Avatar of PapaOso


Recent Statuses

2 yrs ago
Every few months I stop by here "just because". I've been doing so for like a decade. However, every once in awhile something really GRABS me and I stay for awhile. I live for those moments xD.
3 yrs ago
The og X-Men: The New Era turns 10 years old soon! I can’t believe how many amazing people I have met thanks to this RP, or the multiverse that has spawned from it since then. I love you all so much!
1 like
3 yrs ago
Coming back to this Guild and reconnecting with old friends is genuinely one of my favorite things in life. Much love to all of you who have been so wonderful to me over the years <3.
4 yrs ago
Professional Wrestling taught me how to imagine. Dave Chappelle taught me how to laugh. George Carlin taught me how to question. Uncle Iroh taught me how to be a man.
5 yrs ago
The ebb & flow of life can be overwhelming sometimes. However, every time I come back to this site I'm reminded why I never should have left in the first place. <3
1 like


I have always loved stories. It started with reading, then moved to writing, then Role Playing, and eventually to acting. My passion for storytelling flows into my love of various fandoms (X-Men/Comics, Critical Role, DBZ, GoT, Spartacus, Dexter, Mass Effect, Elder Scrolls, Fallout, Star Wars, and so...so many more). This site lets me be a part of bringing stories of these worlds and many others to life and gives me the opportunity to connect with people that love these things as much as I do. In a broken world this site stands as a haven for kindred spirits that are gathered under the banner of my absolute favorite thing in the world; telling stories. I love you guys :D.

Most Recent Posts

Milo St. Claire

Time: Late Morning

Location:Primitus Church of Sorian

Mention:@Tpartywithzombi None of your characters are directly mentioned but I def wanted you to read this xD

In the sanctum of the Primitus Church of Sorian, there hung a masterpiece of regal grandeur. Bathed in the warm glow of afternoon sunlight that poured through the stained glass windows, the portrait of King Edin Danrose stood as a testament to Milo's unparalleled talent, a testament now marred by a grotesque act of defiance.

The king, in the painting at least, was a vision of dignity and sovereignty. Every line had been rendered with such exquisite detail that one could almost hear the rustle of his robes and feel the weight of the crown that rested upon his kingly head. Milo had turned a man such as King Edin into a true work of art, but now, a dark veil had been cast upon this visage of majesty.

Across the king's noble countenance, an affront of crude mockery manifested in the form of a mustache, twisted and mocking…curled like a serpent's sneer. Beneath it, the once pristine lines of Milo's brushwork gave birth to a pair of horns, repulsive markings of defilement etched upon the sacred canvas. His anger did not come from a place of royal worship. He was not livid at the sight of Edin being disrespected by his subjects. The truth was that Mr. St. Claire could not care less about the king, but his painting…HIS MASTERPIECE had been rendered hideous. In that moment, what his perfect hazel eyes beheld was not merely a painting defiled, but an assault upon his very fucking soul.

Reaching out with trembling hands, Milo dared to touch the canvas, his fingertips grazing the tainted strokes of brushed brilliance. But where once he had felt the pulse of his creation, now he found only the chill of desolation. It was as if the very essence of his art had been made asunder, leaving naught but a hollow echo in its wake.

And in that hollow emptiness, sweet and wonderful Milo found fury.

With a primal roar, Milo tore the painting from its perch, the muscles that were well hidden beneath the finery that made up his layered ensemble, coiled with unbridled rage. With his very hands he rended the once masterwork piece of art into pieces, splintering it’s wooden backing and slamming the remains onto the polished floor of this sham of a temple built to worship a counterfeit god. A single tear journeyed down the cheek of Milo St. Claire as he looked upon the wreckage. The fury in his eyes now simply manifesting as sadness.

Taking a long, deep breath and with a roll of the neck and shoulders, Milo gathered himself just in time for footsteps to echo through the chamber. He recognized the cadence with ease. His smile returned as he shifted his body so that he could turn to face the amicable dressed form of his publicist, Mr. Duval

The approaching man’s gaze fell from Milo to the pile of rubble that once was King Edin’s portrait. “Tsk tsk tsk…I almost feel for the poor bastards that would commit such atrocities against you, Mr. St. Claire. Almost.” The man said, his posh voice echoing through the church. “If it pleases you, I can have Ms. Sharpe hunt the culprits down and bring them before you. We could do so publicly…or privately.”

“Thank you as always, Mr. Duval, but that will not be necessary.” Milo stated with a settled grin that exuded kindness. ”Our royal majesty has assured me that the matter will be handled. However, I do require you to send a missive to the King for me, Mr. Duval.”

“Oh, a missive you say? And pray tell, Mr. St. Claire, what would you prefer such a missive to articulate?”

”Tell King Edin that I wish to be there once the vandals are discovered, and that I wish to be present and participate in determining a punishment fit for such a misdeed.”

“As you wish, sir.” Mr. Duval’s lips curled into a curious grin as he made his statement. “But I must ask, Mr. St. Claire… What penance do you have in mind?”

Milo’s smile shined as he walked over and patted Mr. Duval on the back with friendly rapport. ”That, good sir, is just going to have to be my little secret.” He began leading Mr. Duval away from the broken painting and back towards the entrance. “Have Melburn prepare the carriage. As for Ms. Sharpe, have her continue that…other task we discussed upon our arrival to Sorian. She can tell me of her progress later tonight.”

“Right away, sir.” Mr. Duval responded with respect. “And for young Athena and Atlas, what’s your plan for them today?”

“I will not be free for lessons this evening, I’m afraid. Instead, have the apprentices working on their consistency. Send them to the botanical gardens, where they will pick something they find particularly beautiful and instruct them to paint it again and again until the sun sets. We will judge the results another time and present them with points based on individual merit.”

“They would gladly paint day and night if you asked them to, sir…but are you not perhaps expecting too much from them Mr. St. Claire? They are naught but street mutts, after all.”

“I was no less of a street mutt, Mr. Duval…and remember…we must all suffer for our art.”

Cassius, Liliane & Alexander

Mention:@JJ Doe Count Fritz

As the heavy wooden door closed behind the duo, a mix of aromas—ale, tobacco, and the earthy scent of rain-soaked leather—rushed to greet their noses. The tavern was abuzz even at such an early hour; loud laughter and the clinking of glasses filled the air. The patrons ranged from rugged laborers to vigilant drifters.

Liliane, her navy blue gown contrasting with the mostly earth-toned attire of the tavern's regulars, moved with grace as she shut her umbrella. Eyes slid to the well-dressed pair, the chatter hushing for just a moment as she made her way to the bar, the wooden floor creaking under her steps.

The barmaid approached with a smirk, wiping her hands on her apron. She stood out with her shoulder-length curly red hair and dark lipstick. Her face was littered with freckles and her dark eyes were adorned with makeup. She leaned on the bar casually, “Hey! Name’s Marcy. What can I get for you guys?”

Cassius rested against the bar in an equally casual manner, taking in the lively scene around him with a joyous expression. The tavern was filled with the murmur of conversation and the clinking of mugs, just the kind of atmosphere that felt like the closest thing to home to him. Breathing in the all too familiar scent of stale ale, his gaze shifted to the barmaid. She seemed confident but looked rather young…perhaps too young to be tending the bar in an establishment like this. “Morning, love, I would simply adore a glass of brandy, the top shelf variety if possible.” He said with a charming grin. “And if it’s not too much trouble, we have some questions.”

Liliane's polite smile did little to mask her purpose, her eyes scanning the room not for a drink but for a face. "We're actually here inquiring about a young woman that may have passed by here last night.”

“Pale skin, long raven hair, and an unforgettable pair of crimson eyes.” Alexander's words cut in as he stepped from right behind Liliane to find his place beside her at the bar. His interjection was so chillingly sudden, as if he had kept from out of her very shadow. “Any information would be appreciated.” He added before glancing down at Liliane, concern painted across his face.

Cas straightened slightly, his eyes moving away from Marcy and his instincts sharpening as he assessed the abrupt arrival of this newcomer. His expression remained neutral, betraying none of the curiosity that stirred within him. Instead, he observed with a cool detachment and a naturally calm demeanor as he simply waited to see if Liliane was familiar with this man.

Lily’s gaze shifted to Alexander calmly, studying him briefly as the barmaid responded.

“Oh, yeah, I remember her,” Marcy said, tilting her head slightly, causing her red curls to bounce. “Scar across her face, right?” She gestured animatedly with her finger down her face to highlight the placement of the scar. “She came in last night and practically inhaled a whole bottle of whisky on her own.”

“Was she alone? …Did she say where she may be heading?” Liliane asked, her tone hopeful.

Marcy nodded vigorously, her smirk fading slightly as she recalled the details. She placed a hand on her hip, the other gesturing towards an imaginary bottle. “She was here with a man, dark hair and charming-looking. He was watching over her the whole time, especially when she started to get a bit... wobbly.”
She mimicked a swaying motion with her body, rolling her eyes dramatically. “Girl was a huge downer but then once she finished the bottle, she was a lot more fun.” The barmaid pretended to stumble, catching herself on the bar with a laugh. She leaned her head backward over the bar with a cheeky grin.

“ As for where they were going, they mentioned moving to another bar, but I didn’t catch which one…” Marcy straightened up and tapped her chin before adding with urgency, “...And a group of thugs followed them out! Seems like they were in some sort of trouble.”

Liliane glanced toward Cassius, interested in his thoughts as she replied to the barmaid, “...Thank you, sweetheart, that’s very helpful.”

His eyes were still settled on the stranger even as Marcy spoke, though Cassius listened intently to every word the young barmaid said. Finally, he turned his gaze to Lily as she thanked the woman. He took his moment to address her curious glance with a whisper meant only for her. “I wonder who this mysterious casanova is? If they were being followed, perhaps your initial sense of urgency was well founded, Lily.”

The barmaid flashed a quick smile. “Good luck. Hope you guys find her.” Then she paused, her eyes widening slightly. “Oh, and you know what? I saw the same man here a few nights ago with Lady Charlotte Vikena. They were looking for somebody just like you are now.”

Interesting… Charlotte is quite tied into things.

”She’s a curious one indeed.” Cas stated nonchalantly, though a buzz of curiosity swelled within him at the mention of her name.It seemed as though he was unable to escape her since the night they met outside of his father’s doorstep.

The countess did seem to ponder that information, but she was quick to face Alexander, “...What brings you here, my dear?”

“Well conveniently… You, my dear.” He smiled kindly before his expression slipped back to concern. “But in truth, your husband was whom I was searching for until I spotted you, your umbrella, and your strapping bodyguard there entering this… humble establishment. It's by the mercy of the gods that we find ourselves together, searching for your precious daughter.”

Liliane held his gaze, her smile never falling. Finally, she looked toward Cassius. “Cassius, sweetheart, please continue this conversation with Marcy for me. There are some questions that failed to cross my mind I’m sure. “ She offered an arm toward Alexander, “Let us speak somewhere private.”

Cassius simply answered with a nod as he watched the two take their leave, a look of amusement painting his expression. “Well…that was fucking strange.” He stated plainly to Marcy as he turned his attention back to her. ” I am curious though, have you ever seen that gentleman before?” He asked, referring to the strange man that had appeared seemingly out of thin air.

“...I don’t think so…” Marcy answered hesitantly as she pushed him the brandy he requested. “Any more questions before I attend to the other slobs?” She asked with a smirk.

He shot the brandy in one, long gulp before responding. ”No more questions, but I do have a request…pour me another.” He flashed a kind smile at Marcy as he slid the glass back towards her.
Marcy raised a brow but did as he requested.

Soon enough, Countess Liliane returned. “Sorry Cassius, hope you did not have to wait too long here.” She moved to lean on the bar and waved over Marcy once more, who sighed as she walked back over. “Are you certain you did not overhear the name of the bar nor the name of the man…? Her safety is at risk, please understand.”

The barmaid tapped her chin, then finally her face lit up. “Wait! I think his name is Frizz or something like that. Yes. Frizz.”

Liliane stared at her in confusion as she repeated, “Frizz?”

”I believe she means Fritz.” Cassius declared to Lily. I know this man, met him last night at the masquerade. He’s charming, rather odd, but charming.”

“Let us find this Fritz then.”

Milo St. Claire
Countess Melanie Monet

Location: The Sorian Grand Hotel on Wulfric Road
Time: Morning
Music playing on the Danophone(an experimental brand new invention)


The brunette had been leaning over the billiards table, her hands gripping the edge until her knuckles turned white. Her deep burgundy dress, slightly disheveled, had its skirts swept over her back. The soft glow of the ceiling light accentuated the curve of her neck, where a single bead of sweat glistened, slowly trailing down to meet the fabric. The soles of her feet met the ground after a deep sigh.

Her breath was still slightly uneven as she rose from her bent position. The dress fell back into place, brushing gently against the carpeted floor. She reached for the pool cue, her fingers provocatively brushing against the polished wood.

“Your technique, Mr. St. Claire,” Melanie said, her voice a soft murmur, tinged with a hint of amusement, “It is truly… inspiring.” She had spent the last hour in Milo’s suite room at The Sorian Grand Hotel while her husband had been at the church ceremony with the children. And to say it had been time well spent would be the understatement of the century.

Milo’s hands still firmly grasped Melanie’s waist even as the woman rose from where he bent her over the table. His eyes, however, were still resting on the majesty of the portrait he painted for her the evening before. Countess Monet was truly a work of art in her own right, but nothing…not a single thing had ever been more beautiful to Milo than his art.

His perfectly toned body, a masterpiece of its own, not unlike the sculptures of marble and clay that he brought into this world through his brilliance, glistened under the soft light as he moved back an inch or two so that his admirer could fully maneuver to a standing position. It wasn’t until she turned to address him, her fingers grasping the pool cue in familiar fashion, that his eyes fell from the portrait to meet her gaze.

“My dear beauty…Intimacy is just as much an art form as painting or sculpting, and one thing is for certain…I take my art very seriously. Milo expressed with kind eyes and a seductively devilish grin. He reached for her, allowing his fingers to gently wrap around her neck like they had been only moments prior. Leaning down, his lips stopped mere inches from her ear and his voice lowered to barely a whisper as he continued, “Pleasure is a good look on you, Countess Monet. Remember whose technique it was that gave you such ecstasy. You are more than welcome to come create such art with me whenever you get the craving for more.”

Her dark eyes locked onto Milo’s with an intensity that matched his own. “My dear Milo,” she purred in a voice laced with desire, a sultry smile playing on her lips, “your artistry knows no bounds, whether it be on canvas or in the flesh. You paint pleasure with the skill of a true master, and I am but your willing muse.” Her hand rose, fingers trailing sensually up his arm, tracing the path that led to where his hand rested on her neck.

Melanie’s words of admiration washed over Milo like rays of well-earned sunlight. As her fingers trailed up his arm, he moved to press a kiss against her lips that crescendoed into a gentle bite, which caused her to giggle, before he addressed her claims. “Oh, you were not only willing… You were eager.” He stated with a confident smile. With his fingers still wrapped around her neck, he turned Countess Monet’s gaze over to her portrait. ”Now do me a favor and look upon the culmination of that very muse. Isn’t it beautiful?” Milo asked, his words full of passion.
“It is beautiful,” Melanie whispered breathily. Her eyes traced the lines of the painting, capturing the essence of her beauty through Milo’s masterful strokes. “For years, I have felt as though I have faded into the shadows… I have felt so unappreciated.” Her voice saddened only slightly and only for a brief moment. “But your art, Milo… your art makes me feel seen, truly seen, as if I might be beautiful once more.”

She turned her gaze back to him, “You have awoken a part of me that I thought was lost. Through your eyes, I am more than just a woman; I am a masterpiece.”

”Indeed you are, my muse. You are an absolute masterpiece worthy of being immortalized through my art. I’m glad to know that I have inspired such confidence in you. Perhaps I can awaken even more of your radiance if you have time for a little more fine-tuning before your husband returns?”

“As tempting as that is, I need to get going, unfortunately. It’ll have to wait until next time. Thank you again for all this.” Melanie informed him with a disappointed look in her eyes. She moved to slip her heels back on as she continued, “...Oh and Mr. St. Claire, what’s that device you have playing music? I have never seen such a thing.”

Milo flashed her a playful pout as he retrieved his pants from the back of the couch and pulled them up as she spoke. “It was my pleasure, Countess Monet. You certainly proved to be a much more enjoyable session than the one I had with King Edin the other day. His Majesty wishes he could possess half the natural splendor you do.” He said half in jest. ”But regarding the music…speaking of the King, the device is called a danophone believe it or not. The pompous ass just can’t help himself, can he?”

“Must be new! I’ll be fetching myself one real soon… I’ll see you at our next session, Milo dear.” She turned and gave him a wink. “If it wasn’t for my husband being such a stick in the mud, I’d ask to plan our next session here and now.”

Milo approached her one final time, raising a hand to brush a stray lock of hair behind her ear. ”If your husband wasn’t such a bore, I’d suggest you bring him with you next time.” He stated with a wink of his own. ”But alas, until then, my beauty.” In reply, the countess giggled and planted a kiss on his cheek before making her departure.

As he watched the Countess walk away, Milo let his gaze slip back to the portrait. He admired every inch of his work as he pondered the truth. There was nothing special about Melanie Monet. Countess or not, she was nothing but another of his adoring fangirls throwing herself at him to be used for his pleasure. Just another canvas for him to work his magic. To Melanie, this was the best day of her life. To Milo, it was just another Monday.

What was special, however, was the portrait in front of him. He truly was a master of his craft, a paragon of artistic brilliance that deserved for his works to be cherished and remembered throughout time like the legends of his field. He knew exactly how good he was as he looked over his creation with glee. The portrait of Edin he had done in the days prior was a sight to behold, but this portrait was overflowing with muse and inspiration.

After a moment, Milo broke away to pour himself a whiskey on the rocks and draped his unbuttoned shirt over himself as he made his way over to the balcony. His figure was so perfectly highlighted by the light of the sun that no wonder he had gained the nickname Mr. Sunshine. Looking out over his beautiful view of Sorian, he let his eyes meet every building, every person walking the streets and going about their day. He smiled as he took it all into view. This city would be the place where he would truly cement his legacy. In time, there would not be a single person here that did not know the name Milo St. Claire.

Cassius & Liliane

Part 1

“Cassius? … Sorry to wake you, but I need your help.”

Closing the window and drawing the curtains closed, Cassius turned his attention towards the door. His intuition led him to believe that whatever Liliane needed from him most likely involved his sister Violet. As he made his way over, he reached to turn the knob but paused just before his hand made contact. He looked down at his body, registering that he wasn’t wearing nearly enough clothes to open that door.

Come on Cassius, you’re not a street dog anymore. He thought to himself with a playful smirk. Gotta wear a shirt when greeting a fancy lady like Liliane. Quickly grabbing one, he only began the process of buttoning it up as he finally reached for the knob and pulled the door open, his patented smirk still present on his face.

“Not a worry, Lady Damien. You didn’t wake me. I was up and simply enjoying the morning breeze.” Cassius stated kindly. “Whatever you need, I’m your guy.”

Liliane stood before him in a simple yet elegant navy blue gown. There wasn’t a hair out of place on her blonde head as she met his eyes without a blink. She held out an arm, revealing a black umbrella. “ Good morning sweetheart. It is a rather lovely morning, isn’t it?” She greeted him with a smile. “It is, however, forecasted to rain so you will need this regardless if you can spare me your time.”

Cas finished buttoning his shirt as she spoke. Then, as the last button as secured, he ran his fingers through his messy hair before responding. He matched her warmth in both expression and in tone. “Indeed…It’s rather lovely, actually.” He said, his thoughts turning back to the beautiful song that helped him overcome the panic of his nightmare. “And if we’re to have rain, I’m certainly glad you came prepared.” Cassius took the umbrella with a thankful nod and hung it on the door handle behind him. “I do not mean to delay your plans, milady, and I assure you I have all the time in the world to offer…but perhaps I shall take a moment to at the very least find my boots and throw on a jacket if we’re about to go on a grand adventure together. Is that alright?”

“Of course, but please make haste. I am aware that you were informed of Violet’s disappearance and I know you have experience with this sort of dilemma…I hoped that you would not mind assisting.” She took a step to the side to give him time as he requested.

“I am indeed aware of the situation with Violet, and you’re correct…not only am I well versed with this kind of work, but this also isn’t the first time I’ve assisted in bringing dear little sister home from an ordeal such as this. Perhaps together, you and I can catch a lead and find her quickly.” He stated with reassurance in his voice. “But of course, I won’t take long…I promise.” Cassius took but a moment to get ready before returning to Liliane, grabbing the umbrella off the door as he did so. “So…shall we?’ He asked, offering her his arm and a confident smile.

She giggled and locked her arm with his. “So dashing!” Subsequently, Liliane led him downstairs and then picked up a small basket. Its contents were hidden beneath a cloth, however, the tantalizing aroma of fresh pastries wafted up from within. “ I had some breakfast packed for you. “ After handing him the basket, she said, “I had received word that she was spotted in our gardens, but we made no discovery there. I believe she ventured off the estate grounds, and now we shall need to go make some inquiries.”

Cas excitedly looked through the basket as Lily spoke about their first lead. He welcomed a biscuit into his mouth and took a generous bite, making sure to chew quickly so that he wouldn’t be responding with his mouth full. Nodding in agreement with her observation, he finally spoke. “In that case, before we begin asking the locals…Would you mind telling me a little more about Violet? Is this type of thing something that happens often? Is there reason to believe that she might be in danger? And forgive me, but matters such as this often need a direct and full-pictured approach…So I hope you don’t mind me asking, but have you considered that she simply doesn’t want to be found?”

“Oh I’m quite certain she does not.” Lily answered matter-of-factly, yet retained her soft tone nonetheless. “Especially if she ran away on her own accord and this isn’t some elaborate kidnapping.” She slid onto a stool gracefully and folded her gloved hands on the table. “I have quite the pickle on my hands when it comes to Violet, if you’ve ever so fancied the phrase and can understand… You may judge my choices, but I wish to have an honest relationship with you, Cassius, so I shall explain the situation at hand… But do understand, that you will need to keep this discussion within this household. What I am about to tell you could endanger your life just for knowing, is that understood? ”

“You don’t have to worry… Discretion has always been one of my areas of expertise.” He stated with confidence and panache. “Plus, I’ve been working on a theory since the other night. I’m aware that she bears a curse, that much I can say with certainty. The real question is what flavor of curse are we dealing with here? I’d put a lot of father’s gold on it being vampirism, but that’s just a hunch.” Cassius continued to carry himself with a certain level of nonchalance, but his demeanor shifted slightly as he approached Lily and placed a hand on her shoulder for the sake of reassurance. “I understand the danger that comes with such things… I’ve endured those very perils before. The more you tell me, the more I can help. So, I suggest you tell me everything.”

She smiled at him, but this was a smile visibly more genuine, especially to Cassius. “You remind me of your father in the way that not many see of him.” The countess told him. “You have the same kindness and reassurance he bestows me and his girls… I’m sure he’s rather proud of the person you’ve become.” She let the words settle in his mind briefly but did not give him much time to respond just yet.

“She is a vampire. Liliane confirmed calmly. “ Your father and Dr. John Williamson found her with an axe driven in her face the other night. She was presumed dead on the scene, however…” She drew off, choosing her next words carefully, “There is a rare phenomenon where someone may seem dead at first glance, their heart rate slow, their body still, however, they are still clinging to life. It’s a delicate state that may not have persisted much longer. I acted swiftly that night. Your father and I have a connection to mages that can assist at our request, but it was a significant favor to ask. Violet was barely clinging on and waiting until she perished could mean that we’d have to find someone willing to perform necromancy magic, a costly and dangerous task, especially for those without a natural affinity for dark magicae. Healing her was also out of the question I was told. “

Her gaze lowered, “Losing Violet so young was not an option. I knew what it would do to your father, and sadly I feel that the events the last few days are very much damaging his psyche… Anyway, cursing her was our only option in her state, and the effects of such a curse are detrimental and even dangerous to those in her company. We must keep an eye on her and know where she is as much as possible, especially so until I can figure out a way to cure the curse…”

Her voice then softened with sadness. “She resents me for the decision to save her, and she’s also changed a lot from the girl we raised.

Cassius took in each and every word Liliane spoke, allowing the information to ruminate in his mind as he processed it all. Though his expression did not change, he vehemently disagreed with her decision... They should have just let her die. He had seen what such curses could do to a soul, and honestly…it would have been a mercy to let their Violet perish as she was instead of having to witness what Cas was certain she would become. However, he would not say as much. There was no good to come from condemnation in this moment. He had been asked to help find the poor girl, and that’s where his focus remained.

Gathering his thoughts, however, he could not resist the urge to speak his mind on one matter. ”Listen…I do not judge you for your decision. But I do pity you, and I pity Violet. There will be consequences, they have already begun to manifest themselves…and these consequences aren’t simply going to go away. Not ever. For the rest of your lives, as long as she remains cursed like she is, the ramifications of the decision you made that night will follow you.” He gave her just enough time to let the smoke of his own words clear before he continued. “With that understood, I do have a question. Why not just go to your mages for their scrying? Surely they could track her down with a spell?”
Liliane met his eyes as he spoke, but simply only addressed the final question, “We did have the girls on our tracking globe for some time now, but as soon as the curse was enacted, she disappeared off it. We’d have to have the spell redone.”

He nodded in understanding, but again he made his thoughts known. ”I suggest you do so quickly. Please do not mistake my suggestion as being pushy… I just have enough experience with this type of thing to know that it’s imperative if you want to continue keeping Violet, and those around her safe.” The thought that came afterward almost forced a subtle smirk to cross his lips, but he held it at bay. He was pondering the weight of Lily’s revelation, the breadth of danger that would certainly come their way, and found a funny sense of irony in the fact that even here…away from the war and turmoil of mercenary life, safety was nothing but a dream men like him could not have the luxury of living.

“The request and globe were sent to the mages already. The process will be complete today, however, considering how she was found in the first place, we still must make haste.” She told him and rose from the seat. “The city guard relayed to me that they heard a rumor that she was sighted at a tavern, so The Tough Tavern will be our first location.”

”Then I see no reason to linger here any longer. I know the place… Allow me to lead the way.”

Time: The Morning of Sola 24th
Location: Damien Estate, Cas’s bedroom
Mentions/Interactions:@JJ Doe Fritz @princess Liliane

This post includes graphic content including the depiction of torture, be advised.

Cassius reclined against a fallen log, his gaze fixed on the stars above while Kamal sat opposite him, nursing a mug of watered-down ale that he held in shackled hands. Despite their current roles as captor and captive, there was an unspoken understanding between them, a mutual respect that had blossomed amidst the quiet of the open road.

"So, Kamal…" Cassius broke the quiet, his voice laced with the smooth cadence of a practiced charmer. "You mentioned a daughter…tell me about her."

"She's the light of my life…" Kamal glanced up, surprise flickering in his eyes before a soft smile tugged at the corners of his lips. "Her name is Aisha, and there’s nothing more precious in this world to me."

"Do you think she misses you?" Cassius nodded, a genuine warmth infusing his features.

"I do..." Kamal stated somberly. "And I miss her, every moment of every day. I promised her I would return…Seems you’ve made a liar out of me."

Cassius’s eyes broke away from Kamal’s as he let the man’s words process in his mind for a moment before responding. "No..." He said with a calm smile. "If anything, I’ve helped you be an honest man, Kamal. One who faces the consequences of his actions. One that perhaps she can be proud of."

"Bold of you to think she could be proud of a criminal like me." Kamal responded bluntly, raising his shackled hands to add weight to his words. "I will never be the world’s best father…I just wish for the opportunity to try, to leave all of this behind."

Standing, Cassius walked over and rested a hand on the man’s shoulder. "Then I suggest once all of this unpleasantness is over…you go home and begin again. Do not let your yesterdays define your tomorrow. There may be hope for you yet, but you look exhausted…get what rest you can, we’re heading out early."

With an acknowledging nod from Kamal, the night soon fell silent. After some time, under the dim and eerie majesty of flickering starlight, the two eventually drifted off to sleep.

As morning came they continued their journey, and Cassius found himself drawn into Kamal's world, his tales of fatherhood and love painting a picture of humanity amidst the harsh reality of their circumstances. It was in those moments, that he glimpsed even more of the man behind the bounty. Yet, as they drew closer and closer to their destination, a palpable tension hung in the air like a storm moving in over the horizon. Kamal's eyes darted nervously, his breaths coming in shallow gasps as the weight of their impending encounter bore down upon him.

"Cassius, please…" Kamal implored, his voice trembling with a growing panic. "You have to let me go. I beg of you."

Cassius met the man’s eyes with a steady gaze, his expression softened by understanding. However, the truth planted a pit of guilt inside of him. "I can't, Kamal…you know that. Iron Wolves always finish the contract." His words were stern but gentle. "But I promise you, as long as you cooperate with Lord Jamari, you'll see your daughter again. If he wanted you dead, he would have asked me to bring you in much less intact than you currently are."

Though Kamal's fear lingered like a shadow, there was a small ember of hope in his eyes, a glimmer of trust in Cassius’s promise. "Thank you..." He whispered, gratitude suffusing his voice. There was a long sigh from Kamal before he spoke again. "My father used to tell me that every man must one day face the music that they compose. Perhaps you’re right, Cassius. Perhaps now I will have the chance to be half the father to my little girl that he was to me."

As they finally reached the outskirts of Lord Jamari's camp, Cassius was greeted by the imposing figure of his mentor Silas, one of the captains of the Iron Wolves. The man’s keen gaze met him with both pride and concern.

"Good work, Vael." Silas remarked, his voice carrying a note of admiration. "The Lord will be pleased with your efforts."

Cassius offered a tight-lipped smile in response, though his eyes betrayed his curiosity at the veteran’s obvious worry. As Kamal was escorted away by the guards, Cassius bid the man good luck. He and Silas then lingered in the fading light. First they caught up on the happenings since Cassius had been away, and then Cassius gave a recounting of how he captured his quarry as well as their eventful journey back to the Yola outskirts. Eventually, Silas voiced the concerns that were so clearly haunting him.

"Something's not right…" The captain murmured, his voice a low rumble in the scarcely lit camp. He cast a wary glance around, ensuring that they were alone before pressing on with his thoughts. "Lord Jamari's demeanor has shifted, Cassius. The man has always been a warlord, but lately…it's as if there's a darkness consuming him. A madness."

Cassius’s brow furrowed, his mind racing with the implications of Silas's words, but before Cassius could respond, a guard approached with urgent haste…his breaths ragged with the urgency of his message. "The Lord requests your presence." He announced, his words strained with tension. "He awaits you in the royal tent."

Silas exchanged a meaningful glance with Cassius, a silent understanding passing between them. The guard escorted the men to their destination, and as they stepped into the much more significantly lit interior of the Lord’s massive tent, the sight that greeted them sent a shockwave of horror coursing through Cassius's veins.

Kamal hung suspended by his ankles over an open bonfire, his bloodied form contorted in agony as he gasped for breath…his eyes pleading for mercy as they found Cassius. Lord Jamari's voice echoed through the chamber as he welcomed his guests with a sadistic smile.

"Ah, it brings me such joy to see that the young Wolf has returned...and with such a phenomenal gift," He greeted them, his voice dripping with jubilation as he motioned towards Kamal. He stepped forward and waved the two mercenaries over to the table that had been set up with a gratuitous feast. "Join us, won't you? We're just getting started."

Cassius’s heart hammered in his chest as the air within Lord Jamari's tent hung heavy with the scent of roasted meat and the sickly-sweet tang of burning flesh. Cassius forced himself to swallow back the bile rising in his throat as he watched the grotesque spectacle unfolding before him.

Lord Jamari sat at the head of the table; his face twisted into a mask of sadistic glee as he delighted in the agony of his captive. The man's screams and pleas for mercy echoed through the chamber, sending shivers down Cassius's spine. He tried to maintain a facade of composure, though every fiber of his being screamed for him to intervene…to do something, anything to put an end to this barbaric display.

However, Silas's silent urging kept him at bay, the reminder of his mentor's hand on his arm acting like an anchor to keep him rooted in place.

As the feast progressed, Lord Jamari's cruelty only grew in severity. He reveled in the torment of his prisoner…his laughter a chilling exhibition of the man’s growing madness that Silas had mentioned. Cassius felt a profound sense of helplessness and guilt wash over him, gnawing at his conscience as he watched Kamal's flesh blacken, blister, and melt away bit by bit in the searing heat of the flames. Eventually, the man’s screams fell silent, replaced by the sickening sizzle of burning skin as his body was completely consumed by the inferno.

As Kamal's charred remains crumbled to ash, Cassius felt a wave of numbness wash over him, a hollow emptiness that threatened to engulf him entirely as all he could think about was the way Kamal had spoken about his daughter, Aisha. He looked to Silas, seeking comfort in the familiar presence of his mentor…only to find a stoic expression staring back at him, a quiet display of the toll that years of mercenary life had taken on his very soul.

In that moment Cassius understood, for the first time, the true cost of their profession…the very price of survival paid in blood, anguish, and gold. As he gazed upon the smoldering ruins of Kamal's life one final time, he knew that he could never truly reclaim the piece of himself that burned away that night along with a man whose daughter would never see her father again.

Slowly, as his eyes lingered on what was left of Kamal…a pulsating glow of green light began to blink from the center of the bonfire. Suddenly, Cassius was not in Lord Jamari’s tent at all, but rather on the balcony of the Damien Estate where he and Fritz had spoken.

The bonfire shifted into the cityscape of Sorian yet that blinking green light…the beacon…remained. He turned to say his goodbyes to Fritz, but the figure next to him was not the dashing enigmatic man he had been speaking to, but rather the smoldering and melting form of Kamal. Lunging backwards, Cassius tripped on the furniture behind him and turned to brace against the balcony only to find the Sorian cityscape in a blaze as every structure and civilian burned to ash before his very eyes.

It was not the first time he had witnessed such horrors…

Smoke filled the open air around him, consuming his senses and filling his lungs as he began to choke.


With a desperate breath, Cassius woke in a panic. A cold sweat drenched his trembling body causing the sheets to cling to him as he sat up. His heart pounding in his chest as he struggled to shake off the remnants of the nightmare that still haunted his thoughts.

Images flashed before his mind's eye, distorted and surreal as he pieced together his reality. He was in his room at the Damien estate. There was no smoke to fill his lungs…no fire to char his flesh…and no ghosts from his past here to collect for his sins.

Cassius let the weight of the dream wash over him as he focused on steadying his breaths. Eventually, he reached for the water next to his bed and took a long sip from the pitcher. Memories of the night before…and the beacon, flashed through his mind. He remembered leaving the masquerade in route to the distress signal, only to be interrupted by his father. Calbert informed him of Violet’s disappearance, the unease in his eyes clear to Cassius despite the man’s attempt at his usual, controlled demeanor.

Something within him burned with concern about the beacon…warning him that it could be a trap. It MUST be a trap. Combining that with the news of Violet gave Cassius pause. Despite his own curiosities, Cas decided to heed Calbert’s plea to remain at the estate.

He spent the rest of his night helping however he could, and sat with Crystal in the dining room offering what comfort he could to her. Throughout it all, he felt as though in some ways his assistance was appreciated, but he could not shake the gut feeling of being an interloper.

Cas rubbed the sleep from his eyes, only to find his senses greeted by a welcome yet distant melody; the soft vocals of a song, muffled by the walls of his room yet unmistakably enchanting. He made his way to his feet and walked over to the window, drawing back the velvet curtains and opening it so that he could hear it better. The cool morning breeze greeted his skin, carrying with it the sweet harmonies of the woman’s song.

Closing his eyes, Cassius listened, the melody washing over him in nostalgic fashion. Though this voice was its own kind of comforting beauty, he heard echoes of the songs his mother would sing to him in moments of comfort and solace during his childhood. He focused on the words intently.

“...So close your eyes now dear, my little angel,
I found you here today,
Under the leaves of the willow,
As the morning embraces us,
I'm right here with you.
And right here in my heart, you'll always be.”

Just as he was getting lost in the song, it came to an end. He wondered who the mystery girl with the beautiful voice could be, but his thoughts were interrupted by a knock at the door. The sound of Liliane’s voice followed.

“Cassius? … Sorry to wake you, but I need your help.”

Dear “Gorgeous” Gustav,

Apologies, my friend. It’s been at least a month since I’ve written, and I know how you enjoy these little missives. For me to make a Count as “prestigious” as you wait for such things should surely be a crime. How dare I keep you on the edge of your seat wondering when my next letter will arrive. But maybe a little patience could do you good, G.

I jest, but I do hope you know that I have wanted to write, and that you have been on my mind quite a few times lately. Especially this last week. You see, things are very different these days, my friend. So much so that I fear you will think me a liar by the end of this letter. But you know me, and I only lie when I’m paid to. Though I am damn good at it, aren't I?

The truth though, is that my life looks nothing like it did last we spoke. For starters, my mother passed away. I know when I was there with you last year I told you I was going home to visit her, but I never did. I ended up taking another contract before I could even leave Stravinsky. A man just outside of Elso was trying to find the people that took his wife. Turned out to be a real shit show. As unlike me as it is, I even had to reach out for a little help on this one. The woman wasn’t just taken, she was one of thirteen that had been grabbed off the streets for some fucked up trafficking operation that ended up having ties to the Ruvani family. You may have heard about it. We saved nine. The others, we just weren’t quick enough.

I could’ve gone back home then, spent a little time with my mother. She had been writing less often. I could tell she was getting worse. I should have gone, but I didn’t. Gustav, I couldn’t. Another job came my way and I told myself I had to do it. I told myself that no one could get it done like me. I wrote her a letter saying I would visit soon, that I just needed to clear one more job.

I should have gone home.

That contract had me on the front lines of a trade dispute gone bad between a couple merchant cunts that both pulled together enough sellswords to topple a kingdom. So much blood spilled in the names of those elitist dicks (no offense) that by the end I just wanted to go home, G.

The more I climbed the ladder, the less the Wolves felt like home to me. They wanted me to lead, but I was already losing my love for it. There’s more to that story, but I’ll save that for another day. I’m rambling enough as it is.

When that letter came in telling me that she was gone, I didn’t even cry. Not at first. Something just broke. It still is, I think. Doesn’t feel real if I’m being honest. Especially now. Things feel more like a fever dream than they ever have. Turns out in my own way I’m an elitist dick just like you and those merchants. My mother’s revealed the truth about my father. I think I told you the story she had spun me when I was young. Well, she left out a few key details. This, G, this is the part where you’re gonna think I’m lying.

I’m in Sorian visiting my father. He’s a Count just like you, buddy. You’re officially reading the words of Calbert Damien’s bastard son. Yeah, THE Calbert Damien. I have every confidence that you know that name. I told you, you’re sitting right there swearing to yourself that I must be lying. Part of me, though I don’t know why, wishes I was lying. However, this is my new reality.

Here I am, moments away from getting dressed for a fucking masquerade. I bet you’re smiling at the thought. I bet you’re picturing how incredible I would look all done up in clothing fit for nobility. You’re probably even drooling at the thought of how good my ass looks in these tailored pants. You’re not wrong, it looks absolutely perfect.

I miss you G.

Somehow, I feel like things would make more sense if you were here. But more than anything, I wish I could drink a fucking barrel of that mead you had last year. Don’t get me wrong, this Caesonian wine is special, but that mead was the nectar of the gods themselves. Imagine you and I taking the dance floor together. Me in this ever so dramatic wolf mask that the good Count himself had commissioned jussssst for little ol’ me, and you in…whatever pretentious, sexy bullshit you would certainly show up in. We’d undoubtedly be the talk of Sorian. But, alas my friend, you’re in that frozen shitbag Svenborg, and I’m here eating grapes and tasting all the beauty that an actual civilized place has to offer. Guess I’ll just have to find another way to take this place by storm. You know I will...I always do.

Write me back you beautiful bitch.

Send mead,
Cassius “Damien” Vael

Cassius & Fritz

“Hello there,” the whisper sounded so close to him, but when Cassius turned around, the raven-haired man was a good few feet away. “I’ve come to take you up on that offer.”

Cassius had been in his own world at the wine table, but he immediately recognized the voice. A curious smile curled across his devilishly handsome face as he turned to the man, ever so slightly perplexed as to why he sounded much closer than he actually was. The introspective demeanor he found himself in after his dance with Charlotte shifted into his usual, enchanting disposition with simple flip of a switch. “I knew you would come…” He confessed, his words coated with a sultry layer of charm. He closed the distance between them with a poised stride. “How could you possibly resist?”

“And risk losing the opportunity to better know you?” Leaning closer, he breathed the words, “Perish the thought.” As the count pulled away, he gave the lord a coquettish smile. “I am but a moth to a flame. And you shine ever so bright, my lord.”

Ryn chuckled, before asking, “So! What shall it be?” One hand rose, poised, ready to receive a partner’s hand for a dance. “May I have the honor of being swept from my feet by the dazzling Lord Damien himself? Or…” A bottle of deep red materialized in his other hand, called forth by a dexterous flourish. “Can I tempt Mr. Vael into sharing this lovely vintage with me?”

The smile, the subtle differences in demeanor…these things proved fascinating to Cassius; fascinating and enticing both. As he looked at Fritz with ardent eyes, he began to slowly circle the man with graceful steps. He considered the two options before him for a moment as he slowly moved closer to the one seeking his company.

Cas had already experienced the dance for the evening, so it was the impressive way in which Fritz presented the bottle out of nowhere that truly won his interest.
”It takes quite the adventurous moth to seek out light this bright…but we all know what happens to such a creature when it touches the flames.” Cassius spoke with angelic resonance, his practiced tongue as alluring and dangerous as ever. "Let's see how close we can get without you getting burned." His hand wrapped around the bottle in Fritz’s grasp, seemingly giving the handsome man his answer.

The count drew nearer to Lord Damien, close enough that the heat of his breath brushed against skin. “Very.” Then he withdrew, wine glasses now glimmering in each hand. Ryn asked cheerfully, “Would you like to drink here or take a seat somewhere?”

He met Fritz’s move with an impressed smile. It was fun to watch them weave their charm in a way that mirrored his own. There was something about the man that made it challenging to get a proper read on him, but that only made the prospect of spending a little bit of time with him one on one all the more enticing to Cassius.

“Would you prefer if I take a drink of you here or somewhere else, hmm?” Cassius’s eyes sparkled with mischief as a playful smirk tugged at his lips, “ I must say, indulging in such a public display might spark a scandal, don’t you think?” He raised his eyebrows suggestively. After a theatrical pause, his eyes widened with feigned innocence. “Oh of course… You meant the wine. Well.” A devilish grin painted his features as he spoke with some debonair flair. “I suppose the balcony will do in any case.”

Cassius then drew in just as close as Fritz had. “Never know where the night may take us.”

The lord’s feigned innocence, however, was met with an authentic one.

Ryn canted his head, perplexed by why drinking in the ballroom might “spark a scandal” until Lord Damien murmured the words “Never know where the night may take us.”

A surprised peal of laughter burst from him, as bright and effervescent as the bubbles in a glass of champagne. “Obviously I have much to learn from the master of seduction.”

Threading his arm through the lord’s, he steered them towards the doors leading to the balcony. “Quick, before everyone discovers I’m not nearly as suave as I pretend to be!”

Once they stepped into the night air, Ryn disentangled himself. “Now that I have you all to myself…” He put a careful distance between their bodies so that Lord Damien would not feel obligated to keep up with his flirtations. “You can relax now.”

Cas found himself grinning with fascination as Fritz dropped his little charade. Was he right in his previous assessment? Was his new acquaintance simply mirroring his own personality back to him? It didn’t matter to be honest, this little twist only made Cassius more curious than before. He walked to the railing at the edge of the balcony, leaning against it and looking out into the night. After another of his wonderfully dramatic pauses, he spoke.

“Oh, my dear Fritz…there is no need to play games with my humble, innocent heart like this.” The words came out impishly, with a hint of mischief behind them. “I am a man of business just as much as I am one of pleasure…If you wished to speak with me all you needed to do…was ask.” Giving the man a playful wink, he took the wine glasses from him and poured the two of them a drink before speaking once more. “Brilliant deception, though. I must say, it almost felt like I was talking to myself. But…alas…what is it that you actually desire from a man like me?”

“Trick you? I thought I was straightforward about wanting to get to know you better… I apologize if I misled you in some way.”

Ryn accepted the drink with a thank you. “I wasn’t sure how comfortable you actually were in there.” He turned his head to the doors that separated the two from the fanciful life of high society. “A drastic change in lifestyle can be overwhelming to some people. How are you holding up Mr. Vael?... Or do you prefer Lord Damien?”

Cassius simply nodded in response to Fritz's explanation, still a bit unsure of the man’s tactics. Taking a long sip of the wine, he let the liquid dance across his palate, unraveling a symphony of flavors on his tongue. The rich, velvety texture enveloped his senses like a warm embrace, while notes of dark berries and hints of oak whispered tales of distant vineyards. With closed eyes, he savored the intricate balance between sweetness and tannins, feeling the wine's essence linger on his tongue like a memory.

“You have good taste in wine.” He stated as a playful deflection before responding to the man’s final query first. “As for what to call me, that’s a good question…Cassius always has the perfect ring to it, but I can’t deny that I’m growing quite fond of the title Lord.” His words were still coated with the same flirtatious charm as before. “Call me whatever you wish, and deception or not…I can assure you that very few people in this world have what it takes to make me feel uncomfortable. Regardless, now you have me here on my lonesome. It’s just you and I, lover boy. My undivided attention is yours.”

“Then let’s go with the best of both worlds, Lord Cassius.”

Ryn swirled the deep crimson wine in his glass, watching the liquid catch the light as he leaned against the ornate balustrade. “You’ve got a hardier constitution than I, it seems. High society can be…” He paused, his lips quirking wryly, “brutally unwelcoming at times.”

Cassius raised a glass in agreement, an accordant smile teasing the edges of his mouth

Black eyes glanced sidelong at Lord Damien, studying the other man’s profile intently before drifting down to linger on the other man’s hands. A person’s hands could often reveal the stories of their life. “What was your life like before all of this?” he asked simply.

Letting the man’s question linger in the air in a similar fashion to how the wine’s resonance remained on his tongue, Cas mulled over the array of possible answers. He turned to bring his eyes up to meet Fritz once more as he spoke ”That depends entirely on how much time we have and the tone of conversation you’re in the mood to explore, friend.” There was a facetious nature to his words though his eyes held nothing but authenticity.

“I’ll leave the choice to you.” Whatever Lord Damien was willing to offer, Ryn would accept.

”As arrogant as it sounds, the truth is I’ve lived more life in my twenty seven years than most of the men and women that surrounded us in that ballroom could ever dream of…I could go on for hours about the things I’ve seen, the things I’ve done. But to narrow it down to its most pragmatic state, I have chased beauty and conflict all across Eromora. I have found glory, praise, infamy, and unfathomable pleasures along the way.”

Stopping for a moment, Cassius stared into the beautiful black voids that were the eyes of his new acquaintance as he pondered his next words carefully. And now…now I find myself engaged in a brand new hunt. One where perhaps I don’t even know what it is I’m looking for.” He raised his glass once more, this time with a wink. ”Or, perhaps I know exactly what it is I’m chasing…Guess we’ll just have to wait and see, won’t we?”

“I guess we’ll have to.” Ryn’s lips curved in a faint, contemplative smile. “I hope you find what you’re looking for.”

“In the meantime… Let’s entertain a game of sorts—a trade of questions, an exchange of stories.”

“Sounds like fun…” Cassius remarked eagerly. “But allow me to add a little twist to make things even more interesting. Everything, and I mean everything, is on the table. If you answer, you must be one hundred percent honest. If the question is too much, or if you’re not comfortable answering…you simply take a drink.” He raised his glass to his lips and sipped before beginning.

“Since you just asked, I’ll do the honor of starting us off properly. First question…Why did you come here to Sorian? Question two…What do you dream about at night when there’s no one around to influence your thoughts and it’s just you and the deep recesses of your mind?”

“Oh my,” The count’s teasing held the same flirtatious undertone Lord Damien had moments ago. “Going in hard without build-up, no turn-taking, and you only have two questions for me? Lord Cassius…” He tsked and shook his head in mock disapproval. “But, if that’s how you prefer to play…”

With a satirical roll of the eyes, Cassius shook his head proudly at Fritz’s clever little jest, his smile only growing as the man continued.

He upended his untouched glass into Lord Damien’s cup. A brazen breach of etiquette, but he did not want to waste perfectly good wine by pouring it off the balcony, and it carried a pointed message: he would not need to drink for this game.

Though Lord Damien must have been aware of the loophole in the rules he proposed. “I came here for many reasons. As a newly titled noble, I was invited to the annual gathering.” True. “Since there was no reason not to attend, and I wanted to make connections, I came.” Also true. Ryn leaned in conspiratorially, as if he was revealing a dark secret, “I’m hoping to make lots of friends.” Another truth.

All individually true, one hundred percent honest answers. But none revealed the whole truth.

“I’m also looking for the answer to a question,” he added nonchalantly at the end.

Cassius acknowledged his new confidant’s clever little statement with the wine by emptying the contents of his glass with one long drink as Fritz spoke, showing that he was not going to need the generously strategic reprieve from potentially difficult questions either. His eyes never broke from the man’s face as Fritz addressed his first question.

The answer to Lord Damien’s second question was quite dull. “This is going to sound boring, but… Nothing. I don’t dream. I haven’t had a dream in a very long time.”

Fritz’s statement knocked free an old quote from the recesses of Cas’s mind. ’A man who cannot dream is a slave to his own reality’. Cas wondered if Fritz had forgotten how to dream, or if he was actually evading the specters and dreads of nightmares. Either way, the thought intrigued him to no end.

“Let’s see, so two deep, hard-hitting questions.” Ryn mulled over some potential questions to ask. “What have you done in the past that haunts you to this very day?”

“Oh…my dear, handsome man. And you have the audacity to suggest that I was skipping the foreplay?” Cassius prodded with a playful level of tongue-in-cheek. “Here you are building straight for a proper crescendo. It’s a bold move and I must admit…I absolutely love it.” His amused smile soon turned slightly more dreary as his mind turned to addressing the man’s question. He leaned on the balcony himself, looking out over the night as he contemplated his truth.

“Where do I even begin?” He asked, partially in jest yet more honest than he would like to admit. “I was a mercenary for almost half my life, Fritz. To live by the sword, chasing gold and glory…There is an abundance of skeletons in my closet that come to haunt my moments of peace.” Cas pondered something more specific, wishing to honor the spirit of the game they were playing.

“For instance…the very first man I killed. I never even got his name, but the look on his face as he succumbed to my blade, and the sanguine warmth of his blood on my hands are sensations burned into my very being.” His eyes shifted to meet Fritz’s, a look of absolute stoicism displayed on his face. “By my count, you have another question. I am an open book…simply pick a chapter.”

Even with the mask obscuring his features, Ryn could sense how Lord Damien’s countenance hardened into one of stoicism. It was a mask not meant to conceal so much as to compartmentalize and shield oneself from feeling the weight of the truth.

Just as Ryn had learned to do himself.

From the bleakest depths of human depravity to nature’s most savage, uncaring devastation, Ryn had witnessed and endured more than enough to intimately know the myriad ways in which a person could be broken.

Through it all, he had learned the art of disassociation, to erect walls around his psyche, fortifying his mind against the horrors and desolation that sought to invade and corrupt. It was a necessary defense, a survival mechanism, lest his soul be lost forever.

Tempted as he was to ask a follow-up question, if there were to only be two questions, Ryn wanted to end on a more positive one. “What brings you happiness?”

Cassius paused, his eyes wandering over Fritz's face for a moment. The question seemed to hang in the air, mingling with the faint breeze rustling the leaves overhead.

"What makes me happy?" Cassius repeated, his voice low and thoughtful. His lips curved into a faint smile as he searched for an answer. A moment passed before his gaze drifted to the skyline, drawn to a distant point in the cityscape. A faint green light blinked on the horizon, barely visible against the backdrop of the evening. It was something that was almost inconspicuous enough to just blend into the night, except to Cassius…to any Iron Wolf, it was anything but subtle.

His mind raced with questions that felt all too soon to be asking. Were they here for him? Should he answer the call? Who could possibly be on the other side of the distress beacon? There was only one way to find out.

The realization that he had left Fritz unanswered hit suddenly as he turned to face him. “It’s not my style to leave before a good climax…but I admit, something has come up. I’ll give you a much better answer next time, handsome. I do expect there to be a next time, yes?” He asked with thirsty eyes.

“But until then…I’ll give you just a little tease. What could possibly make a man like me happy? Perhaps everything…or…perhaps not a damned thing at all.” Cas said slyly, giving Fritz a playful bow and one last signature smile before making his leave.

Ryn met the farewell with a curtsy, then turned to face the distant sky. The soft flutter of wings and the clicking of talons reached his ears before he shifted his attention to the nightjar that had alighted on the top rail of the balustrade. They exchanged a silent, weighted look, and then the nightjar took to the skies, vanishing into the horizon. Ryn remained alone on the balcony save for the silent, watchful presence of an owl perched in a nearby tree. The bird of prey’s unblinking stare fixed upon the window of the estate.

Cassius & Charlotte

As Cassius meandered through the ballroom, his gaze swept over the myriad of masked faces. He was searching…seeking something, anything to pique his interest. For all the amusement he had experienced so far this evening, he was beginning to grow restless.

He watched as the guests mingled, their laughter and chatter creating a backdrop of joviality that seemed worlds apart from the boredom brewing within him. He was unsure why he felt so disinterested when normally he would be reveling in such an atmosphere. Perhaps the source of this restlessness stemmed from the fact that subconsciously he was looking for something…someone in particular. His eyes flitted from one masquerade guest to the next, his mind churning with subtle anticipation.

Where was she?

There, by the edge of the dance floor, he spotted her just as she was stepping back into the ballroom…Almost divergent amidst the bustling crowd. Charlotte’s demeanor was tense, her eyes clouded with an emotion he couldn't quite decipher just yet. Despite the delicate butterfly mask adorning her face, he could see the turmoil etched in the lines of her expression.

A frown tugged at the corners of his own lips as he observed her from afar. What could possibly trouble her in a place filled with such merriment? What could have happened in the moments that passed since she ventured off on her own to leave her in such a state. The question gnawed at him, urging him forward…compelling him to move towards her.

With each step he took his stride was purposeful, his gaze fixed on Charlotte as he watched the subtleties of her beginning to fall apart..

As he drew nearer, he noticed the tears glistening in the corners of her eyes and the tremble of her lips as she struggled to contain the storm raging within her. His heart clenched at the sight as a familiar feeling coursed through him.

The emotion was akin to what had stirred within him when he witnessed Layla berate her at the beach. He couldn't help but continue to move towards her, his feet almost having a mind of their own as he was inexplicably drawn in her direction. His pace quickened as she grew closer and closer to losing herself to the panic.

Once he finished closing the distance, there was zero hesitation. He reached out to gently grasp her trembling hand in his. He could feel the warmth of Charlotte’s skin beneath his touch, the faint flutter of her pulse against his fingertips. It only served to deepen his resolve, building the urge to be the anchor she needed at that moment.

Taking but an instant to let her tear-filled gaze find his face, Cassius wore his most comforting and genuine smile that hid quite a bit of the concern in his eyes, but not all. Her frightened gaze betrayed her surprise. He was the last person she had expected to see at that moment.

However, before she could react…before the panic could consume her entirely, Cassius swept Charlotte into his arms in one fluid movement as he led her onto the dancefloor just as the music began to swell into a graceful waltz. He let his steps direct her with the skill of a practiced dancer, something that would certainly be unexpected of him.

He held her close against him as he guided her body in the waltz, allowing her to focus solely on overcoming the panic. Years of dance practice gave Charlotte enough muscle memory to keep up her footing even as she fell apart.

“You’re alright, Lottie, I have you….” Cassius stated calmly.

Her eyes widened as they met his.

“Don’t let it win. Ignore it all for a moment and just breathe. Focus on the sound of my heartbeat until the panic leaves you. “

Desperate gasps escaped her lips, each inhalation sharp and ragged, her body trembling with the effort of trying to regain control, but she did just as he asked, unable to process another way. Resting her head wearily against his chest, Charlotte listened to the rhythmic cadence of his heartbeat, its rapid tempo mirroring her own as sobs occasionally wracked her body.

His heart seemed to beat against his ribs with a fervent urgency, as if it were trying to break free from its confines. The slow waltz and the noise of the crowd faded into a distant murmur, their presence reduced to mere background noise. She could scarcely hear own breathing beginning to regulate.

For just a moment, his heartbeat became her world.

“...We'll dance until you’re okay, no matter how long it takes.”

As time went on, she could hear his heart rate gradually slow beneath her ear, its gentle rhythm lulling her into a sense of calm as she shut her eyes. After a few more minutes of rest, slowly, she lifted her tear-streaked face from his chest, meeting his gaze with uncertainty.

Charlotte couldn’t help but find irony in the situation, dancing with Calbert’s son after being warned only moments before to stay away from him. At the least, she could assume that he was not adhering to some vile order from his dear old father. He had approached her on his own accord.

As Charlotte rested her head against his chest, Cassius found himself conscious of the undeniable thrill that came with holding her close. A sense of peace came over him as her heartbeat gradually synced with his own. Yet, beneath the surface there was a nagging sense of curiosity and concern. Though, he brushed the feelings from his mind for the moment and focused on the task at hand, making sure that she was alright and that no one was the wiser of how close she had come to a breakdown.

With each step of the waltz, Cassius held her with adept ease, every one of his movements fluid and deliberate. His gaze softened as he watched her gradually find solace in the rhythm of his heart and their dance. He knew more than most the power of distraction, of losing oneself in the moment to escape the turmoil of the heart and mind. So, he just danced with her for a time, guiding her through the steps until her own impressive muscle memory kicked in and she matched his strides.

As the minutes carried on, Charlotte's tremors began to subside, and her breathing steadied against his chest. Cassius could feel the tension slowly melting away from her body, replaced by a fragile calm. She was not cured of the panic entirely but he could tell that he was helping. He continued to hold her close, his embrace a silent promise of safety amidst the chaos of the ballroom and her mind alike. As the music played on and the world around them fell into insignificance, Cassius couldn't ignore the burning questions that lingered in the air so heavy. What had happened to drive Charlotte to the heights of anxiety like that? Who had done that to her? And why had seeing her in such a state bothered him so?

As these thoughts circled in his mind, Charlotte found her strength to speak. . “Thank you…” Her voice was a soft whisper, barely rising above the hum of the ballroom.

With a gentle yet firm touch, Cassius moved Charlotte to a halt as she thanked him. His hand rested softly on her waist as he looked into the tear-streaked eyes behind her mask. There was a vulnerability in her gaze, a silent plea for understanding. He watched as her eyes searched his for answers, but to what questions?

“Wow…”He said with clear sarcasm.
“It’s not every day that one's skill on the dancefloor is so flawless that it merits a Thank You. He laughed gently, his jest nothing more than a hopeful strategy to win a smile from his dance partner.

“But…really, no need for thanks. I wasn’t about to let you break one of the tried and true rules of revelry…” Cassius let a pause hang in the air for dramatic effect before continuing. “Na maskarade nel'zya plakat'…No crying allowed at the masquerade.” He reached a hand out and lifted her mask ever so slightly, gently wiping away the small streaks of tears and smeared mascara with his thumb in a caressing motion. “Plus, how could a man like me resist the opportunity to play the hero when so often I am cast in other roles?”

Charlotte's eyes held a soft gleam as she met his gaze, a subtle smile forming on her lips as he attended to her. With a flutter, her lashes lowered. "Ah," she eventually remarked, a trace of amusement coloring her voice, “ So that’s why you’re suddenly a gentleman tonight. Adhering strictly to the rules? ...Nа maskarade nel'zya byt' vulgarnym?”

Cas’s smile remained as he acknowledged her playful question with a wink. He slowly began to lead her in the waltz once more, but soon that smile faltered a bit, falling into a look of concern as his next thought was made into words. "What happened, Lottie?" His voice was low and velvet, laced with a hint of worry. "I'm a rather good listener... when I want to be." He flashed her a roguish grin, hoping to continue to lighten the mood even as his own curiosity gnawed at him.

As her smile faded, Charlotte's thoughtful gaze drifted downward, mulling over his words. Briefly meeting his eyes once more, she couldn't help but notice the subtle grin on his face. She could not help but ponder why this man always seemed adorned with an expression of amusement as if it were a part of his daily ensemble.

“...I had this gnawing suspicion that an individual, in particular, harbored ill intentions toward those dear to me…” " Her hold on him unwittingly tightened. “ Not only did I discover that I was correct, but I also learned the extent of their schemes... and it's far more sinister than I ever imagined.” Her expression began to falter as she spoke, the weight of her words visibly pressing down on her. “...and now, I can't help but feel that I have not done enough.”

Cas’s hand lifted once more as he watched her expression break. With a gentle touch, he lifted her chin slowly so that her fallen gaze met his once again. This time it was he that searched her eyes for answers as the information processed in his mind. He wondered who exactly it was that threatened her, that made her so afraid. For someone to do so in his father’s home was an insult to the Damien name…then a ping of curiosity struck him.

No… he wondered to himself as he noted where she had re-entered the ballroom from and what exactly that exit led to.

Calbert’s study.

Surely not…. He remembered his father’s warning about the Vikena family. He let his mind wander briefly to how the Count treated Charlotte at the beach, and the contempt he clearly held for her. His mind turned to the potential that she could be referring to his father. But he wouldn’t pry, and he wouldn’t push. If that was the case he understood that the truth would come out eventually, so instead he simply looked deep into her eyes and returned his focus to comforting her.

“Well…I’d say that’s definitely a cause for a bit of concern.” He exclaimed as he continued to process her words. “And I’m sorry, my lady. I’m sorry that someone is being so cruel to you.” His features softened and his smile faded as he continued. “I know what it means to have enemies, and I know just the feeling you speak of. The burden of feeling like you haven’t done enough.” Cas’s eyes fell to the floor momentarily as he let the weight of such a feeling wash over him. “I’m all too familiar with that one myself.”

Taking a deep breath, he let his thumb slip from under her chin and gently caressed her cheek. Her face reddened under his touch as their met again. Those gray-blue eyes of his may as well have been windows into a raging storm at sea as he leaned in closer, his voice lowering to a calm whisper. “Look…I don’t know you, at least not really, but I have an eye for people, Lottie, and I can tell you’re not the kind of girl who does anything but her best. I’m sure it’s enough, and even when it can’t be…we pick up the pieces and try again.”

There was a silence before she smiled faintly. “As long as life's rhythm flows through our veins, let us grasp onto the light of hope that persists, guiding us through the darkest of nights.” She quoted.

“Echoes of Eternity, right?” Cassius nodded in recognition of the quote, his expression displaying how impressed he was by her literary knowledge.

The dance continued, their bodies moving together in step as he spoke. “Alistair Veremond’s work in philosophy is one of those things that will always be underrated…no matter how popular it is. Honestly, it’s instrumental reading for anyone with a curious mind.” Cas briefly recalled learning of the man’s writing for the first time. “I had this commanding officer, Brant was his name…he was a monster in the field, but the man was a philosopher at heart. He made sure Veremond was required reading for the entire unit. Lot’s of complaints from some of the other Wolves, but personally I couldn’t get enough.”

Charlotte’s brows initially lifted at his words. Though she hadn’t expected him to recognize the quote, her surprise was mild. “He is certainly a wonderful philosopher…I’ve read Echoes of Eternity perhaps three times now…Veremond viewed the world in a beautiful way I wish I could see with my own eyes .” She smiled to herself as she spoke. Before she could delve deeper into her thoughts, his final statement registered in her mind and confusion crossed her expression. “Pardon me… Wolves?”

“The Iron Wolves.” Cassius clarified. “It’s a renowned company of sellswords from the Varian kingdom.” His smile grew more confident. “Many would go as far as to say they’re the premiere mercenary group in all of Eromora…and humbly, I was one of their best.”

Charlotte’s eyes lit as a thrill surged through her and she let go of Cassius mid- dance. Unable to contain her enthusiasm, she let out a delighted gasp. With a little hop of excitement, she clasped her hands together. “I can’t imagine the adventures you’ve been on! And how brave you must be…” Her voice trailed off as her thoughts raced ahead like a runaway train, trying to envision all his tales of daring escapades.

“You must have helped so many people… I think I would do almost anything to have the kind of strength where I could make a difference for others.” There was a sparkle in her eyes as she smiled. “What greater honor is there than the life of a hero.”

As Charlotte lit up with excitement, Cassius matched her energy with wide eyes and an elated grin…but after a moment, something about her words shifted his expression to something slightly more somber. As his arms settled down at his side upon her releasing him, his mind focused on that word, hero. A specific memory burned at the edges of his mind, but he brushed it away before it could fully manifest. He was no hero, but rather whatever he was paid to be. Though his eyes trailed away from hers and to the ground for a brief moment, he met her gaze once more with a feigned smile. ”The things I’ve seen over the last decade…adventure is barely enough to describe it. There is more beauty in this world than anyone will ever see with their own eyes. I’m honored to have experienced so much of it.”

Charlotte observed the subtle shift in Cassius's expression, sensing a hint of melancholy beneath his practiced smile. After some hesitation, she reached out to gently take his hand.

As their fingers intertwined, Charlotte met his eyes with a warm smile. "From what I've studied in books, the world sounds breathtakingly beautiful," she remarked softly. "Yet, I've only experienced a fraction of it firsthand. I would love nothing more than to hear about your adventures and the places you've explored someday."

Cassius felt a strange cocktail of emotions as Charlotte's hand found his, her warmth seeping into his skin, thawing the tendrils of past memories that threatened to creep back in. Her genuine curiosity and innocent enthusiasm were like a balm to his weary soul. As he looked into her eyes, so full of hope and wonder…There was a noticeable departure from the melancholy they often carried, and especially the panic that was present only moments ago. He was glad his little distraction was working.

Pondering her words, Cassius found himself torn by the truth of his experiences. The world she imagined, the one painted in the pages of her books, was often a far cry from the reality he had known. Though that did not deter him from seeking the beauty of the world around every corner, in fact it was likely the reason he sought it with such determination. As for now, it was easy to find beauty in this shared moment. His eyes briefly turned to the sight of her hand in his, and with a silent chuckle and a kind smile he responded.

"I’m nothing if not an open book…" he said softly. "And I’m sure you can tell by now that I’m never above a humble brag.” Cassius used their interlocked hands to gently pull her in closer as he spoke and led her back into the dance once more, allowing the music to drown out the whispers of his past, if only for a little while longer. His hand rested low on Charlotte’s waist as he studied her eyes with appreciation. ”But I’m sure you have your share of stories as well…Kings, Queens, and all the luxury that comes with a life of nobility. Surely you’ve known all kinds of beauty, albeit a different kind.”

Charlotte’s cheeks flushed, though she didn’t give any indication as to why. “I-I…” She stammered, her thoughts momentarily scattering as she became acutely aware of where his hands were placed. Despite this brief distraction, she quickly regained her composure and flashed a very broad smile. “ Yes… I have quite some lovely memories with wonderful people I’ve had the honor of meeting.”

Noticing the blush on her cheeks, Cassius made the connection and realized that his hand was lower on her waist than he had even registered. He would have moved it higher had she seemed uncomfortable with its placement, but instead he simply enjoyed each step of their continued waltz. I’m glad you have those wonderful memories. Do me a favor, Lottie…Hold onto them for dear life. This world has a way of trying to pull the good times into the mud with the bad. Don’t let it.” His tone was gentle, and his advice came from a heartfelt place. However, before he could continue or she could react, the music swelled to its crescendo and came to a stop.

Cas’s eyes broke away from Charlotte as he looked around the room at the other dancers parting ways. He did not rush to move his body away from hers, and even once he finally moved back a few inches, he allowed her hand to remain in his. ”Well…looks like this dance is over. Guess the stories and memories will have to wait until our next one. He jested. Not even the intensity of his lupine mask could obfuscate the warmth in his eyes or the sweetness of his smile. He pulled her hand up and pressed his lips to it gently. “No more tears, my lady. For the night is young and full of possibilities. All you have to do is seize them.”
Charlotte remained transfixed as he spoke, her feet rooted to the spot even as he leaned in to kiss her hand. As his lips brushed against her skin, her heart fluttered uncontrollably as her eyes met his, and his met hers. In that prolonged moment, the rest of the room dissolved into insignificance, the surroundings blurring into nothingness just as it had earlier, leaving only the two of them in a moment stuck in time.

Even as reality gradually seeped back into her awareness, the silence lingered. Her thoughts raced for a moment longer before finally finding the words to break it.

“...Thank you again, Lord Damien,” She expressed with genuine warmth in her tone, although her posture had subtly shifted to something more guarded. “I am grateful that tonight allowed for a more cordial exchange between us. Enjoy the remainder of your evening.” With a polite nod, she turned sharply, her figure swiftly swallowed up by the bustling crowd as it filled the space between them.

Before he could find the words to reply to Charlotte, she was gone. As the crowd swirled around him, Cassius took a moment to collect his thoughts. He couldn't deny the beating of excitement that danced in his chest at the prospect of getting to know Charlotte a little better. There was something about her innocence and curiosity that drew him in, offering a refreshing contrast to the shadows that often clouded his past. Mostly, though, he was simply glad to have helped her avoid such a public display of panic. Perhaps it was further atonement for his actions the other night, though still in this moment he couldn’t understand why he cared. At the very least, this felt better than the way things had played out that night.

With a sigh, he shook off his reverie and glanced around the ballroom, once again taking in the elaborate masks and elegant costumes that adorned the guests. The music started to play once more, rhythm weaving its way through the air like a whisper in the background of his mind. Cassius found himself moving towards the refreshment table, as he had already done multiple times tonight, and poured himself another glass of wine as he leaned against the marble countertop. He observed the other guests with a far more detached interest as his thoughts inevitably drifted back to Charlotte, the dance they shared, and the night’s masquerade which he certainly would never forget.

Time: The Evening of Sola 23rd
Location: Damien Estate Ballroom
Mentions/Interactions:[@Concord] Fritz (and technically Riona), @princess Charlotte, @Helo Leo

As Charlotte gracefully excused herself from the group to embark on her quest for clues, Cassius couldn't help but watch her retreating figure with admiration and even a bit of amusement. She was an enigma to him in ways…more than she seemed but also genuine in a way that few people were. Yet, as she disappeared into the crowd, his attention was swiftly redirected to the remaining company at the table. He pondered Fritz’s words with a grin.

“Lord Damien, I feel left out. Will you not tell us how beautiful and strong we are too?”

Fritz's playful request for Cassius to extend his charms in his direction brought a mischievous glint to Cassius's eyes. If there was one thing he excelled at…and let’s be honest, he excelled at so many things, it was weaving words into a seductive dance, regardless of the audience. With a smooth shift in posture, Cassius turned his full attention to Fritz...his lips curling into a devilish smirk.

"Well, Lord Fritz…it seems the stars have aligned in your favor tonight." Cassius purred, his voice laced with allure. "For you, my new friend, are about to have the full, irresistible Cassius Vael experience...At least the version that’s suitable for such a public soirée." Leaning in closer, Cas's gaze locked onto Fritz with the intensity of a man who knew the power of his own attraction…and he intended to wield it with absolute precision.

Cassius reached a tender hand out to gently brush some of Fritz’s hair behind his ear. “I wonder if anyone has ever told you that you have some of the gentlest eyes that could ever exist. You are beautiful, truly. In a way that most people are not. And soft…” He said as he allowed the back of his hand to brush against Fritz’s cheek. His voice lowered to where only the two of them were likely to hear. “But there’s something else about you…something I’m not even sure I understand well enough to properly articulate…you have the essence of someone that I would very much like to get to know.” He smiled that intoxicating smile, his eyes softening as he took in the complexities within Fritz’s eyes.

He then turned his gaze to Leo slowly, who had also been watching Charlotte leave. “And as for that distinguished gentleman as you called him…" Cassius whispered. He’s just so…so…bloody boring.” He stated sardonically as Leo engaged with the two women that joined the group, including the one who he’d seen the pocket watch dangling from a moment prior. Still standing intimately close to Fritz, he said his goodbye.

“Well, handsome…I think it’s about time I go look for the watch over…there.” He said, pointing to a wine station on the other side of the room. “Come ask me to dance in a bit, if you’re bold enough. But just in case you’re not feeling brave tonight, Lord Fritz…I guess I’ll bid you adieu.” Cas let his gaze and smile linger on Fritz’s black, mysterious eyes a moment longer before turning to leave. Without so much as a parting word to the others, Cassius took his exit from the table and elegantly worked his way through the crowd in the direction of a good drink.

© 2007-2024
BBCode Cheatsheet