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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
"Have you decided on a name yet, Your Highness?" Sabine sat on a stone bench, her armor glinting in the light. It was one of the rare times she was at ease. There was a tenderness in her voice, for she was a loyal Knight and Imperator to Princess Raveena. Raveena walked casually, swathed in pale silks that draped her pregnant belly agreeably. She looked right at home in the Imperial Gardens of Umbra, the way the sun shone through the leaves, the gentle sway of the flowers--this seemed to echo in the very way Raveena moved. Sabine watched her Queen carefully, though the grin never left her. Motherhood suited her just fine, she decided. She wanted to think it was strange, knowing that Raveena had ascended to a higher state of being and yet--this avatar--whatever one would call it--seemed to human and sweet. "Everett," Raveena replied with laughter and smiles in her voices, "My brave little prince. My wild beast." She paused long enough to cradle a drooping flower between her palms. She whispered lilting, encouraging words in a language Sabine did not pretend to understand--it certainly wasn't any Vaa'denian she had picked up. While Raveena was a Terran citizen, her origins were from a whole other somewhere else entirely. Sabine felt very plain and boring by comparison. She missed Efrideet--and had hardly given up on her quest for vengeance. Raveena needed her now more than ever with Efrideet dead and Rowan in a coma. Prince Grant was still lamenting his failures in the wake of Hyperion's destruction. "Your son will be well loved, Your Highness. A new Imperial heir gives the people hope that--." She paused abruptly. She knew better than to speak his name. The Moon God had been cast out for killing his brother. Angry that his siblings turned on him, he was set to destroy the Hyperian Empire no matter the cost. Sabine thought back to Rowan's catatonic state and the demonic creatures from his world that attacked them. The God himself attempted to smite Rowan but Raveena had chosen to accept her mantle as Goddess of the Red Plane to even the playing field. Now an all out war between the gods and their champions was set to begin. The fate of the empire rest on who would come out as the victor. "I know," Raveena replied softly, sadly. The sun god--foolish oaf he could be, had done many great and terrible things to her through the course of her life. And yet...yet, she missed him. "He will carry and unfortunate burden. Be brave, my heart." She cradled her pregnant belly and began another circuit around the cut out. Just out of view, a retinue of the Daughters of Thaus and the Enforcers patrolled and waited patiently. Their life was to their ruler. Sabine rose to join Raveena, who casually opted to take to the main path again. Raveena tried to walk side by side with the Lady, but Sabine--by her own virtue--always remained flanked out of respect to Raveena's station in Umbra and beyond. "I'd like a hatchery," Raveena spoke suddenly, her attention admiring the flora. She would stop sometimes and read the signs, cross to the other side. She would tend to the dying or dead with encouraging words, and praise the living. "Pardon, Your Highess?" Sabine was startled by the sudden thought. "A hatchery? Here?" "In Hyperion. I will draw up the plans for it. I'll be damned if the South is going to wipe out one of Genesaris' oldest creatures. Oh?" She paused--though this was not to admire any plant or flower. Sabine recognized the look that Raveena sensed something. The Chimera gene was still strong in her, and she perhaps could smell something--maybe even see or feel something that the Lady Knight could not. "We are not alone." Raveena turned to glance at Sabine serenely, "This requires strict decorum. Five paces behind me, do not look nor acknowledge them unless you are given permission to." She returned her to leisurely stroll through the gardens, and Sabine grinned wolfishly before falling in line and assuming the part of of armed escort. "At once Your Highness." The Emperor's Paramour was here. @The Hummingbird