Hidden 1 yr ago Post by darkwolf687
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"Indeed, well... Mother Vivari understands well enough that rigid adherence is not the source of success, but rather the ability to bend and adapt. He who will establish himself must yield according to circumstance; like the hard oaks of a forest, which, though possessed of great strength and built strong and tall, is soon broken by the storm-wind when it remains obstinately immovable. It does not understand the noble art of bending like the willow, which adapts and outlasts it." Zakroti replied with a light nod, standing up from the ground and appraoching the Ganaut again, rubbing his hand along its scaled head softly.

"Sometimes, one must fight, whether they would wish for it or not." Aurien affirmed as he stood up and shouldered his weapon cautiously, peering out over the horizon "Neither Drun nor Vivari favours those who stick to lofty notions over the blunt reality of war; It doesn't matter what the man was killed by a blade or arrow or the slinging of a spell, what matters is that he is dead and the battle is won."

Zakroti furrowed his brow lightly as Aurien spoke. He was right, of course, to put it bluntly the Gemmenite way of war was something he didn't quite understand. Oshweli fought with spell and sword and bow as happily as any other, yet the Gemmenites, it was said, bound themselves to fighting in a more 'civilised' manner by leaving aside those physical implements of war. Zakroti wondered, then, how they supposed they could be expected to win against enemies who wouldn't agree to tie one hand behind their back as they did; Playing fair was hardly to be expected from the enemy in times of war, and that the Gemmenites had managed to find themselves utterly under the thumb of the Drakken with little in the way of effective resistance would in his eyes make it obvious that the status quo was not wise. Perhaps they simply had no other way, and told themselves that it was for this reason than humiliate themselves by trying; He doubted that the Drakken would let the Gemmenites arm themselves enmasse now even if they tried to.

Zakroti turned again lightly in place to regard Nenra, smiling warmly to her as she elaborated upon the bundles of seeds she carried with her. She had sidestepped the other segment of his bait nimbly enough, but that would wait until another time. The servant moved forwards to collect the spent bowls and cups, rushing away again.

"By all means, keep them safe then until we finish our journey and arrive, I will be happily obliged to show you where they might be planted! I should very much like to see them growing at Mu'Jupostat. One day, perhaps, we will be able to try these fruits!" He declared with a small grin, guessing that would be quite some time before they sprouted fruits; Indeed, many of the trees often took four or five years. He could be patient, however, time had taught him that much. He had heard, of course, all manner of half-truths and rumours about Gemmenite gardeners, so he wouldn't dare to speculate on the matter at this time.

"Postat." Zakroti ordered again, causing the hulking lizard to set itself down on its belly once more. He swung himself atop it swiftly and peered towards the Gemmenite women, shifting in place to situate himself within the saddle "You should mount up, we have a long way left to ride."
Hidden 1 yr ago Post by Amethyst
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Miry glanced to Nenra quickly, and the older bride boosted her up a little bit more roughly than was strictly necessary. As before, Nenra awkwardly situated herself in the saddle behind Zakroti. Poor creature, carrying three – well, two and a half, she thought, glancing to Miry – people up and down these mountains.

She apologized to the beast, or at least thought she did. She placed a hand on its flank and sent it a mental image of flowers and a sunny riverbank with a thought of the future. Talking to animals was always a tricky business, and though she managed it well enough with her family’s horses, she had no idea about this sort of creature.

Miry closed her eyes, swaying lightly in the saddle. She always got roadsick on horseback, and she’d been able to stave it off well enough on the first leg of the journey, but now with food in her stomach… this was going to be interesting. To occupy her mind she listened to the banter of the men-at-arms, when she could understand them, at least – they switched back and forth between a variety of languages, or that was what it seemed to her ear. At some point in time she called a few drops of water from a nearby trickle, swirling it on the pressure points behind her ears to stave off the dizziness.

Nenra was mildly ecstatic to be in a foreign land, without needing to guide her mount. Settling into the saddle and closing her eyes, trusting her own sense of balance, she extended her arms slightly, trailing her power down from her fingertips into the ground beside the road and examining the kinds of flora (and fauna, in the case of a very startled pika-like thing) that edged the path they traveled. She could lose hours doing this.

At a length of time, as the sun was drawing low in the sky, the terrain began to flatten and become grassier. As the sky darkened, a glow of lights became visible. Over the next gentle rise in the land, the party descended upon the Drakken city of Kazark. Middling in population and importance, it guarded the steppes of the Drakkan midlands. It was regarded by many as the last Drakken city of any import before the Spine; similarly, it was rather the end of the line for trading convoys that operated within the kingdom, as few went over the Spine except around the reaping time. The city reflected this “last stop from nowhere” mood, its walls and buildings humbly shaped and standing fairly low to the ground against the wind. Most of the structures were hewn from a rather odd mix of clay and sandstone, befitting the transitional environment it was situated within.

Miry was incredibly grateful as the city gates swam into view. It was considerably more spread out than most Gem cities, if less populated - though she supposed it made sense. They did have a luxury of space here, after all. She tried not to wrinkle her nose at the rather square and blocky architecture; she fiercely missed the refined arches and delicate spires of home, was all, and there was nothing wrong with this… rather underdeveloped, to a first glance, style of building. She craned her head back to look at Zak, trying to determine what the plan was now, and realizing as she did so how sore her back, hips, and shoulders were. She had never really cared for riding at home and, while she vaguely knew how to configure her limbs to sit appropriately ladylike in a saddle, it was certainly never comfortable for her, and she’d never ridden for more than a span or two at the most.

And she had several more days of this to endure, more than likely. Brilliant.
Hidden 1 yr ago Post by darkwolf687
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The city gates and walls were arranged in a rather typical set up. Like most Drakken cities, there were two layers of defensive wall within the city; The outer perimeter wall which enclosed the city, and the inner wall that enclosed the citadel, a structure deliberately built on a large hill at the centre to tower over the rest of the city.

Drakken earth mages and Gemmenite earth mages differed in one crucial respect; The former were typically far more in tune with the rock and mineral of the earth, as opposed to the plants. The importance of this difference could not be overstated. For the Gemmenites and Humans, constructing artificial hills was a long and arduous process, involving many man days of hand labour. For the Drakken, while it still indeed involved many says labour, they were able to use their greater mastery over the rocks and earth to great effect in cutting these times short. Subsequently, any Drakken city or major fortification worth its salt had, if it did not have a natural hill or mountain to build a keep upon, an artificial hill upon which the citadel was erected, most often but not always near the centre. Attackers would then find, had they breached the outer city walls, that they were now facing a second siege within the city proper, forced to break through the citadel while being pelted with arrows from above. Care was taken to ensure that the towers of the battlements were substantially lower than the citadel, and the interior side of the wall lacked melons and crenel, leaving them open to attack from within.

The attackers frequently used earth mages of their own, of course; Along side siege engines such as catapults, earth mages in besieging forces would work to bring down sections of the enemies walls or exploit cracks created by siege weapons. Defending earth mages would seek to counter this damage. This mage, truthfully, Drakken earth mages the most crucial part of any siege; Fire mages may be able to burn the enemy, and air mages might be able to help redirect arrows and defend their comrades, but teams of earth mages were practically siege weapons in their own right. One of the hardest to defend against, if most time consuming, ways of defeating walls were through earth mages digging mines to sap enemy walls.

Naturally, many of the methods of combating normal tunnelling were frequently employed against these methods too. Moats maintained around walls of keeps frequently led to tunnels becoming waterlogged, sturdy stone foundations were more difficult to mine through and so we're preferred if possible, and counter tunnelling was exceedingly common. Tunnelling and counter tunnelling sometimes led to intense enclosed fights that were dangerous to all participants and frequently resulted in heavy losses on both sides.

Of course, the city being so low standing, even the citadel of Kazark was relatively diminutive, though it lost little of its potency as an imposing symbol all the same, standing taller than anything else for many miles around. Evening has already fallen and the setting sun cast now long shadows from the towers and ramparts of the citadel, giving shade to their approach along the road which road ran up to the city gatehouse. The structure possessed a portcullis at either end like most Drakken fortifications, with the interior of the gatehouse designed to allow attacks from above via murderholes. A handful of symbols adorned the outer wall of this gatehouse, heraldry of sorts for the Drakken ruling clan of Narasierre, a white coloured head of a male Aranz head on a field of black, its horned head lowered as if poised mid charge towards the onlooker.

The Narasierre clan held the ducal claim to the eastern marches of Drakka, collectively referred to as the duchy of Falia. They were often looked on as least of the dukes of Drakka; While there were some fixed settlements such as Kazark in ateas where farming was viable, these were the exception rather than the rule in Falia. Much of Falia was characterised by pastoral nomadism or transhumance, and as such supported a much thinner population. Many of these steppe tribes had traded with their agrarian neighbours for sustenance.Flocks of animals were regularly driven along by herders to graze on new grasslands and much of the Aranzian fleece or Dunar hide that was common in Drakken clothing came from this region.

Historically, however, some Steppe tribes had raided Drakken and non-Drakken alike, and even fought each other to steal food or battle for domination of the best grazing lands. The conquest of Falia by Drakka a century prior had put a brutal end to that; a Falian raiding party had hit a small town along the border regions, an action which usually would not have provoked an overly aggressive response, indeed for a long time it had been simpler for Drakka to simply pay off the more aggressive nomadic tribes than to fight them due to the difficulties in actually chasing them down to make battle.

Unfortunately, a Royal procession had been passing through the town on a tour of the estates and the youngest son of the Queen had been been badly injured during the raid. None knew for certain how he had been injured, and the stories varied; Some said that he had been beaten down by a warrior, others that he had simply been struck by debris from a burning building. Whatever had caused the fateful head injury, the boy was never the same again.

Queen Alaxia embarked on a bloody crusade of vengeance against the Falian tribes responsible - or at least, those she believed to be responsible. Kazark citadel was actually a result of this, the relatively small settlement on some of the only available farmland had been fortified and turned into a military outpost during the conflict. Many a Falian steppe nomad had been executed and displayed here during the conflict; Drakken sewn to their horses or Ganauts and nailed to the walls had been an exceedingly common method of execution.

It had taken a long time, but the 'taming of the Falians' had been completed and many of the nomadic tribes put to the sword. The clan Narasierre was descended from the leaders of the nomadic Naras tribe which had switched sides early in the conflict and assisted in the subjugation of their kin on exchange for power and riches. The depopulation of the region as a result of the genocides had allowed Narasierre to enjoy its new found domination without challenges from its former rivals, though it had also ensured that Drakka had the Naras firmly under their thumb.

Zakroti breathed in lightly as they approached, speaking aloud to the two Gemmenites "Kazark, capital of Falia. Zandre Narasierre rules here, elder of Clan Naras." Zakroti explained briefly to them, glossing over the part about betrayals and genocides. That would not exactly comfort them to know, he was sure.

He needn't have made such an introduction, for as soon as the procession had reached the gate they were stopped by armed guards who approached them, examining their banner for a few moments. Zakroti dismounted and approached the guardsman and there was a brief exchange between them regarding their arrival and requesting right to enter the city; Their entourage far exceeded the typical size expected of travellers and those coming too and from, and being more heavily armed than was permitted there were protocols which must be observed.

Of course, having left their horses here for retrieval, it was known in advance that they were coming, and being the distinguished heir to the holdings of House Unalim, he was not at all surprised when they were swiftly granted leave to enter. They dismounted and returned their mounts to the stables, and the group proceeded through the wide streets; a more than generous amount of space had been left between buildings, which was often fortunate for herders bringing their flock to market.

It was not a short walk to the gates of the citadel where they were to be allowed to stay, courtesy of the charity and kindness of Zandre Narasierre. Once they had reached the gatehouse of the citadel and ascended the winding ramp up to it, Zakdoti took a moment to admire it. It was far from the prime example of a citadel gatehouse, but was noticeably sturdier than the city gate itself. There was a slanted ramp like grove in the structure through which the roof of the interior could barely be glimpsed; Burning logs could be rolled down it during the case of a siege, cascading down the ramp and reeking havoc upon the assailants. For now, it was mercifully clear of such obstacles.

They passed through into a small inner bailey and, like most castles, space inside the citadel was at much more of a premium than the city; It was a keep, after all, and it was easier to defend a small area than a large one - not to mention, easier and cheaper to build. An elderly Drakken woman exited to greet them, passing across the courtyard at a brisk pace before giving Zakroti a polite bow. Her face was leathery and her grey hair was wispy, but she still held a dignified appearance about her, wizened almost. Zakroti removed his sword and scabbard from his waist as he approached her

"Lady Teanne Narasierre, it is my honour to be within your presence. In the eyes of the gods and ancestors, I surrender my sword and ask asylum under moon and star." Zakroti said, extending his hands up and giving a light bow as he offered the blade to the elder, which she accepted.

"The honour is ours as your host, in the eyes of the gods and the great spirit, I return your sword and grant asylum." Teanne replies, and Zakroti rose up again as he took his sword back and afixed it to his side once more. She raised her arm to point to the north of the courtyard. "The night is born. The dormitories for your men at arms aer there. You will have the guest Chambers, there are two rooms. One of your hearth-men may have the second for personal security. Please, follow me."

Zakroti nodded and briefly bid his men a good night, a relatively short warrior silently remaining with them as if predetermined. Zakroti turned to the two brides with light grimace. The wind blew softly into the courtyard and Zakroti raised his hand, causing a light flame to dance around his finger to help light up the way once he went inside.

Honestly, he didn't know what he'd do if he was a water or air mage instead of a fire and earth one. Needing to use candles and matches genuinely sounded so frustrating.

"So, it is up to you whether you wish to sleep in the guest room or the dormitories. I, for one, am not fond of sleeping in a chair, so it seems you're sharing with either myself or Narlemaewel if you chose the guest Chambers. I imagine the dormitories are somewhat less than idea either, given we just dumped a dozen extra men into them." He said simply, giving them a polite and almost jovial smile. It was not an ideal arrangement for the new brides, he understood that much. Especially Nenra, who seemed particularly loath to the idea. He suspected she'd likely be fine with rougher accommodations, though whether she felt like sharing public sleeping arrangements with the soldiers was another matter entirely!
Hidden 1 yr ago Post by Amethyst
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Miry practically needed to be pulled from the saddle, her legs locking up with cramps the moment she touched solid ground. Nenra had little patience for her discomfort, pulling her along by the arm and half carrying her weight as the party moved quite briskly through the city, re-energized by promise of beds and a warm meal. The smaller girl whimpered in pain as she struggled to keep up, but bit her lip and tried to look tough and well-adjusted, which she decidedly failed at.

She tried to place the city that Lord Zakroti spoke of, but was too exhausted – exhausted from doing what? There’s nothing of worth you’ve done… to properly consider it. She’d read something about it, at one point, some sort of siege and great infighting? or something. She made a mental note to ask the lord about it when they had a moment. If he wouldn’t think her an imbecile for not already knowing, that was.

The old woman looked rather grandmotherly, Nenra thought; the sun-worn leathery skin and silvered tresses of age were not so different between their two people, really. Following Zakroti’s example, she stooped into an awkward (and clearly hastily learned, given the mumbling of steps under her breath that accompanied it) curtsy-turned-bow as she remembered that she was finally, once again, wearing the trousers she was most comfortable in.

Miry sank into a pretty curtsy in turn, though somewhat less assured than her presentation would normally be, her knees shaking under her skirts as she forced saddle-sore legs to comply. She clasped her hands behind her back, the speaking-screen nested behind her as unobtrusively as possible – even if Zakroti understood her handsign, she cared to keep it close until she could ascertain that about the rest of his household… but she also heard her mother’s voice, sharply in her ear, demanding that she hide it as much as she could around the company of high society. The tips of her ears brightened with her shame, and she adjusted her hold on it, wobbling and appearing to wish to melt into the ground.

Clouded by her discomfort and desire to sleep, she couldn’t be certain, but she was fairly confident that the words exchanged (and the passing of the lord’s sword) were a traditional greeting of hospitality used by Drakkan lords visiting the holdings of one…usually of the same status, or slightly less, but not all that much less?... Drakkan titles were …confusing, to say the least. She’d read about them all as a matter of her education in history, though some of those readings had been several years before the present… none of their systems made much of any sense to her, or cared to settle that well into her memory. Far easier to remember were courtly bows and spoken cues, the ways of tuning one’s voice to be a respectful mimicry of the timbre and dynamic of the host. Some part of her longed for that, the simplicity of her home, or even the imperial city; she conveniently forgot the meltdown-inducing terror that had been the weeks of decorum and etiquette (and “pretending to be normal”, but that was beside the point) instruction prior to her sister’s presentation.

Upon the sword being given back, they rose from their assorted positions of deference, one of the guards splitting off from the others to stand beside the lord while the others drifted a short distance away, towards the dormitory that had been mentioned. Lord Zakroti held up his hand with a gentle flame to create enough light for the party; Miry took note of this being one of his elemental powers, as it had been a detail skipped over entirely during their first meeting.

Nenra’s overwhelming urge was to ask to sleep alone in the stable, but she held her tongue, weighing her options. She had no desire to sleep in Zakroti’s bed; gods only knew what a lecherous lord might do with that opportunity, and she’d had far too much of Qeynate’s eyes at the Choosing to think for a moment that Zakroti would not have similar sentiments towards her form. Sleeping in a room with Narlemaewel, whom she had gathered was the lord’s chosen man – perhaps even his protégé? Seemed little better. The perversions of these sorts were impossible to overstate, and if she was to be alone with one of them…he could easily take an act against her safety, and it would be her word against his. Her, a Bride well-known for her aura of trouble, against his favored bodyguard.

“I think I should bunk with the men-at-arms,” she said plainly. Miry glanced at her, and she tacked on a cursory, “if it shouldn’t displease you,” though she thought it very much a waste of words – surely he would not have offered the choice if he would be displeased with either option! “Another night on a soft mattress may ruin my shoulders.” She was accustomed to the comforts of home, a straw-and-wool contraption laid across a frame of rope and wooden slats, a linen sheet over it and a wool blanket to ward off the chill. It had been quite enough at home, but when she became a lord’s prize, apparently that standard went up considerably – since arriving in Shadow Wroth, she’d had nothing less than feather toppers on a soft wool mattress, and it had thrown the muscles in her back and shoulders all out of alignment.

A handful of the retainer chuckled at her comment, and she flashed the men a grateful smile for their defusing of the statement. Even Narlemaewel seemed wryly amused, though she didn’t dare make eye contact with Zakroti himself. Miry, meanwhile, said nothing, edging closer to Zakroti’s left side and inching her fingers into his hand tentatively, almost as though she expected to be smacked away. Honestly, she did half-expect to be smacked away, having spent the last weeks with her head being filled with only tales (and experiences, when she’d been too slow to understand and act) of their brutality. Even Zakroti’s courtesy and pleasantries could not be enough to completely dash that from her memory.
At some length of time, both groups had made it to their quarters only to realize that in their haste, they had made no plans for feeding themselves. Among the men-at-arms, it was quickly decided to pay a visit to a tavern nearby; Nenra was pulled along before she could argue, a steaming bowl of mutton stew and large mug of ale placed before her before she could remind them that she had no currency with which to pay.

The men-at-arms, thankfully, afforded her remarkably few of those same slimy stares that she’d grown to associate with the nobles of their kind. Their party was not left without stares; a group of armed and armored men and one, conspicuously un-armored, woman among them was not an unnoteworthy group by any stretch of the imagination. Upon facing down an onlooker who could not hold his tongue (a poor sod who’d seemingly had more ale that night than brain juice, if he thought he could confront a party of a dozen-odd soldiers) and threatening to lay him into the pavement using only a dinner fork, the oversized guardsman called Kzaar gave her a hearty smack between the shoulder blades and told her that she’d fit in with them, at least, just fine.

She tried not to show how much the compliment meant. Some part of her cautioned that word of her bravado might make it back to Zakroti, and that there might be hell in the morning if whoever-this-was made a stink about it, but she drowned her caution with another sip of the ale. The flavor was already beginning to grow on her.

After they had eaten and drunk their fill, they returned to the dormitory building, the hour late but not disrespectfully or irresponsibly so. Nenra found herself a bunk alongside the men-at-arms, mildly inebriated and tired enough to have foregone her care about modesty or respectability – she shed her day clothes and donned a shift, mostly as a layer of protection against whomever might have previously slept in the bunk she claimed.

Miry, meanwhile, had a considerably quieter night at a rather fancy eatinghouse on the high street, the table served by a pretty and overly-enthusiastic young drakkan woman, who took one glance at the scene and immediately read what was going on. There were several innuendos too heavily veiled for her to catch, plus a suggestion of a certain, probably-alcoholic drink, “to make the night easier” – she respectfully refused it, of course. The dinner conversation was over her head both literally and metaphorically – after much thought she’d ended up settling into the chair on her knees, when the food actually came, as otherwise her chin was on a level with her plate in the oversized Drakken furniture. Zakroti and Vain seemed to prefer their mother tongue, though they switched in and out of a variety of languages seemingly at a whim. Miry caught traces of High Drakkan, which she understood parts of, a few interspersed snippets from a variety of Mannish tongues that she knew near-fluently, and several that she could not make heads or tails of in all eighteen of her own languages. Periodically, a question was phrased in such a way that she felt inclined to answer, a glance from the lord or his guard pricking behind her eyes and almost begging a reply, even – she made herself sit on her hands so that she wouldn’t, though, not wishing to derail their fluid bandying of debate with her own inability to comprehend the context that had preceded the question.

In due time they retired to their rooms as well, though only a few cordial words were exchanged between Miry and Zakroti – she hardly wished to bother the lord with more idle chatter, for all that she moved stiffly and uncertainly and her nervousness grew more palpable with every step into their quarters. She shed her bodice and skirts fairly quickly upon realizing they were turning in for the night, her fingers deft at undoing the lacings behind her back. She pulled her hair down from its braided crown, letting it fluff up around her head as it was wont to do, and after a moment of hesitation loosened the ties on her shift, to, the fine linen clinging over her shoulders and bust in such a way that a soft tug might remove them. Look ready, but not too ready, the other brides had said. She mussed her hair up a bit further and chewed on her lips for a moment, remembering that others had said it was a way to get them to look plump and moist and – “kissable”, without needing to fumble for cosmetics, and then went to perch on the edge of Lord Zakroti’s side of the bed. She arranged her shift, suggestively bunched up, over the very tops of her thighs, letting her hair messily tumble down over her shoulders as she waited for him to emerge from the washroom. As she waited for him, she practiced an expression of desire, though without a mirror to tell she couldn’t be sure that it even worked at all.

Truthfully, she couldn’t even say that she wanted to be taken to his bed in this particular moment, but she’d heard enough stories to know that it was usually better the sooner it happened – and better if she was the one to initiate it. Her heart fluttered in her chest, but she tried to steady her breathing, arranging her face into a pretty pout once again. If she did well enough at this, if she could just do what she was supposed to for once in her gods-cursed life, he’d eventually fall in love with her, and then – everything would work out like it did in the fairy tales. Right?
Hidden 1 yr ago 1 yr ago Post by darkwolf687
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"Not at all, it would have been hard to sleep with three people struggling for space on the bed anyway, no?" Zakroti jested and nodded to the soldier on her right, Gaikus, who simply returned the nod silently. He seemed hardly surprised and certainly not offended by the decision. With that the group split apart, heading their separate ways.

***

"I appreciate her spirit, standing up like that!" Kzaar asked with a hearty laugh, taking a huge bite out of the Dunar leg he was still carrying with him as he overlooked the city street. Gaikus could not fault Kzaars appetite, it was true. It was as big as the man himself. The wind blew softly and quietly, and the chill of night had begun to set in now.

"You were correct that she'll fit in well with the men, I suspect the boy will take no issue with that. It is good to see her adapt deftly to the circumstances, this goes smoother than I had anticipated." The Gaunt commented softly, casting a glance towards the hulking mountain beside him. The warrior swallowed his mouthful of meat and nodded, wiping his mouth clean with a cloth.

"For an Earth gem, she's a little more fiery than expected. Probably chosen for that, or her strength..." Kzaar commented, taking another bite from the leg. Gaikus furrowed his brow for a moment and then gave a weak smile with a raise of his right brow.

"You forget, flowers still have thorns. I would concur with that. The Drakken reapers are good at finding strength at least - though they allow their sadism to get the better of them. The story Aymiria told..." Gaikus trailed off for a moment as he thought back to it. The decision of the girls family to volunteer her over another was itself quite the shocking betrayal, to be certain, but the acceptance of the reapers was a detail he couldn't quite understand. It would likely suit the Oshweli just fine all the same, so he supposed it was not worth worrying about. Perhaps the reapers had thought it a slight, perhaps they had simply been unwilling to argue and wanted to go home. There were a million and one reasons, and it was beyond the scope of his knowledge to discern it.

"It made my horns wilt, Gaikus, to think a parent would do such." Kzaar said through a mouthful of half chewed meat, shaking his head firmly. Gaikus gave a light nor agreement as he stood from his position leaning against the wall and moved back towards the barracks

Gaikus would wish that outlived their children, but he suspected that it would hardly be such a pain for them if they could sell their own so eagerly.

***

Narlemaewel seemed to agree with him about the Gemmenites, Nenra would be hard to win around and earn the trust of and, having correctly predicted that she would hardly chose to sleep with the Lords chosen man alone (he found it interesting that she'd share a bunkhouse with the lot, perhaps she had reasoned that they'd keep check on each other?), it had been logical to choose Narlemaewel. He suspected that Nenra would be highly disapproving of Narlemaewel, and it would likely be best that she not be exposed to him immediately. The last thing he wanted was for a large argument to break out in the bunkhouse of the Narasierre clan, it would have been a grave insult to them. The long term plan for building some trust with her through the garden seemed a logical plan and, by taking his time and not pressuring her, perhaps he could make this arrangement as... Comfortable wasn't the correct word, nothing was comfortable about this, not least for her. Ensuring the least uncomfortable arrangements possible?

Well, the least uncomfortable arrangement would likely have been releasing her, but he suspected that his grandfather would have a lot to say about that - as would the Drakken, in fact. He supposed he was a safer jailer to be with than many of the easterners, but he was cognizant that such hardly excused this.

Narlemaewel agreed with that, for his part, but overestimated its likelihood of success . He believed that the most appropriate course of action was simply to treat them well and allow them to reason out that, ultimately, the position of himself and the Oshweli was one of great magnanimity whereas their own people had sold them out. Zakroti suspected Narlemaewel may have been allowing his own biases to cloud his vision in this regard. Nenra would not assimilate so easily, it wasn't in her nature.

***
Zakroti returned from the washroom to see Miry sitting at the end of the bed, seemingly waiting for him. He could tell from her posture and appearance that she was trying to be seductive and - to her credit - she was doing well. She looked cute and pretty, and he could appreciate that about her. The uncertainty and lack of confidence was shining through however.

He couldn't tell for certain if she actually wanted to do it, at the very least from the look on her face she was trying to seem like she wanted it; He admitted he'd be a little surprise if she actually wanted to do it rather than just was willing to do it as an obligation.

He thought for a moment and then gave her a reassuring smile, approaching her and setting himself down beside her. He reached an arm out carefully to wrap it around her, his other hand gently brushing against her cheek. He leaned in towards her.

"You look very pretty, Aymiria." Zakroti commented with a smile, slowly running his eyes over her body and noting how she'd postured herself. She'd bunched up her shift lightly, and her clothing seemed lightly held on. She was definitely trying to be suggestive and seductive and he wanted to let her know she had succeeded, to ensure she didn't take the wrong impression of what he was about to say. After letting his gaze dwell on her body and peered at the hem of her clothing for several seconds, mentally undressing her, he looked back up to her, lent in and placed a gentle kiss on her lips.

"But we don't have to do anything until you're ready. If you're ready." Zakroti said softly, gently brushing her hair to the side with his hand and shifting lightly on place so he was looking into her eyes. "And when we do, if you're ever uncomfortable, if you change your mind... We'll stop. All you have to do is give me a light pinch to let me know, or pull away, and we'll stop."

Zakroti gave her a sincere and reassuring smile again glancing down to her hands to see if she'd sign a response, gently sliding his hand onto her shoulder as he did.
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Double post.
Hidden 1 yr ago Post by Amethyst
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The morning dawned bright, clear, and cold over the city, the sun filtering in through the high, arched windows of the guest suite.

Miry awoke to birdsong, blinking in the rosy light. She was warm, almost uncomfortably so, rolled in a thick bedspread and encased securely in Lord Zakroti’s embrace. The sleeping lord was tangled around her still, arms twined around her back and neck and lips near her temple. She shifted in place, realizing that her legs still tangled through the lord’s. Images of the previous night flitted sleepily through her mind and she blushed deeply, a twinge between her hips a further reminder of what had transpired. She ducked her head in shame, though she couldn’t say she’d regretted the night… after a moment of enjoying the embrace, she gently leaned up to kiss her lord, beginning to extricate herself from the blankets, ideally without waking Zakroti or making much undue noise. It would be unseemly if she took too long to make herself ready, she knew…

Fetching a comb from her bags, she set about organizing her unruly hair, which had hopelessly tangled in the night’s activities. She ended up retrieving some water from the pitcher on the nightstand, just a few drops, which she worked through the length of her hair to tame the worst of the frizz as she detangled it, smoothing it out into its usual glossy sheet that could then be braided. Though yesterday she had worn it in a simple plait extending down her shoulders, she elected to pin it today, circling her braid tightly around the back of her head twice and sticking it into place with a myriad of straight pins pressed tight against her scalp to be barely-showing. It was more befitting now, she supposed, to not leave her dusty, dark lavender hair flowing free in any way. After a length of thought, she did still decide to forgo the veil that her mother had insisted upon packing. It had been included as a tongue-in-cheek commentary, though one meant well, about her eventual becoming of a proper woman, but the sudden change in appearance would cause more questions than she cared to answer. Not to mention, veils were incredibly hot and itchy, and she was sure to be on the road for a while and get all manner of dust trapped beneath it…

She refolded the veil, rolling it within its circlet band so as not to risk damaging the fabric, and set about dressing for the day. Though ordinarily she wouldn’t dare have two part-dirty sets of clothing, travelling in respectable clothes had been a dreadful mistake. The dress she picked for today was thus the simplest one she had brought, a dusty blue under dress held up by the barest of straps, and a dark charcoal layer over the top, modestly embroidered in silver around the rather low collar and tightly lacing narrow sleeves. The skirts were less voluminous and shorter than most of her other gowns, settling at the narrowest part of her ankle rather than trailing the floor – she put on thin silk stockings and her usual soft leather booties, which barely peeked out beneath the hem.

After glancing around to ensure she had gathered all her belongings, and that the lord was not yet awake, she retrieved her embroidering hoop and purse from the side of her saddlebags, settling primly into the seat beside the bed with a posture too precise to be natural. Her fingers deftly retrieved and threaded the needle in one of several colors she worked with, passing the needle through the hoop and back again in a variety of complex and intricate knots with an almost mechanical precision. It was clear her mind was elsewhere, though to a casual look she may seem engrossed in the careful work of threads.
=-=-=-=-=
Nenra grumbled awake, from her bed in the guest dormitory, to the sound of a cheery conversation among the men-at-arms, who busily worked to assemble a breakfast out of their rations and gather up the belongings they had brought into the space the previous night, readying saddlebags and donning their armor for the journey. Though now sober and considerably more conscious of herself, she chose to think of readying for the day as though she were in the bunkroom she shared with her siblings. It was a simple matter to pull her underthings and trousers on under her shift, then take the dress off and replace it with her shirt. Feeling quite pleased with the lack of compromise of her modesty, she returned her attention to the group, half-listening to their conversation as she rolled stockings onto her feet and laced her boots, trouser legs tucked into the tops as she often did for work or hard riding at home.

She was feeling considerably more herself today, the sleep on a respectable bed having done more good for her than she cared to admit. As she listened to the men at arms speak, her hands itched to be in control of a horse again. From the way the party spoke, it seemed they were glad to be returning too, though whether they were speaking of returning to their familiar mounts or to their homeland, or both, she could not quite be certain.

The one called Gaikus gave her a soft smile and passed her a metal mug of a steaming beverage. Tea, right, that’s what the lord said. The tea had a spicy, herbal smell, similar enough – if distinct – from a kind of tea they often made at home. She took the mug appreciatively, and the piece of bread she had been handed, munching down the food with little regard for table manners or decorum.

The variety of weaponry around made her long for her staff again – simple, smoothed lengths of wood, such as handles of long-ago-stripped farm implements, made remarkably effective weapons against would-be bandits or intrudors. In her village, children and teens often practiced with them, in addition to their more standard play weapons like clay or wooden swords and far more functional ones like simple slings, which were often carried by shepherds and the like. She knew that asking for such items was far, far beyond anything the lord or his men would be willing to do, and understandably so! But someday she would very much like to have a chance to practice, or maybe even a round of sparring or two. Her eyes flitted over the men who gathered in the courtyard, sizing them up as potential opponents. Someday, yes…
Hidden 1 yr ago Post by darkwolf687
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Zakroti awoke and rolled lightly in the bed, peering around the room and getting his bearings after teh night. It took him a moment to remember where he was, and his eyes came to settle on Miry, sitting beside the bed and engrossed in embroidery and needlework.

"An alafin a serpen, how did you sleep?" He asked, wondering how much longer than him she'd been awake. He wasn't sure he appreciated being left asleep or not, there was always an unease to the idea that others had been awake and mobile around you while you have been enjoying your little slice of death. "We'll rejoin the others soon enough."

He rose from the bed and dressed quickly enough into his travelling clothes and gambeson for the journey. They would join the companions for breakfast soon enough, before they set off. The hospitality of the lady of the keep had extended far enough to offer them stay to remain for food, which Zakroti had respectfully declined. The sooner they set off, the better for he the next friendly location would be the full days ride away from here.

***

"Your lord is slow to arrive today." A guardsman noted noted, taking a swig from his tankard and leaning forwards in place towards Zakroti's entourage s "Don't suppose we should go make sure she hasn't slit his throat"

"Narlemaewel is one room over, were there to be an incident, it would be interceded in long before come to us." Gaikus replied as he broke bread between them. "Besides, the girl seems too timid and gentle to do such."

"Right, because timid and gentle people never kill. I mean, just look at Kzaar over here, big guy never hurts a sou= Oh." Aurien commented with a wry smile taking his share of the bread and passing a share over to Kzaar, who remained quiet and shifted a little awkwardly in place.

"As you say. You must be looking forward to returning home, you've roused so early." The guardsman replied with a shrug of his shoulder, then nodding towards Nenra "What about her?"

"Our overlord said we should set out early in order to make it the distance. I would rather not be left behind, or rushed out onto my horse on an empty stomach, so I'm up already myself." Aurien replied simply through a mouthful of bread.

"If we do not leave early, they may have closed the gates by the time we arrive. It is much more irksome to get into a city at night, lords rarely like to be roused from their sleep because someone's knocking on a city gate asking to be let inside." Gaikus replied as he finished breaking the bread, sitting back again with the calmness and deliberation of a slothful, almost exaggeratedly slowly. "As for Nenra, what about her?"

"It seems unorthodox to let her sleep in a room with unsecured weapons in the night, surely she could have been given one of the guest rooms, or just shared the room with your lord." The Guardsman replied with a light shrug of his shoulders again "I'd rather not have my throat slit by an angry Gemmenite, if its all the same to you."

"Well, such did not happen so you can rest assured that your fears are baseless. As for why she is in here, she chose to be in here. You'd have to ask her about that." Gaikus gave a cheeky smile to the man and then turned his attention over towards Nenra, changing to speak in Gemmenite tongue. It was clear that he was far from a native speaker and that he was from a far off land. The emphasis and pronunciation on some of the words was noticeably wrong, but otherwise the words were correct and the grammar was accurate. "He is asking why you chose to sleep in here with a bunch of rowdy guardsmen rather than in a more comfortable and accommodating quarters. I can already guess the answer, but indulge him."

"Indeed, it is obvious to us, but he was dropped as a child." Aurien interjected with a boyish and discourteous grin. The Guardsman was ignorant to the Gemmenite language, but could tell from his demeanour that it was hardly a nice word about him, and shot a look of daggers at the back of Aurien's head.
Hidden 1 yr ago Post by Amethyst
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Wide eyes considered Zakroti as he stirred from sleep. He seemed none too pleased for having been left asleep, mumbling what Miry imagined to be a curse in his native tongue. It was vaguely familiar, though she still couldn’t place which of the drakken tongues it was closest to, and the meaning (or even a possible-maybe-perhaps guesstimeaning) entirely eluded her tired mind.

She flashed a nervous smile, pressing her needle through the silk ribbon she worked on so she wouldn’t lose it as she signed. Half a sweep, I’d guess? Calculating, she ran her eyes over the length of the ribbon that she’d worked, scrunching up her face in consideration. It seemed about right. I’m sorry I didn’t wake you, my lord. It won’t happen again. She didn’t dare meet his gaze with the comment.

Smooth skin caught her eye as the lord extricated himself from the bed, and she did her best not to stare as she busied herself organizing the threads of her project back into their satchel. A faint wash of color crept into her cheeks as she imagined again the night before, and above all how loved – or if not loved, as love was a tricky thing to quantify, at least cared for – she’d felt in the moments between such doings and falling asleep.

Of course you should be so lucky. Your sisters are far more deserving of love and they are suffering, and you are here daydreaming about the man you’ve been sold to. Selfish. Disgusting, even. Your mother should be glad she gave you up when she did.

She winced and visibly shook the thought from her mind, rising to her feet and gathering up the lord’s discarded nightshirt from the previous eve. She placed it, neatly rolled, into her own bags – hopefully she would remember it was there and there wouldn’t be any awkward statements or questions later in the night. As the lord put on his gambeson her gaze was drawn to the bruise on his neck, which was only a slight discoloration but might have been noticeable enough. She withered, glancing away and signing something to the effect of a fleeting apology as she shouldered more bags than she should have been trying to carry, wobbling to the door to leave the chambers and rejoin the group downstairs.

=-=-=-=-=-=

Nenra, meanwhile, was quite enthusiastically dipping into the meal and doing her best to ignore the curious guardsman, something made easier by not understanding a word that was spoken. She flashed a concerned glance to Kzaar, a flash of sympathy rising as his comrades seemingly teased him about something. Likely his size, given that it was the most obvious trait of the man. She could empathize with such awkwardness, having stood head and shoulders above nearly all of the others in her village and teased often for it in the most vulnerable years of her adolescence.

The guardsman seemed persistent, curiously staring past the retinue to size Nenra up. At the shift in the tone of his words, she stiffened, some of the weeds which sprouted between the cobblestones shivering and nodding towards her until she got a grip on her temper. She raised the mug of tea to her lips, giving Gaikus an appreciative smile and letting the flare in her anger fizz away. The herb blend was very nice, and she felt a buzz of energy already beginning to fill her limbs as she sipped on the drink.

She then choked on the aforementioned tea as Gaikus spoke in her native tongue, to clarify what the other guard had inquired. Giving the guardsman an incredulous look, she waited for him to finish formulating the thought, her mind racing. For a Drakkan, built as far as she could tell on a mannish frame and with similar structures by which to speak, he did an admirable job of pronunciation of their tongue… it was no small curiosity to her that he spoke the language so well, with flawless grammar and nearly as good of a grasp of the inflected portions. Even the human historians she’d met in the capital, during the convoy’s brief stayover there, struggled to formulate words with half the grace that these Drakken men did. When Aurien spoke, too, her head swiveled to him, her thoughts tumbling over each other even as her body laughed heartily at his comment. Surely the lord did not mandate that his soldiers be proficient in the tongue, for all it seemed the rule rather than the exception…

Turning to give the unknown guardsman a look, she strongly debated answering in the Gemmenite tongue, which she could make freely flow from her lips. The man had not afforded her the courtesy of using the common language, which she could understand well enough, though she’d certainly demonstrated her unease with responses rendered in it, what with her wordy and awkwardly constructed phrases. It had driven Miry half-mad on the ride from the capital to Shadow Wroth, for certain, though the younger girl had tried to help her form her words all the same.

“I’m not some delicate girl-child,” she replied laughingly, the Gemmenite trills easy and flowing from the point of her tongue. “And as I said last night, I care little for feather beds and silk duvets.” She refocused her attention on her mug of tea, though it was soon drawn by the quiet voices of the lord and his chosen man. The trio had arrived quietly in the courtyard and were helping themselves to the breakfast fixings the party had set out.

Miry placed the saddlebags with the others to be loaded on the mounts, though she darted away from the lord’s side for only a moment. The younger bride seemed to be clinging uncomfortably close to Zakroti, picking out a seat directly beside him, so close their legs were touching. She seemed entirely engrossed in the lord’s doings, scarcely tearing her eyes from him, even though Nenra tried to get her attention. The tall bride stifled a flash of annoyance, moving to sit on the cobblestones nearer the two with a decidedly ungraceful plop, her long limbs flailing. “Good morning, my lord,” she said simply, the common words reedy and unclear and entirely foreign in her mouth.

The logical part of her knew Zakroti surely spoke their tongue, but it didn’t stop her from asking Miry, quietly and under her breath, how the night had been. The smaller bride’s face colored, and she signed that it had been a pleasant enough night, though she drummed her fingers on the edge of her speaking screen anxiously and glanced to the lord out of the corner of her eye. Nenra did not have to be particularly astute to fill in the blanks on that… The tall bride shivered lightly, glancing sharply to the lord and drawing her arms in tighter around herself, discomfort written all over her face. Miry seemed unperturbed at least, flashing an apologetic smile to Nenra and returning her attention to Zakroti's ramblings. She nibbled on a piece of salted meat and bread, and drew her cloak tighter around her shoulders in the morning breeze.
Hidden 1 yr ago Post by darkwolf687
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Aurien grinned and peered back to the guard with a cheeky wink, chuckling away to himself. The guardsman grunted angrily, and then nodded

"Then you fit in better with us than where you're going, I would wager!" The Guardsman retorted with a chuckle. Gaikus shot him a glance for a moment then sat back as the man left. The retainers chuckled to themselves and shook their heads, quickly going about their business

***

Zakroti raised his hand out to the left side to give a light wave as he approached the group in the courtyard, greeting his men at arms "An alafin a serpen, ieni!" He called to them, taking his seat amongst them and taking the pitcher and glass he was handed to pour himself a drink

"Zela ta laloriaonz odzi, Taki!" Some of the men replied cheerfully enough as they ate together and spoke of all kinds of things. Zakroti turned his head towards Nenra as she greeted him and bowed his head lightly to her

"An thul a sil, Nenra." He replied to her with a warm smile, glancing to Miry for a moment as the Nenra whispered to her before his attention was suddenly drawn to the otherside by Narlemaewel, his helmet now removed to reveal the decidedly gemmenite features that made him entirely distinct from the mixture of Drakken around him. Zakroti gave a small smile and nodded

"I have ensured that we have made ready to leave, we can exit as soon as we have finished with the morning food. The mounts are changed and the ganauts will be taken home separately, but shouldn't arrive more than a few days after our own arrival" Narlemaewel said simply, his voice relatively gruff and short. He dipped the spoon into the bowl of soup and beginning to eat from it.

"Thank you, Narlemaewel, oeiz seru." Zakroti replied with a light nod as he cut into the meat that was one his plate, slicing away at it and plopping the chunk into his mouth as Narlemaewel continued

"Word is that the road is clear enough and the weather should hold for the next step of our journey, but the calculations were made for our riding. Are the Gemmenites here capable of riding as long and hard as our own riders, or will I need to adjust the itinerary?" He asked with a light raise of a brow, glancing over to Nenra and Miry for a moment before peering back to his overlord.

"They seemed to handle it suitably enough, I will look after them." Zakroti replied with a light nod, shifting in place a little and continuing to eat. Then he paused for a moment and glanced towards Miry and Nenra again "How well are you handling the riding? We've got a good deal more of it on the road ahead."
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