“It is what you choose to be, not all you are to be. Do you wish for that to be your sole purpose? Would you rather carve something more out? I am open to talk.”
Never before had it occurred to Aurora that she might actually have some choice in the manner in which she lived. All she had been taught, all she had seen had been an attempt to break such behaviors and expectations… and now here she was being offered a choice. The concept took her completely by surprise leaving her more than a little off-balance mentally.
Such thoughts were quickly pushed away as Zakroti’s tone shifted, turning her sense of suffering back onto herself. He all but accused her and her family of submitting to the same cowardice the royal courts had the very first time Drakka came for their women. The man was not entirely wrong, his sentiments somewhat a mirror to her own private thoughts. Too long have her people handed over their girls like they were nothing, going so far as to breed them for such purposes depending on the region. To lose a daughter was an expectation from the moment she is born into the motherland.
But to have him pin those same sentiments upon her family, couldn’t be further from the truth. They were among the minority in their homeland, the closest any Gem would come to inciting true violence against another living creature. While the rest of the country tried to teach them to be obedient and docile, Pyrus taught them to be strong and independent. Devout followers of the fire god knew him to be a mighty protector of his sisters and children, a great force that did all he could to keep the evil at bay. In another world, the Liesma’s might have turned out to be warriors themselves… filled to the brim with a fiery fighting spirit. But no such thing was allowed in the world they did live in, no fist was to be raised against those that might otherwise destroy them. Aurora despised it.
She wished to speak out but knew it not to be the time, sipping at the bitter liquid with the slightest hint of a wince. It wasn’t bad, but it was held a bite she was not accustomed to quite yet. Aurora sat and listened to the man’s explanation with intense concentration as if seeking any hint of a lie or misdirection. If there were any falsehoods, she could not detect them from the sound of his voice and all of his words were confirmed by the shivering girl beside him who could clearly see the events playing out before her.
So, the man responsible is already dealt with. A fitting end to a miserable life. A part of her resented the fact that she would not be witness to the downfall of her sister’s murderer, as nearly all the parties involved were either dead or worse off… but she had to respect the way things were handled. Her sister had been avenged and sent home, perhaps the man was not entirely bad after all. She turned her eyes downward toward her drink, staring into the dark liquid as Zakroti delivered the rest of his apology to the young girl. Pausing to gather her thoughts, Ro finally spoke up, though, her eyes remained glued to the goblet in her hands.
“Knowing my sister… there was little you could have done in order to stop her from interfering. The moment she became your bride and found herself part of your group, your fights became hers as well. Few Gemmenites are willing to pick up a blade, far fewer willing to take one for another.” Aurora sighed, setting the goblet down on the table softly as she glanced out across the room. For the first time since she had left home, Aurora’s demeanor had become calm and relaxed; the smallest hint of a smile hiding behind her features.
“I cannot deny what you have said about my people for it seems you and I share similar views. Our land is built upon tradition and old customs, a chain that binds us to a government that would act without considering the will of the people in its charge. We have no army to speak of, even the palace guards are little more than decorations. Those that reject the old ways are cast out and abandoned, a prosperous country ruled by fear… what a joke we are.” Glancing beside her, Aurora raised her eyes to meet Zakroti’s as she continued speaking.
“My family has been on the bad side of the royals for generations, once a part of the inner circle we are now treated like liabilities. They think our views and our reluctance to remain pacifistic a threat that will destroy an entire country… and maybe they’re right. For when your people came and took my sister each and every friend and neighbor we had stood by and watched, but not my brother. The eldest, he charged the man who had his hands on her knowing full well that no one would have his back and that he very well might lose his life. Still he charged that Reaper without hesitation while our other brother stood as my shield.”
“Throughout the entire ordeal the Reapers had been eyeing my mother and making comments about how it was a shame they missed her in her prime. Others claimed they could find a taker for her if they took her anyway. My father could not leave her side for fear of losing her. That day we learned how powerless we really were. Luckily my brother was spared but the man’s threats of violating my mother while forcing us to watch shut us down. Kasari was dragged away and thrown in a cage kicking and screaming, the last image we would have of her until you sent her back to us.”
“It was the same men who returned when I was old enough to be eligible, my mother collapsed from the stress of it all and my brother had to physically hold the other back from charging the man that took me. The consequences were far too great to face alone… we are the few whose wants and desires are far outweighed by the needs of the many. It is the way it has always been, and for now… will continue to be.” She allowed her eyes to drop once again, fingers wrapping around the goblet and lifting it to her lips. For them at least.
Aurora probably have gone on forever, so much tension built up in such a tiny package… it was a wonder how she hadn’t exploded yet. However, she would fall into silence and remain there as a messenger made his way into the hall and toward Zakroti. In his hands he carried what appeared to a be a letter that was opened and read immediately upon its arrival. It seemed that whatever the letter contained was less than pleasing to the man, his features betraying what she thought to be disappointment. Her curiosity pushed at her to inquire about its contents, however, most of her spark had died down by this point. Finishing her drink, Aurora excused herself and retreated to her room opting to leave the rest of her questions for another time.
Zakroti’s words ate at the girl, picking away at her mind for the remainder of the day. At some point, Aurora had been summoned from her room to accompany Zakroti and his company around the city she had been delivered to. While it was an interesting experience, she found herself more preoccupied with her thoughts than anything else. The conversation over breakfast had brought up more than she had bargained for or had come to expect. Had she really been offered a choice to become something other than just a mere servant? Considering how her sister died, the concept didn’t seem all that far fetched… she just couldn’t understand why.
Despite the lawless nature of Drakka, it still appeared to have customs and rules of its own. One such rule was that her people could not hold any sort of standing… they were looked at like commodities to be bought and sold, the thought that one might actually care for them was… unsettling. But this was a chance, and opportunity for Aurora to live the way she felt was right. Gemmenia could no longer hold her back. She would have been lying if she said the idea was less than appealing.
On the return trip home, Aurora found herself weighed down by the new clothes she had picked out. Nothing too fancy, but it now gave her a nice variety of comfortable clothes to wear about. It helped her feel more at ease to have casual garments, almost feeling normal for the first time in a very long time. One of the servants or guards, she honestly could not tell the difference, had attempted to help her carry the items but she had resisted quite aggressively until they had backed off. It wasn’t until she had returned to her room to drop off her new belongings when a thought popped into her head.
To be honest, it surprised even her. She had little idea of where it came from but what she did know is the very thought filled her with a new sense of purpose and determination. If anyone thought she had pushed her luck as far as it would go, they would sure be appalled by what she was about to do. Turning on her toes, Aurora swung her door open with a fury as she took off running down the hallway; her bare feet slapping against the cold stone.
As it was just about dinner time, Aurora zoomed around the corner to poke her head into the dining area they had been in earlier in the day. Unfortunately, the person she was looking for didn’t seem to be in the room quite yet, causing her to swing about wildly. She knew next to nothing about the layout of the estate, running down corridors at near random searching for Zakroti.
“It is what you choose to be, not all you are to be.”
You dare to tell me that my position here is not set in stone?
“Do you wish for that to be your sole purpose? Would you rather carve something more out?”
No! I refuse to be some trophy or decoration to be added to a collection. I will not be some man’s pet!
”I am open to talk.”
Aurora sped around yet another corner, only this time instead of being met with a long empty hallway… she ran face first into one of Zakroti’s personal guard. Her new husband was rather lucky she had not take the turn a few inches shorter otherwise she would have barreled right over him and sent them both tumbling to the ground. Instead, she looked up at Zakroti from her place on the ground, a half-wince half-determined look plastered to her face.
“I want you to teach me to fight proper!” She stated bluntly, chest heaving for any amount of air it could find.
Ro telling stories… They go out and buy some thingy things… Runs around Gotta go fast! and finds Zakroti to ask for something important.
The young blonde was quick to calm as she felt Arden’s presence draw nearer, a comforting hand pressing into her back easing her sobs into mere hiccups. Sorrin attempted to clean her face up a bit with the hem of her skirt, but the red eyes and flushed facial features were not so quick to dissipate. She exhaled slowly, trying to acclimate to the rolling motions of the vessel but to no avail. It would seem the girl would develop little love for the sea.
So completely lost in her thoughts, Sorrin was deaf to the rustling sounds that drove Arden closer to her. It wasn’t until the ground around them was enveloped in shadow that Sorrin turned her head up at the man she had pushed past. The warden descended upon the two girls with collars and chains, removing the old ones with ease to make room for the new ones. Arden was tossed rather roughly against the wall opposite her, the thud loud enough for even Sorrin’s ears to register. She squirmed a bit within the man’s grasp, squeezing her eyes shut in preparation for the impact she thought was to come.
Her attachment to the wall was far from gentle but she didn’t feel as if she had been tossed as recklessly as her sister-bride had been. Perhaps her earlier sickness had been enough to earn her some pity for the time being… Sorrin’s ears perked up as the food was mentioned, the pale girl sighing audibly with relief as the man said the meat was not for their consumption.
As a new platter of food was carried in from another room, Sorrin fought with the urge to mess with the collar around her neck. Something about it was driving her insane, the material scratchy and uncomfortable on her delicate skin. She turned her eyes to the platter as it was set down between her and Arden, the warden stepping up to chain their hands to handles on the sides. For a few moments she looked onward with confusion, lacking any clue as to what the purpose of the chain served. Thoughts of the plate sliding away or a measure to keep either girl from eating too much played through her head, but it wasn’t until a particularly rough wave hit the boat that she started to glean an idea.
The sudden motion of the boat tossed Sorrin over, she could feel the inside of her new collar digging into her neck. She yelped with alarm, a hand shooting up to tug at the device with panic. Sorrin pricked the tips of a few of her fingers as she attempted to wrap them around the collar, swiftly giving up her efforts as small domes of blood broke the surface of her skin.
“Your naivete is… unwelcomed Sorrin. But I sippose your enthusiasm is something worthwhile. Arden however, what about you? Are you so willing?” The man spoke up, Sorrin’s face falling further as he addressed her.
She couldn’t grasp what it was that she might have said wrong, but clearly she had displeased the man greatly. Her mind flashed back to all the times people at home had referred to her as naive. They had never bore her any hostility, at least as far as she knew, but she had eventually learned that each one of those people had been making fun of her to her face. She never spoke up about it, instead continuing to smile and pretend like she hadn’t noticed. After all, it gave her the illusion of having friends.
Moving slowly, Sorrin collected a few items and set them down in front of her on the floor before pushing the platter closer towards Arden. She didn’t speak anymore words, simply exhaling a sigh before picking at what little she did select.
Sorrin spent the remainder of the journey with her head down, continuing to push the food close to Arden while rejecting her ‘turn’. Despite moving slowly, she could feel the tiny beads of liquid bubble to the surface as the collar made their mark on her neck. She began to realize that it was designed in such a way where injury was inevitable but death would only be granted by the person who placed it in the first place; a cruel device to say the least.
While she couldn’t understand the purpose of such antics, Sorrin didn’t dwell on it for too long. The man didn’t seem pressed to get a reaction out of either of them, maintaining his statuesque position in the room… Watching them all the while. A few hours went by in this state before something in the air shifted, Sorrin raising her nose curiously in an attempt to figure it out.
The air seemed to get thicker as they approached their destination, becoming more oppressive the closer they got. Sorrin could tell from the sounds that they were getting closer to a landmass which should have excited the girl more than it did, instead the weight of the atmosphere filled her with a great deal of dread. With her neck bound and body chained to the wall as she was, there was no telling what it was they were approaching.
Sorrin gets and ouchy, but keeps pushing food toward Arden anyway. A few hours of this go by before it feels like they are getting close to something… Whatever the something is, she is not a fan of it.
Zakroti was quick to remove her arms from around his neck, something she found rather interesting given everything she had been led to believe about his kind. Aurora allowed her arms to be removed from their place around his neck unhindered, though fighting it would have been useless in the long run anyways. She caught a movement from the corner of her eye, shifting her gaze to spot Miry finally making her entrance. Aurora had to keep her face from twisting into a smirk, instead turning her attention back toward the Drakkan before her.
“A curious word to use, pets. Not at all the term I would use. Tell me, why do you choose it? And do you find this to be some form of amusing game? You know of what I speak.” The man spoke with a stern tone, warning her that she had managed to touch on a nerve. She had little doubts that it had something to do with the weakling making her way from the outskirts of the room. Something inside of her wanted to keep picking at the girl, but she had reached a line she knew she wasn’t prepared to cross just yet. Messing with Zakroti wasn’t going to work in her favor, she would just have to find other ways to get to Miry.
“Would you prefer the term toy? It is, after all, all we are meant to be in this land. We watch year after year as girls are chosen and torn away from their homes to be presented to you lot as livestock.” Aurora moved from one side of Zakroti’s chair to the other, her fingers tracing across his shoulders as she passed behind him.
“We’re wrapped up all pretty like gifts…” With each word she spoke, Aurora’s voice became more and more tainted with her distaste. Leaning in closer she ran her finger underneath his chin, though there was none of the fake seductress act behind it this time around.
“We’re taught how to kneel before you... how best to pleasure you.” Contempt was clearly shown on her face as she pulled away, leaning back against the table as she continued on her tirade.
“But do you know what it is that they wanted to be sure we knew was most important? It wasn’t the fact that somehow we’re worth our weight in gold yet not worth a social standing higher than slave… No, it was the fact that our sole purpose is offer ourselves up to you in the hopes that we’ll survive long enough to birth a small… excuse me... giant, nubby horned Drakkan baby that will one day grow up and earn one of our sisters for himself.” Aurora paused a moment to breathe, gathering her composure as best she could.
“Pet is rather generous if you ask me.” Her eyes tracked Miry to her seat, the fire Gem relaxing backwards against the table as she purposely ignored Zakroti’s secondary question. Even though most everyone else had sat by now, Miry included, Aurora still found herself on her feet. She wasn’t one to tire quickly, but it was more than just a preference to standing… She had no reason to trust the man before her. Even less a reason to trust the girl who sat beside him. To sit and dine with them felt wrong to her, down to the very core of who she was.
Zakroti seemed unconcerned by it though, sipping calmly at the drink in his goblet before asking her yet another question.
"Do you drink? It's Mazjamma, brewed at Aylmoras if I am not mistaken. Worth a try if you've never had it, though I warn you it tastes somewhat bitter." Aurora couldn’t help but laugh out loud at such a statement, a true, genuine sound that echoed about the hall despite the cacophony of voices.
“I’m not sure if you’ve noticed or not, but bitterness is something I’m more than a little familiar with. What’s a few more drops?” She countered, pausing to listen to the man swear his honesty to whatever questions she might ask. The words were echoed by the small figure sitting on his otherside, a thoughtful expression crossing Aurora’s features before she finally sighed and took her seat. She signalled her wish for the drink in which Zak had spoke of, speaking no words as she thought of what questions she wanted to start with.
There were so many that rushed through her mind at once, so many things that she wanted to know. Who was it that had struck her sister down, where was Zakroti when it was all happening… why, of all the people present, why was it her sister who had to die? Instead of her. There was another question, however, that bubbled it’s way to the surface. Her parents hadn’t spoken about the body at all, nor mentioned any words that might have been sent with them. They had been heartbroken and had little closure, simply wrapping the girl back up and burning her body as was traditional in her town. If they could not have their explanation, Aurora would have one on their behalf.
"Why did you send her back to us? You could have just tossed her aside… or buried her yourself. Were you trying to rub it in our faces? Was mourning her once not enough for you that you had to see us mourn her a second time?” She asked, her voice beginning to raise in volume toward the end before she regained control over it. If she had learned anything about the man she spoke to, it was that screaming at him was unlikely to produce any results. Such a move would be wasted energy and a chance that she would learn nothing more about what happened.
“And what about her, the Shattered one. Why wasn’t she sent home like my sister was, bloodied and lifeless? Why was she spared and my sister slain?” While able to contain the volume this time around, Aurora was incapable of concealing the venom that leaked into her words. She all but spat them down the table into Miry’s face, regardless of the fact that neither girl seemed to be willing to properly look at the other for the time being.
Ro is spicy… Very spicy. Like femnazi style of spicy.
Asks some questions and insults Miry again… at the same time. Real class act this one.
Morganna gave the fallen ringleader no thought as Höd approached her position, caring very little for the state of some lowly bounty hunter with little sense of etiquette. The sounds of his gurgling pleas for help would serve as a reminder to his kind to not forget their place, or perhaps be an invitation for others to try their luck. Personally, she would have been fine with either outcome.
“I would never leave a creature such as yourself waiting for long.” Höd responded to her with a smirk on his face.
“The locals have never liked me, though it probably has something to do with me slaughtering their brides to be.” A small sound of amusement escaped through Morganna’s nose as he responded to her banter with little shame.
“Yeah, that would do it alright. This is the only time of year one can get a fresh bride, maiming or killing them is considered rather rude. They are quite the valuable resource… seems like such a shame to let them go to waste.” She spoke matter-of-factly as if her words held no judgment of her own, simply stating the way of the world he had crashed into.
The pair continued walking on for a little ways longer before Höd spoke again, the sound of her title gracing the air pleasantly. Very few made the connection between her and her title without seeing the mask or watching her fight in person, even fewer did so and survived to remember it. It was almost as if her masked form was a myth to be told stories about at the campfire. She wasn’t entirely sure where the name came from, as it wasn’t one she designed for herself. In her line of work, titles were not granted the same way as other warriors, tending to be self-created as a calling card to victims.
Morganna had never been interested in such things, simply showing up and causing widespread terror of a nameless enemy. After a while the name began cropping up, no doubt an attempt to combat the fear of a ghost, and stuck with her moving forward. She didn’t mind it, in fact, she grew rather fond of it. And hearing it slip off the tongue of such a beast made her like it even more.
“I have to admit something to you, Crimson Phantom. I knew you were special the moment I laid eyes on you, but to be the legend herself, my, my, mon Cherie… It was a pleasant surprise.” Morganna hid a delighted smirk behind her hand.
“Suppose that gives you an idea of how others feel when they meet you, after all you’re quite the ghost story yourself. Never thought I’d see you wander in so close though, this place didn’t strike me as being your style. Guess we’re both meant to be pleasantly surprised today, wouldn’t you say?”
The sound of swift footfallings caught her attention, the echo growing louder as the source drew nearer. She had little doubts it was another band of bounty hunters seeking a prize they could not possibly earn. This caused her to roll her eyes, the futility of their struggle exhausting to even her. They would be little trouble, however, if they were anything like the last group. From the sound of it, the only difference was the size of the group.
She thought it smart of them to come in larger numbers but to go up against two fighters of her and her companion’s caliber would be their end regardless. Hovering her hand above the hilt of her sword, Morganna watched the source of the racket turn around the corner well ahead of their current position. Morganna tensed in preparation of another fight only to find herself pushed clear out of the way. The startled woman let out a small dissatisfied growl as she was yanked from view, taking her a moment to realize that it was Höd who had done so.
It was an unexpected move for someone who could have defeated the group singlehandedly, leaving the assassin slightly off balance despite being firmly pressed up against a wall. While he glanced out at the street she was glancing up at him, staring intently as if to study his mannerisms. She wasn’t used to being caught so off-guard.
Höd sighed with relief as the group flew past their position giving away his desire to not fight that particular group. Morganna was still unsure as to why, all his previous encounters proving his love for the sport, but found part of her questions answered as he maintained his position after the danger had passed them by.
Morganna was unconcerned with not being released from her place against the wall, her eyes locked on his as she took note of every motion he made. There were no indications that he meant her any kind of harm but the desire was easy for her to read in his eyes. From the way he did move, it was clear that Höd knew who he was dealing with, hand approaching her face slowly to prevent spooking her. She maintained eye contact with the man, banishing the shiver that attempted to run through her as his thumb traced the outline of her lower lip. She would be foolish to admit that she knew all there was to know about the man, having spoken true about him being a ghost story.
There was much about the man that excited her, a mix between his skill and the mystery surrounding him being more than enough to grab her attention. But there was something else, something Morganna couldn’t quite place yet. Playing with him could prove to be a lot of fun, but she couldn’t just let him have it easy. Höd would have to earn whatever he got.
“Now then, Morganna. Why don’t you tell me why you were looking for me?” He asked her, removing his thumb from her lip to trace along her cheek. Maintaining a playful expression, Morganna tilted her head slightly as she slipped one of the throwing knives from her hip and held it close to a place no man wished a blade to be.
“Someone has paid a rather hefty amount for your head, my darling. They’re pretty inexperienced with such transactions which means I can wiggle a lot more money out of them. An easy pay day when the target all but hands himself over to the hunter.” The smile on Morganna’s face was twisted and not entirely clear as to whether or not she was kidding as she spoke. Not even she really knew how much was truth and how much was a joke, but she had already made her decision for the time being. Slipping her blade back into its pouch the girl spun expertly from the man’s grasp, flipping her hair nonchalantly over her shoulder as if nothing had occured.
“I take it you’re holed up in some inn somewhere in town right? Not exactly the safest place for you with that kind of a bounty out, you’ll end up missing out on quite the vacation if you stay. Come along now, you’re coming with me. The Dantanath household is one people respect, so as our guest you’ll be left alone as long as you’re inside the grounds. That is, of course, unless you would rather keep fighting all day?” She teased, turning to lead the way without glancing to see if he’d follow.
Morganna chose back alleys and side streets to avoid the patrolling groups on the main roads, making the trip back to the estate somewhat roundabout but rather uneventful. Upon their arrival, Morganna was quick to notice the appearance of an unfamiliar steed tied to a post in the front courtyard alongside one of their own, who was left to wander the space untethered. A small trail of blood led from the horses to the front door causing her to pause.
She stooped down to dip her fingers in the blood, bringing them up to her nose curiously. Heaving a sigh, Morganna stood back up straight and shook her head.
“Incapable of even the simplest of tasks. Whatever am I going to do with you little brother?”
Höd gets up close and personal with Morganna. HE CAN’T HAS IT…. yet. She leads the way back to her house where she realizes Az is a dumbass.
“Oh… it’s you.” The small girl said, glancing upwards with an expression that betrayed little interest in what had just occurred. She barely seemed surprised at his arrival either having expected him to come or simply not caring. Azilon shook his head as his questions were met with various nonchalant shrugs. Rya seemed distracted by something, eyes wandering about the ground as if transfixed on something his eyes could not detect. He glanced around in the hopes of spotting what held her attention so but when nothing stood out to him, he moved the trio along.
Azilon was still somewhat on guard as the three made their way from the leader’s tent, certain he had dealt with everyone properly but not risking the mistake of assumption. His eyes barely brushed over the leader Rynek who still lay on the ground gritting his teeth against the pain. There was still the chance of survival for him, however the man was clearly in no shape to continue the brawl. Ignoring the man, Azilon continued to survey the scene around the small group. The bodies of his victims lay strewn about haphazardly for whatever desert creatures desired them. Cawing from above alerted him to the presence of such creatures awaiting his departure before they made to swoop in and feast.
With a short whistle, a large dark steed came trotting around one of the tents in response to his master’s call. The Drakkan had not thought much about his return, having left in such a hurry that he only bothered to bring one horse. It was possible for the three of them to ride together on such a horse, as it was bred with war in mind, but he thought it better for each of the girls if separate rides were arranged. He shifted Lienna’s weight to one arm and helped Rya up onto his own horse, knowing that even if she attempted to steer him wrong, the horse would obey Azilon’s directions alone. He hoped the illusion of independence would be enough to keep her placated until their return to the estate.
Once Rya was situated, Azilon took another quick look around for a second horse. His first thought was the warrior he had defeated in combat, but he quickly thought better of such a plan. The leader’s horse was undoubtedly trained similarly to his in that it would refuse orders from a master it did not recognize. A fun challenge but one he was not willing to take on with Lienna in her current state. He also thought it rather bad in manners to take so much when he had already disgraced the warrior by leaving him alive. Rynek’s horse would remain behind with his master. Instead, Azilon chose a steed bred slightly smaller than his own, and much lighter in color. The bay seemed neither frightened nor concerned with Azilon’s approach, allowing him to carefully place Lienna on her back before climbing up himself.
As antsy as Azilon was to return to the estate, there was no point in rushing the girls back. Lienna, while exhausted and covered in welts, seemed stable enough… it was Rya that had him concerned. Wounds of the flesh were easy to see and much more convenient to deal with than a wound of the mind. He made a note to keep a closer eye on the child moving forward, he was after all stuck with the small creature for real this time.
Eventually the trio made their way back to the estate, Azilon leading the way into the grounds only to halt the horse in the entrance courtyard.
“This isn’t my home. I don’t live here. You said I was going home.” The girl had stopped his horse just outside of the estate, glancing at the building with a mixed look of alarm, confusion, and what appeared to be sadness. Azilon sighed, easing the bay forward a few more paces so that he could dismount and tether the creature. Leaving Lienna gently draped over the mare’s neck, Azilon turned back and walked back out the front to appear at Rya’s side.
“I know not of which home from your memories you speak of, but your home is with me now. This is only a temporary stop, I hope to return to the forest soon. Perhaps you’ll feel more at ease there than here in the desert. You’re a child of your gods’ matriarch, am I wrong? If there is something that will help ease your mind while we stay here, let me know. I shall do my best.” With Rya mounted on the horse, Azilon was forced to look up at the child for once. It also meant his concerned expression was more difficult to hide from her as she had the sight advantage. He might not have been the most thrilled Drakkan to receive a bride, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t care about the creature he had happened across. They had been forced to spend quite a few days together on the way to the city, it was no wonder Rya had managed to grow on the somber warrior.
Motioning for the Gem to come inside, Azilon guided the horse gently to the same spot the other horse had been tethered to. He helped Rya down to the ground, noticing for the first time that he was still bleeding from the wound she had given him earlier. It wasn’t a very large gash, small enough that he barely noticed the thing, so there was little reason it should not have begun healing on its own. Azilon came to the conclusion that the blade was likely treated with an ointment or poison of sorts to prevent recovery in battle. Underhanded but not entirely uncommon among certain groups.
Lifting Lienna down off the horse, Azilon paused by Rya, gently nudging her to grab her attention before making his way inside the building. The house servant Alice rushed up to greet the returning member of the house only to falter at the scene. It wasn’t the prettiest but it was far from a horror show, causing Azilon to scowl in her direction. Gathering herself, Alice drew closer for whatever instructions she might be given.
“See Rya here to a seat and get her something to drink, tea if we have anything weaker than that shit Morganna enjoys. I’m going to put this one here in a guest room so she can rest... Is Morganna still here?” Alice shook her head in response to his question, stepping up beside Rya to show her to the front sitting space before she hurried off to retrieve drinks from the kitchen.
Azilon shook his head, turning his body to walk down the hall to find a room for Lienna. He didn’t know very much about the servant as she had been added to the estate long after he had left to be on his own. Clearly she was a woman of few words, but as to the reason, well, he would have to ask if he remembered later. He kept walking until he had reached one of the vacant guest spaces, nudging the door open with his shoulder before stepping in. It hadn’t been properly prepared for any real guests, but it was enough for what was needed at the moment. Laying Lienna down gently on the bed, Azilon retrieved his cloak from around her before tucking her into blankets.
“Just stay here, I’ll see about finding you some replacements for your clothing. I’ll have a servant come in and check on you in a little while.” He wasn’t entirely sure that Lienna could hear him, but the words were there all the same in the case that she was listening. Turning to leave, Azilon shut the door behind him softly before returning down the hall to the front area.
“You’re getting blood all over the floor Azzy.” An unmistakable voice sounded from the doorway, Azilon glancing up to see his sister Morganna entering. Her stance was relaxed as if such a sight was completely normal and nothing to be concerned about.
“I was expecting some resistance, but come on now… They shouldn’t have given you that much trouble.”
“It wasn’t them, it was her.” Azilon countered, nodding his head in the direction of Rya who had gotten up at some point and began wandering around the room aimlessly. Exhaling slowly, Az chose to ignore the girl for the time being, his attention focused more on the large brute entering through the door behind his elder sister. Morganna waved her hand dismissively as Azilon tensed, clearly ready for a fight if there was one to be had.
“So jumpy. Don’t worry, he’s with me. He’ll be staying here for as long as he wishes while in Železna Kri. So play nice.” Morganna’s tone and gaze turned harsh as she glared at the younger sibling, only softening once Azilon had returned to a more relaxed state.
“So you’re telling me that you made it through an entire encampment of mercenaries, only to be beaten by a bride? Come now Azzy, you’re losing your touch.” Azilon didn’t respond, simply scowling in her general direction.
“Lighten up, I’m just messing with you. Assuming the blade was coated in something, yes?” She asked, already knowing the answer based off of the scene before her. There was no unfamiliar blade in sight and the wound didn’t match one created by his own daggers suggesting he had been stabbed during his ‘rescue’ operation. Such a small wound would have closed by the time he returned to the estate which left her with little doubt of the circumstances. Reaching her hand into her bag, she approached her brother and stooped so that she could examine the wound.
There was a faint scent mixed in with the blood that she could smell, a sour smell that made her crinkle her nose. She would have been more concerned if it was sweet as the likelihood of poison would have been higher, however, it didn’t seem like the case here. Pulling out a small packet, she stood back up and offered it to the man.
“Just rub this powder in and cover it up, you should be fine after an hour or two. Now, where’s my payment, don’t tell me you lost her?” The woman took a few steps back, planting her right hand on her hip with a look of disappointment.
“Give me some credit will ya? She’s in one of the guest rooms hopefully resting. Thing looked pretty beat up when I got there, had to carry her the whole way.”
“I’m getting the spoiled goods? Guess I should have expected as such, he was, after all, quite insistent. I suppose renegotiating our terms is out of the question too, whatever. A Gem is a Gem, she was bound to find herself in that kind of situation eventually, makes no difference to me.” Morganna feigned a pout before shrugging, turning her eyes down the hall as if debating whether to check in on the girl or not. After a short internal weighing of her options, Morganna decided she would assess the damages for herself.
“Höd darling, I’ve got a small matter to attend to. I shouldn’t be long so feel free to make yourself at home.” She said before taking off down the hall, quick to locate the room in question. Under normal circumstances Morganna would not have minded Höd accompanying her, it wasn’t as if she had anything to hide… However, the psychological state of such a fragile creature could be quite volatile. She thought it the safer bet to leave him in the other room while she checked in on Lienna.
“My, my…. He certainly did a number on you didn’t he? Curious as he left the other one all but untouched, didn’t strike him for the devoted type. Change of heart, Lienna?” Morganna teased, leaning up against the door with her arms crossed.
Back in the main room, Azilon was eyeing up the brute curiously. It took him a minute to place the man’s face, recognizing him as being from the Reaping ceremony. While he hadn’t received one himself, he had still shown up. Whatever his reasons were, Az couldn’t help but to feel somewhat slighted by the man as he was part of the reason his fight had been derailed so terribly. Still, he couldn’t be completely mad with him, after all, it had been his own sister that had handed over the girls to the enemy.
Eyes shifting back to his own bride, Azilon sighed again. Alice had brought the tea she had been asked to, a curt nod of his head directing her back down the hallway to meet with Morganna in Lienna’s room.
“Rya. Your tea. Sit down and drink it…. Slowly.” He added, knowing with his luck she would down the liquid in one go then go back to wandering about. Az then returned his attention to Höd in an attempt to figure out what it was exactly that Morganna saw in the man, to find any inkling of why he would be allowed among them so suddenly. It was an inquisition Az quickly gave up on, there was no understanding the woman.
The sound of a voice from outside quickly stole his attention from the imposing man, Azilon’s already sour face seeming to grow ever more displeased. What exactly was being said could not be made out from their position, though it was clear that he was not alone. Despite this assumption, the owner of the voice entered the building alone though he required no invitation to do so.
“Seems like today is going to be a busy one. Not even lunchtime and we’ve already had several visitors. Who do we have here?” Salazar asked, turning the corner to gaze at the face of the new arrival with a fair amount of suspicion but little hostility. Before Höd could answer, Azilon spoke up with more spite in his voice than intended… though this time it wasn’t directed at Höd himself.
“Morganna brought him home. Think she said his name was Höd or something like that.” He said, retreating from his spot in the room to stand closer to Rya, all by shielding her from his father’s view.
“Ah, the Ultair boy from last night’s ceremony, made quite the stir with your entrance. You have people talking. Well, if my dear Morganna has invited you that’s all I need to know. ” He stated before turning back to his own son, catching sight of Rya behind him.
“Good boy, I see you went and retrieved our little Rya. Proud of you.” Azilon growled at his father though it was largely ignored by the elder man.
“Anyhow, I need to speak with you and your sister when you both have a moment. I expect to be seeing the two of you at lunch.” Nodding his head respectfully toward his new guest, Salazar paused a moment too long to let his gaze linger on Rya before he disappeared into down another hallway and out of sight.
Az brings his girls back… apparently doesn’t really care about Lienna but super concerned about Rya.
Meets Höd, doesn’t know what to think of him.
Cranky times when dad shows up. Creepy dad being creepy.
Even sitting down the man seemed to tower above her, leaving Sorrin feeling rather small and none too safe. She shuffled uncomfortably under his gaze, eyes shifting ever so slightly to the food being brought in by the goblin creatures. Her stomach growled with anticipation of being fed but twisted at the realization of what was being brought to them. She should have known the Drakkan would be partial to meat centered meals, after all, there had been plenty of it available at the keep where they were held.
The area in which she grew up was primarily vegetarian, at most ever eating fish or poultry but never red meats. She had never quite understood why, but it was something that she had grown up with and was not likely to part from it now. Even looking at the stuff was enough to make her queasy. Taking a deep breath, Sorrin sought to steady herself as the food was wheeled in toward them, the lord opening his mouth to finally answer a question of hers.
“Feast.” the Warden commanded, “You are aboard a ship headed towards Harand Kor. The only mistake you have made is being weak; if you wish to make it up to me, become stronger and grant me a heir to Harand Kor. Less you wish to become a house pet or a wall ornament.”
“Harand Kor….” Sorrin whispered to herself, trying the name out for herself. Much to her surprise the words fell seamlessly from her tongue, bearing no awkward harshness she assumed to accompany their language. She snapped back to attention as he began speaking again, eyes continuously wandering back to the food that had been brought into the room.
“An… heir? Oh you mean children! Strange, auntie never said anything about being strong to be granted a child. I guess things work differently in Drakka than at home, huh? Just show me what to do and I’ll do my best! It would be really sad if you had no one to care for you in your old age.”
A shuffling beside her alerted Sorring to Arden’s awakening, the small girl turning rather excitedly toward the other. Her smile was replaced by a look of concern as Adren struggled to move, looking rather sick as she sat up and looked around.
“Where are we?”
“He said we’re on a boat to… Harand Kor?” She stated, though she looked back questionly to be sure she had gotten the name correct. Shrugging her shoulders, she turned back to Arden to make sure the girl was alright. The longer she was awake the better she began to look, beginning to gain back some of her color and seeming more alert. Sorrin took this as a good sign, relaxing a bit as her friend familiarized herself with the surroundings.
“Is that for us?”
Eyes lighting up, Sorrin was quick to jump to her feet.
“I’m starved.” It wouldn’t take long for the blonde child to regret her swift movements, however, experiencing the swaying of the ship for the first time in her life. While it was what most would consider a gentle lull, Sorrin had never once been on a boat. She had spent the majority of her life out in the sturdy fields of the countryside. The closest she had ever experienced were the carriages they had been transported in from place to place.
Pale complexion turning almost green in color, Sorrin’s hand rushed to cover her mouth.
“I don’t feel so good.’ She gurgled, a look of panic crossing her features as it dawned on her what was about to happen. Clenching her eyes shut, Sorrin rushed forward to wiggle her way past the Warden, rushing out into the open air and to the side of the ship. Her trip had nearly been in vain but somehow she managed to lean over the side in just enough time to empty whatever remained of previous meals.
While it wasn’t much, the stress continued to wrench at her gut leaving her dry heaving over the side of the boat for several minutes before she was able to calm herself down. Embarrassed tears streamed down her face as she attempted to right her position, finally sinking to her knees in defeat. The energy she exerted in puking had left the small girl shaking and dizzy and more than a little upset.
“Aaaaardeeeen.” She called out, sniffling through the tears and snot trying to escape down her facial features.
Sorrin is confused about babies… tries to be helpful and upbeat but got seasick… She’s a very sad bean right now.
The scene that unfolded before Evienne was not anything like she had imagined, and far beyond anything that could have been predicted. Several groups had already began taking their leave from the main hall, no doubt looking for entertainment elsewhere. While the proposed duel was an unexpected pleasure, the combatants were not highly regarded by other in attendance. This meant very few of her guests cared about the outcome, any who stayed were simply there to enjoy some bloodshed. They would not be disappointed in this regard, however, it’s source was that of yet a secondary event crasher.
Out of the corner of her eye she had seen the man move, having been standing off to the side with Azilon’s sister. It was not a man she recognized, but she had not sensed any malice from him thus had no reason to pay him any mind. His movement was different this time though, as he weaved his way through what remained of the crowd to the opposite side of the room. With very little effort, the man had picked out a target and crushed his skull, allowing his remains to splatter unceremoniously on the floor. She watched as he spent a bit of time teasing the bride his victim had just been handed several minutes before, quickly growing bored and throwing the small creature to the ground. Such treatment was a waste, but who was she to argue what one did with their prizes once they were handed out. Most just had the decency to wait until they had departed to get rough with such delicate flowers.
Turning his sights on the royals, the man approached the area where her father stood, guards as well as Evienne tensing at such a brash move. He didn’t seem to bear any ill-will to the High Prince, simply making a statement as the Rynek fellow had. Gauging from her father’s reaction, the name the man spouted did carry weight, though it was not one she recognized. She made a point to inquire about it at a later time. All that mattered was that the man had finally chosen to make his retreat, leaving the hall without another word leaving Evienne able to focus on the fight before her,,,,
Or rather she would have been able to if there were any fight left to focus on. Instead, the sight she was met with was on of utter chaos. Having somehow gotten her hands on Azilon’s brides, the Dantanath’s eldest daughter had all but thrown the girls away. Had she not made the statement she had, Evienne would have ruled it out of her favor, but she was within her right. The mess was now a family ordeal which meant unless it began causing real trouble, it was outside of her realm to dispute. Heaving a sigh, Evienne watched as the group took off with the girls, clearly satisfied with how things turned out for them.
Azilon, on the other hand, was his usual pleasant self. The man, along with his father and several other groups decided to finally leave, giving plenty of space to already spacious hall. With her brother having been absent for the greater part of the ceremony and her father beginning to retreat back to the personal quarters, Evienne figured the rest of the stragglers could be handled by the guards with little issue. She turned to leave when she remembered the girl whom the man Ultair had abandoned to the mercy of her guards.
Several thoughts ran through her head at that moment, attempting to figure out what best suited her needs. If she so wished it, Evienne could order the girl to be shared amongst whatever men wished to participate… However that would most certainly would have assured her death. A temporary solution that would ultimately end in waste. There was always the possibility of rehoming the poor girl, finding another lord to bribe using the girl as a bargaining chip, but such moves were usually of her father and uncle’s doing. The fact that her father had chosen to walk away without her meant he saw no use for her, and she’d be damned if she allowed Ehkota any undue opportunities to undermine the High Prince’s authority.
"Get the fuck away from me!" The girl’s eyes whipped around frantically between the men surrounding her.
"Help me, please!"
“Settle down gentlemen, there is no need for such behavior. Husband killed and abandoned by the victor, I am now claiming this girl for myself. Do any of you wish to dispute this claim?” Evienne spoke as she moved from her position, approaching the group of hungry looking men without my concern. The looks in their eyes were enough to tell her that they considered such an option, as it was within their rights, but decided against it. She might have been born into royalty but she had proven herself on several occasions that she was not a force to be taken lightly.
After a few moments of silent deliberation and looks passed between one another, the men backed off to allow Evienne room to approach her new Gem. She still had little idea of what she was going to do with the girl, but those were thoughts for a later time. Stooping down to where the girl sat shaking on the floor, the princess extended her hand out slowly so as not to spook her any further.
“Your situation is rather unfortunate, young one. Allow me to escort you to somewhere you can regain your composure.” Evienne could not deny the attractiveness of young girl, her dark hair rather appealing though perhaps a little on the short side for her usual tastes. Hair was easily handled so she opted to brush the thought away for later consideration and instead focused on trying to seem the least imposing as possible.
The Gemmenite creatures could be so fragile and after what this child had been through, well, Evienne knew better than to push her luck too far. She didn’t even press for a name, instead quietly guiding the girl to her feet. Should she wish to provide one in the following moments she would commit it to memory, but no information was strictly necessary for the moment. In due time Evienne would learn what she needed to know and would make her decisions from there.
Retreating back into the halls of the royal estate, Evienne led the girl down a corridor lined with doors on either side. Each door belonged to a room that housed the many girls the royal family had collected over the years. It wasn’t anything overly done, but the rooms were comfortable enough to keep them complacent and ready to work. Selecting one of the rooms she knew to be empty, the princess opened the door and guided the girl inside.
It wasn’t a very large room by Drakkan standards but it looked to be about right for a Gem occupant, everything being built to their dimensions rather than the larger race. The bed was at the center of the design, considering it was the entire purpose of the room, and there was a dresser off to the side that housed generic sleeping attire. As the room was only temporary, there was no need to fill it with the working garments… That would have to wait until Evienne had come to a decision about what the girl’s role would be. Aside from those items, the room did not contain much else. A mirror was present as was a water basin for freshening up, but there was nothing in the way of art or decoration to the place. The only respite from the blank walls were a set of two windows on the wall furthest from the door, glass set on a hinge to open outward if fresh air was required. Some thought this foolish, but Evienne knew most of the girls were too frightened to leave on their own.
“You can rest here for tonight. I’ll be sure to send one of the senior girls to care for you and keep you company until I can return for you. It would be wise for you to put your best foot forward tomorrow, little one. Sleep well.” With a wave of her hand, Evienne shut the door behind he leaving the girl alone with her thoughts. There wasn’t a doubt in her mind that the morning would bring with it plenty of heated conversations and debates within the family. Not something she was particularly excited about but was her duty all the same.
As the sun rose so did the servants of the royal house, though some had already set to work a few hours prior. Everyone had their purpose, working in harmonious efficiency like obedient little worker bees. It was clear that any order given by a ranking member of the house superseded any previous instructions, depending on the rank naturally, the servants were left to their own devices when it came to the tasks getting done. Thus a hierarchy of sorts had been created on their behalf, leaving one woman in charge of directing the girls and keeping the royal house running smoothly.
The woman was fairly strict, but for good reason. It was she who made sure no task went forgotten and no girl left out in the cold. She was known for doing whatever it took to protect the girls employed to work in the house earning her the respect needed to keep the slaves in line, hence why the royals left her to run things how she saw fit within reason.
First to rise, she had been met with a note left behind by the princess Evienne instructing her to choose a girl to charge with the care of a new arrival until her place could be determined. Her choice was immediate though she did end up having to wait until sunrise to call upon the girl in question, selecting a girl by the name of Margaret for the job. Margaret had been a bride at a Reaping ceremony four years prior, having fallen into the care of the royals after her selected husband fell in combat that very night. His claim had been contested resulting in a duel which claimed the lives of both participants, leaving her alone and without a master.
She descended into a new section of sleeping quarters which appeared to be mixed in roles from the symbols carved into plaques alongside the occupant’s name. While several girls emerged and began attending to their duties, Margaret was charged with standing outside the door of an unmarked room to await the girl’s awakening. Whether it be moments or hours until she arose, Margaret would wait patiently and show nothing but kindness to the new arrival. After all, she knew just as well as the next girl how unsettling the whole process could be.
The hornless prince slithered his way back into the estate through a side entrance, one of which his own personal guards were in charge of watching. It made coming and going without being disturbed very easy for Ehkota as few of the other members enjoyed taking such an indirect route to their destination. It would seem, however, that his habit would prove to be but a hindrance this time around. As he rounded the corner, Ehkota was met with the sight of his eldest brother who looked none too pleased.
Where he had been the night before, the young prince would not share, but it mattered little for what his brother had to say. It didn’t appear that the man had slept any during the night, having waited up for the brother who disappeared without a word.
“What do you think you’re doing, little brother?” Gaelnesh barked out, his deeper voice nearly startling the smaller man. The only movement the elder brother made was with his eyes, shifting them from a space on the wall over to the hornless runt.
“I’m not sure I know what you’re-” Ehkota started only to be cut off by a sharp look and a more commanding voice.
“Cut the crap Ehkota, you know exactly what I’m talking about. And I don’t just mean your nightly outings either. I want to know what you think it is you’re doing while my back is turned.”
Ekhota fell silent, something inside him twisting around his gut. The last time he remembered such a hostile feeling behind his brother’s questions was the day he lost his horns. If he wasn’t careful this time around he could end up losing a lot more. Such a thought only served to rile him up, however, hating the feeling of being so inferior to his elder brother. Where did his brother get off treating him in such a manner. Was he not a prince as well, a member of the royal family. The youngest he might have been but that shouldn’t have meant a thing. Now on his guard, Ehkota wiped away his serious look and replaced it with a more relaxed one.
“Wasn’t it you who taught me to never turn my back in the first place, brother?” The prince smirked but was met with a look of pure unamusement from his elder counterpart.
“Do you think this a game? I’ve allowed some of your… antics… to go overlooked out of courtesy to family. However, your recent behavior has called your loyalty into question. Need I be concerned?” For the first time since Ehkota had entered, Gaelnesh moved from his stationary position against the wall. Arms falling to his sides, the crowned prince faced his brother head on with a menacing glare. Before he could respond in his own defense, however, Gaelnesh cut him off and continued speaking.
“I want you to think before you answer as it will weigh heavily either in your defense or against it. Keep in mind that I am fully aware of the fact that you were apparently present at the ceremonial tourney while your niece was attacked in broad daylight. Think yourself too important to raise a hand in her defense?” Ehkota growled internally, swallowing the sound so as not to show his true irritation at the situation. At the time he had thought the plan brilliant, knowing full well little Evienne would report immediately to her father. Gaelenesh had returned home with haste as expected, but what he had not intended was the arrival of the brides with him. Any chance to get their hands on a bride ahead of schedule was a bonus to the lords they were attempting to bribe… meaning the plan had worked somewhat against the younger prince.
“Clearly my help was unnecessary, she is your daughter after all. Skilled enough to take on three men easily twice her size unarmed, what help would she have required of me? You leave many matters to her in your absences, dare I say she handled them all on her own just fine. So I believe me when I say that I have no idea what you’re so upset about.” This time it was Gaelnesh’s turn to swallow his irritation. He wanted nothing more than to unleash his fury upon his brother, having his own suspicions about what had occured.
Ehkota had never really shown interest in the crowned prince’s children other than being mindful of where they fell in line to succession. No doubt he felt slighted by some of them as it was clear in the case of their father’s death, they would dispute claim to the throne and challenge the younger for the position. There was no concrete proof in the prince’s position, however, to justify a murder so Gaelnesh would have to be content with keeping an eye on the boy for the time being.
“I see. So glad you’ve finally come to recognize the authority of my children. It would seem your new bride has taught you a thing or two. I needn’t remind you of how fragile such beings can be though, I would take great care with her if I were you.” Ehkota’s face twisted, eyes ablaze as he stepped forward challengingly. For years Ehkota had been acquiring brides for himself only to find them dead after they had conceived his children. When the fist two had died he had thought it coincidence but he would eventually learn otherwise. SInce then he had been working hard to ensure the survival of bride after bride only to find them dead, over and over again. For his brother to throw something so dirty in his face was a low blow indeed.
The young prince was cut short yet again, though this time it was by the entrance of another Drakkan. Evienne’s rosey locks bounced into the room, the youthful woman looking between the two brothers curiously.
“Am I interrupting something? Thought I would let you know that food was waiting for us, though if you would prefer to have our meeting here in the hallway…” Gaelnesh turned with a beaming smile, shaking his head to her question.
“No need my dear, lead the way. Your uncle will be joining us this morning as well.” Evienne paused a moment, shooting an unconvinced glance back in his direction before turning to lead the way to the dining hall. It was a spacious room that was used for all of their meals, though due to the possibility of guests, the table was designed to fit a great deal of numbers.
This morning only a few seats had been prepared, one for each member of the family currently staying in the estate. Even then, however, not all of those seats would be filled. The head of the table had been arranged in a way should the king make his appearance at the meal, though family members knew this to be more than unlikely. Respecting this, Galenesh took a seat to one side of the head while Ehkota took the other across from him. Evienne chose to sit by her father for the meal, though her position granted her a seat wherever she liked below her father’s rank.
Silence filled the air until food had been put out before them, a necessary respite from the hostile cold felt between the present members. Evienne finally sighed, resigning herself to the role of briefing the princes of the current situations.
“There still appears to be some unrest following the ceremony, although it is no more than usual. I’d say we would be safe just waiting it out as it seems contained between the families, but we should be mindful that it could escalate further.” Evienne began, taking a moment for any responses before she continued on. Such information was usual as of late so she wasn’t all that surprised by the lack of interest in the topic, swallowing the bite of food she had taken before speaking again.
“There was something, however, that I heard this morning on my way to retrieve you… I think both of you might take some interest in this. A rumor is current circulating amongst the guards of some suspicious activity on the outskirts on the city. Moving shadows, mysterious disappearances and the like.” Gaelnesh nodded, having heard something similar on his travels out to the Keep. Such rumors had begun cropping up all over the place, but so far they presented as nothing more than campfire stories told by the guards for entertainment.
“Doesn’t sound like much other than some thieves, titleless Drakkan trying to stir up trouble wherever they can. They pop up every year around this time perhaps some of them finally disputed bride claims and won. I’m honestly not all that concerned about it at the moment, they’ll likely disperse on their own. Just in case, I’ll have Ehkota look into the matter.” Ehkota’s goblet slammed down onto the table in protest.
“You just got finished saying that it was nothing to be concerned about, why are you sending anyone to investigate it at all?” He growled, tension still high from the words exchanged earlier. Gaelnesh paid his brother little attention as he continued to eat his meal calmly.
“It would seem I’ve left you with far too much free time, after all you were just complaining of not having enough work to do with my daughter stepping up in her responsibilities. Not to mention it will be good experience for you. Report back to Evienne with your findings so she may delegate appropriately. Anything else?” Evienne expertly hid a smirk behind her goblet, drinking from it slowly while her uncle squirmed uncomfortably. Finally the prince gave in, excusing himself from the hall to attend to whatever it was that he did on his own time.
Shaking her head, Evienne set to completing her meal before it had a chance to grow cold.
“Do you really think uncle Ehkota capable of inciting a rebellion against you father? Any warrior worth his salt would be able to sense his flighty nature, he commands no respect from his men.” She noted, glancing beside her with an inquisitive look. For the first time that morning, Gaelnesh’s features softened to take on a more amused expression than anything.
“It’s difficult to imagine as you’ve never known a split Drakka, but to be perfectly honest… Drakka has never really know unity to begin with. While my brother might not be as feared or respected as your grandfather, there are still plenty of individuals out there who would see Drakka return to its former ways. Should he appeal to that sentiment in enough people, it could prove to be more than a little troublesome.” Sitting back in his chair, the High Prince sipped slowly from his goblet taking in the moment to relax.
“You need not worry yourself with such matters though, my dear Evienne. That is something for me to deal with.” Finishing with her food, Evienne nodded her head in understanding. Rising to her feet, the young woman leaned over to kiss her father on the cheek.
“I can’t promise I won’t tease him, but I will leave matters to you father. For the moment I have other matters to attend to with my pet projects so I will catch up with you later. Give grandfather my love when you see him.” She said before exiting the room, leaving her father to enjoy the rest of his meal in peace.
While she had left instructions for someone to be sent to her newest acquisition, Evienne wanted to follow up as soon as possible. She wondered if the girl had awoken yet, or if she had barred herself in the room. A shudder of excitement ran through her as she thought of all the fun she could have testing, not to mention training the new arrival.
Evienne has picked up a new Gem, lovely little Aryll. Leaves her in the care of another Gem until she can arrive. Pretty much given free reign to wander (at your own risk mwhahahahaha).
Royals have a small little… breakfast. Very family like, totally family. Mhmm.
Bride of Zakroti @darkwolf687; Sister-Bride to Aymiria @Amethyst Interacting with Roftam, Zakroti and Aymiria
Shifting her eyes upward, Aurora glanced at the man who still remained standing guard outside her door. Somehow his presence managed to bring her comfort, though it was likely due to him serving as some kind of consistency in an ever shifting situation. While she didn’t know how long such a treasure would last, Aurora decided she would enjoy the small things while they lasted. The man looked down at her and began speaking, silencing himself once he realized that his words were pointless to waste. She had already straightened the room, which was a fairly easy task considering how little time she spent awake within its walls.
The guard looked as if he wanted to say something else, perhaps instructions of some sort as to where she could go, but was further silenced by the sound of approaching footsteps. Aurora heard the footfalls before she saw the person, already aware of whose face she would see once she shifted her eyes back down. More than a foot shorter than her stood a tiny, pale-faced Gem. It was the lord’s first bride, well surviving bride that was, standing before her in the hall. Any hopes of having a moment of true peace were thrown out the window with her arrival, a sentiment that clearly displayed itself in Aurora’s facial expression.
“Good morning, Aurora. Did you sleep well? I do not believe my lord Zakroti is awake yet, but if you are hungry I can certainly show you to the dining room, there’s bound to be something set out already.”
Everything about the girl screamed ‘safe’. Her smile was neither too bright nor too lacking, just the right amount to be present but not give much away. Even her posture was proper enough to be considered polite, but not so rigid as to be considered prissy. Aurora knew it all too well, things she had learned to do herself back in the homeland when performing at events for those of a higher status than herself. The fire Gem would not have been surprised if she were to learn that this Miry character had been a performer of some kind as well, though gauging by her choice in outfit… might have been a bit more than just that.
Aurora fought the urge to retreat back into the room she had spent the night in and promptly slam the door in the girl’s face as she so desperately wanted to do. It was within the realm of possibility that she could just shut her mouth and walk away without even acknowledging that she had been spoken too, but that would have left very little impact. Such behavior was not in her nature.
Stepping out fully into the hallway, Aurora pulled the door to her quarters shut with more force than was necessary. Staring down at Miry harshly, the young girl puffed air out her nose with distaste.
“It would seem my invitation to the soirée has been misplaced, please allow me to apologize for appearing before you so underdressed, m’lady.” Aurora bent into a deep curtsy, every bit of her composure mocking the smaller girl. Straightening back up to full height she shot a pitying smirk at the water Gem.
“Overcompensating for something?” She asked with a raised eyebrow, hands placed firmly on her hips as she stepped forward to close the distance. Bending slightly so that their faces were aligned with one another’s, Aurora raised her right hand and blew across it sharply. She ignited a small spark mere inches from the girl’s face, not enough to harm but definitely enough to startle if she wasn’t expecting it. The air would have warmed considerably, but that wasn’t difficult to do in such a cold space.
“I think I can find my own way, thank you. I do, after all, have several senses to work with. I’m sure I can figure it out.” Standing back up, the girl laughed and brushed past Miry as she made her way down the hallway.
She cared very little about how the shattered woman reacted, instead turning her focus to the very task she had just thrown in Miry’s face. The sounds of many voices caught her attention rather quickly, voices belonging to a great deal of men chattering away without much care. Whether they were excited or irritated, Aurora doubted she would have been able to tell the difference. What she did know was that whatever was happening was bound to catch her interest and might help her locate the room where she might find food.
Closing her eyes for a brief moment, she listened carefully to separate the echoes from the source before turning her body down a separate corridor. It didn’t take her very long to locate the room where the commotion was coming from, slowly poking her head inside to survey the situation before she made any attempts to enter. Upon inspection, everything seemed to be safe, just a gathering of rowdy guards whose faces stood out as being somewhat familiar to her. Several of the men had been part of the guard that escorted Zakroti and his brides back to the estate from the ceremony.
Eyes reaching the head of the room, Aurora locked eyes on lord of the house, stomach clenching at the sight of him. The man held secrets….power. This was enough to make her nervous but not nearly enough to scare her off. Taking a deep breath, the girl squared her shoulders and entered the room with her head held high. She thought of sitting amongst the men in an attempt to show Zakroti that she didn’t belong to him, but a better idea popped into her head as she walked forward.
Paying the room no mind, Aurora marched her way up to the table with purpose. It was her hope that Miry hadn’t fallen too far behind, as it would have made her antics a little less fun. Still, either way, Aurora found herself standing directly behind Zakroti’s chair. Bending forward, the girl draped her arms gently around his neck in a casual display, leaning her weight against him.
“You might want to learn how to be better comfort to your women. It would appear that the arrival of your new pet has threatened the confidence of the old one.” She cooed in his ear, continuing to mock the girl long after she had walked away from her.
There was no point in trying to pursue his sister in the moments that followed her outburst, Azilon forced to watch in silent fury as both of his brides were ushered away uncontested. For a moment, he suspected his father might have been behind such spite but a quick glance in his direction was enough to tell the young hermit otherwise. While Salazar had managed to maintain his facial composure, his eyes shone with a fire that gave away his distaste for the situation. Not only did it reflect poorly on Azilon, but on the entire Dantanath household.
Azilon relished at the thought of his sister finally being the one punished, but he knew better than to expect anything of it. Morganna could talk her way out of impending death, it was unlikely their father would ever get the chance to act upon his fury. Exhaling with a growl, the young man pushed his way through the remainder of the crowd out into the cold, damp night. While difficult to predict Morganna’s moves, Azilon reluctantly began his return to the family estate knowing it was his best chance to face the witch.
No words were spoken between father and son as the pair returned to the estate together, the silence harsh and unforgiving. Both men too proud to say a thing about the situation, trying their damndest to contain the anger they no doubt felt. Once they had arrived Salazar hesitated by the door, turning slightly as if he was considering saying something before he turned and retreated to his personal chambers. Heaving a sigh, Azilon collapsed into a chair in the main entertainment space. The household’s servant appeared from the shadows to light the fire in the room’s hearth only to be dismissed by Azilon before she had completed her task, leaving the man to brood in the darkness while the rest of the house slept… well most of it anyway.
The night seemed to drag on forever as sleep evaded Azilon’s grasp, nothing problematic but certainly no help to his already irritable mood. As the sun rose, the sound of Alice beginning her chores did as well though she made sure to keep her distance so as not to disturb the young master. He shuffled down to the informal dining space and turned his eyes to the hall as if expecting someone, wondering to himself if Morganna still followed her old habits from when he still lived with the family.
Somewhat to his surprise, Morganna appeared as if on cue, quick to lock onto his position in the room.
“I’ll take my usual breakfast then you may be excused to cleaning duties. It would seem little Azzy here has something he would like to discuss with me.” Alice nodded her response and exited the room as the siblings locked eyes, neither quite willing to be the first to step down and look away. Even as Alice came shuffling back in with Morganna’s breakfast it was clear that neither sibling had inched from their spots in the room though it wasn’t to last much longer. Almost as if Morganna had lost interest, her body relaxed and she began to focus on the food that was brought to her.
While Azilon could not consider it a victory, he sure as hell was never going to admit it was a loss. Rather than dwelling on it, he pushed himself up from his chair and took a few angry steps forward.
“Where do you get off meddling in my affairs?” He snapped, though he wasn’t entirely surprised that his anger was met with a look of absolute indifference. Morganna cared little for what she had done to him, and there was little Azilon could do to change that. Still, he required answers… She was going to answer for what she had done to him the night before, one way or another.
“I don’t know what you’re getting so upset about. I did you a favor, you should be grateful.”
“Grateful?! Those girl belonged to me, they were not yours to give away.” Azilon clenched his hands into fists, an action noted by a lazy shifting of his sister’s eyes. It seemed that nothing he could do would faze such a woman. She knew him better than he probably knew himself… even if they hadn’t seen each other in years.
“True, they weren’t… But Azzy, let’s be serious here. Were they ever truly yours to begin with? Clearly neither one held any sort of respect for you. When danger presented itself and your claim over them threatened, the one came begging to me while the other couldn’t stop lusting over your competition.” He bared his teeth at her words, watching with ever growing irritation as she calmly sipped at her tea. What she liked in such a vile substance was a mystery to him, but he had no time, nor the patience, to ponder that question this morning.
“And that gives you the right to just hand them over without a fight?” While he knew better than to get into a fight with his elder sister, his anger was rather high for him to be making sound decisions. In one of these momentary lapses, the young drakkan dared take a step forward in silent threat to the woman he quarrelled with. A mistake on his part, however, as his movement was met with the sharpest glare he had ever experienced.
Morganna was no fool, she knew not to let her guard down even around family members. Azilon, despite his usual lazy demeanour, was not completely incompetent in a fight. Still, her glare was enough to remind him of where he was and who it was he was dealing with. Fighting off an aggravated sigh, Azilon backed off a few paces before reclaiming the seat he’d been in prior to her arrival.
“Azzy, you found the one wandering around without a husband and the other one was just about forced down your throat by the royals. I’ve known you long enough to be certain that you share no interest in gaining brides, considering you’ve easily earned three and have never shown up to claim them. I worry about you sometimes, little brother.” As much as he didn’t want to admit that his sister was right, she did have a habit of making points he didn’t want to think about. When presented an opportunity to prove himself as a warrior, no, as a man, he found himself undermined by two meager brides. Azilon began to relax at this, allowing Morganna to continue on without interruption.
“I can’t exactly blame you though, now can I? You spend a lot of time away from the masses, it’s no surprise you haven’t noticed. With the King no longer making public appearances, it seems the brothers are experiencing some kind of power struggle. They’ve done their best to keep things quiet and behind the scenes but it’s starting to bubble over and the people are noticing.” He watched as Morganna drained the rest of her cup, a shiver of disgust running through his body as he remembered the foul taste of the tea she seemed to love so much.
“This year’s Reaping was less about celebrating the King’s victory and more about maintaining the political relationships between the royals and the families. Imagine how nervous you must make them having earned such prizes and not collecting on any of them. It means they owe you, and that makes them squirm. Favors are a powerful tool in war… ah but it hasn’t come to that just yet.” Azilon made a sound of disapproval as Morganna spoke, turning his eyes away in response.
“Maybe another war wouldn’t be such a bad thing. It’ll give the vultures something to focus on besides me. Father too.” Morganna sighed, raising an amused eyebrow at his situation.
“Ah Azzy, whatever am I going to do with you? Listen, do you think I would just hand off something that valuable without knowing exactly who and where they were going to? While I cannot promise you won’t have to fight for them, I can give you the information on how to find them. The rest will be up to you.”
“And your price? I know better than to assume I’m getting this information for free.” Azilon countered, staring at Morganna suspiciously. In all the years he had known her, even the simplest of favors had come coupled with a price of some kind. While always fair in theory, it was often difficult to tell which scenarios had been orchestrated and which had tumbled down by chance.
“Good boy, looks like I have taught you something after all. FInders, keepers... I want the one you were gifted. Sound fair enough?” Morganna’s smile reflected her usual deviancy, earning her a roll of his eyes. Did she always have to mock him like that?
“While I can’t possibly imagine what you would want with her, I suppose I can’t really refuse now can I? Fine, you have yourself a deal.” Without saying another word, Morganna lifted up a folded up piece of paper with directions to a place outside of the city. The man was quick to rise from his seat, leaving his sister behind without so much as waving a goodbye.
Azilon didn’t bother stocking up on anything, having not had put his blades away during the night. He rarely wore armour either, finding it rather useless and more of a hindrance than a help. Rushing out into the front courtyard, Azilon nearly barreled into a man about to knock on their front door, barely recognizing his face.
“Well, well, well. I had heard you made an appearance but I didn’t actually believe it until now. It’s been a long time Azilon.” It took the younger man a few moments to place the stranger as being a man called Argon. He could recall seeing his face every so often in the couple of years leading up to Azilon’s departure.
“Sorry, but I’m in a bit of a hurry. Alice! We have a visitor.” He shouted over his shoulder before stepping around the man, rounding the corner to a small open faced stable located in the enclosed courtyard. Untying one of the spares, Azilon mounted without bothering to tack the creature. Spurring him into motion the pair took off from the property at great speeds, turning out onto the main roads that would eventually lead him to the city limits.
Luckily for him, the early hours meant few bodies blocking his path though the likelihood of him slowing for them even if they were present was rather small. Still, with a clear path, Azilon’s time to the front gates was cut nearly in half, allowing him to reach the gates after a few minutes of hard riding. Once arriving he did slow to a halt, taking the time to survey the land stretching out before him. From his position, he could make out a small gathering of what looked to be tents off in the distance.
Morganna’s note had been rather detailed, much to his surprise, pointing him in the direction of the main road. The man she had handed his brides over to might have carried a family name with weight behind it, but the man himself was an exile. A mercenary for hire, he wasn’t exactly known for his loyalty to anyone other than himself. While he could not be sure of the man’s sense of honor, Azlion thought it better to assume he had none and operate accordingly.
After short mental preparation Azilon pressed onward, eager to reclaim that which belonged to him and return home. The pace was much slower this time, though, not wishing to alarm the camp ahead of his arrival. Whether it be his luck or their overconfidence, the lack of patrols were about to work in the angry drakkan’s favor.
Azilon dismounted away from the camp, instructing the well trained mount to stay put until summoned. Despite the desert sand’s knack for consuming sound, to be safe Azilon preferred to approach on foot. It also gave him a better chance at taking the group by surprise, something necessary if he was going to survive such an encounter. Sniffing the air, he detected the presence of a significant amount of water left over from the night’s storm. A cruel smile spread across Azilon’s features as an idea came to mind, the man drawing the hood on his cloak as he conjured what he could from the earth below him.
An unnatural mist descended upon the entire camp, chilling the air despite the rising sun beyond the horizon. Tendrils broke off from the mass of it, invading the all the perimeter tents but sparing the large one in the center. It made the most sense that his girls would be in the center one with the commander, after all, this particular group seemed rather simple. Slaughtering them wouldn’t be all that much fun. He opened his mouth as if he were going to shout, but no sound came forth… or at least not an obvious one. Tapping into a trick that had earned him his title, Azilon began messing with the vibrations he was creating in the air in order to cause great discomfort to all in the immediate area. The sound was not easily detected to untrained ears, but those exposed to it would slowly begin to experience odd side effects. Their balance would begin to falter as the world around them shifted, their minds eventually led to play tricks on them.
Under better conditions Azilon might have been able to conjure nightmares in the mist to terrorize his victims, but here was not the place. All he needed was for the group of thugs to be off their game so that he could clear them out with little hassle. Granted it wasn’t nearly as satisfying, but he had better things to be doing than playing with children. Springing into action, Azilon made his way from tent to tent, slashing the throats of their occupants. The noise was enough to arouse several of the goons, however, they did little more than stumble towards him before they met their fates. Once he was sure that the minions had been disposed of, Azilon set his sights on the main tent in the center of the circle.
As he had suspected, his girls were in none of the perimeter tents leaving only one other place they could be… So long as Morganna’s information was solid. Allowing the mist to disperse on its own naturally, Azilon awaited the arrival of the leader, having no doubt in his mind that he had been roused by the noise. Rynek might not have been the best opponent but he was no slouch either. It was likely he knew of the invasion as it began, hadn’t kept him from hiding in his hole until the rest of the fighting had ceased though.
The snow-haired Drakkan stared down Azilon fiercely, clearly displeased at having been awoken in such a manner. No words were exchanged between the pair, however, taunts left behind; taunts contained to mere glances. Rynek readied his sword as Azilon removed the cloak he had been wearing, allowing the garment to fall to the ground before the pair lunged at one another.
Sounds of steel clashing against steel echoed about the encampment, a melodic beat created by the advance and retreat of both combattants. Somewhat a surprise to Azilon was Rynek’s speed despite wielding such a bulky weapon, but such a detail only egged the determined boy on. Every time their blades met it sent a shiver of excitement through Azilon, almost as if the fight had been destined to happen. Narrowly avoiding being slashed up his back, Azilon swing around and kicked Rynek square in the chest, sending him reeling back a few paces.
Again and again the two ran at each other, moving about the open space like a violent dance. But like all dances this one had to come to an end sometime. Ducking below a swing from Rynek’s sword, Az stepped lightly to the side, slashing his knife along the Rynek’s side. Azilon knew better than to assume such a blow was enough to end thing with this particular kind of man, he had to prove his superiority to assure he would not return for more. Over and over Azilon slashed at the snowy-haired bastard until he was left kneeling on the ground, the desert sand stained with the blood spilled by the exhausted man. With a look of disgust, Azilon kicked the man over to lay in a pool of his own blood before turning his gaze to the tent.
Backtracking to his cloak, Az snatched the cloth off the ground before he approached the large structure. He paused a moment before entering Rynek’s living space, opening his mouth to call out to the girls before a movement caught his eye. Coming at him from his left side was a tiny figure, Azilon too late to really react before it had reached him. Turning slightly so that no vitals were punctured, Azilon stared down blankly at a half-awake Rya.
Aside from a small bit of fatigue and a bored look behind her eyes, Rya looked to be physically fine. Mentally was another issue to tackle, but he wasn’t entirely sure he had found her in one piece the first time so he wasn’t particularly worried about it now. The pair stood in that position for a few moments before Azilon broke the silence.
“Whose idea was it to let you play with the sharp objects?” He shook his head as he slowly reached down, removing the blade from his abdomen before tossing it over his shoulder.
“Are you alright little Api? If that scum Lord has harmed you, I promise he has paid dearly for it.” Azilon said, as he kneeled down to get a better look at her. That was when he noticed Lienna out of the corner of his eye. Standing back to full height, he crossed the ‘room’ to where she lay naked on a pile of skins. A pitiful sight for such a creature, her clothes most likely the torn scraps scattered across the floor. Her porcelain skin was covered in red marks as well as discolored patches that Az recognized to be forming bruises. No doubt they would be nasty, but it made the picture quite clear to Azilon as to what had transpired.
“You look like complete shit.” Stooping down, Azilon wrapped his cloak around the girl before scooping her up in his arms. He didn’t give her much choice in the matter, though he doubted she had any fight left in her for the time being with how exhausted she looked.
“Ever ridden a horse before Rya? If not, today is your lucky day. Come along, we’re going home.”
Az has his convo with Morganna. Comes to the rescue!!!
It was not unusual for the city of Železna Kri to take a delayed start in the day, especially following the Reaping where quite a bit of festivities took place late into the night. Morganna was not among those sleeping in, however, finding herself up with the sun as she usually was. The youthful woman pushed her plush comforter aside so that she could stand, stretching her limbs out until a satisfying series of pops resonated throughout the silent chamber. She approached the shuttered window to her room, unlatching the lock and pushing them open so that she could observe the still world. There was something about the dawn that captured her attention, the landscape being painted in the various shades of red and orange that light could muster. Elongated shadows the only respite from a heat that would only grow in intensity the longer it shone.
Most believed the Drakkan homeland was devoid of life, a scar gasping for breath and dying with every attempt to grasp at a former glory. It was a belief held by some of her own kind even, but Morganna didn’t see things that way. Plants and animals alike had learned to adapt to the damage done to their nation, a cursed wasteland drained of its vibrancy and chance at greatness. Her people were a banished kind, but they too had learned to survive in such a harsh and unforgiving environment. They might have been ugly and twisted, but they were alive… And they would continue to fight until they had either won or died out completely. It was a sense of poetic justice in the eyes of the Dantanath daughter, a twisted outlook for a twisted species.
Smiling to herself, Morganna stepped away from the window to her closet where a great array of outfits awaited her choice. While the designs varied greatly, fitting to any event she might find herself attending, just about all of them were dyed in some shade of red. It was her favorite color, and it suited her figure well… at least in her own opinion, not that she had ever heard a man argue it before.
Morganna didn’t see the point in dressing up more than she had to, thinking of no events she had to attend for the next few days at least. The likelihood of trouble starting up around the city was high, however, as was custom around the time of the Reaping. Tensions between certain families brought in close proximity of one another usually led to petty squabbles, as did perceived slights when it came to the gifts bestowed by the royal household. Plenty of Drakkan, and Gemmenite, blood had been spilled in the streets of the Capital, what were a few bodies more. All matters considered, Morganna selected a multi-piece ensemble consisting of fabrics red and black with detailings of gold.
The outfit was rather slimming, displaying her figure just the way she liked to but it was more than just that. It was comfortable in the desert heat with plenty of breathing opportunity and exposed skin, but it was also designed with her combat style in mind. While she hated to admit it, she was not the strongest when it came to physical strength. If put up against her elder brother in a match, it was likely she would lose in a contest of might, hence why she relied on her speed and agility. Having an outfit that would suit such a style was important for her own survival.
Quick to comb out her onyx locks, Morgann finally emerged from her room as the sun fully crested above the horizon. Her elder brother and father were nowhere to be seen, along with her youngest two siblings. Instead, she was met with the sight of a rather irritable Azilon waiting for her to make an appearance in their informal dining space. Off to the side, a nervous looking servant glanced up to receive her orders from the ranking family member.
“I’ll take my usual breakfast then you may be excused to cleaning duties. It would seem little Azzy here has something he would like to discuss with me.” Morganna maintained eye contact with her brother who promptly growled at the sound of his nickname. The servant nodded quickly and fled the room, returning several minutes later to find neither one of her masters had budged an inch in her absence. Setting a silver tray down on a nearby table, the small woman bowed to the Dantanath children before rushing off to straighten Morganna’s room.
Once determining her brother as being little threat to her, Morganna relaxed her stance and approached the tray. She tended to eat light, preferring to start her day with fruit and a tea strong enough to wake the dead from their eternal slumber. The sweeter fruits had been imported from the Gem homeland, picked up in a separate batch from the girls. While she enjoyed them, the Reaping was the only time she would eat them, instead filling her plate with Drakkan grown dishes. The ‘Corpse Apples’ as they were nicknamed were among her favorite fruits, just the sight of one on her plate in the morning enough to bring a smile to her face. Her enjoyment would have to wait, however, as she picked up her cup in preparation for the tyrade her brother was about to go off on. As if on cue, Azilon pushed himself up from his seat to tower over the smaller woman.
“Where do you get off meddling in my affairs?” He snapped, his anger met with a look of absolute indifference.
“I don’t know what you’re getting so upset about. I did you a favor, you should be grateful.”
“Grateful?! Those girl belonged to me, they were not yours to give away.” Azilon clenched his hands into fists, an action noted by a lazy shifting of his sister’s eyes.
“True, they weren’t… But Azzy, let’s be serious here. Where they ever truly yours to begin with? Clearly neither one held any sort of respect for you. When danger presented itself and your claim over them threatened, the one came begging to me while the other couldn’t stop lusting over your competition.” Morganna paused a moment to sip her tea, feeling the liquid warm her body and sharpen her mind.
“And that gives you the right to just hand them over without a fight?” He snapped, teeth bared aggressively. While he knew better than to get into a fight with his elder sister, his anger was rather high for him to be making sound decisions.
Morganna glared at Azilon, a piercing gaze that quickly put the boy back in his place. Azilon backed off a few paces before retaking his seat in a huff. Taking another sip of her tea, Morganna folded her left arm across her torso to brace her right elbow against the back of her hand.
“Azzy, you found the one wandering around without a husband and the other one was just about forced down your throat by the royals. I’ve known you long enough to be certain that you share no interest in gaining brides, considering you’ve easily earned three and have never shown up to claim them. I worry about you sometimes, little brother.” Azilon’s features seemed to soften a bit as Morganna spoke, her facial features maintaining most of their neutrality.
“I can’t exactly blame you though, now can I? You spend a lot of time away from the masses, it’s no surprise you haven’t noticed. With the King no longer making public appearances, it seems the brothers are experiencing some kind of power struggle. They’ve done their best to keep things quiet and behind the scenes but it’s starting to bubble over and the people are noticing.” Morganna drained the rest of the tea from her cup, a delighted shiver running down her spine as she set the cup back down on the tray.
“This year’s Reaping was less about celebrating the King’s victory and more about maintaining the political relationships between the royals and the families. Imagine how nervous you must make them having earned such prizes and not collecting on any of them. It means they owe you, and that makes them squirm. Favors are a powerful tool in war… ah but it hasn’t come to that just yet.”
“Maybe another war wouldn’t be such a bad thing. It’ll give the vultures something to focus on besides me. Father too.” Morganna sighed, raising an amused eyebrow at his predicament.
“Ah Azzy, whatever am I going to do with you? Listen, do you think I would just hand off something that valuable without knowing exactly who and where they were going to? While I cannot promise you won’t have to fight for them, I can give you the information on how to find them. The rest will be up to you.”
“And your price? I know better than to assume I’m getting this information for free.” Azilon countered, staring at Morganna suspiciously.
“Good boy, looks like I have taught you something after all. FInders, keepers... I want the one you were gifted. Sound fair enough?” Morganna’s smile reflected her usual deviancy, a look that earned her a roll of the eyes from her brother.
“While I can’t possibly imagine what you would want with her, I suppose I can’t really refuse now can I? Fine, you have yourself a deal.” Without saying another word, Morganna lifted up a folded up piece of paper with Azilon’s directions. The man was quick to disappear from the room, no doubt storming off to get things over sooner rather than later.
Morganna enjoyed the silence that followed her brother’s departure for a few minutes before the servant from before returned, a guest in tow. The man that followed the servant into the room was a frequent flier of the Dantanath household, serving as both a friend as well as a business partner for several of the family members.
“Good morning Argon. It’s a little early for a social visit don’t you think, I take it you have something for me?” She motioned for the man to make himself comfortable and again to the servant to tend to whatever the man required. A few words were exchanged between the two before the servant set off to fetch whatever it was he had ordered, Morganna awaiting his new patiently.
“As observant as always I see. Got this in late last night but the client was hoping for a freebie on this one. I told him he was wasting his time, that you wouldn’t even consider the offer without a downpayment at the very least. Money arrived before dawn so I rushed over to deliver the message.” The man held up an envelope that had been sealed with a wax stamp that bore the engraving of a lesser lord on it. Taking the letter in her hand, Morganna inspected it lazily, judging all she could about her ‘mysterious’ client from what little details she had been provided.
“Not very subtle is he. Either entirely over confident in himself or he’s never done this before. How much did he give you?” She asked curiously, a smirk rising as Argon held up a small sack of money. He gave the small satchel a shake, a metallic clunk echoing about the room.
“I see, new to this then. Curious to see what sort of challenge this target presents to warrant such a reaction. You can just about smell the fear rising off the paper.” Morganna opened the envelope and began reading the proposal as the servant returned with Argon’s food, the girl sure to leave the remaining apple from Morganna’s plate as she cleared the rest of the dishes. The more Morganna read, the more interested she became, immediately recognizing details of an account from the evening before.
“Interesting. Just got one boy into trouble, seems like now I have to go get one out it.” Despite her words, Morganna sounded more amused by the situation than inconvenienced. Holding the paper away from her face she slowly made her way to and adjacent wall in the room, igniting the paper in her hand before tossing it into the cold hearth. With a snap of her fingers and a quick glance at her servant, Morganna returned to Argon’s side to inspect the money.
“A quick response will be unnecessary on this one as I’m not entirely sure I’ll be taking it yet. I’ll go and scope the situation out as a due courtesy, the man paid enough for that at least. Feel free to take some for yourself and leave the rest with my dear girl here. She’ll see to its safe keeping.” She said as the servant returned with a few items bundled in her arms. Morganna plucked the sheathed sword from the girl’s arms carefully, tethering the weapon to its place upon her left hip. On her right side, she attached a small satchel filled with throwing knives and poisoned darts to her waistband.
With her weapons in place, Morganna took the final object from the servant’s hands. It was a mask that formed perfectly to her face, hooking slightly around the shape of her horns in order to keep it in place without ties. The image it portrayed was unnerving to say the least, a grey skull that was unlike anything seen in the Drakkan homeland. A demon, even by her people’s standards.
She hesitated in putting it on, instead clipping it to her hip alongside the throwing knives. Plucking the apple from the table, she turned and bowed her head slightly in Argon’s direction.
“You are welcome as always, so be sure to let Alice here know if you need anything. My father should be getting up soon if you would like to wait for him, I’m sure he would love to talk to you.” Argon simply chuckled and extended his thanks, settling in to eat the food that had been prepared for him.
Turning on her toes, Morganna made her way out a backdoor to an enclosed courtyard. A solid stone border surrounded the house, designed to keep prying eyes away from inside activities. Taking a few steps running start Morganna pushed off the ground, using her secondary element in order to gain a little extra height as she flipped gracefully over the stonewall. Being so early in the morning, the woman wasn’t too worried about street traffic removing any need to look at where she was landing. She landed similarly as she had leapt in order to minimize the amount of sound she made, quickly glancing around before merily biting into the fruit she held in her hand.
She didn’t seem to much in a hurry as she made her way through the streets, more and more travellers joining her presence as the morning dragged on. Stalls were already open, offering clothes and jewels to decorate the prizes earned throughout the prior day. She, nor they, would be surprised if these gifts exchanged hands several times before they found their homes, but at least they would look appealing… for a while. Other wares were offered in between, lining the streets with many different sights and smells. There was truly something for everyone who visited the great city.
By this point in the morning the streets were beginning to crowd a little, most likely foreigners or Drakkan in search of their next prey, hoping to end up in any kind of fight. Morganna was careful to avoid those types, not having the interest to entertain their pointless brutality so early. She kept a sharp eye out on her surroundings, searching for any sign of her target and the inevitable trouble that was to follow.
Several men attempted to push beside her, the young woman sidestepping to avoid being trampled by the irritated group. Their eyes unabashedly scanned the streets, pushing people aside in search of what she could only assume to be her target. It was no surprise to Morganna that she wasn’t the only person called in, but she doubted these men had been paid a dime before their task was complete; a foolish move on their behalf. Finishing off her apple, the woman tossed the core away before donning her mask, and excited shiver running down her spine one more. The adrenaline had begun pumping through her veins, the anticipation of the hunt pushing her into motion.
Unlike the men who pushed their way forcefully through the crowd, Morganna trailed several paces behind on the outskirts of the crowd. All the attention would be on them, few would notice her skulking along even with the mask on. It didn’t take them long to locate their target, a rather large man who looked like he could easily snap the thugs into pieces. Morganna’s hunch was spot on, recognizing the man almost immediately before she saw his face.
Höd the Beserker. We meet again. She thought to herself triumphantly. Suspicions now confirmed, Morganna held back as a sizeable circle was made around the man. Clearly the thugs were after this man, and they didn’t seem like the type who cared who got cut down in the process.
Words were exchanged, though mostly it was the ringleader of the group that did the talking, boasting about how they were going to take the man down with ease. She couldn’t help but to laugh at such a statement.
“What do you think you’re laughing at, ape! We outnumber you, fool. Are you too stupid to see that you’re going to die here!? I, Mazus, will claim the bounty on your head!”
Unsurprisingly, Höd was unfazed by the pathetic displays at dominance. No doubt he had heard such words spoken to him countless times, empty threats that fell on bored ears. They weren’t worth his time, they were barely worth hers. But the money she had been sent had put her in a rather good mood, and her excitement wasn’t easily quenched.
“You heard him boys, he isn’t going to use a weapon. It’s time the Berserker died!”
All five assailants lunged at Höd simultaneously, showing no mercy to a man who… granted probably deserved none. Still, it was a rather sad showing and very telling of their levels of strength. They would prove to be easy opponents.
Morganna reached for the hilt of her sword, clicking a button built into the side as she unsheathed the weapon. The steel separated from one another in pieces, the weapon lashing out like a whip in the direction the of the man approaching Höd from behind. It wrapped around his raised arm, tightening as he took one step too far from her, met with a firm tug to maintain her position. Letting out a surprised shout, the group halted their advance to see where the sound was coming from.
“You see, that’s the problem with your type. The lot of you hear the promise of a reward and suddenly you think you’re a match for someone like him. Five of you wouldn’t have been enough, and now there’s only four. What will you do now?” Her voice rang clearly through the mask, catching the attention of all present; as if the weapon alone wasn’t enough.
The ringleader who had named himself as Mazus simply laughed, though to a trained ear like Morganna’s she knew it to hold a fair amount of apprehension and fear behind it.
“A friend of the Beserker’s are you? Clearly you’re as bright as he is… Count again, there are still five of us here. That’s more than enough to deal with the both of you. Maybe we’ll get paid a bonus for your head as well.” Beneath the mask, Morganna’s smile widened in response to the thug’s words.
“My mistake, it appears that I spoke just a moment too soon. Allow me to fix that for you.” Before anyone could make a move, Morganna flicked the wrist holding her weapon pulling back hard and fast against the resisting foe.
A blood curdling scream erupted from the poor man’s throat as the blades of her weapon tore deeper into the flesh of his arm, tearing against the grain of his muscles. Blood poured from the gashes, flesh hanging off the limb to expose the delicate bone beneath the surface. The sight of ivory was a satisfying one to the woman, his screams and the scent of blood driving away the weaker-willed of the bystanders. Clicking a second button on the hilt of her weapon, the extended blade pulled back together to form what looked like an ordinary sword; which she promptly flicked to remove the excess blood.
Her victim’s partners watched in horror as their friend collapsed to the ground screaming like a newborn baby. He was quite clearly out for the rest of their encounter, though even if he survived through the shock it was unlikely he would ever be able to pick up a weapon with that arm again. She doubted he even wished for survival but she would not grant him death by her hand, he would expire when the gods allowed it. Turning her gaze to the other two remaining grunts, Morganna waited patiently as they attempted to process what had happened.
“Well?! What are you morons waiting for?! Kill her, NOW!” Mazus ordered, his men turning to him hesitantly before mustering up their strength, letting out battle cries as they abandoned Höd to attack her.
“Coward, sending your men to die in your place?” She allowed them to get a few paces closer, parrying the first man’s blow with her sword to give the second time to approach. Once he was in range Morganna knelt before leaping high into the air, spinning her body around like a dancer as she tapped the button with her thumb. The result was a spiral of blades snaking their way up the torso of each man in a gruesome yet hypnotic display of skill. Another tap retracted the blade quickly causing slightly more damage as it passed through flesh to reconvene.
On her way back down she wielded the weapon as a proper sword, slashing diagonally across the first man’s torso before flipping backward over the second’s head. Her maneuver caused the man to miss his blow, momentum carrying him forward so that she could land safely behind him. The mistake would be his last as she rammed the blade clean through his chest from between his shoulder blades. She moved to reclaim her weapon from his corpse when she sensed the approach of another attacker from behind, side stepping to avoid being struck as she kicked her leg upward.
Her foot caught the brave man’s wrist knocking his scimitar from his grip, Morganna quicker in her motion to capture the weapon and using it to decapitate the unfortunate soul. Exhaling calmly, she pulled her own weapon from the second assailant and stepped lightly over to the first, burying the scimitar into his heart to be certain of death.
Much to her surprise she could still hear the screams of the very first victim, though they were much harsher than before, most likely due to shredded vocal chords. One could only scream for so long after all. Acting as if she had no concerns in the world, which to be perfectly honest, she didn’t… Morganna turned her attention back to Mazus who stared at her with what could only be described as disbelief.
The expression shifted slightly, as if he were only just then recognizing the warrior that stood before him.
“Y-you’re The Crimson Phantom, aren’t you?” Mazus would receive no response from Morganna as she turned her body toward Höd instead.
“My apologies for going overboard. I’ll save the final one for you, he did after all insult you by bringing such a pathetic force after your head.” Turning to the ringleader one last time she unclipped her mask from her face and returned it to her hip, her sword still in hand.
“Never accept a job without first being paid and never follow through on a task you cannot complete. Your death was assured when you took that bounty as not even my strength rivals a Berserker. Enjoy your trip to the afterlife.” Morganna waved to the man mockingly before nodding her head towards Höd, signalling that she had concluded her business with the man.
By the time the bounty hunter had been dealt with, Morganna had already finished cleaning off the majority of the blood on her sword. Sheathing the unique weapon, she approached Höd with a smirk.
“I’ll hand it to you, wasn’t expecting for you to be keeping your promise so soon. Not very good at fitting in with the locals though, are you?” She teased, gesturing an invitation to walk with her.
Pep talk with Az, is promised a certain Gem as payment for the information (even though she’s the reason they’re in this mess shhhhhh). Receives a bounty that she may or may not take on… Doesn’t take it on clearly. Starts flirty flirting with Höd.