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  1. Rafael frowned his displeasure at the woman’s response, in no mood for her endless supply of games with words. He remembered a time not so very long ago when this very attitude would have stoked the flames of his ire, earning her punishment befitting one so flippant and familiar with their lord. Whether it was the back of his hand to bruise her beautiful face or the bite of a crop against her back and bottom to make even the softest of silks an enemy to her flesh depended entirely on the emperor’s mood. He’d humiliated her in those few weeks when she was to be his empress, painting himself for the first time with the truest of all his colors. And yet no matter how many times she was made to suffer his fury, or shoulder his hunger for passion and flesh, she – a mere mortal – stood diligently by his side. The thought sunk his frown further, and darkened his eyes with grim revelation, like the setting on the ocean. “That’s quite big of you,” she’d said to him, praising his humane treatment of Gabriela as something uncharacteristic to his nature. I’ve been cruel to her, he thought of his cousin as he continued down the hall, his slowed pace more aligned with his mood. It was not so surprising, for Gabriela more than anyone knew how to bring out the worst in him. Love her though he did, the Black Queen was incapable of commitment and incapable of honoring her word, no matter how simple the promise. She would rather busy herself with endlessly questioning his motives, endlessly accusing him, endlessly betraying him and their family. No, it was his mistreatment of the woman at his side now that struck him as odd, for despite Rou’s many—albeit childish—offenses, she’d never forgotten where she truly belonged. And try as I might, I have been cruel to you as well, haven’t I? With a brief pause to his gait, the elder looked the yellow-eyed beauty over thoughtfully, as if seeing her bruise, every mark he’d ever left on her tender skin. She touched his armed, promised him Gabriela would be fine, but his mind was elsewhere, drifting amongst a past far removed from the future. He remembered the many warm, summer days she’d been lounging in his study, lazily pouring over ancient tomes in her leisure study of the arcane. The bitter winter nights she’d spent in their bed, dressed in nothing more than her thick, sable hair and worldly beauty, hugged close to him, dreaming sweet dreams. Moving deeper, he unearthed the memories of when he’d bathe her simply for the sake of cleaning her with his own hands, which had been his privilege. And then he found her smile, soft and genuine, a far cry from her more mischievous and knowing smirk. She’d smiled the day she first told him of her love; and on the last. He longed to see her smile like that again—truly happy. Just as she’d touched his arm not a moment prior, Rafael’s hand raised and in an unexpected gesture of intimacy, a foreign happening between them now, he cupped the woman’s cheek in the valley of his palm. “I’m sorry, Rou,” he said to her, his voice strangely even. It was his expression—the furrowing of his brow, the pressing of his thin lips, and the setting of his bearded jaw—that betrayed him, whispering of the turmoil within his mind. The elder held her cheek with the gentleness of the lover he’d once been, a touch he could only hope she remembered. Lifting her chin, he posed her to share his gaze. “Truly, I am.” Then he was moving again, entering his study for what remained of her report. Closing his eyes, he nursed his temple with a single finger, circling in a small, slow rhythm. “I don’t want that,” he finally said, still refusing to look upon her. Not yet. “I told Gabriela that she would be free to do as she pleases, and I meant it. I’m not going to watch her every step, the same as she would never watch mine. The child is both of ours, and despite her want to play novice adventurer, I trust that she would never risk the safety of our baby—or the future of our people.” Perhaps it was foolish to invest so much of his trust in a woman that had proven herself unworthy of it, time and time again. Not only to him, her “forced burden,” but likewise to the one man she’d claimed for so many years was the love of her life—her soulmate, he believe she’d even had the audacity to say. “Have the men stand down, effective immediately.” Sensing the woman’s protest, Rafael raised the hand not tending to his temple to silence her. “In regards to An’She Cole, it’s not that surprising. He’s been a rather prominent antagonist to the Orisian acquisition, and even more so to my marriage.” There was a sourness in his tone at the mention of it, nearly palpable, hinting that the emperor had clearly taken the incessant complaints and second-guessing of his councilor in a more personal capacity than typically witnessed. While the man's logic and politics had been sound (finding Gabriela's behavior distasteful and the sheer debt and problems that came with Orisia an unnecessary burden), it was his fervor - flirting with blatant degradation - that gave Rafael pause. “All the same, it would seem Balthasar is due a reward for his ambition. See to his execution, personally. Ensure all the servants of my house attend so that there can be no misunderstanding of what awaits any that would seek to curry favor at their emperor’s expense. I’ll leave Cole in your capable hands.” Finally opening his eyes, he leveled them on Rou, searching for any manner of discomfort in regard to her orders. “Is there anything else?”
  2. King

    Thank you for the follow.

    1. Samø


      Thank ye for the like, bub! 

    2. King


      It was good work. I appreciate dragons and also the Game of Thrones flavor it gave me.

  3. King

    once upon a time

    Alexandros did as he was bid, the gentle touch of her hands on his shoulders feeling like boulders in that moment. What an embarrassment, he thought to himself as the weight in the center of his face coalesced into a congesting, aching pain. You are the ruler of Skyfall, he told himself. This kind of behavior is unacceptable. He’d taken no offense to quip of knighthood, far too engrossed with his own demeaning thoughts. If you’re lucky, it isn’t broken. “I don’t think it’s broken,” Andross said, as if he’d read his brother’s mind. “It doesn’t look to be, anyway. It’s going to bruise, though.” "I am Lyrei Mythal of House Mythal, youngest of our pack.” His face is suddenly cupped in her hands, stroked gently as if she’s known him all her life. He can see the blood on her fingers, wet and sticky, and her skin is cool to the touch. Each of her fingers are as cool as a stream, gently washing over his sensitive nose, his high cheeks, and his sharp jawline. Or perhaps they a raven feathers, brushing over his skin with tender love and care. Maybe she is a nothing more than a breeze, wisping over his face and spilling through his hair. Could she be all of these things, this mysterious goddess that he has found, given to him by Rhadaghast, himself? “I assume you gentleman met my brother, Lord Milorian Mythal and perhaps the Grand Kommadant of Renovatio? I know she accompanied my sibling today." “You’re Lord Milorian’s sister,” Alexandros purred against her palm, drunk on pain and her delightful touch in equal measure. He remembered the elf and the pain he spoke of, but mostly, remembered him being a reasonable sort of individual. Direct, perhaps a bit melancholy, but reasonable. “He is a good man,” Alexandros praised into the softness of her skin, nearly kissing her hands with the words. “From what I’ve seen of him, at least. I’m sure that your house will undoubtedly recover from these tragic days.” There was a short silence between them, born from his amazement. He looked the woman over more closely, studied the bright golden hair that framed her unnaturally beautiful face. Her canary yellow yes, brighter than the sun, and her full, kissable lips, curved in an admiring smile. She was thin as a rapier, yet her blade curved in ways he wanted to caress eager hands. Oh, the want she awoke in him, like fire scorching its way through his veins! “I truly am sorry about your hands, my Lady,” he whispered to her, resting his hands on the ends of his knees as to avoid grabbing her, exploring her body as she so boldly explored her face. “A woman as beautiful as you should never be covered in blood. Only rain or sunshine, I’m sure. Please, let me clean your hands.”
  4. Like his father, and his father before him, Alexandros had spent a lifetime distrusting elves. Not hating them in any particular sort of way, just distrusting them. The Kholin’s history with the children of the forests was a bloody one, with chance having them pose on opposite ends of the battlefield in nearly every skirmish the noble house had taken part in. It wasn’t until their journey to Ursa Madeum some half-dozen generations ago that their encounters became less frequent (despite the island’s natural inhabitants of Mythal), allowing time for old wounds to heal, and new relationships to sprout from the broken and charred earth to bloom. He’d been skeptical of Vivienne’s stay at Skyfall at first, uncertain of her motives, but saw the way Andross changed whenever he spoke of her. And his brother’s happiness was worth a little discomfort, he told himself. In true mirroring fashion, Alexandros sported an identical ensemble of attire to his younger twin, the soft Kholin blue trimmed with deep silver that accentuated his shorter, neatly cropped hair. Despite the fact he was without a beard and likely short twenty pounds of the muscle that defined his brother’s hulking figure, he was the spitting image of the younger twin, so much that they’d often been mistaken for each other as youths, even by the closest of their servants. Now, it was the argent lion medallion emblazoned upon the breast of his uniform that further distinguished them apart, the symbol worn only by the ruler of their home. He wore it proudly, and like the rest of his immaculate attire, the iron medallion was polished to a fine sheen, like glass. “Tea sounds wonderful,” he replied, waiting to be served. “Thank you.” As he strode further into the room, Alexandros took his measure of the woman, beautiful and, if the busyness of her laboratory was any indication, driven beyond means. He could see why Andross fell prey to her advances, and how any man not tainted by bias and prejudice would. The lord of Skyfall could scarcely remember a woman more voluptuous and inviting to the darkest corners of a man’s desire. She a cut a striking figure, leaving so little to the imagination, it was a wonder she hadn’t enthralled the entirety of the guard. Or had she? But he couldn’t understand what the two had in common, this woman of science, alchemy, and the arcane with his wholly physical, sometimes brutish brother. From what he knew, they were entirely opposite people, with little to nothing in common spare for a nearly raging libido. Their relationship gave him hope, for the vastness of the difference between the Hexmistress and his brother was no larger than that of the differences between Alexandros and Lyrei. If these two could form some manner of bond, then surely he— Alexandros blinked back to the moment, noting a several vials from the shelf to his right levitating a handful of inches from their placements. Suspecting the Hexmistress to be an orderly sort of woman, neat to the point of obsession, he lowered them, but not before catching the noting glance from her red eyes. “My apologies,” he said, dipping his chin in a curt bow. “It’s… a habit of mine. For when I’m—” nervous “—anxious.” His telepathy – one of the several schools of psionic practices that he studied – had been the first of his abilities to manifest when he was just a boy, said to be the balance of his brother’s natural prowess as a physical entity. It often showed itself at inconvenient times, revealing itself to those that had no business in knowing it existed. “I trust you’ll keep this bit of information between us. And you are a trustworthy woman, I’ve learned.” Taking his cup of tea from her when presented, Alexandros kept himself moving, pacing, unable to stand still for little more than a few precious seconds. “Andross told me that you’ve known he wields an Oathblade. I’m sure you can recognize how dangerous that information is. And yet, I’ve heard nothing from anyone else, not even my Crows, regarding the matter.” The crows were spies to house Kholin, men and women trained in the arts of espionage, reconnaissance, and assassination. “He trusted you with a secret that could tip the scales of power in this land, and you’ve been perfectly content to keep that knowledge to yourself, Lady Vivienne. For that, you have my thanks, but more importantly, my trust. I apologize for having it taken so long.” He sipped his tea as he let the woman digest his apology and proclamation, turning to face her with his next confession. “But, that isn’t the only reason I’ve come here. I… there is a situation that I need your help with. I’m not even sure you can help me, Hexmistress, but I don’t know who else I can turn to.” He stepped closer to her, though stayed well beyond her personal space, keeping their meeting wholly cordial and proper. While Andross may not have cared of his reputation, desiring Vivienne above all else, Alexandros as ruler of house Kholin could not afford so devious a scandal on his hands. “At the summit, I met a woman… an elf… her name is Lyrei Mythal, a noble from the north. She is… Vivienne, I’ve never seen anything like her. She’s all I can think about at night. Her very name causes my heart to thunder in my chest, nearly to the point of pain. And my dreams… thrice have I awoken to…” He let the words die, leaving only their implication behind. Alexandros looked at her seriously, a plea in his hazel eyes. “Have I been cursed?”
  5. I like the way you write. 

    1. Rust and Stardust

      Rust and Stardust

      Thank you, I appreciate it.

    2. King


      Not a problem at all. Totally deserved. Keep up the awesome work. 

  6. “More than you know,” Rafael confessed to her, adding to the intimacy of their brief moment together with a rare display of vulnerability. Perhaps it was the blood talking as it settled comfortably in his gut, or perhaps it was the exhaustion? He lacked both the resolve and energy to care. “I appreciate your consideration.” Now was not the time for her to pick apart the mess she’d seen, the things she’d felt, and it took caution and wisdom to know that difference. She will prove an even greater ally than I imagined, he mused as he kept her abreast, their hearts beating in a strangely singular melody, though hers was naturally faster than his slower one. The emperor held her until he felt the strength return to her legs, still by the back of her head and the small of her back, before feeling confident enough to untangle himself from the small woman’s embrace. “Another life,” he teased the elven Baroness, thumbing away a final drop of blood that had welled at the site of his bite. Though a man of passion and raw, carnal instinct, it was perhaps ironic that he’d taken his vows to Gabriela far more seriously than she ever had. With exemption to the occasional feeding and odd dance beneath the moonlight, he’d touched no other woman, paid them no affection, and had eyes for no other beyond his dear wife. For all the bad blood that flowed between the two cousins, he could not bring himself to debase himself in such a manner. The honor of his marriage and his faithfulness to Gabriela was one of the few things he had left in this world to call his own—even if she did not wholly deserve it. “But just because I am married does not mean I’ve forgotten my manners.” A mischievous shimmer flickered in the depths of his blue eyes. “Allow me to bring you some relief.” Half-turning to the side, though taking her hand in the massive valley of his palm, Rafael beckoned his honorguard enter. The neatly flooded the room, their gilded armor alive with the candlelight of the room. Standing there shoulder to shoulder, the group formed an imposing wall muscle and tempered steel before the door’s threshold, their expressions stern and impassive. The emperor gestured to them with a wide, flourishing wave, letting the elf feast her eyes on the splendid Carmine stock. “Which would you like?”
  7. If ever there were stories of his to be told, his hands, well-aged and yet still impossibly perfect, were undoubtedly the ones to tell them. For all the things she’d gleaned from her gift that night he’d taken her hand at the festival, there were many more left hidden, quietly lurking beneath his paper-thin surface of refinement and control. Enough blood to drown a civilization beneath its tides; enough pleasure to blush the cheeks of Hedone, herself. And for all the things she’d both seen and hadn’t seen, no vision compared to the feeling of being at his mercy, of having those hands ensnare her, shaping her to his will. Once upon a time, Kalmuli would have made a lovely partner for his more sordid affairs, but those days were well enough behind him. She, like all others, would have to settle for his bite. She leaned in close, resting her hands on the arms of his chair, but it was not nearly close enough. He smelled the lavender, but also the water itself, the fabric of her clothes, the wine on her breath. Rafael took her by the back of her neck with his left hand, letting his right hand find comfort along the swell of her backside. He pulled her closer, nearly into his lap, while he squeezed her with a strength that betrayed his youthful exterior. She was not a Baroness in that moment, but prey, and he her predator with her squarely in his grasp. Rafael’s bite was as severe as it was precise, and unlike those of his kind that enjoyed shorter, more compact fangs, his were long and broad, meant for boring deep and into flesh and milking the lifeblood from the veins they struck. Like all those that service their emperor this way, Kalmuli would bear the unmistakable mark that was his own, though whether in shame or pride, was entirely her choosing. Rafael drank deeply from the Baroness, pacing himself with the rhythmic beating of her heart. He could make her heart dance for him if he so desired, slowly or quickly, playing the muscle as if it were an instrument, may very well have if this had been a regular affair. But for his first tasting of any new species, especially those of the more exotic variety, he preferred to allow her own emotions guide the way, finding that fear, excitement, and even pleasure could have a profound impact on the resulting flavor. As he savored her, he found Kalmuli, left to her own rhythm and arousal, tasted of bliss and warmth. A slowly warming fire that worked its way down into his belly and then, slow as smoldering coals, spread through the rest of his limbs. Her blood was something to be relished, appreciated for the fine wine that it was. In exchange, he would satisfy more of her curiosity. Rising from his chair, he pulled the Baroness flush against his chest, pressing out all and space between them. Tighter now was his grip, fingers locked in her hair, tapered fingernail gently raking along the back of her scalp. The hand that had once crested the swell of her backside now settled into the dip of her lower back, twisted into the fabric. Stronger now was the pull of his mouth as he drank her, though gentle and encouraging as opposed to demanding, and his breathing, though heavy, remained measured. He closed his eyes and immersed himself in the visions of her past – the horrors that only those who dedicated themselves to the healing of others might witness, fully embracing the intimacy of the moment they shared. And then it was over. Rafael broke the seal of his mouth with a sated, wet sigh, lips bloody and tongue dripping. He breathed slowly, balancing himself, before kissing the wounds he’d left on her skin. He kept her close, sharing her heartbeat with his own. “Thank you,” he breathed against the curve of her neck, his head resting on the shores of awareness, though the foam-capped tides of mindless euphoria lapped at him with an inviting laziness. “You are as magnificent as I hoped you would be, and more.”
  8. “People will always fear you because you are my daughter,” Rafael opposed, not bothered by the woman’s desire for independence. “No matter what you accomplish, no matter how high you ascend, that you are so dear to me will forever be a factor in your relationships. But for that same reason, you will always have enemies, those that despise you simply because of our love, Raveena.” It was foolish to pursue the impossible, no less than it was to flee the inevitable. “What you seek—need—to do is give them more reason to fear you than me,” he amended her claims, rolling his hand toward her invitingly. “You have been too kind to your allies, and even kinder to your enemies. They take this generosity and kindness as a show of weakness, as some have done to me; you know how best to rectify that.” Raveena was often to praise her father for how rightly and justly a ruler he’d taught her to be, for it was a righteous ruler she desired to be, more than anything. A beacon of light in a world filled with so much darkness and despair. But Rafael had also taught her cruelty, for it was the light and heat that, if left unchecked, burned away all that it touched with impunity. He taught her the ways of ruthlessness and cunning, of merciless tyranny that, if necessary, could be applied with ease. She’d seen firsthand how her Lord Father dealt with those that displeased him, those that would bite the hand that fed them, those that would desecrate his sacred name and attempt to stain his immaculate reputation. He’d made her hold the blades with her own hands, feel the blood course over her fingers and saturate her flesh. He turned his thoughts elsewhere as he palmed the strange fruit, sniffing it himself before digging a tapered thumbnail beneath its skin. The juice all but burst over the digit, smelling sweet and oddly familiar to blood. Remembering his poor encounter with the Terran blood oranges, however, he decided against tasting it himself. “The Dairutians are a proud people,” he noted. “They existed long before you and I, and will continue to do so long after we’ve left this world. My ties to that city-state and the Alcove are the reason our prison systems are not bloated, and our construction sector has not collapsed beneath the empire’s demand.” He owed her no explanation and knew her to be well aware of his reasoning, but found no issue in repeating the sentiment. “It would be wise for you to prove yourself an ally, as opposed to an enemy.” Inspecting the fruit for a moment longer before setting it down, Rafael’s face remained a shifting tide between intrigue and indifference. He wiped his thumb on a napkin, then nursed his chin with the same hand, thoughtfully stroking his beard. “Even since its assimilation into the Dominon, the north’s entire focus has been on one thing: profit. A great deal of our wealth arrives from the north, and unfavorable outcomes ripple throughout the rest of empire.” Not only their wealth, but a great deal of their military’s might, as well. While the east had favored more arcane methods of combat, the north—much like the southern threat—poured all of their efforts into technology surpassing their allies and enemies alike. It had made the acquisition of the Great North all but invaluable to the Dominion. “The price of the patents you seek will scale depending on the level of encryption you desire,” he finally said. “At any rate, it will not come cheaply.”
  9. So, the Baroness was far more than a gorgeous face, curvaceous body, and unabashed seduction. Rafael listened to the woman speak with renewed interest, his amusement with her flirtatious ways not even yet cooled, witnessed in the way his eyes roamed her body without any manner of covertness to the deed, lingering on the legs and hips she seemed so determined to dangle before him. The vision she saw for the future of Drakiss was one that very closely aligned with the emperor’s own interests, albeit some minor differences, though none so severe as to unsettle their rapidly developing foundation. If all was as she claimed it to be, Kalmuli would prove to be a rather powerful ally in the days to come. Whatever her previous loyalties and involvements may have been, Rafael could overlook them for the time being, and ensure that siding with the throne—with him—far outweighed any personal gains she might hope to make elsewhere. “Yes, Orisia can be rather hostile toward technologies that have developed beyond a certain point.” For all the emperor’s intimate knowledge of the island’s genus loci, mostly gleaned through tastes of his cousin’s blood, La’Ruta remained a mystery to him. “It makes studying the phenomenon all but impossible, as well as any attempt at adaptation.” How many wasted years had his chief artificers and researchers wasted attempting to uncover some hidden truth about the mystical energy? “A portal system between the major cities of the island is idealistic, but it will need to be properly policed. Regulated hours of travel, heavily guarded…” His words fell away as his expression tightened, a pinched brow and narrowed, lowered eyes as his mind wandered. “…but, I suppose those would better be left for once we’ve managed a successful transfer.” Cutting his eyes back to the Baroness, Rafael smiled. “That being said, I rather like what you see with those blue eyes of yours, Baroness. There are still a number of citizens on the mainland seeking homes here, many of them veterans, and could provide you with teaching experience you seek. That, however, requires an academy.” Reaching into his jacket, the emperor produced a small envelop from the breast, its seal unbroken. He gently set it beside his untouched glass of wine. “As I’ve said, the north is vulnerable. Whatever militia you might be able to muster from Drakiss and its immediately neighboring lands is, in no exaggerated terms, the fullest extent of the throne’s military presence here. I would see that changed by mid-season, with a fully provisioned and operational base and multiple outposts fully constructed by season’s end. This edict will make it so.” It would have been wise to return that night, avoiding the possibility of souring what had proven to be an enjoyable second rendezvous. He grew weary of other’s company much too quickly these days, and while he enjoyed the sight Kalmuli, the taste of her in the air, it would only be a matter of time before even her beauty turned to ash before his very eyes, and the taste of her flesh poison on his tongue. This wretched thing he was becoming, he detested it so, and yet could find no manner of strength to delay its onset. When it was not the business of his people or the politics that governed them occupying his mind, it was thoughts of his unborn child, of the happiness awaiting him in nine short months. “Intrigues you, hm?” he asked tiredly, fingering his right temple in a futile attempt to settle the migraine slowly brewing in his skull. “Well, I see no reason I cannot afford another handful of hours in your company." He would not go quietly into that pitiful night, the elder decided. "Perhaps we can satisfy that wild curiosity of yours, yes?” He raised his left hand, still nursing his temple with the right, and gestured her closer with a sensual curl of his finger. "But first, I think I'll have that drink now.”
  10. Rafael found himself appreciating the Baroness’ playfulness and flirtatious mannerisms more than expected, finding them to be somewhat of a welcomed change of pace when compared to the often dark, serious demeanors involved with politics. Not that the topics they were soon to discuss did not deserve the fullest extent of their attention or utmost severity, but he’d found that when focusing too intently on a single thing, when investing too much of one’s self into so finite a space, it was easy to overwhelm the more sensible faculties of the mind. But true to his nature, he also saw how easily that same girlish coyness could be wielded as a weapon. Kalmuli was not like the elves he’d learned of from scripture and rumor, or even those that inhabited the dense forests of the Great North and Arcane East. While unquestioningly beautiful, she lacked the haughtiness of her counterparts, and through that, he could see how she might become more corporeal to a man. With her shortness, full chest, and legs that all but pleaded to be squeezed and touched, it would easy to lure detractors away from the point and into a murky, lusty haze of distraction. “I assure you, Baroness, there is a stark difference between a young vampire and an elder,” he replied, letting his blue gaze wander over her figure for a moment longer. They settled on her neck, perfect and unscathed. He could see the blood pumping just beneath her pale skin, hearing the slow, steady hammering of the heart living in her chest. “However, I do appreciate the warning. And as I am not one to overestimate himself and underestimate the influence of blood, I do agree that it would be wise for us to discuss business before indulging in any pleasure.” For tasting her sweet fae blood would certainly be that. Rafael took his seat opposite the Baroness, crossing his legs at the knees, and nursing the side right side of his bearded chin in the hook of his thumb and index finger. “I feel that the first order of business should be transportation, as the inefficient transporting of soldiers, resources, and commodities is the crux of most issues plaguing this region. Orisia is one of the smaller islands of the world, and yet, both Drakiss and Izabal are all but isolated from the rest of the nation. If, say, someone was to launch an attack and begin in either location, you would be without support from the south for a number of days. That is unacceptable.” Settling more deeply into his seat, Rafael studied the Baroness’ expression, only briefly flicking his gaze down to the neck that tempted his thirst. “My wife, the empress, has a different manner of ruling than I do. In the most simplest way of describing it, she prefers a weak federal government—a throne that rarely interferes in the happenings of her governors—whereas I, being who I am, prefer a rather strong throne,” he explained, still watching her with that predatory gaze that seemed exclusive to his eyes. “I believe that it is the throne’s duty to rule closely, and that the officials elected to interpret the throne’s will do so to ensure unity. A nation should be a single fist, Baroness, not five fingers.” He waited a beat, letting her absorb his words and form her opinion, though did not yet give her the moment to voice them. “I intend to gather the top artificers of the Empire in an effort to develop a more efficient means of traveling between the island’s major cities. What once took days will take a matter of hours, perhaps even moments.” While the latter was preferential, he’d no spit in the face of any progress. “In the meantime, it is a top priority to begin reinforcing the north – economically, socially, militarily. The throne will provide the budget, which you should find more than substantial, along with the lion’s share of the laboring force and resources for immediate construction and renovation. The rest can be pulled from Drakiss and neighboring villages; it will be good to point coins in their pocket.” Rafael gestured toward her with a slow wave. “Now, tell me, what is your vision.”
  11. Startled by the woman’s brutal transformation, the young marauder yelped as he stumbled back. His wounded leg gave out from under him, and he toppled to the blood soaked earth. Kicking with his heels and clawing with his hands, he tried desperately to put distance between himself and the werewolf, only to find himself climbing onto the blanket of bodies behind him. “There’s nothing glorious in death,” Paris called out after him. He walked toward the injured boy casually, letting his sword sway in the air. “There is no honor in it, either. There’s nothing more than the end.” Whether from exhaustion or blood loss, the boy’s crawling slowed, then stopped. He settled against the stomach of a man who had been his friend. The other barbarian was missing half his face, exposing the cleanly cut bone of his skull and the gray meat it held. His remaining eye, a brownish red from the blood that had leaked into it, stared at him emptily. “Is this what you want for the rest of your tribe?” Paris asked, kneeling in front of him. He slammed his sword the through chest of a corpse, keeping his hand wrapped around the hilt for balance. “You saw what we’re capable of. There could be a hundred more of you, and it wouldn’t make a difference.” The boy nodded. “Where are they?” Paris asked again. “The h-hill,” the boy said. “There’s a clearing not half a day’s walk from the bend in Swindler’s River. Bojack had us make home there.” “Bojack?” “He’s the chief.” "Mm." Paris nodded, rising to his feet as he wrenched his sword free from the corpse. He turned to face his wolfish companion, her brilliant white fur still misted with the blood of her former self. It was unlike anything he had ever witnessed before. Magnificent, he mused, looking her over as a man might his greatest masterpiece. You’re more incredible than I could have possibly imagined. Stepping closer, he brushed his gloved fingers over her snout, then down the side of her face. “I’ve decided we’ll use your nose, instead,” he murmured to her. “Kill him. Have your fill.”
  12. It was the sweetness of the Baroness’ voice that rescued Rafael from the depths of his fantasies, luring his attention from the curtain still in his grasp to her bowing figure. “Baroness,” he replied, uncharacteristically flat and devoid of the more seductive drawl he was known for. “A please, indeed. However, if it’s all the same to you, I’d rather stand. I’ve been sitting for almost several days now, and my legs could use the stretch.” The inefficiency of traveling between the island’s northern and southern ends were just one of the dozen reasons he’d come to see her this evening, a talking-point he was determined to broach as the night progressed. But for now, pleasantries. Daniel arrived shortly after, bringing with him the promised wine. Rafael tasted the richness of its flavor as the assistant uncorked the bottle, pouring the Baroness her glass first, and the emperor his, though it would go untouched. Then he was gone, as quietly as he’d arrived, leaving the two nobles to their business. “Yes, Orisia has become quite famous for its wine in recent years,” he replied, finally turning away from curtain after a final stroke of its soft material. Rafael wore a three piece suit that night, black in color, sharply tailored and freshly pressed, with golden cufflinks emblazoned with the imperial sigil. “Particularly their reds. It would seem that the grapes grow exceptionally well here.” It was a business that had succeeded a great deal in part to the devil’s rampant importing of it on Patian shores, over the course of his tumultuous relationship with Rafael’s wife. Orisian Red had become a mainstay in the foreign city-state, and from there, it had trickled out across the continent and beyond. Now, wine connoisseurs from the peaks of the Red City to the mechanized towers of Hell's Gate treated themselves to the exotic brand. Stepping closer to his companion, Rafael gently pressed the flat of his right palm across his stomach. “Unfortunately, it’s not my sort of beverage,” the elder explained, smiling humbly. “Mortal cuisines aren’t known for being friendly to my kind. It can get rather messy.” He briefly recalled the failed test of the Terran blood oranges, and the pain, discomfort, and slightly embarrassing events that followed. “However, if you’re feeling generous, or… simply in the mood to position yourself even further on my good side, I’ve heard that elf is rather exquisite. I’ve never had the pleasure, myself.”
  13. Thank you for the follow. : )

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  14. Rafael arrived in Drakiss via boat, one of the only ways to access the reclusive city, and by far the fastest. The Black Swan was a long and elegant ship, modeled at the empress for which it had been made. It was fashioned from ronaan, a rare, heavy wood, dark as coal and smooth as polished glass, native to the jungle of Ceyana. Prized by alchemists and artificers, a piece the size of a small coin was easily worth a thousand crowns. To have an entire ship made of it went far beyond any means of extravagance, bordering grotesque. The ship moved silently on the calm waters, seeming to slice through the low waves and dance with the wind that carried it forward. It carried thirty sailors on its planks, men and women that had manned the ship since its creation and knew it better than any souls breathing, five knights of the imperial guard, and the emperor they all served. It was the elder’s first visit to the northernmost city in Orisia, and though he could see the potential—in the city itself, in the rivers that coursed around its mountainous foundation, and in the untapped resources of the uncultivated lowlands surrounding it—he was, all together, somewhat unimpressed. Not for the Baroness’ lack of effort, but for the isolated manner in which the city had survived for so long. While it spoke volumes to the hardy nature of the northern Orisians, it also whispered of the throne’s failures, and how narrow their scope of view had been. Until now, that is. A guide awaited them at the docks, a tall and lanky young man with dark hair and eyes, clean shaven, and dressed in a manner that suggested he was a member of the Baroness’ estate. He greeted the imperial guards, bedecked in full glistening plate, and the emperor they walled off from approach. Their journey to keep was short and direct, something Rafael favored. When they arrived, he helped himself to the reception chamber, in no mood to flaunt nor impose himself on the Baroness. She’d been a darling woman at the festival, humble as she was beautiful, something he hadn’t forgotten—he would not fail to repay her that. While his guards stood beyond the room’s threshold, Rafael leisurely paced the room, looking here, touching this, never letting his attention linger on any detail or object for too long. His thoughts briefly turned to Gabriela and her recent departure several days prior. She’d left under the cover of night, no doubt stowing away on some uncouth vessel as to conceal her identity. True to his word, Rafael had not stalked her, had not monitored her every step, and instead allowed her to breathe and live as a woman, his empress, rather than his prisoner. Matters such as the Baroness were meant to distract him from these thoughts of longing, from sowing the seeds of regret in his mind, but it was proving more difficult than he’d expected. Rafael sighed, running his hand down the length of a dense ebony curtain, fantasizing of his wife’s beautiful hair swimming around his fingers. He missed her dearly, missed their child, and no amount of distractions would change that.
  15. The fire burns quietly in the snow. It isn’t large, only two handspans wide, but it serves its purpose well. The smoke trailing from its blaze dances and coils in the air before venting through a gaping hole in the roof. Rune sits by the edge, warming his hands. The old man and young girl are inspecting her arm. “I’ll recon for supplies later.” There’s no doubt plenty. Food, water, perhaps even ale. It’s all theirs, now that the residents are dead. “There should be more than enough to last us the duration of the mission.” He doesn’t plan on staying long. While no one can say for sure what it is they’re looking for, he suspects the hardest part will be finding it. Despite her injury, the girl has proven herself capable. The old man, too. Rune knows himself. They should be able to handle whatever beasts or monstrosities are guarding the precious item, or whatever warlord might have it in their possession. With warm returned to his fingers, Rune rises from his seat and begins his patrol of the house. So many rooms, so many closest. It will take a while for them to search them all. “If you decide to wander off,” he speaks from across the room, “bring anything of note back here. We’ll start a pile and sort through it together.”
  16. “No, I’m not,” he agreed with her before the seal of her promise. Though he was no devil or crossroad demon, Rafael’s life in politics had taught him the value of keeping—or not keeping—your word. He had not become all that he was by lying and stealing, united hundreds of warring tribes across the Arcane East under a single banner by betraying one and exalting the other. It was because of his cruel, childish nature of poking and prodding, his unrelenting desire to understand how things worked, why they worked, that had allowed him to amass such tremendous influence and might in a world not his own. When he promised something, it was delivered, for better or for worse, and that was something even dear cousin could not deny. “Thank you, my love.” While Gabriela seemed determined to remain in a soured mood, dampening what should have been a rather joyous moment with her suspicion and ungratefulness, Rafael could not allow her to poison the well. Though he took her firmly by the hip in his right hand, lightly pricking her with his tapered fingernails, it was not in threat or violent possession, but simply his heavy-handed ways of affection. As he breathed in her nude scent, continuing to brush his lips along her cheek and the curve of her slender neck, it was the touch of genuine passion that had been stoked for nearly a millennia. And the love in the fingertips that strolled over her belly, caressing the sanctuary of their unborn child, was the love of a man that would do anything for the security of his family. No matter how pitiful of an excuse she claimed it to be. “Yes, yes,” he breathed against her shoulder, kissing the soft, tender flesh after each word. “I need just a moment longer,” he promised. “You’re leaving, Gabriela, and you’ll be gone for a long time. I know that. But you aren’t going alone.” The rhythmic stroking of his broad palm over the curve of her stomach punctuated his meaning. Rafael laid his head against her back, breathing in the sweet aroma of her hair. “You should know what it means for me to do this.” It was not something he could have fathomed even weeks ago, let alone in the earlier years of their relationship. “I’m going to miss you, truly. Both of you.” With a final kiss to the highest notch in her spine, Rafael eased Gabriela from his lap and onto her feet, standing thereafter. He smiled at her, a brief, matter of fact expression, while allowing his gaze one final sweep over her figure. A final palming of their child, and then a loving stroke of his knuckles across her cheek before he brushed more of her silken tresses back over her shoulder. He took her by the back of the neck and kissed her without request, for though they were equals, she would give him this final act of intimacy. Rafael kissed her deeply, opening her mouth and breathing all of her in, filling her loneliness, her sorrow, her ache with the tempest of his passion. He consumed her as he always did, blurring the world with the sheer intensity of his unbridled wanting of her. Then the kiss ended, his lips a hair’s breadth from hers. “Please, don’t make me regret this.” Rafael turned and left her there by the edge of their bed, turning his thoughts to a number of issues still in desperate need of his attention. They would help to distract him from the coming emptiness of their home, he hoped, and keep the less favorable aspects of himself – fear, paranoia, anger, jealousy – from surfacing during Gabriela’s sabbatical. "The decree is on the dresser. I've given you more than enough time to make your changes and to review its contents. If you're leaving, the security of the throne must be made unquestionable. Sign it. You won't leave until you do. I'll come back for it later tonight." You know this is a mistake, a cold, playful voice teased him from the darkest corners of his mind. Why do you bother indulging her so? Her blood is your birthright; do with it as you please. But he was, the elder realized. Gabriela had not conned him into this agreement, not forced his hand as she was so very often inclined to do. This was his choice to give her these freedoms, to slacken the leash as it were, and dote on her as an emperor might his prized wife. There was power in that, and Rafael shunned the taunt without response. Closing the door to their private chambers behind him, Rafael happened by another set of yellow eyes, though far more mischievous – almost feline in their calculating ways – than his cousin’s somber gaze. He studied the woman for longer than he’d allow any other man to, letting the An’She know that despite their lack of affection in recent weeks, she still pleased him greatly with her appearance and figure. It was in the way his eyes lingered on her mouth, her generous bust, and the shapely hips even the densest of robes or gowns could never hide. “Eavesdropping now, Rou?” Despite the elder’s almost rigid expression, his placid tone conveyed he was not offended. “I didn’t think you’d find Orisia that boring.” He began down the hall without regarding her further, heading toward his study at its end. “Is everything all right?”
  17. It wasn’t long before the screams of the dying became silence, and the clash of steel and roar of lightning faded away, as well. In no time at all, Paris’ small troupe had eliminated nearly all of the men and women that had so recklessly come to claim their lives. Only one of the marauders remained, a young man that had suffered a deep slash to his left thigh. He’d tried to hobble away, but now stared down the blood-covered length of the crown prince’s sword. He walked the surviving marauder back to the center of the massacre, where the small campfire still burned, and the others had already gathered in waiting for their lord. He was not cruel to the man, but nor was he friendly. The tap of his sword’s tip on his shoulder was only to spur his gait into something less stagnant whenever he slowed to eye all that remained of his raiding party. “This wasn’t all of them,” Paris said, gesturing back at the bodies with a sweep of his blade. “The reports we received said there were over a hundred, which means they likely have a settlement somewhere in the hills.” The marauder looked away. Paris stepped around the young man—more a child, really, barely into his seventeenth summer—until he could look upon his face. “We would like for you to lead us there.” The child raider scoffed. “Do you know who I am?” Paris asked. “Some noble shit,” the boy spat. Solomon raised his axe and took a step toward the marauder, but Paris stayed his approached. “A noble shit, indeed,” Paris said with a smile. “I am the crown prince of these lands. And while I do not condone of your way of life, that does not change the fact you are my people. I would very much prefer to resolve the issues at hand without further bloodshed, if at all possible.” “Nothin’ to resolve. The strong live, the weak die.” “So, your friends, they were all weak?” Paris guided the boy’s eyes to the sea of bodies behind him, watched the determination shatter and fall away from his expression. “Guessin’.” “But you, you’re strong?” The boy didn’t answer. Paris let his blade rest on the furs covering the marauder’s shoulder, its edge glowing red as the firelight danced across the blood. “But you didn’t survive because you were strong,” he reminded his captive. “You survived because I allowed it; because I want to see if there is another way to go about what I’m trying to achieve. Now, I know there are more of you… and if you make me find them by myself, I will kill every last one of them. The women, the children, the elderly – everyone you have ever known or loved. I will butcher them down to the last uncivilized heathen and salt the earth where we bury their bones so that their souls stay trapped in the soil. As for you?” Half-turning to face Okina, he nodded for her to come to his side. “I will feed you to my friend here, piece by piece. Show him, Okina.”
  18. It was not for lack of wit or aloofness that Andross took his time adjusting the shelves of jars, but being a man so tall and broad, with arms so thickly muscled, posed a different manner of challenges in the cramped storing areas of the elf’s haphazard laboratory. Graceful as the Lord Commander was, it was all but impossible for him not to budge, nudge, or adjust this or that as he searched for the strange jar his dear Hexmistress required. When he thought he’d found it, a jar no larger than his hand and teeming with a green, pulsing coil of energy that seemed to float and ripple in the air, she corrected him, directing his attention to the pink-filled container several arm’s length away. He stretched the distance, hoping to avoid more pointless shifting, and palmed the jar from its place on the shelf. “It was not simply for his benefit, I assure you,” she promised. “My efforts this morning were purely for pragmatic purposes, my love. I had need of the boy’s… his virie, his youthly vigor.” “That’s not the point, Vivienne,” Andross replied as he turned on his heel, keeping the jar close to his chest, sandwiched between both hands. Just as she’d found it difficult to explain what it was that she’d gathered from the young greenhorn, Andross, too, found it somewhat troublesome explaining why the act distressed him so. It wasn’t as if he owned the woman, or that she’d made some declaration to invest her romantic—intimate—interests solely within him. He had no right to her, no claim, and yet that did nothing to calm the possessive fire that had blazed in his chest when he heard the boy speaking of her in so familiar a manner. Remembering it now, his hands tightened on the jar. “I didn’t… there was no…” The Hexmistress made a humorous, juvenile gesture to simulate intercourse. “He did all the work himself; I simply prompted the desired result. I purified the baths with holy salts, and—” she grabbed a long glass ewer, filled with glowing blue liquid. It was as if she’d captured the soul of a river. “—do you even know how hard it is to get virie from maidens?” “That isn’t the point,” he reiterated, close enough to feel the violent clash of their frustrations as aura met aura. Like most things between the two, the fissure of their energies was molten and scorching, two roaring suns eclipsing each other as their personal spaces collided and overlapped. It became a tension so thick it would be a wonder if even the vorpal edge of his Oathblade could slice through it. But then Vivienne slumped, no doubt feeling the weight of his displeasure, often described as a palpable thing, and perhaps a child-like guilt at what she’d done. When she set her work aside, Andross found himself skeptical – only to fall into the trap of her honesty as she posed her hands before her chest, pleading with him for a more merciful temperament. “I’m not angry, Vivienne,” he said, setting the jar aside. “I’m… I don’t know, confused.” A gloved finger posed beneath her finger in a half-curl, reclining her head so that he could look into those unsettling red eyes. “I know how things were before, what they were, but it’s different now. I don’t want to share you …” the finger fell from her chin, following the curve of her throat with a gloved knuckle; it settled in the notch of her collar, then dipped lower into the valley of her breasts. “…that includes the more intimate aspects of your beauty. I might have challenged him to a duel, if he hadn’t been a soldier of mine. Do you understand?” Though she’d shown little interest in the culture of Skyfall, dueling was the one aspect that had, in some manner, caught her attention. Andross breathed the shakiness from his arms and chest, leaving behind only the steadfast resolve born from years of relentless training. “This is how I want things,” he confessed, thumbing the side of her left breast. “You to be with me and no one else, to see no one else, to show no one else.” He studied her face, searched her eyes for an answer he would find pleasing, but saw nothing but red—bottomless, endless red. “Am I your lion, or am I not?”
  19. Indeed, there was no predicting the elder’s behavior, no manner of foresight that might help those desperate to determine how he might react to certain stimulus. He was a force of nature in that regard, as unpredictable as the sky or sea—calm, inviting and serene in one moment, only to become a hellish tempest of in the next. It was this undomesticated, irregular nature of his that had allowed him to obtain the power he now held over his cousin and her tailed lover, juggling both of their fates, and that of their precious son’s, in his hands with a finesse that came easily to one with such a keen eye for vulnerability, but also the iron-clad will to exploit such simplistic weakness. For it was not that either Gabriela or her baby’s father lacked strength, whether it was cunning or brutish in nature, but that they were, for all their efforts and false claims otherwise, painfully predictable creatures. He’d realized it long ago, and looking at her as she stood before him, judging him with those molten gold eyes, pouting with her irresistibly plump lips, he realized it now. How many times had those two fools be given “everything they wanted”—a phrase they had nearly coined in regards to their relationship, their family—only to throw it away? How many times had the devil had Gabriela in his grasp, bound and shackled, only to discard her like trash? The devil only wanted the Black Queen when he did not have her, and Gabriela only wanted him when she could not have him. So yes, what did it matter if she ran back into his arms? It would not be a month before she was on her knees, praying to her cousin for rescue—as she’d done so many, many times before then. “I’m confident that, no matter our past or the one-side transgressions you’ve imagined, even you are not so stupid as to cross me in such a manner,” Rafael admitted plainly, staring at her squarely as to not hide a hint of his expression from her in the shadows of the night. “I am giving you what you’ve wanted—freedom to come and go as you please, to be involved as little or as much as you desire—as a gesture of good faith. Our child means more to me than any petty grievances between us, or whatever you think is happening here. For your sake, Gabriela, I pray that if the thought of disappearing with our child enters your mind for even the briefest moment, you banish it.” The narrowing of his blue eyes punctuated the statement, along with the silent promise they carried. I will kill you, those deep blue eyes said, genuine and true. I will find you, Gabriela, and I will kill you. But then the severity was gone, melting away into something more agreeable for his handsome features. The straight, razor-thin line that had been his lips curved into a salacious smirk, and the darkness in his blue eyes dissipated into a lighter shade, more sapphire now, as his temperament elevated. “But, yes, I’m quite confident that won’t be necessary.” He stepped closer to her as he finished speaking, letting his knuckles brush along her cheek beneath those impossibly dark lashes, then through her hair as he tossed a length of it over her shoulder. “I’ll show you why. Come with me. Oh, don’t be like that, my love. I’m not going to hurt you. I just want to show you something—something that I think you have ignored for far, far too long. Or,” he added as he took her by the hand, gently plucking it from the adorable swell of her plump belly. “Perhaps you’ve simply chosen to deny it.” Their journey was a short one, ending abruptly at the edge of their enormous bed. Rafael took his seat there, sinking the mattress with his weight, while he guided his empress to the comfort of his lap. With his hands now on her hips, he made her to straddle his muscled thigh, adjusting her until she was situated almost flush in the alcove of his chest and arm, her hair a thick, luxurious sheet of sweet-smelling tresses between them. “Now,” he purred as his right arm, long and massive, coiled around her, capturing her hand in the motion and resting it upon the crown of her belly, weighted down by his larger palm on the back. He forced his fingers into the spaces between hers, gently raking at the thin fabric of her gown as he caressed her. “This child of ours, Gabriela, was made by no deal,” he whispered gently into her ear. “They are not the result of scheming, of plotting, of rape or violence. This child exists only because we both wanted them to.” No manner of moping, of self-loathing, of punishing herself for her adultery would ever change that fact. Roen, the “love of her life,” the man she would “do anything for,” had not been enough to keep Rafael from parting her legs and filling her with life—and he would never be enough to fill that void inside of her, that bottomless pit that devoured all foolish enough to stray too closely. Or, perhaps the elder was wrong, for he was not all-knowing and could not see into the future as some claimed possible. For better or for worse, this test of the Black Queen’s wanderlust would answer his questions. It was only a matter of time before the scale tipped, and though far from a betting man, he felt confident in knowing which odds were favored. Rafael pressed his nose into the depths of her hair with a smug grin on his lips, breathed in deep her natural scent and held it for several long moments before releasing it in a heavy, reluctant sigh. “You know where you belong, Gabriela,” he said to her, letting her feel his lips work the words into form against the side of her neck. “Enjoy the world and its wonders, for there are only so many to keep you entertained. Endure its cruelty, its indifference, its merciless prejudice and hatred. You will bore of it all eventually, when you realize what I have begun to realize, and you will come home. You will come home.” Because you are addicted to it, he left unsaid, still caressing the shapely swell of her stomach. “And I will be here to greet you, my love, for that is the role I play. Because I choose to.” Lifting his chin, Rafael kissed her cheek, then the corner of her mouth with a lover’s tenderness. “Now, promise me you will keep our child safe, Gabriela,” he demanded from her in a whisper so soft, it was as a feather dusting across her jaw. “Promise me, or I fear I may not possess the strength to let you go.”
  20. What I'm saying is you without me doesn't make any sense, I know I'm intense and controlling, but you need to learn how to cope with it, That's just the way that it is
  21. Yet another that recognizes the greatness of NF.

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    2. Ataraxy


      Which is your favorite? I have Lie, Mansion, and WHY on like infinite replay lol

    3. King


      Mansion, All I Have, Intro III, Changes, Green Lights, and Options.

    4. amenities


      He strikes me as a more conscious rapper version of Big Sean who can string lines together in this dark way that's comparable to Hopsin and Eminem in his earlier days. WHY, Green Lights, and Hate Myself are my favorites.

  22. “You are responsible for the things you tame…” Yes, the elder was well-aware of the obligations that came with his desire to possess her. Gabriela liked to believed herself unbreakable, a wild and fiery spirit meant to roam the wilderness, land, sea, and sky. But Rafael alone had clipped her beautiful wings long ago, domesticating her with womanly and monarchical responsibilities befitting the royal blood in her veins. “…You’ve broken me, mind and body, and now you don’t want me anymore?” Rafael was barely able to contain the incredulous laughter bubbling up from his gut, but had she not turned away, she would have seen the way it twisted his lips into an amused little smirk. Passionate as he was, it was his darling cousin, the tempered, cold, and ‘indifferent’ one that lived in extremes. If she was not being policed like a criminal, shackled to his side with chains of ‘love’ (no matter how necessary it may have been at times), he was abandoning her. There existed no middle grounds in her relationships, no compromise, and the thought left a dreadful unease welling within her husband. Of course, Gabriela’s history of violent and dangerous relationships had only served as fuel for that burning, toxic mentality, but of all the men to take her hand, Rafael was undoubtedly the most aware and able to bring about change. He allowed her a heartbeat’s moment of space before following shadow, chasing her as he’d done for many a year. Resting the valleys of his massive hands on the small rounds of her shoulders, the elder leaned in and brushed his nose through the thickness of her dark hair, breathing in deep the sweet aroma of her natural scent. A child of darkness, of blood, she smelled of Atitlan in a way that awoke long-dead memories buried in his mind, exhumed them from unmarked graves and breathed life into them once again. “Did I say that you weren’t mine, Gabriela?” he asked, letting his hands spill over her shoulders and gently caress the lengths of her slender arms. “Did I say that this was the end of us, or that you were not my wife?” Taking her by one arm, Rafael slowly turned her to face him, hoping she might find the answers to the confusion that had bloomed through their bond in his eyes, and if not, then in the words he spoke next. “You will always be mine, Gabriela,” he purred, his expression content and severe. The hand that had gripped her arm was wandering over her body now, tracing its knuckles over her collarbone, then down into the valley between her breasts. He groped her left breast softly but with a possessiveness that was ingrained into his being, pinching her nipple through the thin fabric of her gown, then rolling it between his fingers. “There is nowhere you can go, nothing you can do, that will ever change that.” Rafael toyed with her for a moment longer, until her flesh was stiff to the touch, before letting her go. If she knew her cousin half as well as she liked to believe, she would know it was a warning, a promise that he was still very much himself, and that this conversation had remained civil only because he willed it so. “This palace is not my prison,” he finally elaborated after a moment. He curled a finger beneath her rounded chin, tilted her head back, forcing her molten gold eyes to behold his stormy blue ones. “I come and go as I please, and if I desired, I could venture the entire world before returning. I am here as frequently as I am because of you and our child, Gabriela. I see no reason that can’t—or shouldn’t—be the case for you. We are equals, are we not?” “And the child?” The tension seemed to be bleeding out of her, though her guard remained strong. Both her arms sank lower along her body, resting her dainty hands on the swell of her stomach. “I expect you’ll have me surrender him to you after he is born? What else could be expected from a woman like me? I gave away one child, it will not hurt me to do it again—right?” They were words that, at one time, would have inspired an unbridled fury in the elder, but now, merely roused the pity he housed for them both. These poor, star-crossed lovers could not for a second see beyond their doomed romance to ponder how inhospitable an atmosphere they were creating for their son. What would come of little Philippe, Rafael wondered. Would he become like his father, a man driven by nothing more than his extremist sense of love for a woman that was not his—or his mother, no less self-destructing and misguided, that wrapped her selfishness in the trappings of righteousness. “No,” he murmured, thumbing her cheek. “You, better than anyone, know that I would never do something like that, Gabriela. Our child,” he corrected her, “is the reason I’m doing this.” Rafael let his fingers swim through the chocolate sea of her hair, lifting the thick, luxurious tresses and letting them sink through the spaces between his fingers. He gently raked his talons along her scalp, and brushed aside the stray threads that dared attempt to veil her beauty from him. “I know you’ve conspired against me,” he said bluntly, his voice lacking the vigor it once held when leveling such bold accusations against her. “Or, if you haven’t, you would have soon. Rather than talking to me, trying to make things work, you would have tried to take our child away from me—our child, Gabriela. The one thing you know that I would do anything for, commit any change. You would have taken that away from me for a freedom that was already yours; a freedom you simply refuse to see. Why? Because you would rather stoke the flames of strife between us, force me to be the monster you claim I am, than admit that I am better for you, that I am what you need.” A frown creased his lips, deep and settled. “I’m not going to let you do that,” he warned her. “I’m not going to let you—either of you—tear apart our family because of past mistakes, because you and the devil are incapable of being civil. You’ll not take out your grievances with him on me and our unborn child. So please, go if you must,” he said more smoothly, punctuating the claim with an inviting wave of the hand, “and explore the world and see what it has to offer you. Enjoy yourself. Sip of the life you’ve craved. I will be here, ensuring our home remains as it should, and take care of the people we govern. I will inquire as to your location and the nature of your travels, but unless I feel it threatens our child or family, you’ll not see me interfere.” A more reasonable offer, she would never been given by another.
  23. We're going to write together one of these days. On The Last Samurai, I swear it.

    1. Vansin


      I don't view oaths taken on The Last Samurai lightly, however I've begun what may be a lengthy hiatus as I work on a time-consuming project with the exceedingly talented @KittyvonCupcake. My time on Valucre these days is dedicated to growing the region of Terrenus over which I am chairperson. 

      When I return to active status, and if you're still game to write, I'll gladly accept. 

    2. King


      Keep me updated, friend.

  24. Andross frowned as Vivienne snaked her arms around him, seducing him into a sway so melodic it was nearly a dance, and glanced up at him with those red eyes—redder than the finest rubies, than the most violent anger, the hottest lust, or the deepest pools of blood. They were all at once unnerving and enchanting to him, those red eyes, inspiring within him a deep-seated desire to both look away, but never look away, as well. But he never did. For as disturbing as her eyes were, Vivienne was as gorgeous a woman as the younger twin had ever seen, and her smile, whether sarcastic, teasing, or genuine, was worth the discomfort. “No,” he replied after a moment had been stretched long and thin, “not tea.” Looping his much larger, muscled arms around her, Andross lassoed the mischievous elf more tightly against his chest. “I’d come to discuss something a little more important with you, but on my way here, I was privileged enough to hear one of the young recruits bragging to a senior guard about an encounter he’d had with you,” he explained, his usually rich, deep voice soured with hints of jealousy. “He was quite enthusiastic in noting what large and lovely braids you have.” The frown he wore sunk his full lips deeper along his bearded face, still only displaying a fraction of his displeasure over the matter. Indeed, there were few—none beyond his elder brother, so far as Andross knew—that were aware of his relationship with Vivienne. Succinct and physical, the brevity stressed by the nature of the arrangement, for she and her house would only come once a year. But that had changed during the last summit, quite drastically so, and now Andross found himself craving something more from the Hexmistress in the aftermath. What that more was, he could not particularly say for it was a strange and foreign thing to him, but he knew without doubt in his mind that there was no desire to share it. “How are those men supposed to protect you, or the castle, if they’re too busy daydreaming about your assets?” It may have seemed a teasing question to many, but any that knew the Lord Commander would be well aware of the severity. The safety of his family, his people, was paramount. There was nothing he would not do, nothing he would not give, to ensure it. It may have been a game to many, but Andross had seen families toppled by far less. Perhaps it was the fact he knew of the potency of the elf’s distraction firsthand, often times finding his mind wandering to the elf and her nudity, to her taste, her pleasure— “You shouldn’t do that. I’m sure you had your reasons, you always do, but there must be other ways for you to go about it. Besides…” he trailed off for a moment as he lifted his right hand, then brought its wide palm down across her backside in a hard, punishing lash. He his hand down into the space between her thighs, then back up, squeezing her possessively. “… I don’t like to share, Vivienne.” It didn’t begin to express all of his sentiments toward her, but voicing those were steps for another day. Some semblance of exclusivity, he thought to himself. Yes, that is what I want. It was but a mere fragment of the entire picture, yet a satisfying discovery all the same. Breathing in deep, and looking at her more seriously, the younger twin searched her expression for understanding he dearly hoped to find. “Please, no more theatrics like that.”
  25. Paris swept his blade out in a wide slash, cutting through the chest of one man. A pillar of crackling electricity rushed from his open hand, stopping the heart of one woman and sizzling her flesh. He moved like a storm, flashing, rumbling, raining death down on the marauders. An arrow whizzed through the air, missing him; but it found the eye of the marauder behind him. Another came for him, but he batted it away with his sword. The archers were too slow to realize he’d found them, and by the time they turned to flee, the crown prince’s blade was sweeping it. It cleaved through the back of one, and then impaled another. The third, it decapitated with an effortless stroke. Solomon and Helene were not idle, and while their lord dispatched the archers, they too had already killed nearly a dozen raiders between the two of them. The knight’s dreadful axe whirled through the air, hacking, rending, while Helene’s shredded through leather and flesh with her fangs, claws, and shortsword. Their pattern of attack fenced the marauders in, driving them back toward Okina and Paris. The crown prince was there to greet them. Save for the crackling and chirping of electricity, Paris was silent as he cut down all before him. Medivh, the sword of legend, was red and pulsing in his hands—its power flowing through him. Blood soaked his gloves, splatters of it across his face. He could smell it, taste it. The screams of the dying, the thrill of battle – it’d been too long since he’d enjoyed himself so fully. There should have been more, he thought as he split another man in two at the waist. There must be more!
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