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Narcissa

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Narcissa last won the day on September 12 2015

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  1. Rock of ages, we cast the first stone In our cages, we know not what we do Indecision, here at the crossroads Recognition, tomorrow's come too soon Follow blindly, like lambs to slaughter At the mercy of those who ply the sword As our song wends dead underwater We're forgotten for now and evermore
  2. It felt as if a gale was squalling through House de Castelle, a short burst that made An'She close her eyes and recoil in her chair, careful to clutch her glass where it would not slosh errantly on her clothes. To say her friend's sudden outburst of emotion had caught her by surprise was putting the term lightly-- while Zenahriel's feelings and devotion were undisputed, he rarely showed so much candor, much less worry. Rou's yellow eyes followed his path to the window, seeking solace in the void of expanse that Rou had so often sought, knowing that (much like in her own search) that answers would not find him there. It was an uncomfortable feeling of weightlessness, and yet the weight of a stone in tandem, that sat in the pit of one's stomach and rolled both with turbulence and funeral pace. "Zen," Rou said, avoiding a consoling tone, but one instead that vowed her attention. Carefully placing her glass upon the table, she rose, brushing out the wrinkles in her mediterranean clothes, before joining him at the window. She knew better than to distract him from his distress, as she could discern the truth from his face, from the reserved anguish in the tremble of his wings. So often had he been a rock of emotional stability for her, that Rou found it easier than expected to slip into the role for him, when faced with such a mirrored image. Controlled, she inhaled through her nose, glancing at the tension writ upon Zenahriel's pale features; as she released, she shared in his gaze out the window. In any other situation it might have been beautiful, as it was on crisp mornings fresh with a light frost, but the mood brought with it only a dampened pallor, and a sense of foreboding. "Did she hurt him?" She might have asked, but Rou knew the answer to so obvious a question, her lids narrowing at the landscape, lips pressed into a gaunt line. As much as the emperor's former lover might've once wished to gloat, to be told that she had been at the right of it, age, wisdom, and an affectionate empathy towards her treasured confidante, had steadied her response with a thoughtful pause. Her gaze rolled, as if taking the scenic route before finding Zenahriel's impressive height, with caution. "We knew this would happen," she murmured, "and we both did all we could to prevent it." Rou's reclusive posture subliminally gathered at her stomach, placing her hand flat over her abdomen. Guilt bubbled beneath the surface, though was subdued by a hard swallow. There was no correcting her imperfections, no heeding of Zenahriel's counsel, that could deflect the Emperor from his designs. "All we can do now is..." she trailed off, at a loss for words. There were no schemes, the shade of self-pity had made Rou lazy and listless, as she muddled over his words and found herself fraught for sage advice. "Strength," was the only word that came to mind, as she shared it with Zenahriel. Rou had little and less to go on, as she tried to discern her own meaning at the same time. "I feel it, too. All we can do is show strength, solidarity." Reason, history, all the lessons she had received under Rafael had reinforced that solidarity was the answer, the diplomatic answer. However-- the thought soured on her own lips, unsatisfied, as she felt Zenahriel was, too. Rou pressed her fingers to her lips, her brow rumpling with contemplation as the cogs whizzed and whirred in her head. "But waiting for Rafael to make those changes will be nothing but a sterile effort. If Umbra is decaying, if our liege is decaying," she implored the High Lord, placing her hand upon his arm, "then we need to pave the way." At that moment, the door to the parlor opened, though the servant who commanded it moved only inches inside, in aversion to the light. He stuck to the shadows, cast by the ceiling over nearly a quarter of the floor. "Ah, good." Rou clicked her tongue with a turn, "Fetch my things, we make for court, shortly." She seemed oddly motivated, sharing a look with Zenahriel that hoped to instill him with a bit of vigor. "My Lady Castelle," he said with a curt bow, and an arm folded politely behind his back. "An'She Thaladred for you." Rou looked puzzled, slightly taken aback. Her hair whipped as she looked at the window-- no, she hadn't mistaken it, the sun was still high in the early afternoon. "Now?" Rou asked, exchanging her perplexion with Zenahriel, as she was sure a visit from the councilor of finance confused him just as well. With a wave of her hand, she approved. "Very well, send her in." Rou stood in the rays of the sun from the window, as if it were a rift from the shade. Of all the An'She, Thaladred had been the most combative and snide towards Rou's presence, and so brazen to vaunt in Rou's own domain-- or exile, as the arranged bride still occasionally considered it to be. Whatever tidings brought her were sure to be ill received.
  3. “What are you going to be wearing? For the Feeding tomorrow?” Rou leaned her elbow on the arm of her chair, cushioning her chin in the palm of her hand. "Nothing," she answered apathetically, through her fingers that made her cheeks malleable in her nonchalance. She withdrew her legs onto the seat with her, more out of comfort, before reaching for a wedge of soft cheese with a waxy white rind. "Or rather, not," Rou rambled on, as she decided against the particular parcel of cheese, and replaced it upon her plate, "I won't be in attendance this year." She inhaled sharply, before readjusting her position in the chair, tucking her bare feet underneath her bottom and pushing strands of black hair out of her face. "Now, I know what you're going to say--" the buxom beauty articulated with her hands, splayed as if they were to quell her confidante's concerns, her face sour with an all-too-purposeful deflection of her eyes, "--It's an imperial holiday, I'm expected to be there, I'll incur his wrath. I'm aware of potential consequences." As often as Rou had been defiant of orders, she seemed less petulant, less pretentious; it wasn't her usual brazen arrogance as culprit, evidenced by her tone. The way she sighed was not that of a spoiled child, nor a faint-hearted mouse, but that of a tired soul. She'd slept very little during the nighttime hours, plagued by nightmares and her own contrition. To have fallen so far in so little time, the humiliation awaiting at such an event was little more than she could bear. The dark circles under her eyes were luckily hidden by glamour, though magic could do little to hide her expression. “What is it, Rou? What troubles you?” "More of the same," she lamented willfully, as she'd no energy to bemuse or beguile, no image to preserve in her most trustworthy friend. It had been long since Rou had such a companion to will unto such honesty, though Zenahriel (through no fault of his own) had quickly garnered the trust of the woman who trusted no one. "As far as the court is concerned, I'm still on sabbatical-- I mean, my honeymoon. Not only is it an invitation to laugh at my insurmountable failure," she grimaced with a hiss between her teeth, knowing well that threat of magical or otherwise violent retribution for their words would be disallowed, "but it would be followed by the expectation that I resume council duties. I have yet to prepare new measures for the Human Initiative; a premature return might kill it in it's infancy." Despite all of her personal reasons for avoiding a royal event, Rou still remained some composure to calculate, it seemed. "I know what they're saying about me," Rou said, her eyes finally wandering in Zenahriel's general direction. Her eyebrows were pointed, skeptical, and unamused, drowned by her bitter disposition. The year prior, she had been the so-called belle of this ball, accomplice to the Emperor, himself, seated at his right hand. She was to be touched by no one but him, and yet their hungry stares still invaded her dreams. If she were to attend, it would be without protection-- and worse, she'd have to bow to her replacement-- a fact aptly known between them, yet she would never admit to such a thing aloud. Rou was many things: prideful, chief among them. Whatever punishment Rafael could concoct, Rou could not imagine he would deprive her of what little dignity remained. "Can you blame them?" Rou asked, with a risible and sarcastic tone, cocking her head aside at the High Lord, "The court adores such gossip of royal failure. I can't say I'm remiss to deprive them of the opportunity to mock me to my face." She waved dismissively at the air, brushing off the notion of degradation avoided, before reaching for her crisp white wine and downing it with a less-than-gracious gulp, tipped back into her throat. "No, let them have their gruesome holiday. I want no part in it, nor have I." Rou avoided food despite her presumably empty stomach, and reached for the rest of the bottle of chilled wine. Her hand wobbled slightly as she took it like a goose by the neck, recoiling as it clinked clumsily against her glass, before she refilled hers, then Zenahriel's. Nursing her glass with a more patient hand the second time around, she brooded over the lip of her cup. "How is he?" she asked breathily, the slightest bit of worry upon her face. Rou had asked it nearly every visit of her dear friend, and she gathered that one day Zenahriel might tire of hearing it, though she prayed that day was not today.
  4. Rou had been looking off into the afternoon sun for quite awhile, squinting in a way that put a dry wrinkle in her lower lip as it encroached upon the upper. The afternoon brought with it harsh amber rays, although mildly obscured by thick fir trees, almost brightened through the panes from curtains purposefully drawn back, to let in the light while it lasted. In her time in sabbatical, the sole human An'She had found herself to be quite diurnal, in order to avoid her new husband-- and the duties that came with it. The wards of House Castelle often left her alone, for their aversion to daylight hours and open drapes, though Rou had quite come to prefer it that way. The solace in silence had been both deafening and peaceful, though she'd had one lucky reprieve. "... be wearing?" She only sighed, parting the purse of her lips for but the briefest of moments, still stuck in her gaze of the afternoon's sun. Still high, a few hours yet before descent. "Rou?" Rou shook her head, briefly startled as her attention was gripped away from tepid and blurry daydreams, splotched by the burn of sunlight on the dark back of her eyelids. "Ah," she warbled, nursing a sudden headache with a pinch of her brow between her fingers, "Forgive me, Zen, I'm afraid my mind had wandered off. Come again?" With a few blinks, her vision cleared, looking across the small trestle table at who had become her closest friend of late, the pale, winged High Lord of Genesaris, who'd shared a seat with her upon the Carmine Dominion's An'She council. Even with his dark, iridescent wings close to his back, they still nearly dwarfed the chair he sat in, understandably not built for his kind of grandiosity. Finding it momentarily humorous, Rou chuckled, but offered a second smile by way of apology. She picked at the food that was arranged between them, a spread of fruit, cheese, and dried meats, with a brief selection of small, sweet pastries. He'd been kind enough to bring them, her increasingly often lunch-and-dinner guest, as it had become something of habit between them, of late. Rou had nearly forgotten how nice it had been to share a meal, for how long she'd been accomplice to those who didn't partake. For a High Lord, whom to most seemed wildly unreachable and illustrious, he delighted her with his familiar empathy to play the part of confidante to a friend in need. Ever since she'd been arranged to be married, nearly a month ago, Rou had sought his company and talked for nearly hours on end of her displeasure, though today had seen her oddly quiet. There was no secret as to why. After all, the Feeding was tomorrow. @The Hummingbird
  5. In the same day, I get diagnosed with sciatica for shooting leg pains, AND have to make a midnight trip to the ER for tearing my Achilles’ tendon.

     

    It’s been a real peach of a day.

    1. Twitterpated

      Twitterpated

      Shit. Be safe. Hope everything has otherwise been okay. 

    2. Voldemort

      Voldemort

      That’s awful! 😧

  6. Big changes are coming.

    ehPSQ5s.png

    1. danzilla3

      danzilla3

      waves

      Hi there!

    2. Phase

      Phase

      This is gorgeous art

  7. Narcissa

    Repeat After Me

    "She smiles. It would seem the myths are true.” His jests earned him a scoff and a very pointed glare, as Rou's brow rumpled with displeasure. "Oh, come off it," she hissed, dismissing impropriety, before climbing off of his lap and throwing herself down onto the seat across from him, heavily. She seemed more committed to the idea that this arrangement was an unhappy affair for her, rather than allowing herself a fresh start with the supposed companion assigned to govern the rest of her life. It was woven into the tapestry of Umbra's law, that a man could sign her freedoms away. A woman, much less a human woman, would be ultimately betrayed by this place that she'd dared to call home. Rou was insulted by his observations, as complimentary as he meant them, for she could only feel shame; she was more determined to be simply unhappy, no matter the circumstance, and was awash with guilt as she'd forgotten it for a moment. She looked away, though felt slightly cornered by the way his eyes were on her, perhaps zeroing in on the flush on her cheeks. “Have you done much traveling in the empire? Besides Orisia and the Red City, I mean. Have you been the northern reaches, or the southern outskirts? Have you visited the tribes along the slopes of the Cold Mountains or island peoples along the barriers of Arlais?” He was doing his best to make her comfortable, she knew, however she was determined to keep her temper afoul. Cradling her cheek and jaw against her knuckles, her elbow sought purchase on the carriage's window, the purse in her lip undoubtedly pessimistic. "Some--" she inclined to answer, with a raise of one shapely brow, "--while on the emperor's business. Little outside of that; in the cities, mostly." While the majestic countryside of the Arcane East had not been among her memories, perhaps she should have spent her time enjoying the parts of the territory that she had neglected... though she hadn't felt quite in the mood for sightseeing, now. "I haven't traveled much outside what was required of me as An'She," Rou spoke, as she found new attention in her lap as she threaded her fingers together over her stomach, keen to change the subject, "It suited my objectives to stay... close to home." Rou leaned against the wall of the carriage, loftily brushing aside the curtain with two fingers to peer beyond it. There was little to see in the dark night, however, for her eyes were not so well attuned as her new husband opposite her. "Olives? Is that what I smell?" she asked, catching the peculiar aroma, reminded of fresh vegetables and hot breads as her appetite stirred-- perhaps it had been the recent exertion in the carriage's cabin, or perhaps that she'd neglected to eat in some time, while the day had gotten away from her. "I suppose it'll do," she grumbled, a subverted dispiritedness in her voice. Trading a life in the limelight for a homely existence in the country, it was hard to feel like it wasn't a demotion. While she'd been unsuccessful in claiming power in title beside Rafael, she was a persistent presence at court, and had a grand sort of infamy as he was often known to bend the rules for her. Rou could hardly decide which was worse-- that her line of threats at the An'She council would no longer hold any weight... or that Rafael might still seek her out away from her husband when he tired of Gabriela's immaturity. She did not voice her concerns, but worry was present upon her face. Luckily, she was spared of his gaze as he talked of his late wife, and her curiosity allowed her eyes to wander back to her new husband. She remained quiet, though whether it was out of respect or awkward discomfort was anybody's guess. The gold in her eyes flashed as they darted to his wrist, watching as he fiddled with his bracelet. Proper as though his tone would suggest, it was the cultured and restrained voice of a lifetime of ingrained stature, but his eyes confessed the longing for a woman gone. How could he not? Rou had been gone from Rafael's side for all of a few hours, and she was positively bereft. The comparison in her head made her feel guilty, shameful, as if an impostor. He might not have died, but a part of her certainly had. The grip of impending doom appeared to be tightening invisibly around her pretty throat. Abnormalities. Defects. Rou's lips had squeezed into a thin, single line, her jaw clenched tight. He talked of it so clinically, and while that might have been the most courteous way to broach the subject, there was no sugar-coating the callous nature of how women and humans were considered-- hardly better than cattle, property to be owned. A dog had more freedoms than she did, and was probably adored better. She heard his words of compliment, though Rou found her gaze sitting heavily in her lap. She'd wanted to shout, scream, blaspheme to the heavens of injustice done, though there lingered an innate feeling of deserving, a foul plague of doubt that she had somehow brought this upon herself. How much fault had lied in her ambition? How had she both failed to be the exception to the rule, yet succeed as the favored plaything of the emperor? Her life appeared to dawn as the light at the end of the tunnel, speeding towards her, unable to stop. There was nothing else beyond it but stasis. Her hands trembled slightly in her lap, as did her lower lip quaver, though a lumped swallow helped to steel it. Marriage, power, compliments, they all felt both empty and damning. "Does that bother you?" Wresting her eyes from her lap, Rou was caught almost dumbfounded in the first honest look she'd paid to Dominique. This was it. There was nothing left. This was what her life would be, sitting across from this stranger, as his. His wife, his property. There was pain, longing, and perhaps in time it would dull. But for now, it pierced her heart, burned, scarred in turmoil. In obsession, she'd scratch at the scabs in insistence that they bleed, over everything and everyone. She would wipe the walls with her blood, scream with an agony for a fate that could not be salvaged, blunder disparagingly through the mess she had made. The punishment was eternal, a life sentence. And when she was dead, Sitra Ahkra awaited. It was strange, how the thought of it used to bring her comfort, and now it terrified her of both life and death. Deep down, she knew it wasn't Dominique's fault. However, she could do little to accept it. Casting her hand over the bridge of her nose, she shielded her eyes and sat back against her seat. She appeared cloistered in her own darkness, her walls raised high, a fortress that she would not see invaders --as handsome or supposed husband as they may be-- penetrate. For now, she was determined to live in her pain. "Take me home," she whispered, neglecting to answer his question with purpose. "Please." @King
  8. i see you point GIF by Shalita Grant

    Bish, I see you lookin’

  9. Narcissa

    Repeat After Me

    Rou could do little but glare and seethe as he maneuvered her by the chin, however well-meaning. A threat to assure nonviolence was braggart and crude, and even a gruff scoff of agreement was immature, at best. No words were spoken, save those implied by her eyes and the anger that dwelled within, for she had not been strong enough to prevent it, and in that unfortunate way, allowed it. Even though she was no longer an intimate part of Rafael's life, the danger still seemed to loom over her like a dark cloud, a fear that had not so quickly vanished. Uncomfortable in the face of pity and judgement, Rou snapped her gaze away, brooding out the window. She sighed so deeply that her own chest might've sunk into the pit of her stomach, leaning her elbow on the pane and cushioning her cheek with her knuckles. His correction warranted a bristled glower in his direction, though she conceded that he was correct. Her closeness to the emperor had afforded her some more affectionate allowances, though she would have to make a greater effort to censor herself, even in her new household. The whole undertaking had just felt exhausting, so overwhelmed that she'd been prone to making mistakes. Contrary to her expectations, burning off the sexual tension had done little to clear her head. "It is by my choice that I remain scarce at court, for I dislike a great many of the families that occupy seats." It was those words that prompted a smile, as tilted and cheshire as it was. "In that, at least, we are alike," she replied tartly, for it was no surprise that the An'She of human affairs would understandably have an indisposition towards the disillusioned vampyre majority that made up Umbra's nobility. Rou shifted in her seat, pursing her lip more in contemplation than distaste, and spoke openly in a brief moment of honesty. "Though, I suppose it wouldn't be a terrible idea to take a sabbatical from court and the An'She council... at least for awhile. A short while." The An'She dreaded the comments she expected from her aggravating colleagues, though disappearing into oblivion would give them a satisfaction her pride would never let her pay. She seemed slightly downtrodden in her answer, eyes seeking solace in her lap and burdened by regret, for her measures for the equality of humans in Umbra's society seemed to have less urgency, now. Even if she'd accomplished her goals, Umbra also looked disfavorably upon divorce. Not exactly gracious of what felt like partisan compliments, Rou ruffled her proverbial feathers in repudiation, in denial of his claims. With a scoff that feigned amusement, she tilted her head when she made plain the facts he must have known. "Half of the Empire thinks me a witch, the other half a whore." Paying him more considerable attention, giving the caliber of his suit and appearance a second and more heavy-handed appraisal, she clicked her tongue against the roof of her mouth thoughtfully. "Though, neither of those qualities appear to be beneficial or appealing to you, at first glance. I can understand why these supposed other suitors might--" she said, her eyes following the pursuit of her mind to the most likely names, before returning to Dominique, seeking more than just his glance in return, "--but not you." In turn, she received. "This is neither my first marriage, nor my first marriage to a human, you see." Rou narrated her train of thought, though not only for the benefit of Dominique. "She was a good woman?" his new wife asked presumptively, though with an appropriate amount of sympathy. He hadn't been so disenchanted in taking another, as cued by his tone that he might've looked upon it favorably. However, as most niceties were with Rou, they were shortlived, as her sighs turned more disgruntled. "If you're about to encumber me with a gaggle of children, you'd best think again," she hissed, already not keen to censor herself or cushion her husband's feelings. She waggled her fingers as if she were describing spiders or pests, her face turned disgustedly sour. "I'm not amenable with children. Dirty, smelly, noisy things. Hire a governess." It was almost humorous how she disfavored them, not a hatred, but an almost overcharismatic abhorrence. "If only I could hire a governess for the damned council, perhaps they'd be better behaved," she commented offhandedly with a tired shrug, feeling the pressures of the day weighing on her. Council meeting, to failed progress, to Imperial audience, to marriage, Rou'd had more of a tumultuous day than if she'd been in the thick of a hurricane. Cracking open one eye at him, as if she'd been too tired to pay him both, perused with further questions. "It does not concern you to have a wife in power, Lord Castelle?" she asked, as the patriarchal society in Umbra often dictated the opposite. She knew little of Dominique thus far, though progressive hadn't exactly been her first implicit thought. Her walls remained, though they appeared to be a mite less armed to the teeth.
  10. Narcissa

    Repeat After Me

    Rou pressed her cheek to his temple, inhaling steadily to catch her breath, having tired slightly from her duty. She had not been overenthusiastic in her performance, though nor had she been repelled, for she'd taken charge in the pursuit of the punishment that was inevitably coming. Rather than wait for it to be forced on her --whether by her husband-of-unknown-character's hand, or by Rafael's wrath towards her petulance-- it seemed less like a wound that could be inflicted upon her if she were the one holding the knife. Nonetheless, maneuvering efficiently in such a tight dress had been slightly bothersome, and was not without tire. Rou could hear the distant, occasional coughs of Fowler, both retinues implicitly and aptly aware of the reason the carriage had been shaking. The An'She hadn't moved, even as he snapped his fingers past the curtain and out the window-- their pair of eyes, so close together, were like two beasts in the dark, peering out of their den at the attendant that would dare pry into it. Her yellow beaded eyes followed the path of his arm in the dark, watched the flow of his signature be unbothered by her imposition on his lap, and noticed that there was only space for one name. On any other night she might've argued, sharpened her claws like a cat thrown into a bag, but it would serve no purpose. All the work that she'd done; wasted. All the power she'd obtained; gone. Rou had gone to such lengths and perils to prevent this very outcome, and yet she had been powerless to stop it, all because a man ordered her there, and a man signed her ownership away. What was there to fight about, now? She hadn't said a word, though he could likely feel her growing scowl against his temple. As orders through his man Noel were put into motion, Rou took the cue of the retinue gathering up their steeds as a suggestion to peel herself from her new husband, and sloshed back heavily into the seat opposite him. Fowler was to follow them, a slight comfort to the otherwise restless night, as she could see from a break in the curtains. Wiping her sweat from her brow, her hand traveled to her neck, and minorly smudged the foundation that covered up the bruises at her throat. Catching Dominique's eye at her throat, Rou glanced at her fingers, and saw the skin-colored paint staining her hand, and followed his track of thought. "It is nothing," she assured him curtly, sitting up a little straighter, opposite him diagonally as the carriage lurched into a steady roll. Glancing away, she found more interest in the inspection of her nailbeds-- anything that would spare her of the judgmental stares she expected. "Nothing that won't heal in a few days." It still felt surreal, as she could feel the phantom of Rafael's hand tightening around her throat, the tightness in her chest as he'd stolen her very breath from her lungs. It was hard to forget the pain, and even harder to forget the disturbing look upon Rafael's face... every time she closed her eyes, even for a moment, it haunted her. "So," she ventured out, with a slightly more playful tone-- playful, only in the way that a cynical cat toyed with it's food, "how has a little lordling like yourself offended His Majesty to be saddled with me?" He lived far on the outskirts of Umbra, and de Castelle was not a name she'd heard often, and in his polite pauses, she filled it with presumption, as was her wont to do. "Banishment?" she thought, thinking it would not be beyond Rafael to displace Rou as far away from him as possible-- it was smart, as much as she disliked it, to remove her from the Queen she thought her enemy, and temptation besides. As she caught another glance out the window, she remembered that her belongings were not the only possessions in her carriage that followed with Fowler. "Did he pay you?" Rou asked with eyes narrowed, but spared Dominique their direction.
  11. Narcissa

    Repeat After Me

    With narrowed eyes, Rou had done little to obscure the yellow-hornet shift of her irises as they looked him down, and back up again. Her lips were twisted by the caustic bite of her bitter temper, scrutiny heavy as an anvil on her brow, contempt personified. It was almost exaggerated, in the way that she was determined to be dissatisfied, more than just her evening spoiled by Rafael's harsh judgement; she'd imagined that encounter going much differently. She spent a long while scanning his suit from afar, especially his ring-- loud yellow jewels almost rivaling that of her eyes, much in the way a predator follows the false eyes painted on a moth's wings. And like such a beast, even beneath the fairness of her face and garb, her apprehension was apparent as she remained at a distance. Rou cut a figure that could make a man bleed, and she seethed with venom, as much the viper as her reputation preceded, but she withheld her bite in favor of wait. Dominique's face was dark, strong, and his red eyes yielded an implied patience, sparing her the hunger, the arrogance, the piercing severity that the emperor often used to see through her. It was minute, but the purse of her lips eased slightly-- he wasn't entirely unfortunate-looking, she conceded. “You look stunning.” Rou shirked his compliment, turning so deliberately that her ponytail had followed in tow, whipping the long length of sable hair with added abhorrence. She hadn't needed to say a word, the scoff beneath her breath was enough. “It would seem that the emperor’s fortune has favored me. I consider myself a lucky man.” Fowler knew as soon as Dominique had uttered his first word, that his mistress would find it imprudent. Were he not so bound to propriety in the nature of his position, he might've made gesture to caution the Lord de Castelle, or even to stifle his own charge, but he could do little but wince and remain at attention. Much to the foresight of his fears, Rou was visibly boiling. Rou's jaw was clenched hard, much at the expense of her cheek, bitten as she choked on patience, and reluctantly tilted her candle for him to light. She was bound by her duty and emperor's command to partake in this absurd, antiquated ceremony, and hadn't the wherewithal to refuse, but she was clearly not pleased about it. Let Dominique have his symbolism, call herself bride or wife or whatever title would find her in compliance with the law, and retain her life. This would change nothing, still in denial of the permanence of Rafael's doled justice. "Lucky?" Rou finally seethed at him, her shapely brow raising with incredulity, nearly hissing at the word. She could not help but feel patronized, however it was not his words that were the culprit, but the underlying wounds of her heart that hadn't yet any appropriate time to scab over; in the darkness that was the back of her mind, they threatened to never heal. The An'She chuckled sardonically, as if only to keep from weeping. "You've been compelled by His Majesty to be my babysitter. You would feign luck, Lord Castelle? Studhorse-- what a riot that is," Rou sought him out with a cynical grin, now with wicks lit and red wax dripping onto the leaves at their feet between them, the droplets louder than the silence that overcame the retinue of both parties, and the bride and groom at the center, softly glowing by candlelight. "This is no gift, but a punishment." For her, anyway. Either way, she'd still be in deference of the law, as she could not bear children, it was simply the salve to Rafael's conscience. Fowler sighed, only half out of relief. While Rou's words had still been laced with enough venom to kill a man, Dominique still yet stood. It was more than could be said for some in Rou's prior presence, for all her skeletons soon to be packed in Dominique's closet. Clearing his throat, he paid his mistress a stern look-- he knew she wouldn't like it, but prayed she'd listen. One of her coachmen was running to retrieve the book and contract, to proceed with the ceremony. Catching Fowler's drift, Rou scoffed again, and rolled her eyes, her chest heaving with a heavy sigh. "Apologies," she said, but only half meant it. Dryly surrendering, she dulled a bit of the barb in her tone when she looked back at Dominique. "You aren't..." Rou started, but then rethought her words for accuracy and to spare some of his pride, "... this isn't what I expected." Naive, that she'd expected marriage to be a joyful occasion, and this rather felt at knife-point. Catching her attendant making final preparations and approaching upon them both, the An'She held out a flat hand in halt. Rou looked visibly frustrated, the finality of the ceremony finally starting to set in. She pinched the bridge of her nose with her free hand, dragged it down her face and was feeling the weight of the guillotine blade above her head. It was no wonder Rafael had sent her there that night, looking to deprive her of time to come up with an alternate solution, or even to run. Rou couldn't concentrate, a bit of the panic starting to set in. The entirety of their retinues waited in silence, as Rou struggled not to unravel in front of them. "Give us a moment," she said gruffly, as she plucked the candle from Dominique's hand, and took them both to her attendant, leaving him to balance the dripping wax, the massive book and contract, all in his arms, before a few more of Fowler's company had rushed to assist. Most were baffled, not only by the unexpected pause in ceremony, but by the way Rou had launched her hand forward, latching onto the lapel of Dominique's suit, brusquely pulling him along, now making towards his carriage. Gesturing to his footman, he rushed ahead of them to swing open the door of Lord Castelle's carriage, and nearly dragged him in after her. Depositing him in the seat across from her, the rungs of the curtains on the opposite doors jingled as she swiftly covered the windows, shutting them off from the party's sight... even if she could do little for their hearing. Hiking up the pink skirt of her gown, Rou's knees framed his hips, straddling on top of him in the limited space. As he might've been understandably confused, Rou snatched his broad chin between her fingers with a viper's lash, and talked down just inches away from his lips. "Seven hells, you know how to do this, don't you?" she asked, with a good deal of exasperation, leaving her fingers' claim only to soothe the growing headache behind her eye, she could hardly concentrate. "Marriage seems inordinate to what he really wants, so why don't you make yourself useful? Everyone here can report to his majesty that our obedience is unquestionable," she said, though there was no love or loyalty in her voice. She stared crossly at him, hoping it would prevent argument. Once she took the plunge, it would have to get easier... wouldn't it? There was little point in delaying the inevitable. If Rafael was throwing her away, she would cement that choice by her own hand.
  12. Narcissa

    Repeat After Me

    Magestorms earlier in the season had made winter last nearly an unbearable lifetime, the chill on the air manifesting in a small littering of snow, as if to boast it was there to stay. It obscured the waxing moon, though it's bright glow illuminated the clouds with a purple-pearlescent hue, just light enough for the An'She's party to travel by night. Once again bound to her carriage, Rou was to make one more unexpected trip that night, escorted by a small retinue of guards bearing the banners of the crown of the Carmine Dominion, and Fowler, a trusted captain of the Imperial Navy. Brooding inside, the An'She was starting to feel like a doll in a box, waiting for some spoiled child to open it up and neglect her. In a very short time, it seemed, she'd learned to be remiss in thinking otherwise. With a small lantern balanced on the opposite seat, her hands were juggled between the tasks of holding a mirror, and sculpting foundation across her neck. Blotting and dabbing, Rou swept at her throat with the brush, angling her chin upward to peer at the strokes-- an attempt to artfully hide the crescent scars of nails and minor bruising that Rafael had so painfully given her as a parting gift. Out of the corner of her eye, she witnessed the deep indent of her tithing scar, and felt her heart sink into her stomach in disgust. It was hard to concentrate on the task at hand with the constant taste of bile in her mouth. As her carriage rolled to a stop, Rou was too impatient to wait for her footmen at the door, and thrust it open herself, nearly leaping down the steps, her heels crunching on the fallen leaves frozen by the hoarfrost. They still appeared to be on the path shrouded by the woodlands, a ways outside Umbra proper and into the more remote hills on the cliffsides in the northeast. With no house or home in sight, a dreadful thought made Rou wonder just how far Rafael was willing to go to remove her; it would've been silly to have painted her neck for an assassination. Hiding her nerves, she plied her hand to her throat, and watched as Fowler rounded his mare. "Fowler?" she inquired, though she dug deep for an air of authority in her tone. "Th' edge o' Castellan land, m'lady," he answered her implicit question, before snapping his fingers to direct the footmen. Groaning for the soreness in his hips as he dismounted, Fowler was starting to feel the gray of his age. As the footmen brought Rou her cloak, he helped shroud it around her shoulders, to keep her warm in the chill. "They've called me back ou' to duty, in service of his majesty," he said in his usual gruff tone, though the falling of his eyes conveyed a deep regret that he was too loyal to the crown to admit, "Aft this is o'er, I must leave ye." Rou's breath misted in the cool air, and her own gaze fell, not one to burden Fowler with her grief at such news. She knew precisely where his loyalties lied, and considering all he'd done for her, Rou would not do him the disservice of letting her selfishness jeopardize that. Managing a forced smile, the An'She placed a gentle hand upon his shoulder. "I hope you are as a comfort to him as you have been to me, Fowler; I've known no better nor honorable man than you," she answered with a rare token of honesty, as hard as it was for her to let him go. He'd been a fatherly sort of comfort in her life, and with not too many influences considering her well being, he'd become a welcome addition in her life. In an attempt at levity, she shrugged, in the hopes of lifting his spirits. "Besides, I'm still a citizen of Umbra, despite this... arrangement." Rou looked off into the path, though not even the moon was bright enough to illuminate it, leaving her and her party of soldiers to wait in the dark. Reaching into his coat, Fowler dipped deep inside his pocket, and withdrew something he placed into Rou's hands-- a candle, long and pristine, the wax a deep ruby red. The wick was so far untouched, as Rou made to wave her hand over it. "No' yet, m'lady," he said, cautioning Rou with his hands to lower hers, and gave her pause. "The vampyres of old 're very particular; very bound to tradition. We wait on th' edge o' his land for him to light your candle wi' his own." Shifting her eyes down to the candle, she scoffed at the irony. "Lighting the path, as it were." She sighed, switching her weight from one foot to the other-- anything to distract her from the tedium that was waiting. Terrible had been Rafael doling out her fate not an hour ago, but worse still was waiting for the judgement to come. It felt like a knife in her back, and eventually, someone would be there to twist it out. "A symbol o' his protection, m'lady. A deed in action that conveys the acceptance of terms." Fowler fumbled with his words slightly, knowing Rou not to be fond of the idea that her livelihood was being turned into a transaction, though she seemed to have been handling it well. Fowler feared that this forest would've been a bonfire, though his current ward was seeming to take a more level-headed approach. "There was some talk o' presentin' ye in th' customary white gown, though 'is highness hadnae thought that a prudent idea." Rou seemed puzzled, and squinted her eyes at him, conveying her uncertainty. "Don't most brides wear white, Fowler?" Fowler inhaled sharply, and seemed to dance around his words. "Aye, they do, in the chance a human bride is given t' a vampyre. Custom would have ye in white t' show the blood as yer husband takes 'is first tithing," he said, pointing at his neck to emphasize his point, but still refused to look Rou in the eye. "They would, but yer not a... a..." With all the frustration mounted for the evening, Rou had lost her patience, clicking her tongue against the roof of her mouth. "Oh, spit it out, Fowler." "A virgin, m'lady." Rou froze, and it seemed Fowler did the same, disconnected from eye contact as an awkward silence rose between the two. Clutching the candle, Rou tensed and mulled her lips together tightly. After some time, she stupidly opened her mouth. "Oh." No, certainly not. "M'lady, the House of Castelle comes." @King
  13. Her name uttered in so severe a tone sent chills down her spine, and not the kind she liked. His rise sent her sliding off the arm of his throne, bound by captive wrist, his squeeze so tight and unrelenting that her fingers splayed in their reach, for Rafael's obtrusive height. In taking the more-than-metaphorical high ground, he talked down to her (not a common occurrence, even with all the intricacies of their relationship considered) and the gravel of his voice was deliberate and weighty, despite how he struggled in his melancholia. Before arriving upon that moment opposite him, it seemed Rou was so naive that he hadn't thought him capable of such comeuppance. Not to her, not to his precious desert flower, no. Not to his favorite. In her disbelief, Rou could hardly trust the gravity of his claims, much less that he'd made them. If anything, it had to be a sort of test, or lighting the proverbial fire beneath her arse to spur movement forward. As if by default, human nature was a fickle beast that met unfathomable consequences in the wildest of ways, Rou laughed. "Ha-- oh, darling, you don't mean that," she chortled, finding denial in humor, plying her freed hand to his chest, despite how rigid it felt in response. "Me, a married woman," she could only laugh, in refusal of processing what had been presented her. There was no way. She was a lady of position, a notable An'She to the Emperor of the Carmine Dominion. She had hardly been promised to a leader of another nation, for as a diplomat she would've been the one to broker the arrangement. Seeing as she had not, the concept was beyond foreign. "When the seven hells freeze over, maybe. You don't mean that," she repeated again, for certainty that her words were true. Rou paused, and followed Rafael's eyes as he looked astray, to the doors of the throne room at the far end of the corridor. In its threshold stood Fowler, the outline of her carriage awaiting in the distance. Not awaiting her orders, but his. She felt all of the color drain from her face, painfully cold as her jaw came agape, speechless and stunned. In a moment of panic, her earlier laughter had felt like a reflection of insanity. Amid all of Rou's machinations, she'd never thought him capable; capable of letting her go, capable of sending her away, capable of what felt like no less than betrayal. She'd thought to remain in such status quo, had the naievete to think she could wait in the wings until he needed her; while she hadn't voiced such an opinion, Rou had yet held out hope for the crown to one day rest upon her own head-- but in truth, the crown was simply accessory. Her hand slipped grimly from Rafael's chest, and she retreated, one foot and then another. Slowly, aghast, she repelled herself from him, but had never taken her eyes off of the carriage. It symbolized the horsemen of death, come to take her away. She'd trusted Rafael, and without any remorse, willingly banished her there. After she'd finally let him in, he carved her out, like a cancer upon his empire. "What have you done?" She was wounded, her hand placed over her heart in effort to stop the ache that felt like irreparable bleeding, her breath quickening as the panic set in. Shaking her head, desperately wishing she could will the foreboding away, Rou retreated from Fowler's ascent up the throne room as if it was the herald of her death. "You can't do this," she exasperated, nearly purging herself of all the breath in her lungs as she half-whined, half-pleaded at him. Rou's yellow, waspish eyes were full of hurt when she flashed them at him, and yet gave him the respect of dealing her arguments in a hissing whisper-- even though Fowler, as the only one witness to it, seemed fully apprised of the situation. "I'm not some thing you can bequeath to another," she spat at him, gesturing as if she'd had venom to throw in his face, defensive and angry. "You can't just will me off when you've tired of me. You don't want this, you don't. I know you, you don't." Heartache, betrayal, even regret, Rou was awash with more agony than she could manage, denying the fate set before her. "You can't take this back, Rafael. Please, just give my initiative a little more time." Rou could scheme her way out of this one, she was certain. She could cull the farmers, the scientists, the bloody An'She council into adhering to her rule, even if she had to make each of their lives a nightmare, so she could spare her own. Choice seemed even more out of reach, as seemingly her blood and her livelihood were things Rafael had the power to order away. She knew too well the pressures that weighed on him, but he seemed to be enacting all of the price upon her. He was sacrificing her.
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