@Siaya Dragalorn Oh, btw, since this is likely to be something of a back-and-forth, if you wanted to do a collab post for Ryker and Alexander I'd be A-okay with (I'm also fine if you just want to post normally, it's up to you).
Zeldira's stance faltered and her hands flew to cover her mouth as Shadow Worth's lord began his lesson. The Reapers and the guards had been far from gentle with her, but she had at least come to expect that they held respect for their status as Brides and would refrain from seriously harming or disgracing them out of fear of a future husband's wrath. But here, in front of everyone, she watched Sek Leon strip away those assumptions as effortlessly as he tore away his victim's clothing and crush those adorable little lies she'd told herself as nonchalantly as she was sure he'd crushed the other Gem's ribs.
She'd convinced herself they'd menace and belittle her, brandish their weapons and threaten violence to keep them in line, but never actually harm them. She'd drawn strength and comfort from that idea, and now it was all falling apart. Of course they would readily harm them; there were dozens of Gems here in the castle, what did they or any man in Drakka care if a few were destroyed before they got to the bidding block? What did it matter if the guards broke a spine or tore out a heart? She wasn't some prized jewel to be handled with care because she was desired. She was just a piece of meat and pretty flesh that could be bruised, battered, and marred at will. And if she ended up beyond salvaging? She'd just be tossed aside, sent to join however many souls, forgotten in the shadow of the peaks.
She barely registered what was happening in the hall around her. She started to sink, and then outright fell to her knees, not out of self-correction of her bowing technique, but because the shock had rendered her legs unable to support her. She sank down, her eyes still wide and her mouth still covered, as her gaze locked onto the floor.
She was roused from her stupor by a thick-soled boot being pressed into her upper back. "Lower," growled one of the guards as he forced her into a more submissive pose. "Now get up, you have places to be. Move!" The boot released its pressure, but as soon as it had its mate struck her in the side, knocking the wind out of her and sending her sprawling on the stones. Briefly she looked up at the Drakken, but far from any sort of resentment she could only wince and hurry to do what he said. Anything, she told herself, to keep herself from being noticed. Being noticed is what got those other girls beaten. Being noticed is what got the other girls... she shuddered as she remembered the pervasive scent of scorched skin. Her bow had been standing; just how narrowly had she avoided that fate? Moreover, how many more encounters like that would she have to bear? How many could she bear? Such thoughts ran through her head as the day progressed, unceasing. And try as she might, she found no answers...
Zel wound up on her knees from the shock and having her naive little expectations shattered, managed to avoid a burning by pure luck. Don't expect that to hold out long...
The craftsmanship was exquisite, Wilhelm thought as the completed and finely polished scabbard was at last presented to him. He eyed it carefully, turning it this way and that, and running his hand along each part of the piece. Not a crack or blemish in sight, and not a drop of dye out of place. He drew the black sword, glistening in the receding sun, and pushed it into the sheath net, to ensure the size was correct. It slid in tightly, requiring pressure but not an inordinate amount, and the length was practically perfect.
"Immaculate," he remarked, "I do believe I shall be commissioning your services in the future. I pray your skills will maintain this quality then as well."
At that moment a younger Drakken appeared just behind his left shoulder, clad in the livery of Wilhelm's house. He was one of the two servants the Black Blade had brought to the capital with him, and he carried a piece of paper marked with the royal seal. Recognizing it, Wilhelm quickly took the note and read it. He grimaced as he reached the end, but nevertheless folded the paper neatly and tucked it into his pocket. "I seems I shall also require a few of your finest whetstones," he said to the shopkeeper as he untied a pouch of money from his belt and laid it on the stand, "Here is your payment. Quickly, there is much for me to do tonight."
A tournament. Of course there was; after all, the cretins all so loved to gaze in awe at those who dared where they lacked the spine. And an invitation had been extended to him. Of course it had; ever since the passing of his most recent bride, his presence here was a foregone conclusion. And who better to display in the pit for the masses than one of Drakka's finest swordsmen? It was all such a farce, but it was still a challenge to combat. And the Old Ways were very clear; any challenge to combat must be answered.
Perhaps, this time, there might be someone worth his time? An entertaining idea, he concluded, if a bit far-fetched as he made his way down the street toward his lodging. He would need to take his time with the sword, tonight; if he was to battle before the whole of Drakka, he would ensure his sword was in its absolute best condition. Anything less would be a disgrace.
Wilhelm's going to be at home caring for his sword tonight. WHat's the point in kicking ass and taking names if you don't look stylish while doing it?
Alexander's lips pursed as the clearly uptight and stuffy looking family stepped out of their car. No wonder Elenore wanted to disguise his Nonsense for them. Well, if his new roommate was going to be just like them, things at the school were about to take a turn for the worse. But, he reminded himself, he'd have to keep things in check for a little while. Keep up the show, as it were; Great Eagle only knew what these people would do if they thought for a moment the place was anything but normal, he could tell just by looking at them. So, he stood with his heels together, his back straight, and a small smile on his face- all the things he'd done when the Captain came on deck except the salute. It was a practiced thing for him, which made it easier to do.
Thankfully, Elenor seemed to sense his discomfort at holding it and, after introducing herself, beckoned him to take the boy, Ryker, and his bag up to the room. "Right away, Headmistress!" he responded cheerfully. It took far too much effort to resist the urge to spring forward and instead walk to the bag, but he managed. "Hello Ryker," he said as he actually got a good look at the boy. He was interesting, to say the least, had some sharpened features. His ears were a bit pointy, which was unusual, but outside of that he certainly looked Logical. And yet, there was something in the way he sighed and slouched, almost in rebellion against the two adults he was with. He looked entirely out of his element next to them. That gave Alex hope. "My name's Alexander, and I think I'm your roommate from here on. Come on, I'll take you to the room!"
And with that, he took hold of the suitcase, waved his hand for Ryker to follow and took his slow, almost too measured steps through the door and up the staircase. Once they reached the first landing and Alexander knew they'd be out of eye and earshot of the porch, he leaned against the wall and took a great, deep breath. His entire posture changed on the exhale, restoring him to his usual casual half-slouch and springy gait, as though the air he'd blown out had been holding him up. "Oh, thank the clouds THAT'S over with! No offense if that's the kind of place you're from, but me? Trying to force the Logic out is for the birds."
Breakfast proceeded in bouts of muttered conversations mixed amid a hard, heavy silence at Zeldria's table. For her part, the redheaded country Gem didn't do much talking; she was far too busy trying to keep what apparently passed for food in the keep from making a return trip up from her stomach. Perhaps, she thought to herself, it was for the best that she didn't speak. All around her were frightened girls staring directly into the unknown future and seeking reassurance from the others that everything would be alright. And, had she not forced herself to be quiet, Zeldria felt certain she would try to give it to them. But what in all Gemmenia would she say? What could she say, when she wouldn't even believe her own words on the matter? No, she reaffirmed, silence was the best choice, lest she make a fool of herself.
For a moment, it seemed the other Gems had arrived to her same conclusion. Then, she noticed, it was becoming far too silent in the hall. She turned around, and as she did she beheld the procession that had conjured such a reaction. The Drakken that now looked them over, much in the same way he might appraise a trove of potential treasures, had an air about him that was entirely different than any of the guards, or even the keep's commander. In fact, the aura he projected was leagues above theirs, both in magnitude... and in terror.
“This is your High Prince. Bow!”
For a moment, Zeldria could only sit in shock. Not a full day into their training, and already they were under the scrutiny of one of Drakka's Royals? Her body refused to move, as if paralyzed by the prince's wandering gaze. Some Gems reacted quickly, immediately bowing as low as they could to the floor. Others, seeming to want to take a stand, made themselves as tall and defiant as they could. And all the rest soon filled in, either joining one of the two groups or finding their place in between. Finally galvanized from her stupor by the realization that taking too long to decide would almost certainly work against her, Zeldria swung her legs over the seat and rose briefly to her feet. She'd never really bowed to anyone or anything in her life, and so was entirely unaware of the best way to do so... but perhaps the best method would be to do what she knew. And where she came from, there was one way a lady always showed respect and deference to someone else.
She bent down slightly to grab the hem of the dress she'd been given with both hands and raised it slightly. She then slid the heel of her right foot across in front of the toes of her left, crossing her shins before bending both knees to lower her profile, all the while keeping her head and torso leaning down toward the floor as her hands fanned her dress slightly outward. Though it strained her calves to do so, she held the position there; her Aunt Mabel used to make her do it for many minutes at a time as punishment forbeing disrespectful. She only hoped it wouldn't bring her more suffering than she'd bargained for...
Zeldria's opting for a curtsy. Bet this'll end well... xD
Life hadn't always been easy at the settlement. Unlike the cities, with their walls of stone to keep the elements out, in the country the weather did as it pleased and the residents simply learned to deal with it. Zeldria's childhood had taught her to face roaring thunder, crashing rain, and even the occasional sudden frost. That, she'd thought, would leave her ready to face anything.
Only then, standing in that abyss of a courtyard, did she realize how utterly wrong she was.
It was the cold, more than anything. Not merely the temperature of the air; that she could deal with. No, it was the chill of knowing that she was somewhere she was not supposed to be. Somewhere she wasn't welcome, but could not leave. She didn't belong in this world of darkness and hard edges, beneath these glares and voracious smiles. And even surrounded by so many other girls of her same age and situation, she still felt isolated and alone. The overseer was the worst; every time his gaze passed over her, Zeldria felt a chill race down her spine and cut her to the bone, as though someone had plunged a frozen dagger into her lower back and left it there. She thought she'd be ready for this; she was anything but.
She was almost glad to be ordered to her room for the night. Simply standing around to be appraised and examined amplified the castle's oppressive atmosphere tenfold, while being in motion prevented her mind from dwelling on her situation, from fearing her future, and- most importantly- from dreaming longingly of the past she'd left behind. She was almost thrown into the glorified closet they called her room, with its bed that looked every bit as unwelcoming as the fortress itself, and finally she allowed herself to relax- and nearly collapsed in the process. Somewhere within, in spite of her terror, she'd been determined to not show herself as a weak, timid little thing. She'd stood up straight, locking her joints at times to keep it that way, in some dismal effort to not be seen as easy pickings. Breathing heavily, both from fear and fatigue, she pulled herself to the foot of her bed and sat upon it. Seeking some comfort, she brought her hands together in her lap and conjured a small, flickering flame. It did nothing to curb the cold she felt, but it was familiar and it was calming.
So, this was to be the rest of her life. Imprisoned by chains of duty, subservient to the whims of whatever creature laid claim to her. Never again would she see the rolling green hills, or hear the rush of water in a brook. This hostile wasteland was to be home now. The thought made her want to weep, but she forbade herself from such unbecoming things. She had to be strong, as strong as she was able. She wouldn't survive otherwise, let alone be able to face herself at the day's end.
"I can do this," she told herself softly, as thought the guards might discipline her if they heard, "The village still stands because of my choice. I can't let them down now, of all times."
Some time later she collapsed into the bed, praying for a dreamless sleep that she was mercifully granted.
The next morning came and began to move so fast she didn't have time to dwell on anything. She was accustomed to early risings, that much was true, but being awoken by large guards throwing clothes and orders at her was something else entirely. Somehow, someway, by the grace of some god or another, she managed to make it down to the breakfast hall without drawing a Drakken's fist. She sat nearby some other Gems, but all of them ate in silence. Perhaps they did not know what to say to one another; Zeldria certainly didn't. But, even in the silence, there was something there, an acknowledgement that they were all bound for the same course. And suffering in company, Zeldria thought to herself as she tried to keep food down, was always preferable to suffering alone.
Zeldria is coping with her situation, using her element sparingly to try and get her through. She's in WAY over her head, but is determined to not make herself an easy mark for the guards to torment. She's eating with a group of unspecified Gems, anybody who would like to say they're one of them is free to do so!
The capital was always far more trouble than it was worth. Barely a soul inhabited the city who was not some pompous, self-entitled fool always trying to proactively prove his superiority. Reaping Time was even worse; the city swelled to bursting with scores more fools than it normally held, and every single one of them seemed to take it as a signal to puff out their chest, boast loudly and obnoxiously for any and everybody to hear, and pick fights they had no business with, all for the sake of trying to gain some superfluous recognition. It was utterly ridiculous. True glory, Wilhelm knew, was not won with false pride, bluster, and self-exultation, it was given in reward for deeds done and vows fulfilled. Respect was something commanded, not demanded. Not that any of the greedy worms would understand; once one of them got it into his head that he was destined for greatness, no advice or warning would deter the stupid fool from chasing it.
That said, Wilhelm thought as he carefully wiped the blood from his saber, a fresh corpse usually sufficed, at least in the immediate timeframe and vicinity. The cretin had drawn his blade and loudly challenged Wilhelm in the street, aggrandizing himself as "the Drakken who would lay low the Black Blade" as thought it were some children's game. Wilhelm answered his challenge, as he always did to those who gave him one- and put the simpleton down like the dog he was.
"What a waste of time," he thought aloud, his baritone projected for all nearby to hear, "'Your castle will be the perfect place to take my first brides home to'? Ignorance truly knows no bounds."
Finished with his cleaning, Wilhelm discarded the now blood-stained cloth and silently commanded the air to send it cascading down atop his opponent's face, covering it neatly. It was both a dismissal of the fool and a warning to the spectators; if they challenged him recklessly, they would only die an anonymous death. He would have to find a stall that sold handkerchiefs and the like, Wilhelm reminded himself. He'd just sullied one of his favorites, after all.
With this in mind he resumed his perusing of the market. That was one upside to this farce of an event; the craftsmen of Drakka all turned out with the best they had, and often times there were good wares to be had. Wilhelm paused briefly as a glimmer caught his eye, and found himself walking toward a vendor with various weapon accessories on display. There, resting in front, was an immaculately well-made scabbard, black lacquered wood with just the slightest hints of gold trimmings at the mouth and tip. His family's sword had been cared for and passed down through the centuries, but the same could not be said of its house, as wood only lasted for so long before it rotted. The craftsman in question seemed presentable enough, and soon he and Wilhelm were discussing the particulars of his order.
Perhaps this trip would indeed be worth the hassle, when all was said and done...
Wilhelm is just minding his own business in the market row. Some upstart challenged him to a duel and lost, sucks to be him. Currently at a stall discussing the purchase of a scabbard he saw that he liked, open for interaction!