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Pasion Pasiva

The Kindness of Strangers

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“I am sorry -- I am so sorry.” 

 

She looked up at Xartia, a picture of gentlemanly charm and serious concern. Her brows pinched in sheer supplication, brows that were now adorned by a thin sheet of sweat. Though moments ago she had appeared as the picture of health, she was now beginning to look a little green around the gills. This was their third stop, and much like before, she disentangled her arm from his, for he had been kind enough to offer it in support, and darted into the nearest alleyway. Not bothering to be too far out of view, she doubled over, with trembling, pale fingers gripping at the brick-stone walls of the building before her, and began to vomit again. It was mostly dry heaving now, but a few swirling streams of orange-juice soaked pancakes managed to come rushing out. 

 

“Dear god,” she mumbled to herself as she tried to straighten up, “--it doesn’t taste or smell anywhere close to what it did when it was going down.” 

 

And of course, why would it? Stomach acid and bile had now joined the mix, and all of these things were natural and normal, the typical thing a human would know should they find themselves sick to their stomach. But she marveled at it, nearly with the same amazement as she had when the food was first served on the table. 

 

Really, you’re coming off as absolutely insane. Can’t you get a hold of yourself?

 

Honey-colored eyes closed tight as she fought back the practically torturous pain of an oncoming headache. Throwing up was affecting a lot more than just her stomach, throat, and the tastebuds in her mouth. After a moment, she composed herself and walked back out onto the street.

 

“I am really sorry. You didn’t have to walk me all the way here, but I am glad you did.”

 

She did not dare take another step. The gratitude she displayed felt genuine in her heart, so she wanted to ensure that it was perceived that way. And after ensuring that he had heard her and that he wasn’t too disgusted by her display, she carried on. It was just around the corner anyway, the Black Tarantula, after that he would never have to see her again. Although, when she caught sight of Ilyana standing outside the doors, in the icy morning mist, still wearing nothing but her skin-tight black dress and a look of annoyance upon her lovely face, she wondered at the possibility of backtracking and asking Xartia to adopt her and simply take her away. 

 

No more running away. 

 

“There’s my friend,” she said to the man, pointing at Ilyana -- Gabriela looked a little distressed, “--I am late. I made her wait.” 

 

She took the lead and crossed the semi busy street, moving at a slow jog now that Ilyana surely had eyes upon her. Gabriela looked paler than she should have, given that she was now human -- her bout with stomach cramps was not quite done, and she was dying to get the taste of vomit out of her mouth. 

 

“Ilyana, I am sorry for making you wait...there was a small problem at the bank. This is Xartia, a new friend. He rescued me from distress, and has now come to deliver me safely back into your hands,” the petite woman gave Ilyana a sharp, knowing look -- humanity did not fit Gabriela very well, she could hardly hide her feelings of annoyance as she had been able with her ice-cold vampyric mask. Now she just appeared a frazzled, sick-looking, girl giving people odd narrowed glares.

 

@Twitterpated @Dolor Aeternum

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The crowd of people in the Tarantula had dispersed, passing her by throughout the night without a care in the world. Did they not know of the looming threat that aimed to take away the freedom they had to indulge like they had? Of course they didn’t. Everyone was oblivious or forced themselves to be. Only those who had endured true monstrosities or embodied them could truly feel the weight of what was occurring in clandestine corners and subversive constructs. The cold air around her forced goosebumps along her skin until Obtenebra snaked its way across her exposed flesh and began to adapt to the drop in temperature. That ‘dress’ with the high slit was no more as it shifted into a form fitting suit and pants with intricate detail that tacitly displayed how well connected she was with her savior’s gift. She would not suffer the cold in wait for the human who did not keep true to her word. This was far longer than just an hour.

However ludicrous the idea of visiting a bank was after what she had just subjected herself to, Ilyana found Gabriela’s decision to return with a stranger on another level altogether. Even though the distressed face Gabriela approached her with proved to soften Ilyana’s features, they were soon hardened as they looked at Xartia trailing her. Gabriela’s pale skin and sickly look made her wonder if she had already been mistreated by this cruel world that aimed to swallow those that did not have the power to overcome it and if Xartia was the architect of this rude awakening. Ilyana was about to chastise Gabriela for making her wait but the former queen proved quicker on the draw.

“Ilyana, I am sorry for making you wait...there was a small problem at the bank. This is Xartia, a new friend. He rescued me from distress, and has now come to deliver me safely back into your hands,”

New friend eh? Ilyana held no right to judge given she was just as new but the Redeemer’s eyes scanned every inch of the man without any hesitation as Gabriela spoke. She wanted to burst into a protective and most likely vulgar response but she knew it was highly unwarranted. They were all strangers here and she’d not sour this blossoming rapport with Gabriela simply because she did not trust anyone but herself and her family.

“Did you get what you needed then beautiful?”

She turned to Xartia then to begin this charade.

“Thank you for helping her and delivering her safely to me. Ilyana Sevryn…”

She extended a hand to formally greet the man with a firm handshake that would defy her petite frame.

“It is a pleasure.”

Swirling black pools looked at the man, scrutinizing him but this time behind the veil of a smile as she dug deep into her memory to see if the name Xartia was one she was familiar with.

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“I am sorry -- I am so sorry.”

"Oh please, you just let me know if you need me to hold your hair da'ling."

He waved his hand dismissively. How strange it was for a person to be so apologetic for getting sick. She was the one saying sorry, and yet each time she said it he felt more and more that he should be doing something. Being well versed in the arcane arts, the Magician could have helped to quell her ailment in a variety of ways. For a less direct approach he assuredly had some sort of potion or elixir tucked away in his Bag of Holding. Of course there were also more mundane things he could complete, with or without his magic; As proposed he could hold her hair, for he once had long luscious locks himself and he knew the struggle that long hair presented. Not only, but surely he could've at least provided his new friend with so much as some fresh water. At the rate in which she expelled her stomach's contents, she would likely begin to feel dehydrated soon. The first signs of which would likely arrive in the form of head splitting migraines.

“I am really sorry. You didn’t have to walk me all the way here, but I am glad you did.”

When she seemed to be finished for the moment, he returned to her side in which he afforded her his arm for support so long as she desired to retain it. He wouldn't say such, though he'd have carried her if she asked or if he felt like he had to. It seemed however, that she was hesitant. Not in a particularly bad way, more....sincere than anything. Refreshing his Cheshire grin, his sparkling, emerald eyes narrowed in a jovial manner. The feint impression of crow's feet threatening to warp his beauty.

"I don't mind. Besides, I had good company. I'm sorry you got sick."

“There’s my friend,” she said to the man, pointing at Ilyana -- Gabriela looked a little distressed, “--I am late. I made her wait.”

The morning dew did well to minutely obscure her waiting friend, though as he looked on he was rather certain that she'd taken to some sort of magic to change her appearance on the fly; Lest she was the wearer of a symbiote. Perhaps even something similar to such. Regardless, she continued to wait as they approached. Isabella stepped before him, addressing her friend in the process. Her friend seemed to deliver some reassurance, though Isabella seemed to be awkward at their arrival. Then again, they'd just met, she'd been a tad bit awkward since they met  such a short while ago.

“Ilyana, I am sorry for making you wait...there was a small problem at the bank. This is Xartia, a new friend. He rescued me from distress, and has now come to deliver me safely back into your hands.”

“Thank you for helping her and delivering her safely to me. Ilyana Sevryn…”

"Xartia Raye Prendragon, the First.He responded as his hand respectfully shook hands with her's, at best mimicking her own grip. It wasn't often that Xartia shook a hand, his mannerisms were usually a bit more eccentric. That or he simply didn't wish to touch the person on the other end of the shake.

“It is a pleasure.”

"The pleasure is all mine. She's practically been sick since we finished breakfast. Not that I have anything against day drinking, though I'd make sure she has enough water."

He had no idea why they were here, but this place looked every bit of some sort of tavern or club. An establishment that undoubtedly sold alcoholic beverages if nothing else.

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Gabriela stood on the sidelines watching as Xartia and Ilyana exchanged pleasantries. 

Gone was her ability to focus and drink up the scene before her like pristine, crystal clear water from a polished bowl of glass -- an image, free of debris, of disturbances, of heartache. There was a pounding in her head, most likely compliments of the dehydration that Xartia had warned about and now a slow but steady growing ache in the middle of her chest that felt a lot like sadness. Before, these things could be pushed away, and compartmentalized, set aside until they could be dealt with -- but now? The ache of her lost child, the agony of her lost immortality, the slowly setting horror of what she had done, it was finally catching up with her, and her human body did not allow for distance from the emotional turmoil that was brewing. 

You’re a ticking time bomb. You need water. You need sleep. You’re human now and these things cannot be ignored -- not like before. 

They were shaking hands, her two new friends, they were shaking hands and looking each other over, in that way that predators do when they’re trying to scope out new territory. Once upon a time, she would have counted herself amongst the dangerous creatures, but now she wasn’t so sure. Was she the territory? Was she the soon-to-be carcass that was intended for consumption? Would they at least honor her by using every part of her -- her hair, her skin, her bones...her blood…

They’re done talking. You’ve been quiet too long. Say something. React. 

She blinked, she breathed, she awoke from her reverie and looked up -- first at Xartia and then at Ilyana. 

“No, unfortunately not -- my accounts have been frozen. It seems there is some turbulence within the Terrenian government, and my identity could not be properly established. They would not release any of my funds, but it seems to be happening to a number of people,” Gabriela offered a small shrug. “But, on a curiously unrelated note, Xartia has been to Orisia.” 

It was hard to lie as a human, it was hard to control the sudden pounding of her heart, especially since she could hear the swoosh of blood in her ears. She could even feel a deep, blush starting to rise from her throat, up into her cheeks -- but it could easily be blamed on the morning chill. She pulled at her coat, pulled the collar closer around her neck as if to sell this point. 

“We were talking about Orisia,” she said by way of explanation to Xartia, with a sideways glance at him, and then looked back at Ilyana -- she had to find a way to make sure the woman would not accidentally reveal Gabriela’s true identity. “He said he was at the Black Queen’s most recent coronation, you know the one -- where she was kidnapped? He was there. He saw her. Horrid creatures those vampyres.” 

She scrunched her nose up, and pressed her lips into a frown.

“Anyway, there’s a dear friend of mine competing in the Tournament of Swords -- if I can just make my way to him, I think I can get him to help me with my financial troubles. But I’ve no means by which to travel. Do you think I could trouble you for a lift? If you’re going in that direction, of course, I don’t want to make you go out of your way -- it’s in Predator’s Keep.”

Is that a good idea? Roen took you there once, you were a prisoner there… Surely you’ll be recognized.

Gabriela was chewing on her bottom lip -- her head ache was growing more intolerable with the added voices now speaking to her behind her eyes. Whether or not someone recognized her was a risk she would have to take -- but even if someone did, they would never believe her to be the Black Queen. She was a human now and then Black Queen was a vampyre. Maybe a look-a-like, an uncanny one at that -- but not the Black Queen herself.

“What do you say? It will be, at the very least, a fun little adventure.”

She was mostly speaking to Ilyana. She had no idea what, if anything, Xartia would have to say on the matter. If anything, she half expected the man to wash his hands of her now and be on his way. After all, she had been nothing but problems since they first crossed paths, and now that she revealed the full extent of her financial woes -- well, she just couldn't imagine anyone wanting to take on the burden of a penniless companion.  

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"I wasn't there for her kidnapping, I left rather early that evening. I'm not even sure I knew she had been kidnapped that night. I suppose you could say that I was....distracted by matters more dear to my heart that eve."

He was stung by the memories of that night, yet how bitter sweet it was that just recently, the one dear to him that removed themselves from him had returned not so long ago. This of course shifted into thoughts of his own past prejudices at the expense of what he used to refer to as leeches. Between his blossoming friendship with the Him of Crows, and his brother's (the King's) choice of marrying a vampire formally has caused him to reconsider his stance over the years. Perhaps his acceptance came easier when he no longer was mutated enough to be mistaken for one himself. Xartia was at this point ever so close to excusing himself, especially with the prior silence shared between the trio. Though before he could bid these ladies adieu, Isabella chimed in once more, this time speaking of needing assistance reaching yet another friend. However, this one was in a place he knew much more intimately. Predator's Keep. He'd been absent for some time, though he'd yet to relive his seat on the council formally, lest they dissolved it for him. In the Scarlet Queen's absence, there was no telling how the administration was running without checking in himself on the matter. Regardless, Xartia possessed in his care one thing that kept him bonded to the nation so long as that one thing remained in his care. Khaliq as he preferred, Kairos as his mother had named him; The Bastard Prince of Predator's Keep. A son born out of wedlock, between two courts that remained unaffiliated. A son born between Xartia, and the Scarlet Queen himself.

“What do you say? It will be, at the very least, a fun little adventure.”

"It never ceases to amaze me, the way irony clings to my life. I wouldn't mind escorting you there myself, if you'll have me of course. Not so much an adventure for me, though I love adventures all the same."

He paused, snickering as he shook his head.

"What if I told you that I happen to be seated on the Scarlet Council of Predator's Keep? Would you believe me?"

Perhaps this was the point Gabriela would start connecting some dots. Perhaps she'd recall that the Yokai Queen visited the last coronation, with him no less. Perhaps she'd recall that in the Yokai Queen's disappearance, Xartia was given title as the Viceroy of Port Caelum in the Arcane East; Regent to the Scarlet Empire. With the return of the Yokai Queen, he easily gave up his seat of leadership in Caelum. Once taken by the one originally intended to hold the seat in the first place, she wasted no time invoking a coup. This was were Xartia was unsure of if his position on the council was still valid, though he had yet to receive word either way. Regardless, the Khaliq was still there now, in Caelum. Or as it was now called, Taiyomichi. Regardless, so long as he was still accepted in his role, Gabriela would honestly be safest in his care. Not only did he have the political pull to keep her safe, he was also one of the only people capable of circumventing the Keep's defenses against magic. Which kept him versatile and able to cast magics limited only by his own discretion. 

Edited by Twitterpated

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"Xartia Raye Prendragon, the First."

A brow arched for a few moments before she simply nodded in acknowledgment. Whether she recognized the name or not was uncertain as her expression barely changed, swirling black orbs staring at Xartia as he began to provide some detail to Gabriela’s status and actions while she had waited outside here in the cold. Breakfast? She had waited here while Gabriela decided to have breakfast with what she currently discerned was a stranger and get sick over alcohol? Did the Mutator strip her of courtesy on top of what she once was? Ilyana wanted to react to this slight but endured it for now, instead turning to listen to Gabriela starting to speak.

The financial predicament that Gabriela just explained she was in triggered a thought process within the Redeemer that could not be helped. Yet another thing she knew she could leverage or use to her advantage to sway this whole ordeal in her favor. The blush upon Gabriela’s cheeks as she tried to divert attention to some detail about Xartia was about to be ignored until she heard the next few words.

“He said he was at the Black Queen’s most recent coronation, you know the one -- where she was kidnapped? He was there. He saw her. Horrid creatures those vampyres.”

Ilyana was an astute woman, capable of picking up on even the minutest detail within conversations or her environment most of the time. It wouldn’t be clear to Gabriela, however, whether her attempts at maintaining her ruse were successful. Ilyana made it a point to stay silent and let the woman continue. However shaky this façade was that Gabriela constructed needed to be assessed so Ilyana just turned to Xartia even as the request that she escort her to Predator’s Keep. How beneficial that the exact person she wished to have Gabriela get in contact with had decided to enter that very tournament. Once again Ilyana was about to respond until Xartia decided to play his card.

"What if I told you that I happen to be seated on the Scarlet Council of Predator's Keep? Would you believe me?"

Ilyana had wondered if he had already flaunted his title earlier or if Gabriela had already known who the man was. It didn’t matter one way or another to her but at least he finally established himself as a potential inhibitor to her success which decorated her following words well.

“I wouldn’t but I am a natural skeptic. I fear we are placing our new friend here in a difficult spot, gauging whether she can trust her new acquaintances in this wondrous nation. I do not envy her in this moment.”

Ilyana purposefully moved closer to Gabriela then moving to set her hand upon the woman’s shoulder to emphasize her incoming attempt at reassurance.

“Whether it is a lack of money, security, vehicle, or even company I assure you that I can satisfy your needs. I couldn’t stand to leave my newest friend abandoned when I can easily help her. I will take you where you need to go. Predator’s Keep is on our way to Hell’s Gate any way. My airship is not far from here and should get us there quickly.”

Ilyana regarded Xartia in her periphery, conducting a quick assessment in her mind before she addressed him though still kept her gaze on Gabriela.

“With a member of the Scarlet Council and the trained security detail I have we should not encounter any obstacles making sure you get what you need. Of course, you could forego all of that and trust that I will support whatever endeavor requires that you have money. I am an investor and businesswoman after all. Funding the pursuits of others is what I do beautiful.”

Her fingers slid off of Gabriela’s shoulder then and she waited to see how important this trip to Predator’s Keep truly was.

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“It never ceases to amaze me, the way irony clings to my life. I wouldn’t mind escorting you there myself, if you'll have me of course. Not so much an adventure for me, though I love adventures all the same.”

Eyes, the color of fine, polished topaz held up to the sun, shifted and regarded Ilyana. What a fine figure the woman cut in her newly made business suit -- her perfectly tailored trousers, her blouse, her coat. The memory of the night before still existed in Gabriela’s mind, vivid and disturbing, and at complete odds with what her human eyes now saw. She could not see the same pulsing, throbbing, living material against the woman’s flesh -- it seemed far more tame and dead now to her untrained and incapable gaze. But even so, she knew the power that wrapped itself around this woman, and she knew the debt that was owed. There was already a weight of disapproval in Ilyana’s black stare from the wait she had been made to endure, a fact made all the worse by Xartia revealing that she had stopped for breakfast. What would the woman think now? Gabriela picking up strays and they weren’t even underway on their mission yet -- whatever that mission actually was. 

Gabriela was about to decline -- she was about to do it in as polite a way as she could manage, with as much tact and civility as she had been brought up to show. She was turning her body, lifting a calculated hand to brush back silken strands of hair back and away from her pretty face, to appear more genuine, more apologetic. But then, as she was about to speak, Xartia shook his head.

“What if I told you that I happen to be seated on the Scarlet Council of Predator’s Keep? Would you believe me?”

What a tangled web fate had been woven for them all, but there was no way for her to know it, or to even recognize her part in it-- and what information Xartia did offer did little to but scratch at the surface of perilous depths. The Scarlet Queen, perhaps the dearest friend of the Devil she had once loved, perhaps his truest love in the end, the true and proper mother the children he wanted, and a woman whom Gabriela had never even heard of, still to this day. She did not know what the Scarlet Council was, but she tied it to Roen’s old title of the Crimson King, though it seemed oddly mismatched. She didn’t know about Xartia’s son, a son who probably should have been Roen’s, had fate had its way and had she kept her distance. But she didn't know any of these things now, and she probably would never have the chance to piece them together. Her short time in Predator’s Keep had been as Roen’s unwilling -- guest? consort? whore-queen? She would never know what Roen said of her to his people, and that was probably for the best. 

It doesn’t matter. You don't belong to him. You don't belong to anyone. You aren’t Gabriela anymore.

“I am Isabella,” she muttered under her breath, though she was looking at Xartia. There was a faraway look in her eyes, for a moment there it would be clear to both of her new friends that Gabriela was not quite right -- that she was either very tired, or quite possibly tiptoeing toward some kind of mental break. Blinking, eyelashes fluttering dewdrops away, she awoke. 

“I would hardly believe our good fortune…I am certain it would be preferable to arrive with a diplomatic connection, though I do not intend for this to be any sort of political visit. I mean,” she paused, she panicked for a moment, “I mean...not that I would need your influence just to see a friend participating in an open event, I hope. But it’s always good to have friends in high places.”

Ilyana, more suspicious of the man, and was right to wonder if the title had been a recent discovery or something Gabriela had known and been working towards. Again, Gabriela felt the weight of scrutiny upon her, and found the woman’s heavy black eyes set squarely upon herself. 

“I wouldn’t but I am a natural skeptic. I fear we are placing our new friend here in a difficult spot, gauging whether she can trust her new acquaintances in this wondrous nation. I do not envy her in this moment.”

Ilyana drew near and set a hand upon her shoulder, which was meant to be a gesture of reassurance, but to Gabriela’s well trained eye, read more like a gesture of possession. The petite woman looked up, she looked into those black pools that were Ilyana’s eyes.

“Whether it is a lack of money, security, vehicle, or even company I assure you that I can satisfy your needs. I couldn’t stand to leave my newest friend abandoned when I can easily help her. I will take you where you need to go. Predator's Keep is on our way to Hell’s Gate any way. My airship is not far from here and should get us there quickly.”

“I have never been one to depend on the kindness of strangers, but I find myself humbled and grateful beyond words…”

“...Of course, you could forego all of that and trust that I will support whatever endeavor requires that you have money. I am an investor and businesswoman after all. Funding the pursuits of others is what I do beautiful.”

“My father used to say that friendship and money is like oil and water,” she smiled as the woman’s fingers slipped off of her shoulder, happy to have the warm, weight of her grip gone. There was something  dense about Ilyana, something captivating but also intimidating. Gabriela could not place it, but she felt it in her heart. Was this what it was like to be human? To be constantly aware of predators -- knowing that someone, everyone, was out to make a meal of you in some shape or form? “To Predator’s Keep then, to amuse ourselves with the antics of the brave and the foolish, while I desperately try to alleviate my financial situation.”

While you try to extend your non existing influence back into Orisia. You just quit the table, and now you’re looking to get back into the fold? Raphael won’t just kill you for this -- he will kill you slowly, he will kill you a thousand times over. 

“I know,” she said out loud, again, before blinking some clarity into her sleepy eyes. “I mean to say, I know we’ll enjoy ourselves.”

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“I wouldn’t but I am a natural skeptic. I fear we are placing our new friend here in a difficult spot, gauging whether she can trust her new acquaintances in this wondrous nation. I do not envy her in this moment.”

Xartia truly considered the gravity of this statement, and tried piecing together any clues that might indicate to him a bit more of Isabella's situation. Of course, Xartia trusted neither of them, he had no reason to. Then again, that wasn't necessarily a bad thing. If he were to give her any advice, he'd tell her to trust no one, and to trust her gut. The human intestines were literally composed of grey matter, the same composition in which the brain was. Why the mind failed to comprehend, the gut sometimes afforded them a sixth sense that just couldn't be explained as anything else other than intuition. Alas, he wasn't going to give his personal advice, unless it was asked of him of course. 

“Whether it is a lack of money, security, vehicle, or even company I assure you that I can satisfy your needs. I couldn’t stand to leave my newest friend abandoned when I can easily help her. I will take you where you need to go. Predator’s Keep is on our way to Hell’s Gate any way. My airship is not far from here and should get us there quickly.”

“I have never been one to depend on the kindness of strangers, but I find myself humbled and grateful beyond words…”

“With a member of the Scarlet Council and the trained security detail I have we should not encounter any obstacles making sure you get what you need. Of course, you could forego all of that and trust that I will support whatever endeavor requires that you have money. I am an investor and businesswoman after all. Funding the pursuits of others is what I do beautiful.”

A grin, his trademark Cheshire grin found his charming, beautiful face. A business woman, and an investor. Certainly, based on the details surrounding that truth, it sounded like this might be the right sort of business partner for his own rising endeavors. Now was hardly the time or place, though he was certain that small talk between here and the Keep would be enough to catalyze the process of perhaps rendezvousing for a planned meeting at a later time and date. With the vision he had for The Wiseman, with his experience, could very well be more easily met. Of course he'd have to consider how much it would cost him to hold her invested interest. 

“My father used to say that friendship and money is like oil and water,”

His sparkling, emerald gaze shifted back unto Isabella, his grin still worn as he both pondered and admired this statement. Again, he'd have his thoughts, though he'd avoid trying to share them aloud without being asked. It was often easier to keep his opinions to himself, lest he wished to risk passing judgement. Still, those were the words of a man with limited riches. Between magic, and the allegiances of the Pendragon Court, he's seen and infinite wellspring of wealth blossom and flourish beneath his brother's reign. Likewise, he too could just as easily create money, limited only by the amount that can be made within a certain amount of time. Either way, Xartia never tried to buy his friends, though he never hesitate to spend on of for them either. Fortunately, his wallet wasn't needed at this moment, there for he did not offer it.

“To Predator’s Keep then, to amuse ourselves with the antics of the brave and the foolish, while I desperately try to alleviate my financial situation.”

His grin shrank into a smirk and he nodded in more or less silent compliance. He was just thinking that she should still get some rest before their arrival. Whatever she could get would likely serve her well. Though he locked momentarily shocked when she responded,

“I know,”

"I beg your pardon?"

“I mean to say, I know we’ll enjoy ourselves.”

For a moment, he'd thought she'd perhaps somehow heard his thoughts, for he hadn't verbalized them. Though it would seem that she was distracted by something else entirely. Though it was only a hunch that she was in fact distracted, he couldn't be positive of just what that might be; Though he wondered of the variety and the validity of it. The gravity, the reality of it. Whatever it was. As they walked, he followed, the newest addition to their little party. At least until it was time for them to leave Predator's Keep. He had no current need or desire to travel to Hell's Gate, unless he learned that Ilyana’s base of operations was around about there; In which case he'd likely wish to visit later, but still. 

"Undoubtedly."

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Ilyana discerned Gabriela’s shaky behavior far before this whole interaction had occurred. Much of it had been attributed to what she knew concerning the woman and her newfound state. She couldn’t begin to fathom what it was to go from being such a supernaturally complex being with so much innate power to the inherent vulnerability of humanity in such a short time. The Redeemer would have much rather forced Gabriela to rest and give herself time to adjust but something told her that imposing such a thing upon her just wouldn’t do. Gabriela needed to stumble much like the rest of them had through life…initially at least. She would not strip her of these moments…for now.

Swirling black watched every squirm, every panicked moment of her response to Xartia with no visible reaction. This did little to have Xartia gain favor in Ilyana’s eyes as it seemed his mere presence forced Gabriela to act in a way unbecoming of someone who deserved to be free. The restraint was visible and the discomfort even more so but she was sure that someone as astute as the former black queen could simply use her sickly appearance as a veil for it all. Even if she didn’t, Ilyana was prepared to on her behalf if it meant she could manipulate events in her favor.

“….But it’s always good to have friends in high places.”

“It could easily be a pain depending on who they are as well….”

Ilyana was purposefully blunt regarding Xartia, but if the man was worth his salt then Ilyana believed he’d react accordingly. Someone with his political pull could end up being useful for many reasons.

Gabriela responded to her counter offer much like she had expected, without any clear acceptance but with hints that attempted to wrest control or influence of her own fate.

“My father used to say that friendship and money is like oil and water,”

“Then this friend you seek in Predator’s Keep is in for a rude awakening then?”

Ilyana contemplated her words for a bit before she chuckled a bit and shook her head.

“I must respectfully disagree of course. It is always a matter of perspective or perception…friend. Life is full of transactions and while I can understand the stark contrast your father had there, I am also a big proponent of mixing business with pleasure.”

The smirk she offered ‘Isabella’ was all too telling concerning her choice of words, but it did not stray from the baseline she had already established the night before. She could have continued to provide arguments but instead allowed Gabriela the opening to spur things along.

“To Predator’s Keep then, to amuse ourselves with the antics of the brave and the foolish, while I desperately try to alleviate my financial situation.”

“Very well. My offer still stands should this friend be too oily for your liking. Let us be on our way”

It wouldn’t take long for them to reach the airship docks. Upon arrival, a man clad in some sort of paramilitary armor immediately approached. Ilyana stepped forward in part to assure those with her that this was expected and to block Isabella from the view of others.

“Are you ready to disembark Ms. Sevryn?”

The rigid man tried his best to keep his stance but as Ilyana got close and he felt her hands slide up his chest, he looked ready to squirm out of his practiced structure.

“Yes. These two will be coming with us. We will have to make a brief stop in Predator’s Keep on our way…”

The man looked confused for a moment but then remembered he had been given strict orders by Caeceila to comply with whatever Ilyana desired.

“V..v…very well. I will let the men know to account for your guests. This way.”

A large airship was docked, clearly a rather advanced vessel at least by more recent standards. One might consider it overkill as it was clear once they began boarding that aside from Ilyana, the rest of those on board were employed. There were maintenance workers, hospitality personnel, signs for a medical theatre, and those patrolling for security reasons. Once Ilyana would cross the threshold that was the entrance to the airship, she would turn to make sure her two new companions were still behind her and then address them, focusing more on Gabriela initially.

“To accommodate what we had discussed last night I will be giving you access to one of the private rooms where you have full control of your security detail. I would suggest you get some rest as I know you had a long night and I’d assume you want to be well-rested when you meet your friend. You will be provided a selection of meals you can choose from should you need to eat anything else as well.”

Ilyana’s head slowly tilted to fully face Xartia then.

“You will be offered much of the same except the security detail is mandatory. A prominent political figure such as yourself should be used to having one or two heavily armed individuals following you everywhere you go…for safety reasons of course.”

She smiled and waited for both of them to respond then, ready for objections but ultimately hoping for compliance. She doubted it would be that simple. Nothing in this world ever worth anything ever really was.

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The pretty and always business-like Ilyana stood there, prepared for a fight -- prepared to argue and negotiate, but ultimately, prepared to sell her product and get them all off the ground and into the air. She looked to be full of intent, assertive but delicately so with her soft features and feminine curves. But even as she smiled and waited, even as she crossed her arms awaiting the inevitable sound of objection that would more than likely come from Gabriela herself, would she find herself greatly surprised to see the newly made human simply standing there, looking back at her, looking rather complaint, rather tired, and even a little drowsy. 

“Rest sounds wonderful,” she confessed at long last, realizing that someone was waiting for something. Without much choice, and because she was desperate for a horizontal surface upon which to lie down and sleep, Gabriela spearheaded the operation. Be what it may -- trap or truth -- her body was breaking down and her mind was quickly following suite. Her eyelids felt heavy, and she wasn’t sure how much longer she could stand to speak clearly or even hold herself upright. Her mind was on a singular thought, and that was sleep -- so much so that she almost felt herself on the brink of tears when she feared this all might be dragged out.

“In fact, I am afraid I really must excuse myself -- Xartia and Ilyana -- I’ll leave you two to hammer out the fledgling stages of your fledgling relationship. I am just so very tired.”

She needed say more. A man appeared, perhaps at the behest of Ilyana, or perhaps after overhearing Gabriela’s near whine about being tired -- whatever the case, he offered to show her to her private accommodations and she nodded gratefully and followed behind him. Suddenly it didn’t matter that this was an airship and that soon they would be gliding through the sky at speeds that would pulverize them upon impact with the earth should anything go wrong. Her mind was far too fractured to even care at the very real possibilities of dying in an airship accident. 

“And should I have any food brought up for you, ma’am?”

“Yes,” replied a sleepy Gabriela, her once luminous golden eyes were now bloodshot and swollen -- tired looking and very, very human. Gone was the fresh-face of a newly minted human, and in its place was the worn and weary mask worn by so many before her. “Everything, please -- I want everything.”

“Everything?” the man repeated arching a brow at the dark-haired beauty that had stumbled into the bedroom he had brought her into. She was undressing, not even remotely concerned with his presence. A blush crept across his face and he turned away, making sure to afford her some privacy. “Very well, ma’am -- I’ll have a sampling of everything on the menu brought up to your room.”

“Good. Great. That sounds excellent.”

She tossed a boot, and then almost fell over while trying to kick the remaining one off. Somehow she managed to wiggle her breeches down past her hips and thighs without falling face first onto the cold, hard metal floor. Instead, she landed on the small, narrow bed that awaited her. Without even pulling out the covers, Gabriela crawled onto the center of the bed, hugging a pillow and fell asleep.

By the time three fully loaded carts of food were brought to her room, she was snoring lightly and no amount of gentle prodding would wake her. More than a little annoyed, the staff member who had brought her to her room, taken her meal order, and delivered it, was now forced to leave the three carts and wait to see if any of the food that was ordered would actually be consumed.

Somehow, he doubted it.

[Exit Gabs]

Edited by Pasion Pasiva

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