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Typhon

Ships Bought on Sail

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It had been a month since Lamius Morlog had sent mail correspondence to the other noble houses of Ursa Madeum declaring himself as a lord worthy of their attention and presenting verifiable copies of his family roll. Alongside these credentials, the young noble also declared his intentions to take three ships of his own personal military and strike against the pirates which plagued the shores of their collective homeland. Further, he invited any noble interested in captaining one of his ships for the mission to meet him on this day, at this time, in this place: Port Moon. 

Here, he had spent the last of his family's dwindled wealth on the purchase and provisioning of three frigate sailing ships. More moderately priced than proper battleships, these lighter, faster vessels were in fact ideal for the purpose Lamius had in mind: to hunt and kill crafty pirates. 

It was the first step of a long and unappealing adventure.

"Sir!" a soldier said, as Lamius approached his three ships on Port Moon's docks. 

The mercenary soldier was dressed in Morlog uniform: a black double-breasted suit with silver lined shoulders, but Lamius suspected that his loyalty was only superficial. Of the sixty men who would board the three frigates, only Lamius's ten horse-soldiers could be considered truly loyal. The rest would obey for pay. 

To secure their loyalty, Lamius would need to find either some overwhelming power to cow them with, or else he would need to prove to them that he could make them richer than any other battle commander. Either would be difficult. Most likely, he knew, he would eventually need to be rid of them. He resigned himself to get as many of these mercenaries killed as he could, while never losing a battle. In this way he could grow his prestige and attract soldiers of real quality. 

But that came later, for now he walked onto and waited inside his flagship. 

Because everything was hideous in the cursed eyes of a Morlog, Lamius couldn't tell whether his new ships were aesthetically pleasing. He did know, however, that they were old and worn by long use. His flagship, the Mermaid's Tail had handrails which looked ready to snap like kindling. Yet her hull was strong, her masts secure. To Lamius nothing else mattered but her efficacy as a ship that would pirate upon pirates. 

So he sat in his Commander's office, formerly the parlor room of the large guest suite. In it he had a desk, a map table with all of Ursa Madeum spread out over it, and a suit of studded leather armor on a stand in the corner. There was a door to the side of his desk which led beyond the Commander's office, but Lamius never went inside. Beyond that door was the lady Cerys' quarters, and no man disturbed it. 

And so Lamius sat waiting behind his desk, waiting to see if on this date, at the time, and in this Port Moon any nobles or new officers might respond to his summons to take up arms against piracy. If they did, they would find Lamius Morlog: and a more morbid man they might never see. He was tall, but hunched over; with ivory-white skin and dark circles around his eyes. He seemed to be utterly joyless in disposition. In fact, he was utterly joyless; his capacity for happiness a victim of his family curse.

And though he would not greet newcomers with cheer, he might greet them with opportunity if they seemed able enough to use it. 

 

(Participants:

@Rust and Stardust @Malintzin @Thotification @LikelyMissFortune

@Tyler (In case you'd like to keep track))

Edited by Typhon

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HOLLY SHEATHE


hanako1.pngThe makeshift contraption rolled through the streets in Port Moon, the ride a bit to bumpy for its passenger. Uncomfortable as it may be, the rider does not  have much of a choice in that matter. The passenger then was a woman, her body surprisingly fit despite her slender form although one might wonder how the woman can maintain her fitness especially with that crippling disability of hers.

Hers was a bizarre case, a complication within her cells, the tiny particles within her body that are now slowly destroying her body. Her legs were the first to go before that complication was inhibited and now she has to live with only half of her body functioning. With these in mind, then that strange contraption would be a wheelchair, her only aid to ease the burden of her circumstance.

She was being pushed by another woman, this one more healthier than her and with a complete set of normally functioning legs. This other woman had a bored expression on her face and the look of someone who clearly did not want to be here. And yet the two continued their pace in absolute silence.

A few more minutes later and the two stopped before the Mermaid's Tail. The ship was not as impressive as she expected but it should be fine. Her only problem is that she might have trouble going up. Instead, she turned to look at her assistant.

"Would you mind picking me up, Shishi?"

 

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If someone had told her she would end up involved with piracy, Corvus would have gutted them to stay their amusement.

The road from Renovatio had been an annoying one. There were people, constantly hanging around and nagging like tiny, annoying gnats. The itch, the unyielding desire to just put them down! It was a feverish hot feeling that took moments of solitude to quell. She was a killer, bridling with zeal that was contained beneath the surface.

OXY was gone and there was no communication from Adelaide or the others. Corvus assumed they were dead or cowering under some new regime to start anew. Or perhaps OXY was finally gone for good? It was not until their ship was intercepted by another, foreign ship that Corvus first tasted piracy. Like many others, she too had been “tied up”. The Light of Arcadia was a transport vessel of people and goods, with many people from many walks of life traveling to see the world of Valucre and beyond—no doubt! Some wealthier than others.

They were armed and considered dangerous—if that’s what their brand of danger was, anyway. Corvus was not impressed. Patience had not been her virtue, but their profession intrigued her nonetheless. She wasted no time in growing bored of their theatrics and when she had the information, she wanted she promptly dispatched them. They had been sailing to Pirate’s Cove of Ursa Madeum, just outside of Terrenus proper—and that’s a place that interested her. And so, that was precisely where she would go.

--

She had not been in the area long, perhaps a week or two at most. She came by sea—literally. What opportunity would serve her best to return her directly to Terrenus without directly returning? Ursa Madeum proved to be fruitless in that regard. They were more interested in their own internal high society squabbling and politicking than anything else. But that was when the ripe opportunity struck when a call to join a particular family for a particular job caught her attention. Their military background would serve her needs better than the pomp of show of the other nobility.

The Mermaid’s Tear tilted and swayed, creaking the way elderly ships did under duress. She was a great pillar of water that scaled along the side, the ship sling-shooting back as she rolled and splashed onto the deck, bubbling and welling up and shaping out to be humanoid in design. Ursa Madeum’s magic seemed amplified within Corvus—and she pondered how and why. Was it because it remained unmarred by civil war and cataclysmic events? Her image seamlessly faded into view, so lifelike, so real that others present questioned what they earlier saw.

Her brilliant golden eyes scanned the ship, glazing over the wary crew. There, the captain’s quarters. She started for it, when a curtain of men came into view. “Your Captain, I will see him now.”

This was not a question.

“You’ll do no such until you’re given the say--.” Corvus seized him by the throat and lifted him off the deck. “I will not ask again.” She replied crisply. The man sputtered and struggled under her grasp until she dropped him in a rare show of restraint.

A crew member sought to gut her—only the fall through, momentarily disrupting the illusion. Corvus had already extended her arm out and caught him by the throat before slamming him onto the deck. She forced a palm against his face to smother him, filling his lungs and nasal cavity with water until he drowned and stopped moving. That had given her a wide berth of space as she stood, her carefully placed glamour snapping back into place.

Demon, sorceress, a creature from the depths—that’s what they speculated in fearful whispers as they kept as far away from her as they could. That was not her concern. She stepped to the man outside the door and with a tilt of her head and a look, he quickly slipped his head inside before letting her pass.

She breezed past the man with so little regard, “Your summons is received. You’re looking for something particular.” She cut to the chase effortlessly as she stood before the assumed Lamius Morlog. While he was a thing of black and silver--she was a thing of white and black, “But I want to know exactly where you intend to go with this endeavor.”

No names, no introductions—she spoke to him as though she had been working with him all along. There was a method to her madness, one she played carefully. She would not be well received and she was banking on that.

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Lamius looked up from his map as the sounds of commotion reached him. A yell, silence, a thud, silence. Before long, he was facing a smartly dressed woman with an expression on her face which shocked Lamius in its familiarity. He hated the sight of it.

But that was nothing new, and he didn’t miss a beat.

“I intend to take these ships against a hideout of pirates. My military will hunt the pirates, kill the pirates, and distribute their stolen riches amongst themselves, retuning rightfully earned gold into the hands of loyal subjects of our nation.”

With a broad hand the towering, albeit hunched, Lamius flattened the map he was looking at previously to direct her attention toward a small speck of an island surrounded by rocky spires which jutted from the ocean like spindly claws.

”Here, I am told, a pair of mighty pirate carracks secure their plunder at a guarded cove on this isle.” He said, tapping the map with a finger, “My objective is to engage with them in two days, at which time they will be returning heavy-laden with plunder. They will not be expecting an attack and so our tactical situation is favorable.”

He looked back toward this woman, who had thus far conveyed to him the only real detail about herself he cared to know: that she was here in response to his invitation. Until this moment, he hadn’t been able to shake the suspicion that his letters to the noble houses of Ursa Madeum had never arrived. He wasn’t relieved to see that they had arrived, but he suspected that he might have been were he not so unfavored by nature and poisoned in his mind. 

“However, tactical situations can change. Our enemies are illegal pirates,” he continued, though the redundancy of calling them illegal pirates perhaps offered a hint into the mind of Lamius, a mind perhaps amenable to the idea of an alternative form of piracy which was not illegal, “they are warriors accustomed to battle and they will surely have little mercy for anyone who learns of their hiding spot. Furthermore, their two larger ships pose a significant threat to our small trio of frigates. Though I do not necessarily wish it so, if it comes to even battle we may be called toward desperate circumstance and extreme maneuvers, and so...” he said, meeting her empty expression with his own,

”I will require someone capable of mayhem.” 

A soldier burst into room, his sword drawn. It was one of Lamius’s cavaliers, one of only ten men on the boats who could be called either loyal or courageous. He’d clearly just gotten wind of the violence this newcomer had performed above decks.

“Lord Morlog! Are you alright? Stay back, this woman is some sort of witch!”

The edge of Lamius Morlog’s lip curled, a morbid expression of ill humor at the repulsive convenience life offered to the wicked.

@Malintzin

 


 

The soldiers on deck were crowded around the drowned body of their former comrade. Water seeped from his blue lips and even his eyes leaked in thin trickles. 

One soldier who was nearer to the gangplank saw the disabled woman and her caretaker. He wondered for a moment whether they were with the water witch who had passed through a moment before. They didn’t seem to be. In fact, they didn’t seem like they belonged here at all.

”Hey, ladies! This is a military ship, civilian transports are that way!” he yelled down, pointing to the eastern docks which, indeed, had many cargo ships and pleasure barges moored at them.

@Thotification

Edited by Typhon

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It was the strangeness of the missive that tempted Evienne. It had been so out of place, so worn, the penmanship so negligible-- so vulgar that it drew her. And upon that missive, that was huffed at by Papa, was but a command. The tone so absurdly demanding it must’ve been laughed at in parlors and studies alike. 

The late Lady Uldwar would’ve scoffed at it.

The Lady Goldcourt-Uldwar should’ve burned it.

The words shouldn’t have lodged themselves so deeply into her mind; it was the musings of a mad man. One of many planning to sow discord in a land made so vulnerable, a vulture upon a noble carcass. A herald of folly, of nothing but destruction, mindless- terrible destruction. A tale to be observed, as one does at the opéra, snickering between lamentation of the lives, such tender lives, lost so carelessly.

And so, Evienne might’ve just done if a spider, hadn’t whispered to her of profit to be reaped from this destruction. It was, after all, such a sweet solace, it had been argued, to draw from such an ugly thing. 

Folly, but if played just right, greatly rewarding. She would go, there was no one that could dissuade her of heeding the vulgar missive.

Still, she waited a week. And then another, till she could settle upon just the perfect excuse for dear Papa.

In the end, it was the salt, that allowed her to visit Port Moon. She had been told, it, among a myriad of other solutions would be good for her. Would ease the sorrow of a tableful of slumped bodies. The salt, apparently, would scour away the knowledge that one was solely to be blamed for the death of a clan. Every Man, Woman- even the children.

What a pity, indeed, that Evienne Goldcourt had been made a widow at such a tender age. A tragedy that was sweetened by the sizable properties her husband had settled on her, and yet she had felt too burdened to account for what was left. 

Those letters, certificates and notices lay on her desk, still as the hands cradled in her lap. Untouched, and veiled in a blanket of widow’s weeds. 

They were wrong, as they were about a great many things. The salt did not revive her spirits, it only add annoyance to her apathy, and a wrinkle between her brows. Still, she did little but sit still, sew and sleep the entire journey. Relying only on gestures for her companions to follow through on her demand. 

Even as her carriage rolled to a stop upon the dock, it was a fair while before any reaction could be elicited from her. Evienne was but marble structure whose flesh was washed and knit back together, but offered neither a nod of her head or a twitch of fingers- still grey and red. 

It was only when his fingers grazed pellucid skin, that seemed to jostle her out of the strange hollow reverie. Still, the simple action of readjusting her gaze felt heavy, leaden. Only a small smile could be afforded to the foundling at her side.

A dark skinned boy, no more than a decade old. One who still despised the cravat around his neck, and often fussed with it. She had called him Henry, after Godric’s brother- he didn’t seem to mind.

“There’s a commotion outside, Lady Uldwar.” The dry tone of his voice betrayed the impish curl of his lip. Evienne couldn’t help but mimic it.

Surely, she came to cause a stir herself, especially as she was to still be in mourning, screened from all the world. There was no hesitation in folding herself out of the vehicle, a blight upon the colorful, tanned creatures milling about them.

Thus reassured, the Lady couldn’t help but raise dubious eyebrow at the state of the vessel. It rocked wickedly, oily water snaking down its sides- raining unfortunate paserbys in a hiss of salt water. Worse still, was the sound of shrill screams, thuds and the cries of some unfortunate sailors. 

Surely, she couldn’t be prevailed upon to embark on such an odious task? Her foot man, however, seemed just as reluctant as she. He stepped half a step back, and then, amusingly enough- another two at a particularly violent thud.

 It would fall onto the boy, then.

He breezed past her skirts with nary a smile, hand clasped behind a white suit. Already braver than either servant or woman, reinforced with the promise of the sack of glazed hazelnuts she tossed into his lap.

 Still, a curious little pit formed in her stomach as he ambled up the gangplank, and bellowed without pause, for all to hear, even her: “The Lady Goldcourt-Uldwar is awaiting a reception.”
 

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The walls of the Lady’s bedroom in her quarters were hung with red satin punctuated by pearls that glistened in the flickering candlelight. She rarely dwelt in illumination—the windows were heavily shaded by curtains of burgundy velvet, the candelabras seemed to will their wicks to burn only at a half-light that danced in a ceaseless draft. It was as if this room, thick with the scent of incense and blooming black orchids, had the breath and pulse of someone in a deep sleep. It was a mortiferous, sensual lethargy that claimed her quarters, and the Lady Cerys sat at its core. 

Her eyes were shut. She thought of industrious little fingers weaving silk dresses made of gossamer whispers that covered a wounded heart, of stained sheets, a lover’s embrace cold and dead. Her white kitten was curled up in her lap. It paid no heed to the rocking of the ship, nor the skittering of unseen things that stirred around the delicate hands of its mistress. They scuttled over the rugs and disappeared into the cracks of the floorboards, departing once more for the further reaches of the ship. The kitten slept on in a drowsy peace, interrupted only when Cerys rose from the floor and set it upon the edge of her plush bed.

Around the copper tub, which always sustained a near scalding heat for her perfumed bath water, past a mirror framed in silver which reflected back nothing but shadows, after the hanging urn billowing with aromatic smoke, she slipped into the costume of a nobleman’s respected advisor: blacks and silvers to mirror his own colors, inverted into a corseted blouse and supple breeches beneath a traveler’s cloak the color of wine. She wore rubies and obsidian at her throat. Twisted coils of long black hair swayed down to the small of her back. From afar, if one had a morbid constitution, they could be reminiscent of blood welling at an open wound. She hummed a cadenza as she heard the telltale thud of gravity slamming a body to the floor. The low rumble of Lamius’s voice drifted beneath the doorway, more of a vibration than a sound. A lilting final chord and a carefully carved smile aimed at the blackened mirror carried her out of the comforts of her own lodgings and into the Captain’s quarters, where she met the accusing blade of one of Lamius’s men and the woman that acquired its attention. 

Both were ignored entirely, for there was already some sort of witch aboard the Morlog’s ship. She moved with a languorous intent, pausing only to listen to the voice of the Lady Goldcourt-Uldwar’s young herald before she crossed creaking distance from her doorway to the desk. 

Cerys bent forward to murmur into Lamius’s ear in a soft undertone inaudible to all but him, “How proud they all are, demanding your attention. Each impatient and narcissistic. Allow me to deal with the girl, lord.”

——

Even bathed in Ursa Madeum’s rich seaside sunlight, a suggestion of evening haze clung to Cerys. It was not the personal tenebrosity of a vampire, more so of a somnambulist caught betwixt the luxurious realm of dreams and a baleful reality, sharpened only by the ceaseless smile of her full, red mouth. It grew into a cordial red grin, the expression of a lady meeting another lady across a party at a gallery showing.

“Lady Goldcourt-Uldwar, such a pleasure that you responded to our missive. I am Cerys Adrastae, an enchantress of House Morlog’s noble court. Might I speak with you in a place more suitable than—“ she extended a pale hand, granted it fluidity and grace as it gestured to the mercenaries on deck “—out here? Would you like any tea?”

@LikelyMissFortune

@Typhon

 

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Unease settled into her bones with such force that her stomach rebelled, forcing Evienne to press a hand shakily to her abdomen, forcing breathe from her lungs. It was all she could do to keep the contents in. Recalibrate the concoction she had taken with a meager breakfast, and smile-- gloriously, as though she were delighted by such transparent attempts at pleasantry. 

It was most certainly odd, the strange calming presence she had on Evienne, disillusioned as she were. It all spurred her prejudice on, adding a razor edge to her doleful smile. Cerys was too beautiful to be human, with features that remained hazy and vague enough to remind Evienne of a pair of grey eyes and a cruel smile.

In truth, her discomfort could be dismissed as jealousy, rarely was Evienne ever in the presence of one who could arouse such pangs. This one did, however, cause such pangs. But there was another cause, a frivolous one, that no doubt would’ve escaped anyone’s notice, were it not for such a subject being her field of work. Namely it was the corset the woman wore over her blouse. No good ever came from a woman who wore such a long, arcane version of the garment. Stiffened inexorably with steel and whale bone, and decidedly missing a busk- not the fashion Evienne helped come into vogue. Especially, when it was worn so brazenly, exposed to all.

Could Evienne be blamed for crinkling her nose at it?

It was no small wonder then, that when Henry did eventually return to her side, she wasted no time in laying a gentle hand on his shoulder. And so, while she leaned over to the footman, whispering surreptitiously the terms of his dismissal, the little man spoke for her: “The Lady would prefer something stronger for this time of day, she has brought coffee for you to sample as well Enchantress Adrastae.” 

He was, perhaps, a little too sharp. It wasn’t very kind to needle the strange woman like so, and it wasn’t something Evienne herself would’ve done without at first having formed some sort of bond with the strange woman. Henry was still young, he still had a lot to learn- and as she clasped his little hand to make her way up the gangplank, she softened her countenance towards the offended party.

A stern warning to Henry, whose shoulder stiffened. 

“It is a pleasure,” her voice cracked, and she had to pause momentarily, cheeks ablaze, “to make your acquaintance, Lady Cerys. Pray excuse the young man, I call him Henry, and he has not yet opposed to the name so, you may call him that as well- if you please.” It was difficult to maintain her poise on the deck, she wasn’t quite sure how the woman did so as well. 

Vesper could, no doubt, lecture her on the correct stance. Still, stubbornly, she clung rather unsteadily to the graces deemed so necessary on land. “If you would please?”
 

@Rust and Stardust

Edited by LikelyMissFortune

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“Lord Morlog! Are you alright? Stay back, this woman is some sort of witch!”

Even as he spoke, Corvus spoke over him, "Stop..." She turned, certain and composed in her movements. There was something preternatural about it, "...talking." She enunciated the words clearly--concisely, even. But there was a hint of unsubtle restraint as she warred with her triggers. She stared at the soldier who burst in with cold fury.

"Have you ever had every ounce of fluid pulled through the pores of your skin simultaneously?" Whether this was rhetorical or Corvus was simply impatient--only she knew. She crossed the threshold between them and cupped his cheeks between the palms of her hands. He cried out and cowered, pulling away--but she held him. "Sh-sh-sh-shh...ooh, there-there little lamb, it's alright, see? See? Still alive and in one piece~"  She handled him with strange, deliberate delicacy--as though he were fragile. And he was. He was a tiny, wretched thing.

Her thumb ran along his cheeks. They were fleshed and warm--and she was a warm thing. It was a marvel, she decided. He whimpered and pouted and mewled. She was a witch, after all. "You talk too much," She whispered. "For a pawn--why do pawns talk too much? Pawns are silent, pawns know little else than what they are meant to do, and that is to be silent." Corvus gently kissed the tip of his nose and smiled at him. It wasn't an unusual smile--one that was forced--but sincere. She would have looked lovely if her countenance weren't so insidious.

"It's because you're not a pawn, are you? No, no, no, little lambs are delicious and for eating but you--you are a lion in sheep's clothing, yes?" She encouraged him, and though he trembled to be near so strange a woman, he nodded. "You wear a fleece--a golden fleece. That's a naughty disguise!" She pushed him against a bookcase, its contents shaking and settling. "You seem to know what is best for your superiors. The fleece of authority," She glanced back to Morlog and nodded respectfully, "And kingship." She added tightly behind clenched teeth before looking back to the soldier. He was so small beneath her--despite him towering over her.

"Would you like to be the best you that you can be? Someone proud and worthy? Someone others look up to?" The soldier was far too terrified to answer, but there was the smallest spark of ambition in his eyes and with fear as his vehicle, she understood his cowardice--his need to survive and be stronger.

He was a threat. Corvus smiled slowly, cruelly. Her fingers contorted and stretched. They slithered along his skin to his flared nostrils. "I will help you--fear not. I will pull all the liquid from your body and wear you. You who wears the fleece will become my fleece, yes?" The soldier screamed and garbled sound. He flailed but Corvus was unrelenting. She seeped into his body and flowed through him. She drowned him and tore through flesh and bone. As she slipped into his skin, she saw she was far too great for it--and his body couldn't handle the strain.

The soldier ripped apart, violently and suddenly.

"Chaos and Discord!" Corvus reverently touched what would have been her own skin--the wetness of it was a cruel reminder she had no such thing. She smiled, still, "This, I can do." She dropped her hands unceremoniously as her body remolded itself. Corvus stepped away from the gore and stepped confidently to the desk, eyes on the pair of them.

"When your lessers dictate what is best for you, they have other wild ideas on what is best for you. That's how you get killed. Do you want to be killed so soon? You don't strike me as a man who dies easily or quietly." Corvus hissed quietly and leaned a hand upon the desk and leaned forward, "Send me the information I need on these ships and you will have your mayhem."

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”Hey, ladies! This is a military ship, civilian transports are that way!”

The soldiers words made the Lady scowl much to the female aide's amusement. Lowering her head, the aide chuckled in the Lady's ear and spoke, "It seems your reputation has finally failed."

This only made the Lady scowl further. Her elbows rested on the arms of her chair, her hands steepling fingers before her as she regarded the soldier. "Boy, it seems your lord has forgotten to teach you any manners."

For the Lady, there are times when the situation calls for propriety and respect. While she could have kept on rebuking the poor soldier, it is best she controlled herself and her rising levels of pettiness. Clearing her throat, she spoke again.

"At the very least, inform your lord that this kind lady from House Sheathe has arrived."

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When Cerys first opened her eyes and stared out at this vast world with a preternatural stillness unbecoming to a newborn infant, it was not a manor that she observed during those early moments. The Lady Adrastae could not even claim rights to a ragged midwife’s birthing hovel on the edge of a settlement too inconsequential to even be considered a village, and while her youth had been spent in a castle, the once grand structure lay in utter ruin. As a child, she was surrounded by crumbling stone, all beneath a canopy of stars. She knew their names well.

Her own name was a lie. While it was possible that her bloodline once ran parallel to the nobility of Ursa Madeum, they were mystics first and therefore too useful to ever truly submerge into the realm of defective simpering. Until, of course, they became too dangerous and all but a scattered few managed to avoid extinction.  

Temporarily. 

Yet such reveries could provide no comfort to Cerys. All she knew of nobility outside of House Morlog and the visuals she stole from her scrying glass were second hand stories tainted by the talons of her mother’s inherent paranoia. 

Did this spoiled woman-child think her base, deliberately coarse? She watched Evienne tremble--how her needle pricked fingers did betray her even as they sought both solace and asserted authority with their touch upon the boy’s shoulder--she watched, and she relished the faint coppery tang of discomfort even as her smile rearranged itself into something soft and pliable. It was full of forgiveness, as if Evienne were the one that required it for an unknown transgression, and honeyed with reassurance.

A series of subtle discords, each slightly out of tune, tilted the orchestral choir that sang inside her head. Cerys decided at that moment that all noblewomen would have thought her vulgar, with their pinched faces and bodies like reticent wasps that are too cold to sting with a vicious passion. Her imagination conjured a court of them, fanning themselves with ostrich feathers and tittering at nothing, playing little games with little cards.

Somehow, the whey-faced Evienne did not quite fit.

There was a hidden quality about the Lady Goldcourt that attracted her initial interest. Those that carried the language of secrets can often detect another native speaker, and Cerys sensed a rare talent for venality within her.

“It is quite kind of the Lady to offer her own supply of her chosen drink,” Cerys cooed, “but she is a guest to House Morlog and I could not possibly impose upon her. Little Henry, shall you like to see your quarters?” 

With the snap of her fingers, it was not a true manservant that appeared but a bound spirit. On an extended neck blinked the moon like face of an owl, while the rest of its frame was loosely akin to a human. Its arms were fringed by wings, the feathers of which dragged across the floor. It walked upon stilt legs and bowed before the child, dipping deep on knees that bent backwards and twisting its neck like a snake in a coil. It did not speak, thought the faint sound of distant church bells were perceptible near it. 

“Fetch the child,” she said. It disappeared to the lower decks.

Waves pushed against the ship, harbingers of high tide. Cerys caught Lady Evienne gently by the elbow as she stumbled. She offered no patronizing comment or lingering touch. Instead, she brought up a passing mention of the clouds brooding along the horizon.

“I do so hope it shall not storm.”

Bare feet slapping against wooden planks foretold of the child Cerys requested. A scampering gait, a crooked grin, a dash of flour smeared across a tanned cheek and mousy hair stiffened by salt made up the impish urchin that officially served as the cook’s errand boy. With a nimble bow, he introduced himself as Rory. It was the Lady Cerys that placed him on this ship, out of anticipation that supernatural eyes alone could not observe all that happened amongst the crew. 

“Your room is right next to his,” she explained. “When the Lady Evienne mentioned a young servant in her letter, we thought it would be best for you to stay near a boy your own age for the journey. Rory, if you would please?”

He was a charming child, this foundling, full of boisterous tales, yet he carried himself with precocious dignity that suited the gravity of Henry’s presence. “I’ll help with the luggage. ‘S easier with the two of us than lugging all that on your own.”

With the boys occupied, Cerys turned her attention upon the Lady Evienne. 

It is said that there are carnivorous plants located deep in the forests of Ursa Madeum, ones that looked like the wings of beautiful birds, painted by a serene brush of white and blushing pink. They produced a tantalizing scent, irresistible to insects, and were flush with a sweetened dew that small animals desperately craved. However, their surface, so innocent in its girlish colors, was too waxy and slick to provide any creature sufficient grip, particularly after a rainstorm. They would tumble down the throats of these gloating flowers and find themselves trapped in a place filled with liquid the same color and consistency of blood. It was a natural barbiturate. The plant’s prey would drink, sleep, and dissolve. Siren’s tongues, or so they were called. 

Cerys smiled and held out a hand to Evienne should she need to steady herself against another round of battering waves. 

“Tell me, how does the Lady Halisera fare? Though my focus of late has been concerned with the interior of House Morlog’s court, perhaps you could assist with my education of the exterior world.”

Other murmuring banalities filled the void of conversation as they walked from the deck to the doorway that would lead to the captain’s quarters. Before the door, however, stood on of Lamius’s men. His name was Cadmus, a loyal soldier from a lineage of warriors under the service of House Morlog. His countenance was grave, his calloused hand rest upon the hilt of his sword. 

“Lady Cerys,” he said, and he felt his gaze drop upon the deck without quite knowing why. 

“Were you to see the lord, as well?” Cerys brushed windswept strands of black hair away from her red lips. “Come, you may walk with us.”

What filled the hall beyond the door was the unmistakable wraith of bloodshed. Cadmus knew it, as did Cerys. He pressed ahead of the two women before he opened the door of the captain’s quarters. Tension seized his shoulders. Arteries thumped, his throat constricted. He glanced back, once, to the women still behind him, away from the stains that streaked across the floor, away from the carnage that splattered outwards from Corvus’s handiwork. His face was the color of ashes stirred into oatmeal. He shivered beneath the enchantress’s gentle touch on his arm as she passed him. 

“There are other ways to prove one’s point.” While it was Corvus that she spoke of, it was to Lamius that she directed her statement. “Theatrical displays of power often lack the promise of results.”

There was a twisted thread that bound Lamius and Cerys together. Both were two aspects of the void. He, cthonic, austere and removed. She, alluvial, amorphous beneath her painted veil.  When she stood behind him in the cast shadow of his lubriguous presence, her voice dropped once more to a serpentine whisper. “See that none disturb me for the remainder of this journey. I must work.” Even if one were watching her closely, they would have been unable to see her speak. The enchantress then led the lady to her inner chambers. Once they were safely swallowed within the confines of the crimson walls, the owl-faced spirit bound to Cerys's will appeared with a tray laden with coffee in delicate cups. Tea cakes, fresh fruit, and cream sat besides the drinks. A bowl of sugar twinkled in the candlelight. It set down the tray upon a little table in her parlor and stepped backwards into nothingness. 

Cerys offered a seat to Lady Evienne before gliding into the opposite chair. A pomegranate, split in half, glistened beside figs roasted with honey. Her white kitten tumbled out from her bedroom, the diaphanous chiffon of a spider's web caught in its paws. "As I mentioned to you before, my lady, it is the court of my patron's house and his lands that have garnered much of my attention. The people of Razgolay required help, and it was I that heard their pleas. Suffering, it seems, knows not the limitations of borders or class, and this is why I must ask: You have a heavy heart. What is it that you seek here?"

@LikelyMissFortune & @Typhon

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