Recent Statuses

2 days ago
Current Work sucks worse than usual, but it's my younger son's birthday today, so at least I have cheesecake waiting at home!
1 mo ago
Sad to read about Odin not being around anymore, he was on my list of people I wanted to hit up for a RP one day =(
2 mos ago
I don't regret my English degree, but I am certainly having a lot harder time finding a new job to transition to versus my STEM degree friends!
2 mos ago
I'm not sure I could feel any worse about myself today, but I suppose I still have an hour to go!
3 mos ago
Hope everyone who is still going into work is staying healthy!


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

In The Betrothed 12 days ago Forum: 1x1 Roleplay
Reluctantly Sebastian took a seat next to Luke, though he did not touch the food. He was in an unusual predicament; he understood Rhiane's motivations and thoughts better than most, and he wanted to help her to the best of his ability, but he also respected her right to privacy. What compelled him to trust in Luke was what he had witnessed the day prior. Regardless of whether or not she admitted it, the former farmer clearly had caught some feelings towards the prince, and despite his sometimes aloof disposition, he suspected that the heir to the throne reciprocated a measure of these softer emotions. In different circumstances he would have remained a passive observer that did not involve themselves in the fledgling relationship- but his beloved sister-in-law's life was on the line. He could not, in good conscience, forfeit the opportunity to save her through the one person that might be able reach her in the way necessary to keep her from self-destructing.

"You may already know, but when her mother and Edwin fell ill, she did everything for them- she cooked for them, she cleaned up after them, she helped them bathe, held their hand, read to them, she gave up everything to take care of their every need. Once they passed Hubert and Gerard were so besides them in their grief they barely left their rooms, and so she kept herself busy, slowly taking over management of the house and the farm, never stopping. Of course she knew they were gone, we all did, but she never stopped to mourn, she kept focusing on problems and how to fix them," Sebastian admitted quietly. He knew that Luke wasn't necessarily looking for an in-depth review of the monotony of a peasant who had suffered a loss, but it provided a vital context. There were well-documented stages of grief that everyone went through: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Once could argue she had skipped a step or two, but it was clear that she could not have skipped all five and managed to heal the wounds left in her heart. That she still dreamed of her deceased brother was no coincidence.

"Going to their graves will force her to confront they are really gone and not coming back. She won't have the distraction of her family or business to keep her memories or the realization," he elaborated, hoping that Luke would personally empathize. Sebastian didn't talk of his own relatives. Even the palace was unable to determine much more than his country of origin. Their northern neighbor did not allow free access to their records, and so there was a touch of anonymity to the foreigner, one that he purposefully kept intact. Nothing about his behavior or appearance was worrying enough that New Rome considered him a threat in any way, and nationals migrated to the kingdom every day, but it would be a lie to say that there wasn't a little discomfort at the fact they could not dig as deeply for information on him individually as they could their own citizens.

Leaning back into a chair for a moment he stared down at the small device in his lap. It was not as sophisticated as the prince's, and was a few years outdated, but it was more sophisticated than the models the rest of the Black family used. After a moment's contemplation he sighed and rubbed his temple thoughtfully. "I won't impose on your further," he said, suddenly standing. "But I would be remiss if I didn't tell you I was concerned. More than once I've caught Rhiane implying it would have been better if she died instead of Violet, and it's always felt as if she was trying to find a way to punish herself for this 'mistake.' The guilt she carries for surviving, and the choices she's been making... she's creating a world in which no one needs her. We can try to protect her from the rebellion," he sighed, "but that won't help if she breaks down in the cemetery and resolves it would be better for everyone if she wasn't with us anymore."

It was a well-founded fear. By her nature the brunette was self-sacrificing, but her cavalier attitude towards her own mortality was not a bluff. Willpower had been the key to recovery with the poison, and if that failed then she could be even more susceptible to the machinations of the 'enemy.' If financial security could be guaranteed through either the queen or revolutionaries, no one would be dependent on her, and it was her own desires that would have to motivate her to actively engage with the world. Sebastian and Gerard had each other. Luke had an endless sea of available single women that would eagerly take her place, not the least of which was Anelle. The castle's staff, except Tobias, was indifferent to who was the princess elect so long as she obeyed their instructions and endured all the struggles. At the present she was still struggling for approval and validation from everyone, for although she had achieved greater heights than thought possible for a commoner future spouse, she did not perfectly fit the mold she was constantly being shoved into.

Stopping short of making a specific suggestion, Sebastian inclined his head and turned to take his leave. It would be improper to offer advice that was not solicited, especially to a man that would one day rule. He didn't want to earn himself a reprimand with Nolan hovering nearby, undoubtedly eager to eject the undeserving peasant from the tent. "Isn't it strange during all that yelling she didn't say she likes that Tobias fellow?" he mused to himself quietly, just loud enough Luke would overhear and give it some thought. True, Rhiane had been praising the positive attributes of the bodyguard, but she hadn't said anything reflecting that she saw him in a romantic light. The older man saw through the anger and thought Luke might as well; her furious diatribe was because she was unconsciously desperate for a few traits she knew could exist in her betrothed to be expressed, not because she had any inclination to leap into his cousin's arms.
In The Betrothed 17 days ago Forum: 1x1 Roleplay
A few minutes passed in silence after Luke left before Tobias, apprehensive about upsetting Rhiane when she was already clearly emotional, knocked on her door. The princess elect wiped away a few tears that had appeared on her cheeks without her knowing and took a deep breath. Whether they had been tears of sadness or anger she did not know- probably both. Thinking about her mother and brother drove her into a deep despair that felt like a bottomless pit, yet at the same time she felt furious, bitter resentment towards the world full of people that had lived full lives with their family when she was robbed of precious memories. When they had been alive, Violet Black and Edwin Black had understood her best. That fate had coincidentally stolen the relatives in which she confided the most, sought the most, cherished the most felt exceedingly cruel.

"Rhiane?" Tobias called through the door. "Do you need me to get anything for you?" Technically he was her bodyguard, not her servant, but he was more than willing to fetch her a few items if it would ease her burden. He had mixed feelings about the praise of her words. While he was quietly proud that she appreciated various aspects of her personality, he knew she had spoken from a place of pain, that she had been spurred by disappointment due to Luke's inability to comprehend her state of mind. She wasn't ready yet to abandon her infatuation with his cousin.

"Can you get Sebastian for me?" she asked as she walked to her dresser and picked up her brush. Her brother-in-law would balk slightly at helping her get dressed, but given the alternatives she knew he would agree to help fasten and adjust her dress. She pulled on her underwear and fastened her bra into place as she heard her protector's footsteps recede down the hall. Rhiane was reluctant to leave home. When she had at first departed for the capital it had been an act of desperation to provide for what few people she had left in her life, but now she was not without options. As she stared at her own reflection she wondered if being Luke's bride was what was best for them both. He would not admit he liked her, he did not trust her, he hated their tour together, and she was fighting a war on all sides to defend herself. The former farmer was tired. If he could not be her sanctuary, and she his, if they couldn't be at least genuine friends, then it seemed folly to continue while wishing for an impossible outcome.

"You needed me?" Sebastian inquired. She quickly crossed the room and let him inside, her hair half-brushed, and her funeral dress laid out on the bed. To say it was a ominous sight to the foreigner was a vast understatement.

"Help me get into this thing," she replied with a rough gesture towards the black garment before squaring her shoulders resolutely, "and then I want you to take a message to Luke. Don't worry," Rhiane reassured as he looked at her with increasing concern, "it's nothing that will get you into trouble." Picking up a stray piece of paper and a pen she leaned over her desk, quickly jotting down a series of names off the top of her head. "I wouldn't ask you to do it if it wasn't important."

Five minutes before Luke's deadline Sebastian approached the heir to the throne's tent and was let in by a begrudging Nolan. "Sorry to interrupt," the blonde man apologized quickly, his voice low, mellow, and calm, a sharp contrast to the fiery dispositions of the family he had joined through his romantic ties with Gerard. "Rhiane wanted me to give you a list of names for the only people she wants to follow the two of you to the cemetery." He held out the folded sheet but waited for Luke to decide whether or not he would take it. She's asked that there be no video, still pictures only." It was a deviation from the plan. Listed were the reporters that had been the most considerate in their interviews of coverage; those that had been more critical, possessed a sharper tongue, questioned her sincerity, or had simply been rude were omitted. Because she was going to be so vulnerable during her mourning, Rhiane had thought letting anyone see her was a gift, and only wanted to reward those that would be empathetic. Requesting photographers but no video similarly kept the audience to a level of respectful observation.

"I doubt she's told you this, but she's doing this for you," Sebastian hesitantly stated. "She knows if she doesn't go then there would be damaging rumors and speculation. Since I've known her she's not visited them, not once. I know she's... difficult, but that's even trying to face this, face them, is more than I've seen her do for anyone else." And it was. Thought she was not consciously aware, Rhiane was once again martyring her emotional well-being on the altar of sacrifice to try to aid Luke's image through association. Had the stakes been less she would have not entertained the suggestion for a moment before darkly refusing. Children of neighbors had been paid to clean around the stones and keep the area tidy since the sultry brunette could not bear to gaze upon the physical reminder of the dead that haunted her dreams nightly.
I am tentatively opening this up! I typically raid Tuesdays and Thursdays, but as the expansion is several months out, I have a LOT more free time than I've had previously. That being said, I remain committed to my current three partners (especially the lovely Dagger who keeps me on my posting toes) so I will only be taking one new partner.

Of the plots posted, I'd most like to revisit The Font concept, barring the return of Kymera!
After a few long minutes passed, which Rosaria swore up and down felt like an eternity, Solae released her 'victim' and wandered back towards the group still smiling. Yarue and Dasin had watched with detached curiosity; they both had been taught to dance in their youth, but as one might guess, their cultural dances were vastly different from those that humans performed. Neither wanted to ask the duchess any questions, however, lest they be pulled out onto the floor and compelled to humor the peculiar aristocrat themselves. They murmured to one another quietly, trying not to draw attention to themselves, but unable to keep from conferring over the details of their discoveries.

"Humans and Syshin choose their mates," Solae said as she brushed aside hair that had come undone in her over-exuberant waltz. She could not remember the last time she had lead a dance, but she was certain she had never done so with such a squirmy, unenthusiastic partner dying of embarrassment. Briefly she paused to make certain her Kalderi guide did not seem to possess knowledge of human courtship. Once she saw that the other female was paying rapt attention, but remaining silent, she continued. "Most humans mutually decide to enter into a romantic relationship and, if some time passes and their affection grows into love, they choose to marry."

"Did your parents... select each other on such criteria?" Kel'shaiel asked diplomatically and politely, seeking to better understand the traditions of the Kalderi's newest guests. She had already surmised that Solae and Rene had an attachment to one another, but it was difficult to correlate it directly with any arrangement the Kalderi had. Engagements were somewhat unique to humans since they could carry on endlessly; even the Syshin found this comically ridiculous since they viewed one as either mated or not, rather than promising to one day formally take on a title. Yarue and Dasin did not call attention to their view on being betrothed out of respect for the couple that saved them.

"No, the humans that bear titles like myself are expected to typically select someone that benefits them- they have political connections, business connections, a higher title, greater wealth. My parents cared for each other but were not madly in love; I believe they valued one another's companionship more than anything," Solae conceded. For a brief moment Kel'shaiel was pensive, shrewdly calculating the age of the woman based on her limited knowledge of her species, and quickly concluding that if they were being spoken of in the past tense they were deceased, but it was not of old age. The linguist was far too young to have parents unable to sustain their own life with all the medical achievements that the Stellar Empire possessed. It would be incredibly rude to speculate aloud, but she could make an educated guess they did not meet their end 'naturally.'

"Ah, but that is not the case with myself and Rene," Solae corrected, erroneously believing the pause in conversation was because Kel'shaiel was trying to determine what the soldier attache brought to their imminent joining. "I am not interested in possessions, currency, or being appointed to any higher station in the courts," she added, belatedly realizing that as a duchess there was not much higher she could climb- if at all. Internally she wryly wondered if the late marquise would have been proud to know his daughter had been elevated without aspirations to do so. "Although you probably know as much from my introduction. I have to confess I am quite smitten with Rene just as he is," she said cheekily, "and if your protocol necessitated me defending him from other suitors, I would already be practicing my swordplay." From the couple times she had held Lord Armon's sword, Rene could be absolutely certain that she was as much of a danger to herself with the weapon as anyone else.

"We are fortunate that is not necessary," Yarue remarked dryly, nearly making Solae erupt in giggles. She knew he was serious, since it would be an offense for him to have his charge be forced into combat, especially since he owed her a debt for freeing him from slavery, but she couldn't help but think it was an apropos reaction to her terrible lack of swordsmanship.
Rhiane bristled at his demeanor and words in equal measure. She had done her best to explain the delicate situation, how the Black family household had shunned any and all pharmaceuticals after the death of her mother and brother, but once again he was irreverent of the circumstances. His pride and arrogance led him to all but accuse her of being an inadequate manager of the farm that had flourished under her guidance. Only under duress had she taken any medication herself, and she had no doubt that her father and surviving brother would shun whatever medical supplies were procured now or in the future. While she had mixed feelings on their stance, she did not believe it was her place to try to force pills down their throats, or threaten further bodily harm if they objected to applying a disinfectant spray. It was easier and more beneficial to make the larger, sweeping changes to their living conditions, ones that she knew they would quietly accept when she had departed for the castle. In one fell swoop Luke had insulted her, condescended, and proved had had not really listened with full attentiveness how the trauma of two deaths, two very preventable deaths, had forever changed her family's perspective on the industry that callously let them down in their time of greatest need. Not only that, he had minimized her earnest efforts to help the people she loved most in the world.

Silently she simmered as he called Anelle, his adoring second-in-command, and overstepped his welcome. Already she was agitated, but to hear him speak with the very woman who had stolen away his night, whom he entrusted with tasks and spoke to as a peer, and who had been a lover he had willingly spent nights with was too much to bear. He had dealt a blow to her fragile feelings towards him, and the carelessness afterwards made the wound fester, her anger stoked until it made her face burn with fury. Just because she was not someone that he spent time with by choice did not mean she would tolerate endless disrespect.

It was true that she was tired, just not in the way he imagined. Any other woman in their right mind, star-struck by the wealth and prestige of the crown, or smitten with the handsome bachelor playboy, would have fled from the engagement days ago. Not just anyone could survive the numerous obstacles she had overcome, from being injured and abandoned at her first ball while her betrothed slept with another woman, being poisoned, having the brakes on their vehicle cut, being ambushed at a clinic and held at gunpoint, all while maintaining a flawless public image, never faltering while she was treated with disdain or contempt, when she was shunned or ignored. She was tired of being taken for granted, verbally abused, and ostracized in perpetuity. Physical exhaustion was one of the least of her worries. The bar had reminded her that she deserved much more than the monarchy had to offer. Were she able to rid herself of her infatuation, she would have already left for the rebellion, who would have empathized with her and understood her.

Suddenly she stood and stalked over to the door, flinging it open despite not having a shred of clothing on her body. "Get out," she veritably growled. To emphasize her point she pushed him towards the hallway. Luke was stronger than Rhiane, but she had not won the contest by being a delicate, dainty flower, and she had spent several seasons helping to haul the harvest from one place to another. Before now she had no reason to prove that the slender muscles in her arms were not a mere illusion.

"Do you really not know why I'm letting Tobias keep one? Because if anyone tried to ridicule my art I know he'd defend it, that he'd defend me, that he wouldn't let someone dismiss my talent or effort. Can you claim you'd do the same? That you'd vigorously defend it against your relatives and your friends if they called it nonsense, a waste of time, an embarrassment? When I talk to Tobias he wants to hear my opinion and doesn't automatically assume I'm an ignorant idiot. He doesn't treat me like a mongrel that the palace was forced to let inside. He doesn't treat me like an inconvenient burden. He treats me like a person that is interesting and deserving of the same damn respect everyone else is. Maybe the reason you're so paranoid your cousin has feelings for me is because you know if you were not the prince that everyone would prefer him instead. You're damn lucky he wasn't interested in Sophia!" she fumed as she slammed the door shut, turning the lock.

To keep herself from bursting into tears Rhiane kicked her bedpost in frustration before loudly tearing through her closet. She would get dressed, but not in his presence, where she would be subjected to further criticisms and complaints. Briefly the princess elect's fingers paused over a dress sandwiched between two cheap plastic hangers. It was solid black, belted at the waist but otherwise plain, the bottom hem just above the knees. Twice she had worn the dress: once for her mother's burial and once for her brother's. Carefully she pulled it free from the other clothing and sat on the bed, chewing her bottom lip, terrified of revisiting the graves of two individuals she had never truly had a chance to grieve. This could be the worst day of her publicized tour- the day the jewel of the masses broke down in front of the cameras and sobbed.

Tobias was at the top of the stairs. Where he stood he could not see the nude Rhiane, but he could her explosive declarations, could see the heir to the throne being shoved out as he was compared to the bodyguard. He stayed perfectly still until her heard the door close and then, without saying a word, passed Luke on his way to claim his favorite painting in Edwin's room.
Syshin hailed from an arid planet with strong winds. While many of the settlements on their native world were either in or in close proximity to an oasis with fresh water and vegetation, they did not have lakes and oceans as humanity (and apparently the Kalderi) had grown so accustomed to. Very few Syshin learned how to swim as a consequence. They did not have the same need for bathing by submerging in water and a great deal of importance was put on keeping what bodies of water they had available as clean as possible, since it was necessary for drinking and preparing meals. Since the species was subjugated by citizens of the Stellar Empire, it was not surprising that it was rare for anyone to time and effort to team them to swim, much less secure a pool to practice. Predictably being underneath such a vast expanse of the liquid, with an invisible barrier, made Yarue and Dasin rather nervous. To their credit they did not immediately retreat, but they were uncomfortable enough that Solae saw their tense body language out of the corner of her eye.

"It is beautiful," the duchess quickly complimented before Kel'shaiel noticed the anxious twitching behind her from the Syshin in her party. "Forgive me for saying so, but I did not think that a race with such beautiful wings would hold a ball in a place such as this, where there is no exposure to the sky," she flawlessly segued.

Of the pair, Dasin was more reserved, more patient, but also slower to trust. By contrast Yarue was more outspoken, more emotional, and more decisive. The nuances of their personalities had come to light after a short period of time traveling on the Bonaventure. Yarue strode with more purpose, eager to prove his bravery, but wore a frown that put his feelings about the space under display; his peer took more hesitant steps, scrutinizing the translucent walls as if visual cues might grant him the security he needed, not yet convinced that they were not being led into a lair of danger. Given the history of Syshin's first encounter with humanity, being skeptical was only prudent. Solae reassured that the Kalderi were benevolent, but their ancestors had thought the same when they met the first intrepid adventurers allegedly representing the descendants of Earth Prime.

Kel'shaiel nodded, not offended by the question woven into the comment. "It is like the ships that allow you to travel in space," she replied thoughtfully, "we seek to use our technology to see things we can not ordinarily, to explore places we can not go without aid. Do humans not have places underwater?" she asked curiously. The Kalderi were more advanced, but it was well within the realm of possibility for humanity, who had terraformed uninhabitable globes, to develop a more rudimentary counterpart. The winged aliens only studied the pink-skinned bi-pedals they traded with on a surface level. No one had tried to pierce the complexities of their society, the details of their ever-changing fashion, or what was currently in development for the upper echelon's luxurious way of life.

"There are some domes," Solae slowly responded, "but they feel more... crude than this." There wasn't quite an appropriate word to describe how different the sophisticated the staging area for the dance felt in comparison. She had never been to an underwater bio-dome; they were reserved for the wealthy, who were the only ones able to afford such a decadent retreat, but many aristocrats considered them more trouble than they were worth. Primarily a residence under the sea was inhabited by an eccentric recluse, someone with a keen interested in marine biology, or a lord or lady engaged in illicit activity. Before space travel was possible they were more popular because there was a limited amount of geography to support a growing population. Now that colonization throughout the galaxies was viable, less had any desire to withdraw to a watery residence. Crazes came and went, however, and the linguist would not be surprised if either perpetually aloft estates in the sky or villas buried beneath the waves soared in popularity again.

Looking towards Rosaria, the duchess suddenly donned a mischievous grin before turning towards their hostess and escort. "Would it be possible to practice our dancing for just a few moments? It's been quite some time before I've been at a ball, and I wouldn't want to appear lacking when the rest of the guests arrive."

Kel'shaiel looked surprised by this request but nodded her head in approval demurely, confused by the diplomat.

"Come on Rosaria, practice with me," Solae said with a large smile, tugging the smaller girl towards the dance floor as she yelped in surprise. This baffled Kel'shaiel even more and the two Syshin looked on equally bewildered. Only Rene, who knew that once in a while his lover could be a free spirit, capable of joking, laughing, and playing with wild abandonment was not gaping when she selected the teenager as her partner. It was obvious to him that he was not being romantically replaced, but not everyone who beheld the spectacle had that same confidence.

"She just said dancing is a mating ritual!" Rosaria protested in a slight pink twinge of embarrassment. As proud and cold as she was on Zatis, she was still a girl, one who could be flustered and teased like any other. It was harder to joke with her than some of her peers who had been through less trauma, but because the couple treated her with dignity and respect, she had begun to relax and let go of the barriers she kept between herself and others. One night while they laid in the captain's quarters, Solae had said she knew that Rosaria would never be as "normal" as if she had never been the protege of Thorne, but that her personality was thawing, which was the best that anyone could hope for.

"Humor me," Solae grinned, tossing errant strands of hair out of her face. "Just in case there is a young Kalderi boy at this ball and you can't summon a reason to excuse yourself." she prodded with a wink, making Rosaria twinge even more pink. To Kel'shaiel she explained, "For humans, dancing can also be done for fun. Many use it as a way to express themselves or enjoy themselves rather than courtship."
"Do you think that anyone would make such a challenge?" Solae inquired, barely able to contain her amusement. It was a serious matter, of course, but she had an abundance of confidence in Rene's ability to 'defend' her against would-be suitors. The last few weeks had certainly proved his prowess in battle. Although he was reluctant to engage in melee, even when the risks were minimal, he was quick on his feet, perceptive, and able to move quickly in the flow of movement without getting snagged on unimportant details. Aristocracy seemed to place an inordinate amount of focus on conquering, but the duchess believed that Rene embodied a more noble vein of warriors, those who defended. Not every man that picked up a pistol or sword truly respected what it meant to take a life and acted themselves accordingly. Some were reckless, some were cruel, some were arrogant, and some were cowards; it was rare that they honored life without disgracing it or becoming a perverted vision of humanity's inherent brutality. The linguist only wished she could impart to her lover how he shone in her eyes.

"Whether they do or do not, he should carry a sword, or the others will view you as... unattached," Kel’shaiel said, trying to be delicate with her explanation. Not bearing a simple ceremonial weapon would give the unspoken message that the emissary's partner was not staking a claim on her. Under ordinary circumstances, this would invite interest, as any male could try to become her mate with less contest.

"Has there ever been a union between a Kalderi and a human?" Solae asked curiously, now somewhat intrigued. The Syshin were not compatible with humanity, and although the Kalderi had many physical differences, that did not mean the future co-mingling of their species would follow the same path. She certainly wasn't volunteering to test compatibility herself, but she couldn't help but wonder if such a thing was a possibility. This was their first encounter with aliens besides the Syshin.

"There has not," asserted Kel'shaiel with certainty, "but most who will come tonight have not met one of your kind before," she added tactfully. It was the kindest way of saying that she could a novel source of intrigue. The Stellar Empire traded with the Kalderi, but the mercenaries met a select few traders, ones that did not represent the entirety of a culture. Tonight's attendants were to be individuals that came from a wide variety of roles, not just merchants, and as such their personalities wildly diverged. She would be lying if she claimed she knew factually that none would seize the unique opportunity to see if they were capable of taking the high-bred lady that bravely strode into their courts. It was unlikely, but implausible.

Yarue and Dasin were horrified and disgusted, the former more than the latter. "Duchess Solae is not a thing to be fought for. She must agree to her mate," Yarue declared firmly. Syshin were born in pairs, ruled by a pair, and deeply devoted to an ideal of community cooperation. Stealing was a serious crime in their society, and coercion was an even greater sin. There was a twisted irony that a race who built their entire civilization around mutual agreement might be forced into slavery. Certain depraved individuals, like Mistress Thorne, delighted in knowing they could victimize their 'pets' into becoming something that had no agency whatsoever, who was prey to the worst atrocity they could have imagined.

"The Syshin value consent above all," Solae told Kel’shaiel quietly. "If a female objects to the courtship of a male, she can refuse him, and he can be exiled if he does not honor her request," she elaborated. Humanity was not so different in spirit, but there were a great many that lacked virtue, and found many ways to break laws, exploit loopholes, bribe, blackmail, or manipulate to compel the object of desire to obey. Syshin were much more strict. If all allegation of coercion could be substantiated, the Syshin in question would either spend considerable time seeking atonement, leave for another settlement, or be left one their own, which was seen as worse than death. Whether it was nature or nurture that was responsible, they did not fare well in isolation.

"No harm will come to the duchess," Kel’shaiel assured. "It is more of a ritual to impress, and the Kalderi at the ball will understand her customs are different." This answer did not completely placate Yarue or appease Dasin, but they did not look quite as incensed as the moment before. Before they had been reluctant to attend the dance, but now they were a little more suspicious, and perhaps slightly worried.

"Are we the first foreigners to be in your court?" Solae asked, desperate to change to topic to something that was less likely to offend Yarue. She sincerely believed she would not be mistreated by the Kalderi, but she knew only time and experience would convince him of the same.

"No," Kel’shaiel confessed reluctantly. "There are beings besides humans, Syshin, and our people in the universe, but it is not my place to tell you of them. When they are ready for you to know, you will know of them. Come, I will show you where the ball will be held so it will not be so unfamiliar to you," she encouraged them.

Solae stole an exchanged glance of surprise with Rene. When she had posed the question she had expected to hear either no one had been before or it had been a long time ago, but not that there was another mystery of the cosmos, something even more elusive than the Kalderi. To have gone undetected for this long meant they were exceptionally advanced in their technology, surpassing anything that had been seen thus far, that they resided past where imperial ships had explored, or a combination of both. Tantalizing though the mystery was, Kel’shaiel had made it clear she would not be divulging any more details, so she tried to center her thoughts on the event ahead of her.
There were certain insults that offended Rhiane more than others; slights that impugned her practical sensibility were among those that made her the most upset. For a moment she simmered over the implication that she had failed in procuring medicine the day prior. While she appreciated that Luke had spent most of the day toiling in the fields with her father, brother, and brother-in-law, she had been quite busy trying to single-handedly tackle the renovation that her family had refused to begin. Managing was one of her talents. Despite her abilities, it had been a challenge, and something as small as making certain there was an item they never personally wanted to use was so trivial it had never entered into her thoughts. Her lips pressed into a thin line. The former farmer had used the past tense purposefully, saying they had been too poor to afford pharmaceuticals rather than use the present tense to mean it was still true. Of course, the crown princess carelessly disregarded this nuance because it was convenient and gave him another avenue with which to criticize their lack of financial security.

Unintentionally her mind traveled down more unpleasant paths as he turned his back on her and made a call to Anelle. Briefly she struggled to put a name to what she felt, but a moment's pause brought to light the singular word: unwanted. He depended on his staff, on his mothers, on fellow aristocrats to meet his needs and engage him in meaningful conversation. More importantly, her attention was acutely pulled to the belief he would have been happier had their lives never intersected. If her mother had never died, had she never entered the contest, had she never won, he would have been more content with himself then when she interjected herself, challenging his philosophies, rebelling against his plans, ruining his relationship with a successive movie vixen. Rhiane didn't quite pity herself, but more and more she wondered if she was deluding herself into thinking that he was capable of seeing her as more than a peasant.

"I'm sorry that you don't feel well and have a hangover, I'm sorry that you have so much work to do, and I'm even sorry that you had to come to my home town," she began to address him, looking at his back since he refused to look at her. Perhaps he was annoyed by her nudity, but she was frustrated by how innately dismissive it was to have him turned purposefully to in the opposite direction. "But I won't apologize for how inconvenient it is for you that we grew up in poverty, or that yesterday I didn't think to buy pain reliever that no one in this house has wanted or used in years, or for my father doing things you dislike. Not once have I held you responsible for decisions your mother has made that I dislike," she pointed out. And she didn't. While she had major philosophical disagreements with the queen and was of the opinion that the current course of the kingdom would drive it into dissolution during her lifetime or her children's, she refrained from holding Luke personally accountable for decisions the monarch, despite the possibility he may have played a part in them. She knew he opposed his mother on some matters, private or political, and was his own person. At that same time, he seemed to be all to willing to impute the perceived sins of others to whom she was related or shared a socio-economic status. To say it was grossly unfair would be an understatement.

The day was off to a poor start. Not only had Luke's mood soured once he discovered she didn't have a single tablet to help mitigate the dull ache left from the previous night's drinking, she could already foresee another day of disagreements. Anelle wouldn't be able to stop herself from sniping at the princess elect's artwork, and she knew the servants would be biting the insides of their cheeks to keep from laughing at the amateur paintings. In between defending her hobby, she'd have to act as a buffer between the lower class and Luke, navigate the town in a way that would be flattering and meet the approval of both the press and palace, and somehow not completely break down emotionally while visiting the graves of the late Violet and Edwin Black.

"I appreciate you want to take the canvases with us I just..." she paused and then sat down on the bed, running a hand through her hair. "It's already an uphill battle to have anyone treat me with decency, much less kindness, and this would just be another invitation for anyone and everyone to find an avenue for insults. Unless you can claim they don't embarrass you at all, we should leave them behind to rot. The less aspects of myself that the castle knows, and the more I hide, the easier it will be to transition into the role I am supposed to fill there," Rhiane said delicately. She had noticed that he said they wouldn't embarrass him as much as the other day, and odd choice of phrase unless they were an embarrassment, yet another way he could be jabbed and jeered into humiliation. As willing as she was to wage into war for vaccinations, healthcare improvements, and better representation of workers, she didn't know if she could risk having a passion ridiculed. Already she was not good enough for any lord or lady; she did not need to give them flaws to exploit, ammunition that would wound her soul.

"Why don't you stay here, rest, do all of the conference calls you have scheduled, read all the reports you didn't have a chance to get to. I'll parade the media around on my own," she stated, "There's no reason you have to feign interest in this place. You'll have a better chance to talk to Sebastian without me getting in the way," the proud brunette added bitterly, obviously thinking that her position as a burden was unchanged.
She would be lying if she claimed she wasn't surprised by Luke's opinion she shouldn't dispose of her artwork. As a royal she had expected him to have only a refined, sophisticated palate for all life had to offer, be it wine, food, vehicles, antiquities, or women (the last of which gave rise to her fervent belief he couldn't care for her the way she cared for him). Rhiane was baffled that he would praise an amateur, an individual with no formal education or training beyond the country's mandated requirements, when he had undoubtedly grown accustomed to the talent of seasoned professionals. Walking through the palace there were more cultural treasures than she could count. Numerous priceless portraits, landscapes, and abstract splashes of color tastefully decorated nearly every hallway. Despite his exposure to one of the most prized private collections in the world, he was concerned she might trash her canvases, one whose only value she had assessed was sentimental. Quietly she pondered what his motivation was for trying to preserve the pieces might be: an emotional attachment or an opinion she had natural talent. Both seemed equally impossible to consider.

"I told Tobias he could take one on the condition he didn't tell anyone who the creator is," she sighed as she sat up and ran her hand through her hair. She could hear Sebastian taking his leave, his footsteps echoing beyond the door as he moved towards the stairs. Her brother-in-law had heard the beginnings of their conversation and decided to leave them to their privacy. He could not stall their staff for long, but he could at least offer reassurances that the couple was awake and ready for breakfast. "The queen I'm certain already had plans for each hour of my day- the lessons I'll take, the events I'll attend, the places where I'll make a brief public appearance. Supposing she does grant me free time for my leisure, painting is a risk I'd embarrass you. Anyone who sees what I make will judge me, see it as a reflection on the monarchy, on you. If it's poor quality they'll laugh at me and pity you. It's fine, Luke. I knew I'd have to sacrifice these things," she declared with all the strength she could muster.

Earlier on their tour the crown prince had told his betrothed not to try to fight his battles for him. Try as she might, Rhiane could not totally abide by his request. Anything and everything she thought might be a threat to his reputation she willingly forfeited. Sebastian had called it a "martyr complex," which irritated her in no small part because it was accurate. Stubborn as she was to let go of grudges, convictions, or injustices, she was overeager to concede things dear to her when she was committed. The former farmer was laying down her life for her family, despite their protests, abandoning every skill, passion, and pursuit that would jeopardize their financial security. A tiny corner of her heart compelled her to do the same for Luke. If she could save him a moment of humiliation, pain, or disgrace, or a slew of arguments with his mother, and the only cost was a minor loss for herself and no one else, she would pay the price.

"Besides," Rhiane sighed, "you couldn't get it past Anelle without her making some sort of bitchy disparaging comment." She swung her legs over the edge of the bed but made no move to dress. If Luke's meeting the night prior had robbed them of their opportunity for some very indulgent intimacy, she had no qualms about torturing him a little with a view of her naked body, until he was just as frustrated as she was. The more he potentially regretting not getting to bed at a decent hour, the more motivated he would be to make certain that history did not repeat itself. Just because she was not angry with him did not mean she was happy with the circumstances. Women dreamed of becoming a princess, but she had multiple attempts on her life, the hatred of the aristocracy, the contempt and scrutiny of the castle, and an unending pool of criticism. There were few boons to this exchange, and Luke himself was one of them.

"Medicine?" she queried, tilting her head to the side. "We don't keep any. No one really takes any in this house, and it's an unnecessary expense we couldn't afford." He had forgotten how much she protested pharmaceuticals, be it for her twisted ankle, a broken arm, or less taxing ailments. It was not difficult to surmise her brother and father shared similar distrust and suspicion for the medical field on a whole. The lack of simple pain reliever also put into perspective the jarring differences between their backgrounds. To simple rural folk, a tablet to dull the ache of their muscles or head was a luxury. Nobles assumed that laborers were lazy, ignorant, and foolish, squandering their assets, but the truth was that many of them barely scraped by, unable to make purchases that the rest of New Rome took for granted as universal.
"Mmmm," Rhiane murmured as she felt the pressure of Luke's lips upon her own. Before she had fallen asleep the night previous she had resolved to be angry with her betrothed for making her wait so long that their intimate plans were ultimately dashed. Despite all the fun that had been had at the bar, she had felt rejected when his responsibilities made him forfeit the only time she truly had with him alone that day, a privacy she had eagerly anticipated. Jealousy and paranoia had crept into her dreams. The princess elect could not completely shed the belief that one day he would tire of his peasant bride, that he would retreat back into the arms of someone like Anelle or Sofia, and she would be discarded. Each day brought with it the possibility he would begin to once again regard her with contempt, scorn, and resentment.

Her determination to give her paramour the proverbial cold shoulder disintegrated under the warmth of his touch and affectionate nibbling. Idly she wondered if he realized how incredibly manipulative he could be when he applied himself. Rhiane liked to believe she was a woman who was strong enough to not be swayed by anyone, man or woman, into allowing her convictions to waver, yet he had nimbly pierced through her defenses. There was a strong temptation to forget and forgive his transgressions. Of all the ways to be woken up in the morning, this was the most pleasant, and she could think of nothing she'd enjoy more than exploring each other's bodies under the sheets. The bed was admittedly cramped, old, and without an ounce of luxury, but she didn't care if it was a less than ideal prop. Her escapades in the past certainly hadn't had limitations on the scenery, so it would hardly matter now. Just as she was beginning to warm to the notion of a quick pre-breakfast indulgence, there was another rap at the door.

Rhiane's eyes fluttered open and she frowned. Instantly her mood soured at the interruption, despite it being one of her favorite people. With a resigned sigh she pulled the covers up over herself so that her bare torso was not exposed and turned towards the mischievous prince. "Can't you just tell them you have a commitment in the mornings and make them schedule around it?" Of course she knew he wouldn't be able to accommodate her whims. Unless they went years without producing an heir, causing the need to procreate to become an urgent matter, no one would respect a request for 'alone time' to be made a higher priority. The only possible argument that might hold weight was if Luke insisted he selfishly required the outlet, as the aristocracy did make minor sacrifices for their personal benefit. More than a few noble ladies and gentleman were caught in scandals of the flesh on a regular basis.

"Rhi, what do you want me to tell your staff?" Sebastian called through the door. He had been put in an awkward situation. The Black family residence had been thrown into turmoil by the developing relationship between Rhiane and Luke, who refused to acknowledge their growing feelings, Rhiane and her brother and father, who had still radically different plans for her life, Luke and his future in-laws, who were just warming to the man, and now Anelle, Nolan, Tobias, and the rest of the entourage, who all carried complexities with them.

"Tell them you successfully woke me up and I'm demanding breakfast before I get ready," the brunette groaned, hoping it'd buy her a sliver of time to make herself slightly more presentable. She wasn't ashamed of her naked body, but she was confident based on prior behavior that Luke would be incredibly grumpy if she flounced downstairs only half-dressed.

"One of your guards, Tobias, was asking to go into Edwin's room?" Sebastian asked.

"I had him move my paintings in there," Rhiane commented casually, "to make some space. Let him in if you don't mind. He'll be respectful, he just asked if he could keep one."

"You're not... trashing the rest, are you?" Sebastian pressed incredulously, obviously alarmed at the implications. The former farmer's artwork had once been a praised accomplishment of her youth and she had not, even when her life started to slowly crumble, when she was run ragged caring for her dying mother and sibling, so much as considered removing the precious sentimental items. That she was doing now felt ominous. Clearly she thought she would never be returning, or she was planning to sacrifice herself in some intangible way, if she was discarding them.

"I haven't decided yet," the princess elect admitted.
© 2007-2017
BBCode Cheatsheet