The large ornate doors slammed shut before Bree could get a proper look in the door. The spicy scent of incense hit her like a wave as well as as the sickly sweet rotting stench of a decaying animal.
Twen gave out a small hiss as she placed both of her her hands on her back, the guard coming to her side at once. “Vivari’s fucking saggy tits,” she hissed.
“ Breathe Twen,” Said the guard, surprisingly soothingly for drakkan.
At the same time the runty puppy decided he had more than enough of this and gave a final yank on the leash causing the collar to slide off. The small dog shook his neck and head, gave Bree and frustratingly mocking look (if dogs could give mocking looks) before taking off down the hall. Bree gave a quick glance towards the guard and the prince’s gem. They were quite distracted.
She started walking quickly towards the pup, which then turned into a quick jog and then a full out run. The wretched creature always stopped to wait for her at every corner turn and seemed to be enjoy the game of letting her get just close enough before taking off again.
Bree soon lost count of the number of twists and turns the dog had taken and there was little else she could do, it wasn’t like the creature had a name to call or that it would listen to her if it did. Turning a final corner she collided with….something.
Bree found herself splayed on the ground, looking up a one of the palace gems, holding the puppy who was making quick work of licking her face.
“Is this little one yours?” Said the gem softly, before reaching out a hand to help Bree to her feet.
“I think so, he seems to have other ideas about the matter,” muttered Bree.
“Haha, yes well Fret not sister, for Drun was born last,” said the Gem.
“I...don’t know what that means,” Said Bree, the woman from the market had said something similar before. ”Can I have my dog back?” The gem left and uneasy feeling in the air, like she was waiting for something.
“Soon you will. Your aunt and freedom is waiting for you” said the Gem. “Also, sorry about this, but it is a precaution,”
“What-” Bree there was an exploding pain in the back her head, then her world went black.
Stupid dog. Bump into new gem. Supposedly kidnapped to freedom
“The history lesson is quite fascinating, but I assure you it is far from necessary.” The young prince retorted, following his guest’s speech with a curt gesture with his cup. Taking another drink of the ale, Ehkota eyed Kagan from across the table as if he were attempting to sort something through in his mind.
“While it is foolish to think the death of the king will be anything less than the greatest political upheaval of the dynasty… it would be equally as dishonest to deny that I could wait another century for it to happen. This is not a matter in which I wish to challenge Gaelnesh over which might come as quite a surprise. Contrary to common belief, I don’t actually want to see him dead.” Setting his cup down on the table, Ehkota shifted backward into his chair.
“Any fight between us isn’t likely to end cordially and besides… he is the only family this world has seen fit for me to have.” The pregnant Gem shadowing the prince shifted uncomfortably where she stood, the man’s tone of voice bearing just the slightest hint of malcontent. Inhaling deeply, Ehkota sighed and pushed himself up from the table.
“Perhaps things will make more sense for you if I were to let you see it with your own eyes.”
Ehkota made his way toward the door, pausing only long enough for Kagan to rise from his seat and follow suit. The guard that had granted their entrance followed the group closely from behind, ushering Ehkota’s bride into the center with Kagan’s own. It was becoming increasingly clear that the guard was present less for the prince and more for the woman, though his presence certainly deterred any thoughts of straying too far from the chosen path.
“My bride tells me that congratulations are in order, it is somewhat rare that a Gem would fall pregnant so quickly.” The prince spoke as they walked down the corridor, maintaining a lower volume so that his conversation would not carry to uninvited ears.
“Although I suppose congratulations might be a bit premature, it is afterall a common occurrence for the first child to be lost within the month. Gems are so fragile you see, but one could only hope that yours proves to be the exception. You are, after all, a man in favor with the divine.” Ehkota smirked as the pair led the group along.
As they walked, the surrounding atmosphere was quick to change. Up until this point stone had been the only thing they tread upon, it made up the floors and walls alike. However, as the number of candles increased the available lighting the more decor could be seen. Rooms they passed contained couches and tables with walls covered in paintings of varying styles, the bleak floor standing in stark contrast to the bright woven rugs made by Geminite hands. Every so often a scarcely dressed Gem would dart in and out of view, working girls tending to the royal family’s every need.
Ehkota stopped the group in the middle of the hall, eyes flitting back to the girls before addressing Kagan.
“I think you’ll agree that your… family… should wait for you outside. Gem’s are so easily put to hysterics.” Both his words and tone suggested that regardless of Kagan’s true feelings on the matter, Ehkota was not willing to allow the girls any further on their current journey.
“Don’t worry, Twen will care for them until your return.” He added, before signalling for the Kinner to follow him. Leaving the girls behind with the guard, Ehkota walked a few more paces down the hall to a set of ornate doors.
No warnings were given to his entrance, simply pushing the doors open so that he and Kagan could enter before pushing them shut once more. The room was cast in an eerie twilight, an obscenely large room kept dark, cool, and filled with a thin haze of incense. It took a few moments for the eyes to adjust to the new lighting, new details to the room being revealed bit by bit over time. A grouping of about twelve Gems slowly faded into view, eight of them surrounding a large bed while the other four could be seen resting on tiny cots scattered about the floor.
Every single one of the girls wore simple black dresses, their pale skin draped in scars from head to toe. If one were to look closely the could also see the dark circles surrounding all but lifeless eyes. The four resting were quick to rise from their cots, adjusting to a kneeling position as they recognized the presence of the prince. With their hands behind their backs and their foreheads brushing the ground, the girls greeted their masters with a bow customary to the royal household. It was among the highest formalities for servants and was rarely seen outside of the palace walls, however, their posture was clear enough to be self-explanatory to the guest.
Unlike the girls who had been resting, the eight surrounding the bed outright ignored the commotion behind them; not a single girl flinched or even acknowledged the prince and his companion. Even through the heavily scented air the smell of rotting flesh was apparent within the room.
Approaching the circle revealed the bed’s occupant, the body of what appeared to be a Drakkan… Or what was left of him anyhow. He looked more like a breathing corpse than he did even the most vile of Drakka’s creatures. Two air Gems stood at the head, one whose job was to move air to fill his lungs while the other was to pull the stale air back out. A small hole had been made in the man’s chest to expose a weakly beating heart, only a thin stretch of skin standing between the vital organ and the rest of the room. Stones that had been embedded through the broken ribs were manipulated by another two earth Gems in order to maintain the rhythm in perfect intervals. The next pair of girls were located with one at the head and the other the foot of the bed. Standing at the head of the bed was a girl carefully providing a stream of sugared liquid into the man’s mouth while the other shifted in place. What exactly it was that the second girl was moving, however, was unclear. Fire Gems completed the circle, moving only to shift and reheat stones that were placed on, around, and under the king.
Ehkota remained silent for a few moments to allow the horrendous sight to sink in before he spoke, his tone remaining low so as not to disturb the process.
“May I formally introduce you to Drakka’s greatest warrior, conqueror, and leader… I present to you King Toran.” The young prince’s eyes were fixed on the sight before him, entranced by the decaying corpse that was once his father.
“Or what’s left of him. I don’t suppose you would argue that a little dignity is long overdue. Is it even really considered killing at this point?” Ehkota’s eyes snapped up from the bed as a familiar voice spoke up, one far different from the one he had been expecting.
Prince: Cool story Bro, but like. Just come see. Good job knocking up your gem, but the baby probably won’t make it. Just leave them outside while I introduce you to the king of the living dead. Oh shit. My brother is here
“You better make me enjoy it. Oh and if it wasn’t clear yet, neither of you whisper even a word about this. Or you’ll learn what the definition of Wrath is.”
She didn’t blame Nadia. How could she? What could the Gem have done? Stopped him? Gone for help?
It was easier to pretend it didn’t happen. That she didn’t...that she wasn’t….
That she didn’t walk down the hall to replace the clothing that she lost. That she didn’t scrub her skin raw to get rid of the feeling of Kieran’s hands on her body.
The fact that she didn’t put on every article of clothing she could, if it meant covering her skin just a little bit more.
That she didn’t lay in bed, covered in blankets despite the ever rising temperature.
That it wasn’t the fear that Kieran would remain behind as well that pulled her from her bed when Keregar called.
“We are going to wander the market. If you see anything you want, clothes or jewels or whatever you like, you tell me,”
Xaelia face tightened in pain as she was helped down from the horse. Her walk was careful, slower than usual. The entire time she chose to remain well with in Keregar’s line of vision. Well out of arm’s reach. But Keregar seemed to be the best defense against his hoard.
The group cut through the crowd on foot very much in the same way as the did on horses. Giving very little head towards a space already being occupied if it was the quickest way to their destination. None of the wares drew any real attention from her. Half heartedly reaching out to take hold of something only to drop it a moment later.
She heard someone talking, but the question had already been finished before Xaelia realised that it was Nadia talking and that her words were directed towards her.
“Uh huh,” Said Xae distractedly, her hands vaguely brushing Nadia’s words away, hoping that he answer was enough to placate her.
But she kept talking.
Xae nodded, and made a sound every once in a while, but her vacant expression made it clear that she wasn’t understanding anything that was being said to her.
A small look of longing flashed across Xaelia’s face as they passed an open tent selling foods of every kind. Meat hissed over a grill and fruits hung from long poles. Her mouth open as though she had worked up to courage to ask her husband for something, only to pause, a look of horror filling her face as she pulled her hand back and closed her mouth. The slightly vacant look returning as they passed it by, entering the areas that Nadia had been speaking of before.
There was a commotion nearby, some of the people who had been shoved passed earlier by Keregar’s caravan seemed to think that they would fare better against the war lord now. One of the thugs took a swing at one of the twins.
The battle caught like fire, spreading through the people in the roads, the merchants, she even saw a fair few who had been minding their own business pointedly run down the block to join in the fighting, unconcerned for sides or reasons.
But all that meant for Xae was that Keregar was distracted. That he was far too busy to see anything his children did. She pulled herself back into a tent with every intention of hiding until the fighting ended, only to back straight into a hulking drakkan.
He was younger than Keregar, perhaps slightly older than Kieran. She let out a small noise of fear. “S-sorry,” She turned, caught between the unfamiliar new drakkan and the fighting going on behind her. “I just.. I-Zeldria?” Her eyes focused on the gem standing near the drakkan she bumped into.
It didn’t matter that she had only met the girl once before. It didn’t matter that they weren’t friends or anything.
She was a familiar face. A familiar face that didn’t know anything that had happen.
She lept, tossing her arms around the girl and hugging her close, probably longer than was wanted or needed.
The rest of the day passed far slower than Bree would have liked. The lateness of the day was marked by the ever growing shadows around the group, the sun already beginning to set by the time they made their way toward their destination. Between the shopping and Kagan’s ridiculous insistence on walking everywhere, the short trip to the Royal Palace swiftly turned into a tedious one.
Fatigue came much quicker to a being that spent very little time near deserts of any kind, each step forward more grueling than the last. Bree’s mouth felt dry and her skin had collected a film of invisible particles of sand that she couldn’t dust off; rubbing her raw with every move she made. As if that weren’t irritating enough for the young girl her stomach ached with hunger and the smaller puppy nipped at her ankles, pouting at the fact that it had been put down soon after leaving the market.
After what felt like months of walking the group finally approached the castle, though the term was one she used lightly. It wasn’t exactly wrong, now that she saw it in the light, though castles back home appeared dainty in comparison to the hulking structure they hiked toward. The Palace seemed unapproachable with its high walls and armed guards posted all over the place, yet that didn’t stop Kagan from marching right up to it anyway.
Much to her surprise, however, Kagan didn’t lead them in through the front doors they had used the night before. Instead the trio turned to move around the side of the building until they reached a secondary door guarded by a single hulking monster of a Drakkan. The scowl the man wore was sharp enough to cut a fly clean in half and for a moment Bree believed that he might just prove it for poking their noses where they didn’t belong. Rather than dealing with them, the guard turned away as if disinterested and opened the door for them to enter through.
Awaiting their arrival was a loosely dressed figure that could have passed for a young man had it not been for the growing bump around her stomach. Her face tightened as she appraised the two standing before her, eyes running them over from head to toe.
“Well that didn’t take long.” The woman said after a moment, eyes locking on to Bree’s midsection. Bree fought the urge to cover her stomach with her arms, opening her mouth to respond.
“And you’re still alive.” She continued on, giving Bree no time to speak as she addressed Adorabella.
“ Twen, arm’s length away.]” The guard barked, reaching out to grab her arm and pull her back in closer to him.
“ The prince is waiting for them in one of the dining rooms, we best not keep him waiting.” He followed up, saying no more as he lead the group along.
“I was beginning to wonder about your directional skills.” Ehkota spoke up as the trio entered the room. His eyes immediately ficked down to the Gems and the small beasts trailing behind them. It would have been an understatement to say that the prince was surprised to see them, especially for what he was being asked to do. Personally he would have preferred them to stay behind. The less who witnessed the unfolding events the safer he would be when his brother found out. Still, Ehkota maintained his nonchalant composure and welcomed the group into the large side room.
“I was not aware that kinning was a family affair.” He raised an eyebrow at the man, nodding his head in the direction of his companions.
Bree’s eyes had to adjust to the relative darkness of the room as there were no windows to allow natural lighting. The only thing keeping the shadows at bay were a few lit sconces and a fireplace off to the side. To say it was eery was selling the vibe short.
“Kagan, you must be famished. Please, join me.” The table in the center of the room was fairly large, certainly large enough for the whole group, however only two chairs had been set… clearly neither were meant for the Gems who tagged along. Bree could barely contain her groan of displeasure as she realized she would very likely be forced to stand for the duration of their meeting. Out of the corner of her eye she watched the guard and the Gem disappear into another room, returning after a few moments with a tray in the girl’s hands.
Ehkota took the seat facing the door motioning for Kagan to take the one opposite his position. The prince’s bride set down a mug filled with some kind of ale before her husband before walking over to place an identical mug before the empty seat. Returning to Ehkota’s side, the girl bowed her head to and settled in to await further instructions.
“History is to be made this night, my friend. Are you prepared to be on the right side of it?” The prince cooed, picking up the mug and taking a drink from it whilst looking expectantly at his guest. Just the mere thought of what was to come sent shivers down his spine, he could taste the victory he long sought after. The look on his brother’s face when he realized his position as next king was no longer safe was all Ehkota needed to make his efforts worth the price.
Bree is hot and wants a bath and something to eat and drink and a nap. Ehkota is ready to kill some shit
The runt wiggled its way closer to Bree’s chest, but after that seemed more than content to simply nest in her arms, rather than move around and be forced to walk like his brother. Just as Bree made to move closer to Kagan, the woman merchant reached out and grab her arm.
Bree stopped, alarmed for a moment, the woman’s face taking on a much more serious expression “Fret not sister, for Drun was born last,” She then gave Bree a sideways smile before releasing the girl’s arm and sliding back behind her booth.
Bree opened her mouth to respond, but she found that there was nothing she could think of to say to such a statement. The woman waved a final time before Bree turned to catch up with Kagan and Adora at the next stall over.
Adora seemed entrapped by a notebook she swore she didn’t need, but clearly wanted badly. It was painful to watch her put the notebook down. Clearly Kagan wouldn’t have a problem purchasing the object should she had wanted it.
Another sound drew Bree’s attention, They had wandered to the far side of the market now, to where the crowd had gathered. She could see clearly now that some type of platform at been raised, high enough so that even the tallest drakkan’s horns stuck above it. The crowd was restless. After a moment, a large drakkan came on stage, his words were muddled by the distance.
Standing off to the side of the drakkan was a creature, not a gem or drakkan, something different.
The pup gave a sequel of distress as Bree’s arms tightened around it and she felt herself move closer to Kagan, her eyes wide as the realized what it was she looked at.
A small hiccup of fear flashed through her as the second egg was snatched from the air, Xaelia felt herself physically shrink as the shout echoed around the small enclosed room. The rational part of her mind knew that this little boy could snap her neck as easily as he crushed the egg. The rational part was ready to drop to her knees and beg for her life. But the rational part was easily silence.
Xae stood with her eyes burning holes into the little drakkan as he fumbled through his excuses. But she kept her mouth shut. She watched him devolve from anger to justification first to Nadia then to himself, before finally muttering a final world about breakfast and vanishing off to some other room.
Although Varzar told them to enjoy breakfast, Xae felt a queasiness in her stomach that left food the very last thing she wanted. Nevertheless, she reached a hand into one of baskets filled with hard bread, intending to hide it for later. After a moment's hesitation she grab a second one for Nadia before walking over to the girl. “Nadia, are you….alright really?” She paused a moment for the girl’s response before a new figure enter the room.
She felt her heart freeze, all rage leaving her body like a rush of water as she saw the brother.
“What… do we have here. All alone? Did little brother run off? No… don’t tell me. Let’s not ruin the fun…Oh my… maybe he scorned you. Were you jealous when he preferred the gentle Gem?”
Xaelia took a few quick steps back until she felt one of the countertops press against her back. The anger evaporating like drops of water on the desert floor.
“No worries. I can make you feel better.”
“Y-your father told us to eat,” she whispered, her mind grasping at anything. “He will be upset if you s-stop us from following an order,” She side step slightly, trying to get closer to the door. “Don’t you think?”
Not a whole lot happens. Xae is mad and attempts to talk her way out of everything
“I know not of which home from your memories you speak of, but your home is with me now. This is only a temporary stop, I hope to return to the forest soon. Perhaps you’ll feel more at ease there than here in the desert. You’re a child of your gods’ matriarch, am I wrong? If there is something that will help ease your mind while we stay here, let me know. I shall do my best.”
Rya’s eyes swept over Az’s face, flicking from his mouth to his eyes and then to his horns, finally settled vaguely back on his eyes. Her eyes widening as she spoke, lips pulling into a thin line, understanding flicking across her face as he finished speaking. Reaching a hand out, she patted the drakkan between the horns, smooshing the the front of his hair down. “Returning to my hut might be better. You’ve cause me nothing but trouble since I met you,” She nodded once as though some great decision had been made before kicked the horse forward into the estate. ------------
The estate was just as it was the before. Too dark, too confinding. Eyes watching everywhere. Az called forth one of the many servants that seemed to fade in and out of existence. Only around when needed.
The servant wasn’t a Gem, but she wasn’t a drakkan either. Tawny skin covered in white marking. She wore clothing that seemed to be designed to make life more cumbersome. Far too tight to allow for easy movement and the cut of it offered less modesty than if she would have been allowed to be naked. Her hair fell back from her head, leaving two broken stumps of what much have been antlers.
She didn’t speak, didn’t look at Rya. Her movement tense as though she expected an attack at any moment. Which, given her home, wasn’t too far off. The fawn girl left her in setting room near the front and vanished soon after.
Rya stood, choosing to pace the room, waiting for Az to return so they could leave. The longer the remain, the more the shadows would tug and catch, until leaving was impossible. The pacing helped keep the shadows from snagging and catching ankles. Like stepping thru the tangled underbrush of the forest.
There was a shifting in the house, a call of “Now, where’s my payment, don’t tell me you lost her?” Morganna and behind her The killer He was the one who smashed the drakkan into a thousand pieces upon the floor. Possibly for existing? Drakkan had killed for much less anyway.
She felt his eyes cross over her and felt the energy of ‘end’. Most drakkan wanted to have or to hurt gems. This one wanted them gone. Her gone. Her at the end. But he made no move towards her.
A few second later Az entered the room, sending Morgana off into the depths of the house. A wave of relief shot through her, although not a certainty, Az was better than nothing for protection.
She took a few steps towards him, ready to leave, only to be stopped by the fawn girl and her tea. “Rya. Your tea. Sit down and drink it…. Slowly.”
Rya shot Azilon a frustrated look before marching over the cup of tea. She lifted her feet slightly off the floor the keep the shadows off her shoes before sipping at the tea. It was hot and far too spicy to be enjoyed. But the faster she slow sipped, the sooner they’d be leaving.
She felt Azilon’s figure shift, blocking her sight from something behind. She choked on her tea as the voice of Salazar echoed around the room.
“Good boy, I see you went and retrieved our little Rya. Proud of you.” That one wanted to hurt and have and at the moment the one who wanted to simply end her seemed like the better choice.
She stood the second after Salazar left, knocking over her cup and spilling what little tea was left in it across the table.
She all but ran to Az, Rya shoved herself under Az’s arm, her eyes still watching Hod uneasily, her eyes occasionally drifting to the door that Salazar had left from.
“ Az...are Gems close enough to Drakka that eating them would be considered cannibalism?” She whispered, burrowing her head between his arm and body, every muscle in her body tensed. “ “Back to the forest before we find out?”
-don’t let the shadows eat you -don’t let the new drakkan eat you -don’t let the old drakkan eat you -best to just leave you silly poof
”The Church thanks you. I’ll be sure to take the value of this off your husband’s tithe when I return home. I’ll see that he’s returned to be entombed by the end of the month.”
The voices from inside carried out into the dusty world of the capital. All signs of the rain had been slurped up, leaving the ground dry and powdery once again
The voices inside bid their formal farewells, all aspects of the friendly greeting pass. She heard footsteps heading towards her. She felt a large presence kneel beside her. ”Bree. You did...” Horrible. He didn’t need to say it. But the pain was beyond anything she had ever experienced before. The fact that Adorabella had been able to take it with barely a grimace was... unbelievable.
”It’s done. I’ll give you a few seconds to collect yourself. After that we’ll head back into the market.” Bree nodded, sniffing and wiping away the tears still on her face. The pain hadn’t lessen at all in that time, her back still screamed in agony and she felt herself fantasising of the freezing rain from the night before. Her steps were a little more unsteady as she pulled herself up from the ground, using Kagan to support her.
Releasing his shoulder, she took a few shakey steps towards the Jarvem’s storefront window. The grime from the outside giving it just enough reflection that she was able to see where her tears had caused her make-up to smear.
Very carefully she started wiping at the corners of her eyes, vaguely listening to the conversation behind her. If it was anything like what she’d heard inside the shop, well, that was better left unheard.
Reaching to tuck a piece of a hair behind her ear, she felt her shirt slip up too far. A moment of horror filled her as her chest was exposed for a second before she dropped her hands back down by her side.
The shirt wasn’t going to return to the way it was before, the skin was still much too tender for that . But she wasn’t a fan of the idea of walking all around the capital where every worry risked exposure.
She eyed Kagan in the reflection of the glass, an idea slowly forming her mind. After another moment, she finally returned to Kagan’s side taking his arm and holding it with both of her’s like a shield in front of her.
The street became more congested as they headed to the heart of the market. The tiny street vendors from before paled at the wears of the market center. The inventory was of a finer quality, the merchants reeked of wealth. The opened aired aspect of it just added to the chaos. There were a few actual shops to enter, but something told her that anything she’d request from those places would be out of the question.
There were voices shouting everywhere, trying to draw the right client. The smell of animals, spices, cooking and perfume clogged the air. People rushed passed. There were too many people around to avoid be bumped and brushed. All the activity caused Bree to hold tighter to Kagan’s arm, less she get seperated and vanished forever. Despite the brand on her back, she was still leery of what Kagan had said before.
There were more Gems here as well. The merchants seemed to always have one or two on hand, although their Gems had a worn look to them. Wary and exhausted. There were a few who had clearly been rebanded. They were left with huge ugly scars as the new master tried to cover the mark of the old one. The gems in the streets seemed a little better. Younger, more alive.
While gathering her barings, she was content to watch and learn the way of this market. The merchants seemed just has happy to trade goods for gold as they were for chickens. At the far end of the market, a huge crowd had gathered, but it was too far off for Bree to see what it was that was being sold.
Soon, the flash of brightly colored garments drew her attention. She always made sure that Kagan was ‘close enough’ before diving in, but this was her element. Many of the cuts of shirts were out because they covered her back. Some merchants were skipped over because of their shoddy craftsmanship.
Others held promise until they lied about their wears “Purest Gnorktha silk,”
“If that is Gnorktha silk, then I’m a drakkan,” she muttered just loud enough for Kagan to hear. “Gemmenia or Drakka, a merchant is a merchant,” she muttered. Pulling her hand away from the garment as though it personally offended her.
The first black top she could find she slid eagerly over her head. It held an aura of modesty, neck high in the front and wide open in the back. A few other shirts followed, good for a day or two.
Bree felt as though she had just started to come upon quality items when Kagan held up a hand "...That’s enough. We're clothing you, not half of Drakka."
A frown crossed Bree's face as she reluctantly pulled her hand away from the pile of clothing she was about to dig into. Back home, shopping was an all day ordeal and ended with more bags than she could hold.
She hadn’t really given Adora much mind throughout this ordeal, more or less figuring that the girl was up to something either mortifying, embarrassing or similar.
The trio slowly moved out of the area, the clothing vanishing and making way to other areas of the market. Passing jewelry, bound books, foods, everything. The market was vaguely categorized by what the seller had in stock, but it seemed more like a guideline than an actual rule.
Yet, there was nothing there she particularly wanted. She was picking up glass jars with a aura of lackluster. When a voice called out to her.
“Why frown darlen’ when someone could be falling in love with your smile?” Came a kind voice. It was a Gem, one on the cusp of her midlife and by far one of the oldest Gems Bree had seen in Drakka. She had a bright smile, hazel eyes and a mass of dark brown curls that fell in a flurry around her. The drakken that was with her was on the young side, despite his size, he gave off a distinct ‘teenager’ vibe and lacked the bulk that the full grown drakken typically had. He was tipping backwards in his chair that was set up behind their booth. Every other area in the tent was filled with cages
“Highland Jerhounds,” she said cheerfully, giving a sweeping gesture towards the pups. “They might not look like much now. But soon they’ll be giving horses a run for their money,” She pulled out one of the pups, already the size of many full grown dogs from back home. They were black and brown and had huge paws. “They are masterful hunters, fantastic guards, kind to children and incredibly loyal to their mistresses,”
Bree had never owned a ‘pet’ before. Sure there were horses and the Lamay House had some mouser cats. But she had never felt the urge to own one herself. They were loud and messy. But the woman’s excited face made it seem like...an idea to consider. She opened her mouth to agree to the deal, just like she would at home. But she wasn’t at home. She couldn’t just...just get a dog anymore.
“Kagan…” she said, getting his attention. She tilted her head, glancing at the huge puppies.
-This place is horrible and everything hurts. -The market is market like. \ -Can I pleaseeee have a puppy? Like...five of them?
Bree gave a noncommittal shrug at hearing about her long lost aunt. Camielle Lamay was hardly ever mentioned, there weren’t any pictures are her, her father and grandfather never spoke of her and any mention of her would through her grandmother into fits. What little she knew of her came from those few Gem’s who had been her friends. Passing comments of their similarities in looks, stories of their childhood.
Watching Adora get branded sent waves of nausea rolling through Bree’s gut. She couldn’t look past the first letter. Suddenly becoming very fascinated with the wood that made up the walls. Humming softly to herself, she tried to block out the noise coming from Adora’s skin being burned.
Bree jumped as splashes of water covered her from a nearby barrel of water. It didn’t take a genius to figure out that the pain had caused Adora to lose control. In no time at all, Adora was done, her brand an angry looking red spot on her chest.
She watch the girl rise and setting down by Kagan’s feet. Knowing there was nothing to be done, nowhere to run to (she checked), Bree approached the chair.
Javem stuck her tools back in the flame and looked at Bree expectantly. Bree reached back and pulled her shirt over her head. Bairing her back and pinning her shirt with her arms to cover her chest. “I’ll need some new shirts,” she whispered dryley, sitting backwards. What little color had been in her face drained away as she did, her hands squeezing the back of the chair tightly.
"Oi right cunt. Wez it be?"
Bree mumbled something that was drowned out by the crackle of the flames in the forge.
Bree cleared her throat “M-my shoulder,” she whispered, hardly any louder than the first time, using her free hand to gesture towards it. She winced as she felt the drakkan woman pinch up her skin and made a grunt of approval. Bree let out a small breath. She didn’t want the brand. Didn’t want to see it. So she put it in a place she’d never be able to look at.
She flinched as a cool wetness flicked across her, her back tense with anticipation. A pause. And then a searing pain. A cry escaped her mouth before she could stop it, jerking her shoulder away.
“Do et again, ‘n I’ll tie you down,”
Tears were streaming down her face as Bree nodded, Sitting up again. The pain had already faded, a faint burning, but it was --
A few seconds later and the burns pain tripled. An irritating growing pain that seemed to get hotter and hotter with each second. Then the second letter was pressed into her back and she screamed.
Bree felt Javem’s weight lift off her, at some point the woman had found it necessary to pin her down in order to keep her still. Bree’s screams had died to weak sobs by that point.
Javem gave some statement about being done and moved away to put her tools up.
“Uh huh,” said Bree, her voice an octave higher as she nodded numbly, a somewhat vacante expression on her face. She stood, her legs trembling. Her first few steps were unsteady. She passed by Kagan and Adora without a second glance and shoved open the door and step outside.
She stood in the sunlight a moment before turning her head and throwing up. Taking a few steps back, she collapsed on the step leading into the shop and curled into a ball, tears spilling down her face.
We have a burn victim. Then she goes outside to puke and cry
"You are MY Bride. But to the rest of Drakka, you are a quick and easy fuck. Had I not been so attentive, you'd likely be missing a few teeth while someone new enjoyed you before coming here. And that is IF I had found you. Do not mistake my insistence on this as a matter of enjoying tormenting you. This is precaution, for your safety and my convenience. Nothing more, nothing less. You will not act like this again or you will...end up with someone like him....”
Bree’s eyes widened as she saw the girl be drug from the premise. Her own hand tightened on Kagan’s as though she expected she needed to hold on, less she be shaken and passed off to the next person. “ I...understand, I’m...just nervous, ” She said softly as they entered the room. In any other situation, with any other person, there would have been a bigger fight. But she didn’t know Kagan well enough to not believe him...and as vain as it might sound, she was very keen on keeping her face the way it was.
The room was little better than the outside and the woman (maybe) inside seemed to match her surroundings perfectly. It was clear she was older and, while clearly not, welcome Kagan in like a son.
It was strange, watching Kagan interact so...normally with someone else. It was so...mundane, almost like he was an actual person. And this drakkan was a person Kagan clearly respected, even as she...drooled on him. Bree wore her painted smile as her insides wiggled with disgusted. Even for a drakkan, this woman was unpleasant.
But she was already in enough trouble for one day and insulting Kagan’s...friends wouldn’t go over well in any setting. Kagan gave the order to introduce themselves and before Bree could open her mouth, Adora started talking.
Bree felt her face reden for the girl. It was clear that the girl had been taught how to make a formal introduction, it was all very by the book, nearly word for word. It was exactly what a well breed girl would do her first time being introduced to ‘high society’. Twelve year old heiresses meeting the wives of business partners. Thirteen year old nobility attending a tea with those from higher up.
Teenagers would smirk behind fans and mothers and aunts would coo and talk about ‘how grown up’ their little girl was. Still a child by every means, but now able to sit still and silent and prettied up to be seen. The rest of the women would start judging, start watching. Sizing the girl up, judging her for her looks, her intellect, her obedience. Would she be a tool or trouble? Would she be invited to exclusive events? Uninvited to key social outings?
Entire futures could be decided on one thing. How long it took their girl to realize that nobody went through all that formality. The real question was, once it was figured out that spending so much time on addressing someone was like when pets had on sweaters and were paraded around, what then did you do?
Did you take the same greeting at your mother? Clearly there was loyalty to family. Depending on the family, that was helpful to reputation or damaging, however, it was the safest choice.
Did you take on the greetings of the older girls, the generation in waiting? Obviously, fitting in was important. You’d do anything to stay with the crowd. Malleable, a tool, something to be used. You’d never be important, but you’d eventually be a voice of many that controlled the tide of the social scene. Never important on your own, but there is power in many.
Or did you take the greeting of another woman. To copy the greeting of an unrelated woman was a power grab, an honor and a challenge. An offence or the greatest compliment. Highest risk, highest rewards. Done by those to be watched. The ones who wanted control, who wanted power. The ones who would rise to the top or ruin families with their failures.
Greetings were important to Gem’s. They’d say much about the person. Like how Adora had been in training for nobility, but it never quite came to head. Although Bree had heard her story, she could have learn the same amount from listening to the girl speak in that moment.
Those were just the greeting in the woman’s circles, then there was the greetings for the men’s circles, if you were trying to court them or not. And then there was the simple act of reading a room and the audience and deciding what to do from there.
Bree had returned to Kagan’s side the moment the hug was broken. Partly to keep herself out of danger, but mostly to ask for forgiveness for her earlier actions. Her arm brushing against his, a simple move, but really the first time she had been proactive towards him, rather than reactive towards his wants. Dislike it as much as she did, there was a faint reasoning to Kagan’s words. And a branding anywhere but the face was starting to sound reasonable. Unpleasant, but reasonable. “ Good morning Javem,” Bree kept her smile in place, body relaxed. “Her name is Adorabella, and I’m Aubree Lamey,” she said simply, nodding towards the female drakkan. Keeping her words short and to the point. There was time to talk and there was time to give answers.
Kagan 1; Bree 0. A monologue on introductions. Bree introducing herself and Adora
“The monsters sense a trap, meals rarely ever come so easily to their mouths. Tossed in by a fellow hunter. Would you be so keen to shut your mouth if it were you? The monster in the skin of a tinier monster gives an order
“Let the coitus commence, to the chamber of pleasures! And, by that I mean, take them to my tent,”
“And it gives the monsters purpose, enough so they drag them up from the-'
A calloused hand clamped itself hard over Rya’s mouth, silencing her, although she couldn’t recall the exact moment she’d started talking, sensing its absence more than its presences.
The mud was deep, yanking at the shoes more created for a life inside than out, staining the pretty dress of Salazar’s Gem. The shoes were lost, but it hardly mattered. One of the monsters decided her pace was too slow, and settled her upon his shoulders. Like a hunted and killed animal.
Durn had hunted many animals and had fewer horses. The shoulders of his shirts were alway red and brown and would never wash clean. Stained forever and always.
Sometimes the meat would be full of bugs. Living there before the creature died, eating away at its living corpse and spoiling what ever potential the creature had. Durn’s raged away rose to the top when he was forced to toss his spoiled work. But the tiny bugs couldn’t be hurt, unlike other tiny things. They were numerous and not worth the effort of squishing. Tiny white worms crawling in ears and eyes and nose. Eating at insides and outsides.
Until nothing remained. The meat was dangerous. Invisible eggs stuck on fingers. That is all it took before you became a living corpse and you wouldn’t know until you died.
The soul of Drakka itself seemed to be in those small worms.
Shoes turned out to be a non issue, as the next time her feet touched the ground, it was on the soft, prickly fur that lined the floor of a large tent.
But still, having shoes would be better. And it was that girl's fault she didn’t have one. Her and her stupid words. Words, Rya thought, that belong spat back in her face.
“You coward, So timid are you that you grovel at the feet of the bear just to escape the fox? Yes, there are no safe places in Drakka, and now we die for your lust," There was blood in the tent. Stains every now and then.
Because blood never washes out. Not ever. Not when it is a tribute to a victory. Staines upon stains as trophies to remind the creature of every strike that made it.
“Well don’t my blushing brides look ravishing,” The monster of monsters returns. He knows why he is there and so do they.
Why hide behind other words? “Ravagers ravishing recklessly,”
The face he made...he didn’t like that. “Well, the real prize first."
The stupid girl got carried off to the bed. There would be blood. More blood more trophies. There didn’t have to be blood, but there would be. Every day at first. Then only sometimes.
The furs covered everywhere. Furs from animals. Furs from the infected. She could see the invisible eggs on every strand of fur. Perhaps the parasites brought pain. There was enough screaming. Perhaps the animals were begging for death. Or perhaps it brought peace. Maybe the worms didn’t let suffering happen. A path to peace. The eggs grew and hatched in her hand, covering her hand with white bodies, filling like an outpouring of rice. Like snow, a room of snow. Screaming snow, crying snow.
The bugs were gone when she opened her eyes. As was Rynek. A slow hiccupping breath could be heard from the center of the furs. She could be dying, but she isn’t dead yet. Rya thought. Suffering forever would be unkind. One of Rynek’s trunks had been left half open. Filled to the top with knives, swords and other things with names.
Rya pulled out on of the sharpest blades she could find. It would be less painful this way. Quicker. One and then one to follow. Sliding the silver leash off her waist, she left it in the trunk as payment for the knife she took. A shadow of the chain was left in its’ place a criss crossing pattern of bruises across her stomach.
A commotion could be heard outside. A monster returning no doubt.
Rya crept towards the door, the knife tightly held in her hand.
She couldn’t kill a drakkan as easily as a wounded gem, but it would cause her death no doubt. No more suffering, perhaps Lienna would follow on her own afterwards.
Rynek walked in the door and the knife vanished.
“Whose idea was it to let you play with the sharp objects?” It wasn’t the voice of the monster.
“Oh...it’s you,” said Rya looking at Azlion, as though she was not surprised to see him there.
“Are you alright little Api? If that scum Lord has harmed you, I promise he has paid dearly for it.”
She gave a noncommittal shrug as Azlion pulled Lienna from the pile of fur. Before leading outside.
There was meat everywhere. Enough to feed a village for an entire winter.
She wanted to check for the parasites. To see the bugs devour the monsters. But...some things were more important.
“Ever ridden a horse before Rya? If not, today is your lucky day. Come along, we’re going home.”
The ride through the city was far more enjoyable than the dragging from before. Her horse stayed close to Azilon’s as though it had been trained to do so. But she was still alone...on a horse.
They approached a vaguely familiar building, yet, alarmingly, Azilon headed into it.
“This isn’t my home. I don’t live here. You said I was going home,” Said Rya, stopping the horse short of entering the estate grounds.
So there might be some bugs. Then Rya decides to kill Lienna in a suicide/murder, but Az shows up and offers her a pony. So you know...choices