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Kalmuli

The Baroness of Black

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In the end, it was decided from Kalmuli herself that a big celebration wasn't really needed. Considering she would be a Baroness of a relatively small coastal region of Orisia, a big celebration was costly and the reason for her being there was simple: Bring it back to where it needed to be. The cost of a party was too much and she had dipped into her own funds to clean up the Keep itself from the previous figurehead that had ultimately seemed to do nothing. The military was slacking, profits were low and it seemed to be a relative shanty town compared to other places she had visited. It needed bad upkeep and it would have to start with the overall appearance of the drunken troops and dirty corridors.

Kalmuli sat in the meeting hall with the few scant members of staff from the Keep itself. There was an old man there that looked like he could fall apart if you even breathed on him let alone blinked an eye, a fat looking Commander and a Treasurer that looked like he had not been with Drakiss long. "This is it?"She asked the old man.

A shakey, withered head nodded. "A-all the curr...current staff."He answered with an unsure voice.

"It's all we've needed."The Commander commented, ripping off meat from a chicken some poor kitchen staff had made him in order to sate his massive appetite. The grease dribbled down his chin, Kalmul visibly cringing. "What does a Lady of the courts know about upkeeping a military fortress eh?"

"The Queen and the Queen's advisor have promoted me to this location for a reason, Commander Ralt. I'm not one to mess with."Kalmuli said, rising from her seat. Placing her hands behind her back, she would start to walk around the table but Ralt seemed to be less interested in her and more on his plate. Raising her hand, she snapped her fingers and the ceramic plate flew from out in front of him, breaking against a wall across the room., sending chicken ichor and bones scattering everywhere. "Pay attention..."

She raised her chin. "Drakiss is a shithole. It was made a shithole from the lack of leadership here and from the overindulgent spending on unnecessary things. From what I've seen in the streets, most of it is from the unclean lifestyle of the soldiers here. I've seen disease, multiple near deaths from alcohol poisoning and irresponsible behavior."She said, stopping at the end of the table where more people would have sat if there had been more staff. The likely story was that they were so underpaid and disgusted, they left. Not that she could blame them...and that would have to be corrected.

"They're soldiers! What do you expect?"The Commander slammed his fist on the table. "Tea parties and cakes? Pah!"

"I expect discipline and order, Ralt."

Kalmuli would lean against the table, crossing her legs at the ankles and crossing her arms as she looked down the empty chairs to the ones Ralt, the shambly man and the nervous treasurer sat in the low light of the candles that had been nearly burnt to the end of their wicks.  "Something that, if they are following under your leadership, are only following from a poorly set example. From now on, all spending, all training, all disciplinary action will be reported directly to me. Any insubordination will be harshly punished."

"Outrageous! Do you expect soldiers who have been under MY command for YEARS to listen to you? Some gentlehanded, knife-eared, litt--"A hard force to his neck made him stop, Kalmuli standing beside him with a belt around his neck drawn tightly. How did she move so quickly from there to behind him so quietly? The harder she pulled, the more he leaned back, Ralt strangling and foaming at the mouth.

"Gentlehanded? Knife-eared? Don't believe the stereotypes you hear of elves, Ralt..."She said, but she didn't loosen her grip as she spoke. "I am not a patient woman...and I do not like being insulted. I won't hesitate to end someone who's disobedient. I don't believe in healing the unhealable..."

She let go, Ralt rocking forward and quickly loosening the belt around his neck, coughing and wheezing as he got his air back. Kalmuli stood out of arm's reach, looking to the others who seemed to get the message: Don't be foolish. The elf would brush her hair aside from out of her face, looking back to the Commander. "And you Commander...are unhealable. I am relieving you of command as of now and demoting you to a new recruit. If you want the position back, you'll have to earn it like everyone does when they achieve it."

Ralt didn't argue...but the color of his face shifted to purple as he bit his tongue from irritating her further. Oh he'd get his revenge alright...he still had loyal followers. Then she would see the might of Commander Ralt! Kalmuli would move her attention back to the treasurer, speaking of where Drakiss was financially and seeing where the leaks in supplies were, all the while the aging secretary rattling where he sat, waiting for when he'd finally die. Drakiss was going to go through some major changes and the soldiers would find themselves outmatched quickly.

Commander Ralt was kicked out of his quarters and the entire place scrubbed from top to bottom by a few petty officers looking for some credit. Then the barracks. Every bit of alcohol was dumped into the sea, sheets washed, soldiers bathed and armor made to glisten in the sun. Those who didn't listen, found themselves in one of Kalmuli's famous art pieces of red rope in odd positions, naked for the others to see. After the barracks were the grounds, and her demands more precise. Everyone was made to scrub the streets of bits of piss and shit, vomit and debris to make the entire town look like it had risen up from the cliffside. Drakiss would shine in the hands of these newly disciplined men and the selection of new  Keep staff. There were city inspectors, quality assurance teams, new trainers for the soldiers she had chosen from their ranks and finally, the aging secretary could retire in peace knowing that he could die in some luxury for his decades served. 

Kalmuli stood in the courtyard as the soldiers filed into the barracks for the evening, smelling of cleaners and their hands blistered from scrubbing. An inspector, Birgan, gave her a clipboard with the current report of the last week's work. "Good...good...We'll have them go to the beaches next and pick up the garbage...I have some people interested in some real estate along the shore itself. Send the other inspectors to the local inns and hotels, see what needs to be updated and remodeled. Ah, also, have the food inspector take a look at their kitchens as well and send in the forms for alcohol service as well for who will be managing the supplies and such. "She said, signing off on the day's inspection. "Have the cooks prepare a good meal today. I think they've earned it."

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A month after Kalmuli's arrival and subsequent remodeling of Drakiss...

The beaches were cleaner than ever before. Many fishermen who had been used to hoisting up the local garbage were now collecting plenty of fish for the daytime residents of the Keep and along the beaches teemed with people who visited the coast to admire Orisia's shores during the day while the vampire folk who claimed the territory visited the moonlit paths left by those from the day. Kalmuli stood on the balcony of her residency, looking out at Drakiss with a discerning eye.

Her newest acquisition was a personal assistant that gave her frequent updates of ongoing projects. He was a younger man, slim built with half moon glasses and a dapper sense of dress that she enjoyed. Kalmuli looked away from the city, looking down at the clipboard she had been presented with and pacing a bit while she read over the results. "Good...all the restaurant and inn renovations are in with the new compliance order...imports are going well so far for the fresh produce."She said as she read things over.

"Myes, the owners were all too happy to receive some upgraded equipment and some minor remodeling."Daniel, her assistant, spoke calmly.

"I've noticed an improvement on the meal quality too...Most of the healing stations report less stomach problems and food poisoning deaths."Kalmuli said as she took a moment to sit at a small cafe table in the shade of the balcony where a pot of tea and a few light snacks waited to be consumed. "The soldiers themselves have a bit more vigor..."

"That could also be from avoiding your...punishments."Daniel noted and it was enough to make the elf chuckle.

"My punishments aren't as severe as they could be...but I digress, a deep sense of shame and made to feel small does have it's benefits."Kalmuli said as she set the clipboard down. "How goes the search for more council members? Any new applicants?"

"A few, Baroness...and another attempt from Private Ralt to rejoin the higher ranks. His application was given the usual treatment."Daniel said, his eyes gleaming a bit. Ah yes...he was a bit of a firebug wasn't he? That's why Kalmuli enjoyed working with him. While Daniel was demi-human, he had a wicked sense of humor and a stronger sense of loyalty, practicing his art of fire-crafting and prowling. 

"Good...I don't want to see another grease smeared waste of parchment again."She said, pouring herself a fresh cup of tea and adding a few lumps of sugar to sweeten it to taste. 

"The other applicants are leaders from the respective communities. The Port Master, District Leaders and a few others I shan't waste time in listing. They're willing to step up to see Drakiss flourish for everyone involved. Rather admirable of them."Daniel said as he joined her at the small table and pouring himself a cup. 

"That's how the councils of cities should be...leaders of their people and communities. Drakiss in particular since we're at the furthest point of Orisia and the capital."Kalmuli noted, sipping her tea and looking back to the railing of the balcony. "Things are definitely looking up...who knows, we may have a King visiting us eventually."

Daniel raised an eyebrow. "We will make sure that the Keep is as welcoming as possible for his arrival then."

@King

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Rafael arrived in Drakiss via boat, one of the only ways to access the reclusive city, and by far the fastest. The Black Swan was a long and elegant ship, modeled at the empress for which it had been made. It was fashioned from ronaan, a rare, heavy wood, dark as coal and smooth as polished glass, native to the jungle of Ceyana. Prized by alchemists and artificers, a piece the size of a small coin was easily worth a thousand crowns. To have an entire ship made of it went far beyond any means of extravagance, bordering grotesque.

The ship moved silently on the calm waters, seeming to slice through the low waves and dance with the wind that carried it forward. It carried thirty sailors on its planks, men and women that had manned the ship since its creation and knew it better than any souls breathing, five knights of the imperial guard, and the emperor they all served.

It was the elder’s first visit to the northernmost city in Orisia, and though he could see the potential—in the city itself, in the rivers that coursed around its mountainous foundation, and in the untapped resources of the uncultivated lowlands surrounding it—he was, all together, somewhat unimpressed. Not for the Baroness’ lack of effort, but for the isolated manner in which the city had survived for so long. While it spoke volumes to the hardy nature of the northern Orisians, it also whispered of the throne’s failures, and how narrow their scope of view had been. Until now, that is.

A guide awaited them at the docks, a tall and lanky young man with dark hair and eyes, clean shaven, and dressed in a manner that suggested he was a member of the Baroness’ estate. He greeted the imperial guards, bedecked in full glistening plate, and the emperor they walled off from approach. Their journey to keep was short and direct, something Rafael favored. When they arrived, he helped himself to the reception chamber, in no mood to flaunt nor impose himself on the Baroness. She’d been a darling woman at the festival, humble as she was beautiful, something he hadn’t forgotten—he would not fail to repay her that.

While his guards stood beyond the room’s threshold, Rafael leisurely paced the room, looking here, touching this, never letting his attention linger on any detail or object for too long. His thoughts briefly turned to Gabriela and her recent departure several days prior. She’d left under the cover of night, no doubt stowing away on some uncouth vessel as to conceal her identity. True to his word, Rafael had not stalked her, had not monitored her every step, and instead allowed her to breathe and live as a woman, his empress, rather than his prisoner. Matters such as the Baroness were meant to distract him from these thoughts of longing, from sowing the seeds of regret in his mind, but it was proving more difficult than he’d expected.

Rafael sighed, running his hand down the length of a dense ebony curtain, fantasizing of his wife’s beautiful hair swimming around his fingers. He missed her dearly, missed their child, and no amount of distractions would change that.

Edited by King

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Kalmuli had been preparing for the Emperor's arrival, grooming herself and dressing. She chose something semi-business friendly. She smoothed out the white silk shirt, adjusting the thick neck tie and buttoned up the pinstripe vest with a matching skirt. A pair of heels completed everything and just in time as Daniel, her personal assistant, came to inform her of Rafael's arrival.

"Baroness, the Emperor waits for you in reception."He spoke, an always sly smile on his face.

"Thank you. Prepare some wine...I believe the new vineyards have a new product he may enjoy."Kalmuli suggested, smiling and walking out of the room with the long tail of hair trailing behind her as she headed down to reception.  

Downstairs in front of the reception room door, she smoothed things over again, giving a small greeting nod to the knights who tended to the Emperor's protection. She opened the door herself, passing through and promptly greeting with a bow. "Emperor Rafael...A pleasure to see you again."She spoke, rising and moving the bit of straggling white hair from her face to behind her left ear. "It's been awhile since the festival. Please, have a seat. I have my assistant bringing us some new local wine. The volcanic soil has been wonderful for vineyards and some experimental foods."

Kalmuli would choose a seat of her own, standing in front of it to allow the Emperor to stand or sit should he like. Not long after her arrival, Daniel, the same servant who had greeted them at the docks had returned with a wheeling tray of wine bottles and clean glasses. He would uncork it, showing that it was an unopened product and poured it out evenly. Daniel would place one by the Baroness's seat and the other by the Emperors before dismissing himself.  "Vulcan's Touch. It's grapes were grown closest to the volcano where the soil is richest...It's a fine red."She explained briefly. "I recommend it with bit of Ash Brie as a snack."

@King

Edited by Kalmuli

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It was the sweetness of the Baroness’ voice that rescued Rafael from the depths of his fantasies, luring his attention from the curtain still in his grasp to her bowing figure. “Baroness,” he replied, uncharacteristically flat and devoid of the more seductive drawl he was known for. “A please, indeed. However, if it’s all the same to you, I’d rather stand. I’ve been sitting for almost several days now, and my legs could use the stretch.” The inefficiency of traveling between the island’s northern and southern ends were just one of the dozen reasons he’d come to see her this evening, a talking-point he was determined to broach as the night progressed. But for now, pleasantries.

Daniel arrived shortly after, bringing with him the promised wine. Rafael tasted the richness of its flavor as the assistant uncorked the bottle, pouring the Baroness her glass first, and the emperor his, though it would go untouched. Then he was gone, as quietly as he’d arrived, leaving the two nobles to their business. “Yes, Orisia has become quite famous for its wine in recent years,” he replied, finally turning away from curtain after a final stroke of its soft material. Rafael wore a three piece suit that night, black in color, sharply tailored and freshly pressed, with golden cufflinks emblazoned with the imperial sigil. “Particularly their reds. It would seem that the grapes grow exceptionally well here.”

It was a business that had succeeded a great deal in part to the devil’s rampant importing of it on Patian shores, over the course of his tumultuous relationship with Rafael’s wife. Orisian Red had become a mainstay in the foreign city-state, and from there, it had trickled out across the continent and beyond. Now, wine connoisseurs from the peaks of the Red City to the mechanized towers of Hell's Gate treated themselves to the exotic brand.

Stepping closer to his companion, Rafael gently pressed the flat of his right palm across his stomach. “Unfortunately, it’s not my sort of beverage,” the elder explained, smiling humbly. “Mortal cuisines aren’t known for being friendly to my kind. It can get rather messy.” He briefly recalled the failed test of the Terran blood oranges, and the pain, discomfort, and slightly embarrassing events that followed. “However, if you’re feeling generous, or… simply in the mood to position yourself even further on my good side, I’ve heard that elf is rather exquisite. I’ve never had the pleasure, myself.”

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Kalmuli would raise an eyebrow, the arch perking into her hairline but she chose to sit down, crossing her legs knee over knee. "Of course. Do what makes you comfortable."She would smile just the same, picking up her glass of wine to take a deep drink of it, setting it aside with a gentle glass clink on dark table. "Mmm...volcanic soil does wonders. It was a pity the former leadership of this area didn't take advantage of it. It's saved the Keep quite a penny by growing some of the market goods here versus waiting for an import from the Capital."

Her finger ran along the rim of the wine glass, making it sing with a low 'woowoo' before she stopped. "This is a special one though...the clippings of the vines from this grape can't be found anywhere else in Valucre. It's a piece from my private collection."She shifted in her chair, shifting her legs around to switch resting knees. The weight of her legs against each other was enough to show the welcoming roundness of them, begging to be stroked and squeezed. 

Kalmuli had to laugh a little bit. She reached for the thick necktie around her neck, pulling so slackened. "Generous mostly...but if you want the full effect of drinking wine mingled with ecstasy...Fae's blood is extremely potent to vampires. The last time one tried to take a bite out of me while I was training them recently...he couldn't lay on his back all day without pitching a tent in the barracks and the others complained he woke them with his moans of begging for some kind of relief."She said, rising and loosening her shirt a little, showing a pure, clean neck to him. "After hearing of it, it's deterred the others from biting ever since but he wasn't happy with the relief I prescribed to him. If the Emperor so chooses to experience that...munch at your own risk."

She would release her shirt, looking a little more disheveled than when she walked in. "I'm sure you want to talk business first. Shall we talk economics, military or travel?"She suggested. "Or would you like to keep it casual this trip? You did come quite a long way."

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Rafael found himself appreciating the Baroness’ playfulness and flirtatious mannerisms more than expected, finding them to be somewhat of a welcomed change of pace when compared to the often dark, serious demeanors involved with politics. Not that the topics they were soon to discuss did not deserve the fullest extent of their attention or utmost severity, but he’d found that when focusing too intently on a single thing, when investing too much of one’s self into so finite a space, it was easy to overwhelm the more sensible faculties of the mind. But true to his nature, he also saw how easily that same girlish coyness could be wielded as a weapon.

Kalmuli was not like the elves he’d learned of from scripture and rumor, or even those that inhabited the dense forests of the Great North and Arcane East. While unquestioningly beautiful, she lacked the haughtiness of her counterparts, and through that, he could see how she might become more corporeal to a man. With her shortness, full chest, and legs that all but pleaded to be squeezed and touched, it would easy to lure detractors away from the point and into a murky, lusty haze of distraction.

“I assure you, Baroness, there is a stark difference between a young vampire and an elder,” he replied, letting his blue gaze wander over her figure for a moment longer. They settled on her neck, perfect and unscathed. He could see the blood pumping just beneath her pale skin, hearing the slow, steady hammering of the heart living in her chest. “However, I do appreciate the warning. And as I am not one to overestimate himself and underestimate the influence of blood, I do agree that it would be wise for us to discuss business before indulging in any pleasure.” For tasting her sweet fae blood would certainly be that.

Rafael took his seat opposite the Baroness, crossing his legs at the knees, and nursing the side right side of his bearded chin in the hook of his thumb and index finger. “I feel that the first order of business should be transportation, as the inefficient transporting of soldiers, resources, and commodities is the crux of most issues plaguing this region. Orisia is one of the smaller islands of the world, and yet, both Drakiss and Izabal are all but isolated from the rest of the nation. If, say, someone was to launch an attack and begin in either location, you would be without support from the south for a number of days. That is unacceptable.”

Settling more deeply into his seat, Rafael studied the Baroness’ expression, only briefly flicking his gaze down to the neck that tempted his thirst. “My wife, the empress, has a different manner of ruling than I do. In the most simplest way of describing it, she prefers a weak federal government—a throne that rarely interferes in the happenings of her governors—whereas I, being who I am, prefer a rather strong throne,” he explained, still watching her with that predatory gaze that seemed exclusive to his eyes. “I believe that it is the throne’s duty to rule closely, and that the officials elected to interpret the throne’s will do so to ensure unity. A nation should be a single fist, Baroness, not five fingers.”

He waited a beat, letting her absorb his words and form her opinion, though did not yet give her the moment to voice them. “I intend to gather the top artificers of the Empire in an effort to develop a more efficient means of traveling between the island’s major cities. What once took days will take a matter of hours, perhaps even moments.” While the latter was preferential, he’d no spit in the face of any progress. “In the meantime, it is a top priority to begin reinforcing the north – economically, socially, militarily. The throne will provide the budget, which you should find more than substantial, along with the lion’s share of the laboring force and resources for immediate construction and renovation. The rest can be pulled from Drakiss and neighboring villages; it will be good to point coins in their pocket.”

Rafael gestured toward her with a slow wave. “Now, tell me, what is your vision.”

Edited by King

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Kalmuli agreed with his statements about transportation, but his closed fist approach to ruling would be a difficult transition. She was used to having an open approach to how she handled the region she was given. She rubbed her chin a little as she listened to what he proposed to the region and she nodded with agreement. "Transportation is a major issue...but as for artificers, you have myself and another in my personal arsenal of artisans."She would note briefly. Kalmuli shifted, the roundness of her thighs accentuating with the movement and she leaned back against the back of her chair. "It's one we've been working on for several months...while the Navy has the fastest ships, we don't necessarily have the funds to make similar ships and you've experienced the travel time yourself."

Kalmuli brought her hand to run along her leg as she spoke, making long strokes along her pale thigh. "We've considered airships but we're not capable of using them in this area...and making a train system would still take at least a day's journey to get anywhere. We would need enough artificers, mages and builders to develop an appropriate portal system. One on such a scale that a full Orisian network can be made on both land and sea."She spoke, knowing that something like this was going to come up. Drakiss' isolated position made it hard to get any sort of help should there be an invasion. Even the most developed soldiers couldn't keep up with a full invasion force upon the small part of the country. "I don't doubt the Capital will want to develop such a program with us. It would mean developing enough port keys to allow businesses, merchants and the military to pass through at greater speeds."

Her hand stopped at her knee, her fingers lacing together to fold on top of it in a steeple shape. "Economically, the advantage of being close to the sea means we've been able to boost the fishery business. Not to mention, we have the beautiful coastline to thank for some tourism. Volcanic soil has been great for experimental foods and resources for trade. There are plans to use the volcanoes themselves to create forges...obsidian-tipped weapons, medical tools...obsidian when sharpened can cut down to the atoms and they're intimidating weapons to behold. Military purchases can make that kind of stimulus happen at a grand scale."She said, her hands sliding back to the hem of her skirt that she neatly smoothed the hem. Kalmuli wasn't shy about her personal assets. "I see a fine military training program combined with a plentiful farming resource system to both feed and provide the funds to develop Drakiss...along with a booming forge town to provide weapons as well as higher grade tools...not to mention a chance to expand the land itself into the sea to reclaim it into more usable land. Booming tourism, an enhanced education system...It can really be a jewel of the North."

Kalmuli would sit back, arms crossed that gave a not so subtle lift to her chest. "Question is...does my vision meet the standards of the Emperor's? I have a complete portfolio available of the nitty-gritty details...but we'll be here all night and into daylight if I went into it."She said, smiling with a little shrug. "I'll leave it with you before you head back...though I wouldn't mind if you stayed for a little while longer. It's not often I have esteemed guests, let alone ones that intrigue me."

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So, the Baroness was far more than a gorgeous face, curvaceous body, and unabashed seduction. Rafael listened to the woman speak with renewed interest, his amusement with her flirtatious ways not even yet cooled, witnessed in the way his eyes roamed her body without any manner of covertness to the deed, lingering on the legs and hips she seemed so determined to dangle before him. The vision she saw for the future of Drakiss was one that very closely aligned with the emperor’s own interests, albeit some minor differences, though none so severe as to unsettle their rapidly developing foundation. If all was as she claimed it to be, Kalmuli would prove to be a rather powerful ally in the days to come. Whatever her previous loyalties and involvements may have been, Rafael could overlook them for the time being, and ensure that siding with the throne—with him—far outweighed any personal gains she might hope to make elsewhere.

“Yes, Orisia can be rather hostile toward technologies that have developed beyond a certain point.” For all the emperor’s intimate knowledge of the island’s genus loci, mostly gleaned through tastes of his cousin’s blood, La’Ruta remained a mystery to him. “It makes studying the phenomenon all but impossible, as well as any attempt at adaptation.” How many wasted years had his chief artificers and researchers wasted attempting to uncover some hidden truth about the mystical energy? “A portal system between the major cities of the island is idealistic, but it will need to be properly policed. Regulated hours of travel, heavily guarded…” His words fell away as his expression tightened, a pinched brow and narrowed, lowered eyes as his mind wandered. “…but, I suppose those would better be left for once we’ve managed a successful transfer.”

Cutting his eyes back to the Baroness, Rafael smiled. “That being said, I rather like what you see with those blue eyes of yours, Baroness. There are still a number of citizens on the mainland seeking homes here, many of them veterans, and could provide you with teaching experience you seek. That, however, requires an academy.” Reaching into his jacket, the emperor produced a small envelop from the breast, its seal unbroken. He gently set it beside his untouched glass of wine. “As I’ve said, the north is vulnerable. Whatever militia you might be able to muster from Drakiss and its immediately neighboring lands is, in no exaggerated terms, the fullest extent of the throne’s military presence here. I would see that changed by mid-season, with a fully provisioned and operational base and multiple outposts fully constructed by season’s end. This edict will make it so.”

It would have been wise to return that night, avoiding the possibility of souring what had proven to be an enjoyable second rendezvous. He grew weary of other’s company much too quickly these days, and while he enjoyed the sight Kalmuli, the taste of her in the air, it would only be a matter of time before even her beauty turned to ash before his very eyes, and the taste of her flesh poison on his tongue. This wretched thing he was becoming, he detested it so, and yet could find no manner of strength to delay its onset. When it was not the business of his people or the politics that governed them occupying his mind, it was thoughts of his unborn child, of the happiness awaiting him in nine short months. “Intrigues you, hm?” he asked tiredly, fingering his right temple in a futile attempt to settle the migraine slowly brewing in his skull. “Well, I see no reason I cannot afford another handful of hours in your company." He would not go quietly into that pitiful night, the elder decided. "Perhaps we can satisfy that wild curiosity of yours, yes?”

He raised his left hand, still nursing his temple with the right, and gestured her closer with a sensual curl of his finger. "But first, I think I'll have that drink now.”

Edited by King

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Kalmuli would bob her head in agreement, switching her legs around. "Of course...I have some highlighted plans as far as regulations go. It'll have to be if we're going to maintain the people who have to monitor and keep them stable. Doing it all day can be tiresome...I speak from experience on that regard. My specialty is portals in particular...but I won't bore you on particulars. That will all be in the portfolio."She said, keeping it short, sweet and to the point. 

Kalmuli would rise, not caring for the rising shift of the skirt she wore as she strode over to collect the letter. She looked distant a moment and it seemed as if things were as they should be. She looked down to him, seeing a troubled look wash over him. Like he was ill. Maybe it was hunger pangs? "We have an academy...a beginners school and a school for adults but if we're going to get an influx of more people coming to Drakiss, we'll need the staff and means to do it. The edict should help with that."She said as she would transfer the letter to a different table, one that had a variety of books already stacked on top from someone, mostly Kalmuli, pouring over researching her ideas for Drakiss itself.  Kalmuli would return to his side, but instead of exposing her neck for him, she took a moment to reach up and slide the tips of her fingers through his hair and to the side of his head. 

"Let's just say...when we took each other's hands at the festival...your hands told me stories. I could hardly contain myself. I was seeing pages of what your hands have done...and I knew we would get along quite well. Just your hands though...I can only see things in short stints depending on how long I'm in contact with someone or something."Kalmuli would explain one of her abilities. "I saw how creative you are...and how dry those paints have become...How those hands can be cruel and kind...perfectly blurred together to the point it can be confusing for most. Not to me though."

She would move her hand away from his head and would reach up to shift her clothing to the side, exposing her neck and shoulder as well as the welcome mounds of the tops of her bosom. Leaning close, she rest her hands on the arms of the chair with that fleshy part exposed for him to dine on with a waft of lavender coming off of her person from an earlier bath.  "I've heard that when a vampire drinks blood...they can see what they've seen. I apologize in advance if what you see raises many questions than your headache may care to allow...Sorry...healer's eyes."She whispered softly. "You'll feel better with a bit of Elf a la carte...Bon Appetite."

Edited by Kalmuli

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If ever there were stories of his to be told, his hands, well-aged and yet still impossibly perfect, were undoubtedly the ones to tell them. For all the things she’d gleaned from her gift that night he’d taken her hand at the festival, there were many more left hidden, quietly lurking beneath his paper-thin surface of refinement and control. Enough blood to drown a civilization beneath its tides; enough pleasure to blush the cheeks of Hedone, herself. And for all the things she’d both seen and hadn’t seen, no vision compared to the feeling of being at his mercy, of having those hands ensnare her, shaping her to his will. Once upon a time, Kalmuli would have made a lovely partner for his more sordid affairs, but those days were well enough behind him. She, like all others, would have to settle for his bite.

She leaned in close, resting her hands on the arms of his chair, but it was not nearly close enough. He smelled the lavender, but also the water itself, the fabric of her clothes, the wine on her breath. Rafael took her by the back of her neck with his left hand, letting his right hand find comfort along the swell of her backside. He pulled her closer, nearly into his lap, while he squeezed her with a strength that betrayed his youthful exterior. She was not a Baroness in that moment, but prey, and he her predator with her squarely in his grasp. Rafael’s bite was as severe as it was precise, and unlike those of his kind that enjoyed shorter, more compact fangs, his were long and broad, meant for boring deep and into flesh and milking the lifeblood from the veins they struck. Like all those that service their emperor this way, Kalmuli would bear the unmistakable mark that was his own, though whether in shame or pride, was entirely her choosing.

Rafael drank deeply from the Baroness, pacing himself with the rhythmic beating of her heart. He could make her heart dance for him if he so desired, slowly or quickly, playing the muscle as if it were an instrument, may very well have if this had been a regular affair. But for his first tasting of any new species, especially those of the more exotic variety, he preferred to allow her own emotions guide the way, finding that fear, excitement, and even pleasure could have a profound impact on the resulting flavor. As he savored her, he found Kalmuli, left to her own rhythm and arousal, tasted of bliss and warmth. A slowly warming fire that worked its way down into his belly and then, slow as smoldering coals, spread through the rest of his limbs. Her blood was something to be relished, appreciated for the fine wine that it was. In exchange, he would satisfy more of her curiosity.

Rising from his chair, he pulled the Baroness flush against his chest, pressing out all and space between them. Tighter now was his grip, fingers locked in her hair, tapered fingernail gently raking along the back of her scalp. The hand that had once crested the swell of her backside now settled into the dip of her lower back, twisted into the fabric. Stronger now was the pull of his mouth as he drank her, though gentle and encouraging as opposed to demanding, and his breathing, though heavy, remained measured. He closed his eyes and immersed himself in the visions of her past – the horrors that only those who dedicated themselves to the healing of others might witness, fully embracing the intimacy of the moment they shared. And then it was over.

Rafael broke the seal of his mouth with a sated, wet sigh, lips bloody and tongue dripping. He breathed slowly, balancing himself, before kissing the wounds he’d left on her skin. He kept her close, sharing her heartbeat with his own. “Thank you,” he breathed against the curve of her neck, his head resting on the shores of awareness, though the foam-capped tides of mindless euphoria lapped at him with an inviting laziness. “You are as magnificent as I hoped you would be, and more.”

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Kalmuli wasn't surprised by the rough touch, and was drawn onto his lap. She didn't lean her weight on his  legs, rather, settling them on the cushion as she straddled. Her shoes slipped off, falling onto the rug beneath the chair. His grip was strong on the back of her head and around her body. She wasn't shy in sharing that same, strong embrace against their bodies her fingers sliding through his thick, dark hair greedily until they clamped into a fist as his teeth bore into her flesh.

A sharp gasp slipped from her, her body pushing against his and settling down on his lap. As his mouth touched flesh, she could see what they had tasted and touched. Some were sane, a feeding here and there...others were more vicious. Hungry. His mouth poured out wise and cunning things in her ears. A warmth washed through her that traveled down to her loins, her hips pressing forward and trembling as the rush of blood made her moan out loud. 

Her memories were more sane in the beginning...an uncaring mother, doting father and a kingdom in a cold, unforgiving northern continent. There was fire and blood, then a long line of children before it tapered off until a darkened void that seemed to go on for centuries until a hand reached out of the darkness to pull her out. There were worlds beyond Valcure that were fantastical and beyond reality that blended into another darkness...an angry, lonely blackness until three enormous women seemed to take a broken woman and gave her a purpose. From there it was more travels, leading up to her arrival to Valucre. All the while, glimpses of debauchery slipped in between memories until they came up to this point. A point of comfort and acceptance...She wanted to know him and this was a very intimate way of doing so for both of them.

Kalmuli felt the weight shift, her legs moving with it and out of instinct, wrapping about him as she held onto him until she felt the heavy, shuddering breath against her neck. Her breaths were a little deep, heated against the side of his head and her body had been alight with a new want. The contact of their chests together let her see a little deeply into him...the exhaustion...the sated hunger...the emptiness that had been caused by an Empress and someone yet born. Kalmuli came back to the present, her body relaxing  and her legs slipping from about him to settle back down on the rug though more on her toes. Rafael was nearly a foot taller than she was.  "Hah..."She said, one last tremble escaping her and her grip slackening but she kept her arms about him as her flushed face looked up. "And you...Emperor...just as much if not more...You have a lot on your chest...."

She leaned in a little bit, though a little bit from light-headedness and more out of her want for more touch. "Some of it sticky...but others heavy. Very heavy...but I will not speak of what."Kalmuli said as she momentarily kissed the side of his head. "That bite did delight me in a very good way...If you weren't a married man, I'd claim you as you have my neck just now....vigorously."

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“More than you know,” Rafael confessed to her, adding to the intimacy of their brief moment together with a rare display of vulnerability. Perhaps it was the blood talking as it settled comfortably in his gut, or perhaps it was the exhaustion? He lacked both the resolve and energy to care. “I appreciate your consideration.” Now was not the time for her to pick apart the mess she’d seen, the things she’d felt, and it took caution and wisdom to know that difference. She will prove an even greater ally than I imagined, he mused as he kept her abreast, their hearts beating in a strangely singular melody, though hers was naturally faster than his slower one. The emperor held her until he felt the strength return to her legs, still by the back of her head and the small of her back, before feeling confident enough to untangle himself from the small woman’s embrace.

“Another life,” he teased the elven Baroness, thumbing away a final drop of blood that had welled at the site of his bite. Though a man of passion and raw, carnal instinct, it was perhaps ironic that he’d taken his vows to Gabriela far more seriously than she ever had. With exemption to the occasional feeding and odd dance beneath the moonlight, he’d touched no other woman, paid them no affection, and had eyes for no other beyond his dear wife. For all the bad blood that flowed between the two cousins, he could not bring himself to debase himself in such a manner. The honor of his marriage and his faithfulness to Gabriela was one of the few things he had left in this world to call his own—even if she did not wholly deserve it. “But just because I am married does not mean I’ve forgotten my manners.” A mischievous shimmer flickered in the depths of his blue eyes. “Allow me to bring you some relief.”

Half-turning to the side, though taking her hand in the massive valley of his palm, Rafael beckoned his honorguard enter. The neatly flooded the room, their gilded armor alive with the candlelight of the room. Standing there shoulder to shoulder, the group formed an imposing wall muscle and tempered steel before the door’s threshold, their expressions stern and impassive. The emperor gestured to them with a wide, flourishing wave, letting the elf feast her eyes on the splendid Carmine stock. “Which would you like?”

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Kalmuli could coddle him all night, letting him vent his woes out of his spirit and into hers all night if he desired. She stayed clung onto him. It wasn't fair...not to Rafael...at least that's what she felt. It was something that made her want to slap the fangs out of the Empress and shake some sense into her...though just that act would probably get herself killed. Once she was able to stand steady on her feet, Kalmuli stood barefoot on the carpet as she stayed close to his imposing figure.  She cast a pout to him. "It could be this one if you so wished...but I understand. Promises must be kept in vows and body. I'd go blind and crazy if I stayed so celibate."She said, her smaller hand nearly swallowed up by his.

A wall of muscle and glimmering armor entered the room though her eyes were more feasting on the Emperor she couldn't physically have. That didn't mean that she couldn't entertain in other ways and when she managed to peel her eyes away, she caught the healthy stock of men that had come with him to Drakiss. Raising her eyebrow, she looked back to Rafael. "Such a cruel question...I know whom I'd favor but if I had to choose...hm..."She pondered such as she got a good look at the bored-looking soldiers. Kalmuli hadn't met nor trained these ones so she leered at them as she narrowed things down. "It would be unkind to leave any of the remaining so bored and out of place..."

Kalmuli's free hand would hold up all five fingers. "I'll borrow five...but the sixth, Emperor...will be you. A voyeur and perhaps, a bold conductor of the thrills to be had this evening...All of us in a perverted scene, commanded by your voice."She said, an excited trill running up her spine and up into her scalp. When was the last time she felt such a giddiness? Maybe it was the blood loss but books and manuscripts worth of lovely scenarios ran through her head from what she had witnessed in their contact. "From what I saw...you're quite good at giving instructions..."

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It was late in the night when the small boat Aldorto had, 'commandeered' from a few bandits that were so glad about their raid. Piloting the ship was not hard, having spare hands from his own personal squad of shadows. Coming back here was strange. It seemed like only weeks ago he was here with Beris talking with Ingrid about her job as a mentor. Now it was Kalmuli's island. Funny how the world works.

Upon getting closer to the shore, it was clear that there were a few guards on duty posted by the shore. Aldorto had an advantage being in the dark. Given the first glance demeanor of these two men, it was apparent they were not the most well disciplined nor trained guards. They were bored, speaking to one another and giving a tale loud enough that Aldorto could make out bits and pieces of their conversation. When he was closer to them, Aldorto would slip behind some crates by casting one of his shades to secure the spot before taking it's place. The small squad of shades would, in turn, would come closer in the boat. Their presence was now know as the guards would look upon the boat that was not far from either of them. Aldorto lead the attack, catching a guard off duty and moving to sweep his leg out from under him. Using the momentum he would swing the man to the ground and quickly strike his face going for a clean knock out. While he went for the first guard, the shades would leap out and assault the second guard, beating the man unconscious. The bodies of the men were placed to make them look like they'd fallen asleep on duty.

"First step is done. Good work boys." Aldorto would let his shades scout the area for him while he wandered into the town as though he belonged there. His hood was pulled up on his dark cloak and would proceed into the middle workings of the town. He was here on business affairs and wanted to know how well trained the new talent was. Two guards did not offset his mindset that Kalmuli would have highly trained and capable guards. From what he knew of her, Kalmuli was a smart woman, well...from what he could recall and from what he knew from talking with Makiel. Though he never truly met her. First impressions were everything and he fully planned on breaking in and seeing how far he could get before someone could subdue him. Was it the smartest move, no, but it was the most fun he'd have in a long time. That was what was most important. 

The shades were not very well hidden in their signature, anyone who was on the look out for strange magical signatures would be able to detect one of the shades with at least a journeyman's understanding of how to detect hidden presence. Aldorto was not trying his hardest, he simply wanted to see how well trained Kalmuli's new forces were. In his mind, the best way to do that, without Kreigstad here, was to test how impregnable the islands defenses were.

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