wind blew. At the bar, he sat in pensive silence, elbows on the glass, rubbing and wringing his hands as if he might squeeze the answers from the dark skin of his aged, yet impossibly smooth hands. It wasn’t supposed to be like this, he told himself as concern mounted. This wasn’t supposed to happen-- it should have been impossible. Daring another glance at the Queen from over his shoulder, Marcellus’ frown sank deeper. He shuddered. What had she done?
  12. “You have such a lovely way with words,” Rafael interjected, the hint of a frown on his lips a gentle reminder of how it displeased him to hear his dear princess speak in such a sordid manner. “Whatever agreement the little light worked out with your mother is just that,” he continued in a slow, disinterested matter. Dealing with the prejudiced Illyrians would be a trifling matter in and of itself, questionable relations aside. “I do not recall her bringing forth articles of annexation to discuss. I do not recall signing into law Illyria’s claim to Ceyana. What the Illyrians have are a promise, and words, my dear child, can be incredibly delicate things. If the little light wishes to continue living peacefully on the island that was given to them, they will swallow their pride and parlay.” There was no need to raise the threat of violence before her, certain the bright child-like creature in his arms was wise enough to discern the alternative. For just as it was unbecoming of her to succumb to her passions, so too was it the same – if not more so – for her father, an elder, to do the same. There were some aspects of their people’s formalities that even Rafael dare not step on. For the briefest moment, Rafael’s mind strayed from the beautiful garden and his daughter’s darling company. He thought of the small, almost timid man that had introduced himself as Raylon, Illyria’s king all that time ago. It was barely an echo of a memory now, cluttered as the emperor’s mind had become in these troubling days, but still he managed to pull from it with his sense – the taste Raylon left on the air, his stench, the feeling of his deepest self permeating the room as he, like many others, settled in quiet discomfort at his and Irene’s union. He hadn’t been anything remarkable, which he could not help but admit was impressive in its own way. And, more reasonably, explained Irene’s relationship quite plainly. She’d developed a nasty habit of collecting strays and other such mundane things, proclaiming them unique for their simplicity, even envying them. It was his daughter’s next inquiry that returned his thoughts to the present, her delicate hand on his cheek, her delightful voice singing in his ears. Rafael blinked, feigning a thoughtful expression as if trying to recall any relevant update concerning the queen’s favored pair. “They’re alive,” he said, the hum in his tone suggesting it was more an assumption that certainty. “Though they do not see each other often, the High Lords are particularly-- mm, aware, shall we say, of each other.” Killing Alazar, he thought, would take far more than a horde of demonic beasts, even with his powers diminished. “Had either fallen in the incursion, Zenahriel would have known, and no doubt made a spectacular show of his wrath and sorrow. I’ve no idea where they’ve flown off too.” In a spur of the moment, Rafael captured Lucia’s hand in his hand and held it out to their side, quickly falling into rhythm. “Ah, Brightstorm,” he sighed, dancing to a song only he could hear. “Do you remember the night I came for you, Lucia? We danced beneath the moonlight together, just the two of us, as I sang for you.” Closing his eyes for but a heartbeat, he immersed himself in that memory – felt the wind on his skin, smelled the storm that loomed on the horizon, felt the child still in his arms, half in a memory, half in the present. “On the wind, across the sea, hear this song and remember,” he sang softly, whispered to her as his eyes opened, blue as the ocean that lapped at their shores. “Now you’re here, home with me, once upon a December.” Rafael chuckled to himself, dipping his chin to kiss his daughter lovingly on her eyelids, then the center of her brow. “Is that what you want, princess?” A cut of his eyes to the nearest maiden yielded no reaction for the woman, so intent was she in trimming the flower against her fingertips. “Shall I find your mother and drag her back, kicking and screaming, and bind her to this garden with these maidens for all time?” Propping her up with two arms beneath her bottom, leveling their eyes, Rafael studied the child-woman’s expression with blooming interest. “What would this princess have her emperor do, hm?”
  13. While the others chat and acquaint themselves with each other, Rune remains focused on his task. He divvies out what remains of the stack between himself and the two strangers, then distances himself to focus on the content. He is a quick reader, but even for him, the sheer volume is almost overwhelming. He realizes this must not be a single journal, but perhaps several. It may take longer than even he originally suspected. Still, the work must be done. He does not bother keeping track of the time as it passes. It becomes irrelevant to him, for even when the sun wanes and dips beneath the horizon, there are candles to provide light. Each time something of note catches his eye, he takes the page and sets it to the side, pinning it down with a small stone. The stack of mentions is still small compared to the pages he’s filed as non-essential, but it is growing. A precious item, he thinks, having pieced together some idea of the situation. Coveted by all those that knew of it, even the lord’s wife, yet guarded jealousy. He keeps reading. It gave extraordinary power. Yes, this seems like something his employer would desire. Infighting, civil war… catastrophe. And like all power, misery and violence followed in its wake. “We are on the right track,” Rune says. “It seems like whatever we are looking for, it was here. These pages—“ he points to the smaller stack “speak of an item that belonged to the old lord of this manor. It was the cause of the destruction that brought ruin to this place.” He frowns, eyes never leaving the page. Another throwaway.
  14. If any of you are in need of a replacement for Game of Thrones, I strongly suggest taking a look at The Last Kingdom on Netflix. It's easily one of my favorite series at this point in time, and with three full seasons (and a fourth season on the way), you've got a lot to watch. I'm not sure how closely the series is following the books, but so far, I have zero complaints. Destiny is all.
  15. Quinton fights the urge to smile well enough that no hints make it to his lips, pleased to see that Varda is a more reasonable woman than he once believed. Ursa Madeum lives in the bones of the old world’s traditions. The moment she was born into the noble clan of Hildebrand, the idea of happiness, of love, of fulfillment ceased to exist. She is an asset, now more than ever, to be used to further the holding of her royal name. There is hardly a suitor in all the island that can offer her what he can; that she sees that is a promising sign. He watches as Varda removes the crown from her head, no longer a queen, presenting herself as she had the first day he saw her. She is more beautiful now than she’s ever been, and for a long while after she’s finished her request, he takes a moment to appreciate her. Many men would consider themselves lucky to call such a gorgeous woman theirs, to have her as their pride-- but Quinton does not believe in such things. She belonged to him the moment he decided he wanted her; she is only just now realizing it. “You do this,” she says, holding her raven diadem between them, “and I am yours, my lord.” Whether it is expected of him or not, Quinton sinks to one knee before her, bowing his head before her and lifting his palms to the backs of her hands. “I pledge myself, and all the resources I possess, to you and the Queendom for the rest of my life,” he answers her, “though I need no crown; only your hand in mine. They will know that I am your king when they see me beside you and in the soft glances we share in quiet moments. Let there be no doubt that, while you have taken a king, this is-- and will always be --a Queendom.” Though she cannot see it from their position, it appears as though the spider upon his hand has inched further along his fingers, closer to hers. Its fangs of ink and color sink into her flesh in a painless bite, and Quinton feels it writhe in acceptable glee. It does not bother scurrying back to its original position, curious to the extent of her wandering imagination when she sees it next. Is it a trick of the light, or has it always been there? Hadn’t it been smaller before? Quinton rises from his knee and, in his boldness, takes the crown from her hands. Rather than placing it on her head, he sets it upon the windowsill, and once again encroaches on her space. “I would kiss you as a woman before I kiss a queen,” he says to her, taking her by the hands to pull her closer. “I would know you as my wife, and me as your husband, before you are my queen and I, your king.” His left hand makes its way to the peak of her neck, fingers weaving their way through the long, silken tresses of her golden hair. The other cups the swell of her hip and squeezes, soft but firm, letting her feel the strength in them. “Whatever the future holds,” he whispers to her, searching her eyes, “whatever we become, Varda… from this day forward, until our last, you will always be mine… and mine alone. Do you understand?” Quinton allows her the time to answer before, at long last, he kisses her deeply and takes what little bit of herself she’d managed to keep hidden from him.
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