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I will call you home.

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QjcAoZq.png“Every day, more come through our gates, Maharaja.”

Desmond stood tall next to the bent old man whose words were grating against the years. Time has treated the old mage well enough, taking away his sight and curving his spine; he looked like an old tree that's weathered more than one storm. The young man liked the older gentleman, he never has minced words on Desmond’s behalf and has treated the Maharaja with the amount of respect he so deserves. It wasn't necessary since it was the mage’s son who died to give Desmond the seat as ruler.

And what a burden it has proven to be. He walked into a catastrophe that's left his people desperate for help. While he has the correct credentials to rule, the young man has never given himself over to duty, to put his namesake to use. It had been an oddity at first, but as the days drug on and the people clamored to him, he grew accustomed to the title - the burden. The weight of his responsibilities anchored him to this land he now calls home and refuge.

“There is a speck of hope, Greatness. In all this darkness your sister has given us light.”

A look of complete adoration swept across the face of the Maharaja as he's handed a bundle of sweetness. Gently, as to not disturb the sleeping babe, he sat down on a marble bench. A gloved finger curved against the pinked cheek that was still freckled with angry dark spots. They may never go away, or the child may never live long enough to worry about its vanity, but their fading was a sign of success, and that's enough to give them all some hope.

“He is the first child to show improvement,” the old man grunted. Some are too hurt by the lack of success to give all their hope into one circumstance.

“But not the last, certainly.”

A small hand stretched outside the red bundle to grab a fistful of Desmond’s silk sherwani. The beautiful green-blue fabric decorated in an elaborate floral pattern looked more expensive compared to the rags the child was wrapped in.

The sick have come from all around to the Mumbai Temple, where treatment for their sickness has finally begun. Cosima and Juni have worked tirelessly to give these people hope, and it looks like they've finally started to produce a cure. His heart beats hard against his chest while he looks down at the child, the bittersweetness of the moment reflected in his dark eyes. This babe isn't cured, he will still die, but he will not live in pain. For now, it will do - it has to. He is surrounded by families desperately trying to hold on; inside the golden walls of the Temple, they listen to the hymns of the healers, drawing strength from their words.

“We will speak later my Greatness.”

The slow tapping of the old man’s cane echoed through the temple as he parted ways. Desmond drew some comfort to the familiarity of the sound for his cane made the same tune, but was far more extravagant than the mages. In the beginning, Desmond had tried to hide his limp, confident that the people of Kalopsia would never bend for a broken man. His leg is a shame he lugs around, even though there are ways to rid of it, he chooses to keep it. His people cared little that he was broken, for they are just as so and see a kindred spirit in their ruler.

“Where will you go, little one, lost to me in sleep?” He sang quietly to the sleeping babe, holding him close to his face, where their cheeks rubbed together. “Seek truth in a forgotten land, deep within your heart."

Edited by Aleksei

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"Never fear little one, wherever you shall go," 

The approaching steps had been all but silent, the tall man approaching on incredibly light feet for someone of his stature. The deep tenor flowing from his lips had just the right amount of rasp to it, lending heart to the somber lullaby. His steps were measured precisely to the rhythm. 

"I will call you home," 

The steps neared until they were directly behind the Maharaja, then paused. A weighted silence hung in the space between the two men; the room had grown warmer, thickening the air. The intruder leaned down so that his lips were almost touching Desmond's ear. 

"I will call you hoooo-oh my flaming stars, get-that-baby-away-from-your-face!" Hasan's voice snapped out of its rumbling depths to scold his friend, shattering whatever suave illusion he had been hoping to create. A gentle but firm hand guided the Maharaja's arms down, bringing the baby away from his soft cheeks and, gods be damned- his mucous membranes! Although he did not remove his grip from Desmond's forearm for fear of it springing back toward his face, Hasan placed his other hand on the young ruler's shoulder. "I certainly do not know what kinds of disease fester in that frozen hell you call home, but here in Kalopsia, germs tend to spread." Only after he was certain Desmond wouldn't continue on kissing babies did the Raj release his hold. His dark gaze bored into his friend's starry eyes, conveying a clear message: don't even think about it!

Hasan turned away from his king of sorts, clasping his hands behind his back as he began to pace the room in slow, measured strides. "Honestly, it's a wonder you aren't already six feet under, my Maharaja," he teased, his voice carrying no hint of a threat despite the foreboding words. The man paused, turning back to look upon the sleeping infant. "It is a wonder this child, too, lives." The past several months had been a massacre, staining his homeland with vomit and bile and blood. Every day he heard mothers wailing in their homes, quaking arms cradling lifeless children, unable to cope with the irreparable shattering of maternal hopes and dreams. Every day another warrior in his court succumbed in a puddle of their own shit, losing their right to die in glory on the battlefield. Every day his friends, neighbors, aunts, uncles - his people- grew a little more lifeless in the face of mortal illness. On some days, it was all Hasan could do not to burst into tears. When his eyes met Desmond's once more, they were filled with staggering grief- but through the darkness shone a small, persistent spark. 

"Against all odds, your sister is succeeding." 

Hasan grinned a bit, reaching a hand up to fiddle with his incredibly glamorous mustache; his gaze playfully darted away. "Tell me, are all of your sisters so irritatingly marvelous? I shan't rest until I've charmed them all." Desmond's history was wrought with heartbreak and sorrow, but, from Hasan's understanding, his love for his sisters had never once wavered. It was one of many qualities the Raj admired in his superior, though he would never care to admit it. "This is more hope than we've allowed ourselves for a long time. His parents wish to communicate their gratitude, but have little to offer you." The Raj held his breath, coming to stand directly in front of his sovereign and the babe. He crouched down so that he was level with the child, and looked up at the Maharaja. "They're naming him after you, Desmond."

Edited by roboblu

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He had once made the terrible mistake of telling the Raj he smelled like cardamon, and that it was one of his few favorite scents. Leoa would often pepper the scent through the castle, giving it a sense of welcoming and warmth in a land that is so aptly named. The Cold South is a harsh and beautiful place where the people have grown to love the harshness and appreciate the cold beauty that is their home. With his mother bringing the sun with her from across the seas, Desmond would often yearn for such warmth and welcome as a young child who had known nothing other than winter. 

Leoa filled his head with stories of flowers and grass, of hills covered in greenery and mountains full of rocky edges and tall trees. She is to blame for his wandering ways. His father, well, he is to blame for much inside the mind and heart of the man no longer boy. While there is always going to be the sting of malice towards the man, it will always be the balm of understanding that'll keep the wound of hate from festering further. This stubborn pride is not the other thing harboring him.

Taking in a deep, penetrating breath, he allowed Hasan's grief to wash over him, along with the man's familiar scent. It is this grief and persistence to stand against the odds that keep the Maharaja from taking a final dip in the surrounding seas. They've gotten so far with just this small amount; there is no way they can falter now. He would do his sister's hard work justice and continue to find a cure that will finally put the people of Kalopsia at peace. 

"My sister Olympia - we call her Oly - would adore you ... Hasan. I'm afraid she has a weakness for tall, dark men, though I suppose that is a family weakness."

Desmond chuckled, but his brow was heavy with wrinkled grief. Every mention of a sibling was a stab to his deteriorating heart. Saying Hasan's name felt cool and reassuring, though it still held an awkwardness upon Desmond's tongue. The two had argued about titles some time ago, and it's clear that it was Desmond who bent knee. Maybe the Raj knew it would be a comfortable familiarity the Maharaja so desperately needs in such dire times. 

"Lyonene wouldn't trust you, but you are a charmer."

He was avoiding the subject of the child carrying his name. He wasn't so sure he deserved such grand praise while knowing that this babe will perish, may never see his first full year, may never know the immense wonder that he is to the people of Kalopsia. A gloved finger danced against the child's cheek, now that they have been forbidden to touch cheek to cheek by the looming Raj. 

Feeling Hasan's ever penetrating stare, the man folded and withdrew the sari draped over his shoulder. The fabric is heavy with embroidery of golds and reds depicting the tale of their All-Creator. Gently, he wrapped the sleeping infant in the cloth and waved over a waiting slave, who then took the child and shuffled back into the fray. The temple was so alive with so much death it harbored; it amazed him that the people of Kalopsia have held on for so long, believing that there will be an end to their suffering.

"Walk with me Hasan, tell me the happenings in the Flame Court?"

He grabbed his cane and shakily stood up, the strength in his leg showing its weakness. 

"Kaseem wrote to me not long ago, have you heard from him?"

Edited by Aleksei

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An easy smile played around the Raj's lips as his regent's stiff posture relax into the sherwani and sari. It didn't seem like Desmond had fully adjusted to the culture in Kalopsia, which was to be expected; his limited time here had been spent tending to the sick, running meetings between the courts, and coordinating relief efforts, leaving little time to appreciate the rich culture in which he had been so unceremoniously dumped. Well, perhaps not unceremoniously. There had been a good number of ceremonies to validate the outsider's claim to the throne, and none of them had been brief. Desmond's ascension was a touchy subject for Hasan, though he did well in hiding it from his new ruler; he himself had been a natural candidate to claim the role of Maharaja following the death of the former. Raj of the most powerful court, with the backing of his brother and powerful lineage behind him, he may have run uncontested in the race to appoint a new leader. However, Hasan's sharp mind knew that, even with few other reasonable candidates, he would have never ascended the throne. His family's history in the council, as well as his own personally soiled reputation, was impassable for the governing bodies of Kalopsia. 

And then Desmond had come along. Even now, after months of confiding in one another and growing as colleagues and friends, Hasan was surprised by his leader's infinitely deep well of kindness and concern for others. It was these qualities, along with the Melisende's access to resources and healing magicks beyond the island, that had solidified Hasan's resolve to place the outsider in power. The people of Kalopsia desperately needed help, and if Hasan would not be allowed to step in, he had vowed to find someone else or die trying. It was this urgency and fear and love for his people that had driven the Raj to Primera. Desmond had sailed in on ivory sails not a week later. 

Hasan had not intended to like the usurper, but, well- Desmond was easy to like with his gentle hands and deep, dark eyes ... the efficiency with which he made decisions- the care with which he approached every endeavor. Their friendship had come easily, unsoiled by either man's history of mistakes and tragedy. Bonded by their hearts of gold, the men had become nearly inseparable in the past few weeks- and it, along with the tireless efforts of their healers, had resulted in a rare success. 

The Raj's smile widened at Desmond's admonition of an affinity for tall, dark men, but it quickly vanished upon the rather lackadaisical way Desmond handled the waiting slave. His expression further soured upon hearing his brother's name, and his gaze flicked back to the retreating slave, who was barely more than a child himself. Regardless of his inner thoughts, Hasan waited patiently for his friend to rise, and met his pace as they began walking down one of the palace's many halls. "The mountains are stirring, though I should manage to keep the explosions at bay until we can afford to relocate a few major villages," he said, stroking at his mustache with slight annoyance, as if the act of suppressing volcanoes were as mildly irritating as a nagging housefly. "Kaseem also mentioned a greater number of earthquakes in his region, perhaps due to a general spirit of unrest. Nothing but mild tremors at this point." The Raj hefted a sigh. "There is a surprising number of people in both regions who are becoming increasingly obsessed with small details - land disputes, taxes, what-so-have-you. A sense of powerlessness is spreading, and the people search for something they can still control." 

Hasan thought for a moment whether or not to continue, but decided that he'd rather have Desmond hear the rumors from a friendly face. "There is also some talk," He said with some difficulty, his arm glowing a brighter red in his masked anger, "My lands have been largely unaffected by the sickness, and Kaseem's court has also seen fewer fatalities than either the Wind or Water courts. Some suggest there is ... foul play involved on my part." Though the accusation was absurd, Hasan could not help but feel a deep-seated anger bubble up at the thought of these rumors. After having given everything to his home and country, it was incredible that there were still many, in fact, who feared and distrusted him. 

Edited by roboblu

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QjcAoZq.png"Understandably and infuriatingly so."

While not many know it and would probably rather believe it to be a lie than instead think the man capable, it was Desmond who had created the outline in which his father operates by. Through the years of not wanting to be a face or even so much as for being mention on the lips of those in power, Desmond chose to stay hidden behind the scenes where he could watch his creations be put into use.

He never knew he would struggle so much with applying his ways. Organized on the outside, never showed a hint of disorder that is his life; Desmond was drowning in constant, unnecessary complaints from his people. Hours before he departed for the temple, someone had complained that their neighbor had broken their fence; come to find out, no fence ever existed, it was just an opportunity to complain about something else.

The awkwardness in his gait made it difficult to walk for long, so he casually guides them to the side where they have the pleasure of overlooking a pond decorated by large waterlilies and curious fish. He leaned against the support of his cane, looking lazily across the pond while he worked to catch his breath and gather his thoughts.

"Those blinded by your misfortunes will never understand your magnificence, Hasan. It is their loss they allow their minds to sour in dire times such as these."

He has seen it and ... he has promoted it, the poison many often sip from. The hatefulness that it plants in the hearts of the fearful and weak, he has seen it work its magic and has often reaped the rewards that have been created by it. Too fixed to the edge of his father's shadow, the young man had done many things to stir the ire of the Emporer, and at the time he found his reasoning to be the right course of action.

Tiredly, he smiled and grasped his company's wrist to soothe the growing rage.

“Logically speaking, that makes sense. The Cold South has never suffered a sickness of any kind because of its terrain. Both the Earthen and Flame Courts have nature on their side,” he released Hasan, but not before he patted him on the shoulder.

“Things always get worse before they get better or we weather the storm to see another sunrise - or something optimistically silly. Nonetheless, what can I do to help you, Hasan? You … like all the Raj’s, are allowed to take advantage of my position of power.”

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The dark man sighed, gazing out toward the serene lily pond with forlorn eyes. "I am magnificent," he admitted, losing himself for a moment in the tranquil waters. His reverie was broken by a soothing hand on his wrist; the bright, angry light marginally subsided. Hasan stared at bejeweled fingers encircling his wrist for a moment, then abruptly turned to the slave girl standing with a basket of flower petals nearby. The young girl immediately froze, her eyes wide and full of fear at having the Raj's attention. He offered her a strained smile, though it did not seem to ease her terror. "Why don't you take a break, uh, I believe it was ... Samita? Is that your name?" The petrified child nodded, though it was, in fact, not her name. "I will personally ensure that the Maharaja stands perfectly still for the next hour. You may retire to your quarters." The slave glanced around, unsure of what to do. Hasan stifled a groan, passing a hand over his eyes. "Leave us, child." Hearing the authoritative shift in tone, the girl scrambled away and through one of the throne room's exits, leaving Desmond and Hasan alone to admire the scenery. 

Standing with his Maharaja, admiring the calm pond beyond the window, it was difficult for Hasan to remember the many struggles and hardships that had led him here, to this point in time and space. Being able to stand in such admirable company, much less company that admired him, brought a slight smile to the fire mage's face. Glancing toward Desmond, with his kind but tired blue eyes, the weathered knuckles gripping his staff, his stooped shoulders and laugh lines .... well, it was enough to make Hasan think that maybe, just maybe, the struggle had been worth it.

"There are many ways in which I'd like to take advantage of you, Desmond," the dark man spoke at last, his eyes burning in a way that was odd, but not unbecoming of their emerald depths. His hand found Desmond's, still clasped around his wrist to quell the red anger, but it was not a warm touch- rather, his fingertips carried electricity. For a moment, he felt every breath that left his king's lips, felt the usurper's heart beating within his own chest. Eventually the moment passed, and Hasan's grip fell away. "None of them involve your political status. This is my battle, though I appreciate your support." His gaze wandered for a moment, then rested upon the exit through which Samita (or Samita-adjacent) had fled. He considered the gaping hallway for a moment, then turned back toward the Maharaja. "Perhaps if the children weren't busying themselves continuously throwing flowers on the ground and then sweeping them up, they might be participating in a more rigorous education," he offered, stooping to pick up a wilting petal and placing it, with much consideration, onto Desmond's shoulder. "Perhaps we might have had a solution to this problem before it had ever begun." 

It was a familiar argument, and they didn't currently have the time or resources to enact any lasting change, but the recent crisis had put the frivolity of having slaves into perspective. Having people dress you and open doors and do everything but wipe your ass seemed wildly unnecessary in these trying times. Hasan had done his part to combat the system, and his reputation among the council had paid the price- but his work would not be finished until the system had been abolished. His mood once more soured, the Raj returned his gaze to the window. 



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"Would it be extremely inappropriate to have my Raj's head cut off for making their Maharaja blush? Surely there have been far worse reactions than such?"QjcAoZq.png

Desmond shyly rubbed the back of his neck, a gesture he often does when forced into a corner or made uncomfortable. He wasn't exactly sure how to respond to Hasan's words or the feeling behind his charged touch; both these things left him feeling rather breathless and preposterously unsure how to proceed. In the privacy of their moment, they are allowed to be taken away by the moment and so he did. Next to Hasan, Desmond sheepishly lowered his head, his smile quivering a bit by the strain of wearing it so fondly. 

He was snapped out of his shyness by the delicate petal placed upon his shoulder. The Maharaja looked at it with consideration, but he already knew the answers and the powers that keep his opinion solidified in its ability. There was little anyone could say to him to persuade him otherwise, but those who agree with him do not carry the same passion. Thus they are not considered in this matter either. Straightening himself, the gentleman swiped away the petal, allowing it to return to its fellow sisters and brothers.

"I see no problem here. Aisha, for example," he pointed a lazy finger in the direction of the petal thrower, "loves to paint, her preferred color is blue by the ribbon she has in her hair, and she just recently learned to write her name."

Desmond calmed, taking note of the firm tone in his voice - a bit too close to his father's voice. The last thing he wanted to do is assert himself before Hasan, the same person who has given Desmond the chance to rule and at the same time find himself as an individual in this new land. It would do him no good to disrespect the reason for him standing on freshly plucked flower petals and sitting upon a golden dipped throne decorated in his name. 

Scarred fingers sifted through dark strands of hair, disrupting whatever coif was there. 

"This is the only life most have ever known, the only job they've ever been given - stability, reason."

He knew Hasan was going to throw statistics at him and in a show of his power, Desmond raised his hand to silence the dark man. He wasn't going to shy around what his Raj has to say nor will he shove the reasonings aside, but at this moment he has no need to hear the vowels of a passionate man fighting the good fight for those unable. Hasan is an admirable person - magnificent, actually - and anyone unwilling to listen to what he has to say due to strained opinion has no right to stand before him. The Maharaja will hear none of this wretched fight for freedom, not until the time is the right time.

"If throwing petals at my feet give that child some substance to her life or braiding flowers in my hair give her reprieve, I am a willing doll to be adorned and admired. If those slaves," he points beyond the pond where they can see the makeshift infirmary buzzing with movement, "wish to sit in prayer next to the dying, want to wipe the dry mouths of their fellow man, beg to care for the ill - let them. Their title may restrict some freedoms afforded to others but don't ... don't you dare ..."

Abruptly, he cut himself off and quickly turned to face something that dared to tear the heart from his chest. For mere seconds the light of adoration and love found in years of admiration crawled across his blue eyes. The corner of his lips had to be persuaded downwards, forcing him to wear a stern frown his father was master of. Approaching them were five guards, two of whom were holding onto a delicate woman with beautiful dark curls and bright blue eyes. Her strong chin and defiant stare gave away her lineage with ease, and it took just about all his grace to not rush to her need.

"Maharaja!" The group fell to a single knee, also forcing the woman down with them. The harshness made him turn his sight somewhere else, like the path of petals and then the lazily flowing tapestries above them.

"We fo-"

He cut the captain off and gestured for them all to rise, but out of habit, they left the woman on her knees with her arms still held tightly. Liquid hues searched the face of Desmond, not at all acknowledging the guards or Hasan. She was transfixed on the tall man who looked too dark and obscure against the lush scenery of his home.

"What are you doing here Darim? What use do you think you are to our father and me? Have you no understanding of the precarious position you are now in? Or has the taste of love blinded my sister that she would come here to beg on behalf of the Kadian Empire?"

"Desmond, please ... you have to stop this." She begged, and he figured that it did not fit his sister at all. There were no tears on her sooty lashes, and her voice did not quiver; this is a lady of respectable upbringing, and here she is before him on her knees.

"Your Emporer was the first to lay siege to me."

"You were the one who took the child!"

"With reason, I will not be shamed for!" His voice boomed, and without thinking he stepped away from the petals, causing the guards to gasp and fall into prayer. "Kaori belongs with her father and mother, parents who are marching along the great Genesaris. It is not her fault that our father fears the movement across seas; she is not an item to be exchanged."

"But the lives of your people are, Desmond?!" Darim stood and stepped up to her brother, who rose above her vivid frame of merely five feet and some inches. But oh did she wear the title of Lioness well, standing before him wild, eyes blazing with passion and reasoning she wished her brother could see.

"Why are you here?" He softened but would not relent. 

"To make you see reason, to make you understand what you've done ..."

Desmond raised an eager hand and slapped her effortlessly across the face. His gut tightened at the sight of blood upon her pouted lips, but he was not going to relent - will not, won't. Her sudden appearance has just created a whirlwind of events that are no longer avoidable, and he was struggling to take it all in. 

"Darim Melisende you come here to speak on behalf of your Inquisitor, the same man who stole away Kaori, a child placed in my charge. You come here to persuade me to your father's cause, but I will not bend knee to the Emporer of Kadia. You weren't raised to be a fool, yet here you are."

Edited by Aleksei

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"You may cut off my head, but another two will grow in its place. You wouldn't be able to handle it." Hasan's tone had returned to its usual playfulness as he watched his Maharaja shrink and shy away from his touch. He so loved when Desmond tried to fight back, but so too did he love that unmistakably bashful, boyish charm. The Maharaja's ascension to power in a time of great darkness and distress might have left two lesser men with little room for friendship, but Hasan and Desmond had managed to find little pockets of peace together, and in them, their relationship had blossomed. Watching the usurper manage the conflict had earned him respect in the Raj's eyes. Watching him smile at every witty comment, or joke about the many customs and rituals assigned to his position, or, hell, even coo and sing to babies on death's row- this had earned him admiration

The admiration fled from Hasan's eyes, however, as his ruler taunted him with personal details of the little girl he had dismissed minutes earlier. So you know the names of the people living in your home, Hasan wanted to say. So the children still have enough life in them to declare a favorite color. It doesn't change their status, nor their future. He was barred from speaking by the lazy wave of his Maharaja, however, so the words died in his throat. Still, the Raj made no attempt to mask the anger in his gaze as he continued to stare out the window, over the lily pond, nor the bright red light pulsing through the veins of his right hand. It was only the respect he personally held for Desmond, his friend that stilled his hot tongue, even as the dark man's argument descended into a weak defense of his own gilded lifestyle. 'The only life they've ever known,' was a phrase his brother was fond of throwing around, though Hasan had always heard the true meaning behind these words. 'The only life we've ever known.' 

Hasan detested it, and he detested Desmond for making him feel this way in their brief moment of privacy. He remained silent, however, eyes passing over the lily pond and coming to rest on the infirmary across the way. After all, it was Hasan who had brought up the delicate subject, returning to pick at it like a painful scab constantly in the corner of his mind. He should have known better, but, then again, so should have Desmond; no piece of Hasan relented, not under physical duress, not in times of hardship, and certainly not at the reprimand of a Maharaja who felt the need to silence his top general and closest friend. 

The dark man continued to cast his dark gaze out the window, even as the guards entered with a BANG. He was too experienced a fire mage to charge into chaos with a clouded mind, and watching the lilies slowly cooled the burning inside of his chest. He was still listening, of course, to the angry words punctuating the steady inhale and exhale of breath to and from his lungs. There was a deep, aching pain beneath the voice of both siblings, both attempting to wound one another in the name of order and reason. Hasan knew from experience that it was more difficult to see clearly with fresh wounds, and, in this family, no one was afforded time to heal. 

Still, there was no mistaking where Hasan's heart lay. He had been by his Maharaja's side after the kidnapping, and had watched the anguish and guilt of losing Kaori slowly tear his friend apart. Even without personal emotions influencing his thought, Darim's argument still sounded particularly feeble to the Raj. He could not fathom how someone, much less an emperor, could justify kidnapping a child. It was a weak display of power at best, and Hasan had no respect for those who flaunted their power with such flagrant disregard for others. Desmond was similar to his father in many ways, but he cared deeply for people and would never-

The harsh 'smack' of a slap drew the tall, dark man away from the window with a sigh, and his feet clicked on the cool marble floor as he circled the scene with his hands clasped behind his back. 

"When I mentioned the desire to meet your sisters, this is not quite what I'd meant." Hasan came to stand next to his Maharaja, and, placing his index finger on the man's shoulder, gently prodded him one step to the right. The guards, seeing that their ruler had returned to his carpet of petals, ceased their chanting and regained some semblance of usefulness. The Raj grimaced, turning his attention to the raven-haired beauty kneeling before them. Her porcelain skin, bright eyes, and long, flowing dark hair were unmistakable, though the smear of red on her bottom lip brought another frown to Hasan's face. "Darim, a pleasure. I would gladly hear ten thousand additional threats to my people if only they came from your lips." 

At this time, Hasan would have ordered the poor wretch off of her feet, but he did not dare to contradict the Maharaja's orders in front of the royal guard. Desmond did not frighten Hasan in the slightest, and there was no mistaking that his actions had been harsher than necessary, but the Raj would not instigate new rumors among the small-minded commonfolk. Instead, he shot a pointed glance toward his king and friend, silently urging him to step down from his pedestal. The woman before them was nothing but a pawn in her father's dangerous game, and no amount of chiding or beating would extract the satisfaction Desmond so craved.

Edited by roboblu

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QjcAoZq.png"If you had a knee to bend on, it still would not be respected."

Desmond closed his eyes against the jab, feeling it go beyond his skin and directly into the soreness of his aching soul. She knew like any beautiful sibling that it was a tender spot for him, and he allowed it to be; it festered, scaring him to the point it hurt to even think about his first failure as an instrument in his father's army. When the fever took him, the nightmares set their course, and in that week of missed battle, the young man almost lost his life to the wound he had now worn as a terrible badge of defeat. 

The story was a hidden piece of his history, something he begged his parent's to hide and out of respect, those who survived the first war against the heathens stayed silent. Not even Hasan knew all the details. What small bits Desmond could remember, he told his mother, and she rallied against him to say something, to speak to his father in hopes that the man would have a solution. The boy had been too ashamed, scared even, to tell his father what he had seen in the throes of his agony.

Standing atop the petals, he collected his thoughts, chastising himself for thinking of a past he swore to place behind him. Damn her! Damn each one of them! He feverishly thought. Hands at his sides were clenched, causing his knuckles to turn white; the firmness to his jaw became extremely ridge that it shook. His anger was always under control; he would not give his sister the honors to see the berserker hidden behind finery. 

"You will remove yourself from her right now."

It was a pitiful demand, almost a whine as his voice strained to stay regal. He spoke both to the guards (both who reluctantly followed, and to Hasan who will probably put up the bigger fight.) It annoyed the Maharaja a great deal that the Raj would approach Darim and speak to her so sweetly. But of course, a man of his position would be syrupy around a beautiful woman.

"I've little against your people, ser."

Darim finally spoke, breaking her hateful gaze away from her brother, allowing her the pleasure of looking at the man with pretty words. Handsome, dangerously so, that's what she first thought while staring at him. Blue eyes sparkled as they caught sight of the beauty mark on the man's face, noting that it matched her own - a bit of a preposterous evaluation to make while being held captive. Nonetheless, there her gaze lingered before eyes traveled across the lovely expanse of his face, collecting little pieces along the way to better evaluate on her own time. 

"I do not come on behalf of our father or to plead Cae's case, Desmond. I came here hoping we could talk, reach an understanding before ... things got too drastic." She softened, taking the lead to show that truly she meant no harm to Desmond or his people or the gentleman standing above her.

When she had learned about what Caelius had done, it made her nervous but a firm believer in her father's rule, she hardly questioned the move. In her mind, it had made sense, just as it did to their father. Kaori is nothing but a tool to their father, and he intends to use her. 

"Stede! Darim, mumme aue!" Shit! Darim, you stupid woman!

He would rather be hung than step down from his pedestal. 

Coming here on her voalition was worse, and the reveal made him weak. And extremely angry. He yelled at her in their native tongue, his heavy accent making her flinch against his words because she understood his reasoning. At the time it all fit, it all just fell into place, how was she to know it would end up like this? Even now, with him yelling at her, looking at her with a hatred she's never seen in her brother, she wasn't going to think much on her faults. 

"Je devificimus te!" I should kill you!

His voice rose high with the threat, not at all acknowledging the weight of it against his chest. The only thing stopping him from thrusting his fist into her chest was the trail of petals and Hasan. In his fury he would have killed her and sent her body to their father, daring him, throwing his actions in his face. He would have - he might still. 

"I would love to see you try, Desmond! You slapped me out of weakness; I doubt a man lowly as yourself could do any better!"

Now they were just petty with one another, and he could feel his anger raging through his veins. He swallowed hard, and his hand shakily sifted through his hair, fingertips rubbing hard at his scalp. If he wanted her dead, he could have it done, but he isn't so base born to put his sister's beautiful head on a pike. No, he sighed, she has already done enough damage he will not be goaded to further her stupid cause. 

"I release you to the streets Darim. You are not welcome here - ever. I will not have your influence taint my halls; your situation is a product of your stupidity."

He glanced at Hasan before turning on his heel, wandering away with the click of his cane following after his retreating form. The guards were unsure what to do, just as the woman who now stood with her heart in her eyes and a frown dug into her face. Not welcome? She had expected that. She understood that leaders must do what is right by their homeland and with that responsibility comes choices that are less than stellar. This understanding did not help soothe the ache in her heart. 

That person is not her brother. 

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A hiss escaped his clenched teeth as the princess poked the bear, and in a weak spot no less. Hasan could do nothing but watch as his Maharaja's face twisted in hurt and anger, eyes closing as if it would erase the situation before him. He had never seen Desmond like this before. The man's fingers, normally so gentle, were clenched into bloody fists. His mouth, normally smiling or speaking soft words, was clenched into a grim line, his jaw quaking with rage. All Hasan wanted to do was to walk over, slip his hand around his friend's neck, and pull Desmond's head into the crook of his shoulder, calming him, holding him. Alas, he was powerless before his Maharaja, and even more so before the armored guard that stood only a few feet away. Hasan feared and hated few things, the main item among them being a perceived loss of control. He drew his glowing crimson arm closer to his torso, the words, for once, escaping him. 

"You will remove yourself from her right now."

The guards immediately retreated, but Hasan did not move an inch. His green eyes were fixed on his friend's azure ones, scanning them for some trace of reason; he found none. Darim attempted to right the situation with cool words she had probably been told would quench the flames, but the sound of her voice only fanned Desmond's anger. 'Quiet,' he wanted to hiss at the beauty before them. 'You are digging your own grave.' He tried to convey as much through his sideways glance toward her, but he was woefully ineffective. The situation between brother and sister had spiraled beyond anyone's control, much to his irritation. It was unfair of Desmond to bring his own family's tumultuous affairs into these sacred halls, especially during a much more serious conflict. Bringing down the fist of the Kadian empire on Kalopsia would absolutely crush Hasan's homeland, erasing thousands of years of history in one fell swoop- and, in this strange fit of rage, the Maharaja didn't seem to care. 

The argument descended into a shouting match- or, rather, Desmond shouting at Darim, who offered a few well-aimed, barbed retorts. Although the fire mage did not understand his ruler's native tongue, Desmond's body language spoke volumes. After one particularly heated scream, Hasan moved to physically bar the usurper from striking his sister again. "Maharaja! Desmond!" he snapped, drawing a cry and a clash of swords from the guards behind him. A tense moment passed, with Hasan's arm still barred across his friend's chest; everyone's breath was hot, heaving from pounding chests. Finally, the mage lowered his arm, staring at his lord's face with a mixture of anger, confusion, and hurt. Desmond did not address him, speaking only to the wretched sister kneeling on the floor.

"I release you to the streets Darim. You are not welcome here - ever. I will not have your influence taint my halls; your situation is a product of your stupidity."

The men shared a pained glance before the Maharaja stormed off, his cane clicking against the tiled floor. Hasan watched him go, speechless. Someone he cared for deeply had just abandoned his blood kin in a land that was foreign to her, leaving her at the mercy of the guards. This was unlike the man Hasan thought he knew, and his heart stung a little as he listened to those uneven steps retreat. If it was suffering Desmond had intended to inflict upon Darim, he had made one fatal mistake, for he had also left his sister at the mercy of Hasan

The possibility that Desmond had left him here to take care of Darim wasn't lost on the Raj, but, turning his head to gaze upon the pitiful woman before him, he didn't really care. Desmond was in a position to take advantage, and Hasan was in a position to help. Such were their lots in life; and he would use what was given to him to defend others. The tall man took a moment to compose himself, then straightened his posture and turned back to the guards. The sniveling cowards were praying again, likely due to Desmond's unscheduled exit. "You may go," he said to them, his voice stern. The men glanced at one another, clearly hesitant to follow his orders. Hasan groaned- he really didn't have time for this. "I said - go." His arm flashed a bloody crimson, startling the men into a hasty exit. When he was sure the last of them was out of earshot, the fire mage's green gaze fell upon Darim. He extended a hand to help her off of the floor, and was careful not to burn her with the heat of his emotions. 

"Now," he began, clearing his throat to make room for a softer tone of voice. "I don't know what you were expecting to achieve here, but clearly it didn't go very well." He reached into his pocket, producing a neatly folded, plum-colored handkerchief, which he then handed to Darim for her bleeding lip. His next words were soft, but poisonous. "I don't know who Desmond is trying to lure in by keeping you here, but it was certainly not mercy staying his hand today." Of course he knew what Desmond wanted- retribution. His eyes were devoid of joy; he derived no pleasure in speaking to her in this cold manner. "You are being used by men with more power than you." When the princess had finished wiping her lip, he took the handkerchief back and stuffed it into the same pocket. "Your father, your lover, your brother- it makes no difference."

Hasan considered the woman before him, dressed in beautiful silks, her hair a dark, glimmering curtain. She carried herself with more femininity than Cosima, her features more delicate and conventionally attractive, but, so far, she had been far less useful. "I will be honest. I don't care who you are, or what you stand for. I have nothing to gain from you in life, but everything to lose in your death." He was trying to lay his cards out on the table for her. There would be no more deception today- not from his lips. 

"You can come with me to the flame court." He voice was soft, his eyes earnest- but wary. "The palace is large, and, in these times, I could use any help- anything to keep my people alive." He did not mention the terrible loneliness he often felt within the flame court's white walls; he would not give her that satisfaction. "You will be safe. He cannot reach you so long as you're a guest within my walls."

A sigh left the man's lips- he did not expect Darim to take his offer kindly. With a wave of his hand, he walked toward the exit of the throne room. "I will not drag you from here kicking and screaming. You may stay, or you may come. I am presenting you with a choice." He glanced over his shoulder at her, offering a shallow nod. 

"Reclaim your agency. You do not have to play the pawn in this game."

Edited by roboblu

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2v92445.pngDarim blinked, the situation becoming a tad more real now that the world began to turn beneath her once more. She was helped off the floor and handed a handkerchief to wipe the blood from her lips, which she did but robotically as she tried to process what was happening. Who are you? She thought once more as she strained to catch her brother's long past retreating figure. The ghost of the man still floated about the room, reminding her that this was not what she wanted, telling her that she had failed.

Hasan's inflated words returned her to the now,  their harshness making her seethe silently. Noone is using her; her father may be aware that she is here, but he has no hand in her decision and could care less about her position. Much like Desmond, Corvinus is not a kind man when it comes the stupidity of others, his children included. Caelius will come running - would Desmond be foolish enough to confront the Inquisitor? Would Caelius be so silly to disregard orders and come to her rescue? She hopes both men are not so foolish.

His choice was laid out before her, but she still weighed the options, thought about her situation before making a full decision. Survival is her best attribute, considering ahead not so much. Desmond's words had hurt her much because they struck a true chord within her sensitive heart, and to return the favor she attacked back. Stupidly she ran to her brother's aid, not at all thinking that perhaps her assistance is unneeded. His response shocked her ... worried her.

She is a pawn, but the game is unknown, the players yet to sit. Damn, she sifted her fingers through her dark hair, nails dragging across her aching scalp. Damn. Would she ever learn? Could she ever learn not to be so presumptuous? Possibly not, who she is is because of her inability to think before acting; everything just happens before reason reaches her mind. Caelius has yelled at her, Desmond and Nero have chastised her on a constant basis, even her father has said a few snipped words to her - think, for once, think.

Silly child, her mother's words danced across her conflictions. 

The princess gathered her pitiful courage and chased after the mage, her mind set on rectifying this problem in whatever manner she could. 

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