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E0633C




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His arm around her felt alien. For a moment she wanted to push him off and hit him with her handbag. Rational thought saved Kavan from that little indignity though. She had started it and it was a natural thing to do. As she relaxed the arm began to actually feel a bit comforting. Like protection from the rest of the world.

Slowly the young woman lifted her face and looked up at him. He was so much nicer than she had anticipated. A small smile quirked the corners of her lips upward. "You know what, I think having a moment outside would be nice." She unraveled herself from him and smoothed out her dress and hair. "There, do I still look presentable?" The question was in earnest though her bland facial expression had returned and her tone sounded more like a sarcastic joke. "Oh no... I got foundation on you." She brushed at the spot on his coat jacket.

The make-up came off only a little bit. Bea dug into her handbag and pulled out a little packet of wet wipes. Pulling one from the packet she brushed at the spot until it had disappeared. "There. Sorry." She stuffed the packet back into her bag and would find a place to toss the used wipe. As she walked toward the door she saw Jordan with Chanel and Liyah. Her heart did that weird, crushing summersault thing and she felt like she was going to throw up.

Why was she being so silly? Why did it affect her in this way? He was just chatting with his date, the prettiest and most fashionable girl. And Liyah who was wicked smart and gorgeous too. She had never considered a girl's beauty so threatening and nerve-wracking before. Why now? She shook her head and made it outside without any further incidents.

Once out of the doors she dug through her little handbag again, pulled out a cigarette and lit it up. The first inhale was so delightful. She breathed out the smoke and it fluttered over her head and off into the night sky. There was a lipstick mark on the filter and she found it quite pretty. From her purse, she pulled out her flip phone, snapped a quick picture, and went back to her filthy habit. "Aah, sorry Kavan. Do you smoke? I can stand more downwind."


Ashkevron Residence in Askavi


"Oh! Gen, good morning!" Fatima's bright tones wafted once again through the tension. She slipped her arm from Mikhail's and skipped up to him, placing one of her bronzed hands on his arm. "It's okay, Faeril said they could come in. I mean, I think she was a bit sarcastic but I'm fully prepared to deal with that when she wakes up. I think your garden could use a good weeding, no? Poor thing overworked herself. Hardly surprising though." She removed the hand from his arm and placed it on her own cheek. A slight pout pursed her lips. "But we can hardly leave what's mine out in the cold! I wish Lucivar would wake up already! Well, come on! Breakfast is ready and I've got a brew to make!"

The little Queen walked joyfully toward Mikhail again, grabbing his hand and she grabbed Artemis' as well. "This is Mikhail, he is my new friend. And Artemis. Also a new friend. She's going to help with the brew. Mikhail is going to help with the eating." If she pretended everyone was all good and happy together maybe that would be the case? Just act all friendly and the energy in the room would change. At least, that was what she hoped.

She didn't care to spend much more time skulking about in hallways. Fatima made her way into the kitchen with her friends in tow. She was prepared to take care of the burnt pancake but found someone had already done. "Amazing! Thank you so much." She studied the cleaned pan with delight. "It looks like new! Now, you are going to have to scooch down to that end of the table. Cozy on up." She put the pan back where it had been drying before turning to the table. "Artemis and I need this end. Go on!" She waved her hands at them and then put her apron back on.




8D74AD

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The blue-eyed little princess made her rounds through the tents. She met with people she knew and danced when asked. It made her search for a certain Latin Idiot quite a slow go. Penny at least got to flit and flirt. While her date hadn't turned out to be a total bust, his lack of interest was frustrating. On her own, she would have more luck snatching herself up a date for the evening. After the homecoming, that was.

She finally spied Santiago chatting with Stella and her date. Oh, what fortunes blew her way~ She hightailed it over toward them but paused when Santiago looked toward the dance floor. She recognized the face he made. Penny had seen it a number of times. Turning, she found the cause for such a sour look. April and Kavi. Kavi, that ass. Though he could not see, she stuck her tongue out at him and hurried toward the small group. Diablo was walking out the door when Penny arrived.

"Oh, Stelly! You look amazing!" She threw her arms around her dear friend's neck. "I'll come right back and we'll have a dance." She kissed the girl's cheek before looking up at her date. "Sorry, Bestie privilege." She winked at the boy before making her final leg of the journey to join Santiago by the tree outside. Strawberries wafted around him, surprising Penny.

"I never pegged you to be one for fruity flavors," she teased lightly as she leaned against the tree next to him. "Never pegged you neither." Joke? Haahaa, funny? Nope. She fluffed some curls back from her face with a sigh and looked over his expression. "You're a hard man to find Diablo. Wanna have a sit?" Poor thing. Boys could be so stupid about girls. And the man hadn't a lick of patience or sense to deal with what April needed. Penny hoped that her proposition would bring even a speck of color back to the playboy's face.




E0633C




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The limo rolled to a stop in front of the country club. Bea took a quick gulp from her flask before tucking it back into her purse. The driver opened the door for the pair. First Kavan exited and helped the young woman out of the car. They walked arm in arm, presented their tickets, and were allowed into a building filled with false stars. The music was an odd, eclectic mix of new and old. The pounding of it made her head hurt a little but she would quash it down. She had to make it through the whole thing, her graduation depended on it.

What she truly needed was space. A moment to breathe and take in all of what was happening before putting herself into the thick of it. It wasn’t like a Diablo party where she could freely drink. It was a battlefield she had walked into and the small amount she’d had to drink so far was not going to cut it. Too many people. Too much noise. She clung close to Kavan, brown eyes searching over faces that had seemed to lose their features. Voices and music had mushed together in a cacophony. She looked up at her date and offered a small, nervous smile.

“I’m just going to get a drink and sit there.” She gestured to an empty corner of the room. “I need a minute. Go find your friends. We can meet up in a bit. I just need…. I need a second.” She hesitated. Bea had walked in with Kavan, at this moment he was her anchor. She had to leave him though lest she do something she regret. She shivered and shook as she finally unraveled herself from his arm and speedily made her way to the punch bowl. She filled a glass and sniffed experimentally. No one had spiked it yet. Shame.

Bea went to the quiet, dark corner she had indicated and sat down. Beneath the table she poured a good helping of liquor from the flask into the plastic cup before returning the flask to her purse. Leaning back in her chair she sipped as she surveyed the lot of them. Dancing, snuggling up, leaning close, shouted whispers. She sighed heavily and drank down a large portion of her punch before adding more of the flask to it. Bea was finally starting to feel a buzz and she felt her muscles relax. That was… Until…

Jordan walked in with the one and only gorgeous Chanel.

She wanted to throw up. She wanted to throw a chair at Chanel. Maybe tear up her dress. Something. She wanted to do…. Bea looked away from the pair and downed the last of her drink. Her brows furrowed, and she tried to keep herself from tears. That was supposed to be her on Jordan’s arm. Why did it turn out like this? Stupid. So stupid. Stupid teachers. Stupid fishbowls. Stupid name drawing. This would be her first and last homecoming. And she had to watch Chanel and Jordan. She didn’t understand the weird way her guts twisted or how her heart seemed to have turned upside down and lodged itself in her throat.

Bea couldn’t sit still. She left her empty cup at the table and made her way through the throng of people until she found Kavan. She hated touch. She didn’t like strange people that she had no association with. Bea needed to hide though. She wrapped her arms around his waist and hid her face against his chest. She was shaking and was having trouble pushing down the overwhelming feeling that was tearing at her innards. Scream. Do something. Something…. Anything

She breathed in Kavan’s scent, letting the cologne create a new sensation of her senses. She had removed sight. She couldn’t do sound. But the smell of him helped to make her feel less wild. Less on the verge of a meltdown. So Bea gripped him tightly and hoped he wouldn’t make her let go.


Ashkevron Residence in Askavi


"Artemis, lovely name. I think it suits you," she said softly and with all the warmth of glowing embers. "I would be pleased to have your company. Some say too many cooks in the kitchen and all that, but I think a restorative brew could use good and happy energy from those with good intentions." She spoke this as she had joined Mikhail at the door.

"It's rare to meet someone who would treat a complete stranger so well and with the kindness you do, Fatima, But I don't know if my presence will be... tolerated for much longer." he said, and there was a hint of unease in his voice. She frowned sympathetically but did not speak just yet. He had more to say and she listened intently.

"About myself..." Some hesitation. Fatima thought that perhaps it would take some time for this man to open up to her. It saddened her to know that he had covered himself completely in ice. What life he must have lived before she found him. She swore to herself that she would give him reason to wake up with a smile every day. "Almost everything that there is to be known about myself isn't exactly... pleasant to hear. But if you are ok with a superficial explanation, there are still a few good things."

His smiled warmed away the sadness that had crept into her expression. She returned the smile, white teeth flashing momentarily. Her good feelings were dampened by one of the Eyrien brothers. Belar corrected Mikhail with, "Lady Fatima." The young woman wrinkled her nose at Belar but said nothing. There was only so much propriety she could fight in one day and everyone was feeling a bit off what with so many strangers in the house. Not to mention their protector down for the count. How she wished Lucivar would wake. He would make her feel so much better. Not the three Eyrien men though, it might cause more tension so perhaps it was for the best he kept to himself. She prayed that he hadn't abandoned her. He very well could have stolen away in the night. But something inside of her told her he had not. For now, she had Mikhail though, and she squeezed his hand kindly as she returned her attention to him. Fatima was sure he would keep her safe.

"I think, in this day and age everyone has a sad, ugly story to tell. I don't mind it at all, I want to hear all about you. And if you would prefer to talk about it in private I am happy to oblige. I just want to get to know all of my..." She paused, unsure about how he would handle knowing he was a part of her court. Perhaps not yet. He knew something was happening, as she did. But maybe he wasn't ready just yet. "All of my friends," she finally finished. "And I'd be pleased to tell you about myself too... Are you coming Artemis?" She began to walk toward the kitchen, threading her arm through Mikhail's as was the proper way to walk, her hand resting lightly at the crook of his elbow. "It has been such a busy morning, have you eaten yet?"


Ashkevron Residence in Askavi


The question and following statement pulled her out of her trance. Fatima's eyelids fluttered as she adjusted back to the real world rather than one made of bone, vein, and sinew. She came to realize that the young white-haired woman had followed them down the hall. Of course, she has said she would like to help, hadn't she?

Fatima's sat back and eyed the girl. "I don't believe I ever caught your name," she said thoughtfully. "You are right, of course." She smiled brilliantly as she stood from her stool. "Nothing quite like waking up with completely relaxed muscles though." She winked before standing and stretching. "If you'd like we can go make a restorative brew for when she is a bit more coherent. I'm sure we'll find all we need in the kitchen or in my own stores."

Approaching Belor she said, "Stay if you wish. She'll be very boring to watch though." She patted his arm lightly before turning to Mikhail. She threaded her fingers with his. "Would you like to join us? You can tell me all about yourself!"


Ashkevron Residence in Askavi


The mood of the room was palpable. She could feel things turning more and more sour. Breakfast served and the men in a state of disarray. Without their master and commander, so to speak, everyone was dancing on the edge of a knife. Things finally came to a crossroads when Mikhail re-appeared. He had a warm smile for her. His face becoming something nearly handsome but then the sight of the others brought him back to the ice he held around his heart.

His words sent the energies around her into a chaotic swirl. She set aside the cast iron skillet which had the half-done makings of a pancake within it. It would burn but at this moment it was not her concern. She was a Queen. Not a practiced one to be sure, but she was one. Her grey slowly seeped from her, pushing down and quelling others as she prepared to speak. Her psychic energy created a cloud of calm about her. She did not turn from the stove. Instead, she busied herself with ensuring that the breakfast would not go to waste. Placing a cover over Faeril's plate, finishing up final cups of coffee, and turning off units of flame.

The room was quieted, only the ring of the boy's speaking their piece pierced her cloud. Finally, Fatima turned from the stove and looked over all the people in the room. Her green eyes searching faces as the silence lingered much too long. "He is mine and he will speak to me as he likes until I say it is wrong," she began. Her words were firm, her chin tilted upward as she surveyed the kingdom of kitchen.

"And do you not think our dear benefactor would be tired? How many has she healed?" Her moss hues studied each of the boys. "When was the last time she has worked this hard?" Each Eryien, protectors of the Black Widow, were shockingly naive at the way consumption of power could drain a woman. "I had hoped she might ask for help, but it seems our lovely lady of the house has deigned to drain herself." A wry smile came to her lips as she looked over the Eryien men who had made themselves Faeril's protectors. "How very like a lady. She has things to curse at me about, as you know. However, it is high time someone gave her a stopping point too."

Fatima moved from the stove and gently placed her had on Mikhail's arm. "Lead me to her, please." A small, nervous smile and then she looked back at the men who teetered on the edge. Her features held her determination to not let this situation become a bloodbath. "Belor, would you come with me? I believe you are more practiced at dealing with how she will spit and hiss.” Playfulness edged her tone, but she wished Lucivar was there. Having his power to back her own would make her feel even a little bit more confident.

She left the room with Belor in tow and Mikhail leading the way to the room of secrets. How she would have liked to dig and snoop into the Black Widow’s cabinets. Unfortunately, there would be no time. There, on the bed, as promised, was the sleeping form of Faeril. Fatima, ignoring the men at this point, pulled a stool close to the bed and sat down next to it. Whether they entered or not was of no concern to her. Now she would focus on her patient. The Healer Queen gently smoothed back the hair from Faeril's face. Her first step was to reach in and feel what ached. She had dwindled herself down, in Fatima’s opinion, quite dangerously.

Fatima sighed and looked up toward the ceiling, closing her eyes. Her breaths were slow and steady. In. Out. In. Out. She prepared herself before placing her hands at Faeril's stomach. Her first job was to relieve these tired muscles of aches and pains. Her fingers phased into the woman and processed the emptiness of her stomach and the tiredness of muscles. It would take time as the young healer began the process of helping an overly worn body relax.


Ashkevron Residence in Askavi


Fatima came out of the kitchen, apron resituated over her form and two large mugs of steaming coffee in her hand. One she pushed into Denar's hands. The other was offered to Belor. She smiled playfully up at the Eyrien. "I do believe she said to go ahead and invite these people in since I was so kind as to be inviting guests into her home already." Her tone and inflection implied she knew she had done wrong and was prepared for the consequences. But that she also took this in stride and with lightheartedness for Fatima was simply what she was. Young. "Besides. One of them is mine. I will weather the storm later." It would likely do her some good to have some chastising. Not to mention, the hurt that could come from it would mean a well-weeded garden. Her hands were itching for some earthly work. "Thank you for your concern. Breakfast is hot and in the kitchen." Fatima relinquished the cup to him before ushering to white-haired pair into the kitchen as well.

Fatima gestured toward seats at the table as she began to uncover hot plates of eggs, bacon, and pancakes. She placed a plate before each person, including mother. The two Warlord Princes received plates overflowing with the simple breakfast. Fatima mostly ignored her own plate as she set about cooking and ensuring more breakfast for Mikhail and Faeril. Maybe seconds for anyone who needed it. She was not entirely sure about the strengths of her two new companions and wanted to make sure that the troupe would not go hungry. Just where were Faeril and Mikhail anyhow? Shouldn't they be done with their session about now? Shouldn't her ears be getting blistered off by Faeril's seething rage?


E6C2FF


Bitsy's eyes connected with the woman who spoke to her. Rosa, she believed. The moment their eyes met she felt the humid heat of the bayou, smelled the seasonings in good ol' creole cooking, and heard the sound of clinking chains and far off singing. The small woman tilted her head to the side, considering the girl before her. She had picked up on their phone conversation that there was something special about her, something Rosa hid from the world. However, upon their meeting, it did not become immediately obvious. Hobb's watched her trace the image of the Ouroborus. Her features fell from her ditzy, excited smile and turned to something a bit sad as fond memories danced through her head.

She approached the woman and looked down at the symbol on the page, upsidedown from her view. "No," she said quietly as the smile started to return. "Certainly not an arbitrary picture. The Ouroborus means infinity, death, and rebirth. My father used to use it when stamping the wax on important letters. I thought it would be a fitting image for our new beginnings." She looked up to meet Rosa's eyes again. "But is there something else on your mind?" She stared at the girl for a long moment. Could the girl look into her thoughts? Could she read the answers to her questions on Hobbs' face? What was so very special about Miss Rosa? Her eye contact broke when Mr. Wu caught her attention.

Straightening up, she spun toward the man with her excited smile back into place. "Ah, absolutely. Any good investigator must know the facts before going into a case! And your knowledge of antiquity may be of extreme use to us. Well done Mr. Wu. Cheers!" Her light steps took her back to her desk and she opened up a file that lay amongst the mess of papers. Flicking some ash from her cigarette into the nearby ashtray, she began.

"Our archaeologist in question is one Mister Oliver Meyers. He's been in the gig for at least twelve years. Visited places like Egypt and even worked with Mister Hiram Bingham in his discovery of Macchu Picchu. This caused him to lead an expedition more recently to the tail end of Mexico to perhaps find some Aztec or conquistador treasures. His team did find some things there and were to return, but the death of his partner and the museum withdrawing his funding has left him without a hope of returning to further investigate. He has brought back with him a good number of artifacts which have either gone missing or turned up in strange places - such as his bathtub." She smirked, took a drag from the cigarette, and looked at the group of people before her. "I wonder what the shock on Mister Meyers' face must have looked like. In any case, Mister Meyers' has invited us to his abode to discuss the missing valuables." Bitsy snapped the file shut and tossed it unceremoniously back onto her desk.


Ashkevron Residence in Askavi


Per the new member of the Court's nod, she looked around him to find an old woman standing next to a dirty, but a lovely young lady with the same shocking white hair. Were they siblings? She turned her gaze back up to the man before her and opened her lips to make some sort of reply when a pair of strong hands grasped her waist. She was lifted as easily as a bundle of twigs and set off to the side. "Excuse me," she said as she was moved, wiggling a bit to get out of the grasp. She heard the man call her lady and knew it was one of Faeril's boys.

She turned to find her suspicions confirmed as the Warlord Prince glared down at the white-haired man. She made a tsking sound with her tongue and was about to relay her suspicions about this man being a member of her court when Denar's appearance changed from challenging to elated. Fatima moved back to the opening in the door to find him as gleeful as a child, swinging the woman he called mother about. She winced, worried the old Eyrien would break in half.

It seemed she was safe in his arms though and so her worry subsided. "Well, I suppose this is a warm enough welcome as any. Would you like to come in for some coffee and breakfast? I believe I have made enough for everyone." She gestured them in, stepping back so that they could do so. She did not wait long to see if they would enter and bustled into the kitchen to begin preparing plates and mugs of deep, dark coffee for the group.
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