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Biazo Isle; But one of many places on this expanse world that he had yet had the pleasure to venture to and investigate first hand. He'd heard rumor of the bountiful harvest it cultivated, though without any proof or validity to the claims he had a hard time believing. Thus he'd come to visit now. After travelling around the mainlands of Terrenus a bit, and coincidentally making some new friends and enemies along the way, it seemed curiosity had yet to kill this cat. While he'd undoubtedly left the mainlands, he was still in what was considered to be Terrenus. In comparison, from what his sparkling, emerald eyes could see, the Cambion was already in the train of thought that this island was more of a diamond in the rough. The adversity that arose with the like of the Safeguard Act and the Civil War didn't span far nor wide enough to implicate the island so much as it had to many parts of the mainland. 

While he firmly believed he wouldn't find what he was looking for directly in the city life of Aspyn, the Magician was certain that this was the best viable beginning to satisfying his curiosity. Lest he wished to go on a wild goose chase without even a single lead. Even with direct witness to the claims, or discovery of some byproduct, he wished to witness first hand the native flora that was said to host holy properties. Holy properties that were rumored to benefit the user of such herbs in ways not even he could fathom. One that ingested the herbs found themselves relieved of so called Evil energy, though in his mind Evil was more a matter of perception than it was fact; At least in the realm of mortals. Being a man of half Demonic lineage, he couldn't help but wonder if these products of the land could somehow rid him of such genetics. However, he had no desire to do such a thing at this point in his life. For he did not see this portion of his heritage as any more or less detrimental or evil than he did his human half.

The real question was, where to start? Should he just begin asking random passersby? Perhaps he should visit the Embassy and seek the advice of the native leadership or the professionals involved in harvesting said flora. Regardless, he'd refuse to be content without finding the source of this vegetation and it's proclaimed effect. If the source could even be identified and viewed by him directly. The one sure thing was that something was different about the plant life here than it was anywhere else he'd managed to visit. Not only could he see such with his WIZARD EYES, but he could even feel it through what he called The Great Æther.

@Pasion Pasiva

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Gabriela tapped her thin, metal card against the wooden counter-top as the young woman behind the register pressed some buttons and frowned at her screen. She shook her head and narrowed her gaze behind the heavy frame of her glasses. 

 

“Well -- there’s just multiple problems here, ma’am.”

 

A dark brow arched as her tapping became faster.

 

“Multiple problems?” questioned the newly-made human, her golden eyes -- while still as gloriously beautiful and bright -- settled rather unkindly upon the woman. “What problems?”

 

“Well, for one thing,” the woman said without looking up, “Irene Gabriela DuGrace is a vampyre and you -- well, you clearly are not, so these are clearly not your accounts and this is clearly not your money. The fact that you’re trying to access this money fraudulently could and probably should be liable to criminal prosecution. However,” a quick flash of green nearly startled Gabriela from where she was standing as the woman shifted her gaze for a moment before going back to her screen, “--all of these accounts are frozen. None of this money can be moved anyway. The thing is, Irene Gabriela DuGrace has been known to deal with known criminals. Her assets have therefore been seized by the Terrenian Government. So, you essentially picked the wrong person to rob today, darling.”

 

With that, the woman finally stopped her clicking on the register and turned her full attention back to Gabriela, who still stood there dumbfounded. She smiled a long, and satisfied grin as she laced her fingers together and set them upon her desk, peering up at Gabriela from across the counter that separated them. 

 

“Ballsy of you to think you could waltz in here pretending to be the Black Queen of Orisia, I must say…”

 

Unable or perhaps simply unwilling to hear more, Gabriela backed away from the counter. As if to protect herself from the ugly and judgmental gaze of the woman she was leaving behind, the poison green of her irises amplified behind the thick lenses of her glasses, the very human Black Queen of Orisia, stuffed her hands into her coat pockets and ducked out of the bank as quickly as she could manage. Her head was spinning and her stomach heavy and knotted in a mixture of anxiety and fear. Real, honest to god fear gripped her with such violence that she was certain she would double over right then and there and puke, except that she had nothing in her stomach.  Although hunger had been the first and strongest of her new human sensations, it had also been the easiest to ignore -- until now. Her stomach hurt with a mixture of hunger and bad nerves. 

 

What was she supposed to do without money? 

 

What was she supposed to do without her abilities to help her at least steal or seduce some poor asshole into giving her what she needed to survive? Not only did she feel helpless in this new body of hers, but she also felt hopeless. Without her name to use as a shield, she would have nothing. 

 

It was then that she noticed that she had buckled and settled onto her bottom upon the steps of the bank. It was unseemly to be in such a state of distress in public, so she picked herself up and fixed her coat, smoothing out any wrinkles upon her gray shirt or jeans. There was no point in having a public panic attack, better that she gets back to the Black Tarantula and try to find someone who might be able to help her.

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Minutes passed as he continued to traverse the city, nearly lost in his thoughts to the point that he forgot he was already pretty much where he needed to be. While he began to happen across some business venues, he had yet to see one that matched the nature of his desires. What he was about to see however, was more in tandem with what he called normal in his life; Something that hadn't been so towards the latter days of his position as Viceroy of the port city Caelum. Irony. 

"!?"

His face twisted with confusion as he witnessed a woman walking, not only across from him, but against his current path of travel. While he didn't grasp more than a glimpse of the front of her face before getting a better look at the side of it. 'The Black Queen of Orisia? No, it couldn't be...' While she had a rather uncanny resemblance to Gabriela, Xartia knew for a fact that she was of the Vampire variety. Sure he'd only seen her in person once, though he liked to believe he never forgot a face nor an aura.

"Or could it?"

He questioned himself aloud before doing a double take. As creepy as it might make him seem, Xartia opted to follow his new found curiosity which was likely, arguably more interesting. He moved to cross the way and began to tail the woman. Had he known she'd just left a financial establishment, he may have been a bit more weary of tailing her so suspiciously. At least he himself didn't appear to be any sort of vagrant or urchin, primed and ready to ambush the woman and rob her for whatever wealth she might have concealed on her person.

All the while he continued to question his perception, cautious of himself and what it may seem like to an outsider looking in; Or even to the woman herself should she notice she was being followed. The one time he'd seen the Queen on her own throne, she like her cousin bore a beating heart, meaning they were of the pure blood/living vampire variety. Though this woman's skin wasn't quite as pale, and her aura was strange in comparison, her heart felt rather similar. Perhaps more exposure to her company would have allowed him to be more certain in these thoughts. Unfortunately, this was all the knowledge his memories could afford him.

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She was on the verge of tears -- she could feel them forming and misting her view of the busy street. All around her people were walking with their arms full of bags and packages or mouthful of words spilling out in conversation, laughter, or what appeared to be angry tones. And she couldn’t concentrate on any of it, but somehow was able to be utterly overwhelmed by all of it. There were a hundred thousand sounds, and each and every one was nothing more than a jumbled cord of static that hissed violently and offensively at her senses rather than being  a clear and precise thread she could pick out and understand. Beyond that, there was her eyesight which felt dampened and muted, in the bright, early morning sunlight, especially as it filtered through the mist and smog of the city. To add to her troubles, the tears that were welling up were blurring her sight and she seemed to have no control over them -- at the very least they were clear as water rather than ink black like her blood.

 

Her blood…

 

She stopped mid step in the middle of the street only to be knocked into by someone who had been walking behind her.

 

“Hey! What where you’re going -- what’s the big idea, stopping like that.”

 

It was a man, larger than Gabriela by far, and quite angry. He was talking into a contraption, some metal band around his wrist, and he only slowed down enough to glare over his shoulder at the young woman. To her surprise, there was no recognition on his face, not even a touch of familiarity. The only thing she saw upon his features was unabashed hate, and for the simple sin of having stopped midstep. 

 

“I am sorry,” she mouthed the words, but the man was gone into the crowd by then and she had been pushed back into a slow trot down the sidewalk.

 

The Black Tarantula wasn’t too much farther away -- maybe three or four blocks, but the sights, sounds, and smells of the city had proven a powerful concoction against Gabriela’s new human senses. Oddly enough, it was with her newly hindered faculties that she felt herself more aware of the world. She was unable to control how she processed what assaulted her, and so it all seemed to affect her at once. It was dizzying and with her stomach being empty, and with her being unable to recognize hunger for what it was, the sickness that came with nausea was completely forgein. 

 

Soon she found herself out of the throne of people, leaning against the display window of a bakery. Her stomach growled, audibly so and trembled with such force that it shook her from her moment of risk. Both her hands came to rest atop her belly, while she frowned deeply. She looked absolutely puzzled as she stood there, holding onto her stomach as if she did not understand the most basic occurrences of her own body. So utterly out of sorts was the former Black Queen, that she absolutely did not notice the fact that she was openly being observed and followed -- just the sort of thing that would have never passed her attention before.

 

But standing there, what a sight she was, this vampyre recently turned human. She was like a newborn, with skin as perfect and pristine as that of a little child’s, totally unmarred by a life of experience. There were no marks, no bruises, no scars what-so over. Her hair was as lustrous and long, falling lose around her small frame in elegant waves, well past her bottom. She was dressed in tight jeans, they were a dark wash, and a light gray shirt, with a heavy wool coat over it that was just perfect for the morning chill -- which she absolutely felt and suffered from now.

 

Could Xartia even understand what he was seeing -- the blessing and curse this could be? He was privy now to the whereabouts of the Black Queen of Orisia, and more so to what had become of her. It was knowledge that could undo her life, and could give him power the likes of which he could never imagine. Beyond all of that, he was given a chance to simply study her in a way very few ever had, without her knowledge, without her consent.

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If this was in fact her, one thing was clear. For most, what was the past couple of years, he had not only personally experienced a complete metamorphosis; One of his most cherish loved one's had undergone something incredibly similar, yet completely different. Courtesy of this strange world and it's strange magic. It was funny for the Magician to consider that there were still wonders to be found across the multiverse that perplexed him. In his personal experience, he'd managed to undue a change forced upon him. Though in the case of his dear friend and perhaps The Black Queen, it was a change; Regardless of whether it was forced or not. 

Despite his old habits of apodyopsis, the Cambion watched rather intently, studying her body language. Her aura was distressed. She wasn't scared so to speak, though her anxiety was rather high. It spiked even more as she ran into someone, a man that apparently was less than that of a gentleman. He saw as she failed to apologize, though not for the same reason the man himself had. Xartia continued to follow her as inconspicuously as possible, even pretending to be lost as a casual way of stalling when necessary. 

When she practically collapsed against the exterior of a bakery, the Cambion smiled, snickering lowly to himself with a hand over his mouth. The more he allowed himself to consider that this was in fact Gabriela, the more comical the scene became from his perspective. The hunter had become the vulnerable hunted, metaphorically wounded, she sat in the open. Ready for the stalking predator to pounce! Fortunately for the both of them, he wasn't the sort. At least, not in the threatening kind of way. Approaching her directly, albeit still with a bit of caution, he aimed to gain her attention without startling her. With a soft, charming grin, he lightly cleared his throat.

"Pardon me, "

He began. He stood no more than five feet away, sure not to block her path should she decide to move, nor the door of the bakery itself. Without any flashy, impressive attire, he looked dapper enough in his mostly black outfit. A black blazer and button up over black slacks, complete with freshly polished black dress shoes. The accented accessory being a fashionable neck scarf of smaragdine, rather perfectly making his sparkling, emerald eyes pop.

"Has anyone ever told you you look a lot like The Black Queen of Orisia?"

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A voice inside her head spoke up then and there -- it was cool and crisp, and familiar like the sound of a dear friend or a beloved sister. But what it had to say was harsh, and the young woman with teary eyes, could not help but look to the misty sky, past the towering buildings that threatened to entomb her as she struggled to make sense of what she was hearing. 

Get a hold of yourself. You’ve been turned human, not into a dimwit. You’re blubbering about as if you’ve lost your mind -- this change cannot be the end of you.

A trembling hand rose and pale fingers curled into a fist. With her knuckles she rubbed at her eyes until they were clear of their tears. Still, she sniffled a little and swallowed back a few pathetic sobs until she finally managed to settle herself down. Her long, dark lashes fluttered, and again she looked skyward as if she might find answers there. She knew for certain that it was not Tenebre who was speaking directly into her mind for their bond had been broken the moment Rodan had changed her from vampyre to human. The Dark Father would have to manifest himself physically if he wished for his daughter to hear his voice. 

I am you -- or some fragmented piece of you. I don’t know. But here we are, and here I am, telling you what you need to hear at this particular moment. You’re overwhelmed and you're not thinking clearly. You cannot go without food or water, not the same way you could before. You aren’t thinking clearly because you aren’t taking well enough care of your body. Being human, the responsibilities are different but no less important. 

“Pardon me…”

Bright golden eyes widened and settled on the visage of a handsome man standing before her. Dressed in black, his outfit was neither overtly fine nor was it shabby. He was well dressed for the time and place. There was of course, a familiarity to his face, and had she the sharpness of her vampyric mind, she would have placed him immediately. But instead, he was but a fuzzy figure in a clouded memory. 

“Has anyone ever told you you look a lot like The Black Queen of Orisia?”

“I am not,” she replied immediately before sucking in a breath that she nearly hissed out through her pearly, white teeth -- fangs gone, “I mean, yes, I’ve heard that before, quite often. But I am not her, ha...I am not the Black Queen. I am missing a few key components, or so I imagine, if what they say about her is true -- you know, the fact that she’s a blood thirsty vampyre and all of that.”

Don’t over play it, said the voice in her head, no need to overplay it.

“I mean, that’s just what I’ve heard…” she pushed back a wayward strand of hair, a long wave of dark hair that had fallen over her shoulder and across her pretty face. “How do you know what the Black Queen looks like? Have you ever seen her in person?”

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Xartia's immediate reaction to her words was nothing short of jovial laughter. He chuckled heartily and even clapped his hands together about half way through the entire experience. He wasn't laughing at her, which may not so readily obvious. Rather he was laughing at his own past prejudices against the likes of vampiric creatures, indiscriminate of their many varieties. Even if he was still that guy, he'd never call The Black Queen bloodthirsty. Not that he had any adequate source of knowledge either way, though he often followed his gut when it came to the nature of things; Including people. Gabriela didn't fit his image of bloodthirsty, thus he assumed this human as prejudice.

“I mean, that’s just what I’ve heard…”

"I can't say I've heard much, but certainly nothing as severe as you have heard."

“How do you know what the Black Queen looks like? Have you ever seen her in person?”

"Indeed I have, though I never had the pleasure of meeting her personally."

He was nothing more than one of the mere plus ones, though at the time he was standing as Viceroy of Port Caelum; A member of the Scarlet Council. That night of grand celebration which was more or less a night of high emotions. To guess then that life would lead him precisely where it was now was a task too daunting, even for this Magician. Still, his new found freedoms associated among his multiple life changes of late left him unaligned with any one court. Thus his knowledge of the current events in and around Genesaris or Predator's Keep were severely limited beyond public knowledge.

"Forgive me, it appears I've lost my manners. My name is Xartia Raye Pendragon, The First...He mentioned as he offered his right hand to not the Black Queen. "I was just going to have a bite to eat, would you like to join me Miss.....?"

He lingered on miss for a moment, informally asking the woman her name while inviting her for breakfast, lunch; Brunch, he'd call it brunch. He knew she was hungry for he'd heard her stomach groaning moments ago, though he made no allusions to having witnessed such a thing.

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The man laughed and clapped his hands. He seemed utterly delighted with her performance, but she had no way of knowing if he had actually bought into it. Luckily for her, something that had not been spirited away along with many of her heightened senses and supernatural abilities, was her naturally set serious face. She stood there, regarding him throughout his jovial outburst with the same nearly blank expression, her golden eyes set firm upon his and her lips settled into a fine, straight line that only curved at the center where her cupids bow forced a bend. Whether she was insulted by his laughter or equally amused did not show. The only thing that was for certain was that she was interested, for she did not break eye contact with the man for any duration of time while he spoke. 

“Forgive me, it appears I’ve lost my manners. My name is Xartia Raye Pendragon, The First…” he extended a hand, “I was just going to have a bite to eat, would you like to join me Miss…?”

“Isabella,” she replied as she settled her hand into his. 

For the first time she let her eyes drift away from his face and it was only to marvel at the way the warmth of his fingertips did not shock her. Usually, her flesh was so very cold that nearly any amount of warmth was enough to render her uncomfortable, but now -- with her own flesh warm and inviting -- she noted only the strange comfort that came from simple, friendly touching. It caused a touch of a smile to form on her lips, a strange expression given this odd exchange, and surely, more questions to add to Xartia’s mounting curiosity regarding the not Black Queen. 

“Isabella Marquez,” she corrected herself after a moment, as she took the initiative and shook his hand. Fortunately, she had already thought of a name before this particular interaction, so she wasn’t completely caught off guard. She had to hope that the man was not too familiar with the Black Queen’s history, at least not enough to know that the Black Queen’s mother was named Isabella. 

“I would absolutely love to join you. I am rather embarrassed to admit it, but I am in a bit of trouble...I just came from the bank, I am not from Terrenus you see, and from what I was told, all of my accounts have been frozen but they couldn’t give me a reason as to why. I am not sure what they expect me to do. I just got in yesterday from Genesaris. And without access to my funds, well...I am just not sure what I am going to do. But I am absolutely starving.”

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“Isabella,”

"Isabella."

“Isabella Marquez,”

The two shook hand, in which Xartia made sure not to let his grasp linger for too long despite the intense sensation of joy and comfort found in her baby soft skin. The feel of it's caress as their hands parted was a feeling he wouldn't soon forget. Though he couldn't fathom why she felt the way she did. Easily he assumed she was gifted in the arcane arts such as he was, though unlike him perhaps used it unabashedly to maintain her nearly flawless beauty. Some sort of spell to keep the body fresh or something like that. Unfortunately, he didn't plan on asking her, so he wouldn't likely ever know the answer.

"A pleasure to make your acquaintance."

“I would absolutely love to join you. I am rather embarrassed to admit it, but I am in a bit of trouble...I just came from the bank, I am not from Terrenus you see, and from what I was told, all of my accounts have been frozen but they couldn’t give me a reason as to why. I am not sure what they expect me to do. I just got in yesterday from Genesaris. And without access to my funds, well...I am just not sure what I am going to do. But I am absolutely starving.”

The look on his face when she told him all of this was priceless; He was dumbfounded. Though he easily corrected himself by gently clearing his throat and refreshing his charming grin.

"In a world filled with magical prowess, you'd believe that you were ever broke? Bank, bank error, or otherwise?"

He needn't explain his origin, nor his technical now home away from this world; Outside of the Material Plane even. He certainly had no need to explain to her that he also hails from a prominent family; The clan Pendragon. His twin brother sitting on the throne. He had no reason to tell her that he was rich, for even if he wasn't (which he wasn't on this world*), he was a Magician. When one had no funds, they had to produce some for themselves. Be it through honest labor, or by magical means. When in doubt, gold always seemed to a be universally accepted currency; And for good reason.

"A mild in convenience I assure you, I'll be happy to explain more over tea. In the mean time, allow me to treat you. Typically that's what happens when a gentleman invites a lady to be his guest. Perhaps my thoughts are too outlandish or outdated."

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Gabriela was well pleased by the sound of her mother’s name rolling off of the man’s tongue. He had a talent for her native language, a way hissing out the ‘s’ and stretching out double ‘l’ -- it made her smile softened, and a touch more genuine. Beyond that, she found it increasingly curious, how delighted he seemed in the feel of her hand against his. He didn’t do much to give it away, but she noticed it in the way his eyes darted down between their bodies, to linger upon her fingers, on the back of her hand, and her wrist. It was a little thing she had never noticed in her previous life, a sort of flattery that went beyond the beauty of the face to something tactical and often overlooked. In fact, she found herself following his gaze, and for a moment examining her own hand. There simply had not been much time to examine her new human body, but in that moment, he forced her to notice that her glass-like fingernails were gone, and replaced instead by soft, pink nails with small half-moons at the base and clear white tips at the tops. 

“In a world filled with magical prowess, you’d believe that you were ever broke? Bank, bank error, or otherwise?”

“Good sir,” she replied with a rise of her dark brows, “would you really be so surprised to find that a majority of the population has to get along without the know how of magic? We don’t all have powers at our disposition, and so, as rudimentary as it may seem, institutions such as banks -- unreliable as they seem to be -- are a necessary evil.”

There you are. There you go. You’ve found yourself -- myself -- once again. 

I feel lightheaded and giddy. 

That’s adrenaline, at least I think. Before, your body used the hormone with precision and near perfect control in order to serve you… us… me… best. But now, Our brain cannot do it. It’s flowing freely in our bloodstream. You’re lying and you’re slipping easy into it. It’s excitement, but it the high won’t last and the crash will be bad. You need to sit down, get some food -- sugar. 

“A mild inconvenience I assure you, I’ll be happy to explain more over tea. In the meantime, allow me to treat you. Typically that’s what happens when a gentleman invites a lady to be his guest. Perhaps my thoughts are too outlandish or outdated.”

“Perhaps, but I am happy to play the damsel in distress if you’re willing to be the knight in shining armor,” she didn’t need further prodding. 

She had already turned from him, flipping her hair over her shoulder and accidentally striking him across the chest. It was a great mass, her dark mane of hair, waves of silken locks that floated behind her like a veil of near black. Without prompt, she pushed the door open and the sound of bells and the smell of freshly baked bread welcomed them.

There were only a few tables to pick from, so she went for what was closest but also what afforded them the most privacy. A cozy little table for two near a window, offering the best view of the busy street outside. No sooner had they been sitting than a young woman walked up to them and asked to take their drink orders.

“A glass of orange juice for me, please...and some coffee…”

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Perhaps, but I am happy to play the damsel in distress if you’re willing to be the knight in shining armor,”

His lips parted to reply, though before he could gesture for the door and express his belief in ladies first, Isabella took the liberty upon herself to head in. While she presented herself as nobody of interest, she perhaps made herself seem that much more appealing; At least to him. When she turned and his hair splashed across his torso, he caught a generous glimpse of her scent. What was strange was that it smelled so, neutral.....Pure even? Maintaining his charming smirk he rushed to continue holding the door open as she entered.

As he followed her, he gave no indication of preference for seating, only once they reached the table might she notice that he refused to sit with his back to a door. Depending on the shape or size, he took care in avoiding windows as well. One could never be too careful after all. There was hardly the time to regain any semblance of conversation before the waitress appeared beside their table, ready to take their order.

“A glass of orange juice for me, please...and some coffee…”

"I'll start with a chai tea, hot, with a dollop of soy milk. Do not stir it, please and thank you."

He refreshed his grin as the service departed for at least a few minutes, his emerald eyes settling on her's once more.

"I'm not usually the sort to hold people for ransom, though I feel the need to tell you directly that I refuse to let you leave this cute little diner without actually having a bite to eat."

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“I’m not usually the sort to hold people for ransom, though I feel the need to tell you directly that I refuse to let you leave this cute little diner without actually having a bite to eat.”

Perhaps, to his amusement, she was already in possession of a menu when he began to speak -- but by the look upon her lovely face she looked to be anything but. The topic of being held against her will caused all pretenses of pleasantries to melt off her face, and for a moment she appeared more Black Queen than charming, newly-made, human girl. There was even a glint of molten gold in her soft, amber colored eyes as she regarded him with a seriousness that could have chilled the blood in a lesser man. But she was quick to recover and understand the humor of his words. Privately, she marveled at how once upon a time, her hunger would have been geared toward the blood thundering away and against the walls of his arteries rather than the savory dishes mentioned in the menu. It was the wonder of this miracle that carried away her agitation and allowed her melt back into a smile.

“You’ll get no resistance from me -- consider me your most willing hostage,” she half smiled, with only the right corner of her mouth curling while her lips pursed in a sultry tease. 

You’re no longer that animal, so don’t pretend to be. 

I am not pretending to be anything.

You have no idea who -- or what -- he is. Don’t tease him. Don’t tempt him. 

Gabriela lifted the menu on her lap and peered at him over the edge. There was a narrowing of her eyes as she took in the measure of his features. He was a handsome man, there was also something terribly familiar about him, but because he had been one of the faces in the crowd when first and last she saw him, he was not at the forefront of her badly clouded memories. She pinched her brows in frustration and went back to looking over the menu. 

“The eggs benedict looks good,” she said at long last.

That is going to be entirely too heavy for your first meal!

“Yes, I think that’s what I’ll have -- with some house potatoes, and maybe hot cakes.”

Are you trying to make yourself sick? You have no idea how you’ll react to food.

“What are you having?”

She closed the menu and set it back on the table.

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A woman with an appetite, he admired the eating habits she displayed against the way she looked. For a human, she had a rather flawless figure. He failed to observe her level of athleticism, though if that' how she usually ate, she had to lead an active lifestyle.

"I'll have to settle for the country fried steak, with hashbrowns, eggs, and -" He paused to look away from his menu and to Isabella once more. "hotcakes. Though I guarantee they're nowhere near as good as mine."

Not only did he cook, and rather well at that, breakfast was his specialty. Hotcakes being his personal favorite. He'd eaten flapjacks in so many different varieties that he'd be surprised to find a recipe he couldn't compare to another. When the waitress returned with their beverage order, Xartia took the liberty of repeating both of their orders to her, starting with Isabella's. Eyeing his tea for a moment, he judged it before he even took a sip. He could tell by it's appearance that they were rather sparring on his dollop of soy milk. No matter, it was hard to ruin chai after all. He'd just have to make due for the sake of a cohesive experience.

As the two of them awaited their meals, Xartia kept with pretty basic, casual conversation. It was obvious that even without having a romantic vibe about it, he was obviously fishing for information she was willing to share about her self. He was getting to know her. Even after the food was delivered, and they began to partake in the fresh, piping hot goodness, he'd try to keep a little speech going between them without being rude. By this time, Isabella herself had learned that Xartia familiar with Predator's Keep more than he was with any other part of Terrenus. This was his first trip to this very island. That he was a Magician, and an Adventuerer; Argonaut if he wanted to make himself sound more important. The biggest revelation she was afforded of him however, was the fact that he was an outsider to this world. One that had obviously been around for a while and had no indication of departing any time soon. 

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It was her first meal. The first morsel of food that would land upon her human tongue and the first burst of flavor to spread across it. Somehow, she felt disappointed after the food was placed before her -- neat and delicious as it appeared. There was a yearning in her heart for something very specific, something she had watched Roen eat before her on many occasions. He was fond of fruit -- that awful devil -- and he had never imagined how envious she was of him when he’d produce some manner of it, an apple or a peach, and begin to cut into it with some carving knife he just happened to have on hand. When he wasn’t looking, she’d study the way he’d slip slices of the fruit into his mouth and she would fantasize about the flavors, only to steal away whatever meager semblance of it remained upon his lips from forced kisses. 

 

But the plate before her displayed nothing of fresh fruit, besides a thin, almost flower-like sliver or orange that had been cut and artistically set to the side of her potatoes. Everything else on her plate seemed tragically heavy, and unappealing, though her hunger begged to differ. So although it may have seemed odd, before she touched anything else, she plucked the small piece of orange and ate it first. 

 

And how was she supposed to hide her sheer delight? The flavor of the orange -- the sweetness, the tanginess, the citric crispness -- it was better than sunlight, it was better than warm blood running in her veins, it was better than anything else she could have ever asked for. Her eyes closed and her knees, under the table, pressed together in sheer pleasure as she sucked the pulp free from the skin until there was nothing left but the rind, a thing that’s sheer bitterness kept her from devouring. 

 

Of course Xartia was very polite in not staring or mentioning that she ate like some orphan off the streets that hadn’t seen a proper meal in days. She went on to attack the rest of her meal in much the same way, forgiving the fact that it was nothing as wonderful as fresh fruit, but no less delicious. The texture of the eggs, the sharpness of hollandaise sauce, the crunch on the biscuit, the saltiness of the ham.

 

He spoke casually and lightheartedly, but she wasn’t much of a conversationalist once the food was brought out. She nodded her head or shook her head, and every now and then she would deem him worth enough to regard him with those soft amber-colored eyes of hers. By the time she was done, he was probably halfway finished. At which point she noticed a newspaper sitting on their table -- she hadn’t noticed that it had been brought along with her drink order. 

 

She had no intention to be rude, but a name caught her attention. 

 

Vadrian Dawnwood, was sprawled across the front page as a participant in a tournament called the Feast of Blades. He was a long way from Orisia, but Gabriela was not about to question the legitimacy of such a fated gift. She knew the Dawnwood House to be loyal to her name and claim upon the Orisian throne. If there was anyone she might consider turning to for aid in this most desperate of times then certainly it would be him -- but she would have to get to him first, and that was definitely going to be easier said than done. 

 

“I hate to eat and run,” she said suddenly, springing to life after having spent a long and silent minute staring at the paper. She didn’t realize how much longer it took her mind to process things, and therefore how much more noticeable her pauses were as a human. “But I just remembered that my friend is waiting for me, and I should have gotten back to her nearly half an hour ago…”

 

She was moving to stand, preparing herself to go, when she stopped about half way out of her chair. A cramp in her belly caused her to pause, to grip at her side with a visible flinch before she settled back down in her seat. Her stomach had never been full before, not like this -- the feeling was new. When a human child is born their tiny stomachs slowly and steadily grow and stretch to accommodate their growing need for calories. Gabriela did not have the advantage of that sort of time. She was a newborn -- a newly created human with a body to match.  

 

“I am sorry -- just a moment.” 

 

This time when she got up, she did so much slower and managed to get to her feet. 

 

“It was such a pleasure, Xartia… I hope we’ll meet again.”

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In the face of hunger, true hunger, there was little to no room for modesty. Regardless, Xartia tried not to be so judgmental these days; Not to mention he'd already known that she was practically starving, that was why he invited her to brunch to begin with. He continued to eat at his own leisurely pace whilst she scarfed her food down at an alarming rate. Isabella seemed to have zoned out for a brief moment, in a manner of which the Cambion knew well himself. That deadpan stare, as if she'd suddenly recalled something of great importance. That or learned something new altogether. Her speech to come clarified his former assumption was most accurate. With a mouth full of flapjacks, he struggled for the chance to talk her down before she'd left. Fortunately for him, she was staggered by the large meal she'd inhaled.

“I hate to eat and run, but I just remembered that my friend is waiting for me, and I should have gotten back to her nearly half an hour ago…”

Forcefully swallowing his poorly chewed food, he wiped his mouth with his napkin. Before he could stand, before he could come to her aid, she'd reclaimed her seat for a moment's rest. He grabbed his tea and washed down any lingering contents in his throat before audibly clearing it. His lips parted to speak, though her words stalled him into what was most visibly a false start judging by his open mouthed expression.

“I am sorry -- just a moment.”

"Are you okay, Isabella?"

“It was such a pleasure, Xartia… I hope we’ll meet again.”

Though she managed to get to her feet easier this time, it was with much effort. More than what it should take for the average human. Was something the matter with her? Was she sick? As far as his keen senses could pick up, she was the living standard of healthy. As if she had literally just been born in the last day or so. Her deflection of answering him directly and attempting to so swiftly dismiss herself gave him that much more cause for concern. Though they had just met, he felt uncomfortable leaving her on her own with the way she was acting.

"Not so fast dear, at least allow me to escort you to your friend. I'd feel much better knowing you at least made it into a familiar face's company before letting you go."

She seemed reluctant to accept his assistance, though she wasn't overtly denying the offer as it were. Xartia had no idea whom she was seeking, or in this moment that she'd bee seeking them in Predator's Keep. Though when he figured out at least where they were going, his mind worked for a means of how to finesse a visit with all of the changes between the Scarlet Region and himself in recent weeks. Perhaps with their Queen temporarily out of the equation, the moves of the Yokai Queen as well as himself, even if noticed, would likely go wildly unchecked. Still, it was a risk to return. His mere presence could be salt in the wound; Hopefully he could just slide thru without causing too much attention to himself. Right, walking around with the Black Queen's look alike was incredibly discreet.

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