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Found 23 results

  1. 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
  2. • • • Royalty does not suit her at all, Varda decides very early on. The diadem—newly forged as it is, and gleaming silver—weighs heavy on her brow. Despite the assurances of her brother that the burdens of a queen’s mantle are not all that different from the burdens of noble headship, the view from the height of a throne still appears frightening from where one perches on its esteemed seat. Over the weeks upon weeks spent establishing the legal power of the Queendom, something has changed within her. She finds herself more assertive—and yet more restrained. She finds herself more courageous—and yet more fearful. Her words carry the weight of an army, now. Her actions carry the weight of a crown. And so she finds herself at the doorstep of Quinton Swan once more: ostensibly seeking advice from a friend, if one were to question her motives, wading into the fray of the Kingdom as she is doing so now. Last time, she had sought for his aid in the healing of the body, Iyalon faithful by her side. This time, Iyalon is in the highlands bargaining for the reestablishment of their vassals in her stead, and she is alone. Here, she is not a queen, but a mere woman in want of companionship. (That is of importance, whether or not it is realized in her mind at the moment.) She’d sent a missive to his estate days before in order to announce her arrival once again, but Varda does not doubt that the man is always well-prepared to receive guests, and even moreso, dare she say it, to receive herself in his home. There is a wonderment, a thrill thrumming through her as she awaits recognition from his staff, and even as she waves her armored retinue to wait for her return, she moves forward with the confidence of a sword and shield at her back. (Royalty does not suit her, not at all, but it does have its benefits.) @King
  3. When Iyalon thinks of the House of the Heralds of Daybreak—as the Hinode Clan had once been called—he can only really picture the cold mountains of Corinth’s northern region: the unsettling chill in the air if one is too familiar with the humid heat of the lowlands, the shattered sunlight streaming through the murky clouds, the treacherous paths that stand as the natural defenses of a House that have only ever known the ways of the sword and very little else. He remembers all too well the life he had once lived amongst them; the Order of the Orchid had first been established with its members having been taken from the ranks of the Hinode Clan. Iyalon had been the first among that number, and so he had spent a year or so of his life with warriors of great skill, learning their ways and digging his roots down to the rocky soil to entwine with them. Therefore, it is only fitting that the primary emotion in his chest when he thinks of the Clan is grief, and not regret.
  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. All her other siblings have had their turn. Despite her fervent wishes not to be separated from her trusty workbench and plant samples for too long, her Lady is adamant that she take up some of the burden for the glory of their House, whatever that means. All Aspen really wants to do is to stay in her laboratory and continue her crop research. “Can’t you take a little holiday from your work? You’re looking quite pale, sister.” Varda purses her lips at her in a pinched little frown. “Too little sun, I reckon.” “You realize I’ve been spending more and more time out in the gardens with you and the rest of the household nowadays, haven’t you?” Despite the anxiety mildly simmering in her gut, Aspen can’t help the amused laughter that trails from her lips. Varda harrumphs. “Extended time spent outdoors will do you a world of good, sister. I promise,” and here the Lady Hildebrand traces a cross over her own heart, raises her other hand in the air, “I won’t bother you for a good long while after you’ve done this. Please, won’t you help out?” “I’ll hold you to that,” Aspen grumbles, rolling her eyes. Of course, how could she refuse?
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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
  9. "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
  10. Ambition runs deep in Jasper’s veins, every since he had been born. Or perhaps that is an untruth—perhaps the real awakening of that hungry, selfish creature in his chest had been the day he had chosen to ride out into the Greywood with love stirring his heart into chaos. There is a saying that love could drive a man into madness with little effort, and in this case, he has determined it to be all too true. There is one thing many lost souls do not understand: ambition requires not only brilliance, oh no. Patience is a powerful tool, and gods, but Jasper is patient. He will bide his time, even as he is surpassed again and again and again: by Merel as the heir of Brynhilde and their father’s blessing, by Varda as the eldest and therefore the proper Lady of their noble house. All good things come to those who wait, and fate has assumed quite a sizable debt in Jasper’s favor. He need only watch, and wait, and build the foundations of what would soon be his empire, brick by brick into reality.
  11. "Keep hauling up those supplies! I don't want anything delaying us from finishing this project." Mia stood at the edge of the caldara, watching the beginnings of her greatest project to date. This would not only bring House Uldwar to the top, but it would make Ursa Madeum as a whole even greater. Ever since she had found the missing materials her father had smuggled in to Port Mars, Mia knew what she had to do to further her father's legacy. By her direction, they would become one of the largest providers of Magitech fuel in Terrenus. The gold alone will be enough to get them into prominence, with enough clout to get the young girl closer to her goals of once again being the Matriarch of her House. A tremor shook the ground beneath them, surprising them, and causing some of the pack animals to stir uneasily. "What was that?" Someone asked. "Never mind it." Mia said, looking upwards at the cloudy sky, noticing the sun at midday position. "We need to get started before it gets dark. Keep moving!" Dressed in light traveling clothes, the heat at the top of Mt. Egon was near unbearable. Water was one of the main supplies they required, and thanks to both Port Mars and Qrill, whose powerful industrial strength allowed for the parts to be crafted in the assembly of this machine. With both Marrow and Fatesbane at her waist, she didn't feel worried about a lack of armor. Taking a long sip from her canteen, she watched as they began the construction process. Yet another tremor shook the ground, even more powerful than before. This one could not be ignored, and Mia began wondering just what might be causing it. "Something doesn't feel right..." A third tremor, causing a scare among the workers and animals. It couldn't possibly be an earthquake, but then what could it- KABOOM! Molten rock spewed from the center of the caldara, going high up in the sky, enough to where it would definitely effect the area around him. Men were screaming, animals were running for their lives, and Mia was treated with a sight she thought dearly impossible. "YOU DARE TRY TO STEAL MY MAGIC?! I WILL BURN THIS ENTIRE ISLAND FOR YOUR INSOLENCE!" It was a massive thing of fire and blackened rock, as large as a castle and burning with an intense fury. The heat was coming off him in waves, forcing Mia to step back, but she refused to give up her mission. What she didn't realize was that the spirit of the volcanos work was already beginning. Misral was burning.
  12. "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
  13. 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
  14. 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
  15. 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.
  16. 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
  17. 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.
  18. 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?
  19. 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
  20. 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
  21. 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
  22. 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
  23. 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
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