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Rourke

Moonlit Gardens

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[CENTER][img]http://cdn.c.photoshelter.com/img-get/I0000xrg0PDZ4M9M/s/750/750/Hatfield-House-Maze-Garden-24867.jpg[/img][/CENTER]

The celebration that took part within the Long Hall had passed nearly an hour ago, the guests having retired to sleep as the moon rose high over Kingshill Castle. The competition was to take place the next day, a the first battles of champions, as most had taken leave for a good night's sleep long since then. All, save one.

Rourke remained in the gardens, clad in feathers and black silk, the grey pallor of his skin starkly contrasting his plumed darkness in the moonlight. The lights of the Long Hall were still seen lit through the windows nearby, as staff within the castle hurried to clean up after the Black Queen's many guests. The hedges were small, only coming up to the knees of the six-foot-tall avian, short enough to feel the brisk breeze pull at his feathers as it blew by. The bountiful green around him made a pleasant aroma, along with the sound of water from a fountain that reminded him very much of the wilderness. How he might have liked to perch upon a branch... or take flight upon the tournament grounds. Rourke closed his blue eyes, as he felt the wind guide his [i]right[/i] arm. He lifted it to the wind's bidding, his hand wrapped around an imaginary pommel, leading him through a series of small strikes. His footwork left footprints in the sand beneath his feet, treading lightly and weaving like the breeze itself. He lunged into a riposte-- and then the pain came.

He grunted, recoiling and grasping his pained shoulder with his left hand. He cradled it like a broken wing, and his sunken expression looked at it with worry. He had not since raised a sword in actual battle since his injury, and now he was fighting left-handed. He'd trained his opposite arm to wield a sword nearly as well as his right, but it always felt awkward, like trying to run backwards. Could he really champion Orisia with an arm that was nearly lame? For all the courage Rourke had thought to have, doubt had embedded deep. Edited by Rourke

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Meliora couldn't sleep, either. She was still wondering about how to get her message to the Queen. And since she needed to clear her head of other things, she escaped down to the gardens to catch a breath of fresh air as well as beautiful moonlit scenery. She was still dressed in the pink gown she'd been wearing at the party in the Long Hall but had taken off the rose quartz necklace. The clasp of a cloak rested on her neck instead, and it was the dark onyx winged clasp of the Order of the Black Heart. The hood had been left down to allow the wind to blow through her pink hair, and she closed her eyes as it passed over her. Calming, soothing, refreshing...

A silhouette stood before her, and if her eyes weren't mistaken there were the outlines of feathers on it. But the overall shape was that of a man's. Curious, Meliora approached until it was clear that the man had bird's wings--dark and black, like that of a raven's. The same wind that blew upon her seemed to have raised his arm, and his eyes closed. She watched as he pretended to fight with an imaginary sword, so graceful was he, but then he suddenly cringed and it appeared that his shoulder was hurt. Meliora tried not to look too alarmed as she softly paced over to him.

"[COLOR="#EE82EE"]Are you hurt, sir?[/COLOR]" she asked.

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[spoiler][img]http://media-cache-ec5.pinterest.com/upload/81135230758791351_TPbqMyxQ_c.jpg[/img][/spoiler]

[FONT=Garamond]-There simply was no way to silence the pounding of her brain against the walls of her skull. And so she abandoned all thoughts of resting, and settled instead for quietly haunting the unfamiliar halls of Kingshill Castle. Really, it was a beautiful structure—far darker than the DuGrace Castle, with much less subtle accents of gothic architecture. And for a night such as this, where all the weight of the world threatened to crush her, the eeriness of her surroundings felt appropriate. She trusted that the castle took on a very different appearance when bathed in the radiant light of dawn, of midday, and of course the hot gold of sunset—but these were things she would never see. Such were her thoughts as she laid a hand upon a cool stone pillar.

Long ago, her race had forgone the warm light of day, and in its place accepted darkness and an existence that rivaled immortality. But in the end, nothing was immortal—not this island, not this planet, and not this universe. Not even love.

Visibly wincing she withdrew her touch from the pillar and carried on through the dark hall. It was best not to linger, not to suffer, but her mind propelled her to question things she already had the answer for. Roen had disappointed her for the third and final time. Her heart would have to harden, and in time she might actually forget—but while she was alone, while shielded by shadows, here at least she would relish the agony of betrayal. She would look upon the night of the masquerade, the burning fingers that stroked the bare flesh of her thighs—the same fingers that time and time again curled into claws and threatened violence upon her. Foolishly, she had imagined this nothing but some form of defense. She had thought him—emotionally inept, frail and wounded. His violence nothing more than a mask for the violence committed upon him.

How pathetic. How disgustingly inept she proved herself to be!

But for what gain—for what purpose? She was clear across the sea. That’s the only thing that made no sense.

Slowly her shoulders shrank and with a release of a held breath she pushed out all further thoughts of Roen, of Rou, and of Corvin. She had washed her hands of them all—cut the infection all away. Hopefully the festering wound could finally begin to heal. And now that Rou had exposed herself to be a spy, she could finally give the order—the woman would never again set foot upon Orisian soil without risking injury to her person, and imprisonment. Roen, always the unreliable guest, had been informed. No one who harbored an enemy of Orisia could in that same breath proclaim themselves a friend.

It was done.

Measured steps carried her through the Long Hall, where a staff of busy servants went about dutifully cleaning and returning the grand hall to its previous beauty. She walked quietly by them, aware of their work—grateful for it, but also utterly unattached. And they seemed content with this, for their work was their pride and felt no compelling force to act on ceremony as she walked past them.

Out onto the terrace, once more to look over the gardens, Gabriela made certain to close the door behind her. She sought a moment of solitude, but found that her chosen place had already been taken up by a couple in bathed in moonlight. There was Rourke, gracefully practicing the steps of a dance she immediately recognized. And near, was the same young woman of bright pink hair she had seen in her throne room not so long ago. The young woman had been so ready for battle, utterly willing to give up her life in order to safe whatever few precious souls remained trapped in the Ellwood Forest. Gabriela could not help but wonder how the woman saw the end of that horrible event. Did she share in the anger that Corvin and Rou exhibited? Did she feel herself robbed of honor and glory—all because the queen sought to stop the bloodshed as soon as possible?

She dared not make herself known, but she did not hide or turn back and retreat into the Long Hall. Instead, she settled on the stone rail, and there she watched quietly and curious as her knight and future knight interacted. Here were the fruits of all her labor—here in the interaction of these two, was the reason and rhyme, the family she wanted so desperately to create.-
[/FONT] Edited by -Hopelessly HopeÆ’ul-

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[i]"Are you hurt, sir?"[/i]

How quickly Rourke had jerked around, that strands of his hair whipped and the silver-and-plume ornaments strewn through his hair clattered as beads clashed one against another. Still grasping his shoulder, his blue eyes were momentarily wide, catching his breath to still in his chest by the surprise. "You startled me," the Raven Knight admitted, now facing the pink-haired woman, and he beat a hand a few times against his chest, calming his quickened pulse. Turned to her, she would see he was not all feathers, but merely cloaked by them, layers of plumes reaching from shoulder to ankle on the back of his cloak, as well as a few sparse feathers in his black hair.

His eyes shifted to his shoulder, before releasing it from his grasp. "It is nothing," he assured her, though the statement was not completely true. As much as his muscle ached beneath the ripped, ragged, star-shaped scar that marred his grey flesh, the memories hurt more. The galloping of horses, a forceful blow with naught but the wind under him, the instant of searing pain through his arm, the deafening silence that followed. Rourke's eyes had somehow found his feet during his thoughts.

He cleared his throat, realizing he was not being polite, nor carrying himself like someone with the confidence of a knight. Had he really been dismissed for so long that he had forgotten? "A young woman should not be wandering about on her own so late in the night," he cautioned. He did not doubt the safety of the castle keep, but persons did not usually meander about while he perched in the night wind, basked in moonlight. Nor did he like that someone had caught the weakness of his sword arm yet again. "A long day lies ahead," Rourke advised, "Rest now, for you will not want to find your beauty sleep during the matches tomorrow."

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[quote name='Rourke']"You startled me."[/quote]

"[COLOR="#EE82EE"]I apologize,[/COLOR]" Meliora said sincerely. "[COLOR="#EE82EE"]I was merely walking around when I saw you.[/COLOR]"

[quote name='Rourke']His eyes shifted to his shoulder, before releasing it from his grasp. "It is nothing," he assured her, though the statement was not completely true.[/quote]

The Knight of Self-Sacrifice's eyes glanced briefly at his shoulder, which he had been looking at for a short while. It was the source of his pain and the reason why he faltered in his sword dancing. Meliora wanted to inquire further about it, but that would seem rude and he had already said so himself that it was nothing. Even if it weren't true, the man had already shown reluctance in sharing about his hurts with Meliora, and that was something she had to respect. "[COLOR="#EE82EE"]If you say so,[/COLOR]" she said in response.

[quote name='Rourke']"A young woman should not be wandering about on her own so late in the night. A long day lies ahead. Rest now, for you will not want to find your beauty sleep during the matches tomorrow."[/quote]

"[COLOR="#EE82EE"]How kind of you,[/COLOR]" she said with a smile. "[COLOR="#EE82EE"]But do not worry, I can defend myself quite well even without a sword. I will go to sleep soon, but so many things are on my mind. When I saw the gardens awash with moonlight, I thought it was the perfect place to relax those thoughts. I thank you, however, for your concern.[/COLOR]" She thought for a moment before she asked, "[COLOR="#EE82EE"]And what about you? What keeps you awake out here? I'm quite sure you wouldn't want to find yourself catching your sleep during the matches either.[/COLOR]" That last one was said lightheartedly, and was in no way offensive.

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[FONT=Garamond]-A soft sigh, a long but barely audible sigh, was all she produced as she rose back up to her feet. She was content, without any real explanation for it—perhaps it was just the peaceful interaction between strangers, the very proof that civility continued to exist even in this mad world. It was a sight she had desperately needed after all the commotion of the night. But like it or not, this moment did not belong to her and she had no right to eavesdrop on the conversation. Whatever came or went from their interaction, it had nothing to do with her and therefore it was better to remove herself before she was discovered.

On her feet, she smoothed the thick black fabric of her dress over her belly and down across her thighs. This was a comfortable dress—fitted, but not as elaborate as some of the gowns she had worn in her life. Particularly, she adored the freedom that the design allowed her small pale shoulders by having the fabric folded and pinned down by beautiful little silver clasps. Tugging on the tight sleeves that clung to her slender wrists, she began the slow progression that would carry her down the stone steps of the terrace down to garden level.

The castle grounds were large enough to afford her some privacy without stealing it Rourke and Meliora. Once on the ground level, she could no longer see the two for the taller hedges hid them, leaving only the soft sound of their murmuring voices as they spoke. Turning away from this she headed in the opposite direction, toward the columns which held up arched structures—upon which night a vine of night jasmine had wound itself. The perfume of the flower was by far one of her favorites, and so she chose the long open walk way as her quiet place of contemplation. With her hands neatly gathered at the small of her back, shoulders pulled back and head somewhat dropped, she began to peace forward carrying herself farther and farther away from the couple and toward the sound of running water.

For some inexplicable reason her mind had finally settled. The arguments, the angry voices that had echoed within her skull, all of it finally quieted down enough to allow her to enjoy the night. Drakiss was by far a much different place than Versilla--it was cooler, with the smell of ocean carrying upon the crisp breeze. Finally, she was unable to contain the very small happy smile that plucked the corners of her lips. Though this night could well have been considered a bust, Gabriela could not quite keep from feeling--fulfilled. Something was over, something had finally finished, and there was no reason to worry about it anymore.

She was free.-[/FONT]

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Zent had left the castle after the ball had died down, still unbelievably furious. Much of his anger was wrought from confusion and vulnerability, which until now had forever been a foreign thing to his soul. The drow wasn't taking it very well at all, and after a long discussion with Raiden, and throughout his inner battle, he had chosen to remain in Drakiss. His wish was to have one final word with Gabriela before he left, and it made him sick for he firmly believed she didn't deserve such generosity. The ending result, and inevitably the fate of her country, would solely rely on her response. The dark elf had remained on the balcony for a long while throughout the ball awaiting her to seek him out, and when she did not, only the confused and naive emotions poisoning his mind kept Orisia from an immediate invasion. It was toward the end of the night when he finally chose to kill the time while giving Gabriela one final chance, and leaped from the balcony to the courtyard below. Levitation saved his fall at the last second allowing him to comfortably land upon his feet in mid-stride.

A bit of fresh air would be good to calm his nerves and so he ignored the looks of a few who shot him ridiculous looks upon witnessing his maneuver, and he followed his feet wherever they may have taken him. Zent found himself within the castle's artistic gardens basking in the darkness that set in there. Many of the finely shaped bushes blocked the moon's glow and washed the place in twilight more akin to his liking. His vision was superior in the darkness and he found a bench that afforded him a view of the main paths. There he sat in thought, and there he waited. It wasn't long before voices began to fill the gardens, and silhouettes pierced his line of sight.

The guests were filtering from the hall to the gardens on their way out while capturing the enchantment of this beautiful place. For a moment the drow entertained thoughts of planting a Creeping Willow among the various of dozens of plants and chuckled quietly to himself for the chaos that would bring. As enjoyable as that would be it would provoke Gabriela's wrath, and he wasn't quite ready to play a move like that yet. A still form across the way brought him from his silent contemplation. The time had finally come to have a word with the Black Queen! The moment he knew it to be her rage boiled once again deep within him and he sprung up from his seat. She didn't seem to be with anyone at the moment and appeared to be lost in her own little world as well. Zent moved without thinking in the slightest, adrenaline pumping through his veins.

The drow Commander marched ever so silently, and furiously, toward the backside of Gabriela. Without even stopping he lifted her by the waste, twirling her around in the same fluid motion, and threw her over his shoulder. His left hand aflame with faerie fire at his side and the other firmly wrapped around the curvature of her elegant body, he continued to march away somewhere much more private. If she were yelling or screaming, or even kicking and scratching him, Zent couldn't hear nor feel her attempts while the adrenaline pumped faster and faster through his black heart.

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[FONT=Garamond]-Though the Black Queen commanded very little space, being that she was of such compact dimensions, it did not mean that she did not value her personal space. But the vicious Northerner had been correct in his assumptions that Gabriela was far gone within her own internal dialogue. Her guard was down; her mind pondered the many events of the night while her eyes vacantly followed the stone path beneath her small feet. And perhaps it was the fact that the drow had a certain affinity for darkness—and darkness for him, for he was well hidden by the shadows, so much so that they did not betray him to her delicate senses. It was not until he was behind her, until his wide black fingers were mere inches from the soft curves of her waist that she realized she was caught.

Zent was not the first to come to mind—instead she thought it some silent assassin sent to slit her throat, to undo her life with the mere flick of a trained wrist. But the hold on her waist, and the sudden force that pulled her right up and off the ground caused her heart to sink deep into her stomach as darker thoughts crept into her imagination. Death would not be delivered quickly; instead she was being taken—stolen away into the gardens. And though she had thought herself so well prepared for such a situation, there was still a few seconds—the span of three or four tortured beats of her heart, when she felt nothing but unbridled terror.

Up and then twisted, treated no better than a rag doll, she was thrown over a hard shoulder and her thoughts shaken like marbles in her brain with the jolt in the strangers step. By now she had reacted, she had sucked in a breath that she meant to cry out with foul profanities with—but in the end it came only as a throaty growl accentuated by the elongated canines and sharpened lateral incisors. Her breathing had quickened, and her small hands clung to fistfuls of the strangers clothing. It was through her quick breathing that she caught his scent—that thick musk of wet earth and running water.

“Zent!?” Although his name was spoken like a question, she was certain of his identity. She saw the sway of snow white hair and turned her head somewhat trying to catch sight of his face, or any part of him other than his back. A warm hand settled on the back of her thighs, and crept close to the curve of her bottom, making tense up immediately. She loathed being handled this way—the sheer audacity of his belief that he could just pluck her, no better than some garden flower, and carry her off for his private enjoyment made her icy blood nearly turn lukewarm. Still, she bounced along on his shoulder—now utterly incapable of calling out without a catastrophic outcome.

So she did the next best thing.

She retaliated.

Grasping at his thick silken hair she caught a handful of it. Without thought or concern, and operating on the same vicious animalistic instinct that had somehow allowed him to believe this was acceptable behavior—she sadistically yanked. She hoped to come off with a handful of his white hair, and to hear his bellowing cries.

“Let me go!” she hissed in a whisper, trying to control box the rising anxiety as well as anger in her voice.-
[/FONT]

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