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Blood In, Blood Out

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art by Dasajj

 

 

Come visit me at my villa on the Hildebrand grounds at your earliest convenience. We have business to discuss.

—Q

 

Quinton is sitting at the head of the long, dark table where Varda had briefly succumbed to her affliction. It has been nearly a week since the unfortunate incident, but he still sees her slipping from the chair, eyes closed as she tumbled into his waiting arms. There is still a debt to be paid, in that regard. It will take time to provoke the would-be assassin out from whatever hole they’ve slithered into, but Quinton is, more than anything, a patient man. Besides, revenge—no matter in whose name it is invoked is—comes second to business.

So, he turns his attention to the pad of bleached sketching paper before him and the neat, orderly rows of sharpened charcoal pencils to his left. The likeness he’s captured today is that of his intended guest, Evienne Goldcourt, and like his rendition of Varda, no detail has been forgotten, no feature out of place, completing a process that has consumed several hours of his day. Now, he’s lightly running a pencil with a softer end along one of the shadows caressing her neck, darkening it. He uses a small wad of tissue to blend it in, gently circling the area to achieve the desired effect.

He’s spent a great deal of time thinking about the girl lately.

There are few things more attractive in the world than a beautiful woman with ambition. Evienne possesses both attributes in spades, and had he not already set things into motion with Varda, he may very well have chosen the young entrepreneur to take her place. And still might, he thinks candidly, should the chips fall unfavorably in regards to his older selection. Even a careful spider cannot control everything, he learned long ago—only plan for it. But more than the foundation of a legacy in Ursa Madeum’s noble circle, the young girl presents an interesting aspect to his dealings here. Smart and cunning as she is, Evienne is young, which makes her more susceptible to open-mindedness as opposed to other possible business associates.

Hungry to learn, to evolve, to become the best version of themselves (which includes not being arrogant enough to shirk guidance and recognize its value). These are people Quinton can use.

With business moving seamlessly, Quinton has decided it is time for her to take the next step in their business relationship. She’s had his interest for quite some time, but now she has his attention. Of course, he recognizes that she may not be ready—that, enamored with her motivation, he has come to overestimate her. But, even so, he believes that she can be groomed.

She may not be ready today—perhaps. But Quinton is, more than anything, a patient man, and who but the Seer knows what tomorrow will bring?

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9c9c7897e3107542244a626db32dcf09.jpgShe received the missive days late.


It is, perhaps, the first thing she saw to upon homecoming. Dust, sweat and sickness had coiled in on itself and Evienne was but an ugly, filthy knot. Aches and sores had settled in places, and some she knew would take weeks to heal. Some months, and others years. The missive had stood out in the piles of her correspondence, set aside by Leizhen. A single sentence in even, slanted script that eased the storm in her, temporarily. He didn't need a name, just an initial, one elegant Q.


She ordered the bath be drawn, the dress be made ready and the carriage  be out in front immediately.


Business does not wait for celebrations, reunions or resentments, it cares not for guilt, and, yawns in the face of tragedy. It was a fickle dance, a delicate equilibrium that changed from individual to individual; stoic, and yet, deeply personal. Evienne Goldcourt knew not much of the things she had witnessed in the past three days, she did not know the ways of men or of marriage or passion. Love was as foreign a concept to her as death was. One read about it, one dreamt of the effects. But, when push came to shove, the undercurrents of it pushed and pulled, and she was a victim to its ebb and flow. She tried to replicated it, with thread and needle, or perhaps with song and dance- and the exact flick of her wrist and a thwack, but she did not understand it.


Between her new husband and her torrid affair, Evienne was decidedly out of her depth.                                                                                                                                                               
But, when it came to Mr. Swan, he had motivations she could comprehend, profit and loss were simple, it was business between them, about what one could gain and what one risked to lose. There were no variables to tip it off, no potions or nightmares, or hands that shook so hard help was needed to close her gown, and comb her hair and paint her face.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          
For this particular occasion she had chosen white. Flowers bloomed and wilted on the bodice, perhaps papa would admonish her for it, now that she was a woman wedded. Flowers adorned her hair in petty retribution, an offering.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                
"Too maidenly!" Cried Leizhen, squirming against her choices all throughout the carriage ride. Restlessly drumming, fingers against the velvet upholstering, and hooves against gravel, stones and dirt, a restless rush crushing a sense of normalcy into her spine.                                                                                                                                                                      
 By the time she stood before the facade of his manor she had reaffirmed her beliefs, her choices, and her actions; all she had done, she had done for her gain gain. Gambles were made and perhaps not all were so wise, but the ends should satisfy the means, and at the moment she was poised to win.


The day had to be seized, and she did not shiver or tremble upon the threshold.
 

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Evienne is greeted by a young woman as she passes into Quinton’s home—stepping down from the Olympus of Ursa Madeum’s noble circles and into the beginnings of its seedy underbelly—who then escorts her deeper into the well-kept villa. It is a rambling establishment, more of its pieces and finer details completed each day, and so far, the only true testament of the man’s obscene wealth since his arrival in these foreign lands. Strangely enough, young, beautiful Evienne, in her airy, almost provocative way of dress, looks as though she belongs in these halls, escorted by women that covet both her beauty and status, and men that would kill to have her pleasure if only for a night.

As the footsteps approach his sanctuary, Quinton gives his sketch a final appraising glance. Satisfied, he rises from his chair and begins unfolding his sleeves, buttoning their cuffs, and then donning the jacket of his suit once again. By the time Evienne is presented to him, seeming younger and—deceptively—more innocent than the woman he remembers, Quinton is already approaching her, sketch in hand (turned away from her, of course). But, even as he stands before her, he does not present the gift. It’s time to compare.

“If I’d known you would look so troubled, darling, I would have waited to make your sketch.” Still as bold as the first day they met, he gently hooks a finger beneath her chin and lifts her head. Sharp, analytical gray eyes lower to the page in his grasp and then rise to the living, breathing specimen he’s hoped to capture in his portrayal. “All the same, I’ve accomplished what I set out to do.” He turns the page over to her, letting her marvel at her own beauty which, in this glum and dismal state of her being, has not diminished.

Quinton turns on his heels and makes his way back toward the table, letting his fingertips run along the smooth dark wood. “I believe congratulations are in order,” he says. “Consider that part of your wedding gift. You’ll forgive me for not attending. I had some foreign affairs to deal with.” He cannot tell whether she loves her new husband or if the arrangement has been purely for the satisfaction of her ambition, but neither does he care. The better her position, the better the business will be.

Finally at his seat at the head of the table, Quinton turns and gestures to it. “Come. Tell me what it is you intend to do with all this new power you’ve managed to acquire, and how that will benefit our relationship.” Benefit—profit and loss. There is confidence in his voice, a smooth, even certainty that Evienne has not forgotten him. He is her business partner, after all; her first husband, in a way. These other men, they may have her heart, or her pleasure, but he alone has her financial security in an iron grip.

They are bound in the holiest of matrimonies, their vows long-since spoken, and Quinton is a man that takes his marriage of investment to young Evienne Goldcourt’s continued success very seriously.  

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Leizhen was dismissed before they crossed the threshold.  

 They made it to the stairs before the words left her lips, light, and almost teasing in its tones. Leizhen, however, folded, meekly and strangely to her demands, and there were no more smiles or reassurances. No objections or impertinent questions. Just the cold formality of servitude, brazen as a slap.   

 Words so easily shrugged off and questioned mere days ago carried uncomfortable gravity. There was perhaps, a twinge of regret at the tenderness lost between the two; but she had no choice in following the young lady into the manor, and yet, all she could think of was the complications it posed.   

 There was no point in pondering over such things.  Leizhen had her moods, and they would be dealt with in time. They always had in past tiffs, and would continue to do so, there were no logical grounds for the turmoil brewing in her. None at all. Nightmares were based on irrational fears, ones that could be wiped away easily when given the chance. It had to be filed away and dealt with later.   

And so, as Evienne and the servant floated past bustling halls boasting of her benefactor's conquests, it could not be helped that she reflected upon their last meeting. Evienne’s blood had run hot then, and very nearly did she fail to impress him. Now, however ensconced within walls of his manor, it seemed to accept her almost as part of the décor. There is purpose—a sense of pride in her gait. She had come far from then, she had learned things from then. 

She had performed better than she’d imagined.  

They’d performed better than she’d dared hope.  

She was thus justified in dispelling the tendrils of uneasiness from her heart. Leizhen could—she would wait. Godric could wait, her Papa could wait. She had to remind herself that everything that she had done, was to the furthering of a singular cause. And now, the one directly responsible for its attainability stood before her.  

She beamed, reckless in her sincerity, a luxury she afforded him. It had been Evienne who had postured for their last meeting, now, it seemed to be Mr. Swan’s turn. Little else had changed beyond that. Sunlight still streamed, golden and dying, and Evienne had dressed but a little lighter than she had; fresh flowers, not gold and cold. But, he still cut an imposing figure in Terran suit and quizzical brow. It was as things should be, and there could be strength drawn from it.  

"It has been a while, Mr. Swan, how do you do?" 

Even his familiar, bold manners had remained the same, despite the shiny new ring resting on her finger, or the slight crook of her pinky. She met his gaze with airy curiosity. Studying him as much as he studied her.  

“If I’d known you would look so troubled, darling, I would have waited to make your sketch.” The man gazed at the piece of paper he held, comparing it with its model, perhaps critiquing his work. Perhaps to stoke her growing curiosity. “All the same, I’ve accomplished what I set out to do.” 

“Ah, but you see, that was my plan all along, Mr. Swan. Now, I could accuse you of flattering your subjects.” Her lofty tones betrayed the teasing crinkle of her lips. Evienne is flattered by the gesture, her cheeks hinting color rudely banished with the weeks’ trials.   

There were no such crimes of the nature with which she accused him evident in the sketch, and a sigh was wrenched from her. It was Evienne as she had appeared to greet him. Weeks had passed, and yet not a single golden daisy was left from her locks, it conjured up as much awe as it did genuine fright.  

Quinton had paid close attention. Was he always observing? Could he truly never forget details? 

“I must say you’ve thwarted my plan rather splendidly. No crime can be levied against you, and I must say you’re exquisitely talented.” It was not easy, tearing her eyes away from the likeness, almost grotesque in its familiarity, “Only for pleasure?”  

She folded her hands, neatly behind her back, watching Mr. Swan’s retreating figure, twisting her ring at the mention of her affairs. Though neither wary eye, nor the persistent slant of her mouth wavered from the perceived guilt.   

“I believe congratulations are in order, Consider that part of your wedding gift. You’ll forgive me for not attending. I had some foreign affairs to deal with.” 

She had committed a crime with her marriage. She had wronged Godric, had poisoned his mind, accidentally as she did.   

Her gut clenched its protestations, and her smile grew softer.   

“It was quite...rushed, I must apologize for that. An elopement with the young Lord was—admittedly—not part of my plan.” She couldn’t quite keep the tones of guilt from sneaking in to her words, or from the shaky steps she suffered to join Quinton at the table.  

“The Lord is quite taken with me. I was able to sway him to my cause easily, and I doubt I’d have any trouble with that,” the bitterness was masked with a laugh, and the sketch, laid neatly between her and Quinton. “It is a shame with the way things are between our families, I plan on only taking the mantle of matriarch after I...fulfill...my duties to the Lord. And even then, his position is precarious at best, his situation may hinder him from performing his best, and the Uldwar children are quite capable.”  

She was painfully slow with her words, careful to stress where she needed to. She was not sure of the enigmatic Mr. Swan’s reaction would be if he came to learn of her transgressions in attaining Godric’s unquestioning adoration, and it was not a risk she would run. He could take what he wanted from her words, offered nonchalantly. An idle Lady’s gossip, stiff as her shoulders were. Icy eyes bored into his, attempting to mimic that sharp, inquisitive gaze.  

Only when she deemed it to be enough, did she listen to the ache in her muscles and relaxed her hold on the chair, her attention drifting to her likeness once more. “We have our biggest competition at our mercy, I do believe if we act decisively, we could eliminate that altogether." 

 

Edited by LikelyMissFortune

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“That’s very good to hear,” Quinton replies, resting a heavy hand on her shoulder. Heavy with intention; heavy with experience; heavy with the weight of a thousand bodies he’s ensured will never be found. From her shoulder, that hand climbs down her back, slow, steady, following the curve of her spine like a spider descending its web. At the small of her back, he guides her closer, into the awaiting embrace of the chair he’s positioned for her. “I’m pleased to know that your mind is in the right place,” he continues, “because that is exactly what I wanted to address today.”

Stepping to her left, he signals the woman maiden from earlier with a flip of the hand. “Let D’artagnan know we’re ready to begin.” The woman bows and then dismisses herself from their company. Quinton’s attention once again rests solely on Evienne. “The elimination of obstacles, I mean.”

He lets the implication hang in the air, having always found an active imagination to be the best sort. Moving further from her left, he adjusts yet another seat, but does not claim it for himself. This one, he leaves expectant, their guest soon to arrive. “In our line of business, Evienne, you’ll find that there are some problems that cannot be solved with money or words alone. Sometimes—oftentimes—a solution will require a show of force. These displays can be bloody and chaotic, and other times, precise and surgical. But at any rate, it must send the clear message that you are not to be fucked with.”

Quinton takes his position between the seated noble and empty chair, posed on the edge of the long dark table. “You’re young, beautiful, ambitious… but you are weak, as are most that find themselves limited to realms this small. Now, now, I mean no disrespect. I say this factually, not judgmentally. You are your greatest enemy in that you limit yourself to Ursa Madeum, and that, my love, does make you weak.” He reaches down into her lap and takes her hand, marked by a wedding band. “This man you’ve ensnared in your web, little spider, what does he have to offer that could be worth your greatest asset? Who is his family on the world stage? No one.

“There is far more for you—for us­—beyond the boundaries of Ursa Madeum. The sooner you realize that, the better.” For the first time since her arrival, Quinton smiles. He brushes aside a rebellious lock of golden hair that’s fallen across her face, and even thumbs the soft swell of her cheek. “Never forget that while men might control the world, an intelligent woman can control any man.”

It is the sound of approaching footsteps that brings the conversation full-circle. “But, back to eliminating any troubles that might be in our way, that is why I’ve called you here. When we first met, I told you that we were just testing the waters. That I did not know you well enough to divulge any of my secrets. That remains true, but, I feel that it is time for us to move to the next stage of our relationship.”

D’artagnan appears in the mouth of the doorway, dressed in his dark navy suit, a captive clutched by the arm in his right hand. The individual in question is dressed in a puffed suit that’s clearly been thrown over their attire, used as a means to obscure any physical traits beyond their height. Over the head is a dense burlap sack, fastened tight around the neck. D’artagnan guides the mysterious captive over to the seat Quinton staged early, and forces them into it. He snaps his fingers once, and the bagged person sits perfectly still, hypnotized.

Then, he reaches into his jacket and removes from an interior holster a long, gleaming hand cannon and presents it to Quinton. Quinton cocks the weapon, loading a single round into the chamber, and then sets it on the table before Evienne.

“Before we can continue business, Evienne, I need you to demonstrate that you are the woman I believe you to be. That you will eliminate any obstacle that would stand in our way, no matter who they are.” He gestures at the firearm with a casual wave. “The safety is already off. All you need to do is aim it at their head and squeeze the trigger.”

His marked hand, branded by the great spider of pain, presses to the tabletop. The ink seems to shift across his skin, or perhaps as before, it’s merely a trick of light. “Of course, I won’t force you to do this. If the case should be that I’ve overestimated you, say so, and that will be all. However, know that our relationship cannot progress further until you have proven this to me. The choice, as always, is yours.”

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Satisfaction bubbled with confusion, ultimately, it culminated in anticipation. 

She does not flinch away from his touch, nor does she shy away from his words. Rather, treacherously her breathe hitched at his assessment of her, eerily in line with her own. There is purpose behind his every word, every minute action- of taking her hand, of standing where as she sat. Of speaking of the macabre, and of her husband and her virtue, off handedly. In casual fatherly tones. Evienne is to be molded, she has potential to be great, that is understood. There is much to be learned, much to gain from this brooding man, dangerous as he was successful.

Men tended to be like so, dangerous. And so, Evienne would learn to be as well.

It was perfectly timed.

The first lesson was easy enough. It was one she had already begun to suspect. Her marriage to Godric won her opportunity at the moment, but it was a decision clouded by temper and a limited view, and she hadn't thought of its implications in broader terms. She already knew it would be a mistake to succumb, either to her passions, or to duty, and so she hadn't. It would've been an even graver mistake to admit it in so many. The curl of her lips, and the quirk of her eye brows would have to convey her meaning, her assets were whole. And would remain so, for as long as she could.

The second was not so easy. Tests were never easy, especially ones she was not quite prepared for. The implication had whetted her curiosity, and now it recoiled into shock-- incredulous at what was expected of her at the sight of masked figure.

It was true that Evie was far from innocent. She had poisoned Godric's mind into a false love. It had been accidental, but the original intent was not far off enough to absolve her of the crime. She had also framed the bar maid, blamed her for the potion- possibly had her hanged, and that was quite deliberate. She had poisoned, had felt it toxins ravage people before-- but always, it had always been controlled and never fatal. Papa had assured her of that, it was just training, self defence. Nothing more. 

No, she was not innocent. But the differences were as vast as Music was to Death. Harming, was not yet murder.

There was nothing to hide behind with the weapon that was offered. Nothing removed, nothing to duck behind.

This was not going to be on accident.

Evienne was too soft, still too weak to kill a person. An unknown man, or woman, transgression a mystery. He was asking her to do the impossible, to step into a world where a young woman such as she could be an executioner. Unquestioning. Brutal.

But they would die, one way or the other. By Evienne or by menacing man next to him, their fate had been sealed.

More so, much had been sacrificed to get where she stood, and now she was set to lose everything to a man in a burlap bag, pathetic as he sat preternaturally still. He wasn't human, not right then. He had been, when he had to be forced to sit. Now it just sat still, and became as much of an obstacle as a dull pin. They mirrored each other, she and this creature. Not once did her attention waver, brows furrowed fingers caressing the weapon. 

"May I?" She wondered aloud, rising from her seat. There was a smile, playing on her lips, "When we first met, I remember you suggested a trade. Your secrets for what was under my dress. It was a silly, unfair trade too, now, if I had something you haven't seen before, I might've considered it. But alas, I do not."

Hands that had trembled when she tried to get her gown on before, were steady now, and the gown lay in an ivory puddle by her feet. She stood before three men in chemise and short stays, in what would've made for an amusing tableau had the situation not been as dire. 

The weapon was cold and heavy in her hand, and gooseflesh prickled her skin. She would despise herself for this, she was too soft for this.

And she would remain weak and soft if she didn't do it.

Evienne would despise herself if she didn't do it.

She drew close enough, to the figure that so still, barely breathing- and the menacing one in the navy suit- to press the weapon against the side of where it's head should've been. She did not want to miss. This way she could keep her eyes on Mr. Swan. 

In the end, the shot was not much louder than if a chair had been smashed, or if a book case had fallen. And, Evienne did not allow for the victim to color her nightmares any farther than it already did. She did not see it slump, and had moved away as soon as she felt the recoil jostle her. 

The weapon was placed, just as he had placed it, and Evienne was careful to keep her back turned on the macabre corpse.

"Forgive me," She tried to laugh, feebly, resuming her seat. "I did not want to ruin my dress, nor did I want to miss. My cousin the Lieutenant used to shoot pheasants and often she wouldn't hit it when she was confident she would."

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Quinton doesn’t blink. Just as a knight acclimates themselves to the sound of clashing steel and the sight of spilled entrails, the sound of gunfire has lost its flare and luster. His eyes never leave her, from the moment she ends their captive’s life to the moment she reclaims her seat, capturing each moment in his memory for later use. He’ll sketch her dozens of times tonight, his beautiful Evienne. “Well done.”

He stands from the table’s edge, half-turning to face her as he reaches into his own breast pocket and retrieves a silk cloth. “Now, the only thing connecting you to this slaying are the three of us,” he says, gesturing to her, D’artagnan, and himself, “and this weapon. You know you have our loyalty, but the weapon? Well, it tells its story to anyone that can read it. They key is to blot out your part in it.”

Lifting the gun, he uses the cloth to clean away her fingerprints, paying close attention to everywhere she may have touched. “This weapon will be properly disposed of, but, in a situation where that is not necessarily an option, you’ll want to ensure you clean it properly. Never forget this lesson, Evienne.” Handing the weapon back to D’artagnan, Quinton folds the cloth and, rather than placing it back into the interior of his jacket, he nestles it between the apex of her thighs, letting her feel the fullness of his touch. “This is yours now,” he says to her. “Keep it with you, always.”

Taking his place beside her, Quinton gestures to the corpse, and D’artagnan begins the process of removing the hood from around its head, wet and dark with blood. “Now that you’ve proven yourself worthy of my secrets, Evienne, know that what I am about to reveal to you—well, it was done in the name of your best interest. Our best interest. I stand to make a lot of money with you, and I can’t risk something awful happening. Your enemies are my enemies, and there is only one way that I deal with my enemies.”

As the bloodstained sack slides from the corpse’s head, it reveals not a man, but a woman. Leizhen, with vacant, lifeless eyes, a slack jaw, and blood oozing from a hole burned through the temple.

“She’s been poisoning you for quite some time now,” Quinton says, a hand resting on her naked shoulder. “Either her dosages were abysmally insufficient, or you’ve a remarkable resistance.” He has his suspicions, though makes no effort to pry. These things will come to light as their relationship deepens. “At any rate, you can understand how I could not risk the situation escalating further. Poison today can become a blade tomorrow. We have eliminated the chance of both, now.”

Giving her a cheerful tap to the cheek, he moves toward her dress, crouching down to gather it over his forearm. “Now, the question is whether or not your father was aware of it. If he wasn’t, well, that means he is neglectful and ignorant at best. If he was, well…” The words trail off, leaving behind only their murderous implication. “… In either situation, do you feel comfortable with such a man leading your house? I suspect that the Goldcourts deserve someone more aware, more worldly, more ambitious and determined to succeed no matter the cost. Someone willing to make the hard decisions.”

Rising to his full height and turning to Evienne, he presents her dress, gray eyes searching her expression. “What do you think?”

Edited by King

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Wrath, such as she never thought possible burned through her, destroying remaining vestiges of grief. Of numb, dumb shock. Any pity left for the spider, of the comfort she had sapped from him, who had guided, supported her-- and ultimately, betrayed her is reduced to ashes. And it is bitter in her mouth. But there is nothing to be done, there are no needles or glass or metal. Nothing to crucify herself on while possessed with such an irrational emotion. Fury was useless, when all had been Evienne's doing.

What had started out a scream, not of anguish or of pain was stifled by hands pressed so firmly against her mouth she could hardly draw breath. It comes at a chortled, agonized moan and it is not enough. But this was not Evienne, she would not make a scene even if there was so, so much to scream about but there would be no satisfaction for her. Salt and iron tingle on her tongue, and there is nothing she could do but stare on, horrified at her own capacity for destruction. Mindless, careless destruction. Had she not, just moment prior reduced that face to coarse cloth and rope? An animal thing that did nothing but breathe, and despair and was ultimately doomed for death?

Leizhen had been like a sister. Leizhen, no matter the tiffs, screams and scratches had always come back. Leizhen would never betray Evienne, not even if she had the world to gain. No, not Leizhen. 

Evienne had betrayed Leizhen, as she had betrayed Merida. And now one was missing, and the other lay in a heap, a life stolen by Evienne and her damned ambitions. Her weakness. Quinnton had been wrong, this was wrong. It was all wrong.

That was when nails found soft skin, and she dug. Until she couldn't breathe, until he stopped touching her, talking at her as though he had done her a great service. After all, does not one owe he who gave her as Quinton had an almost unassailable debt? Her tattered sense of propriety, that which had stopped her before snapped at the mention of her Father, shattering, slowly, until possessed by that inescapable fury, that terrible, irrational  emotion, Evienne gave in and she too is shattered.

She doesn't lazily trail her nails down her throat, but rather, she tears into it. Until her nails break against the unreasonable demand, until they are coated not only in dear Leizhen's blood, but also hears and there is nothing but ribbons of red oozing down pale skin. There is still no scream, and laughter-- delicate, tinkling laughter bubbles about until her sides hurt as much as her soul rebelled against everything. It feels so incredibly lovely. Red runs down her arms, and she slit her skin and veins and God knows what else. Euphoria takes hold of her, and a moment is spared to inspect the chemise, now blooming with macabre red and cream. It-- she was beyond repair, and it would be very easy to lay down, crucify herself in a pointless, useless act of insolence. 

Leizhen would've been cross with her. For the mess.

Instead, her attention is brought to back to the Spider who had urged her to act as she had. And the soft, tender curl of her lip is not quite in accordance to the mess of throat or the terrible anger churning in her eyes. "Who gave you the right?" It is is whispered, and she grasped the square of silk, ruining that as well.

"What proof do you have?" The scream rang in her ears.

Edited by LikelyMissFortune

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Quinton’s only reaction is to raise a hand in D’artagnan’s direction, stilling the man from reaching for the weapon he’d holstered just moments before. “There’s no need for that,” he replies. “The young lady is grieving. Regardless of Miss Leizhen’s transgressions, Evienne loved her.” Nodding, the guard takes a step in retreat and removes his hand from the breast of his suit jacket.

Turning his attention back to Evienne, Quinton places that same hand on the sketch before them, easing it back, away from gory display unfolding in his chair. He taps a finger on the page, drawing her attention to its marvelous detail. Not a single flaw. “Do I look like the type of man to make mistakes, Evienne?” It’s far from an answer to her question, but the fact remains, and beneath her loss and rage and bubbling insanity, she knows it’s true.

“As I said, your enemies became my enemies the moment you agreed to do business with me.” Quinton’s tone remains even, tempered, slick as wet steel. “Considering how much I’ve invested in you, what I still intend to invest in you, I needed to know who those enemies might be. So, I had eyes on you and those closest to you, your father at the late Leizhen, included.”

He resumes his place at the edge of the table, a single hand in his pocket, the other rhythmically tapping against the dark good. “Muscle weakness, nausea, difficulty breathing, and a sense of incoordination.” He was describing symptoms she had, on more than one occasion, confided in her family doctor that she’d begun experiencing. “Ah, yes, and that metallic taste in your mouth. High levels of mercury in your blood.

“Still, you can see for yourself when next you arrive home.” He nods to D’artagnan.

The guard lifts his chin. “The stores are kept in a small hidden compartment behind her armoire.”

“The truth, Evienne?” Quinton waits for her to look at him. “I have nothing to gain by lying to you. In another world, she could have been an operative of ours. Someone to help with our business. But, she tried to kill you instead, and that is not something we can forgive. I know nothing of your relationship with this woman—she means nothing to me. All I know is that she tried to kill you, and likely would have succeeded had you not kindly put a bullet through her skull.”

Then he stands, giving a light shrug. “But, I’ll not try to force your hand in this manner, just as I did not force your hand moments ago. You have a choice to make, once again. If you truly believe that I’ve wronged you, well, then by all means report me to the proper authorities. I will abscond from these lands, my plans foiled, and forever be a wanted man.” Quinton cuts her a sharp, knowing look. “Or, you can accept that what I’ve told you here is truth, and we can continue our conversation after I’ve had those nasty marks on your throat looked at.”

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 The Lady Goldcourt was cold and glacial despite all she had done to try and dissuade them of the fact, the posing, the sunlight. She didn't bother to hide her ire frigid as her eyes, and if looks could kill, then D'artagnan would be as dead as Leizhen. But, if that was indeed the case, the first to die would've be Quinton- and then the guard would have shot her dead before his body could hit the ground. There was no point in wishing either dead, not now. That would result in a massacre and even more blood would be shed needlessly. There had been enough already.

Which, in turn meant that the abject horror, was as useless as her fury. There was no need for the he nails embedded in her skin so slowly, she released the hold on her flesh as shame reclaimed her passions. And suddenly, the world was far too grey-- too colorless for her liking. His eyes, his suit- everything was as stark as the truth presented before her, and she burned with the shame. The fault lay with her. It was she who had been too stupid to see clearly. 

But she sat still, eyes closed, wishing futilely for color- garish color to come rushing back.

It simply would not. There was no point in wishing, all there was left to do was to accept it for what it was.

"Do you know how to immunize yourself from poisons, Mr. Swan?" She dabbed at the mess of her neck, absentmindedly. A mild frown marring her face, as though she had found a hair in her tea. "You take a little dose of poison everyday. Organic ones, of course, metallic-- metaphysical ones don't quite work like that. But you can slowly build up an immunity against organic ones...

"If you don't mind the shakes, the headaches, the fevers." Her mouth was stubborn in its curl, dry and humorless. "Leizhen had been rather inelegant in her actions, she could've achieved what she wanted without having to resort to taking my life, and perhaps she deserved this. An inelegant end to an inelegant solution." Blood and skin caked beneath her finger nails, broken and garish. Evienne couldn't help but shiver at the sight. Disgusting.

"Still, she was like a sister.

"I don't plan on being as graceless. My Father shall be dealt with, but he's an old man who'd be as delighted in me out maneuvering him as he'd be in damning me. There shall be no blood, not with him- he is my Father not like one." The attempt at humor was half hearted, her voice breaking at the attempt. After a while, she had gotten used to the toxins, craved it even as much as she knew it to be destructive. Too much would kill her, too little leave her in terrible condition. Quitting would be far more difficult than starting, and Evienne was left with no other choice. Not a feasible one, at least. "I do apologize, for my outburst."

All there was left to do was to accept reality, stark as it was. There would be no more distractions.

Edited by LikelyMissFortune

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“Water under the bridge. Everyone deals with grief in their own way.”

Whether she believes his forgiving tone, bordering on indifference, is the young girl’s prerogative. Unfavorable though her theatrics were, making such a mess with all that blood, it provides him with information—and that, in any situation, will always be favorable. Looking back over his shoulder, he nods to D’artagnan. “Have one of the Seekers come, please.”

The man nods and exits the room.

“Now that we have some privacy,” he says, swiveling his attention back to Evienne, “I would like to apologize for being so bold. While I’m not sorry that she’s gone, as you’re quite an investment for me—and anyone that would seek to harm you, well, let’s call this merciful compared to what I would prefer be done to them—I will admit that this was a bit brazen. A bit too forward, even, but I needed to test you and this allowed us to eliminate two birds with one stone.”

Quinton picks at the vagrant strands of hair that have plastered to her forehead, brushing them back and behind her ear—away from the blood—before hooking a finger beneath her chin, tilting her head back, and inspecting her self-inflicted wounds. “If you make it far enough in this life, and live to be old enough, you will come to understand the value of a pupil. Someone to inherit your dark legacy and carry the torch of black flame. They’ll mean everything to you, when you find them; perhaps even more than your greatest love or children. That is what I see in you.” He doesn’t smile, but there is a heavy, deep severity in his tone.

Lowering her head by the chin, her levels her eyes with his. “I will give you the world, starting with Ursa Madeum. You need only take it.”

D’artagnan returns with the Seeker, a bowl of water and a rag hiked on her hip, and Quinton gives the woman space to work her magic. The ornate jewelry on her hand glows as she runs her fingers over Evienne’s throat, not touching the flesh. The warmth of her magic weaves in and around the girl’s tattered flesh, stitching it back together. It’s finished in a matter of moments, and satisfied with her work, the Seeker nods and then leaves.

Quinton resumes his place before her, gesturing to the corpse with a dismissive flick of the wrist. “Remove that,” he orders to D’artagnan, and with another silent nod, the man gathers the woman’s crumpled body in his arms and departs. Quinton takes the rag in his hand and dunks it in the warm water several times, wringing it lightly. He sets to cleaning her gently, taking his time with strokes along her throat that border the sensual. “In regards to your business with the Uldwars, I will make sure that you have all the funding you need to sway their court to your side you. For those that prove resistant to money, or those you find to be too vocal with their criticisms of you, I’ll lend you a small team of men to see them dealt with as you please.”

The rag in his hands wanders all about her, from the curve of her jaw to the valley of her plump breasts. He takes his time cleaning away the blood, takes his time enjoying the soft curves and edges of her body. “My relationship with Varda is coming along. When she is my wife, I will see an alliance forged between our houses. After that, we can move onto the others.”

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