Status

Recent Statuses

9 days ago
Current @Malice- Do you mean the story itself is heartbreaking or partners disappearing or ditching? I think both could apply!
2 likes
10 days ago
Son passed his Tae Kwon Do belt testing today. Huzzah!
4 likes
12 days ago
It might not be anything personal. It is incredibly hard to be a DM- not everyone has that fortitude. The best DMs I know play in at least one game, and DM another to avoid burnout.
3 likes
15 days ago
Debating taking on one more RP... >__>
2 likes
23 days ago
I always worry after the first few PM exchanges when someone goes silent I've scared them away. =[

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

Tobias gripped the steering wheel more tightly as his gaze flickered to the rear view mirror. He had been intently watching Rhiane the moment she had stepped outside the meeting hall and subjected herself to the merciless cold mountain breezes. The smile that had alighted on her lips for the press was more reserved and strained to his trained eye and her posture more rigid. They had all assumed that when she had been pulled out of the clinic nearly catatonic that she had been broken. Now he was uncertain if they had misjudged, if she hadn't been in shock, and that the heartless projection of her mother's image on royal propaganda hadn't broken her. Whether or not Luke realized the mounting toll on his betrothed he was uncertain. His cousin wasn't acting as if he innately understood the situation, but that could be attributed to arrogance rather than ignorance.

In the years preceding the election of the princess he had become more heavily involved in the rebellion. His identity remained a secret to all but a few among the upper echelons of the resistance, and thus far his double life had yet to be exposed. The goal of the silent bodyguard was to spy upon the palace and, when the time arrived, help to extract whatever hapless girl was trapped by his ruthless aunt. Though his feelings for the sultry brunette had created new complications he was as of yet still devoted to his plan: he would spirit away Rhiane when the perfect opportunity final arose. The ambush of the extremists had nearly foiled him both by making his target a martyr and turning her against his organization completely, but the crown had failed to anticipate every factor properly, and now was veritably pushing the frustrated commoner back to a mental space where she could be rescued.

He shot a quick glance to Nolan who sat beside him. While no words were exchanged his tightly controlled expression still managed to convey that he knew there was an impending explosive response. Rhiane was fatigued, worn, under-dressed for the weather, discouraged, angry, in pain from her arm now that her medication had worn off, distressed at seeing her mother's photograph, and had just been granted two noble-born interlopers that had disparaged her openly on a visit to the people she called kindred spirits. She was a powder keg and the heir to the throne seemed determined to light the fuse and watch the destruction.

"You don't need me to stand in your way?" Rhiane asked incredulously. "What a splendid idea. If you are indeed that confident that you and your dear friends the baron and his wife can create a positive impression with the the masses, as you have proven to be so adept with in the past, then I will gladly request Ms. Viscomi coordinate a separate tour for myself. I certainly wouldn't want to impede your progress."

Her words seemed to echo in the SUV. They had been spoken pleasantly, as if with kindness, but there was no mistaking how deeply offended and irritated the princess elect was. She refused to openly discuss the issue of her philosophies and ideologies with Nolan and the other bodyguards present; short of the procession being stopped and everyone else exiting the car to grant the couple privacy it was not a matter that could be amicably resolved before their field inspection. Only encouragement, flattery, bribery, apologies, or some other empathetic appeal to Rhiane's emotions could smooth things over.

Of course the suggestion was a wretched idea. If the queen had been disapproving of her 'love story' splitting between two parts of the village she'd be apocalyptic about watching press coverage wherein Rhiane was once again missing and, instead of an endearing representative of the peasantry by her son's side, there were two aristocrats. Her absence would lend credence to the theories that the relationship was a farce. Having two highborn people would also, considering the political climate, emphasize the disparity between the farmers and their visitors. It would be nigh impossible to successfully cultivate sympathy. Their differences, the bias, and the favoritism between the classes would been transparent.

Rhiane leaned her head against the window as she stared at the landscape rolling by fixedly. Luke could try to pull rank; anyone could, really, as she had been reminded by Luce all that mattered was her birth. Ultimately she didn't care how they might punish her. Her life felt it had fallen to ruins and all she had control over now was not whether she died, for the reaper pursued her doggedly, but for whose cause she would be slain. At first she had thought it would be fine if she was the sacrificial lamb for the monarchy as she'd have children, and financial security for her family, but the culmination of the last week was filling her with doubts and worries. She wasn't even confident she and Luke were fit to be parents though she had dreamed of a family since she was young.
"You know what I am," she whispered back. Their bodyguards had fallen behind and to the side as was standard protocol. Rhiane clenched her teeth against the shock of cold air that overwhelmed her warmed skin. Leaving the sanctuary of the meeting hall was torturous now that the baron and his wife were in tow. She was bound by certain rules of etiquette in the company of nobility under which she would not suffer had the audience been only peasants. No commoner would question whose coat she wore on her shoulders but the shrewd aristocrats would seize on the opportunity to insult her, impart the offense onto her royal fiance, and tarnish the image they had been ardently defending through lunch. With a pained smile she folded the wool garment in her hands and handed it over to Lia, the closest of her attendants, who then passed the covering back to a troubled Tobias.

"Earlier you asked me to 'wake up' the masses to the 'ugly truth about the rebellion' and declared you would not be bullied," she said with her voice so low he had to lean even closer to hear the words that escaped her lips. "Can you honestly tell me, after you have seen how they dressed me, that there are not other ugly truths that will be glimpsed on broadcasted recordings of this event? That the bully the farmers and their ilk will spurn will be those who put me in a cast only?" A breeze drifted through and past them as was typical given their elevation. Her dress fabric shimmered as it rippled with the wind and made goosebumps rise along the flesh of her arms. The palace had decided that it was more important to display the wound of the sabotage than consider the comfort of their prized possession.

Rhiane quickened her pace to put some artificial distance between herself and the two older individuals that had disparaged her earlier. She was not ready yet to forfeit the evening she had been looking forward to for days, but she was increasingly worried that Luke and his advisors were going to make this event an unmitigated disaster. At their best the elder Ferullos were unpalatable. At their worst they would actively hinder her efforts to form a rapport with their workers, as they would awkwardly be trying to avoid doing anything that might invoke his wrath later, and that trepidation would be visible on every screen. The more the princess elect pondered it the more perplexed she became. They had never tried to mix the highborn and lowborn and she feared that their love story would take a backseat to a visual representation of the very hierarchy that culminated in the coup.

"Ms. Viscomi," she greeted the anxious woman politely. "I would appreciate it if you could spare someone to fetch me a hot drink before we begin our tour," she requested. The tone of her voice was even and calm, lacking the congeniality of the days prior to this morning's disagreement, evidence that not everything had been so quickly forbidden. An outing to purchase trinkets and baubles would not erase the exchange that had deeply offended the brunette. She had resolved not to let her mother's memory be tainted and her life threatened not once but twice while she was still treated like a peon.

"Yes, of course," Luce nervously agreed. If it would placate the flaring temper of her charge it was the least she could do. Rhiane was being cooperative, going as far as to belatedly join the gathering she had originally planned not to attend, and so she was not going to look this gift horse in the mouth. She turned and keyed into her device an order for a hot tea from the villa staff. Delivery would take time but not so long it would be lukewarm on arrival.
During the entirety of the economical conversation Rhiane listened with unwavering intensity. She kept her features placid, and her body language that of relaxed composure, but her piercing gaze was shrewdly dissecting the ventured opinions. Occasionally she would allow a bemused smile to alight upon her lips as if she found a particular statement to be quietly humorous. This perplexed the other aristocrats. They took great pains to avoid addressing her directly but they certainly noticed the changes in her expression that all but criticized their beliefs. Luke had already proved he would not be their ally in soliciting a verbal response from his fiancee, something they could belittle and chastise, and thus they were resigned to suffer under the occasional sign of her clever belittlement. What could they say? None could very well request she refrain from smiling.

From the moment that Anton Fuerello grinned at the princess elect, more eager to overlook her absence prior, she paid him slightly more favor than the rest. Most of the time she remained silent during the discussion. The few times she ventured to speak it was to give a nuanced commentary about something in which she was uniquely knowledgeable, such as the stock fluctuations of a company which she had followed closely, or the proclivities of farmers required to utilize regular crop rotation. She also also would nod her head in agreement with Luke when it suited her, or Anton, but none of the rest. By all appearances she ignored those in attendance of her same sex. Besides being women they had little in common; they had no interest in business and she did not care to participate in their petty games.

The topic was suitably distracting that Rhiane, who was not eating nearly as enthusiastically as she had in the past, took twice as long to finish her meal as she might otherwise. What she lacked in speed she made up with in table manners. The ladies watched her like predators eager to find a basis on which to criticize her etiquette. They found none which fouled their impression of her that much more. The peasant had prepared herself extensively for social situations such at these; at a minimum she knew how to keep herself from committing an offensive breach of protocol.

"Yes, we do have another pressing engagement," Rhiane confessed as a servant rushed over to pull out her chair for her. As she rose she leaned forward out of necessity ever so slightly, the elegant draping of the fabric gifting the male nobles an ever more tempting portrait of what they had arrogantly derided earlier. It was not a scandalous act, as she hadn't bent low enough to be overtly seductive, but it would breed jealousy for the crown prince that was whisking her away presumably to his bed that evening. Standing was not all that much better. Sitting for a prolonged period of time had caused her skirt to inch up her thighs until she smoothed it back down to its full length.

"Thank you again for your time. This has been a most enlightening day. I look forward to telling both the queen and our esteemed nation what has transpired," she said with a sweeping gaze. They weren't privy to the details of the arrangement with the queen and her future daughter-in-law. Not only was that private and personal, they were a far distance from the capital, and would have been one of the last to be brought into her inner circles. Nonetheless this made them all incredibly nervous. With Rhiane there was no guarantee she would not somehow let it 'slip' on broadcast they had ruthlessly disrespected her. Similarly they could not tell for certain if she would confide to their monarch how the queen's own judgment was questioned through her selection of her son's fiancee.

Their farewells had prompted the waiters to alert the bodyguards, whom had been waiting outside, to gather at the entrance for their charges. Tobias reappeared, as had Lia and Octavia now that the package had been sent in transit. Rhiane plucked Tobias's coat from the back of her chair, not wanting it to leave behind, and made her way towards the door unless otherwise halted during her procession. She longed to be rid of the pretentious squabbling highborn that thought their lives were filled with struggles. No life was completely free of stress, yet they continuously underestimated the pain of the lower class, and moaned with such sorrow while they had a great amount of control over their fate.

Now that she was on the precipice of going to the event she actively looked forward to she felt her arm began to throb. The changes in temperature had been unkind to the healing process and the pain medication from earlier, that she did not know Luke had mixed into her juice, had begun to wane in its strength. She sorely wished for a nap. It felt like a disservice to rush to the fields to tour the farms when she was exhausted. Fervently she wished there was magic in the world that would grant her refreshment without the time constraint or risk of nightmares. Perhaps there would be a way to coax Luke into a hot spring excursion later- not that she wanted to share a bath with the heir to the throne. Her anger from earlier had been diminished by his leap to his defense but not been erased. That had had called commoners lazy seared into her psyche. Rhiane felt positively compelled to exemplify just how hard-working and dedicated her peers were, even if meant foregoing more nourishment, medication, coats, and sleep. She would prove him wrong.
Solae did not not hide her disappointment that Rene did not want to so much as glance at the device in question. While she understood the information was hers and hers alone by birthright, as the direct heir of the esteemed Falia lineage, that it even existed only added to her shoulders more weight of responsibility. She had hoped to share with her fiance if only to not be the sole individual carrying this knowledge. It was her mother that was the heir of the last generation. Her father had taken her mother's last name as, despite tradition typically requiring the wife to amend her last name to the husband's, in cases of a difference in stature the more titled surname prevailed. Though there were many secrets hidden from her by both parents she could only imagine after they were wed her father had been made privy to these vaults, that they had shared the burden, and that they were comforted by knowing they were a team.

"Alayla Thorne," the marquise repeated as her fingers slid over the screen with a deepening frown. Initially she had taken a course on the Syshin language for a number of reasons completely unrelated to the race themselves: she had been curious, she relished a challenge, and she wanted to add it to her repertoire as a linguist. Solae had pursued the impossibility of being fluent in every tongue of which she knew. Even with her engineered brilliant intelligence there were inherent limitations; however, there was no reason not to let that stop her from chasing a dream.

Over time she had come to feel sympathetic to the plight of the Syshin. The did not have the superior technology of the empire. They were taller and stronger, but without any way to manufacture arms that were comparable to the blasters of the imperial forces they were doomed to subjugation. There had been only a few failed rebellions against their harsh conditions. That they had been treated so callously was what she personally considered a blight on the image of humanity as a whole.

"It looks like more than a few people have confirmed they know she murdered Gilles Thyes. The Stellar Empire's understanding with Zatis is that they will allow it to govern itself with relative impunity as long as they are allowed spies to report back any threats of importance. Thorne had several personal disagreements with Thyes over the course of a few months, not certain what about, but it culminated in her shooting him six times in the chest and ejecting him out of one of the bio-dome's hatches. Everyone was afraid to testify against her," Solae told her lover with raised eyebrows as she scrolled through the records in question.

"She's also been hiding and sheltering a young woman to which she's taken a fancy," she added. "It might be the sort of vulnerability that, if threatened, would make her take a risk. The young woman is someone she purchased off the human slave market and been grooming to be her partner once she's of age. Poor child never had a choice or a chance, did she?" Solae sighed with a shake of her head. "The girl would be about fourteen years now if this is accurate."
Secretly the princess elect had hoped that Luke, thoroughly frustrated by the nobility he had just harshly insulted, would have seized upon the unspoken opportunity to depart the lunch. When she had been touring the town she had spotted more than one local restaurant. None of the businesses had struck her as prepared for the delicate tastes of royalty, but then again she had seen her fiance wolf down pizza without complaint, so it was possible he might have enjoyed a non-gourmet experience. At the very least the atmosphere would have been better. Rhiane had no illusions that she was liked by her current companions. The women loathed her for being so attractive, the men were salivating over her as if she were a prostitute silently offering her wares with the revealing dress, and even Luke was undoubtedly still irritated with her over their argument.

Taking her seat she patiently waited for a plate to be brought to her. No one had known in advance she would be absent and thus the food for her dish had not yet been re-allocated. The aristocrats had not had a chance to request second servings or her untouched entree; they had been slowed and interrupted by the heir to the throne's reprimand. In the warmth of the building she folded Tobias's coat over the back of her chair. One of the men quietly shifted uncomfortably in his chair at the sight of her without the covering. Rhiane wondered if this had been a clever ploy of Luce; everyone in the palace must have known she would have been poorly received, but with a plunging neckline to accentuate her chest and a short hem that highlighted her long legs she would have pandered to weaknesses of the male elite.

"You have a lovely village," she said once it was clear no one else would instigate conversation. Turning her attention back to Luke she smiled, and although it looked genuine to their audience, it was not as bright as her paramour knew it would be if she was more earnestly delighted. "I sent my other bodyguards back to the villa shortly became I came here," she informed him, "as I wanted them to ensure my package made it back to the castle as soon as possible. I know you prefer me to keep them with me at all times, but I thought Tobias could escort me the short distance to the hall alone."

Her words made it sound like she was appeasing a concerned superior, which was reasonable given their highly publicized assassination attack, but she trusted that Luke would understand her motivation for this disclosure. Rhiane had not forgotten that he had questioned Tobias's intentions with her. To stave off the jealous beast- though it was fun to provoke him- she was attempting to make it clear she had not spent the entirety of the late morning walking arm in arm with his cousin. Not only that, by not outright declaring the nature of her package she made it sound much more important than a present for Callista after they had worried her by making Nolan take her calls for hours.

A waiter hurried over and put a platter down in front of the sultry brunette. She picked up her silverware and began to carefully cut her meal into small bites as would befit her elevated station. While she might not be able to win over their favor she was not going to give them any more ammunition to use against her. As she sliced into her meat she raised her eyes and met the baron's with an effortlessly charming smile upon her lips. "Lord Ferullo, thank you for arranging this luncheon," she said warmly as if she had not just caught them disparaging her moments before. By being polite she was taking the proverbial higher road and making them all that much worse. "I apologize for my tardiness. As you know yesterday we ran into a few... complications. If it would not be an imposition would you please indulge me as to what you consider to be the greatest pride of your holdings?" Rhiane was appealing to his ego; most lords and ladies were eager to boast about their possessions.
True to her word, the princess elect spent the afternoon visiting the local businesses and perusing their wares. The merchants were understandably surprised at her sudden appearance, some of them openly peering around her and past her three bodyguards for a glimpse of the crown prince, but they were not brave enough to question why she traveled alone. Any concerns about this unscheduled activity were discarded the moment they realized it was an impromptu shopping spree. Rhiane had no money of her own but she had Tobias, who was willing and able to pay for the purchases, especially in the absence of Luke. They both knew if he submitted receipts of the expenditures afterwards he would be reimbursed without hesitation so there was no inherent risk in 'lending' the funds as it were.

As usual, her natural charisma with the working class people was well-received. Perhaps this was what the former farmer truly needed- to smile broadly at people who understood her struggles intimately, who had been looked down upon by others for either being too successful or not born into the right family- and have them treat her kindly in return. There was something simple yet refreshing to see her charms having an effect on the common man. She was treated like a cherished customer as she complimented their work ethic, was praised for her taste, and made small talk about the idiosyncrasies of their village residents. Tobias at least was heartened to see her leaning on a counter trading anecdotes about buying shoes of poor quality that broke apart at critical moments.

For Callista she elected to make a customized basket. Rhiane suspected that her future sister-in-law could have anything she desired in an instant, but it was a gift that came from the heart, where someone had taken time and effort personally, that would be most rare. From one shop she acquired a large handmade basket, from another a scarf hand-dyed blue with delicate embroidery of flowers and leaves stitched around the edges, and from yet another she obtained decadent handmade soaps in a wide variety of colors, most with exotic flower oils and the like, that would have appealed to the most haughty woman of culture if she did not know their origin. From a pottery studio came a mug with masterwork glazes dripping in colors that looked like a night sky and from a carpenter was a polished wooden puzzle box that was the right size to carry little baubles or pieces of jewelry. The princess elect procured freshly made candy and chocolate and strategically placed it around the other items to make an aesthetically pleasing arrangement. Once she was satisifed she wrote on a small note card:

Dear Callista,

I apologize that I may have inadvertently caused you to worry about your brother. I've made this gift basket of things I found in town that might bring you joy. I'm told the scent of the soaps in particular might help you relax after all the anxiety we've caused. Should you ever need to reach me, and can not do so, please feel free to impose on Tobias if Nolan isn't being helpful in helping you reach Luke.

Yours sincerely,
Rhiane


The gift basket was sent with Lia and Octavia back to the villa where they would make certain it would be expedited on its journey to the palace. Although she could tell they were reluctant to leave Rhiane and Tobias alone together, neither woman the social standing to make an objection nor a logical argument to refuse the request. After a few minutes of logistical discussion about the shipment in question, the pair of noblewoman had departed, leaving Rhiane and Tobias in front of a row of derelict homes coincidentally in close proximity to the event hall where the lunch for the engaged couple was being held.

"I'm sorry they used your mother's image," Tobias interrupted the silence. "You are cold," he further observed as he shrugged off his overcoat. Traditional attire for all guards, regardless of sex, was a tailored suit, but in cold weather they also bore a thicker wool overcoat to help keep them warm and alert. While they were in the shops he could overlook how under-dressed the princess elect was for the climate, as all of the buildings were heated, but it was outside that he could see goosebumps rising on her flesh. Without leaving room for an objection he draped the garment over her shoulders.

"Thank you," she said sheepishly, too chilled to argue. Rhiane pulled the collar up around her neck and crossed her arms to preserve her body heat. "Are you officially allowed to disapprove of Queen Camilla's strategy?" she teased lightly.

"Not officially, no, but every servant of the kingdom has their opinions," he admitted seriously. For a long moment Tobias stared at her and wondered at how well she had endured every trial thrust at her. His cousin failed to appreciate how spectacular a bride had had been handed. Even as she tried valiantly to suppress her shivers he knew that she did not blame Luke for his mother's callous propaganda as others would. Rhiane was fair and just, seeing the person in front of her for what they truly were, not what the world told her to believe. All his life he, like Luke, had been surrounded by people who saw the title and breeding before the individual.

"What strategy would you have for dealing with the rebellion?" he asked abruptly.

"It's not my decision to make," she said with a delicate side-step to the query. Rhiane remained calm but she was surprised Tobias had asked. For the past week everything had been dictated to her with little consideration for her preferences or thoughts: her attendants never once asked her favorite color when arranging her wardrobe. It had swiftly become commonplace to fight to have a voice in even the most mundane and trivial of affairs, much less the brewing war with the revolution.

"I did not say that it was, but I would like to know all the same," Tobias emphasized.

"I'd concede some of the points the rebellion raises in their chants, that there is inequity among the social classes, and resources could be distributed more fairly. By coming to the table willing to compromise it makes the rebellion their more moderate and casual supporters, and it forces them to take an extreme stance if they won't negotiate at all, thus further eroding their base. This wouldn't be approved by loyalists, but with the escalating violence and body count, if they vocally oppose they will make themselves targets. I would make certain they see things as they are is unsustainable long-term. Of course Luke would be... Luke would be the face of this meeting of minds," she finished softly. What she didn't touch on was that Queen Camilla herself was despised enough with some of the peasants it would be harder to sell her than the playboy heir to the throne. Rhiane sighed. "But it's not my decision to make," she concluded with a forced smile.

"Even after the clinic you care deeply about everyone in this country," he observed.

Rhiane smiled sadly but did not comment on his assessment, instead moving forward towards the hall in question. "I shouldn't leave him to meet the farmers alone," she told him as he jogged to catch up to her. "The farmers don't deserve that," she jested with a finger to her lips to indicate that joke should not be repeated.

Silently the beauty entered with her shadow trailing behind and slightly to the left. As they strode through the shadows they could hear a discussion about none other than the princess elect herself. Tobias stiffened at the exchange but watched helplessly as Rhiane chose not to interrupt and instead linger by the entrance with her eyes glued on her betrothed. Truthfully after their argument not even a few hours prior she had expected him to agree with every insult lodged at the faults he had already found with her. Her eyebrows rose incrementally as he rose to her defense. That the baron, his wife, and their lackeys were cruel did not injure her- the court had been just as hostile. It was only Luke's reaction that mattered.

As their gazes met the aristocrats belatedly followed his stare to the figure they had disparaged. Rhiane was still clad in the dress with the plunging neckline and skirt well above the knee, a tantalizing amount of skin still showing, instantly drawing the attention of the men in attendance. Tobias's coat hung loosely off of her but could not conceal the salacious image that made one particular scion fidget uncomfortably in her seat. Luce had capitalized on how sultry the princess elect could be and in that regard she was a resounding success. The coupling of the implied vulnerability of the cast with her apparel could have lured half the room to her quarters.

"My apologies, Prince Luke. I had assumed that your hosts and their guests would have been conducting themselves with an appropriate amount of dignity for their station. We did not mean to interrupt," Tobias intoned with a slight bow of reverence. This insult to the highborn was revenge for Rhiane though they could not have known this. In this singular instant the two male relatives were aligned in wishing to protect the object of their affection.
Solae remained somewhat unconvinced it changed nothing but she mentally conceded his point that this revelation did not shake the 'pillars of creation.' Imperial Intelligence would almost certainly never find the vault and even if they did she doubted they would gain entry and access to the goods stored therein. The security system was was remarkably sophisticated and had numerous contingencies is place. If it so much as suspected a breach was imminent protocol would mandate it self-destruct. She could only imagine what the vault hidden close to Capella might contain; proximity to the center of the empire suggested it had the most spectacular of secrets and the most demanding authentication process to preserve the integrity of its exclusivity. Perhaps the contents of that vault would be earth-shattering for more than just the Falia heir.

"I'm not certain how my data can help us," she admitted with a frown. "Everything is sorted into a folder by the names that Ten gave us," she further elaborated with a discouraged sigh, "and it's only the records relating to that individual. It could be something about their father, about them, about a cousin, but it's not a complete snapshot of their relationships, only the one or ones that are worthy of having information collected. Take this one for example," Solae said as she flipped through scrolling text with her forefinger, "The data on him is about how his mother smuggled illicit drugs for her husband's rival."

Leaning back in her seat she stared out the window in contemplation. "I think the plan could work in our favor but I think the person you ought to be soliciting for advice is Ten, not me or what was ripped from the computer. Before we can hope to apply what is in the archives we'd need a bead on something more current, something that a criminal mastermind might have observed more recently. I'm sure there is an appropriate match to what you need, but any social tension or distrust from ten years ago might be irrelevant now," she pointed out. The diplomat couldn't be precise as to the date of the last upload because it had not been anything for which she was searching. Her only goal was to pluck out threads of importance as quickly as possible. The last thought on her might as she descended into the darkness underground was about how quickly they must move. Rene and she did not have the luxury of time anymore.

"Duke Tan doesn't even know the vault exists," she mused aloud as she sat up and furrowed her brows in thought. An pincer attack could turn the forces against each other most effectively but there was another more crude avenue of assault. "If Ten can't shed any light on the correct person we could always release all of it at once," the linguist said with a wave of her hand. "If all of this was disseminated at once and tensions were already high, but none of Duke Tan's men were implicated, they wouldn't make assumptions we were to blame. They would be suspicious about the one person they think they all have in common that is aggravated with them."

"Do you want to look through the data? I'm not sure how much it will help until we have someone to narrow it down to, though," Solae offered as she handed over the device once he had slowed sufficiently to allow the auto-pilot to take over if he so wished. Perhaps her ancestors had meant it to be for the eyes of their descendants only but she trusted Rene implicitly. Whatever she had that was hers was his now as well.
When they had first been introduced the princess elect had liked Luce Viscomi even if she did not quite trust her; the shrewd farmer knew better than to put her faith in anyone except the man to whim her future was tied, and even then she held back, even then she kept secrets. Whatever accord the pair had reached over the last few days lay in tatters the moment the perfectly painted red lips so carelessly tried to remind her of her position. The noblewoman had not meant any harm but wishes and dreams did not reality make. In pushing the official palace agenda, in presuming the feelings of her charge while looking down upon her, and in casually utilizing her authority she had made herself an adversary. Rhiane did not say anything. The way she looked at the older female as evidence enough of the shift in demeanor. Her gaze was cold and hard as if the pressures of the last day had manifested in turning warm pools of green to emerald ice.

"How generous to afford me the chance to speak on my feelings; however, I believe there is a misunderstanding as to what impression I have been left with and what I might say given the opportunity to be honest with the people," she replied. Luce, and by extension Queen Camilla, had a certain expectation of what they might be able to reap in terms of public favor if they shoved a microphone in front of her. Perhaps they thought she would dutifully perform as she had done before but this time accentuate her words with tears instead of smiles. Truthfully she might have before, but they had lost their incentive the moment it became evident she had nothing to gain through the offerings of the palace. The rebellion had tried to kill her but so would her future mother-in-law. It was hard to find motivation to stand by the latter in defense against the former when she was not convinced the revolution was the greater evil.

"I think you would both agree that one of the fundamentals of business, and indeed this country, is exchange," she said slowly, forgoing addressing the flaws in their logic temporarily. "New Rome may not negotiate with terrorists but this course of action, I would caution, will incite them further. They will have absolutely no incentive to lay down their arms- there is no exchange, just a demand- and so it will provoke them into drastic action to prove themselves. But I am have no expertise on the rebellion," she added dryly. She had hedged on what knowledge she had of the group but now she gave Luke the distinct impression she knew more than she was disclosing. "I'm sure you know precisely what you are doing and are ready for the consequences," Rhiane shrugged while staring at Luce as if to impart any future blood spilled would be on her hands. And indeed it would be. Rhiane's conscience was clean.

Her words also suggested, however, how the royal family and staff had pushed their precious pawn into a corner. They were condescending, disparaging, dressing her without care for comfort or health, while expecting her to praise them, and offering nothing more than criticism regardless of how well she did with her tasks. There was no reward. Queen Camilla would not suddenly embrace her with open arms and reform the breeding program to not end in the termination of Rhiane's life. Not even the sultry brunette's mother was sacred and respected. Once the princess elect had cited to Luke that when the stick was used exclusively without a carrot then no progress would be made. They had picked up their sticks; if anyone was kindly extending a carrot it was not the crown.

"Regardless, everyone has been very recently reminded of my low birth and my injuries," she continued while Luce started to see that her attempts to humble and persuade Rhiane into compliance had gone horribly awry, "and this it would be inappropriate to be at a function with people of a certain stature. I will visit the local businesses with my bodyguards. It occurs to me I have been remiss in not purchasing something for my only female relative," Rhiane noted with reference to Callista. She was not seeking permission for this outing; she was stating what she was doing. "I am sure that will be more well-received by all parties."

She strode with purpose towards the door, foregoing the device that Luke had just tweaked the settings on, eager to escape. Tears of co-mingled frustration and fury sprang up in the corners of her eyes as she opened the door. They could threaten bodily harm but she had already endured worse psychological damage. Her brother and father were undoubtedly stewing in contempt for seeing Violet Black on their screens. The blood money from the throne could be replaced by others that would be sympathetic if something untoward happened to her. For a splint second she even doubted that Luke was capable of the redemption she had so quietly hoped she could bring about through a revelation about the true struggles of labourers.

Tobias was standing just outside. He looked down at Rhiane and then past Luce at Luke; it was only a matter of time before the peace was destroyed. The crown prince's royal cousin was surprised it had not been shattered sooner.
The princess elect was subdued and suspiciously compliant as Luke helped her wash her hair. It was a stark departure from either the vacant detachment she exhibited after the clinic or the aggressive independence she typically had in private. Once he had finished rinsing out both the shampoo and conditioner she had filled the tub with water and allowed herself a brief chance to soak. It proved to be more relaxing than tossing and turning in the bed trying to sleep when only nightmares plagued her. Rhiane slipped down into the water up to her neck, making certain her brace was kept dry and elevated as a precaution, and mulled over the news coverage.

Seeing her mother's face so brazenly plastered on the screen had been sobering after the highs of post-coital bliss. Luke might not completely understand the subtleties of her reaction but she doubted he would have been pleased if it was his deceased father being displayed as part of the nation's propaganda. The late Violet Black would not have objected to her image being used to bolster her daughter's reputation, especially after how much aforementioned daughter had suffered taking care of her during her decline, but she would have balked at being used in anything tangentially related to pro-monarchy rhetoric. And that was exactly what was being done. Rhiane's empathetic character was being capitalized upon so as to invoke compassion for her future spouse and in-laws and rage against those who had done her harm.

No sooner had she stepped out, wrapped herself in a fluffy robe, and shuffled into the bedroom still deep in thought than there was a knock at the door. With exhausted resignation she allowed herself to be examined by Dr. Gulsvig without protest so as to expedite the process. The older physician made a couple coy allusions to the couple's morning frolic but she wasn't embarrassed. Everyone had expected them to eventually have sex, or at least for her to fall prey to the crown's prince charms and be so smitten she couldn't control herself, and so she felt relatively little shame. She had not yet abandoned all hope they could return to a more professional version of their relationship eventually. Tangling themselves between the sheets did not change them into completely different people.

The stylists were less subtle in their piqued interest that suddenly Luke and Rhiane were confirmed lovers. More than once she caught them looking at each other over her hair with knowing smiles. There was something about romance, or the perception thereof, that made rational people behave like children. The princess elect stared at her reaction as she watched them erase all evidence of her fatigue, as they smoothed over the blemishes of turmoil with brushes and powder, as they painted her lips with a gloss as if the trauma could be covered physically and stifle the rest. This might be how they were used to coping with tragedy but her resolve to be defiantly different solidified the longer she was in the chair.

Rhiane's dark chocolate hair shone in the light as they finished coiling it into an intricate design where half was curled upon the crown of her head and the rest was left free. Yesterday it had been frazzled and tangled but today she appeared every inch a model for a luxury brand promising women could have a similarly idyllic mane. As she turned in her chair the dangling V-neck of the dress granted Luke, who was standing and had the advantage of height, a generous view of her cleavage. It was an overtly sensual garment and would make her fetching eye candy for the male aristocrats they would be meeting for lunch.

"Could we have the room?" she asked with a flashed brilliant smile to her attendants. It was the same expression she always had when she was charming the servants into compliance, but there was an edge of authority in her countenance as well. "There's a private matter I'd like to discuss," she explained lightly but there was a fire behind her green eyes her betrothed had seen before. Patiently she waited until they had all exited the room before she stood, slipping her feet into the precariously tall heels that had been selected to accentuate her shapely legs and compliment Luke's height.

"I appreciate what you are trying to accomplish, Ms. Viscomi," Rhiane began politely, "but I do not believe it would be appropriate for me to comment on the rebellion's motivations." What she hid was that she knew all too well that not every member of the revolution was an anarchist that hated the queen. While she did completely agree with their ideologies, the highborn that spoke with her seemed to think that she did not share some philosophical beliefs, and she was not going to feign that the peasants were living in a paradise when she had herself lost two members of her family to their passive negligence. Seeing the late Violet Black reminded her that the coup was violent and terrifying, but so too were loyalists of the kingdom.

Luce Viscomi was surprised by this sudden refusal. Until now Rhiane had been the cooperative half of the engaged couple, the icon that so easily adapted to their strategies, and she had been so agreeable this turnabout was unanticipated. She glanced towards Luke but the former farmer was not considering the matter up for discussion. "It would be out of character. The public sees me an object of great sympathy, who has been seriously harmed, who has a past of loss, who ought to be consumed with trying to cope. If I suddenly presented myself as an expert on the resistance the day after they will know I am only parroting what I've been told. I'll lose my credibility as genuine and relatable," she insisted. But Luke, who knew her better than Luce Viscomi, could surmise this was much deeper than what she said alone. Rhiane was angry, indignant, furious over something, and she had haphazardly funneled all her anxiety into this growing tide that bubbled beneath a composed exterior.

Fortunately Tobias knocked on the door a second later and entered with two boxes in his hand. "Pardon the interruption. Prince Luke's replacement device has arrived as well as Miss Black's device." Rhiane had not asked for such a thing but it was another accessory of the wealthy that they had been trying to persuade her to wear. At the very least it was a security measure. They could monitor the royal-to-be if she kept something on her person that had access to all her methods of communication. Tobias's eyes flickered over to Rhiane's ensemble and settled into a light frown of disapproval before he gave Luke his case.
"This changes everything, doesn't it?" she asked softly. Solae hadn't been brave enough to look through the names of the individuals for which there were genetic samples. The marquise knew that no one would have bothered with sophisticated equipment and the upkeep of medical material unless it was worthy of such effort. Some part of herself felt it was safer, that her ignorance would shield her from exponentially more emotional pain, if she didn't know the precise extent of the vault's reach. Traditionally when a nobleman or woman died such pieces of themselves were destroyed. That didn't mean many wouldn't prefer to skirt this moral obligation. During times of conflict many heirs to prestigious lineages died without a child to carry on their pure bloodline, or someone fell ill before they had a chance to conceive with their suitor, or they could not quite get permission for more offspring but wanted more descendants.

It was societal pressure that kept this ethical gray area from being explored. Dukes and duchesses, who were held in the highest regard unless they staged a coup like Duke Tan, would shun anyone who greedily tried to have an entire brood rather than the more acceptable one to four children. There would be whispers about deranged, desperate parents if they volunteered an egg from their deceased daughter to a surrogate- and they would find nearly impossible to find anyone willing to concede their sperm for such a ghoulish affair. The aristocracy found it tasteful by and large; however, this did not make it any less powerful. If Solae truly had any hidden ancestors of high stature she could be elevated by virtue of her pedigree and innocence relative these machinations.

With a sigh she rested her head against Rene's shoulder and tried to put it out of her mind. None of it mattered if she did not find a way to survive Zatis. It was comforting that her fiance thought no less of her but his opinion would not cure their situation. This planet was hostile to them now that the bounty had been broadcasted. There were few worse places to be than on a world filled with criminals and mercenaries that unabashedly worshiped the coin. Only extortion and threats might make them stand down or consider shifting their loyalties.

The device let out a soft ding to alert it had finished decompressing and decrypting all the data that had been recently uploaded. Rather than move from where she was curled up in her seat as close to her soldier paramour as was humanly possible, Solae gently lifted the screen and pulled it closer. The AI had found records relating to almost three-quarters of the names on her list. This ought not to have been surprising but it was a pleasant turn of events all the same. Most of the people who had been on this more distant colony came from a long line of, as some of her ancient stories called them, 'ne'er do wells.' What ones for which there were no scandalous secrets they were either exceedingly clever or relatively new to the city.

Scanning the list there was quite an array of damning evidence, not the least of which was a man whom had decided to forego the proverbial snip- some found it emasculating and refused on principal- and fathered an illegitimate son with a married woman. "I always children of my own," she mused aloud, "which my mother found surprisingly maternal since I think for her I was more something she did out of obligation. She loved me, more fiercely than she might have after the miscarriages, but I never got the sense she dreamed of having a baby, that it was a fulfillment of need she had herself. I was worried that the empress might deny us when we get back to the central planets because you are still a marine. Now I'm not sure she'll discover something infinitely more appalling in my history. To have all this information on the underbelly of the empire the Falias had to have met at least a few. What if I've got as many skeletons in my closet as Ten?" she worried.

It was unlikely. Solae was visually very similar to her mother, a woman who also had unnaturally golden hair, and some selective edits had probably been made to the embryo that became the linguist to carry on this preferred trait. If her father or one of her grandparents had been compromised the temptation would have been to meddle with the acclaimed, accomplished, and revered rather than the dredges that had been exiled. Because she didn't know with certainty one way or another the marquise couldn't help but fear the worst irrationally.
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