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Narcissa last won the day on September 12 2015

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  1. 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


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

    2. Voldemort


      That’s awful! 😧

  2. Big changes are coming.


    1. danzilla3



      Hi there!

    2. Phase


      This is gorgeous art

  3. 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
  4. i see you point GIF by Shalita Grant

    Bish, I see you lookin’

  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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
  9. 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.
  11. Rou had made a grave mistake, thinking that she could waltz into his court with the walls around her heart lowered. It had often been the point of argument, in their intimate past, of how stubbornly she'd guarded herself, testing even the bounds what had seemed Rafael's nearly infinite patience. She could tell by his first words, how even in their muted tone echoed hollowly off the walls of the throne room, that despair had driven him into a deep pit of enmity. The shadows he took solace in festered, in the portrayal of calm that was simply his way, was his own wall he'd erected. Rou was momentarily jarred, as if she'd had a door slammed in her face, recoiling back a half-step. While she had not worshipped him as all the faithful did, Rafael had (more often than not) been a testament to deific benevolence in his dealings with Rou, that the withdrawal of his love and support came as a void, something stolen that upon realization Rou had sorely missed. His tone was severe, words to the point of business. He allowed her those moments of pause to gain her bearings, for it was uncommon that Rou would balk at him-- often quick to the well-timed quip or barbed, postulated argument. Her eyes were momentarily wide like that of a child, swallowing fear so deep the notch in her throat could be seen across the room, and Rou, disguised by the folding of her arms, pinched herself in effort to spur an answer. "I remember," she said, choosing wisely to confirm his inquiry, so as not to seem contentious. It hadn't seemed to impress him, and Rou rolled her lips, licking the bottom swell to spare her now-dry throat. "We've encountered some..." she paused, in search for the right word, and hesitation tore her gaze away; she could still feel it's weight, even though she hadn't the strength to meet it, "... setbacks." In that moment, she could've outed Thaladred and Cecil for their underhanded sabotage, and even with the mulling of her own lips, it might've been plain to someone such as Rafael, even without peering into her mind. However, she did not, and pinched herself again. Her back straightened, accepting her mantra of responsibility. "We've had tremendous progress; I'll see the missive proposals sent to you," she proffered, almost casually, as if the coaxing of honeyed tones would ease him back into comfort. With any luck, she'd flatter him back into more favorable tones, offering reprieve from his foul mood. Choosing not to be afraid, she ascended the steps of the dias, albeit slowly; Gabriela was away, and no prying eyes were about in seek of scandal. "This legislation will be a massive boon to your reign; cultivates even agriculture, science, in addition to the human prerogative of your lands. A few more months-- I expect-- and we'll have the first steps in place towards progression." While he might've worn the face of a wounded animal, Rou extended a hand only to soothe, for she knew he wouldn't bite. With the gentlest of touches, she stroked at his hair, leaning to sit on the arm of his throne. "Come, let's get you to a bath; would you like me to fix this for you?" she asked, twirling a lock of his hair between her fingers. When he'd chanced to look at her, Rou met him with a sultry smile, tempting him with the solace he so routinely took with her, though such a smile hadn't felt forced, from Rou's perspective, paying back the sweetness he'd shown her, when she was at her most difficult. "A bath and a drink, perhaps," his An'She suggested when he hesitated, thumbing through his unkempt beard. The offer to feed from her was still not a comfortable suggestion to make, though she was confident in its necessity. She could feel the hard line of his jaw, the thinness of his cheek, and all her soft prodding seemed to be the meticulous work on sizing up the task at hand. "Rafael?"
  12. For a night that would usually be occupied by his court, the throne room of Lana'Thel was peculiarly empty. Colors were muted in the hall in the low light of night, as even the sconces' casts were stunted, wicks kept low and demure. Rou entered alone, though upon the dias was Sauriel, like a shadow upon his own throne. He was quiet, though the thought hadn't quite bothered her; his red eyes were noticeable from the moment she'd entered, attracted like a magnet. Were this anyone else, the An'She might've felt on-edge, but his shade was like that beneath a bountiful tree on a sunny day, red eyes less hungry for her flesh than they were hungry for her love and acceptance, keenly aware of her movements in the way that made her feel nearly a decade younger. It took her nearly until the moment across from him to realize that she'd spent so long a time away from Rafael, and missed him. She had her duties, as An'She, and -- well, there was the certain matter of his wife she had to be careful about. She had not dressed for formal court, but had dressed nonetheless-- a form-fitting blouse of fine red silk embroidered delicately in gold, a sheer back so that her spine might indulge in the cool night air-- or a few wanton gazes. Draped over her shoulder was a ruffled chiffon sari, skirt widening over her hips and tapered at the ankles, moving like coral waves with each graceful step. With a few glances this way and that to confirm they were alone, Rou pulled at the glove that covered her left hand-- as well as the scars upon her wrist. There was no need to hide it from him. Fowler hadn't mentioned the premise for her visit, but Rou assumed that Cole, ever the whispering weevil in their Emperor's ear, didn't take kindly to her threats in the council chambers earlier that day-- and assumed a slap on the wrist, for the brazen removal of her choker. Rafael had never been one to be ashamed of his deeds, but preferred his privacy-- particularly now, she supposed, when he was trying so hard to present a united front between Umbra and Orisia to his followers. She likely wasn't doing anything to help his efforts in that, though the same argument could be made for just being there. In an attempt at levity, Rou shrugged her shoulders and gestured open-armed to him. "We could have just met in your chambers," she suggested, a tilt to her head that sent her long black ponytail slipping gracefully over her shoulder, "Is there need for all the pomp and circumstance?" Rou chuckled prematurely, as she was already positive that he wouldn't have cared for her jests. In order to rectify it, the An'She stood up straight, before placing a hand over her heart and deferring with a polite bow. "You wished to see me?"
  13. From here and there, the life of an An'She never seemed to sit still. She was constantly beckoned from one obligation to another, ferried back and forth across the city, the country, the whole Arcane East and beyond, still. Such a life had been terribly uncomfortable, having felt every cobblestone of the road intimately upon her backside. Home had so long felt like an ambiguity to Rou, constantly fluid and taken simply where it could be found, but she almost had to admit that she could live to like a sedentary nature... almost. A bed she knew she could return to sleep in was nice, upon occasion. Agitation, anger, and discomfort had worn her out, so much so that even the wooden chair in her study had felt like a down feather bed. It had been so long since she'd slept-- longer still since she'd been at ease; the An'She counselors meant to subdue her, Gabriela now held the title she coveted, and Rafael's safeguard of his favor was thinning steadily around her. Much of the time had been spent poring over books, writing drafts, even just cutting her eyes aside in the privacy of her estate so she could be afforded what seemed like the luxury of just thinking, when she'd not been away on her many ventures as a diplomat. So often she'd assumed the pose, brow heavy and rumpled, elbows propped upon the desk, and her finger poised thoughtfully over her lips. Rou bore the weight of her prerogative alone, and it resulted in many sleepless nights. To think, if things had been different, she might be concerned with more trivial pursuits-- what royal jewels to wear, holding court over peons and seeming all the more magnanimous for it, even chasing after some growing children, despite how she soured at the thought. Now, with all considered, those things had seemed easy, flighty, and altogether misguided. It was no wonder that she'd fallen asleep, head cradled in her own hands above her work. A subtle, quiet knocking roused her from her slumber. "M'lady?" Rou jolted awake, nearly startled with her hand plastered across her chest. The sun had already set, for how long, she hadn't known. "Oh, Fowler," she breathed with relief, though it hadn't been like him to intrude. The grizzled captain was often a sight for sore eyes, an occasional confidante that sweetly protected her as a father would, with all his sagely advice and boorish charm. Rou was fond of his way with words, how he was straight to the point with a genuine care, for she spent too long reading between the lines of the vampyres she was supposed to name peers. She valued his honesty, even when it was something she didn't want to hear. When she'd cast a look upon him in the doorway, she was starting to feel that pit in her stomach again. "News from Mageside?" she questioned, daring to ask hopefully. Fowler gave a single nod, before holding up a folded missive, stamped firmly with a blue wax seal. When Rou held out her hand expectantly, he obliged in her invitation, and placed it in her palm. "Good news?" Rou ventured, as if to glean its contents. She peeled back the wax, careful so as not to rip the letter, but paused before opening it. The captain was silent for a long while, but gave her a comforting pat on the shoulder in lieu of answer. "I'ave ne'er been one ta lie t' ye, m'lady," was all he said, and took a step back, in order to allow Rou privacy, politely waiting. She held her breath --more out of habit than hope-- as she flipped open the pages. Her eyes raced across each line, considering the words carefully, and the further she read, the longer her face became. She soured, a rumple in her lips that matched her brow, and culminated in a defeated sigh. Pinching the bridge of her nose, the familiar headache of frustration was creeping back into an uncomfortable throb. "Rarely, Fowler, does a letter beginning with 'we regret to inform you' end well." Clicking her tongue against the roof of her mouth, she tossed it aside, almost disappointed that a letter hadn't been heavy enough to damage anything in its wake, simply allowing her despair to be the casualty in silence. "The mages were unable to make headway in finding an alchemical substitute to replicate human blood. The venture is too costly, as has been mandated by An'She Thaladred; funding has been cut off." Her hands clenched tightly, boring white crescent circles of her nails into her skin, the only mark of Rou's moderated frustration-- that, and her spitting tone. Cucked again. While she did not wish to project her salty mood onto Fowler, forever the dutiful friend, he'd proved, she paid him another look. He hadn't excused himself, as was his wont to do. "Is there more?" Rou could tell Fowler was hesitating, but only for favoring care over duty. Finally, he spoke. "He wants to see you." Rou felt her heart sink into her stomach, and her stomach threatened to fall straight into the pits of hell. Closing her eyes, her headache throbbed. "Now?" "Now."
  14. The carriage ride was a long one, bumpy, and moved frightfully slow. This was in effect of her doubled guard, Rafael's own soldiers mandating extra protections in light of the separatist movements in Genesaris, and though they hadn't reached so close as the capital of the Arcane East, they still made a showing of preparation, as far as the Emperor's own household. In Rou's mind, holding a dozen more banners of the House of Bartolome did little to assuage security, but it was simply the presence of it that made for the benefit of those who witnessed it, rather than herself. Complaining did little good, so she simply sat back, and tried to make the best of the carriage ride alone, despite how it rattled along the bumps of the road to the outskirts of Umbra. As it pulled up to a large farmhouse, Rou was helped out of the carriage by the hand, and the hands came out to greet her. The owner was a portly man, human, with a growing litter of children, as evidenced by his small, homely wife, who held a child in each arm, and several more around her skirts. As Rou strode closer to them, she could see that each of the adults bore at least one tithing scar, and even some of the older children did, as well. The youngest couldn't have been any older than 12, who looked upon the fleet of banners with admiring awe, the crane in her neck showing off the two dimples that lay cradled in the flesh of her throat. Rou swallowed uncomfortably, but gathered her bearings before coming within proximity of her father. He removed his hat and bowed awkwardly, unsure how exactly to show proper greeting to the An'She, as she'd been removed from more prestigious and self-explanatory titles. "Yer Grace," he greeted her, straw hat in hand. "Mr. Caldwell," Rou answered, with an acknowledging nod of her head, and with a wave of her hand, shooed the soldiers away to return to the carriage. The farmer's posture eased, but only slightly. The An'She was right to business, with a cock of her head. "I trust our stores are coming along swimmingly in your care?" "Oh yes, m'lady, they've had plenty of time to weave right mighty nests. A bit hard to keep in the pen, it's true, but we've got more litters than we imagined, as they keep growing by the day," he said, fidgeting a bit as he held his hat. Were he to hold it any tighter, the whole thing might've unraveled. Rou held her breath at the utterance of a peculiar word, so jarring that she wasn't quite sure she'd heard right. Pausing with an inquisitively concerned look, she sought to unravel more than his hat. "Come again, nests?" she asked, her tongue clicking on the roof of her mouth. "Right, ma'am, nests. The rats have taken every bit of spare string, twine, and straw they can find, and pulled it into the corral. They've been a bit of a challenge, though we've left all the food in the corral to keep them living and multiplying there, though I can't say we're the most popular folks in town, any more. They've eaten nearly a dozen of me hats, so far, y'know," Caldwell answered, with a nervous laugh. Rou stopped on a dime, and not even a bridge meant to hold the weight of an entire castle could've kept her jaw from dropping. The color drained from her face, nearly white as a sheet. "...Rats?" she repeated, in a tone so lifeless she might've needed to be resuscitated right there on that field. In the quiet between them, the wind had calmed for a moment, and Rou could finally hear it behind the farmhouse, the rustling and squeaking of what must've been an army. Desperately, she looked to Caldwell, in hopes that this was all just a dream. He did little to soothe her fears, and he was starting to sweat a bit, himself. "M'lady?" he asked, starting to catch her worry, "Would ye like to inspect them?" Speechless for many moments, she waved a hand and he turned around to walk her behind the farmhouse. The An'She followed, as the sounds grew louder, louder still, until Rou could see the pens-- tumbleweeds of dirty straw. The smell was pungent, as Rou nearly gagged before she covered her nose and mouth, eyes widening in horror as she looked at the mass, growing taller than the old wood pens. The soiled strings of nests moved, wriggling with the passage of pests beneath, sometimes clear enough to see a fleshy tail or beaded pair of eyes. Caldwell was trying to speak to her, but Rou could only hear the white noise, drowned out in the thoughts too many and too egregious to have found voice. "Ma'am?" he asked, waving a hand in front of her face. Rou raised a hand, but this was no polite gesture. Palm facing the infestation, it started to glow bright orange, the wind turning hot as it rolled and condensed, twisting into an alight sphere. Deaf to all else, Rou's magic was known well to most of Umbra, and Caldwell had the good sense to get out of the way, diving behind her. With a shove, it burst towards the pen, and the mass caught alight in seconds, dry tinder beneath became edible kindling. The squeaking turned to shrieking, the nest shaking and rustling with terror, and pests began to leap out of the tangle in droves. With two fingers, Rou summoned two more rounds, and painted them in a circle around the nest from where she stood. The dry grass of Caldwell's field burned quickly, rising, effectively cornering the rats inside the pen to burn. Smoke tufted up to the clouds, dark and sooty, and the screams and squeals were carried on the wind, loud and long... until they quieted... and died out. All that remained was ash, piled high while flames crept to devour the rest of the dry field, a flabbergasted Caldwell, and a grim An'She. She stared at the destruction for a long while, before she turned, grimacing sternly at the farmer on the ground. "Caldwell," she spoke, her honeyed voice frozen over, chilling him to the bone, "You and yours are pig farmers, are you not?" He could do little but nod, nod and clutch his hat. Seething from between her teeth, Rou slithered up to him like a snake, as he could've sworn she bore fangs as she preyed over him, yellow eyes as thin slits that harbored the hell to which she'd just sent his hive of rats on a most painful journey to. She darted, snatching his hat from the farmer's hands, and loomed over him in demand of answers. "Then why, Mr. Caldwell, would you raise a berth of rats to supply as livestock for the bloodbank? We are diverting drinking from humans, not depriving them of their dignity. Pigs, sheep, cows-- livestock. You think they would be agreeable to drink from pests?!" "We was doing what ye told us!" Caldwell said, realizing that he was not acting in the An'She's pleasure, as if he were begging for his own life. He was bewildered, confused, but above all, scared. "We was raising the pigs, and Lord An'She Cecil had come to check on our stock, he did, an said that ye needed a bank that would grow more quickly! We was just doin' as told!" Cecil, that malicious vermin. Rou was reeling with the amount of life-sustaining breath that had left her, and there weren't enough curses in the world to damn him. I should have known they would sabotage me. This was that awful feeling that sat in the pit of her stomach; the way they'd stared at her, they knew what loss she was about to walk into. They had taken initiative off of her own proposal, and ruined her attempts before they could even get off the ground. Months of work, he'd wasted, and now they would have to start over from nothing. Gripping tightly the only matter she could reach, Rou's hands clenched into the straw, and ripped the hat apart. She could not even bring the words of failure to bear, but her hands certainly could. Teeth gritted and fuming, Rou dropped it at his feet, and turned to return to the carriage. Scrambling to his feet, the farmer stumbled over to his family, watching stunned as the An'She had made to leave. His farm was in flames, and there hadn't been any word from the An'She. With a prompt from his wife, he spoke up before she was out of earshot. "D-do you want us to start over, then? With pigs?" As the soldiers opened the carriage door for her, Rou paused before ascending the step. She turned back, her face dour and cold. "I want you to report to the town square at daybreak, tomorrow. There, you'll receive thirty lashes, for your stupidity," she spat. Caldwell was stunned and horrified, and when he'd opened his mouth to beg forgiveness, Rou raised a hand, for she wasn't finished. "Then your wife and your children will receive ten each, for bearing witness to it." With a hand, Rou gestured at her soldiers, who disembarked their mounts and banners in order to guard the farmhouse, breathing down Caldwell's neck to carry out the An'She's will. "No, no, please-- yer grace!" Caldwell pleaded, running toward the carriage, but was caught by the arm by her soldiers. "They didnae do anything!" "You're right, they didn't. And yet you let the vampyres feed from them? They didn't deserve that, either. But they will blame you for it." With no chance at mercy, Rou lifted herself into the carriage, paying one last, cold glance out the window. "Let those scars be a reminder to you, and all your family, not to trust such idiocy in the future. Captain, move out." The crack of the whip, and the carriage lurched away from the farm, the crackle of wildfire still echoing behind her. In the solace of her carriage, Rou heaved a heavy sigh, before removing her gloves. The rattle and rocking of the carriage hadn't deterred her eyes from the sight of her scars, the dimples from Rafael's tithing scars on her wrist, on top of the faded streaks from the cuffs in her shackles, how the steel had cut into her flesh. They were pains of remembrance she would never forget, memories that threatened to strip her of her humanity. She was as foolish as they were, once, but now she knew better. They would, too.
  15. Chatter in Umbra's greater council chambers were as white noise, a droll humming that buzzed incoherently, words that could simply be wished from cohesion. It was the same every time, as one could tell by their tone, in that way that the brown-nosing upper-crust that had the fortune to be mandated with that authority, made similar rounds of patting themselves on the back for trivial pursuits that benefitted little beyond themselves. The military was preened to statuesque display, as Augustus Cole continued to be proud, despite the fact that the troops of Umbra hadn't even been mobilized in the struggles against the separatists, simply patrolling as if all were normal, in a fool's air of stability. Thaladred was beaming over the reports of the treasury, plying tales of how she'd managed to keep the funds of the Imperial City in positive balance-- conveniently dismissing the bleeding toll that was Orisia, the sister-island of Umbra that latched onto the empire like a parasite more than half a year ago. And Cecil, in all his idolotry, had the nerve to boast about the success of vampyre affairs, for they all had enough food to eat and wealth to share. Still, he managed to weasel in that nagging tone, the one that could curl a cat's whiskers. "...And all preparations are underway for the Feeding, set to take place in a few month's time. Seems like the humans know well enough their duty, despite the fact that the An'She of human affairs does not attend prayers." Without whiskers of her own to curl, Rou simply grimaced, a cut of her eyes across the An'She council chambers at those named her peers. She did not rise, even in her seat, with her chin cradled in her hand, resting on the arm of her great chair. Opposite three perpetually-youthful vampyres, be it blessed or cursed by their immortality, Rou was the only one who showed her age, approaching her thirty-second birthday, though she'd felt more like she was nearly fifty. It had not softened the glare of her yellow eyes, this work, even arguably made it more severe. She sighed brusquely through her nose, projecting frustration, annoyed at having to repeat herself at nearly every council. "And as I've said before, An'She Cecil, my worship is made alone." Convinced of their superiority, the three shared looks that appeared humored, together in the opinion that Rou played the part of a jaded child, undeserved of her rank, and had successfully gotten under her skin. With eyes narrow, Rou hadn't taken too kindly to it. Straightening in her chair, Rou's arms rose behind her great ponytail of sable hair, and unfastened the velvet choker from around her neck, letting it slip into her hands before she'd placed it on the table, deliberately airing the dimpled scars of the bite on her neck. "As I'm sure you're aware, counselors, my consecration is the only one to which the Father, himself, partakes," Rou said, with her eyes low, though she could feel their guilt thickening in the air, "And were his most trusted confidantes to forget that fact, mind you, I should think it would be my duty to pray for your unfortunate bouts of forgetfulness. That would be, after all, the most pious thing to do, would it not?" Spite was held brazenly on the end of her tongue, a lilt of savagery that was understated with purpose, though it was the final flash of her eyes that was the hands that released the blade of the guillotine. As well as Rou could ever mystify a man with those wasp-yellow eyes, so too could she behead one. The air shifted uncomfortably as the remaining three An'She did in their seats, and Rou slumped back against her chair with annoyance, bristling. "Fucking vampyres," she muttered coarsely under her breath, with little regard that they could hear her across the room. She cared little, and her gaze shifted to the empty seat next to her. Elsewhere had need of the absent Zenahriel, whom she'd come to find great strength in bearing these council meetings together, though the duties of a High Lord had made Rou to suffer the previous few alone. Some work to be done on an island off the coast of Umbra, and each time she was summoned to chambers, she'd hoped to see that of her friend, though was sorely disappointed to be without. Having tired of the charade and endless boasts, Rou gathered up the papers and missives spread on her desk, filing them messily into a single stack. Her eyebrow arched as she'd collected copies of her legislative draft, each marked in red with a stamp of denial. She remained seated, having avoided seeing the council chambers up in flames --for the moment, at least-- but it was clear that she was brooding. Brandishing the sheets like an insult upon her name, Rou thrust them forward in demand of an explanation, "You reject my proposal again? I had nearly 80 percent of the human commonwealth's signatures!" "And yet none of the vampyre nobility," Thaladred was quick to interject, pleased with herself as if she'd quipped with some marvelous revelation. "Of course none of the vampyres would be in favor of this legislation, the status quo already benefits them," Rou snapped, "but the human prerogative would see them afforded civil liberties. Forget the disillusion of the spread of wealth in the pockets of those with the longer lifespan, but what do humans get out of the arrangement of food supply for the vampyre minority?" "Well, they've always had the protection--" Augustus was quick to answer, but was silenced by the pointed raise of Rou's finger. "From your military that is now accustomed to wearing decorative armor. Your soldiers know nothing but peacetime, seeing it is the protection of Sauriel himself that is the only show of force. Do not ply me with your grandiose falsehoods, do not seek to soothe me with tales of always, General Cole. I may be foreign, but I know of the failures of the reign of Bronte, and who commanded the Pharoah's forces." Rou culled him with the hiss of her tongue, her clench of her nails nearly scraping scars into the wood of her chair. "This is precisely why this missive needs to be enacted now, so as to prevent any future reason for revolt. The world is changing, and soon enough the people inside what remains of the empire will not take kindly upon the intrusions to their life to be cattle for dignitaries simply because they can be food." "You speak of revolution," Cecil laughed, in all his gall, "And are you to be the one to lead it? Are you to threaten us to comply with this upheaval?" "No, I'm not threatening anyone--" Rou answered quickly and sighed with more than mild frustration, soothing the migraine that was growing behind her eye with the obscuring press of her palm. These roundabout and attempts at incriminating sessions vexed her to no end, as they sought to disqualify her claims by twisting her words. "But this isn't a symbiotic relationship, and as a preventative measure, our way-- I mean, the human way of life, needs to change." Catching her in misstep, Cecil prompted her again. "Why does this matter so much to you, An'She?" Because feeding is intimate, and personal. Because he reads my mind before I can even put it to thought. Because it will never be the same with him, again. Rou was quiet for a long while, face buried in the solace of her palm against the throbbing headache behind her eye. She could tell the other An'She were sharing victorious glances with one another, for all their pride and smug snobbishness. Again, Rou thought to the empty chair on her right, wishing she'd had support. "Because this is my home," she finally answered, in a grim, sensible tone. She sat up straight in her chair, elegant in almost a ghastly, tired portrayal of their revered Empress. Even for one Rou considered her true enemy, emulating Gabriela seemed the best course of action for the bastards across from her to consider her words, rather than whom they came from. "I've seen what havoc these social inequalities can have, and we are one of the few kingdoms that still rely on this archaic way of life. If we do not change, the world will change for us, and it will not be cleanly. I do not want this to happen to my home." For all the strength in her words, it was depressing how quickly the remaining three An'She all shrugged them off. Dismissal was flippant, holier than thou, and conceited, feeling as impervious as their vampyre bloodline spat in the face of time and age. Again, their retorts were washed out in white noise, as Rou could not hear them over her own heavy sigh. She was down, but not out. Without progressive vampyres to lend support to the cause, or even an alternative plan in place to conveniently transition to and keep the vampyre populace fed, her plans would always be met with opposition. Luckily, she'd thought to make some progress on the latter. "That's enough for today," Rou had finished in executive decision, gathering her things. "Once the bloodbank is operational, tithing will no longer be in vogue. Expect revisions of the legislation upon the next An'She Council." Though she could not hear them, Rou could identify a rather unfamiliar tone, a whisper shared among the three of them that sat uncomfortably in her chest. Something was about to fall through, but she hadn't any insight what-- only the feeling of dread, looming on the horizon. Not wishing to bask in it, Rou left. @King
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