Status

Recent Statuses

21 days ago
Current Happy New Year!
2 mos ago
On my home today finally =)
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2 mos ago
Heading to bed and then starting my trip to Orlando tomorrow. Will be on during my trip when able!
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2 mos ago
Cold came back with a vengeance and have been crazy busy. Posts tomorrow!
3 mos ago
I am under the weather, hopefully I'll be back to writing tomorrow =(

Bio

About Me:
I'm in my mid-30s, happily married with two young children. I've been role-playing since I was 14 years old, starting with AOL chatrooms and instant messenger (the dark days), before graduating to IRC, Gaia, RPNation, and then this website. When not roleplaying I am a GM of a raiding guild on Stormrage server, play on a couple breedable websites, listen to Kpop, consume small amounts of more adult-oriented anime, manga, TV shows (sci fi, fantasy, drama, Korean), and binge on romance.

I'd love to get to know other RP folks, especially if you're my age!

What I like/want in RPs:
Romance (necessity, I respect not everyone likes it)
At least 2 paragraphs per post
Sci Fi, (High, Low, Urban) Fantasy, Futuristic, Supernatural, some modern or psuedo-historical
Someone who plays male characters
Plots that allow me not to have to write realistic melee action (but I love to read it!)
Characters 18+
Players 18+
Intrigue/mystery in a story
Cooperative world building

What I don't like:
Players under 18
Children or teenage characters
Western or prehistoric settings
Plots with only action
Almost all furry/anthro pairings
G-rated romance

Message me if you think we'd be good RP partners for each other! Please note I do require romance, though I certainly do NOT want that to be the summation of the story. I also adore romances that have conflict and disagreement just like actual real relationships have. Some mundanes/players believe that all love stories develop "organically" in the story- but my real life experience has taught me you can have no chemistry with someone that would be great for you, all the chemistry in the world for someone you never thought you'd like, and romance is not 'organic' and predictable in practice. As a mundane/player we make the decision for romance because, quite frankly, we aren't the characters no matter how alive they might feel. They don't truly exist physically to have chemistry. If you feel differently we will not be a good fit for each other.

Additionally, I require players separate themselves from this characters. This should go without saying, but just because we write a romance together does not mean there are real feelings beneath. I am truly happily married. Please, please, please don't expect any fiction to translate into real life.

Most Recent Posts

The two Kalderi were silent and, at first, the Bonaventure's crew worried there had been something lost in translation. Belatedly Solae noticed their mouths were moving inside their helmets, the pair of aliens utilizing a private communication between their suits, undoubtedly discussing how they wanted to respond. The duchess waited patiently; they were the guests arriving uninvited and imposing upon what little good will the Kalderi had for the Stellar Empire. Rosaria discreetly glanced at Rene, who stood stoically, taking his lead from his fiancee. No one truly knew what they were doing, but they had no better strategy than relying on the intuition and expertise of the only diplomat present.

"We would know the names of everyone on board," one of Kalderi finally announced. Their armored attire was so bulky it was impossible to discern gender with any certainty, but the voice sounded pointedly more feminine than either of the two that had been channeled through their speakers on arrival. It was somewhat reassuring to know the species at least had sexual dimorphism. The similarities between the races would make their negotiations significantly easier. Slavers like Thorne chose to ignore shared traits because differences were what allowed them to claim superiority, subjugate, and reduce others to the status of animals. This ignorant way of viewing the universe was what she hoped would lead to the downfall of the prejudiced.

"This is my Lieutenant Colonel Rene Quentain, my chief of security," Solae introduced, deciding she would disclose his duty as a military attache at a later time. She did want to give the impression she came to their system with any warlike intentions. "My other companions are my handmaiden, Rosaria, and my two bodyguards, Yarue and Dasin," she continued with a gesture to each. The Kalderi gave short nods of acknowledgment but lingered the longest on the two Syshin. There were no records of the Kalderi and Syshin ever having met, although it was possible they had and humanity had simply not been privy to the information.

"Duchess Solae Falia, did you buy these Syshin?" the secondly Kalderi asked candidly, the deeper voice indicative of the individual being male. If she had been the typical noble she would have not hesitated to assert she had proudly, but as lucky would have it she was not, and instead interpreted the query as a thinly veiled accusation against her moral character.

"Absolutely not. They are here by choice and their own free will. I value all life, whether it be human, Syshin, Kalderi, or synthetic. If you were to come to a mutual agreement with Yarue and Dasin for them to stay on one of your planets, they would have my blessing, as I would never prevent them from living their lives as they see fit," she bristled slightly. Typically this sort of first greeting ought to be full of warm smiles or professional detachment, but her flare of anger and indignation proved her words genuine, and conveyed to the Kalderi how serious she was about her philosophy.

"Many of your people own Syshin as slaves," the female Kalderi pointed out, glancing to Yarue and Dasin for any sign they were unwilling captives that were in need of a rescue. All she saw was the two shifting their weight uncomfortably, restless in their garments, apparently bored or frustrated with the formality of the discussion.

"That is true, and something I hope to change," Solae declared with honest passion. "No Syshin has, to the best of my knowledge, ever been appointed as a bodyguard, much less by a duchess. I come to you prepared to forge those new paths with both the Syshin at my side and with you, the Kalderi." The empress had given her legitimacy but she doubted that the ruler of the human empire was prepared for her newest appointment to be quite so bold. There would be ripples when word reached Capella what she had done, negative consequences along with the positive, and a risk of social stigmata. She had made a monumental gamble, but a gamble none-the-less. Taking risks was the only chance for progress, but Rene probably appreciated better than most the price she could potentially pay if her plan failed.

"We will inspect your ship," the male Kalderi declared, satisfied for now with her response. "If the conditions reflect what you say, you will be permitted to land."
Sebastian watched the crown prince talk. It was not the words the royal used so much as the way he said it, the sentences he avoided, the proclamation he felt almost fell off the other man's lips. He could tell from watching the broadcasting footage that Rhiane was developing feelings for her future husband. When she had left for the capital she had been absolutely insistent that she would not be a fool falling in love with an aristocrat that had no hope of reciprocating her feelings. At the time she had walled off her heart successfully and kept her intimate life purely physical- something he suspected was the basis for her marriage proposals. To the merchants and farmers of this town she was an ideal candidate: not seeking romance, sensual, financially successful, able to keep and run a household on her own, open to satisfying them sexually without needing real affection, with no divorces or illegitimate children to worry about. There had been no reason to suspect that Rhiane would change, and yet she had. Sebastian could see it in her subtle glances and body language during the daily reports on the tour. It would not be long until others could as well.

But what was more surprising than the stubborn brunette harboring an infatuation was that he thought Luke genuinely cared for her. He did not admit it outright to Sebastian, but he alluded to it, and the very way he referred to her made it seem as if the pair had already exchanged their vows. Something in the heir to the throne's disposition struck him as protective and possessive as a man speaking of his wife. This was no longer a discussion purely about the rebellion. Luke wanted to shield the princess elect with the same determination and fervor as his sister and mother. Perhaps Rhiane did not see it yet, but this was proof the engagement had transcended beyond political arrangement.

"The rebellion may be united against the crown," Sebastian said slowly, "but there are factions within it, I agree. It is suspicious that it's so well-funded," he conceded, "but I am not a member of the so-called revolution, Prince Alessandro. When Rhi still lived at home she refused them what must have been a dozen times," he elaborated, not realizing that this was news to Luke. His lover had suggested she had been visited, but had purposefully withheld how many overtures were made. "Hubert and Gerard followed her lead. After she left, they didn't want to be part of a movement that went against her, even if her joining the contest was the reason for their estrangement. As much as they hate the monarchy right now, they love her, and don't want to endorse a group that has anyone in it that wants to make her a martyr."

He leaned back against the back of the bench. "No matter what we do, there will probably always be someone who wishes her harm. I'm telling you, from what I do know, the rumor you are sleeping together is having an affect. Consider the logic," Sebastian urged. "If there is someone behind it, someone who does not care about the common folk, one of their chief motivations for killing her is to frame the royal family. How well could they convince the world you'd murder someone carrying your child? Or the queen would? The nation would unite in sympathy and outrage. It wouldn't galvanize the people against the crown, it would make them more loyal." For a moment he paused. Sebastian hesitated to speculate even mentally, but if Queen Camilla was having doubts about her future daughter-in-law, she could assassinate her valuable pawn to try to capitalize on the fame. It was a risky gamble, but one she could take if times were desperate.

"In a single day, I've been told some of the most vocal proponents for Rhi's death have stepped back," the blonde advised, "much to my relief. Unfortunately, this has also increased support for kidnapping her before things become more complicated. This morning's statement and your trip here will have them more panicked and desperate than last night. I would stop them all if I could, but my contacts are outliers, people who read the exchanges but don't participate in any of the plans. Quite honestly, my concern is what Rhi would do. She's always..." he drifted off.

There was no kind way to say that Rhiane had an unhealthy fixation on her own demise. From her perspective, it could be an opportunity to die while she still had control, before her life spiraled into misery. It was easy for Sebastian to imagine a scenario in which she'd seize upon the chance to meet a premature end before enduring a relationship that would only end in tragedy and one-sided heartbreak, and before she was weaponized against Luke, assuming Sebastian was not mistaken about the blossoming romantic feelings. He leaned forward and rubbed his face before running his hands through his hair. Quietly he resolved to ask her what her thoughts were about the rebellion to gauge her potential response to an abduction.

A soft pinging alert went off on Luke's device- a message from Tobias. She appears to be having a nightmare. Wake her up now? it asked. Without Luke's reassuring presence, it was not a shock that the still-traumatized woman was struggling in the land of dreams, plagued by her recent memories.
Sebastian sighed at the questions posed to him. His eyes wandered back towards the corner of the building that obstructed his view of the SUV that contained his beloved sister-in-law, though legally they were not bound as family in any way, as Gerard had been reluctant to wed when he was unable to provide a proper ceremony. He appreciated that the crown prince was letting his fiancee sleep, as he could only imagine how exhausted she was from all her responsibilities, but he selfishly wished she'd wake soon so he have her companionship. They all missed her hugs, her chastising tirades, her cooking, her witty sense of humor, her shrewd commentary on their fellow villagers and the world at large. It was not until someone was pulled out of one's life that they could see the true value of the individual.

"Before she left for the contest she had a few marriage proposals," Sebastian began, crossing one leg over the other thoughtfully. He knew that Luke had a wealth of information at his fingertips, but there were many things that had not been observed and recorded, and which Rhiane would not disclose of her own volition. "Other farmers and merchants that were acquaintances made offers, but they weren't exactly... romantic. I don't think she's ever had anyone give her flowers. She's talked about growing roses, but the last bush she planted died. Of the ones she has been able to grow, she likes the peonies." It was the best advice he could give the royal. Because she had never wanted a relationship, and rebuffed anyone who showed the slightest bit of amorous interest, it was hard to exactly gauge what might help win her over now that she had entered in a formal political engagement.

"The rebellion is nervous about you and Rhi getting close. For those of them that want to make her into a martyr, they know it will be next to impossible to frame you and the queen if she becomes pregnant, as that's the goal of this arrangement. Many of them will refuse to kill her if there's a chance that she's carrying child since that is a boundary they are unwilling to cross morally. For those of them that want to turn her to their side, they know if she gets attached to you she'll be more reluctant to join their cause, and that becomes infinitely more complicated if she conceives. The world would be less sympathetic if they thought you were be kept from your own child." He fell quiet for a moment to let his words sink in for the other man. It was unlikely that the couple had been making these calculations when they shared a bed and sought out each other physically. The possibility of pregnancy had been ever-present, but he doubted they had anticipated how dramatically this changed their situation, and how permanently it would affect everything.

"If I can be frank with you," Sebastian said, glancing at the unfriendly face of Nolan, before looking at Luke directly, "I don't think the rebellion is interested in anyone except you, Rhi, and your mother. The people like Princess Callista, and they don't see your half-brothers as a threat. I don't know that it is possible to prevent them from getting to Rhi. I don't know who the insiders in the castle are, just that they are close, and they are growing more desperate to rescue her from you. It might not be a matter of stopping them from taking her, but asking yourself what she will do when it happens." He leaned back and contemplated the scenario himself. On broadcast the princess elect was charming, warm, and caring, but in private she was fearless and determined. Already he could imagine her giving the revolution's members a tongue lashing for their mishandling.

But no matter how much Luke might protest he could keep her secure, that he would not fail, that the rebellion would not have a victory over him, there was no guarantee his success would continue. Ultimately it would fall upon the sultry brunette to make the pivotal decision about to whom she owed an allegiance. "The rebellion's already sent Hubert anonymous offers to help him relocate, to give him the financial security that the queen's stipend provides," Sebastian admitted. "He's refused, but..." He shook his head. If the chief reason that Rhiane had volunteered herself as a candidate was removed, and her family was no longer a factor, it came down to feelings. She would either side with the revolution's ideals, their protection, their acceptance, their liberty, or she would side with Luke because she loved him, believed in change, and was willing to have a premature death while surrounded by sneering aristocrats. Sebastian was not bold enough to say it aloud, but the scales were not tipped in the favor of the monarchy.
It was easier and more practical to get Rosaria in her dress before Solae tackled her own. The handmaiden-in-training did not have experience with courtly finery for formal affairs. As a result, the duchess helped her step into the glimmering soft grey ensemble that Ten had provided tailored for the teenager's use. Protocol dictated that a handmaiden was to look refined and elegant, but their adornments should not steal attention from those they served, and thus the design was more plain than it would have been if she was of higher station. The criminal mastermind had also been careful to select something with sleeves to conceal healing injuries and scars. Draped silk was more snug around her torso and upper arms, flowing from her elbows to her wrists, and from her waist to the floor. Fabric was gathered around the right shoulder and crossed to the opposite side's hip for visual interest. A noble familiar with the subtleties of fashion would know that this was meant to be a nod to the fact a handmaiden was the 'right hand' of her mistress.

The newly appointed duchess wore the Falia family colors, a deep, cerulean blue, that edged on the color of a night sky or the depths of the ocean, and a glimmering, pale gold, which mimicked the treasured unnatural hair color they had cultivated through genetic manipulation. Her gown was a jeweled dark sapphire with a fitted bodice and modest neckline, the sleeves of which were semi-sheer. All of the edges of the garment were decorated with aureate crystals that glittered when they were under any form of illumination. There was a great deal more latitude given to women than men when they were trying to passively assert their title in an appropriate setting. So long as they were faithful to the two tones appointed to them they could take liberties, but it was a faux pas to expose cleavage or scandalous amounts of skin. The skirt of the gown swept the floor with a short train that could be carried if need. Personally Solae preferred a more adventurous style, and specifically sought out dresses that were at the knee in the front and to the ankle in the back, as it was a dramatic effect she admired, but she wanted to be conservative with the Kalderi until she knew their levels of tolerance.

Upon her breast she pinned the emblem of the Falia family line, a fox-like creature who sat turned towards its observer, its tail a bursting star behind it, all of which was on the deep blue background she now honored. The points on the star used to correlate to the number of generations back their ancestry could be traced, but modern technology had shed so much light on history that it was no longer pragmatically possible to do so. One of Solae's great grandfathers had settled on the number ten arbitrarily since it was used as a base for units of measurement. There had been some in-fighting centuries ago to make additional changes, but tradition had won out against aesthetic innovation, and so the crest remained untouched. As she stared at her reflection after affixing the pin to her chest she realized that she had the power now to revise it completely if she wished. Her cousins could object, of course, but the moment she was elevated to duchess she was conveyed an unalienable right to rule over her relatives with every whim. The empress might have already passed this news to them down the proper channels. How they would react to her newfound prestige she did not know.

"Let's go," Solae told Rosaria with a smile as she slipped into her shoes and started towards the door.

"What about the jewelry?" Rosaria inquired, pointing to a locked metallic box of necklaces and a comb tiara that had been packed with her things. At first she opened her mouth to reply that she only wore the tiara with Rene in the evenings, with a sort of playful role-play, but she remembered her audience before a single word fell from her lips. Even if she and the youth had been close companions and of similar ages, she did not think she would ever want to share what she enjoyed in the privacy of the bedroom with her fiance.

"I don't want to appear to imperious," she said as she regained her mental composure. "We are asking them for favor, for understanding, for help. If I adorn myself with too many trinkets I might undermine my asserted humility and they get the wrong impression, turning us away because they think I seek riches. This should be enough, but not too much," Solae murmured, trying to convince herself more than the adolescent. "Let's see how Rene, Yarue, and Dasin are doing. The Kalderi will be here soon."

As she strode out to the hold she was still brushing her hair. Much as she would like to do an elaborate up-do, her hair had grown long enough that this would take more time than they had at present before their 'guests' arrived, and there was no one who could assist her well enough to execute the tight braids and bindings required. The best she could manage was to tie it back above the neck, twisting it upon itself once before securing it with a lacquered clip painted with an iridescent glaze design portraying a nebula. It was not as exact a match to her gown as she had hoped, but it did not clash nor look terribly out of place.

"Are you ready?" she asked, giving Rene a chaste kiss before withdrawing to take in his regalia. "Did I ever tell you how fond I am of a man in uniform?" Solae teased albeit not insincerely.
Fortunately for royal poised on the doorstep with his bodyguard, it was neither the ill-tempered Hubert Black nor his irascible son Gerard Black that answered the knocking, but the latter's life partner, Sebastian. It was immediately apparent that man was an immigrant or the son of one. His hair was long and pale blond, his shoulders broad, and his features unmistakably from the northern reaches of Europe, beyond New Rome's borders. He was also tall and muscular, measuring a few inches above six feet in height, and powerfully built from his years spent toiling on the fields. This might have made him an intimidating figure had it not been for the calm demeanor evident in both his expressions and his body language. Sebastian was slow to anger, relying on his strength only when willfully provoked, and was otherwise called a "big teddy bear" by Rhiane. Arguably this what made him function so well in a family with short fuses. They all took his frustrations more seriously, since it flared so infrequently, as they respected the gravity of the cause.

"I didn't expect you would actually come, Prince Alessandro," he admitted. "Where is Rhi?" His gaze traveled over towards the parked SUV. The windows were tinted but he could surmise that she was inside, though he'd prefer to hear it from the lips of his guest rather than relying on the assumption she was here and safe. "We shouldn't go inside until she's ready. They hate the monarchy, it's why they're estranged with Rhi, so taking you to them would be like lobbing an incendiary round. She can control them better than I can alone," Sebastian explained as he stepped outside and closed the door behind him softly. There was no hiding Luke's arrival, but he could at least keep the parties separate for a short amount of time. There was a slim chance, although extremely small, that the other two might cool down instead of stew in righteous fury.

With a wave of his hand he gestured towards the side of the building where there was a short stone fence. He neither lead the way nor strayed behind, walking comfortably near and almost beside the prince, assuming the heir to the throne joined him. "We can talk in Rhi's garden," he told him just as they arrived at the wooden gate for the enclosed space. Gently pushing it open, and holding it for Luke, he glanced over the flowers wistfully. The garden was filled with carefully tended plant beds, brilliant brooms bursting out of the ground. It had been designed so that there was always something in season- the winter would bring primrose, pansies, and jasmine. Since Rhiane had left for the contest it was Sebastian who had taken responsibility for its upkeep and management.

The casual way he referred to the future queen by 'Rhi' made it clear how close they were. As of yet not even Tobias had been encouraged to call her anything except her first name, which was indicative of the walls she kept between herself and those at the palace, and how she realized that they were not at the same level of friendship. Sebastian, her father, and her brother would die for her, but the castle would have her die for them, a sacrifice for the stability of their country and to keep the social structure intact. It was this difference that had prevented Rhiane from divulging that anyone shortened her name in affection. Luke had slept with his fiancee, but his relationship was not as strong as the blonde foreigner that stood beside him patiently.

"What really brings you here? Rhi would have never volunteered a visit, and you have more things to worry about than trying to make a good impression or convince them to reconcile... unless the rumors are true and you have honestly taken to each other," he mused aloud. Sebastian did not hate Luke the way his lover did, but he was also not a fun of the sovereign's eldest son, instead withholding his judgment entirely. His chief concern was how Rhiane herself was affected. If she was happy and content then he would be as well, but it was hard to imagine that any aristocrat, much less a member of the royal family, would sincerely care for a peasant, and he knew the complications that the former farmer brought to the table all too well. She threw up barriers, held nearly everyone at an arm's length, and pursued a fevered dream of retaining perfect agency over her own mortality.

Sebastian walked to a bench in the center of the garden and sat down heavily. His button down shirt was rolled halfway up his forearm and his dark colored trousers were made of a thick, tightly woven fabric that made them resistant to damage and ideal for labor. Off a belt looped through his trousers hung a communication device and tools including shears for trimming shrubs, a utility knife whose blade had worn down considerably, a flask for water, and a large keychain. Before they knew that the plane would be landing they had already been walking the rows of crops and examining their harvest, returning only to the house when it became necessary.
"You have entered a Kalderi system without approval," a sharp voice announced once the hailing was patched through to their speakers. There was no visual but Solae need not ask why; the timbre was sufficiently unfriendly she could surmise they were not welcome enough to deserve a 'face-to-face' greeting over the respective vessel systems. Despite the hostility of the voice it was strangely lyrical, syllables dancing on invisible musical bars, emphasizing the simple statement with an auditory intonation that was foreign to every tongue the linguist had mastered over the years. They were being addressed in common yet it was spoken unlike she had ever heard before. Were she to hazard a guess it would be that the Kalderi had a different vocal range, and much like the Syshin could hiss or make sounds their human counterparts could not, and that it added a unique color to their articulations.

"I apologize," the duchess replied smoothly. "We did not know the protocol. Would it be possible to be granted a meeting to speak with a representative of the Kalderi people?" She purposefully withheld the reason for their visit. Experience had taught her it was better to let them make the wrong assumption so that the truth of their intentions was shed in a more positive light when revealed. If all went well, these first steps of diplomacy would be studied and reviewed for years to come, every word scrutinized to determine what she did well, what she did adequately, and what she did poorly. The notion of being history made Solae blanche slightly; even if she intended to make it, she did not relish being in the limelight, and had no ambitions towards power other than helping to bright about social justice and understanding.

"The Kalderi have no interest in trading with your merchants today," the other voice declared dismissively, clearly expecting this to be the end of the conversation. "You will depart the system once your ship is capable of leaving," it went to further warn. The idle warships possessed sophisticated technology and could, at a glance, sweep the cooling Bonaventure and discern the vessel was incapable of immediately engaging its jump drive.

"We did not bring wares to sell. My name is Duchess Falia, and I have my attache and fiance, Rene Quentain with me, my handmaiden Rosaria, and my two bodyguards, Yarue and Dasin with me. I've come in hopes to learn of your people, to speak with you about the relationship between the Kalderi and the Stellar Empire, and to rest. We are not looking for coin or weapons," she added thoughtfully, trying to create a distance between herself and the humans they typically dealt with on any regular basis.

"You wish to learn of the Kalderi?" the voice asked skeptically and incredulously. This was an exceedingly abnormal request. In the history of the Kalderi, they could count one hand the number of times a human had shown such interest. There was an implicit high risk with little reward for citizens of the empire. The Kalderi could kill anyone who came into their territory with impunity, had no incentive to accommodate humanity, and had made it clear the secrets to their advanced civilization would never be disclosed to an inferior species. Only a individual of pure curiosity, with no ulterior motives to hide, with resources enough to make the journey, with the courage to approach, with a keen intellect to comprehend, and with humility to accept it was not wisdom to which they were entitled could have done such a thing.

Solae was the fourth to seek the Kalderi with such an entreaty, and the first of those to allege outright she was not interested in their armaments. More remarkably, however, she was the first human they had seen in the company of Syshin given appointment and referred to by name. There was a prolonged silence as a hush fell over the respective communication systems. The freighter's crew glanced at once another nervously, afraid to broadcast anything, apprehensive about how their plea had been received.

"Prepare to be boarded to confirm what you say is true," a new, deeper Kalderi voice told them as a jeweled spacecraft slowly glided forwarded. An unusual situation necessitated an equally unusual response. The 'aliens' had deemed the best course of action was to determine the voracity of Solae's assertions by observing their 'guests' in the flesh before allowing them passage to the moon. They doubted that Yarue and Dasin were there of their own volition but recognized they could not pass final judgment via message transmissions. Body language and behavior must be observed to deduce if they had been enslaved. If there was the slightest hint of violence, deception, or an antagonism, it was also the cleanest way for the Kalderi to dispatch of the wayward interlopers.

"I understand. We open our hatch once you are docked," the aristocrat confirmed calmly. Inwardly she was panicked, wondering if she had led innocents astray, and dooming them all. There was no other choice. They had to prove themselves before they could or would be trusted; still, the Kalderi were more of a threat to than Duke Tan, as the latter could not vaporize nearly as efficiently nor without consequence.
"I didn't lie," Rhiane protested, which was factually true upon review of the exact statement she had given. "My comments were honest, they just were arranged in a way that might have misled, but the fault remains with them if they draw the wrong conclusions." It was a tactic that mitigated, or perhaps absolved, her of blame if later something was divulged by a third party that was more forthright or added a damaging amount of clarity. Some of the aristocracy was purposefully deceptive. Other members of the nobility refused to answer questions. Even Luke had to utilize social sidestepping in delicate situations; but while his audience was limited to New Rome's elite, she did not have luxury of ignoring the public. The princess elect had to be open, but not offensive, kind, but not a bleeding heart, compassionate, but able to be composed at any time. Luke had more responsibility than she did, but she had equally impossible expectations for behavior, all while knowing she'd still be killed and forgotten one day, and the upper echelon of the society would scorn her irregardless of her performance.

With a heavy sigh she took his hand, interlacing her fingers, and stared out a window at the landscape. Though there was still a short drive ahead of them, and they were not technically in her home town quite yet, the area was still familiar, as occasionally she had traversed this same route to get supplies from the nearest city. Rolling hills gave way to a seemingly endless expanse of flat plain perfect for farming. Houses were spaced farther apart and periodically dwarfed by large barns for a green sea of pasture. She recognized properties of her former peers, former trade partners, former one-night stands, and acquaintances that would frequent the same bar she did after a long day of toiling in the fields.

Rhiane remembered during an interview during the contest that a reporter once told her that her talent had been wasted in the countryside. At the time she had taken the compliment and thought little of it. Now she pondered whether she had ever belonged in the rural outcroppings of the nation. She had felt she had applied her skills well in saving her business from the verge of collapse, in managing her father and brother, in keeping a household intact, and giving more than she took. Becoming the princess elect had spun all of it on its head. To say that she was happy in the castle would be wrong, but on the tour she began to feel she might belong there one day, that in applying herself on a larger stage she was securing a legacy that would endure beyond one family. There was a small chance she could improve everyone's lives.

"I don't know I'll ever be ready for this. I had hoped if left alone they'd calm down in time for the wedding," she murmured in contemplation. Considering that the wedding had yet to be officially scheduled, it was a generous window of time, months in all likelihood. "If you really meant what you said back there about the dress, that's the sort of thing that will leave a better impression with them. They'd think more highly of you if they thought you worried about me attracting or having unwanted attention." Both men had at one point tried to chase away 'unworthy' men that tried to make a match with the willful Rhiane. They might never see Luke as deserving, but they'd be slightly less skeptical if they saw him as possessive, as that would indicate he cared enough about her to be unwilling to share his prize.

Her grip slackened slightly as she began to doze. The interlude at the spa was meant to give her rest after a restless night and taxing day, but her romp with Luke had not been brief. Unfortunately, she also was not able to sleep in late, as they had to catch a plane early to make this impromptu visit. Rhiane had slept deeply when she did, but she was lulled into a sense of security while Luke held her hand, and the nap was sorely needed if she was going to keep having her evening hours interrupted by more sensual needs and urges being fulfilled.

----

The Black Farm had a small stone sign at the end of a long gravel driveway flanked by leafy shrubs. Rows of crops, most harvested but with some waiting to be plucked, stretched out on both sides of the path that functioned as a natural divider. As the SUV turned and began to rumble towards the house they could see neat sections devoted to the produce and vegetables that were sold in bushels and crates by the farming family. Trellises of grapes rose out of the earth the closer they drew to the building ahead. Ripe purple and red bunches glistened with dew as the sun crept higher into the sky. It was true that farms were dirty, evidenced by the dirt that coated the lower half of their vehicle, but it was remarkably picturesque, due in no small part to the slumbering brunette who had organized it with carefully planning and a critical eye.

"Do you want me to wake her?" Tobias asked as they came to a soft stop. Ahead lay a two-story residence with a pale yellow stucco and clay tile roof as was the traditional architecture of the area. It was bigger than others in the area, though not at all comparable to the mansions with which Luke was accustomed. When Rhiane had vaguely alluded to it she had described as 'small' and 'humble,' but a cursory glance suggested it had enough rooms for everyone living inside to have their space and not need to share beds. The Black family had been poor, and in debt, but the home itself had been built by previous generations, and their success had left the current occupants with a better house than they could have otherwise afforded.
Although Luke had cautioned Rhiane against ignoring Anelle, that was precisely what she did when the so-called Image Manager made her rather patronizing remarks dressed as concerned warnings. The princess elect was far too focused on the task at hand to let an ex-lover's petty jabs be a distraction. "Trust me," she whispered into her betrothed's ear as they approached the line of reporters and gawkers. Tobias stood resolute from his position in front of and slightly to the side of his charge. Had it been appropriate to do so she might have laughed at how even the most eager correspondent gave the tall, stoic man a wide berth. The crown prince's cousin has a handsome face, but the display of affection on the plane had left him in a poor mood, and the foreboding aura around him dissuaded anyone from getting too close to him, much less either of the royals that had approached. Quietly she wondered if his protective streak was purely platonic.

"It is nice to some familiar faces," she said as her gaze drifted over the crowd. Her congeniality was a stark departure from how most of the aristocracy treated broadcasters like vultures. Rhiane's warm disposition towards them was not without it's benefits; many of them were reluctant to paint her in a negative light, not only because she was a charismatic beauty they personally liked, but because harsh critics might have less cooperation and access. They all understood she was being more generous with the press than was required or necessary. "Ah, Mr. Ricci," she said remarked at one gentleman in particular. "Didn't I just read you celebrated a twentieth wedding anniversary? My congratulations to you both." People smiled, the crowd of commoners excitedly whispered to one another, and her excellent memory started the impromptu meeting with a positive impression.

"I have to admit that I was looking over the commentary from yesterday," she began, "and I realized I owed you all an explanation. In the morning and afternoon I wore a dress... well, I'm sure you all recall, it was quite memorable, wasn't it?" This elicited nods and a few grins. The way she wove a story was not so casual that it was improper, but also was not so detached that it felt like a prepared transcript. "After lunch I was quite cold, even after Prince Luke generously lent me his jacket," she explained elegantly, "I was so excited to wear something new I did not consider the weather, and he rightly was frustrated that I didn't select clothing that would keep me warm throughout the day, especially with my recent health. We had no time to discuss the matter and we knew the tour was an important commitment, so we carried on, though it did not escape your collective notice we were not ourselves. I did not intend to tell all of you this, but I could not bear the thought of rumors making rash assumptions, especially when it was all over a very beautiful garment that has poor insulation," she said with a flashed smile.

It was nothing short of amazing how Rhiane could tell the truth and yet expertly mislead her audience. It was true that Luke lent his jacket and that he was annoyed she was half-frozen in the ride to the farms, but she left out how he'd prefer she endure over changing into peasant attire. By steering around this fact and instead navigating towards other genuine statements she fell onto her proverbial sword, presenting herself as innocently enthusiastic about her new life and thus unintentionally careless, with the heir to the throne a gleaming example of an ideal partner. With one fell swoop she had erased the blemish on their record and reinstated their fairy tale fantasy. The nobility would not have an avenue with which to mar their reputation with gossip; after all, in their eyes she was only a tool and property, and they could not fault him for wanting to keep her in 'good condition.'

"And you've talked things over now, Ms. Black?" one bold correspondent called out from the back.

"Well, I'm not wearing a sleeveless dress with a skirt above the knees today, am I?" she joked. "I have learned my lesson. I underestimated the chill of the higher elevation in the mountains," she added sincerely, "and I could be barely coaxed out of my hot bath last night. Today I am introducing Prince Luke to my family, so it was important to dress more conservatively, or else my father would disapprove on principal," Rhiane told them with such an effervescent charm that they now appeared more like jubilant fans than cunning journalists looking for an angle. It was hard not to like the princess elect; she was relatable on both sides of the poverty line and knew how to present herself without loosing this appeal.

"We have to be off to meet my family," she continued "both the living and the deceased, so I hope you will honor our request for privacy today."
In The Betrothed 10 days ago Forum: 1x1 Roleplay
Disappoint flashed over Rhiane's features as Luke again refused to consider letting her finish the tour by herself. No amount of reassurances that she would travel again in the future could truly pacify her. She knew that what her betrothed might wish to have happen and what the crown would pragmatically allow were far different beasts. There was every possibility that once she was sent back to the palace that they would determine that the threat of the rebellion was too great, the danger too her life too significant, and that her focus would need to be narrowed to producing an heir as quickly as possible. The wedding would still take place, of course, with copious amounts of celebration, broadcasting coverage, and interviews with reputable reporters that would edit the footage favorably, but her chief duty besides providing a positive image for the royalty was procreation. Queen Camilla would consider this concern when reviewing travel plan requests.

What the prince perhaps did not appreciate was how much his lover adored the journey. When out in the public she flourished, her charisma even more contagious and endearing than when digitized on a screen, and skeptics were won over every minute she spoke. She was warm, understanding, encouraging, and did not flounder under difficult questions, critics, or difficulties. For her it was not a begrudging responsibility that she was forced to accept. Every event made her glow with joy and pride, made her smile larger when recounting the day, made fond memories she would forever cherish no matter how exhausted she was immediately after their activities. The Rhiane that had been at the engagement ball was a positive tool for the monarchy to use. Only a week after she had been set 'free' to roam the country she had become more invaluable and beloved, but she had also thrived unexpectedly, brilliantly radiating a sense of fulfillment that had not been there before. The derelict corners of the empire and the decadent estates were equally prized. To imagine having it ripped all away caused her physical pain.

The light at the end of the proverbial tunnel was his throwaway comment that Callie, her future sister-in-law, might try to convince her to attend 'commitments' with her. Rhiane brightened slightly at the prospect as she asked, "Do you really think she'd take me with her?" From what little she knew of Luke's younger sister, she had a feeling that they would be fast friends, as the woman was the only one besides Tobias who had not exhibited a bias towards her due to her previous commoner status. That there was anyone that would want her company was exciting. Her fiance had been with her mostly due to obligation, the solitary bodyguard that sincerely cared for her was too reluctant to admit he craved her presence, her family was regrettably estranged, and she did not have close platonic relationships of which to speak. A small smile tugged at the edges of her lips when she thought of all the fun she might have with the only daughter of the sovereign.

What reservations she had about the device he insisted she wear melted away when he leaned forward to kiss her. She relished in the idea of him worrying about her attentions turning towards another man (though impossible). Rhiane's countenance reflected her excitement when he alluded to meeting her needs. In her mind they were reaping the benefits of this arrangement, the endorsement of their trysts, and they need not be ashamed. It had, however, developed into something more. Already she was envisioning what sort of messages and images she might send to torture him so he could think of nothing but his return. This had gone beyond the satisfaction of urges. As their lips met he felt the passion behind the gesture. The same temper that had burned so hotly in jealousy, that made her so prone to simmering in fury, fueled her in different ways when she was not distracted.

While she had honestly not meant to make either Annelle nor Tobias envious, at least the latter of the two was. He suppressed the scowl of disapproval he would have worn if it was appropriate. Lia and Octavia raised their eyebrows at each other, finding it somewhat scandalous but not terribly surprising two highly attractive people were being affectionate, even if it was abnormal for a royal and their future bride. By now it was no secret the pair had progressed to intimacy. The frequency- twice in one day- had been more shocking than the display on the plane. Then again, the chemistry would be to their advantage later as if was genuine it would exponentially more compelling for a televised story.

"Fine, I'll wear it," she conceded, "but one two conditions. One, you carve out some time for me this evening that won't interrupt your work where you can put it on me," the princess elect said in a suggestive whisper that made it clear she would otherwise be in a state of undress, as would he. "Two, you make sure the witch doesn't get ahead of herself and try to buy the ring. I know it's not something you'd purchase personally, and I was fine with Luce selecting on on my behalf, but I don't want to wear a piece of jewelry for the rest of my life that an ex of yours picked out. And don't say it's something she wouldn't do. For precisely that reason she would 'help' and back me into a corner where I'd have to accept."

Taking a deep breath she rose from her seat. Instantly the mask she wore at functions had slid back into place along with her pristine composure. Anelle was the enemy, or at least distrusted enough she earned herself the 'stranger treatment' from Rhiane. There was a blatant lack of amiable familiarity as she exhibited with other staff. "I'd like a few minutes after we deplane to make a statement to the press. Can that be arranged?" she inquired without disclosing what she intended to discuss.
Neither Dasin nor Solae were a particularly gifted cook, but Dasin intuitively knew how to improvise with the ingredients they had on hand, and Solae had a treasure trove of recipes and information through Mia that guided them through to an edible end product. The taste of their meals ranged from adequate to good, though the plating left much to be desired, but perhaps most importantly, the process had genuinely become the first stepping stone of a friendship. Their relationship was still in the beginning stages, but they had grown from polite respect to casual familiarity. They were still discussing how finely a particular starchy root had to be chopped for the dinner dish as they served the rest of the group their platters. Steam curled off the glazed and baked protein entree, a meat curated in laboratories on Zatis where there was no real pasture for livestock, with a vegetable medley side seasoned with herbs. There was no reason to dip into bars and dry rations when Ten had provided more luxurious produce for the short-term.

"How did it go?" the duchess asked Rosaria conversationally as she sat down at the table. Dasin took his place next to Yarue. Socialization had helped to ease the species barriers, but it had not eradicated them completely, and perhaps never would. Idly Solae wondered if the pair of Syshin men would come to treat each other as a substitute twin. In the future she would need to find a way to approach the topic of mates. It felt cruel to have her beloved so close to her when they had not ever had the opportunity to seek out the same sort of companionship. After they resolved matters with the Kalderi they could broach the subject and determine if the Bonaventure could accommodate another couple. She was relatively certain it could be modified to do- but first they had to find the time and resources to make basic repairs the vessel sorely needed.

"I don't want to discuss it," Rosaria stewed as she plopped in her seat. The more distance they put between the ship and Thorne, the more the teenager acted her age. It was strangely reassuring to see the youth brooding. They could never fully undo the trauma and damage caused by a slaver raising a child in her image, but they could do their best to breathe hope into her, to give her as much patience, caring, and understanding as was within their capabilities.

"Don't let how good of a shot Rene is discourage you," she said with a smile. "Ruggedly handsome and quick-footed as he is, I know for a fact there are some things he struggles with. You ought to how quickly he becomes frustrated when he's trying to manually pilot the Bonaventure. And if it's any consolation, you have more potential than I do for physical strength." Solae picked up her utensils and began to carefully slice her filet into bite-sized pieces. No one was supervising her nor judging her etiquette, but it was a habit that was not worth trying to fight, not unless the situation demanded.

"What do you mean?" Rosaria asked, noticeably mollified. Dasin and Yarue gazed at her with rapt attention; they were also curious as to why she was able this assertion. In their eyes the two human female's chief difference was their age. How the elder one jumped to such a factual conclusion was beyond the scope of their knowledge.

"Before I was born, my parents made some modifications to me, one of which was to ensure this hair color," she said calmly with a gesture towards the unnaturally golden lockets. "No one can be perfect. In order for me fit their overall vision, they made sacrifices in other areas, which imparted corresponding limitations. All four of you have endurance superior to mine," she admitted with grace and dignity. Another noblewoman would not dare admit her weakness. In order for this quintet to operate effectively, Solae wanted to be candid, so that they could compliment each other without pride crippling their efforts. It was a small price to pay.

"Are you good with the pistol?" Rosaria asked after a short pause.

"Not as good as Rene," she conceded. She and Rene both knew she was a fine shot. Recent history had proved it came down to a life and death scenario she could handle the weapon better than most, as her focus under extreme conditions, her steady and measured hand, and steel determination kept her from mishandling a firearm. It was the psychological component that hindered her. Solae's empathy and compassion made it exponentially harder for her to reconcile the choice between saving herself at the expense of another or allowing herself to suffer a potentially mortal injury.
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