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  1. Her dreamscape has never been so blessed before, not since the arrival of Himei to the halls of Ravenel Manor. There is a symphony within the mists, the divide between the wakened world and the dark well of slumber. There are words enveloped between the notes, faint and shapeless, but there all the same. Before, she had not been able to decipher the true meaning behind whatever she is hearing, and tonight, there are no clues that point to the opposite happening, despite what had happened today. She presses through the shifting landscape, following the tune whispering through her dreams, when suddenly, there are the words again, and there is a voice, and there is sudden meaning. Greetings, child. I am Himei. Shirin backpedals— —and wakes up in the faintly illuminated space, the faint glow of the candle on her bed stand casting flickering shadows against the glass windows of her bedroom. She places a hand to her chest, remembers the voice, the tenderness of it, like a mother’s touch. Her heart had beat just like this, a rolling drumbeat wave, when she had taken up the Oathblade. Her skin had shone bright for a moment, and the most beautiful melody had rang through the halls like a benediction. It had brought tears to her eyes, her brother’s, even Aspen’s own as the noblewoman clamped a hand over her mouth and sobbed. It had been—indescribable. Shirin throws a shawl over her shoulders, takes quiet steps out into the darkened halls: empty and cool. It is not yet time for the nobles to rise, and so the servants continue to slumber in peace, or are otherwise making rounds around the manor with hushed silence. Her feet are not quite moving on her own accord; it is as if there is a thread between herself and the Oathblade, and try as she might, the tugging motion from the other end of the cord is impossible to resist. The Spring Hall is void of any wandering soul, and so she moves into the room, comes to stand by the wooden box, takes the lid off with careful fingers. She gives the Oathblade a critical glance, raises her fingers to the cool steel once more, just as she had before, when Crowley had offered the sword for her to take— Do not be sad. Shirin jolts at the words, formed by a voice that is disembodied but gentle, kind, decisively feminine. There are footsteps in the hallway. She pivots in sudden movement, throws the cloth back over the box, pulls her shawl tighter around herself. There is no time to make this little early sojourn look anything other than what it actually is, and so Shirin waits for the owner of those boots to enter the room, her shoulders bowed as if awaiting judgement. @Wade
  2. NARRATIVE - INTRO So it has come this. The woman known as Holly Sheathe has once again expressed her disinterest with the current state of her land. Gone was the soft and naive girl that was happy to work on the fields replaced by this monster in a woman's body. Recent developments had pushed Holly hard, turning her harder than before. Her hardness was perhaps inevitable. Her dark history and her recent achievements all led her to believe that might makes right and right now Holly aims to show her might to every noble house in Ursa Madeum. It will all start with one thing. That singular thing. The creation of her own personal army.
  3. "Once we open the subject up..." Silas said as he opened the chest of the deceased creature, "That it appears to lack any kind of traditional organs. Indeed, the biology of the specimen is more akin to that of flora rather than fauna." Silas narrorated for the benefit of his audience, the Lady Varda Hildebrand, her sister Aspen, and their brother Nai. Upon their last meeting, he had promised to teach them more about what he knew of medicine and biology, and had invited them to witness this autopsy in order to do so. The creature on the table was one of dozens that had attacked Lord Grant a few weeks earlier, on the very ground on which they stood. Not wanting to risk spreading any kind of contamination into the port, a temporary research station had been set up, and he had been called to lead the team. Though he felt he was doing better then the last time he encountered the Lady, Silas still noticed his gaze slipping to her with frequency. Sometimes he even thought that she might be doing the same, but he dismissed the notion. He turned his attention back to Aspen and Nai. "Given the subject lacks a digestive system, how would you guess it creates the energy needed to move?" @vielle
  4. Contrary to popular belief, Esme is dangerously prone to seasickness. She tightens her grips against the railings, palms disgustingly sweaty under the heated burn of the morning sun, and tries her very best to keep her breakfast inside her stomach, no matter how much the restless waves attempt to do so otherwise. Not too long ago, Esme had dreamed of doing this very thing under vastly different circumstances: a free bird across the waves, tanned fingers wrapped around her own. It’s altogether ironic, that she is here to further cement her ties within her noble house and not, as she had wanted once another time—and still does, really—to run away from the shackles her family name has brought upon her the very day she had been born. But: Varda had persuaded her to do her duties, had argued that this would bring the solace that her position cannot grant her, and so Esme had agreed. It’s laughable, to think that she still agrees so easily. Their course is charted for Casper, which is far away enough from home that she can pretend she’s someone else, someone ready to start a new life on the mainland. Obviously, she’s not running away, not really, and what a joy that little piece of knowledge would be to her sisters. She just—needs to go away for a while. And if this is the way things have to go for her to escape, then so be it.
  5. There is something about flowers, the splendor and the fragility and the ephemeral brilliance they spark for the briefest of lifetimes that Nai finds him relating to. Not for their beauty, by any means, gods no—others may delude themselves into thinking themselves as magnificent, but he has never been much of a liar, either to himself or to the world; he is too sharp, too cold, too lifeless, to be anything close to similarity. The fragility, however: that, he feels down to his marrow. It is a peculiar cold dawn over the manor grounds, and the sun is a ripe mango just barely peeking out over the ridges of the hills. The rose in his hands, stem curled between his palms, still carries early-morning dew on its supple petals. A cup of tea sits at the table beside him, smoke wafting up into nothingness just before it reaches the longest tufts of his hair. It’s been quite some time since he’s allowed this sort of whimsy, this sort of frivolity where he had long since been nothing but efficiency. He blames it on his sisters, naïve sweet things that they are, enjoying a languid moment before the flurry of activity heralding their reestablishment of the branch houses. But: where the Lady Hildebrand tells him to go, he goes, no mind that he is to step out of the manor for the first time in months now. “The carriage is ready for you, my Lord,” says the servant standing tall just behind a stone pillar, and just like that, his rumination draws to a close. His tea has grown cold. Nai does not give it a second glance as he turns to leave.
  6. bewitched; unceasing “Going up that river was like travelling back to the earliest beginnings of the world, when vegetation rioted on the earth and the big trees were kings. An empty stream, a great silence, an impenetrable forest. The air was warm, thick, heavy, sluggish. There was no joy in the brilliance of sunshine. The long stretches of the waterway ran on, deserted, into the gloom of overshadowed distances. And this stillness of life did not in the least resemble a peace. It was the stillness of an implacable force brooding over an inscrutable intention. It looked at you with a vengeful aspect.” ― Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness s-class artifact thread | persicaria's amulet sounds of stories: in the shadows and forest: night watercooler/ooc thread | posting: once a week, not including NPC posts
  7. To our most favored Andelusian High Tea Society , Under House Hildebrand, we are a simple farming house in want of spreading our wares among our people as well as the rest of the world. We would be delighted to introduce to you the prospect of entering some of our most famous treats into your tea house if you would be so willing. Enclosed is a menu of our different pastries and produce as well as some small samples for you to judge at your leisure. We would enjoy your thorough critique of our delicious treats at your earliest convenience. Sincerely, Annette Baerin-De'Laire, of Farmhouse De'Laire. P.S. Delicacies included for sampling: Miniature apple crisp Miniature Strawberry, Blueberry, Raspberry scones in variety. Miniature mixed berry tart. Miniature Raspberry torte. Miniature apple blossom pie. Variety of berry-topped and compote filled mini-muffins. Apple turnover and Strawberry Turnover. Menu *varies seasonally Apple Blossom Pie Bushel Berry Pie Berry Dainty Muffins Berrylicious Cakes Applicious Cakes Tortes: Blackberry, or Raspberry Tarts: Apple, Strawberry, Blueberry. Raspberry, and/or Blackberry Scones: Individual or mixed berry, Apple Cinnamon Turnovers: Individual, Mixed Berry, and/or Apple Cobblers: Apple, Blackberry, and/or Blueberry Jams, Jellies, & Preserves: Jarred and made to order. Curds & Compotes: Individual, Mixed Fruit/Berry, Apple Candied: Berries, Apples Dried: Berries, Apples @ourlachesism
  8. It feels like a concession of sorts, standing at the steps of Quinton Swan’s newly-built villa, hovering in uncertainty and unease in equal measure. Varda glances up at the structure from under the half-shade of her parasol and takes a necessary gulp of air. It has been several weeks since their last meeting, that fateful afternoon when he had first visited Ravenel Manor, walking out the doors with a part of her she had not known she had given away until after his departure, and Varda is—she is— She’s been breathing ashes ever since she had first seen him. It is altogether strange, this feeling that has taken root in the fertile soil of her heart, blooming ivy vines around her iron trellis ribcage. She does not quite fear it, but neither does she desire to nurture it, not when there is still much at stake, the silver ring on her finger still tying her to her betrothed, an ocean and an island away. Underneath the forest green frocks she has donned for this occasion, she is still healing, still recovering from the attempt on her life; despite her recent visit to House Senaria and the medicines and care they’ve prescribed, Varda senses a deeper hurt, bone-deep and ravenous. She thinks there must have been something in that poison-tinged arrow that even the doctors cannot ascertain, cannot remove even as it digs itself further into her marrow. But nevertheless: she is here to make good on her vow to a business partner; whether or not she is ailing does not matter. “I do not like this,” the stoic presence beside her announces, and Varda resists the urge to sigh. Iyalon, of course, has been making his disapproval of the situation very clear ever since he had first caught wind of the business deal she and Quinton had established. “Must you go forward with this—this peculiar condition he’s set on you?” That insinuation that she is unable to make such a decision for herself cuts deeper than she expects it to. “It is not for you to decide,” Varda answers, and with that quiet, out of the ordinary statement, the knight swivels his head and stares at her in startled disbelief. The Lady is unmoved, however, and so he merely hangs his head. “As you wish,” comes the stiff, monotonous reply, and no, no, that would not do. Not now. “I will be fine.” Varda offers him a reassuring smile, brimming with optimism, and what else can he do but back down? With one final nod, Iyalon relinquishes his hold on his Lady’s arm and stands his ground as she moves up the stairs alone, soft fabric trailing behind her in her walk towards the doors. There are servants who come to greet her, and the doors shut behind her with a decisive click. @King
  9. prelude. All his life, Iyalon has known hardship, has known too many days of aching bellies and parched throats, of sweat-soaked afternoons and beaten-blue evenings. He knows poverty and the shape it takes in the pit of his gut. Life in the badlands of Ursa Madeum can change a soul, no matter how gentle its upbringing, no matter how sweet the hands that forge it, and gods, but Iyalon has had the sweetest of hands forging him and his sister, and even in the wake of their parents’ demise, they persist. His hands are steady, are strong, are capable and calloused and tainted with remnants of war and bloodshed and ruin. They have never been sweet and gentle and benign. And therein, perhaps, lies the tragedy.
  10. As he walked the winding road that followed the Symarron river, Silas couldn't help but be awed by the natural beauty of the island of Corinth. Two days ago he had landed in Gold Harbor, and had traveled mostly on foot on his way to the Hildebrand estate, occasionally accepting the offer of a ride from a passing carriage. While he could have arranged transport with either his Senarian benefactors or his new friends in Hildebrand, he shied away from such things. He tended to avoid airships and boats as much as possible since the day he had been shot down over the Beast King Raz Nogore's territory. Even now the memories of what he had suffered after the crash made him ill when he thought about boarding such transport. As a result, he tended to resort to such means of transport only when necessary. Not that his own personal preference for traveling solo would keep him from arriving when he had promised. When he had given his estimate for the completion of the prosthetic that he now carried in a case with him, he had included travel time. Now as the immense black spire of Ravenel Manor, his thoughts turned to his business there; or more accurately, one piece of business more than the other. Since the day he had first made her acquaintance he had often found his thoughts dwelling on Lady Varda. Feelings that he thought had been scorched away in the fires of the Beast Kings dungeons had begun to stir, but he wasn't sure what to make of them. As he approached the gates, he tried to maintain the clinical detachment required of a physician. @vielle
  11. "Holiness Sheathe," Pallas said, eyes screwed shut. "Better known as Holly Sheathe. Vassal of House Hildebrand. Commoners. Cannabis, tobacco, malt." He would have had a few things to say on specific selection of crops Sheathe had chosen, but his brother already shared his thoughts. "It's strange how her name's shortened," mused Lenore. "Holiness. Holy-ness. It should be Holy, not Holly. Though with a name like that, I don't exactly blame her for changing it up a bit." The brothers stood at the edge of House Sheathe's domain, acres of land spread flat before them. Each was the spitting figure of the other, every detail replicated from the cut and hang of their hair, the upturned eyes, and their uncanny resemblance to the Imperial Couple. However, the twins bore no wings today. Today, the twin sons of Empress Rozharon were fully human in appearance. Almost. Pallas opened his eyes. He turned his gaze to his brother, gold eyes meeting gold. "Why-" "-did mom send us here first?" Lenore finished the sentence. He lifted and lowered a shoulder. "She's fond of Hildebrand," Pallas suggested. "We are meant to visit Lady Varda after this." "It may be a test," said Lenore. He furrowed his brows. Pallas frowned and prodded his brother's forehead. Lenore swatted his hand away. "Hey!" "You look like dad when you do that." Pallas said matter-of-factly. "We musn't. We're too young to be stressed." He thought for a moment. "It could be a test, yes. We'll work our way up to the more difficult ones. We're definitely going to Dali last." The twins shared a nervous look. They spoke in unison, "Agreed." As one, they returned their attention to the rows of leaves, raising a hand to their eyes to shield against the sun's glare. "We're just here-" Pallas said quietly. "-to make a visit," Lenore finished. They waited for the head of Hildebrand's vassal to arrive. @Thotification
  12. INTRODUCTION Inside the sanctity of her shack sat the woman. Her mood was amicable, her face devoid of emotion. There was a single cup of coffee before her, the singular thing that was always present during her mornings. She was the woman named Holly Sheathe, the reluctant noblewoman whose responsible for the few thousand lives living in her land. How a noblewoman like her came to live in such a poor, despondent and dilapidated abode was story for another time. What needed to be discussed now was Holly's visitor. The visitor was her supposed boss, the founder of the Silverbush group. While Holly was the executive branch director of their holdings in Veluriyam Empire and its territories, she still needed to answer to this white-haired woman before her. Holly waited for the woman to speak but it seemed both of them are severely lacking the necessary words needed for such a not so intimate and methodical exchange. There was only silence as these two prideful beings glared smugly at each other in hopes one of them would budge.
  13. There was an old shack in the farthest part of the Sheathe farmlands, the side nearest to Andelusia. The shack was quite the flimsy thing but to the denizens of that land, it was something to a sacred temple. This was where the head of the vassal house of Sheathe lived. The woman known as Holly Sheathe. One can say she was a dainty woman, at least once one's eyes can get past the burns that seemed to litter ever corner of her skin. Soft spoken and kind to a fault, Holly is a pure farmer girl buriee beneath the cold harshness of reality and the binding chains of her path. There was a sword strapped to her hip, one that her people both revered and feared. It was the Oathblade Sunscar. The weapon was one of those relics filled to the brim with sorcery. The heat and flames of this blade once put the whole farmland in a calamity. The unforesern drought that came with the blade's surfacing and reawakening almost destroyed the livelihood of these simple farmers. But there was Holly Sheathe. With pure determination and her undying resolve, this simple woman braved the flames of Sunscar and willed the blade to submission. As she gazed upon her beloved field, what thoughts ran within this woman's head?
  14. Life goes on in Ravenel Manor, as it always does: slow and languid to the point of a snail's crawl, time stretched out immeasurable over moments of dandelion fluff and dazzling sunlight. Life goes on. Aspen goes through the motions as well, albeit with a new break in the routine, courtesy of her new guest. She walks through the halls of the West Wing with a folded parasol in hand, warm sunmotes dancing across the stone floors as light streams in from the awning windows, slightly faint in the early morning air. Her feet lead her to a door in the guest room quarters, and with one small knock, the way is opened for her. "Shall we go for a walk, Lady Stormbreaker?" @Flame Hero: Endeavor
  15. In all things, there are limits, and perhaps her body has finally reached the last rungs of that crumbling ladder, pushed to its boundaries after the assassination attempt that has left her weakened, left her brother with one less hand to use. She has no other choice but to seek more help, and in this case, perhaps she can turn to her newfound allies for assistance. Varda closes her eyes as she leans her forehead on the carriage windowpane, trying to push the ever-present ache into a box in the back of her mind where she can conveniently ignore it in favor of their journey through Port Thea and up to Solaria Estates. It’s almost like a phantom, the constant companionship of her pain; they are attached at the hip, she and this ghost. It sickens her to no end. “We’re here, sister,” comes a familiar voice from somewhere distant, and slowly, she extricates herself from the comforting arms of slumber, back into the numbness of reality, that faint pulsing, aching throb. Her cane is pushed under her fingers, and as Varda blinks dazedly in her brother’s direction, Jasper gently pulls her forward, wraps her shawl around her shoulders and tugs her out to the steps of the Senaria estate. “Do you think their doctor can help?” The question comes unbidden, almost wrenched out of her throat, but then again, it is a query born of faint desperation. She does not want to imply her siblings are anything less than stellar, but there is only so much Nai’s herbal mixtures can do. It takes Jasper a while to respond, but when he does, it is pitched low for their ears alone, “There are things beyond even our own capabilities. It is not our fault, nor should you feel guilty about believing it so,” he admonishes her, firm and measured. “Now, House Senaria is capable where we are not. Hold your chin higher, sister. We shall need your composure now more than ever.” Varda does not respond any further than a chastened nod, and so the Hildebrand siblings await their host to greet them. @danzilla3
  16. SHEATHEY FARMS "I say we expand." It was a quiet night in the Sheathe's humble home when Holly suddenly exclaimed her rather a brilliant idea. Her other companions both gave her an unamused look before going back to the cards in their hands. They were actually enjoying their usual family night with a game of cards but Holly had to ruin it with one of her so-called eureka moments. "Holly," Folio started, "Make your play. It's my turn next." "Patience, Uncle. Your niece and not to mention the head of this family and this house, is brainstorming. I demand you give me the respect I am due." It was at this point that, Piezo tore his gaze from his hand. "Holly, please. If you want demands. I demand you make your move. We don't have all night, you know." Holly sighed and placed her entire hand on the table, face down. "Very well. I give up. So will you listen to me now?" Both father and son shot Holly a pair of questioning looks. Any idea from Holly is going to be bordering between insane or stupid. How or why she is still leading the whole family of Sheathe was something of a miracle. Nevertheless, the Uncle still doted on his niece and the cousin was just kind enough to let the little girl do as she please. Who knows it might be a good idea- "We're going to get more land guys. Land Expansion! Wooohooo!" "GODDAMNIT HOLLY!" That night the neighboring houses can hear shouts of agonizing pain as the Sheathes are at it again, arguing till midnight. Will the poor farmhands ever get a decent sleep? @vielle
  17. On the day of Chairman Tynes’ visit, Varda finds herself worrying about the amount of white roses she needs to welcome their guests, of all things. She pointedly ignores the amused glances her siblings send her from where they sit amongst the various chaise lounges around the sitting room. “All these foreigners making their way into our halls,” Jasper muses, a slight smile curling on his lips as he burrows deeper into the cushions, sprawled and languid, “and you are yet to grow used to such things.” “I know this must come easy to you, brother, but as you know, I am not very fond of being unprepared, especially for esteemed guests.” Varda shakes her head, returns to pacing back and forth across the floor, mentally going over their plans again and again. “Surely there is no need to fret, sister?” Aspen chimes in, giving her a soft grin from over the pages of the book shoved under her nose. “You say they come to negotiate trade and perhaps an alliance. If they are willing to come to us, then there might not be a need to go overboard with the preparations?" She gestures to the door leading out into the hall beyond. “Which I am sure the servants have handled well.” Nai is silent as he sits perched on the windowsill, his face turned towards the glass and the landscape beyond. Varda sends him a desperate look he does not return. “Varda.” Jasper tilts his head, his smirk fading, replaced with a serious expression. She stops guiltily, well aware of what that particular look brings upon her head. “The Lords’ Hall is spotless. The Summer Hall has been prepared for days now. Our banquet fare will be as exquisite as it always is. Your pretty flowers will be enough for all of them.” He shrugs and rises to a sitting position. “Enough of this, or you will wear down the wood at our feet and I will not appreciate having to delegate funds for redecoration.” Varda takes a moment to understand his words, then breathes deeply, in and out in a measured manner. Her brother is right, of course; he usually is, but she will not grant him the satisfaction of saying so. She nods, meets three gazes head-on. The assurance she finds is calming; it settles in her gut like a comforting blanket. “Shall we go and ready ourselves, then?” As always, as siblings ought to, they follow her out the door without question. @Tyler
  18. Aspen is not the best choice, she thinks, for any sort of trip outside the borders of the Hildebrand domain, but really, this is something she had wanted to do herself. “Darling, you’ll be fine,” her fiancé had cooed, kissing her on the forehead and causing a flush to spread over her cheeks, and her siblings had granted her a wide range of farewells and good wishes, although she can do without seeing Nai trying to calm Esme’s mock weeping fit. She can also do without the insinuation of the spark urging her to seek the particular creatures out, but that is entirely in her own head. Leaning her head against the windowsill of the carriage, Aspen closes her eyes and breathes in slow, breathes in deep. She reminds herself of why her departure from Ravenel Manor is of her own volition. She is on the quest for the elusive beefly. Aspen chuckles to herself at the sudden, childish thought of her brandishing a sword and cutting her way through the wilderness, a wide-eyed traveller on a journey for treasure. She supposes the beefly can count for treasure, but she does not know enough about them to be sure, hence her journey across the island into the wildlands of Corinth. Perhaps this supposed Beefly Protection Group she is visiting will be able to provide more information about them as well as the means for House Hildebrand to acquire some beeflies on their own land. Varda had been most adamant about that last part, after hearing about the creatures in the first place. Her sister is quite predisposed to anything endearing and innocent, Aspen cannot help but muse with a soft smile. After a while, she watches the treeline part like tilled soil, and Aspen prepares to disembark the carriage to speak with the people advocating and protecting the beeflies. @Metty
  19. Grant had thought long and hard about where to host a meeting between the leaders of houses Singlance and Hildebrand. Both had already been to his home, and while the space was perfect for entertaining guests, he decided that he would choose a location offsite for a change of pace. To that end he had enlisted the aid of the newest member of his house, Doctor Silas Harriden. Harriden had been his personal physician for some time now, though that fact was not public knowledge. In gratitude for his service, and knowing that Ursa Madeum was in need of a man with his prowess in medicine, he had made the doctor a vassal of his house. Silas had made a generous offer to a struggling vineyard on the outskirts of the city, and had only been in residence for a few days when the prince had made his request to use his home as a meeting place, and he had graciously agreed. Now the two men sat on a deck of beautiful hardwood, a bottle of wine chilling on the table as they made pleasant conversation waiting for the others. Truthfully, Grant was glad that the doctor had agreed to this for more than just a change of scenery. Silas was intelligent, and effortlessly charming; two qualities that made him a good man to have in a potentially tense situation. While the prince expected that things would remain peaceful, it was still reassuring to have such a person at his side. At least since Reyna was absent for the moment anyway... But he had no time to reflect on his lover at the moment. As soon as the guests arrived, the servants would escort them to the pair waiting on the deck. @notmuch_23 @vielle
  20. Port Thea is a study in warm colors, and the way the sun dapples over the buildings, the sand-yellow bricks, the deep blue ocean cresting on the horizon makes something ache in her chest. This is the first time she has ever set foot on the shores of Thraece, and Varda tries her best not to recreate the expression of a lost puppy as she gazes at the sights and scenery from her vantage point near the carriage window, moving leisurely through the streets on their way to House Senaria’s seat of power on the island. Jasper has it in mind for House Hildebrand—and by extension, Lady Hildebrand herself—to pay courtesy calls to every other noble house in a gesture of goodwill. Having just recently visited House Dali, and for Iyalon to have visited House Uldwar as her representative, Varda had decided to visit House Senaria next, knowing very little about the foreign-born nobles. The wildlife and water conservation projects she has heard about only bolsters her interest. Nai is silent from where he sits across the carriage, dark eyes scanning through the book in his hands with single-minded focus. In truth, Varda knows he had not wanted to come, had not wanted to be displaced from the comfort of his herbal workshop and the diligent care of their ailing mother’s health, but Lady Hildebrand had insisted, and so he had gone. Though Aspen would have been a better fit, more attuned to the relationship of nature and the land than her brother, Varda had a selfish reason for wanting otherwise: it has been too long since Nai had taken a step out of Hildebrand lands, and this foreign visit is one way to drag him out of his shell. She only wishes he’d actually take some time to look around. “It’s quite beautiful, isn’t it?” She taps his shoulder to punctuate her intrusion into his personal bubble. It takes a moment, but then Nai lifts his gaze to catch hers, confusion evident on his face. “What is?” “The city, brother,” Varda rolls her eyes even as she smiles, gesturing out to everything outside the window. “Isn’t it beautiful?” “Ah.” He pauses, adopts a pensive look as he shifts his gaze to the scenery around them. “Yes.” A startled laugh bursts from her lips, and she clamps a hand over her mouth, glaring playfully. “Nai! That’s all you have to say?” He smirks at her, then, about to turn back to his book when the carriage makes a sharp turn, and then there it is, leaving all prior conversation forgotten. Solaria Estates stands proud and sprawling, its facade overlooking the Thraecian coast. The sight of the greenery so close to that brilliant blue beyond sparks a longing in her chest that has only very rarely been addressed: despite her love for the ancestral lands of her youth, Varda had always wanted to live near the sea, where she could farm within sight of the rolling waves framing the horizon. It calms something in her, the idea of that quiet life. “We are here, my Lord, my Lady.” Iyalon appears at the foot of the carriage, outstretched hand ready for her to take. Varda clutches the bouquet of white roses entwined with chicory tight as she alights from the step onto the ground, gazing up at the estate. The color of the stone looks almost like the wheat of her fields; if anything, she thinks she would not feel homesick, not within view of that familiar color. Nai hovers behind her, and soon, the words come spilling out so easily. “Imagine waking up to this view everyday, brother,” Varda smiles, casting her gaze out to the beautiful, restless sea, “with the wind and the waves so close. It’s, um—it’s peaceful.” Nai turns to her, follows the direction of her stare. “You wish to live like this?” He hums in thought, tilting his head as he shifts his eyes back to her. “I can understand the sentiment.” They share a half-smile for one brief moment, then they turn their attention back towards the estate, waiting for their noble hosts to meet them. @danzilla3 @Sleepy Seal
  21. Wade

    A Rough Start

    “So, you and Varda. Yay or nay?” In case the meaning wasn’t obvious for Iyalon, Crowley waggled his eyebrows. He didn’t really need an answer. It was more about being obnoxious than anything else. Getting under the Lord Protector’s skin had become something of a pastime over the course of their journey, partly as a means of payback, but mostly because that was just the kind of person he was: devious, silly, a little too crass for highborn snowflakes. Sometimes a little petty in spite of his knife-edged charm. Most people he’d ever spoken to were amazed when they met the man and not the legend; in terms of personality, Crowley wasn’t exactly what the leader of the Oathsworn was supposed to look like. “Don’t worry. I won’t tell a soul,” he said. “Pinky promise. C’mon, put her up.” When the two finished locking fingers, Crowley turned his gaze back to the river. It flowed calmly at their side, clear in the afternoon light, downhill from the towering black fortress waiting for them dead ahead. Watching the monument draw closer, bit by stony bit, kind of made him feel like he was walking in a dream. An uncomfortable, stressful dream. The last time he’d visited a castle, it was to kill a king. The famous Break, and he the infamous Swornbreaker. It was the kind of reputation that made him wish he’d stayed at home, where no one knew who he was. Where he could live out a comfortable life with no one to judge him but his own shadow. He didn’t deserve that life, though. He’d come to terms with that now. It was as Iyalon had said, this was his chance to right his wrongs. Raking a hand through his hair, Crowley let out a sigh. A smidge of his anxiety went out with it. He ignored Iyalon’s glance and kept on walking, the soreness of his feet gradually occupying the space clearing in his head. By the time he actually began to enjoy the dull work of putting one foot in front of the other, it occurred to him that maybe he’d have to spend some time in court. Not because of the Hildebrands, per se. They wouldn’t throw any lawsuits at him. The rest of Andelusia, however, could want him to face justice. For what, well…between being a war criminal, a murderer, or even Ursa Madeum’s very own boogeyman - the list was long. Very long. It wouldn’t surprise him if he ended up in a dungeon by the end of all this. “Happy thoughts, Crowley. Happy thoughts.” “What?” “Nothing. Just having a midlife crisis, don’t mind me. Say, would you know if Aspen or Esme are still single by chance?” They spent the rest of the trek in relative silence after that. Probably for the best, since Iyalon looked like he’d had it up to here with him. Fortunately the tension didn’t last long, as the gates of Ravenel Manor were fast approaching. Crowley decided to hang back a few steps, scratching at the thin stubble of his ‘travel beard’. He’d let Iyalon do his thing while introductions were being passed around. I wonder if they still do absinthe. @vielle
  22. Whenever he wore a robe, the young man was often mistaken for a woman. This happened as he payed the coachman with a fine pouch of coins, uttering a word or two — then, suddenly, the old man was taken aback by a boyish voice. If it were not the prominent Adam's Apple on his throat, his pouty lips could have attracted men to his side. And that, was disturbing. Though oblivious and never has he wanted to admit, he always had a feminine grace. He has once wanted to be as manly as Iyalon, has wanted to stand tall with a heavy iron chest and a sword at his side. But, like the tide, his former ideals and aspirations were all washed away in an instant, a red ocean bringing his wishes along with it. Before he has brought a shoulder to cry on, secretly hid animals in his quarters. Now, he feels nothing of love. He may slit a mutt's throat with his blade in an act of curiosity, but he will still feel nothing. And no matter how hard he will try, he cannot shed a single tear for the death of his Lord. Pluto has changed, and he will never be the same. A gold coin dances through his glass fingers, flicking it up into the air and watched how it splattered in his palm like melted metal. His own silvery eyes studied it's spiraling movement, how he made it trickle off his fingertips and onto the music box in his lap. It bounces, however, wildly jolting up and down as the carriage found it's wheels struggle against the harsh terrain of the road to Ravenel Manor. He blinked when it happened, placing the wooden box between his thighs and attempting to decorate it's exterior once more. And when it kept happening, Pluto patiently kept doing it all over again. Then his eyes squinted as the gold went up to his face with one big bump! Like it's natural state, it dropped off his cheeks and onto the wood, where intricate patterns scatter his canvas. Still, he did not react. Instead, he tilts his head like how a dog would, taking the music box in his hand and examining it in his eyes. And he licks his lips, holding the box now with his two hands and stared down at it with hilarious, unnecessary attention. He wants it to be perfect, a habit he has grown into during his time of service. Perhaps about an hour passed as he still glared at it with peculiar eyes, the carriage eventually coming to a stop as the man who sat outside pulled on the reigns and yelled at the stallions to halt. He licks his lips again, curiously looking out the window. Well? Are you going to step out? And he did. The black robe draped on his shoulders followed behind his boots, taking his feet toward the direction of the manor. The gilded music box in his hands is stuffed into the robe's inside pocket, carefully shielding it against the soft pellets of water that fell on him. But it was not really raining, the rain had just passed. Instead, it drizzled while the sun shone down on the damp streets, blanketing the people with it's gentle heat and chilling cold. And the people whom he passed by shared their share of hushed giggles and coy smirks, both men and women chattering their own banters. But it was mostly the women. The men just teased him. But some did not whisper the way the others did. It was because they all found his face familiar. However, he is too easy to spot. Before he knew it, the pouch hanging from his belt was stolen with one swift motion. He blinked, looking down and realizing the lost item has left his reach. Then he looked to the thief, watching silently as his feet splashed wildly against the street's murky puddles. He did not turn his heel to run after the ragged child — instead, he let it happen — let the kid run off with his money. He holds a partially gloved hand to his hip, pouting as he whirled his head the opposite direction. It wasn't the box, he sighs. As long as it wasn't the box, the rat could have his wallet. Besides, he could make as much money as he wanted to. And so, the young man continued on his way to the manor, unwavering in his almost robotic steps as he was watched by bewildered passerbys who watched the strange situation happen before their eyes. It was awhile before he had now reached the tall gates of the manor, looking up at the sturdy wood that towered over him like an ant. He tilts his head, a silvery earring following his action. His hand would reach out to caress the black wood, eventually trailing down onto it's menacing door knocker. Then he licks his lips, fingertips dusted with a nostalgic feeling he cannot remember. The metal is clenched in his palm, powerfully knocking on it with an loud noise. At it's echo, he pulls down his hood, revealing his grey hair and metallic eyes. He expects a servant to come open the door like he would, waiting in the sunny rain as the droplets glittered like light. He is not nervous, no. He only feels that this is necessary. @ourlachesism @ethela penna
  23. Reed Waterman was many things. Tall, handsome, funny, a little too vain for his own good. But mostly he was just busy. Really, really busy. “You know what you need, kid?” Hakujin was already crowded, with all three numerous seats occupied by the five o’ clock trio. Riku, as always, sat in the middle. Sora and Kaito, also as always, flanked him on the left and right, specifically in that order. It was hard to tell which one of them had asked the question. They were triplets, and so they all sounded the same. Reed had also been too focused on overcooking their noodles, as they all liked their ramen mushy and soggy and, quite honestly, pretty damn disgusting. “A vacation?” Reed guessed, wrinkling his nose. “Are you going to surprise me with a ticket to Casper, is that it? Or a weekend spa trip to Chateau Bacre?” One of them snorted. Probably Kaito. “Fat chance. Who’s going to get us our weekly ramen fix?” Reed turned off the burners and dumped the noodles into three bowls. The way they sagged and nearly came apart reminded him of overcooked noodles. Nothing in life sagged and nearly came apart like overcooked noodles did. “Guys, there’s literally ten more ramen shops like thirty feet from here,” he said. Sora wagged a finger. “I counted nine, actually.” “What, seriously?” Reed handed the triplets their bowls. “I thought I was just exaggerating.” Sora nodded. “There’s Daikaya, Mensho, Kokujin No Otoko-“ “That’s not important,” Riku cut in, leaning against the counter. “What’s important is that you-“ He pointed to Reed with his chopsticks. “-need a wife.” An abrupt silence fell over the shop. Reed stared at Riku, who stared right back as he began to slurp his thick, wet noodles. “To have kids with, you mean," Reed prompted. "Who can work the farm. While I go on vacation.” Riku slurped some more. “I was thinking more about your happiness.” Reed cocked his head. That was a funny thing to say. “That’s a funny thing to say,” he said. Sora shrugged his square shoulders. The motion of it made an unpleasant crack that spoke wonders of his old age. “Listen, kid. It’s no secret that you’ve got no love for this place. At least, not anymore.” Reed frowned and opened his mouth to say something, but Kaito spoke up first. “He’s right, you know. We used to think you did all this work because you liked it. But then we realized you do it to keep yourself busy. Like someone who does gardening because they can’t afford a therapist.” “Only your thing is farming on weekdays and cooking on weekends,” Riku continued. “It wouldn’t be so weird if you weren’t so muscled and young and obviously some ex-mercenary or something.” "Or a white guy running a Welander restaurant." "That too," Riku conceded. Reed didn’t respond right away. He didn’t really know what to say. “And how does this relate to me needing a wife?” “Love makes people happy,” Riku answered simply. “And you’re one very unhappy man.” Reed considered this with a nod. Even after the five o’ clock trio finished their meal and left, he still found himself thinking about what they said. Like someone who does gardening because they can't afford a therapist. ... "Senile buggers," he muttered. @vielle
  24. The black-haired woman trudged along the worn path to Corinth. Despite all the dust, the found the journey a blessing. Gone were the days she would have to fight her way through multitudes of gangsters and trash criminals. The bounty on her head was rather alluring especially to the poor and needy. Perhaps the symbol she wore on her coat made her a target to those in the criminal world. Not that it bothered her in the past, but a full day of no one having to die was a new experience for this woman. Quite relaxing actually. The passing wind blasted another wave of dust upon her figure. For a moment where she felt she would die of suffocation and then her turmoil had ended. Opening her previously shut eyes, she could finally see her destination, an old farmhouse, one she recalled from her childhood memories. She had been there once or twice when her mother had brought her there. The black-haired woman winced at that memory. She remembered how the people in that farm treated her mother poorly, calling her mother names like "slut" and "whore." She was a child at that time but now that she's older, she only understood the implications of that event. Her mother just stood before those people, head hanging low in shame while the younger version of her tried to wrapped her innocent mind on why her mother's clasp on her tiny hand keeps getting tighter with each passing moment. These were memories of her past and ever since Tormo was destroyed, so too did she bury all her past life on that night of terror. And yet she persevered in hopes of finding some semblance of a family within her relatives. Relatives she barely knew and preferred to not deal with. Who knew that her mother's family was once a vassal to the noble house of the Hildebrand's? This was why Holly was on this very road. Yes, soon she will find a family of her own.
  25. One had to be careful whom they allowed in their home, lest they risk losing it to greedy trespassers. "Open the gates!" Gears began to turn, forced into working by a system of chains, pulleys and the toiling work of men turning cranks. Just beyond the gates of the might Uldwar Keep was Iyalon Izora, the head of the once great Order of the Orchid. Just as the Dogs of war had suffered, so too had the faithful knights of House Hildebrand, decimated to near extinction, yet surviving on in spite of the tragedy. For their resilience and dedication to their duty, the order of knights loyal to House Uldwar gave them ample respect during their visit on this day. On this overcast day, with the sun nearly blocked out completely by the clouds, the entire order of the Dogs of War was there to greet the head knight coming to them for tutelage. Sir Gerald Ultin was in the front of this group, standing proudly along with his men, looking onwards and forwards, his heart swelling with pride at meeting a fellow master in arms. He could appreciate Iyalon, knowing his talents for martial practices were great, quite close in fact to the accolades affords his own group of honor bound warriors. They both shared in a sacred duty, however, to protect their houses at all costs, which was what brought him here to this island so steeped in the arts of Warcraft. "Hail, Sir Iyalon. Welcome to Uldwar Keep. It is my hope your journey here was peaceful and swift." With pirates and unpredictable weather conditions, travel between the islands was difficult to say the least. While he had no means of combating strange meteorological phenomenon, he was certain he could make the seas safe against the scourge plaguing them. Bowing for a moment, Sir Gerald straightened himself, then removed his helmet, revealing the ugly, misshapen face that was brutalizing through so many years of combat. "We are honored that you would come to us to teach you the ways of constructing engines of war. Not every enemy can be slain with sword alone, sometimes you have to throw a mighty large rock at them." A laugh was shared between Sir Gerald and the other knights, all of whom wore exceptional gear, finer than any craftsmanship worn by normal foot soldiers. When one was uplifted into the ranks of the Dogs of War, only the best implements of war was worthy to be used by them. "Come. Before we show you our armory, let us retreat inside before the rain comes." @ourlachesism
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