Kneel for No Man@Spoopy Scary
& @StormflyxMid-Morning, 14th of Sun’s Height, 4E208
Southern Doodyvaj Mountains, West of Falkreath Hold
After what had felt like too long, the group that had been gathered by the entrance to the forest had made their way off on their scouting mission at last. Even someone hard of hearing would have been able to discern the booming laughter of Fjolte, and the whoops and cheers of Mazrah in the distance, quietening down eventually until the camp was left only with the carefree sounds of morning.
Raelynn held in her hands the last two mugs of brewed tea, and there were only two people whom she had not forced a mug of it upon. The young Nord, Calen, and the Imperial Ambassador, Aries. From what she knew of the woman, she knew that she was a noble through and through. It showed in the way that she carried herself, and in the moments she chose to speak - as well as in the ones that she refrained from speaking.
Holding the mug daintily in her fingers, Raelynn stooped low outside of the woman’s tent, her voice was soft too. Soft and thick but with clear enunciation so that Aries would hear them through the fabric walls and door of the tent. “Ambassador Machella? Are you awake?”
There was a brief silence that followed and made her wonder if it was still too early in the morning for Aries to be awake, but those thoughts were ushered away by a weary and haggardly voice that emanated from the tent within.
“Yes, yes…” The noblewoman groaned inside. “Come in, please.”
Having been granted permission, the Breton gingerly pulled back the fabric to slip inside. She kept her eyes low to the ground, obscured behind several silvery curls that fell in a perfectly imperfect way around the shape of her face. “I come bearing gifts…” Raelynn said with a carefully measured cadence, lifting her eyes at last to meet the ever-piercing gaze of Aries. With an easy motion of her hand, she indicated that the gift was in fact a hot beverage, and she held it out politely with her fingers only just pinching at the handle.
Aries eyed the cup with some suspicion, but as her dry lips rubbed together she finally relented and accepted the hot tea into her hands, cradling it close to her body within her hands.
“Thank you,” she said, a hint of her fatigue infiltrating her voice, “Raelynn, was it? We’ve had quite a long journey. Shame it’s only now, I should hope, that we’ve met properly.”
Her question was somewhat ingenuine; she knew exactly who the Raelynn in the group was, being intimately familiar with whomever allied themselves with Gregor. It immediately put her on edge, now face to face with someone she was determined to call her enemy and anticipating some form of foul play. She would’ve dealt with them all personally if Sora hadn’t embarrassingly stripped everyone of all agency to prevent anyone from seeing proper justice done. Despite this, she took a sip of the gifted tea, recklessly unafraid of drinking from the cup -- perhaps even looking for just cause to let loose and burn someone to ash -- Aries abandoned some of the pleasurable tone in her previous voice and looked away, setting down the cup beside her with a tired and irritable tone, “Have you come to voice your complaints, then? Because before we begin, no, I am not the one leading this caravan, and no, I cannot do anything about it.”
“Hawkford, yes,” she added with a precise nod, her mouth hanging open slightly as her eyelids twitched. She had not expected Aries to be so ruffled, even though she did not feel personally slighted by Aries’ quickfire. The woman was clearly strained, and not without reason. “We’ve actually met once before...” Raelynn’s voice trailed off, as if their having met before was a minor and inconsequential detail to her, but one she had been banking on discussing anyway. “And there are actually no complaints from me. I’ve just been commanding something of a check on the party. You were on that list too.” Carefully she eyed the Ambassador up and down, for any signs of physical injury but it was clear that there were none. Hers was a mental injury, and no matter how Aries tried to hide it, if anyone would see through it here - it was Raelynn.
“Raelynn Hawkford…” Aries echoed skeptically. She never thought to remember that little merchant’s girl back in the old days of Daggerfall. In fact, Raelynn Hawkford was a name that she had kept in mind for quite a while, for she was ever mindful of the list of possible enemies she could have made over the years -- the theft of opportunity for Fontaine’s hand being one such probably cause -- though she had little reason to suspect that this Raelynn would be the same one from those many years ago.
“Salosoix’s daughter?” Aries added for clarification -- but Raelynn didn’t need to answer. Aries huffed a long sigh and reached again for the tea, taking a few long drinks from the mug before abruptly setting it back down on the ground. ‘I hope that was poisoned,’
Aries thought to herself in a long, aching groan. It would give her an excuse to release some tension. She took the pillow from her bedding and tossed it onto a stool a few paces away. She continued in a tired voice, “Yes, I remember you. It’s a small and curious world that we’d find each other in a desert. I hope you haven’t taken my slight towards you at your father’s ball personally. You’d possibly be killing the last surviving official of the Empire, and where would we be then…”
“The one and only,” she said with a level of pride in her voice. Despite the strange tension that was brewing in the tent, it was always an undeniably pleasant feeling when people recognised her name and family. Such things seldom occurred in times of strife, and it was a welcome reminder that beyond the walls of war, life still existed. She couldn’t help but chuckle dryly at the mention of the ball, even if she thought such things were behind her, she felt something akin to a jab of humiliation at the reminder. “Oh not at all," she sighed "believe me when I say that was not the first time my father tried to give my hand in such a way. That water is long under the bridge, if there was even anything in it to begin with. I heard you were to be married?"
The woman took her invitation to sit. The stool was lower to the ground than the cot which had been prepared for Aries, but her already short height didn’t make her look out of place on it. She smoothed the skirt of the cloak down with her hands, before interlacing her fingers over her knees as she sat. Raelynn also took to observing in the way in which Aries drank the tea, and smiled again in her direction, “it’s pine and mountain flower, it may well lift your spirits. It seems that you might need that…” She said watching the Ambassador curiously.
Aries snorted, partially out of amusement but also a twinge of disbelief. Her chin was now resting on her open hand, propped up by her knee, as she dryly replied, “That is old news, miss Hawkford. You know how men are. He was just another bastard loyal to his treasonous family. In short, the Motierres got what they deserved.”
Though sullen, Aries was still sharp. Her eyes shot back up towards Raelynn, and like her eyes, her words that followed cut deep, “We all must lie in the beds we make, miss Hawkford.”
Raelynn blinked in response, everyone she’d spoken to so far this morning had been cooly pleasant with her, if not a little aloof. Aries words were deliberate on her part no doubt and once more did naught to alleviate any anxious feelings and the Breton visibly squirmed in the form of a snarl-like twitch that tugged at her lips. She knew exactly what the Ambassador was alluding to; "I guess we must."
“You’ve lied in yours.” Aries said, lowering her head. “I’ve lied in mine. I don’t pretend to be a perfect woman. Is it wrong of me to be a righteous
woman? I’ve bloodied my hands too, so in that case, should I stop trying to find justice? Whatever that
Aries’ fingernails were digging into her knees, frustration welling in her chest. It was like the anger and rage she felt so often before, yet this time it stung, like water filling up her lungs that made it hard to breathe. Raelynn was sitting right before her: the woman who loved and conspired with an evil man who managed to escape justice, temporarily embodying everything that was morally repugnant within the last few months. Yet she walked away. Every time she faced certain death, she remained unbound. Killing her herself was within her power, but the consequences would then fall on her
lap. Where was the justice in that? There was a part of Aries that wanted to hear that word: yes.
That it was time to stop.
She could finally, simply, just stop.
To let the rotten world find Oblivion, untouched by her own hand. She wanted the permission. Yet, she knew even if she had gotten it, she would never allow herself a moment of peaceful rest. Bloody hands weren’t a good enough reason.
“I believe that we should always search to be righteous,” she added in response to Aries, taking note of the frustration that was passing over the woman, sensing the anger emanating in her aura. She realised how utterly hypocritical it was - coming from her lips, but she did not flinch from her statement. “I know how that must sound, I know you know the things I’ve been witness to.”
Aries sighed, ending the grinding of her teeth, before tiredly looking up at Raelynn, who was still prim and proper. Finally, she asked, “So why have you come? Surely not to observe my contemplations.”
It had not gone unnoticed by Raelynn that Aries was not looking herself. For sure, she did not appear entirely different at a surface glance - but it was in what a healers eye knew that she ascertained that Aries was frayed. “Our current circumstances are not the best. Truthfully, I came to see how you are… As I said, you were on my list.”
“It is a challenge.” Aries admitted, however she kept her cards close to her chest and remained guarded. “Of course, it is nothing I am not up to task for. To take on such challenges is to meet the expectations and responsibilities of the mantle I was bequeathed.”
She took another long sip, letting the floral and herbal taste of the tea seep into her tongue and waft through her senses before drinking it down and continuing the conversation with a question of her own. This being a vulnerable moment for her, she dared not to allow herself to be in the company of others for too long. Disrupting the typical Breton dance of playing with words with the abruptness of pointed Imperial speechcraft, she proceeded with some deflection, “I’m well enough, thank you for your concern. I fare rather well in the heat, perhaps better than most. Might I suggest attending to one of the three Nords?”
That made her smile, “oh please. If I have to attend to Fjolte today I might be the one who strikes the killing blow,” she said, rounding it off with as easy a chuckle as she could manage. “As for the other two, I’ll attend to them in due course,” she brushed a strand of hair from her face, tucking it behind her ear as she too took a sip from the cup. “You’ve kept largely to yourself, and, well I of course understand why - but I still have my job. When it comes to what I do… I too have to meet the the expectations of my own mantle of responsibility.” The Breton was not about to take no for an answer from the Ambassador, “at least let us talk, I’ll feel at ease. Even if I only I stay to see you drink your tea.”
Aries released a long, drawn-out sigh of resignation. She would’ve smirked at her -- she was clever and sassy, which she admired in a woman -- but she was too worn down and wasn’t exactly warmed by having her own words used against her. Her eyes bore into Raelynn’s with a dry expression, slowly raising the cup to her lips and sipping lightly on its contents. Immediately she was hit by the astringent taste of pine needle and medicinal qualities of mountain flower; wild-tasting, bold and granular, nothing at all like the lavender, hibiscus, or rose hips to which she was more partial. While not entirely unpleasant, she swallowed it down as if it were more like medicine than tea.
“Very well…” She conceded. As the morning sun beamed down on the tent, it prompted Aries to remove the silken pastel-red shawl from her shoulders, leaving only the red silk gown on her person. Slits up the sides showed a bit of her thigh as she recrossed her legs and leaned in closer. “What would you like to talk about?”
“I suppose we’ve about covered all conversation required to be had about the Daggerfall gentry,” she said with a raised eyebrow and a slight smirk— it was not arrogance, but perhaps something of an admiration - despite a nervousness in her presence, she did appreciate to hear of just what had happened between Aries and Fontaine. That, and the lack of dismissal was quite disarming. They were just two women in a tent. “But really I should apologise for not meeting with you earlier— considering that we have something of a history, in hindsight it feels rude. But, you were acting under a noms de guerre, Janelle? Is that true?”
Raelynn carefully straightened up on the stool, despite it having no back to lean into she was able to hold a perfectly statuesque posture and mirrored Aries by crossing her own legs too. A hand dropped into her lap with the palm facing upwards, and the other wrapped around the handle of her tea.
“Yes.” Aries replied simply. “I’m sure you can imagine how important it was for me to hide my identity in the company of Dwemer occupation. Sevari would’ve had me cooped up in room the entire time were I not so stubborn.”
“I have to confess in all honesty, you did not catch my eye fully until I heard gossip about an ‘Ambassador Machella’ liberating a floor of prisoners in Kthrakz…” The healer blinked several times before lifting the mug to her lips so that she could take a small sip. “A delightfully bold move, by the way. I wish I could have been there to see it. I heard the prisoners really rallied behind you.” The ocean blue eyes of the healer were suddenly aglow, was it with mischief
? Or something else? A sudden sense of joie de vivre at the situation at hand?
“If not me, then someone else.” She answered. “Rallying the enemy’s prisoners against them is hardly difficult.” Aries said in dismissal of the flattery, though it didn’t seem to be inspired by humility. A woman such as her didn’t have that kind of interest. With her head dipped down in thought, her eyes flicking back up to Raelynn created a demure appearance that was quickly betrayed by the words to follow. “Besides, the manpower was beneficial. I suppose the same reasoning was used to keep Zaveed. Gregor. Even yourself.”
“Even myself,” she replied, keeping her cool and holding her tongue. It wasn’t the place to bite back and she knew she had little of a leg to stand on, all things considered.
Aries casually took another sip as if she hadn’t just directly insulted the woman before her, whether it was by comparing her to the likes of them or suggesting that her stay was a result of Sora’s mercy. The blasé expression on her face read as if she was too tired to care, but at least that meant that she wasn’t showing any sort of anger or resentment. It was simply a callous indifference.
She continued, her voice slow and measured, “Whether said enemy be mer or man, if monsters could even be dignified as such, they typically meet with the same fate. Accomplices to such ends, too -- surely you knew, Ms. Hawkford, that you would be risking everything, potential and all, of which there is much to be said. Why then?”
Her eyes fell to the contents of the mug she was holding and she began to move it in her hand - her wrist performing a slow circular motion that was just enough to shift the sediment that had been sitting in the bottom. She watched as the particles were turned in the liquid before they settled once more. Raelynn kept her breaths calm and quiet, her upturned palm turned over so that her hand hooked around the knee. “You are associated with Sevari, and you were working with the Poncy Man, so I shall assume that you know at least in part of my experience in Gilane, yes?” The Breton smiled again and took another sip from the cup. Of course Aries was curious about it, she’d most likely been on the outside looking in at the situation and she was now provided an opportunity to finally ask her questions. “I didn’t have a good experience in Gilane, Aries.” Her head tilted to one side and her eyes narrowed, closing slowly as if to wind back any thoughts of the terrors that did indeed continue to plague her.
“All of my experience considered, it never felt like I was risking everything -- especially after being held over the edge with a knife at my throat.”
Aries swirled the cup of tea in her own hands, mimicking Raelynn’s motions when her eyes were drawn to the ugly scarring in the center of Raelynn’s as she told her story. She knew from Sevari that one of the women from Samara suffered at the hands of his brother, though he didn’t mention them by name -- Aries didn’t care then -- and only now did she learn who it was exactly was on the receiving end of Zaveed’s sick amusement. Though before Aries believed that there could be no cause for forgiveness for necromancy, or even the fraternization with necromancy -- to say nothing of lichdom rituals -- she understood now at least what kind of predicament the woman was in. Rather, she understood what Raelynn wanted her to believe. That she was a victim of being on the receiving end of both Gregor’s love and affection and Zaveed’s cruelty, and if she had to choose there was ever a lesser evil in this world, it must’ve been Gregor and his necromancy. It was easier to rationalize evil acts when there was a greater evil overshadowing it, especially when they offered protection from the other.
Though it was difficult to discern, truly, if this was the truth or the facade Raelynn sought to portray in order to hide her own evil. That could have just as easily been her own paranoia, though.
There was a pregnant silence separating Raelynn’s succinctly worded explanation and Aries’ own response, creating a pensive air in the middle of the ambassador’s incisive interrogation. Still, given what she knew of Zaveed through Sevari, the stories of others in this group, and witnessing the aftermath of his handiwork, it was curious why she would tolerate his presence after everything was said and done. She wanted to test the waters and see if she could instigate some kind of emotional response from Raelynn to get down to the truth of the matter. Finally, after what must’ve felt like several tense minutes of consideration, Aries bowed her head for a sip of her tea and concluded, “I see. It must have been quite difficult for you to be around that feral cutthroat after all this time. Or have you fallen in love with that one too?”
Aries was more calculated in her speech than she was verbose, that was for sure, and that took very little to know. She also had a dramatic flair to her manner that showed itself in the nuances of her actions. Once again, Raelynn restrained from firing back, in particular at the suggestion of her having any kind of unsavoury romantic inclinations for Zaveed. If she had not seen through it for what it was, she would have found it crass, but of course an Ambassador was not the type to be so brazenly tactless.
“Is this not the travelling group of second chances and proving one's worth?” Suddenly her tone was wry, and the way her lips pursed after her words was telling of mixed and unresolved feelings, not only on the subject of Zaveed - but it applied to Gregor, to herself
... Raelynn’s head tilted in the other direction as she held back briefly to let her words sink into Aries’ thoughts. She wondered just what was going on in the Ambassador’s head, how many cogs were turning over, and whether she was already making her plans. “I never imagined my companions would consort with the same individual who gave me this
--” The left hand raised. That infamous left hand with the hole shot through it, now healed, but still a sigil of her pain. “Yet here we are,” the wry rasp left her tongue and made way for something of a weariness, and she almost found herself slumping in the stool. “No, I have not fallen in love with Zaveed of Senchal,” she concluded with finality before returning to her tea as if to swallow such words back down.
They had left a bitterness, but also the faint impression of a smile on Aries’ face, briefly demystifying the disposition apparent in her countenance. It was slightly amused, though somewhat sympathetic (as well as validated, for her plan had worked as intended) as the truth behind Raelynn’s emotions came center stage. She set the cup down beside her feet, and delicately offered her hand to Raelynn with a look that a mother may give to coax an upset child.
“I beg your pardon, it was cruel of me to prompt you like that.” Aries cooed. “As I’m sure you know, a woman can never be too careful, so I am glad we’re in agreement regarding him. I can’t imagine the strife he must have put you through.”
“I have done what I can to make my peace with it, on my own, in my own way,” she sighed, and returned Aries’ gracious gesture by placing her hand on top of hers. “Peace with what happened, and peace with him being here. It’s how I am able to maintain a sense of… myself, of who I am, who I was, and who I wish to become,” she admitted rather candidly with a slight nod of her head.
All that remained in her mug was the last dregs of the beverage and so she followed suite with Aries and placed it upon the ground. “I am under no illusion that I am innocent, but I am
regretful of my actions. I did what I did. There is no sense in downplaying or denying them now, is there? It would be an insult to everyone with whom I travel, and a waste of precious time when we could be better utilising it...” The hand lifted from her knee, and she ran her fingers over the plum silk of the ascot around her neck, and she thought immediately of her unborn child.
Being so forthright about her crimes as an accomplice to necromancy to an Imperial Ambassador was an incredibly audacious play. What truly
stopped someone like Aries from ending both she and Gregor where they were, afterall? Raelynn had from this moment until they reached governed civilisation to convince the woman to not do that. A thought danced through her mind of whether Gregor was aware of the lengths she was willing to go to for him even now. The bitterness continued to permeate.
“You know,” Aries began, “I’ve always found it to be an incredibly pervasive and, honestly, rather toxic message that it takes abuse to create strong women. That, insufferably, we must endure agonies in order prove ourselves worthy of respect. It doesn’t always work out that way, but that doesn’t mean that those unfortunate women are less deserving than the rest.”
She lifted her hand, though it meant taking it away from Raelynn’s, to touch the bottom of Raelynn’s chin with the end of her fingertips and nudged her slightly to lift her head up. Aries stared into her eyes with her own, and her expression gradually changed from sympathetic to serious.
“You are not strong because you had to endure whatever it was that he or Gregor had done to you. I suspect you’re strong regardless.” She said. “You don’t have to be the victim.”
The stillness of the atmosphere was disturbed by Raelynn’s considerably deep breath, she was literally in Aries’ hands and yet she had no fears about it. The resplendent green of the Imperial’s irises were fierce and the command in her voice even more so. “I do
know my worth,” she began - and while at first her voice was soft - a resonance began to grow as though Aries’ own words had been the spark to ignite a fuse she had been toying with aimlessly until now. “There is still potential for absolute greatness in me, despite what the odds have said.” Just like that, her eyes shifted from clear waters, to a tumultuous sky, and then to hardened steel at last. Her lips parted to bare just enough of her teeth, adding to the resolute expression that was turning on her face that gave such a reverberant weight to her words, “I have defied them all so far.”
She hadn’t felt a flame like this since the day she stood toe-to-toe with Governor Razlinc Rourken amidst the diamond rain of her shattered chandelier.
“I've been the subject of games for long enough and I'm tired of it.” Raelynn's tone was sharp and pointed, but the words were not aimed towards the Ambassador. Her eyes shifted sidelong at nothing in particular as she remained in thought. “I want to make it through this alive, I want to help my companions make it through this alive.” Raelynn paused again and brought her hands to her lap once more, she cleared her throat. “The time for morale boosting words is over, I want us to take action… You can help us, help me.”
“If you want the world to take you seriously, you’ll have to stop being a pushover.” Aries commented matter-of-factly. The fingers daintily touching her chin were suddenly pinching it, holding it, and a few flick of the wrists showed her control of her as he moved her head around before directing her face back towards her. Aries’ weariness did little to take away from the stern expression on her face. If Raelynn wanted to think of her as a bitch, that was fine, but this was the best way she could probably help her right now.
“For example,” she continued, her eyes now smoldering, “we have a rapport now, which means you have the capacity to betray me. And if you do, then I will crush you like I crushed Fontaine Motierre when he
Raelynn’s own eyes narrowed, a dangerous squall formed that contrasted beautifully with the fire and brimstone of Aries. Her lips quirked into the slightest of snarls as she straightened herself. Usually, the woman was delicate, pretty, and proper. And yet how easily that physical presence seemed to change when tempered with the right influence, it was as if she was now a sturdy rod ready to catch and absorb all of the lightning that came for her. With a swift motion, she swatted away the hands of the Imperial - freeing herself from her grasp. “I’m no Fontaine Motierre, Aries. I have little desire to betray you.”
Having her hand being slapped away was precisely what Aries was looking for, prompting an earnest smile even if Raelynn’s words that followed provided some cause for concern -- her word only mattered so much. At least she felt validated in knowing how fluently she could read her like a book. She leaned back into her own personal space.
“I hope not.” She replied. “Though I’m interested in how you quantify little.
Should I be worried?”
“Likewise, should I?” Raelynn replied softly. The implication behind such a statement clear as crystal.
It was a setback in regard to trust -- that’s all it took to revive her suspicion of Raelynn, but there was no doubt that Aries kind of enjoyed her company, which is more than she could say for most of the company she kept these days. She finished the cup of tea that was delivered to her with one last swig and handed it back to Raelynn, an air of finality beginning to envelop their conversation.
“No matter. I’ve appreciated your candor. If ever in the future should you take up issue with one of the group decisions being made, or yet another
hasty decision on Daro’Vasora’s part, come to me and I’ll give you my advice on how to proceed. Unfortunately, I must be a little too… bold
for their palate. You would have to relay them on your own.”
It hadn’t been easy feat, to walk into the lion's den and sit herself upon the paw, stare directly up into the jaws. But nothing that was necessary was ever easy, Raelynn just had to remain ever mindful that lions had claws. And teeth for that matter. But she could at least strike this from her list, and as long as she and Aries were working alongside each other, it was friction she could push to the back of her mind. Their meeting had not been without genuine pleasantries either. Gods
it was nice to be in the company of someone from home, awkward history aside. It gave her an idea. “I understand the difficult position you’ve been put into. I don’t believe you were expecting affairs such as these, were you? Rest assured, Ambassador, that my priority today and for the foreseeable is to ensure that each of us makes it through this war in one piece, back to our homes that I also hope remain in one piece, your counsel is one I can certainly make use of.”
Raelynn held her finger up in a quick point, before bringing it to her lips, her eyes trailed to the floor to observe her own mug where it sat. “You are too bold indeed, I know how it feels to be in that position with this group. Be seen with me and I can assure you that you will become far more palatable in their eyes soon enough - perhaps so much so that I shant need to be your little bird.”
“Perhaps.” Aries muttered thoughtfully. “As far as counsel goes, let some be my parting gift to you. Gregor? Do budget your time spent with him. I’m sure you love him, faults and all, but he sealed his own fate and he’ll only bring you down with him. He doesn't deserve you, but if you stay with him, you deserve what you get.”
On that threatening note, Aries leaned back in, her voice hushed, “You want your power back? You want to keep it? Ask any chef how to prepare a lamb, darling, and they’ll tell you that you have to trim a little bit of fat.”
“It is just as well then that I am no lamb,” she said with a half smile, a glimmer in her eyes, and a spark in her purr. If that was a veiled threat, then it had simply been water off a duck’s back. For now however, Aries could see her as a lamb all she wanted... But in time, and through action, she would discover that Raelynn was in fact the wolf, through and through. There was no way that Raelynn would outright rebuke her suggestion, but she did ponder over whether there was something in a little distance from Gregor - even if only superficially. “But I shall remember your words Ambassador, and I shall not forget your time this morning. That said - I promised I’d take my leave once you’d taken your medicine…”
After clearing her throat, she rose from the stool - and in the same was as she had ran her hands over the fabric of her cloak when she sat, she did the same again upon standing. “This talk of chefs and of lamb, you have truly given me food for thought. I hope that I’ve done the same for you…” With the two empty cups in hand, she gave Aries a polite curtsy -- even pushing a foot back to bend her knee just so. “I wish you a restful day, and I hope your mind clears. Until next time.”
Now that it had all been said, Raelynn made her way elegantly from the tent, her footsteps silent as she went with the empty mugs in hand. As she glanced into them, she could see the last of the tea leaves sitting in the bottom of each, if she was a woman with a predisposition for the mystic, perhaps she could have gauged something telling on what was to come based on the different ways they had settled. Or perhaps that was a load of nonsense, and with a sigh she placed them on the ground close to the fire. She supposed that Calen would have to wait for his own liquid vigour. After Raelynn had put decent distance between Aries’ tent and herself, she exhaled a long breath, as if the stress of the situation had caught up with her. That could have gone so
many ways - the Breton was relieved it had gone as it had. She had survived her visit into the lion’s den - and had come out not only unscathed, but with vigour of her own.
Likewise, Aries found herself alone in her tent pondering over what had just transpired. She felt slightly blindsided by what unfolded moments ago, not expecting to have the conversation she just had from an unlikely source, nor the budding relationship that might later blossom into something fruitful. She was full of surprises, that one; there was something to be said about being easy to underestimate, and even if Aries herself came of it on top -- or so she felt -- there was no guarantee that would always be the case, especially now that her ambitions have become emboldened. There was still the matter of her acquaintanceship with Gregor and the complications that
invited, but if they were even remotely similar, then love wouldn’t be a good enough reason to sacrifice herself. Still
, she couldn’t help but wonder if righteousness had won out today. Should she have been harder on her, warn her of the punishment awaiting her, or was she right in offering her a chance for atonement? Until that tree comes to bear fruit, its knowledge remained out of reach.
Maybe it was foolish to reach for justice in this new world, especially with her own bloodied hands, but was that a good enough reason to stop? It was all she could do to preserve some sense of order.
“Bloody hands can’t be a good enough reason.” Aries muttered to herself. “If it was, what purpose would an Empire serve?”
Perhaps that went both ways, though. Was it reason enough to tolerate the so-called “tragic couple,” even if only for so long? Could she acknowledge them as more than just the perversion of justice? Maybe… Gregor certainly had no chance, but maybe this woman did.