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Zent

A Dangerous Line [SEMI-CLOSED]

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Whether Gabriela kicked and screamed or cried out for help, Zent did not notice. The only reason he knew she had pulled his mane of starch white hair was because he could clearly see the strands being pulled out from his line of sight. His heart pounded in his chest and his mind was blank, numbed from the rage burning within. Raiden had called him a child, and perhaps compared to an eons old immortal God he was, but no more so than this little girl over his shoulder. She had manipulated him and played with his feelings. Blood red eyes narrowed dangerously as he sprinted through the maze that was the gardens. Perhaps Raiden was right...perhaps he was acting the fool. In the three centuries he had breathed on Valucre never in all those years had he lost his mind like so. Even as a young drow elf when his sisters and other female commoners beat and tortured him had he ever lost the clarity that was his mind. Perhaps she had found a way past all the defenses laid upon his form, or perhaps she had somehow poisoned him...there was no way to be sure. All he knew was that she had humiliated him before all of Orisia, and not for the first time. He had proposed to her and unfortunately his men and women still believed them to be engaged, but she had found her way out of that predicament as well once again playing him the fool.

The drow could hear nothing and only feel the fire burning in his ears. He could feel nothing but the throbbing in his chest. Zent's senses were dull and he hated himself for having so lost himself. Then suddenly...he stopped. He had run to a far corner of the gardens with walls of eight feet high brush surrounding them and he threw Gabriela from over his shoulder. Why? Would it not have been simple enough to have had Raiden snatch them both in mid stride and take them from Orisia? His mind was blank however, and rather than throwing her upon the ground Zent lowered her in his firm hands slowly until her feet touched the ground. He spun around not wanting to play out his current rage at this woman and took a few steps away. With his back facing the Black Queen he lowered his gaze to the path at his feet exhaling deeply. If she was speaking to him he still could not hear her words. A few moments would pass as his face cooled down, and the throbbing in his chest would relax. It would be then, and only then, that he would face this temptress.

Blood red eyes would fall upon her slender form, but not with anger or hatred...or any other emotion for that matter. There would be no words in his gaze, as if he was incapable of thinking. It seemed as if he didn't understand what was happening or where he was, but still he looked upon her with those devilish eyes. Edited by Zent

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[FONT=Garamond]-Where she expected to be thrown, she was merely settled down—rather gently all things considered. Still, while he backed away to let his own rage diminish he had no idea that her own was simmering and very well near the edge of bubbling over. So when he turned, finally convinced that he had perhaps reached a point of self-control, he would find that what met him in the place where he had left the dainty queen was anything but.

She waited in the same place he’d set her down. But her pose was tense with her arms slightly bent at her sides and her small hands forming such tight fists that even her pale flesh seemed to grow whiter around the knuckles. When his full attention was upon her, the dull and somewhat lost expression of his face did very little to sooth her resentment. One, two, three steps forward and she was finally toe to toe with him, with her right hand drawn up and swung diagonally against his handsome face. It was a bit of stretch, being that the man was so much taller than her, but that did little to remove the sharp sting of her icy slap. Should he have forgotten that she was not of the same weak and delicate flesh as mortal women then surely the force behind her strike would remind him. It was hard enough to force his head to the side with a resonating sound of flesh being struck by flesh.

There was a flicker of remorse when she saw his pained expression but it was quickly put out under the heel of her conviction like the dying ember of a wasted cigarette. It became perfectly clear to her in that moment that there was no room to talk to this man with kindness—not until he understood that she was more than capable of defending herself. And though her strike against him had been what most would consider rather normal in the given situation, there was an underline promise of further violence in the way she held herself thereafter.

Still tense—with the gold of her eyes smoldering in the darkness with nothing but rage.

“I am not a child,” she snapped furiously. “You don’t pick me up and decide where I can or cannot go. Do you have any idea how fortunate you are that I didn’t rip your throat out?” The words hissed past her lips, the bloodiness of her threat quite visible in the elongated fangs that decorated the top row of her pearly white teeth. She disliked this side of herself—disliked the hunger that came hand in hand with her anger, and more so the sheer desire that burned in the center of her chest to carry through and make good on her threat.

Now it was her turn to look away. Finally the tension melted and both her hands rose so that her fingers could comb through her hair, shaking out the tangles from the long tresses. She walked along the wall, only for a few steps before turning back and pacing forward towards him once again. “And you’re not a child—for God’s sake! You’re a man, and a General, the bloody ruler of the North! Behave in a manner befitting of your title.”-[/FONT]

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Her first words seemed to be the ones that lifted the drow from his tantrum, for as she spoke the word throat he nearly cried from laughter. Suddenly his face went tight again with her next words. They were alone again, for the second time now, and this meeting seemed to have started oh so very wrong. Zent glared at Gabriela with contempt now, blood red eyes aflame with a wounded ego. How naive was this queen to so boldly speak to him in such a manner? How naive was this queen that she was unable to comprehend the inception of his rage? Zent shook his head without amusement nor the intent to belittle her own ego. Frustration drowned in his expression for something so absolutely small, and regrettably painful in his eyes, was over her head.

[B]"You Gabriela!"[/B] Zent declared. [B]"Are lucky thousands of my soldiers aren't invading your shores!"[/B] Zent yelled in her face just inches away now, eyes dangerously narrowed, and his temper nearly out of his control. Alas, Zent's temper was never out of his control. He stepped away and softened his expression, only a little, and exhaled quietly. [B]"How dare you leave me the way you had in MY home, show me just enough affection to keep the peace; dare to pretend to understand me for a moment! Invite me here only to humiliate me in front of your guests!"[/B] There it was. The most simplistic and egotistical explanation that she had not seemed to grasp beforehand. [B]"You truly are a monster aren't you?"[/B] He chuckled shaking his head. [B]"And people call me the monster. Does Gabriela play every man for a fool?"[/B] Zent asked rhetorically before holding up a single finger suddenly. [B]"Oh yes, with the exception of devils isn't it? You thought you could get under my skin and make me feel like I was someone important...apart from the tyrannical leader of a nation hunger bent on vengeance?"[/B] Zent ranted...he vented to Gabriela and not for the first time. Did he even realize it? The drow paced back and forth angrily, utterly frustrated. [B]"I told you things no soul on Valucre has ever heard! And you spoon fed me your bullshit!" [/B]

Before either of them knew what was happening flames erupted from his flesh and tiny swirling vortexes orbited around him uncontrollably, yet remained unharmfully small. Zent clenched his fists a moment later, breathing easier now, and both the flames and vortex alike evaporated into the chilly night air of Drakiss. He spun on her, calmer now then he had been since he had arrived. Pain dwelt within his devilish eyes; a pain he was not accustomed to. His confusion about his emotions fed the fires of frustration and so went the vicious cycle within he being. Where a powerful, patient and cool-tempered, respectful leader once possessed his identity, a childish lost man he had become. Raiden had told him to be done with her...finish her or to never set eyes upon Orisia or its queen again...so why could he not follow such simple logic? What about this damned woman kept him coming back? Surely it wasn't the sex for this one was the only woman he had ever encountered unwilling to share such intimate relations with him...yet anyways. It definitely was not the hospitality. This was a never ending thought process to him...he could come up with millions of things that weren't the reasons, but never find the solution.

[B]"I'm a fool."[/B] Zent said quietly, more to himself then to the vampire. Blood red eyes narrowed at her. [B]"You care for nothing but yourself and your standing in the eyes of those who will never understand you Gabriela."[/B]

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[FONT=Garamond]-Poor unfortunate Zent had picked the worst night possible to pick this particular fight with the Black Queen. Still raw from public snub suffered at the hands of the one man she had idiotically believed loved her, her sense of empathy was lacking. So although his confusion was plain as daylight upon his chiseled features, tonight she would not be moved to the same degree of compassion as their previous meeting. And in the end it was his own fault—he yearned for her kindness again, sought out her delicate compassion and the warmth that only her golden eyes had given him. But had he ever offered her the same in return? Had he ever felt even an ounce of compassion for this small woman who stood before him now trembling as her rage threatened to consume her?

He thought himself the epitome of anger? He was a fool then to have so easily overlooked Gabriela’s dejected state when he found her, and the current hopelessness that fed her uncharacteristic wrath. He paced back and forth, turning to her only to spit out vicious accusations—and never one seemed to notice that she was on the verge of tears.

[I]"You Gabriela… Are lucky thousands of my soldiers aren't invading your shores!"[/I]

Gabriela threw her head back and laughed, her small hands finding their way to her sides where she held on to her aching muscles. So potent was her laughter, as maddening in pitch as it was beautiful in sound—it shook her small form terribly. “Oh come off it!” she finally retorted, leveling her golden gaze on his face. “I am so sick of your threats—I am sick of you and every other fucking moron who mistakes my kindness for weakness. You want to attack Orisia? Do it then, stop holding your supposed might over my head as a means to get what you want. You’re no better than a spoiled child. Do it, I’d welcome it,” she drew close, stepped near him, so close in fact that she was peering up into his face. “—My body aches to taste your blood. MY land yearns to taste your flesh,” these words she whispered, soft as the whispers of lover’s sweet-nothings. “Orisia is not as you remember it,” her head tilted, and a hand reached out to touch the very cheek she had struck only moments ago. “Don’t threaten me again—Great Northern General.”

He turned away, continued on with his rambling rant of fuming jealousy.

[I]“How dare you leave me the way you had in MY home, show me just enough affection to keep the peace; dare to pretend to understand me for a moment! Invite me here only to humiliate me in front of your guests!"[/I]

She rolled her eyes, crossed her arms and let out a long exasperated sigh. “If you think my affection for you was just a farce then there’s no reason to continue this conversation. My empathy is not some cheap thing you can use to insult me with. I found your story tragic—my heart ached for your experience.”

[I]"You truly are a monster aren't you?"[/I]

“Yes,” she answered without so much a bat of her long lashes. “I am whatever you want to call me, whatever will allow you to continue living within your strange little fantasy. I am a monster? For not dropping everything and paying attention to you when you stomped your little foot and demanded it? Yet here you have me—alone, suffering your foul accusations and cruel treatment. Oh yes—[I]I am the monster[/I].”

[I]“I’m a fool… You care for nothing but yourself and your standing in the eyes of those who will never understand you Gabriela."[/I]

This was perhaps the worst of his insults for it struck a nerve directly attached to her heart. It was in that moment she realized that she would not convince him of her worry for him. So it was all for nothing. Where she sought to save him from his doomed path as the most hated individual in Genesaris, he refused to leave the post—finding some twisted sort of solace in the title passed down to him from another. How could he not see that he was the face of the Great North, and that the sins of the father would become the sins of the son? He was to be charged with all the bloody history of the Great North’s transgressions against Genesaris, and here he stood threatening one of the smallest nations within the continent. If he could not see the foolishness in his actions then he was a lost cause.

Gabriela took a small step back and tried hard to hide the hurt expression that crossed over her face. The blood tears that welled up in her eyes were born of anger rather than sadness. She cared little if HE personally liked her—but it wounded her deeply that he so openly disregarded her character even after having felt the effects of her kindness first hand. She had sought to understand him when no one else had—she and she alone had imagined there was more to him than all the sea of enemies that would rise against him.

And he was pushing her away.

Slowly her head shook, and her eyes drifted away from his face to the darkness of the gardens that surrounded them. Her defensive pose changed—her hands went from tight fists to open cups that rubbed at her bare shoulders as if she were cold. She could no longer look upon his face.

“You're right--no one will ever understand me. But I understand you. You’re just like all the others. Your own pain taught you nothing.”

She turned away and headed back toward the castle, meaning to leave him behind.-
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[B][I]“You're right--no one will ever understand me. But I understand you. You’re just like all the others. Your own pain taught you nothing.”[/I][/B] None of Gabriela's words seemed to phase the drow in the slightest...until she spoke these venomous words. The anger and pain in her beautiful face was obvious through their discussion, and there was no doubt in his mind that his was as well, but were his feelings reasonable...or harshly and strictly egotistical? His anger flushed from his dark face immediately as she spun around and stormed off. Her words echoed in his mind and revelations, realizations and truth hit him in a mere second. It was like a child conceding with realization that they had done something morally wrong. Suddenly Gabriela's slap, lingering through the argument, stung his face. An ebony hand came up and he held it against his cheek looking in awe and disbelief, red eyes wide as he watched her elegant frame departed the scene.

Zent'Yazgos of House Rivendell was a fierce leader! He commanded all of the Great Northern armies with an iron fist, and men and women throughout all of Genasaris feared his name! He was the embodiment of power in his country, and a godsend to his underlings. His experienced and cool mind calculated every aspect of every scenario before delving into the depths of politics. Zent was a warrior, an evolved drow fighter of impossible feats! Well over three centuries of life molded his seemingly infinite wisdom...but alas, the majority of those years were in a place detached from this world. The Underdark was a place of horrors where one must be merciless and unforgiving; where one must trust no soul and watch his own back from every imaginable angle...where males were nothing but expendable fodder for the females were the true children of their damned deity Lolth. Zent watched Gabriela retreat horrified of what he may have done. The surface was a place he had very much adapted to, but there were many things still left to learn. Gabriela was not a female drow, in fact if she were she'd be dead...nor was she just another ordinary woman. She was the one woman whom he had more respect for than any other he had ever met. The Black Queen neither looked down upon him as if his life was worthless nor fear him and obey his every word. They were equals and it was about time he had found such a woman he could call...friend? Acquaintance? Foe? Rival? Lover?

He had been a fool. Zent berated himself shamefully for allowing his inner egotistical fury to come between his reasoning. He was a powerful leader, and though he very much hated the political aspect of his title, he was good at it. He always kept a cool head and superior stature. How could he have become so jealous? How could he have acted so childish? If his ebony face could turn red it surely would have out of the fury he directed upon himself. He could not let her go. [B]"Gabriela..."[/B] He called loudly enough for her to hear, but without the anger and frustrations of his previously exchanged words. [B]"Don't go."[/B] The drow tried his hardest not to give her the upper hand. He tried his hardest not to sound weak in her eyes for he had been weak in the eyes of females all his life no matter how much he had proven his worth. She was important to him.

A deep exhaled breath would quietly escape his mouth as he tried to find words to turn the situation around. The drow commander took a few steps toward the vampyress, [B]"You're right. There's much I have left to learn."[/B] He said sincerely as he stepped even closer. [B]"I have never met anyone whom I could confide in...and I have never met a woman who could make me go mad like that."[/B] Zent stepped even closer. [B]"I understand the importance of a political social gathering."[/B] He paused, fighting for the right words. [B]"I merely felt your priorities were misplaced, but i hope we can move past this."[/B] He stepped closer, and regret burned within his devilish red orbs. [B]"But I assure you, I am like nobody you have ever met."[/B] He figured that would be a good place to stop, and lifted one hand into the air harmlessly. The fiery flower he had given to her drifted from her black hair aflame with brilliant colors, and it hovered half her arm's length from her eyes, ever so slowly spinning in midair.

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[FONT=Garamond][box]Irene Gabriela DuGrace[/box]

[I]“Gabriela…don’t go”[/I]

It struck at her heart like the cry of a small child. Such a needful sound, a sad and pitiful cry—for compassion, understanding, perhaps even love. And it took a great deal of self control not to stop and turn to gaze upon the creature that called out to her with so much need. But she knew this was no child—Zent’Yazgos was a grown man, at the head of a country that had not so very long ago devastated her own. If his weakness was his frail psyche then he was a danger not only to Orisia, but to the rest of Genesaris. He lashed out at her no better than a rabid animal, utterly mad with its own pain, and worse of all, demanding the attentions of one with a sea of responsibilities. No, she could not turn back to him for this was the moment of decision, this was the moment that would define their relationship—and one way or another Zent would have to learn that it was not enough to stomp his foot and hold his breath in order to get what he wanted.

This was a savage world where men often took what they wanted by sheer force. Conversation—diplomacy was seen as a weakness. She had only to think of Roen and of his own proud plans for that place—what had he called it? Marlboro Keep—that was it. The memory was so raw and fresh in her mind, for a number of reasons. She had suggested diplomacy to the devil, had wondered aloud why he did not offer protection, a join in alliances, a join in nation before throwing the place into the chaos of war. He’d scoffed at her then, and she had thought it was perhaps because she knew little of this world and therefore of whatever past that existed between his land and theirs. But she had soon seen the error in that line of thinking with his numerous brush-offs. He never valued her opinion, and Zent was posed to follow in much the same path.

Well she was done dealing with such creatures. If Zent would not listen t her and speak to her with the respect due to her position and accomplishments then he would not speak to her at all—and she would play these war games with them, one and all.

[I]“You’re right. There’s much I have to learn.”[/I]

She stopped.

[I]"I have never met anyone whom I could confide in...and I have never met a woman who could make me go mad like that."[/I]

Slowly, as if he were approaching a doe in the forest—afraid that any sudden movements would send her dashing into the thicket, he moved towards her. But she did not run from him, instead she shifted, turned more fully to meet his gaze. Shoulders squared and her head held high, golden eyes fiercely set upon his. He would either recognize her as a woman out to defend her people and country and not as the females of his past who saw him as nothing. She was not against him, she was against what he meant to do to her country should she not comply with him. There was an easy solution, but it would involve calm and collected conversation.

[I]"I understand the importance of a political social gathering…I merely felt your priorities were misplaced, but I hope we can move past this…"But I assure you, I am like nobody you have ever met."[/I]

An elegant brow perked in amusement, not unkindly, but definitely not in agreement. “How you feel should not interfere with how you treat me—if I do not outright offend you, then why would you do the same to me? We could be friends and allies—but you’d be a fool to believe yourself my only friend and ally. I do not dream of holding your attention at every waking moment, and I would not assume you as passive in your endeavors as to think you owe me your whole attention whenever I come before your presence. But you’re right, you are like no one I’ve ever met, by virtue of admitting to your own faults you’re by far a better man than I thought.”

Tension still lingered between them. Until the moment that the wondrous little flame flower appeared again, drifting through the darkness that separated them, twirling happily in a display of radiant colors. Gabriela—though nearly the same age as Zent was by far younger in mind, for she had spent the better part of three centuries sleeping. And her youth was easily revealed in moments like this, when the anger in her eyes faltered and instead filled with wonder. She followed the little flower, tilted her head back to watch it dance high up above her head.

“What a curious little trick,” she said quietly.-
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Zent walked a dangerous line for he knew this meeting between them would make or break their relationship, whatever that was, and so he treaded carefully. The tension between them was slowly dissolving as the anger radiating from them also began to evaporate. Cruel harsh words were often spoken out of anger and frustration no matter what race or gender one belonged to. The drow knew that truth without a doubt, and had thought to have mastered controlling his feeble emotions long ago. His race, more specifically the damned female drow, were a vicious sort. The only thing that seemed to appease their anger was torturing those who, by fault or not, incited it. Most often than not it was a male, and simple conversation was simply out of the question...not like now. Gabriela respected him, and he saw clearly that her anger's inception came from her disappointment in him. With this revelation seeping into comprehension, Zent lowered his gaze disappointed in himself. He had gotten possessed with emotion resulting in childish behavior, but not all was lost. There was clearly room for redemption in this relationship where there had never been before.

His mind went racing back to his youth among his kin. One of House Rivendell's priestesses had been assigned to him so that he may learn the ways of life in their dark world. Zent had excelled at everything she taught him, therefore cruelty and discipline was never necessary nor did he suffer from it. It his young eyes she had been good to him, and as a child might believe, he thought she cared for him. On occasion she had taken him to bed with her and even then she embraced the skills he possessed rather than controlling his every move in an act that served no other purpose than to please her. In a way she had contradicted everything she had taught him about their way of life so when he had discovered her sleeping with another...well, recent behavior came to mind. He killed the man and she had tortured him immensely for it. Their time together from that moment on dwindled as the days passed until one day, she stopped mentoring him. He had seen her many times through various phases of his young life, though few and far between as he was trained in an academy outside the House, and on one of those occasions he was foolish enough to try and engage her in conversation. Instead the harsh reality of drow life had greeted him. His heart had broken and when finally cruelty, hatred, disgust and anger had mended it back together that innocent young man was gone forever.

Gabriela was nothing like his kind. She was honest and respectful, and that truth was difficult for the drow commander to comprehend. Though he had now spent a few decades upon Valucre's surface, a solid truth had hit him hard this night. He did have a lot left to learn. His smile then was genuine, for he had never met anyone like this curious creature. She stood in the moonlight and her soft radiant skin revealed her beauty in full. The flower he had given her on the night he had offered his proposition of marriage came dangling through the air from within her dark locks of hair. It froze in space not a foot or two from her face, halfway between them, twirling on some unseen axis. The fires burning his precious creation to existence was flawless and the colors vivid. Her expression was that of a child seeing something unbelievably magnificent for the first time in their life. That thought nearly made him chuckle aloud for her childish behavior seemed much more acceptable than his own.

[B][I]“What a curious little trick...”[/I][/B] She said quietly while gazing at the magnificence of the thing.

Zent's smile widened just a bit as he pondered his creation with her. He had never really stopped to appreciate little things like this, though the act was simple enough to him. The fires rotating around and attempting to pull the flower skyward yet the thing never budged from its invisible perch in the air. With each failure the flames rolled in on themselves and began anew from beneath creating a never ending piece of art. The green flames of the stem and leaves danced as if a breeze tickled a precious plant rooted in the dirt. His red eyes met Gabriela's golden gaze and he broke the silence. [B]"Not a trick."[/B] He explained. [B]"A gift."[/B] In response to their exchanged words he raised his hand harmlessly and lit it with the same faerie fire that the flower was derived from. The flames encompassed around his black flesh cycled through many colors with but a thought and he drew designs in the air as the fires lingered from his hand. They evaporated into nothing seconds later and he curled his hand into a fist to put the fires out. [B]"That flower is a living breathing thing Gabriela,"[/B] he explained further to her. [B]"It belongs to you, and is well accustomed to you and only you. If you wish it to appear so it does; if you wish it to dance, so it will..."[/B] He paused then to study the expression upon her face. [B]"If you wish it to die...it will be gone forever. It is yours to do as you see fit Gabriela, and could come in handy as well in various scenarios."[/B] Zent went on and on and decided he was speaking far too much about something that wasn't necessarily vital at the moment. Or was it? It was the one thing that had calmed her temper and stole her thoughts after all. The drow moved in closer, intimately, and studied the two for they both possessed unnatural beauty. His next words were meant to break any remnants of tension and move their conversation forward.

[B]"Have you named it yet?"[/B] He said amusingly.

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[FONT=Garamond][box]Irene Gabriela DuGrace[/box]

Hardly aware that the Northern General had taken advantage of her diminished awareness, Gabriela did not immediately move away when he drew closer. Instead, her pretty face remained tilted toward the warm light that came from the dancing fire-flower. A warm orange-red glow caressed her features, beautifully tracing the upward-tilted line of her elegant jaw and the column of her slender throat. By the time she finally did shift her gaze to meet the drow’s she was somewhat surprised to see him so very close, looming over her like the midnight shadow of some great tree. With her personal space thoroughly invaded she became somewhat nervous, afraid perhaps of what such nearness might produce.

Zent was a delicate man—Gabriela was becoming distinctly aware of this fact. The chaotic nature of his behavior was not a disguise for some passive and mild interior, no—far from it. A deeper gaze into his troubled eyes revealed a psyche full of cracks. But unlike any other who would see this weakness and squirrel it away as a possible weapon, Gabriela reacted with sympathy. Everyone had their scars, and try as he might to show a strong exterior, Zent was just as broken as everyone else.

The Black Queen offered a weak smile to the man who had conquered her personal space. Knowing now that he was such an emotionally fragile man made her all the more nervous. Being well within range of unwanted physical advances meant that she might offend him yet if she steps away or worse yet if he bends to steal a kiss and she turns away. Already she could hear his furious yelling—and being out here in the gardens alone with him was a dangerous position. The last thing she wanted was a physical altercation—win or lose, Orisia would be the one to suffer for her actions. Still, her hand was still aching from the firmly planted slap she had delivered onto his handsome face.

“A name?” she heard herself say as she turned only enough so that they were not facing one another directly head on. She did not move away, did not expand the distance between their bodies—but she made it a little more difficult to do whatever he might planning to do. It was a subtle message in body language, but one that he would hopefully understand.

Choosing to further avoid the discomfort of his nearly overwhelming presence, she focused on the flower and felt herself greatly calmed. The smile that touched her pale lips was more genuine now, though it was smaller and harder to see. “If it is a living thing—then I shall treasure it and guard it with all my might. But a name—I wouldn’t begin to know what to name it. Since you birthed it, my dear General, why don’t you name it?” The amused tone of his voice allowed her tensions to slowly but surely melt away. It seemed he was in happier spirits than just a few moments ago, and if that was the case then she certainly wanted to keep him content. Glancing sideways at him she grinned, “you make a terrible mother you know, giving away your little fire-babies. But I do love it so, I’ve never seen anything like it General—thank you very much.”
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The drow commander inched his way closer to the Black Queen. Outwardly she seemed to shy away from his closing form, but inwardly she seemed to be distracted by the flower. The latter detail obscured her uneasiness the closer he got, and he admired the way she studied his creation. The flower got closer to Gabriela just as he did until it drifted directly before her stealing her gaze away from the drow. The grin he wore upon his black face was not mischevious now, but rather sincere. Someone admired his work for once...work that had nothing to do with bloodshed....although it occurred to him that such a creature as Gabriela might actually enjoy that particular bit as well. The thought nearly made him chuckle quietly aloud, but he swallowed the laugh along with the thought and inched yet again, a little bit closer to the woman that drove him mad from the inside out.

[B]"It is not mine to name Gabriela,"[/B] he said quietly. "[B]It belongs to you, and though my creation, I am not keen on stealing that bond you might share with it." [/B] Zent spoke the words softly, each word rolling from his tongue in the exotic accent of his race and equally as enchanting as any other elf. When he was but a foot away he stopped closing the distance between them and watched her as she continued to lose herself with the cycling, flowing movements of the flower's flames. His starch white brows furrowed as he contemplated on what to say next. What was he feeling? How could he express himself in a way to this woman that would change her perspective of him? For the first time in his long life he didn't want to be intimidating or overpowering. Zent didn't want Gabriela to see him as the stone cold killer he was, or the brutal leader his people inevitably knew him to be. Zent didn't want Gabriela to judge him for all the wrongs that had transpired in his life, innocent or guilty; victim or predator. It was strange, but he found himself hoping she would see the hoplessness in his heart. He desired no sympathy from her, perhaps empathy, but most of all he only wished for her comprehension of who he was deep down. Not a soul on Valucre knew who he truly was, not even Raiden. Gabriela was the first person he wished to introduce himself to.

[B]"I want you Gabriela."[/B] Zent suddenly blurted, and regrettably at that. [B]"I don't know what it is, but I have never desired anything more in my life. For the first time I care about protecting something fragile. I want nobody to know me like you do...nobody ever has."[/B] It hurt Zent to admit such things for they made him feel vulnerable inside and out. Vulnerability was not welcome in his heart and soul, but he found himself wanting more and more to feel these foreign emotions with his Black Queen. Suddenly he felt the urge to lean in and kiss her, and for the first time he feared the action. He was correct with his assessment that their relationship, whatever it was, was indeed fragile. The simplest thing like a kiss could shatter the connection they shared, and he would be damned before that happened. His face was frozen in an awkward lean toward her own pale and gracious features. The flower discreetly lowered to her side revealing his intent, and his fear to continue.

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[FONT=Garamond][box]Irene Gabriela DuGrace[/box]

[I]The gift of life[/I]—Gabriela mused as she watched the little flower twirl one last time before Zent’s shadow was cast over them both. Suddenly, the small flame flickered and shifted, and returned to the queen’s side, lingering for just a moment upon her left shoulder before disappear into the lush sheets of her black hair. It settled, like the constant warm exhalation of a lover’s sleeping breath, against the back of her neck. There it provided the icy woman with some semblance of heat, which was much needed due to her current state of health. Again she had gone too many nights without feeding, and again it was the temperature of her body that bore the strongest amount of proof to her total lack of self-preservation.

Perhaps that was the reason that she turned fully to him now. After having tried to avoid the closeness he had been bent on achieving—by producing odd and strange distractions, now she turned completely and unabashedly to him. The pale hue of her moonlit face shone against his black features, caressed the prominent edges of his cheekbones and the narrow bridge of his nose. By the light of her own flesh she studied the seemingly permanent scow that caused the General’s brows to pinch and his lips to form a severe line—as if he were in distress.

His confession did not faze her, though she could honestly say she had not been expecting to hear such words. In her heart, she was certain that he would try something more aggressive—that he would, like so many others did, violate her will with strength. And as he imagined, it would have indeed broken the frail connection that they had established.

But this was different. This was an honestly unlike any she had experienced with any man in Valucre, and it caught her so off guard that she could only look up into his face with a mixture of fascination and doubt—and then sadness. He paired his confession with a further truth that somehow removed the sting of his odd declaration of feelings. Though he had not said that he loved her, only that he wanted her—whatever that was supposed to mean, he had also stated that he wanted her to know him. And she could relate to the sentiment, because it wasn’t so long ago that she had wanted to give the same gift to someone else.

Above them the breeze picked up and caused the canopy of trees to shuffle. The sound was lovely and quiet, but still overwhelming in the silence that stretched out between them as he waited—wide eyed, exposed, and heart wrenchingly vulnerable. Her eyes dropped, and she lowered her head, “I don’t even belong to myself,” she said simply, “I cannot belong to you, or anyone else.” Then there was a very small shrug of her shoulders, and there was something undeniably broken in her own confession. “I will gladly know you, hear your secrets, and be your friend. My body? You could even have that if you wanted it,” she said somewhat defeated, “—but if you are asking for more, I cannot give it to you.”

Once more she looked up, into his expectant face, and prepared herself to see anger or pain. His honesty had moved her to reveal her own secrets. Perhaps if he knew and understood, then he would comprehend that it was not for lack of admiration and attraction that she was not wooed by his advances. He was very simply too late—her heart belonged to someone else.

“The truth is—I’ve nothing to give but friendship to give. I have no heart.”
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The night was calm and the wind was still. Many of the guests had made their leave or lingered within the castle's walls still. There was no other sound than that of Gabriela's breath between words. The dark elf withdrew his awkward stance halfway to a kiss and took her frail form in completely. Her words were a slap to his face for she was the strongest woman he had ever met, but right now before him she had let her guard down. The brick wall that sheltered her weaknesses and her despair via recent emotional trauma had come crumbling down before him...of all people the Black Queen was trusting him with her vulnerabilities. A slight nod, perhaps even unnoticed, came over Zent for he believed he understood what was transpiring, apart from the two of them completely and utterly exchanging their vulnerabilities with one another. It was odd that one would enjoy this moment in any way with Gabriela so sad, and it wasn't that factor that welcomed the feeling either. It was the simple truth that apart from their differences, similarities, countries' histories, and obvious contradicting political views, she had returned the respect that he had given her and equally revealed buried emotions and a side unseen by any other. Despite the satisfaction that gave him, the situation was on a whole other level. Gabriela spoke ill of herself and only one thing could possibly make a woman of her strength and dignity to speak out so foolishly.

Zent stepped up to her and nearly embraced her but stopped short...silence fell over them and he felt her pain. Where Gabriela suffered from loss, he had never experienced love or companionship...true sincere companionship. It was the way of life among his kind that connected him here and now to Gabriela's condition. Though there was the time with the priestess whom inadvertently stirred up emotions within his once young and innocent heart, Zent had suffered emotionally for the majority of his life in the Underdark. [B]"Nonsense."[/B] He whispered. [B]"However faint it may be, I can hear your heart's beat."[/B] Slowly, watching her expression all the while not wanting to ruin this precious moment between them, he placed his hand over her cold left breast. [B]"You have a heart Gabriela..."[/B] Zent paused and slowly retracted his hand as to respect her space but show he cared. [B]"Allow me to strike down the one who broke it?"[/B] His request was more to show her he understood than it was serious however, he would take great pleasure in watching the devil suffer horribly nonetheless. She had said he could have her body and there was a time he would have ignored her despair and simply numbed it between the sheets, but for the first time he could not act on his lustful desires. Watching her hurt the way she did made him want to fix it for the better and for her benefit...not just his. [B]"His loss I say."[/B] Zent reached under her chin and ever so gently tilted it upward so that she could look into his red irises.

[B]"You deserve better Gabriela."[/B] He spoke softly to her, treating the entire situation more fragile than anything he had ever known. [B]"I can't say that I have ever felt your immediate pain, but I have suffered loss and you'll realize that truth some day. I apologize for being so forward with you a moment ago."[/B] The drow withdrew his hand from her chin and stepped back one step. [B]"I knew not of your situation, but if you would allow me, I would like to help however I can." [/B]

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[FONT=Garamond][box]Irene Gabriela DuGrace[/box]

The emotional severity of the moment was lightened by his offer to strike down the one who had hurt her. While she had attempted to be cryptic, it seemed that Zent was far more observant than she had given him credit for. In her mind, she was thankful that he did not seem to know who she was talking about—but of course he did. Everyone had seen her affection and devotion for the Devil, everyone but the Devil himself. Still, it was a kind mercy to her already wounded ego to not hear his name spoken aloud. The offer made her smile, not because she could ever wish for any harm to befall the man she had given her heart to, but rather because it seemed like such a common solution to nearly any problem—the promise of violence. Retribution seemed to be the law of the land across Valucre, and it unsettled her for the most part, but here—in the safety of the dark gardens, and besides a man whom she was growing to trust more and more, she noted it to be a jest and nothing more.

And so Gabriela’s small smile did much to change her previously broken expression.

[i] "I knew not of your situation, but if you would allow me, I would like to help however I can." [/i]

Suddenly her breath caught in her throat and a lump of emotion rose between her breasts, there in the place where he had touched only moments ago. It was thick and painful, and it caused her to reach up—to touch the icy flesh exposed by the low cut of her simple black gown. Slowly, her lips parted, and a trembling breath passed through them. Her eyes grew wet with crimson tears, but he would not see this because her head hung and a curtain of black hair fell on either side of her face, hiding away the ugly sight of her pungent sorrow.

“Everyone thinks that I have it all—but it’s so empty living behind these castle walls.
If I should tumble, if I should fall, would anyone hear me screaming behind these castle walls?
There’s no one here at all—behind these castle walls.”

They were the words of a song, an old melody she had brought with her from another world. And he would be the first, and more than likely the last, to know that these were the words that ran through her mind constantly—that the beautiful façade, that the poise and elegance, was not but a shell—the walls of a magnificent structure. But inside it was empty.

She was empty.

“No one knows I am all alone.”

She seemed to stumble, but had in fact only moved to turn away. And then her back was turned to him, and her face lifted to gaze toward the moon, which now pierced through a small clearing in the canopy of trees. Silver light bathed her face, and masked the blackness of the tears that ran down the length of her cheeks. For a moment, perhaps she could look normal—and the bloody mess that left twin ribbons across her porcelain flesh could be mistaken for the simple sorrow of a broken heart. Maybe—just maybe, she wouldn’t look like a hideous monster. But with Zent, who was nearly as different as she was, she felt like it didn’t matter. Perhaps he wouldn’t mind the strangeness of the sight, or perhaps he would be disgusted by it and would turn away—go away, leave her alone.

Suddenly that’s all she wanted.

To be alone.

Alone was familiar. Alone was [I]safe[/I].

She sank, her knees growing weak, from hunger and emotional strain. Down she went, no better than a castle of glass after it was struck by a viciously flung stone. Onto her knees, where her hands fell to her sides, listless and exhausted—but a purging sob erupted from her, causing her entire frame to shake, before she doubled over holding her chest. Zent was right—there was still a heart in her chest, and much to her horror, it continued to beat after having been ravaged. The Devil had bitten into it, shaken it between his teeth like a rabid beast, and left nothing but a hideously mangled thing. And now it beat slow and weak, and poured more blood into the cavity of her chest than into her limbs.

The force of that single sob had stolen her strength. Now she was free to sulk forward, to catch her face in her hands and to weep bitterly and freely. But she had no words, she had no way to explain it to Zent—who was unfortunate enough to bear witness to this emotional breakdown. [I]Oh! But she did not care![/I] She did not care if he saw, if he told everyone, if he laughed or if he thought her weak.

She [I]had [/I]been weak…

She [I]had [/I]trusted him—she [I]had [/I]believed him.

[I]Everything[/I]—she had nearly given him [I]everything[/I].

She was hurt, she was [i]hurting[/i], and she wanted someone—anyone, to see that, to recognize it, and to make the pain a real and substantial thing. For hours now she had been carrying this agony around, numb to it by the coldness of her starved body, but now the fire of it all burnt through her interior.

“No one hears me—no one even sees [I]me[/I].”

[spoiler][video=youtube_share;Z0dF6TvkcvU]http://youtu.be/Z0dF6TvkcvU[/video] [/spoiler]
[/FONT]

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Zent was faced with something he had never dealt with before. The drow didn't even know how to react to such things for where he spent the majority of his life heart brake and love held no meaning. She turned away from him and crouched down low while she spoke of loneliness and the emptiness of her responsibilities. She made the leadership role seem so bitter and cruel and nearly placed an equally large lump in his throat, but he shook it off. She must be overwhelming herself with duty instead of delegating tasks to trustworthy companions. The drow couldn't imagine taking responsibility for every single bit of business concerning the Great North, or not having the men and women to delegate those responsibilities to. He stepped closer to the woman he so desired unsure of what to say or do. Why did he care? It was strange he was standing here concerned for the woman he should be facing off against in the heat of battle to reclaim the land his great nation fought to devour all those years ago. He shook his head slightly just now reflecting on the fact that they were now allies and any harm that came to her or Orisia he would be obligated to come to her aid. What had transpired? It registered for the first time as well that their allegiance was solely decided by the affection he felt toward her. A woman who would most likely never share the affection he felt tied their nations together. Zent's draw dropped with the revelation and how foolish it sounded, but as he looked at her curved back and heard her honest sad words, he didn't care.

[B]"Gabriela,"[/B] Zent said softly. [B]"You aren't alone."[/B] He stated clearly in his exotic accent. He let the silence linger for a moment. [B]"I see you. You are all I've seen since the night we met...so much so that I am lacking as the leader of my country. I see you Gabriela."[/B] The drow elf stepped up behind the lonely queen and placed an ebony hand upon her cold shoulder. [B]"I understand exactly where you are coming from. When people see me they either fear for their lives or discriminate against me. They know me for the ruthlessness of my race and never once has anyone ever attempted to know me...except for you. You aren't alone...I am sorry I don't know what to do..."[/B]

He knew he had said too much, that she knew too much, but he didn't care at all. He couldn't understand what he felt when it came to her or why he cared of her sadness. He didn't understand why he was trying to pull her out of whatever depression she was in...why he cared. He wanted her body pressed against his own...he wanted her cold breath moaning against his black skin as her naked back arched in his bed. She had offered her body to him and rather than taking that opportunity when he had it, he hadn't even acknowledged the offer. Instead he continued to walk a very fragile and dangerous line between enemy and lover, both borne of powerful emotions. The dark elf wanted to mend her for reasons he couldn't fathom.

[B]"Gabriela, let someone take some of your burden for a while..."[/B] Then something hit him. There had been a handful of meetings between the two of them, but apart from her sudden break down, she had never seemed so weak. Zent knew it wasn't just the overwhelming responsibility that ate away at her. [B]"When was the last time you fed?"[/B] He asked sternly, now more concerned than ever. He walked around her and looked upon her blood soaked face. At first he was horrified unsure of whether she was injured or not herself. [B]"Gabriela!"[/B] It soon became obvious that the blood was her tears and the more she cried the weaker she became...it was obvious she hadn't fed in ages and that fact along with her overwhelming stress and worries was beginning to weigh on her immensely. [B]"Here,"[/B] he said voice cracking with a new unknown emotion of his own. Zent lifted his wrist and cut it open right before her eyes and got down low right up next to her. His other arm cradled her in close to him as he brought the gushing wrist to her lips. If there was one thing he knew for sure about this entire encounter was that she was weak, and the weaker she became the less she would overcome her stress and so on and so forth. All the while Zent wondered where he'd be if the Orisia report never came across his desk. Edited by Zent

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[FONT=Garamond][box]Irene Gabriela DuGrace[/box]

Disgust, pungent, sharp, and overwhelming, struck her so hard that she nearly lost her bearings. Suddenly she felt herself become something so wretchedly weak and ugly that if she could have, she would have abandoned herself—walked away never to return. More than anything she wanted to leave behind this thing she had become! How loathsome she found her skin, how sickeningly marred she had become due to the weakness of her heart. She was not the first woman to be betrayed by a man—and she would not be the last! The fact that she was so astounded and so wounded by the whole event did not reflect poorly on the man who had hurt her, but on her own weak composition to be so struck to the very core by his behavior.

She remembered an old friend, a kind man who had offered her advice she had understood but had never agreed with. He had told her to hold no expectations, for anyone, especially those she loved. He told her to love for the sake of love, without needed anything in return. And while she had agreed that it was ideal and perhaps even morally correct, realistically no one person could achieve such selflessness. Who would love without expecting something in return? Respect, support—kindness? And what had she expected—loyalty and unconditional acceptance, neither of which was given, but all of which was promised.

Gabriela groaned as she continued to think this over—looking at the tragedy of her short-lived romance from every which angel, over and over! She was sick of it, sick of herself, sick of it all.

Zent was speaking, and his words resonated with her because they—like that friend from long ago, were sound and spoken earnestly. He moved around her, crouched near her, and looked upon her face. She heard the horror in his voice, and winced internally for she knew that he was disgusted and distraught by the sight of the blood. Because of this she attempted to turn away, to hide her face from his sight. There was no greater discomfort for Gabriela than causing discomfort to others because of her bodily functions and needs.

To her horror, Zent had zeroed in on the main source of her weakness—not emotional turmoil, or from the stress of her position as Queen. He’d taken hold of her, pulling her close to him as he cut into the black flesh of his wrist—opening his skin like some exotic fruit. The blood poured out, it painted his flesh in the moonlight and made her shudder with a mixture of lust and disgust. He moved the bleeding wrist towards her, and she caught him, pressing her cold fingers against his flesh and hiding the wound.

“You don’t understand what you’re offering,” she said harshly, glaring up at him with suddenly furious gold eyes. And then she considered it—if she took his blood she would have the upper-hand, she would learn things about him, she would understand his magic, his very being. For a brief moment she struggled with this, and wondered about her generosity in denying him the risk of giving up such precious information. But she could not, and would not, deny what she was—or punish him for his kindness.

“You’d be bound to me,” she said slowly, pushing his wrist away. “I would know you—in ways you may not be prepared to share. And there is nothing I could offer you in return that could grant you such an insight into my own being. It would not be fair—I can’t take your blood Zent.”
[/FONT]

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Zent heard Gabriela's caution and weighed it heavily in his thoughts. For some reason or another he had slit open his flesh for her to feed upon...the High Commander of a once feared enemy nation sacrificing his own blood for a queen who was too stubborn to fulfill her own needs. Zent cared enough to offer her a means to regain her strength through his own pain and he wondered how far he had fallen at the very moment she allowed him to reconsider the generous, if not ultimately stupid, offer. As the leader of his great nation he had a duty to protect the people, as little that he actually cared for them, and avoid situations that could compromise the sensitive intel he shared with Coastal Grande's council. A long drawn out pause lingered between them as reality returned to his senses. It was so easy to become tangled in some sort of fantasy when he was alone with Gabriela, as if for a short time he could escape the cruelty of the world and abandon the responsibilities of leadership. For some reason she supplied an escape; a way to feel free and that was a very dangerous thing. This single meeting alone between the two of them had him walking so many dangerous lines for various things at various angles. However he looked at it, he would gain or maintain one thing while wounding or losing another. The drow's scarlet orbs lingered upon the open wound he wore on his wrist and doubt slowly found its way in beneath his skin as blood flowed freely from it.

Taros, his most trusted mage, placed protective dweamors and enchantments upon his person daily for such things as this, and though they had taken affect when he had allowed Gabriela's sister feed upon him, he had doubts that they would work with a creature as powerful as the Black Queen. Of course Zent had his own protections as well both magical and innate, could he risk the potential damage allowing another leader of a potential future enemy inside his head so freely? Surely if Gabriela shared the desire for him that he has openly admitted having for her things might be different and over time she may learn much of him...but in that scenario he would tell her and she was telling him now that to feed upon his blood she would simply know more than he would ever offer her. Those fiery eyes met her gaze once more and he could see nothing staring back upon him. There was no remorse, no deceitfulness, or even conniving present there...but could he take the risk? Suddenly the drow elf felt noxious and remembered how it felt to feel uncontrollably vulnerable...something he would forevermore live with if she knew him inside and out...if she knew every crevice of his many layered and dark twisted life...his secrets and personal endeavors. Surely he could trust Gabriela but as he looked into her not so bright eyes, he knew that no matter how close the two of them became that her duty as Orisia's queen would forever and always outweigh her personal feelings or relationships. Even if she was ever to accept him and embrace him for the man he is deep inside while ignoring the monster the majority of Genasaris saw him as she wouldn't allow herself the pleasure of his embrace...especially if she knew all there was to know of him.

How would the council, particularly Councilman Desh, take the news if ever they were to hear of this moment? Surely there would be a price upon his head or a civil war among their own country. These revelations pained him greatly for as he looked into her weak eyes truly knowing deep down that she needed to feed, he understood the truth that he could not give her his blood...at least not at this particular time in their lives. He made a mental note then and there that if ever they were to remain close and even perhaps grow closer over the years that someday when he abandoned his post, or beliefs that he would reconsider this offer to her. So entranced and engrossed in these thoughts was Zent that he didn't even think about attempting to hide his feelings regarding everything that was transpiring. Pain soaked over all his senses, and anguish and frustrations grew at the edges. He knew he did not love Gabriela for he did not believe in such a thing. He truly believed such things did not exist in anything other than hollow words and emotional needs of all mortal beings. Love was the most foreign and false idea to have ever reached his pointed ebony ears. Regardless of this firm belief, he could not deny he felt a burning desire to know Gabriela and to share that passion with her both physically and emotionally, but he conceded that if ever such a thing were to transpire that it wouldn't be any time soon unless he sacrificed a future relationship for the simplicity of the act which she had offered him just moments before. No, there was far too much on the line and at stake for Zent to give away freely for something he hoped would occur at some point. He wished there was another way, he truly did and she would see that clearly upon his dark handsome features but he couldn't take that chance...not now.

Zent's starch white hair hung low as his face dropped breaking their locked gaze, and with nothing but a wave of one gloved hand over his open wound the cut healed in mere seconds. [B]"I am sorry Gabriela..."[/B] Zent said more sincerely than anything he had said to her before. [B]"Thank you for not taking the advantage..."[/B] Zent's words grew weaker as he spoke. [B]"Perhaps some day you'll know me more than I know me,"[/B] he smiled, [B]"I only hope you might allow me the chance to show you. It can't be like this, you do understand?"[/B] Zent leaned back in close to her regret hanging from his face. [B]"Forget about him. He doesn't deserve you."[/B] Then, if she allowed it and remained still, the drow leaned farther in and softly kissed her cool lips for a mere couple seconds and slowly pulled away while wiping the blood from her pale face. [B]"I'll be back with another means for you to regain your strength."[/B] With that being said Zent stood up facing her the whole way to his full height and began backing away...then tuned his back on her to make his leave.

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