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* Plot Information for Dena Nehele

With the full force of the Guilds at her back, Rilandra Vlas seized the Territory Throne of Dena Nehele. The common born Province Queen now owes allegiance to the Master of the Guilds for his assistance in both securing the throne and securing Darcia Glassade's continual safety. Trapped between the demands of the Guilds and the demands of the Aristos, Riley is struggling to rule, finding the palace more of a cage than she could have dreamed possible.
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Author Topic: A taste of home  (Read 362 times)

Description: Attn: Dragos

Offline Rilandra Vlas

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A taste of home
« on: May 16, 17, 05:03:01 AM »
Garen, the Yellow Jeweled Slaver Prince, had been right. Even the words made Riley squirm in her skin. She thrust her hands deep into the soil of the palace garden, needing the steady feeling of the earth between her fingers. As often as they fought, which was every moment that they shared the same space for longer than 30 seconds, he was shrewd in the ways of both the Territory Court and Bidea's politics. She didn't want him to be right. She yanked at the entwined roots that needed to be untangled. She wanted him to jump off a very high bridge into a lake with very little water. The thought made her smile, as she brutally but efficiently separated the one tree's roots from another.

On this account, no matter how she hated to admit it, he was right. Since claiming the Territory throne with the full force of the Guilds literally at her back, Riley had not been able to navigate a single important measure for the well being of the Territory. She wiped a dirt covered hand across her forehead without thinking, pushing her hair out of her eyes, then returned to her work. When she was interim Ruler, she had more leeway with less power. But now that she was ruler in truth, the Aristos were determined to block every move she made simply because she made it.

Riley poured a small slip of Rose strength into the roots of both trees, gently urging them to leave each other alone. There was plenty of water for both if they just stopped trying to choke each other. There was a way for both trees to get what they needed. It was an annoyingly close analogy to what Garen had tried to tell her. It wasn't just about her being a Queen and her right to rule. That wasn't enough. She had to play the game. She didn't want to play the bloody game. But it had gone on long enough. She needed to try things his way. Even if she hated every moment of it.

Riley was throwing a party. A party. It would be a disgustingly lavish affair, the kind that she despised and railed against. And she would go from person to person and explain while pouring them more and more wine, exactly how what she needed to do would serve them. Maybe if she thought of them as stubborn trees instead of assholes she might have more luck.

It would be a horrid affair, but it just might work. The one thing she did have complete control over was where each and every ingredient, flower, and bottle of wine came from. If she was going to spend precious resources, she was at the very least going to pour them back into the Provinces that needed them, not spend money on foreign goods. She pulled her hands from the earth and reburied the roots, using her hands to replace the soil.

The party was the cause for the appointment she had scheduled for this afternoon with a Prince Dragos Cutrov. His winery was widely considered one of the best, and he was from Tulzbruja. Riley freely admitted an inclination towards him if for no other reason than that. She missed home. She missed living in her rough and tumble Court. And while this Prince was an Aristo, and apparently quite the drunk himself if rumors could be believed, his wine would taste of home.

She glanced up at the sun. "Fuck." She had lost track of time. The noon hour had slipped passed her entirely. Well, not entirely. She had gotten more than one nudge from Adrian, the Red Jeweled Jack who had been one of many to help keep her alive, to come in and eat lunch, but she had responded to each with a violent shove of her Opal that was the equivalent of fuck off.  Prince Cutrov would be here soon and she was still in her gardening pants and a lightweight undershirt. Lia had gotten so fed up with Riley destroying her gowns in the garden she had finally caved and had a proper gardening suit made for her. While she didn't mind the pants, the fitted coat was always stripped away the moment she came outside. It lay neatly to the side, folded over next to the untouched garden tools.   




Offline Dragos Cutrov

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Re: A taste of home
« Reply #1 on: May 16, 17, 09:42:30 AM »
The meeting with Lady Rilandra Vlas, Queen of Dena Nehele, was set for noon.Dragos arrived at her estate in Bidea at fifteen minutes early.

He’d been in Bidea itself since yesterday morning.

A drunk knows two things without question: the opening and closing times of every bar within ten miles.

The foyer of the estate was decorated well, but not as opulently as the homes of his peers, or himself. In fact, Dragos preferred the lack of pretense he sensed from the Territory Queen. He’d heard tales of Lady Vlas’s legendary temper, her devotion to the small people of Dena Nehele, and most of all, her barely concealed distaste for the aristos of the land, the people who claimed to hold the real power within the Territory. More than once, Dragos listened to several of his peers curse the name of the “Bitch Queen” and her supporters. He nodded in sympathy as they got deeper into their cups, willing to let their true feelings about her be known.

She’s nothing without the guilds.

I heard she’s half-Landen. As if some dirt-blooded whore could command us.

She wants to strip us of our wealth and give it all to the poor. She wants the Landen to rule everything.

Someone ought to take care of her. Things were better under the Glassades.

Dragos listened to every word and filed it away for the future. He remembered the names and faces of the people talking. Whenever they asked for his opinion, Dragos chimed in with an somewhat slurred, “Yeah, who gave her the authority?” that drew both hearty murmurs from his companions while simultaneously making them discount his opinion altogether. The circles he moved in said horrible things about the Territory Queen, no matter who it was.

They said even worse things about each other in private.

Dragos straightened the lapels of his navy blue suit, noting that it was now five past noon. A Hearth Witch apologized to him for the delay and Dragos offered a warm smile, saying that he’d shown up early himself, so it was okay. Dragos eyed the woman’s backside as she left, then took note of anyone else he could see. He wondered how many of them were Jacks. The security here, while decent, wasn’t the best he’d ever seen. Dragos was confident in his ability to access this place unseen if he chose. For now, though, there was no reason to test the theory. He accepted a glass of water while he waited, his eyes taking in area and noting all of the places that a hidden assailant might come from. He imagined the estate’s layout in his head, wondering briefly if she’d grant him a tour.

Marku, one of his employees, initiated a spear-to-spear thread with him, a hint of annoyance in his tone.

*Prince Cutrov, has Lady Vlas declined to meet with you?*

*Still waiting, Marku. Lady Vlas is a busy woman, after all.*

*Yeah, I bet she is. If half of the rumors are true--*

Dragos sent a stern, but light, pulse of energy along the thread, akin to an elbow to the ribs. The other man fell silent, chastened.

*No matter anyone else’s thoughts, she rules here. She’s owed at least that much respect, Marku.*

*Yes, Prince.*

Dragos finished the glass of water and considered the plight of a stone-cold sober man, posing as a functioning alcoholic, posing as a sober man for an important meeting. Lady Vlas called upon him and he would serve, if only because she was from Tulzbruja. If she was planning the sort of gathering that her order inquiry suggested, Cutrov Wineries would make a hand-over-fist marks on the deal.  It also wouldn’t hurt to have Lady Vlas regard him as more than “just another aristo”.

He found a nearby mirror and adjusted his tie, making sure that the lines of his beard were still perfect and that his hair was still in place. She was keeping him waiting and Dragos had to admire her will.

Any other aristo would be losing their damned minds right now.


Offline Rilandra Vlas

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Re: A taste of home
« Reply #2 on: May 16, 17, 02:45:04 PM »
Riley reached out to Adrian distaff to spear. "Is he here yet?"

"Check for yourself."

Riley snarled down the connection between them as she released her awareness, stretching out into the palace. There. The feel of unfamiliar Opal and Red Jewels. In the grand hall. Directly through where she needed to pass to get anywhere that she could clean herself up.

"WHY isn't he in one of the sitting rooms?!" She flared back to Adrian.

"I'm not the maid. Am I the maid? Nope. Pretty sure I'm not the maid. Maybe if you'd come in for lunch when I asked we could have prepared a bit better." She could feel his amusement thrumming down the thread between them and she severed it sharply. Ass.

She grabbed her beautifully tailored coat with dirt covered hands and threw it on as she moved quickly to glass doors that opened out onto the garden. She moved with purpose, but being distracted and flustered had thrown her off, and she suddenly found herself face to face with the Red Jeweled Prince. Taking a breath and trying for a smile but mostly failing, she reached out her hands in way of greeting. "Prince Cutrov. Welcome." Only at the last minute did she realize how filthy her hands were. Opal Craft unfurled forward to clean the soil from her hands. It was a little piece of Craft Lia had taught her.  Well, forced her to learn. Her nails were still impacted with dirt. Good enough.

She hadn't looked in a mirror or bothered to straighten herself out. The coat hung open over her undershirt and dirt was streaked across her forehead and into her hair. It could have been worse. The last time Garen ran into her she was half naked and bleeding.

"I apologize you have been kept waiting." Her words were sincere. Mostly.

She studied his face. There was something familiar about him, but she couldn't quite place him. She almost asked if they knew each other, but thought better of it. "I'm not really one for formalities," as if this needed to be said in any context concerning Riley, ever, and wasn't glaringly obvious, "and I'm excited to hear about your vineyard. Do you prefer to sit and talk or walk and talk?"




Offline Dragos Cutrov

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Re: A taste of home
« Reply #3 on: May 16, 17, 03:44:59 PM »
Dragos was still using the mirror to make sure that he was still presentable. He unfurled his own Craft just to get an idea of who was in the house and their current location. He was sure that he wasn’t picking up everyone, but that was fine for the moment. His concern was the location of Lady Vlas and her escorts and whether or not someone was coming to apologize for her tardiness once more. He could see, in part, why the aristos did not like her. No one liked to be kept waiting, especially by someone they believed an inferior. Dragos’s ego didn’t suffer for waiting; he’d been stood up a time or two. But if Lady Vlas was injured or under attack, he wouldn’t learn it by standing here.

He started to enter the house a little further when Lady Vlas arrived.

She looked like she’d just come from the garden. Dragos extended his hands to greet her properly. She at least had the decency to clean her hand before touching his. Dragos’s hands had been covered in far worse in the past, but an aristo would never allow themselves to show up to a meeting so disheveled. Aunt Viorica would be mortified.

Dragos liked her.

No apologies needed, Lady Vlas. Thank you for taking the time to meet with me.” Dragos said gently, leaning in the brush the back of her hand with his lips. There was still dirt under hear nails. Well, at least she’d tried.

I’d be happy to walk with you, if you’d allow it.” Dragos said, knowing that such would lead to seeing more of the property. If nothing else, it would at least let him know the totality of the security he was dealing with. Knowing the entrances and exits to this place would help in case he needed to return and deal with someone who couldn’t follow the rules.

Have you eaten, Lady Vlas? I’ve brought some of my men with me, along with some a small snacks and some of our best vintages. I’d like you to know what you’re buying if you choose Cutrov Wineries.” Dragos said genuinely.

Do you have some time or should we schedule a more in-depth meeting within the week?” he asked.


Offline Rilandra Vlas

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Re: A taste of home
« Reply #4 on: May 17, 17, 07:07:44 PM »
"It's Riley," she said, before she bothered to say anything else. "No, I don't have time. But then I never do. If I worried about whether I had time, nothing would ever get done." She smiled then, hoping he was the type of man who might understand what she meant. So few outside the Guilds ever did. "I haven't eaten, much to my males' annoyance. I'm sure they'd be thrilled if you forced me to do so, and I am looking forward to sampling your vintage." Riley paused for a moment. She had meant the statement sincerely, but it had come out rather more of an innuendo than she had expected.

She laughed, then, putting her hand on his forearm in a gesture that seemed perfectly natural for the Opal Jeweled Queen. "The wines. From your winery. That you brought. Darkness knows what rumors you have heard about me, there are so many to choose from. Best to be extra clear in my language. This way." She started out of the main hall, her gait long and easy, eating up the ground rather quickly. She assumed he and his men would follow without really thinking about it.

As they moved down various corridors further into the palace, the remnants of former adornments became more and more common. She wanted it all torn down, every gilded ornament stripped and sold to be used for something far more worthwhile than making the palace look like the inside of a golden locket. The reactions they got from passerby's as they walked varied greatly depending on who they were.

The servants paused as they went, and each did a quick bow or curtsy. At every "Lady Vlas," she quietly mumbled "Riley," under her breath. It was a habit she was determined to break the staff of, no matter how long it took her. They looked at her with kindness, and no sense of fear.

The others were an awkward mixture of worlds. Riley's Tulzbruja Court was rough, and it showed. Males with scars and well defined muscles and females with a much more casual sense of dress than one would normally find in a Territory Court. These smiled at Riley with genuine affection, or mirth, or yelled out something to her about how she best better well be on her way to lunch. There was a casual comfort that existed there, born of years of knowing each other. Near them, she shined, smiling and laughing, volleying back with, "Don't worry, I'm sure Prince Cutrov can handle lunch, can't you?"

And then there were the Arisos. Like rare birds of very colorful plumage, their dress at mid-day was in beautiful and expensive fabrics, designed for not much else than standing or lounging around. Their openly glared at Riley, and whispered to each other in voices that were didn't bother to quiet. Riley's features hardened around them. Their version of "Lady Vlas," held barely contained contempt, if it wasn't out right hostile. She didn't meet their eyes, nor did she correct them. She merely gave the slightest nod in acknowledgement that they were in fact living, breathing beings, and kept her fast pace.   

As they wound around to a grand stair case that split off in different directions, she paused and asked, "How do you feel about heights?"




Offline Dragos Cutrov

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Re: A taste of home
« Reply #5 on: May 17, 17, 11:47:34 PM »
Dragos was a little taken aback when Lady Vlas insisted that he call her Riley. The lessening of Protocol itself wasn’t the issue, so much as the...sadness of the whole thing. Dragos recovered quickly enough, but his mind chewed over a seminal question in his mind, one that would bother him from now until he understood the answer behind it. It might take him a lot of work and a long, long time to address it, but he needed to know.

Why would she shorten such a beautiful name?

Dragos smiled, even though he was now very, very disturbed.

Come on now, Lady...Riley. Riley.” he said, correcting himself before she did so once more. Dragos preferred to stay on her good side, though saying Riley was a lot like watering down a good wine just for fun.

If I’m going to call you Riley, then you have to call me Dragos. Or Drake. Otherwise it’s weird, and I can’t let it get weird with the Lady of Bidea.” he said, noting the presence of her hand on his arms. He fell into step at her side as though they were old friends having a talk, rather than two strangers who were just meeting for the first time.

I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer but I just get this...sense that forcing you to do anything is a losing idea. I’d rather you have fun with my wares.” Dragos said, attempting to signal that a little light banter was okay, if she wanted to engage. He wondered how often she got it. Banter, of course. The people they passed on their path either loved her or seemed to deeply dislike her. Dragos recognized them from a number of parties or secret soirees over the years. Some had business with his Viorica, his aunt, and a couple had even known his parents years ago. Those people didn’t speak to him much outside of asking advice on wines or prices and Dragos was fine with that.

He even knew a few from his other profession, the one he actually enjoyed.

Besides, I get the feeling you’ve got a hell of a right hand, Riley. I’d rather learn about it during peace instead of war.” Dragos said.

But yes, I’m hoping I can entice you into eating. No sense in letting good food go to waste. Besides, if I can get you to eat something, everyone wins. Your males stop trying to force you to eat and you get peace of mind from their worries.

Like I said, everyone wins.
” Dragos said, flashing her a smile from beneath his close-cropped beard. The various sconces and alcoves around them were all weapons to Dragos and he imagined how often Riley walked around in this place barely protected or not protected at all, thinking herself safe.

This was going to be a challenge.

Fortunately, he was up for a challenge.

They came to the staircase and Dragos eyed it briefly before she asked how he felt about heights.

He grinned again.

I’ve got nothing against heights. What are you thinking, Riley?” he asked, trying to figure out what she was getting at. If she was hinting at having lunch on the roof of her home, Dragos had interest in that.


Offline Rilandra Vlas

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Re: A taste of home
« Reply #6 on: May 18, 17, 01:36:36 AM »
“If I’m going to call you Riley, then you have to call me Dragos. Or Drake." Riley shined as she smiled a true, honest smile. It was not a smile Aristos got to see very often, if ever. They would either ignore her request to be called her chosen name or only use it grudgingly. He had offered a nickname in return. She had been right to bring him here. Not only was his wine likely to feel like home, he did.

She noted his reaction to her hand on his arm, and his offer of playful banter. It was rare that she had the opportunity with anyone other than one of her own, and even then, it was only in private that they ever really had the chance. Everything here in Bidea was so formal and rigid. It was easy for Riley to get lost in all of it and forget any playfulness within. She had been hardened her entire life, but here, right now, with a reminder of home at her side, she relaxed. 

It was this reminder that had led her to ask the question about heights. His answer granted him another real smile when he said what she hoped to hear. She led them toward the elaborate staircase, in a room with ceilings that towered above them. At the foot of the stairs she suddenly turned to the right.  "Try to keep up, Drake," she said as a way of a non-answer to his question, right before she walked directly through a wall.

On the other side of the wall was a simple set of servant's stairs. Riley bound up them, taking them two at a two, laughing as she went. Up and up and up until she hit the very highest point. She pushed open the door and darted across the palace roof to the edge. Wind whipped her face, undoing the last attempt to hold her hair in any semblance of order as she looked out over the city. Her city. Drake had called her the Lady of Bidea, after all.

She knew Darcia was out there, somewhere, protected by her Court of Flowers. She missed her, and was so glad she was no longer a prisoner here, even if she had traded Darcia's freedom for her new captivity. She stayed there for several moments longer before turning around to see if Drake and managed to follow.




Offline Dragos Cutrov

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Re: A taste of home
« Reply #7 on: May 18, 17, 12:55:55 PM »
Her smile was even prettier now that they were older. Not that she’d had any cause to know him from back in Tulzbrujah. Drake had seen the evidence of Rilandra’s more rough-and-tumble court back home, and wondered if Dena Nehele at larger wasn’t better served from a little less of the pretentiousness that many of his fellow aristos seemed born with. One could obey Protocol and not have a stick lodged up their ass, but too many people failed to get it, or just didn’t care. For some people, standing on high ceremony based upon Caste was the only claim to power they held. Protocol made everyone equal, within reason, and some people wielded it like a cudgel instead of a scalpel, to their detriment.

There was something hard within Rilandra Vlas (he really hated calling her Riley), but Drake sensed something beneath that, something softer and warmer. It had to be there, or she couldn’t be the hero to the people that had drawn both fame and criticism. She was loved by some, hated by others, but respected by all. That signaled that she was doing something right. How many other Queens would have dared ally with the Guilds to take power?

She led.

He followed.

Try to keep up, Drake.

Her challenge reached inside of him and raked its dirt-covered fingernails across the back of some primal, instinctual reaction within the Red Jeweled male. The call of a Queen to a Prince that defied logic, yet bound their castes together in a desire to serve and be served in turn. The Darkness hadn’t bound them, and Drake was grateful for that. Something about Rilandra drew him in and refused to let go. Her charisma was subtle, yet present and he enjoyed it. He followed her quickly and quietly, matching her turn for turn.

When she moved through the wall, he paused for a moment. He could have followed her right through without question, but that held consequences. A man rumored to be a drunk should be a little less concentrated, not as quick on the draw as most. Following her without pause could throw off his game, especially if others were watching. It galled him to limit himself for others, but there was another kind of fun in it for him. Let them, let her, think he wasn’t fully poised and composed.

Drake enjoyed being underestimated.

He stepped through the wall and into the sound of her laughter. He caught a brief glimpse of her coat disappearing up the steps as she retreated and Drake stretched out his senses to make sure that they weren’t being followed or watched as they moved. Knowledge of servants’ stairs like this and access to the roof was prime knowledge for someone who wanted to come here and do harm. He expected her protectors to know these things and prepare for them. But with an unorthodox Queen like Rilandra, Drake knew that plans and preparations often were discarded as fast as they were created.

He followed her up the steps to the rooftop, finding her standing at the edge. He reached out and created a shield of Red energy around her for his personal peace of mind. His eyes scanned the area to determine how many other buildings had rooftops with a clear view of this one or were close enough to make a leap to his rooftop, if desired. He closed the space between them, joining her at the rooftop’s edge.

You don’t do anything halfway, Riley. I’ll give you that.” Drake said.

My guys might have a little trouble setting up up here, but if you’d prefer lunch up here, I’ll make it happen.” he said, smiling.

This is a nice view.” he said.


Offline Rilandra Vlas

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Re: A taste of home
« Reply #8 on: May 18, 17, 02:31:29 PM »
Riley felt the Red power surround her. It was a familiar feeling, even if this particular Red was not. Of all the skills Riley had been able to master, skills most Queens would never even dream of, shielding was still a severe weakness. It was one of her former Court's most solid arguments as to why she had to be accompanied everywhere she went when she was interim ruler. She had been sick to death of them, never having a single moment to herself, always cloaked in the power of others.

When she had taken the throne in truth, she had demanded it be different. She needed to be able to move about her own home at the very least without constant supervision. She knew there was always someone close by. They wouldn't let her get that far. But she had solid arguments in her corner. The Guilds would not harm her, or else face the wrath of their Master. The Aristos didn't bother to get their own hands dirty. And Luca, well, if Luca ever came for her, she would offer him her death willingly enough. She didn't know for certain that he still held her death in his hands, but she didn't know for certain he didn't.

Instead of being annoyed at the sudden swell of Red Craft, she smiled, one corner of her mouth raising up in a bit of a smirk. "Afraid I'll jump?" she asked playfully. Drake joined her at the ledge. "It is, isn't it? I used to hate the view. So much city, so little land that you can sink into. It's so different from home." She turned toward him, wrapped in his shield, her hair still whipping across her face. "But then I saw it through Darcia's eyes, and I learned to find beauty in it." Riley rarely spoke of the previous Territory Queen. It was best if she was forgotten, a beloved memory that no one looked too closely at. But she was out there, in the streets, gathering her own small, fragile Court. And Riley would continue to protect her in anyway she could.

"If it's too difficult for your men, I can send mine, but then Adrian will refuse to leave and scowl at us while we eat." It was strange, feeling this level of comfort with someone she had just met. Which brought back again that sense that he was familiar. She cocked her head to the side, studying his features. "I can't get over the feeling that we've met before."
 




Offline Dragos Cutrov

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Re: A taste of home
« Reply #9 on: May 18, 17, 03:01:14 PM »
Afraid I’ll jump?

Yeah, maybe. If you enjoy heights, you probably like a good thrill now and again, Riley.” Drake said. He certainly did. But there was no reason to get into that discussion. She seemed to be enjoying herself, though he allowed that this could all be a cleverly disguised test to see how far she could push him, or if he was really the kind of aristo that people hated. He could be that man and he would be sometime in the future.

For the moment, he wanted to know just how much she’d changed since all those years ago.

She spoke of Darcia Glassade and Drake heard something in her voice, something honest born of inability to talk about something (because she couldn’t or wouldn’t, he couldn’t tell) and he felt a little bit of pity for her. People walked around carrying all kinds of shit that they couldn’t or wouldn’t talk about, like invisible carts of misery that they pulled all on their own. Some people were weighed down by it. Some people broke and collapsed under the weight of it, unable to move forward. Only a few could cut the strings and be free of it. Those people were rare.

Drake didn’t know which one Rilandra was. Maybe she’d give him a clue sometime.

You knew her well.” Drake said, gently. It was more statement than question, allowing her to expand if she wanted or move on with the discussion if she didn’t. He wasn’t bothered either way, but he would listen if she needed it.

No, my guys will handle it. They’d rather eat nails than let the Lady of Bidea think they can’t handle it. No need to rile Adrian if we can avoid it. Don’t want to get on the bad side of anyone protecting you.” Drake said, looking out at the view once more. It would be easy, he thought, to hate a place like this and then learn to love it. Especially when one didn’t seek it out. People looked at Bidea and Riley and saw a woman who held all of the power in Dena Nehele in the palm of her hand. The never saw her other hand, the one with the dagger poised to stab the back of anyone she had to in order to keep it. No one could really understand the kind of savage one had to be in order to sit at the head of a table of full of animals.

They couldn’t see that Bidea, her power, and her house, looked more like a prison than a home.

He felt her eyes on him, studying his profile. She was about to ask him something. Either she’d picked him out as Myos (unlikely) or she was about to realize that she’d met him in the past. When she didn’t react to his name, Drake figured she didn’t remember him and he was fine with that. In fact, he preferred it, for it meant that he’d earn her business under his own merits and not because of his name or their shared Province of origin. He hadn’t expected her to be so down-to-earth, though. Of course, he’d seen in command on the day she claimed the Territory Seat. That Rilandra Vlas wasn’t one he wanted to cross.

You’re right, Riley. We have. It was a long time ago, though. You were having a bad day that day, so I figure you wouldn’t remember. We met and then went our separate ways, but I kept hearing about you from time to time.” he said.

You made good, Riley.” he said, indicating the area around them.


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Re: A taste of home
« Reply #10 on: May 19, 17, 02:48:16 PM »
You probably like a good thrill now and again, Riley... The words received a raised eyebrow. They were certainly true, in many ways, but she wasn't quite sure how the Red Jeweled Prince meant them. More playful banter? An expression of a slightly higher level of interest? Or just being polite to the wild spirited Queen who had led him chasing her through the palace?

Darcia. "I did know her well," she replied, careful to use the past tense of the word. Few knew that Darcia was still in Bidea, and even fewer knew that Riley had a private, coded way of communicating with the traumatized Queen. No, she would say no more than that. If Darica wasn't safe, this grand experiment would have failed, utterly.

Again she laughed when he mentioned not wanting to rile her men. "They're quite riled on their own. I don't exactly make it easy for them. But you're right to not get on their bad sides. They're very..." images of Adrian throwing people through walls, of Luca leaving blood in his wake, of even sweet Dashel becoming a threatening force when Riley was in danger flooded her mind, "temperamental," she finished, that one word loaded with so much more. She loved them. Even if she yelled and pushed at them until one or both of them were bleeding, she loved her roughened Court from before. They were here, with her, mingled throughout the finery they cared nothing for. They were hers, even the ones that weren't Darkness (or Blood, fucking Chauncey) bound.

Where did this Prince fall? He wasn't like them, but he wasn't treating her with the disgust of the Aristos, either. He was a puzzle, one she was intrigued to study.

Her eyes focused on his face, trying to imagine a younger version of him. "I've had a lot of bad days," she laughed. "And thank you. That is perhaps one of the best compliments someone can give me." She pushed herself up to sit on the ledge she had been standing against, her legs dangling between them. She was closer to his height this way just as she had been when they were younger.

It came to her suddenly. The dress. That horrid dress. She threw up her arms. "The dress!" Her hands landed gently against his chest. "You should see what they have me wear now! I mean, not right this moment obviously," she said, indicating the pants and jacket she was wearing, falling open completely now. "But most of the time. It's awful! But were there! You came to Court with your mother. No, no, your aunt. Your parents were murdered." She blurted out the memory without thought, then stopped herself suddenly. She moved one hand up against his neck without really thinking about it. It was an affectionate gesture born of nostalgia, symbolizing a friendship they had not yet built. "That was callous. I'm sorry. It just all came back in a rush."








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Re: A taste of home
« Reply #11 on: May 19, 17, 10:23:03 PM »
Drake didn’t bother to clarify or elaborate on his statement about her liking thrills. If it made her smile to think upon it the next time she had a bad day, then his job was done.

Riley was said to collect males like a gambler collected debts. Briefly, Drake felt a small twinge of jealousy for her males. They were bound to her by the Darkness in a way that he would never understand. They would enjoy her scent, grant her safe haven, and provide companionship to her in her darkest times. Drake did not have a Queen and did not know if he’d ever find one. In truth, he hoped that he did not. His loyalties were already bought and paid for a thousand times over; having those loyalties divided between the Guild and a Queen was a fate he didn’t wish on anyone, not even a Jack.

Bonded males can be temperamental, from what I hear. I wouldn’t know, though.” he said, shrugging. The motion made his broad shoulders lift slightly.

He advised his men to start bringing up the food and wine up. He’d promised Riley food and a sample of his wares and he meant to deliver. He turned and faced her at the exact moment that she remembered when she knew him from. He was about sixteen years older and bearded, but the hints of the young man he used to be were still there. He hands landed against his chest and Drake was once again struck by how she’d touched him again without warning. It didn’t bother him, but it went against the things he’d learned while studying her.

She wasn’t known for being so tactile.

His chest was solid and strong, hardened from years of physical labor and strenuous physical combat. Boys in Tulzbruja rolled in the dirt and played a lot of games to stave off boredom. He remembered that boy like he was from some other life, because he was. That boy had stood in front of an irritated Rilandra Vlas, Ruler of Tulzbruja Province, on a day when people had forced her into a dress she hated to meet people she wouldn’t remember later and memorize names that she’d only need to remember if she saw them again. Aunt Viorica stressed to him, that day and every day since, that he needed to remember Rilandra Vlas even if he had to introduce himself to her a thousand times.

His hands moved up and placed themselves atop her own lightly, holding them against his chest briefly. The connection between them was not borne of true friendship or knowledge of each other. Yet he felt a connection to her that couldn’t be defined by words, save for that it wasn’t the bond of a Queen to her male.

Riley, Riley, Riley. I’d love to see you try on Bidea’s latest fashions. Believe me, I would. In the interest of surviving long enough to walk out of here under my own power, though...let’s schedule it for another time.” he said, making it clear that he was definitely teasing her about her turns of phrase.

But he did not let go of her hands unless she drew them back.

Aunt Viorica served in your Third Circle back then. She actually set up our meeting today. She figured you’d be more receptive to someone you knew. I also think she wanted me away from home this week. She’s met someone and they’re hitting it off. I am really trying not to imagine what might be happening in my house right now, so you need to start talking about something. Anything. Right now.” he said, laughing out loud and putting her on the spot. Maybe she’d fire off another unintentional innuendo or just get flustered and laugh. Either way, it was fine.

And don’t worry about my parents. You’re the first person to call it what it is. Everyone else uses cute little phrases to soften the blow, like I don’t know what happened.” Drake said, his tone growing somber. He shrugged again.

Okay, before we get too morose around here, tell me something you’re looking forward to.” he said.


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Re: A taste of home
« Reply #12 on: May 20, 17, 02:10:01 AM »
It was rare that someone genuinely wanted to hear what Riley had to say. Not in any pitiful way. When she could tour the land and meet with the people, she listened. It wasn't that they didn't want to hear her, it's that they didn't need to hear her. They needed her to listen. They had been farming the land their families had been caring for for generations. She offered her Craft, her blood, and her ear. This was the revolutionary way of Riley Vlas. She shut the fuck up and listened to what others had to say.

Of course here in Bidea, it was different. She fought with everyone more often than not. Her old Court didn't like the make up of the new, and her new Court was filled with people who all despised each other. How was a Court supposed to be effective if they couldn't even have a conversation without it turning into a fighting match, or worse, often much worse? She and Garen spent more time yelling at each other than anything else. Chauncey would listen, unless she needed to talk about her associations with his father. Then his trauma was too much for him. And her dresser, Lia, probably lectured her more than everyone else combined. She stood in between the slavers and the slaves, the violators and the violated. And right now, her Court was filling up with both.

So to have someone earnestly be interested in things she had to say, to not only offer to listen but to urge her to talk about something, anything at all as long as she spoke, was the most novel thing in the world to the Opal Jeweled Queen. Of course it was possible he just really wanted to sell her wine from his vineyard, but she doubted it. She had dealt with enough of Aristos who wanted something from her. If that was his goal, he was handling it in a very unique way.

"Well since you're coming to the party that this very meeting is for, I guess you'll get to see me in Bidea's finest, then." It wasn't so much an invitation as a pronouncement, her eyes sparkling as she said it.  "If my dresser has any say about it at all, I'll spend more of the evening changing gowns then I will entertaining." She laughed at when he described working very hard not to think of what his aunt was up to in his absence. "And here I thought you just came to sell me some wine," she teased.

The warmth of his hands against hers was calming. Not in the way one of her own males near her was, but in a way that felt, just, good. There was no desperate need between them, no war of wills. Just a distant memory of much younger versions of themselves, reunited on the roof of the palace at the heart of Bidea. She listened when he reassured her she was not callous, but rather honest. Riley was surprised to hear she was the first person to do such. "I can't be..." she started, but then she remembered. He came from the Aristo side of Dena Nehelian culture. They only spoke of such things when they were whispering the deaths of young Queens amongst themselves.

She allowed the seriousness of it to settle over her for a moment. "I don't see any reason in being anything but honest. Straight razors coated with honey will cut your throat just the same. I'd rather see the flash of the blade and know what's coming." She looked into his eyes for a long moment, before nodding and jumping off the ledge toward him. He had been standing quite close to her already, and her leap down placed her squarely between his body and the roof wall at her back. Her hands had braced against the musculature of his chest while she landed, and she looked up at him. No. Not like other Aristos at all. His chest felt like that of her males, hardened from fighting and training. The type of work out men like Garen did was different. He felt like... No. She was imagining it. It was just that he was from home and knew a hard days labor.

"Something I am looking forward to. It's much easier to say the things I'm not. How about we go with... lunch. I am looking forward to lunch." She found herself smiling again. Her cheeks were going to start to hurt if this continued. She could remember the boy he was. She found herself surprised she had forgotten. But then the last few years had carried so much pain and heartache. She barely recognized herself. Perhaps it wasn't a surprise at all.

Out of habit she sent out a low pulse, searching for the Jewels nearby. Everyone described how it felt differently. Some said it felt like reassurance, the knowledge that she was alive and breathing. Others said it felt invasive, like she was reaching out and touching them in a way she shouldn't. She really didn't care. It was one of the strongest safety measures she had of her own that didn't require a dozen men at her back. She used what she had.

She felt the men coming with the food and wine. She stepped sideways to her right, brushing gently against him as she did so, and tightened her grasp with her left hand on his, pulling him along behind her. It was the kind of thing children would do, leading each other around. "If I'm to distract you from thinking of your aunt trying out new and flexible sexual positions, I had better make it interesting. I'm sure you've heard something about me, and even more sure it has been through at least a dozen rumors by the time it reaches anyone at all." She pulled him toward the middle of the roof and dropped down to the ground, crossing her legs all in one motion as she went. He could either follow her down or let go of her hand, but if he didn't do one or the other, his arm would likely be pulled from the socket.

"How about this. Tell me... two. No, three! Three things that you want to know about me and I will answer honestly. And then you have to let me do the same."

 




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Re: A taste of home
« Reply #13 on: May 21, 17, 12:08:24 PM »
Drake paused and stared at Rilandra for a moment.

Straight razors coated with honey will cut your throat just the same.” he said, repeating the words she’d just spoken thim. The phrase, like Rilandra Vlas, was rough and elegant in the same breath. It was a truth of the world in general and a deeper truth of Dena Nehele, specifically. But Drake had never heard anyone put it quite that way before. His estimation of the Territory Queen increased and proved that the rough-and-tumble demeanor that defined her held a sharper, more dangerous mind beneath it. The aristos he knew believed that she leaned on her court and her allies for the bulk of her power and, without it, that she’d fall easily enough.

They were greatly underestimating this Queen.

I like it, Riley. I’ll have to remember that sometime.” he said.

His smile returned when she said she was looking forward to lunch. He believed it. Between her Opal and his Red, he imagined that they could do some serious damage to a dinner table. It didn’t even cross his mind, in that thought, to consider other ways that they could damage a table. Of course, he rolled his eyes when she spoke of what kind of new and flexible sexual positions his aunt could currently be attempting with whatever gentleman caller she’d taken up with during her nephew’s absence.

Forget interesting. You’d better make whatever you’re going to say amazing if we’re going to get rid of the level of awkward in here.” he said, laughing aloud.

I’ve heard a lot of things about you, Riley. Most of them are even good. But since you’re being so kind and letting me ask you directly, here are my questions.” Drake said, immediately coming up with three things he wanted to know about her right this moment. He’d played this game before with a few pretty aristo women who liked talking about themselves. The difference between those games and now was that Drake actually cared about Riley’s answers. The other women served a purpose at the time.

Here and now, Riley was the purpose.

Lord Cosimo Ventu came to your court several months ago, right? There’s a story that he made an, uh, undignified remark about you and that someone punched him out in open court after confronting him on it. One story says that it was one of three or four males in your service. But I had a few drinks with an eyewitness and they said it was you that floored him with a right hook. Hence my earlier comment about knowing your right hand during peace instead of war.” Drake said.

My first question is...was it you?” he asked.

Before she could answer, he’d gently place a finger over her lips to delay her answer.

Second question: you’re sitting at the head of a Territory of people in different groups that don’t like you, and that’s being nice. I saw the way people looked at you on the way up here. I can’t imagine the crap you have to deal with daily.” he said.

Do you regret becoming the Queen of Dena Nehele?

Now he smiled, because he was going to ask the question he’d been meaning to ask since they met. There was a good chance she’d punch him out, but it would be worth it if she answered him. Of course, he’d have to answer her questions afterward and there was a very mild anxiety to that that Drake didn’t want to acknowledge. At the same time, this little game was fun.

Final question: Why do you insist that everyone call you Riley? Rilandra’s a beautiful name, in my opinion. That and a couple of marks will get you an ale at the local taphouse. It feels like there’s more to it, though. Am I wrong? Or am reading too far into it?” he asked.

He lowered his finger from her lips so that she could answer him.

Or tell him to fuck off.

It was a coin toss, either way.


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Re: A taste of home
« Reply #14 on: May 22, 17, 01:38:19 AM »
Riley's gaze broke his only long enough to nod to the men who walked over to where they sat, bringing with them food and wine. She simply ignored the surprised looks at the fact that their Master and the Territory Queen were having an impromptu picnic on the palace roof. If Drake was going to spend more time around here, and something told her she expected he was, they might as well get used to her now. They started to spread out a wide array of food and opened several bottles of wine. Se seized a fresh loaf of bread of a kind local to Tulzbruja and breathed it in.

Home.

She ripped a large chunk of it off and started to eat. As she did, he began his questions. "...was it you?" She went to open her mouth to answer, but his finger pressed against her lips. It was a simple gesture, and yet somehow much more intimate than would normally exist between two members of the Blood who had just met. But they hadn't. She'd known him before, however briefly, and somehow, that made all the difference. Her eyes flashed with amusement and she didn't pull away from his finger.

The second question came, this one more complex. "Do you regret becoming the Queen of Dena Nehele?" Her face shifted slightly from amused to considerate. She knew the answer in a moment, but she wanted to be able to offer him a truly honest answer. That might be complicated.

Finally the third question came. From the tone of the first two, she expected him to ask about her Landen heritage (she was a quarter Landen, not half) or whether she was actually fucking half her Court (again, it was more like a quarter). Instead, he asked her something no one had ever asked before. The amusement drained from her face. If he was watching, he would notice dark shadows cross behind her eyes. Rilandra. Why wouldn't she let anyone call her Rilandra?

When he moved his finger away she grabbed a glass of wine and drank it swallow after swallow until it was gone. The red stained the edge of her bottom lip. She held it, looking at him, deciding what to say, and how. The man was there refilling it for her. She sipped her second glass slower. It was excellent. And of course, once again, she was reminded of home. And that, more than anything else, made her decision for her.

"You are half right," she started, continuing to sip the wine. "Lord Cosimo Ventu did come to Court and he did get punched, but it's not quite like you described." She lifted her left hand, flexing her fingers. "It wasn't my right hook. I've promised Adrian I'll only use my left hand on the Aristos." She hid her smile behind the glass of wine, remembering his shock. "He deserved it!" she half whined, laughing at the memory and at speaking of it to Drake.

"As for regret, I try very hard to live my life without it. I've found I regret the things I don't do much more than the things I do, and had I not taken the throne from Darcia Glassade, I would have regretted that very, very much." It was absolutely accurate, and honest. Whether he would catch the careful wording about taking the throne from Darcia versus taking the throne for herself she didn't know. Darcia would have died here. Riley would never regret saving Dena Nehele's Heart, even if it cost her own life to do so.     

"As for the last..." She set the glass down and looked down at her hands in her lap. Of all the questions he could have asked... "Do you know anything about my early childhood?" she asked. She seemed to shrink in on herself, as if, speaking of being smaller was making her actually so. This was a memory of home she did not cherish. This was what she had vowed she would become the Queen to stop from happening, assuming she lived long enough. "I was kidnapped before my Birthright Ceremony. I was held for a long time. It was dark. And cold. And I was terribly, terribly alone." If Riley were the type to analyze her actions after the fact, she might see the link to this statement and being constantly surrounded by Dark male strength now.

"I was gone a long time. So long I didn't think anyone would ever find me. But Adrian did." And the Red Jeweled Jack had been with her from that day forward. "The people who took me. They called me Rilandra. It was one of the only words I head. Eat, Rilandra. Sleep, Rilandra. Drink, Rilandra. And every time someone calls me Rilandra, even know, I feel..." her words trailed off. Without realizing it, she had continued to tighten in on herself until her arms were wrapped tightly around her knees, her knees pressed to her chest. "So. Riley."




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Re: A taste of home
« Reply #15 on: May 22, 17, 07:06:03 PM »
Drake chewed a bit of beef while his men set up, diverting his attention only at the same time Rilandra did to ensure that they didn’t make any missteps. He needn’t have worried; they were professional and unobtrusive, allowing his conversation with the Lady of Bidea to continue without interruption. He wondered if his questions were too much or too little, but reminded himself that she’d given him the opportunity to ask her any three things her wanted in return for her answers. Her first answer was pretty straightforward and confirmed what he knew. Old Lord Ventu still hated Rilandra for punching him out, though he raised a brow at her promise to Adrian of only using her left hand for aristos.

That’s an oddly specific promise to make, but I like it. We'll keep that in mind.” Drake laughed as his man handed him a glass of wine. He was certain to make sure that they hadn’t brought any of the craft-spelled stuff that many of his customers seemed to enjoy. He didn’t actually want to get drunk; he just needed to seem like he was loosening up as the alcohol flowed.

Her second answer was pretty cryptic, but he couldn’t press her without asking more questions. The rule of Darcia Glassade was a troubled time in Dena Nehele’s history. Most of the aristos of the land, however, painted it as some kind of golden age where their power went unchecked and people knew their places. This was a marked difference, in their minds, from the rule of Rilandra Vlas. She challenged their power and checked their impulses while trying to raise up the Landen and the common folk of Dena Nehele. She was the “People’s Queen” and it drove most of his so-called friends insane to live under her rule.

Drake knew that the truth of the matter lay somewhere in between, but Rilandra’s expression at the mention of Darcia Glassade, and taking the Territory from Darcia, rather than for herself didn’t go unnoticed. While the trappings of power didn’t translate to altruism on the part of woman in front of him, Drake allowed that there were worse Queens in Dena Nehele to allow into power.

Far worse.

The tone of her last answer took him by surprise. He shook his head when she asked him about knowledge of her early childhood. “No one really talks about it. Figured that I shouldn't push unless I wanted answers from the wrong people.” Drake said.

That wasn’t true, per se, but Rilandra didn’t need to know that.

His posture became more open as Riley’s closed off, until she was practically curled in upon herself. Queens had a rough life in Dena Nehele. For most of them, it was a short and rough life. The ones who lived long enough to gain any power had to watch their backs constantly, because one family or another wanted to increase their influence or stymie a rival’s. Rather than working together or finding less-lethal ways of dealing with people, most of them contracted the Guilds to deal with matters. Back and forth, over and over, down the generations it went.

Sometimes, Drake grew sick enough of it to hate himself for helping perpetuate it.

When Rilandra stopped talking, he reached out a hand and gently grasped one of hers. He didn’t force her to uncoil herself; it was merely a gesture to show that he’d heard her, that he was present and not judging.

What strikes me about you, my lady, is that you don't let others define you or put you in a particular box.” he said softly.

I’ve seen a lot of people force themselves to be what others want because they need that validation. I've seen people go with the flow because it's less trouble than standing out. Standing out means sacrifice. They don’t want to disturb the comforts they’ve attained. Even when we were kids, you knew who you were and what you wanted. And you didn’t give anything away without getting something in the bargain.” Drake said, taking a sip of his wine.

You took the throne of a Territory. You punch the aristos in the nose on a regular basis. You’ve even managed to get the guilds to alter their course, in a way.” Drake said.

My point is that your past doesn't define or consume the way it does most people.” Drake said, and something hollow flickered in his expression just then, possibly indicating that he knew people who’d done just that.

Those people who kidnapped you might have scarred anyone else for life. They might have made another woman too afraid to leave home or go without constant protection at her side. Please understand, I’m not judging. I can’t imagine what that must have been like for you.” Drake said.

But why let them define the way you feel about your name? Rilandra is a beautiful name. Don't let them define you, just like you don't let your rivals or opposition define you." Drake said.

He took a sip of his wine.

"I apologize, my lady. I get a little passionate about some things. Didn't mean to overstep.


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Re: A taste of home
« Reply #16 on: May 23, 17, 12:34:28 AM »
His fingers were warm against her hand. She didn't pull away, but allowed Drake to offer what little comfort he could through the touch of his fingers against hers. As he spoke, her grip tightened around his. It was eerie how much his words sounded like... her. It was exactly the kind of thing she would tell a witch in her Court who had been through a similar trauma. Riley would tell them to fight back, to reclaim everything they had taken from them. She would push at them until they finally relented, bullying them into her way of thinking.

And here was a Red Jeweled Aristo doing the same to her. If someone had told her this morning she would be having this conversation with this man on the roof of the palace, she would have laughed in their face. It felt surreal, like they had stepped outside of time and space to share this very unusual moment together. He might be right. He was right. By the time he finished speaking, she was clutching his hand extremely tight.  "Don't apologize," she said. "You don't owe me an apology and you don't mean it. Not really. Not when you're right."

She unfurled her legs just enough to be able to move next to him. She leaned her head against his shoulder, still holding his hand. "What right do you have to know me so well?" she asked softly, looking up at him from where she rested against him.  It wasn't an accusation, more of a bewildered inquiry. Because he did. He didn't just sound like her, he understood her. Riley demanded so much of those who served her, and she wanted and needed them to demand the same from her.  Rarely were they able to do so. Garen pushed her. It was one of the things that kept them orbiting around each other. But Drake did it in a way that reached out to her in a dark, quiet place.

She looked down again, focusing on her hand entwined around his. "How about... I'll try," she offered. "With you," she added quickly. "I'm not about to let everyone and their mother just start calling me Rilandra." She took a deep breath and blew it out. "Well. Enough of that. I believe it's my turn." She picked up her glass with her free hand and finished the wine before setting it back down.

"Let's see. What do I want to know. How about... What are thinking about, right this moment?" Before he could speak, she reached up and clamped her free hand over his mouth. She was not nearly as gentle as he had been with the single finger to her lips. She laughed as she did so. "Remember, you have to be completely honest."

"Two!" she announced. "You seem very different to me than what I've heard about. Am I getting the sober version of you or are the tales of you being a drunken mess greatly exaggerated?"

"And three. The wine is excellent and of course we will serve it at the party. But this isn't actually about the wine, is it? What are you really doing here?" The last question was asked with almost the same tone as the first two, only dropping slightly into a more serious note, but just barely. She released his mouth from her hand and said, "Now you make speak!" laughing again as she did so. 

 




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Re: A taste of home
« Reply #17 on: May 24, 17, 01:23:35 PM »
Drake was surprised when Rilandra moved to not only sit beside him, but to lay her head on his shoulder. The sudden closeness between them felt good, though he worried that she’d suddenly realize what was happening and think that was attempting to alter her mood with Craft. He wasn’t, but he’d known enough people who did it regularly for it to be an actual worry on her part. He’d come here to see her wine, but he had other reasons to come here than just the sale of goods.
 
All told, he was glad that Aunt Viorica had chosen not to take this meeting.
 
She asked her questions and he waited while she covered his mouth with her hand. He pretended that he’d might bite her, opening his mouth enough to catch part of her hand in his teeth, but refrained. If he wasn’t careful, he’d be wearing her drink and his. He didn’t want that, so he listened while she spoke.
 
Her first question earned a nod of approval. Her second question, a duck of the head as though she’d caught on to something he hadn’t intended. The final question was a little more sobering, and the one he’d been waiting for her to ask since she realized who he was. They hadn’t seen each other in years and they hadn’t been as close as they seemed now. In truth, he was mired too deeply in past sorrow to really be friends with the young woman that Rilandra had been. He regretted that sometime later, after she’d moved on, and that regret surfaced over the years at random times to plague him when it was least helpful.
 
Well, your first question is the easiest. I’m thinking about sex right now.” Drake said, taking a sip of his wine.
 
He moved on, because she’d only asked what he was thinking about right this moment. His thoughts had changed as he started to answer the next question.
 
Honestly, I do not like drinking as much as I let on. But most people who know anything about my past think that a man like me, without a Queen or a Court to serve, should probably be a hard-drinking, hard-partying playboy who thinks with something other than his brain.” Drake said, shrugging.
 
I once had someone tell me that if they’d lived the life I lived, they’d have drunk most of their family’s profits to get through the day. So I give the people what they want to see. As long as they get it, they don’t ask deeper questions. People are afraid to get too deep with others. Let someone in the front gates and they’re liable to burn your house down with you in it.” Drake said.
 
As for your final question, that’s the easiest one to answer. I had to know if you were still you.” he said.
 
He drained the rest of his wine glass and set it down beside him before looking at her.
 
I remember a skinny, yet pretty, young woman who didn’t let people push her around. She bent the world to her will, rather than letting it bend her. I admired that back then. But time changes people. We all have to give up pieces of ourselves to make our way in the world.” Drake said.
 
Ruling Tulzbruja is one thing. I bet ruling Bidea is something else altogether. A lot of other Queens would sell their souls for the kind of power you’ve got. A lot of them probably have over the years.” he said.
 
When I heard that Rilandra Vlas ruled here, I needed to know if the girl I remembered was still in there somewhere. I guess I wanted to know if the man I became could be friends with the woman she grew up to be.” Drake told her.
 
Seems like you could use a friend that isn’t bound to you and that isn’t someone you have to tiptoe around. So that’s why I came, Rilandra.” Drake said.
 
And because I’m Myos. he left unsaid.


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Re: A taste of home
« Reply #18 on: May 24, 17, 10:34:07 PM »
She laughed as he playfully acted like he would bite her fingers, stopping himself short of doing so. She couldn't decide if she was pleased with his restraint or disappointed by it. When he answered her first question, she had taken a sip of wine and nearly choked at his answer. I’m thinking about sex right now. Regardless whether it was what most people might be thinking about at any given time or not, Riley was close to shock that the Red Jeweled Prince so candidly admitted it. He moved on quickly before she could ask whether it was sex with her he was thinking about or sex in general, but her curiosity burned.

She nodded as he explained that he acted the drunk more than was one. Riley understood that more than  she would have before coming to Bidea. In Tulzbruja, it was easier to be who one really was. Here, everyone wore half a dozen masks at any given moment. You couldn't trust what someone said and you could trust what they did even less. It was exhausting trying to maintain all the pieces and emotionally shield against the endless intrigue. She understood his choice, and she wouldn't ruin his cover.

But the answer to the third question, easiest for him, was the most surprising for her. She listened, silently, taking in what he had to say. I guess I wanted to know if the man I became could be friends with the woman she grew up to be. She realized she had been wondering the same thing since she recognized where she knew him from. The comfort between them extended far beyond any actual relationship they ever had, then or now. But she wanted it. A friendship this comfortable, with all the reminders of home. She didn't even hate it when he used her name. It was a start.

"And can we be?" she asked, looking up into his face. "Friends?" When he answered positively, her smile nearly split her face. Yep. Cheeks were definitely going to hurt tomorrow. She shifted her weight then, using his shoulder to support her while she crawled into his lap and straddled him. She was slim, but solid muscle, lean and long from countless hours of work outs. Her arms rested on his shoulders, one hand still holding her wine glass. She waited for him to stop her, half expected him to, but he didn't. She held his gaze for a long moment before pressing herself against him and kissing him.

It started gently, much more gently than Riley usually offered, then grew in passion until she pulled away, smiling again. She took another sip of her wine, studying him up close. "You even taste like home," she said, with no awareness if he would understand what she meant in the least. Her mind led her back to the words he had said when she had asked about his drunkeness. Still straddling him she tilted her head to the side and asked, "Do you want one? A Court? A Queen to serve? You know. Just asking."

She started to pull back. If he let her, she would fall back just enough to land her ass on the ground, her legs still spread and draped over his. If he didn't she would remain where she was, closer to home than she had been in months.   




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Re: A taste of home
« Reply #19 on: May 24, 17, 11:17:57 PM »
Drake expected Rilandra to be happy. He even though she’d smile. Her smile was just as magnetic now as it was when they were younger. Part of him wished that he’d formed a bond with her years ago so that the closeness they shared right now was even more cemented in reality. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. Still, he felt more comfortable with Rilandra now than he had when he was an awkward teenager with a chip on his shoulder and an Opal Jewel that he didn’t quite know what to do with.
 
Then she climbed into his lap.
 
She straddled him and Drake’s eyes suddenly took on a different look. Hungrier and more intense than the smiles he’d favored her with for most of the day. He’d set down his wine glass, so his hands were free. They slipped inside the folds of her coat, where they gently rubbed at her sides. The feel of lean muscle beneath his hands earned a look of genuine surprise from the Prince. He’d expected soft, yielding flesh beneath his hands but this was a far better (and more pleasant) surprise. Rilandra was strong and kept herself in shape. If she ever needed to exert herself in a hurry, she probably wouldn’t be utterly useless afterward. Drake knew too many Blood who relied on their jewels as a measure of their physical prowess and Craft.
 
He was glad that she wasn’t one of them.
 
Her scent filled the space between them, even above the wine she sipped. When she kissed him, Drake let her scent and the taste of her mouth become the center of his world for a moment. He met her passion with his hunger until she pulled back. He wanted to pull her into that kiss again. But he wasn’t a Warlord Prince with the need to sheathe himself inside her. He could let this friendship age, let it grow, and see how it turned out. For now, though, his hands moved along her back and down to her ass, before settling them on her hips.
 
Do I?” he asked, when she said he tasted like home. He wondered what it meant, but she’d tell him sooner or later.
 
She asked him if he needed a Court and a Queen to serve and that bright smile returned as he looked up at her.
 
He did not let her move.
 
I am not bound to a Court at this time, as luck would have it. I’d happily take a recommendation to serve in the Court of a Queen you think capable of handling me.” Drake said.

I promise that I’ll even come back and bring you wine from time to time as a thank you.” he said, grinning.


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Re: A taste of home
« Reply #20 on: May 25, 17, 12:00:42 AM »
Drake's hands held her in place, not letting her slide away from him, but not pulling her into a devouring embrace, either. It was another way in which he was new to her. He didn't demand anything from her, but also wouldn't simply let her slip through his fingers now that she had placed herself solidly in his hands. And his lap.

"You do!" she insisted. "I can't explain it," she started, before immediately launching into an attempt to do just that. "Everything here tastes hollow. It smells of pain and suffering of others. No one grows their own food, or has any connection to the Land they serve. It all feels so... distant. Like I'm living someone else's life." She leaned forward slightly to take a sip of her wine without smacking him in the face with her glass. It put her shoulder and throat quite close to his face before she leaned back and looked at him again.

"But you're real. You feel real." Her free hand slipped from his shoulder to his chest and her fingers sank into the cloth of his suit.  "You speak words that aren't dressed up in pretty speech meant to later stab me in the back. You're honest with me." Everything he had offered her so far gave her no reason to believe otherwise. In truth she was being too trusting, but the novelty of being able to actually have someone new speak to her plainly was heady and intoxicating.

"A Queen capable of handling you?" she repeated, an eyebrow raising. "That is quite a tall order, I imagine. Hmmmm..." She was smiling and laughing easily and then shifted, her expression and voice becoming more serious. "I suppose that depends on what kind of handling you require." Her lips brushed against his again, stretching the kiss out between them. There was intensity there, but it felt like they had all the time in the world. There was no sudden need to bed him, or push him toward taking her. Riley felt like she could sit on this roof and and kiss this man endlessly, without it ever becoming frustrating.

Her tongue ran over his, small, content sounds escaping her throat. When she finally pulled away, it was only to run her bottom lip along his jaw until she reached his ear. "I think I have the perfect Queen in mind," she whispered, teasingly. "But I should be extra sure you'll like her... What are your requirements in a Queen?" She leaned back then, settling more firmly in his lap, taking a sip of her wine. She waited, looking expectantly for an answer.   




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Re: A taste of home
« Reply #21 on: May 25, 17, 06:42:54 PM »
Well, you taste like fire, a little spice, and that plum wine that we’ve been drinking.” Drake offered. He could smell the scents of earth and wine on her skin. The warmth of her body was discernible even with all of the clothing they were wearing. They were sitting on the roof of her home, necking like teenagers. Would this have happened back in Tulzbruja, if he hadn’t left before really getting to know her? Drake wanted to believe that it would have and that it would have been just as new and interesting as it was right now.
 
His fingertips trailed down the length of her spine, still atop her shirt, while his other hand held her ass firmly. He didn’t press for more than she wanted to give him. As far as he was concerned, she was giving him far more than he’d expected to ever receive. Had she just wanted to know how far he’d go if she dared him? Or did she ever wonder all of things that crossed his mind when they were teenagers?
 
That thought was pushed aside as her neck neared him once more. Her scents mingled in his nose and mind. He found, though, that he didn’t want to suggest that they find a more private place to get to know each other in full. He liked this place, right here, and the way they were entangled in each other. The kissing was good. The wine and food were excellent.
 
For a moment, he was content and he couldn’t say why.
 
Protocol is easy. Keeps us all playing nice and not trying to kill each other out loud. But everyone’s hiding something. Everyone wants something from you.” he said, both to her and not to her. It was something he’d observed over the years and seemed to be more true with each passing year.
 
But yes, Rilandra, if I was going to do anything to your back, or any other part of you, I wouldn’t stab you in it. A massage, though? That I could help with.” Drake said.
 
Especially if it gets rid of this knot right...here.” he said, massaging the base of her spine.
 
She kissed him again and he allowed it, taking her wine glass and setting it down beside them.
 
My requirements? Well, I’d require her to carry a conversation. She can like wine, but not too much. I don’t want to be the guy that ruined a Court with alcohol.” Dragos said, placing his lips against the hollow of her throat, leaving a kiss there.
 
I’d like to enjoy her company. I mean, I wouldn’t expect her to put me before any of her bonded males, of course. Or her First Escort. But every now and then, maybe she just wants to take a beat from all the drama and backstabbing of course, all the pretty smiles and nasty whispers and just...relax. If she can’t relax, that’s no good.” he said, kissing her chin.
 
He lifted a hand ran his index finger along the curve of Rilandra’s bottom lip, just for fun.
 
Oh, I require someone that doesn’t mind being chased a little. Good chase never hurt anyone.” he said.
 
But you say you’ve found the perfect Queen. All right, then. I’ll bite.
 
And he did, nipping playfully at her neck.


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Re: A taste of home
« Reply #22 on: May 26, 17, 09:03:55 PM »
Riley could never be still for long. Even held firmly in the Prince's lap, she shifted her weight almost continually, moving against Drake through their clothing as she kissed him yet again. When she finally settled she was still in his lap, but her knees were bent and her feet were flat on the ground. It was a position that showed off the flexibility of the Opal Queen, long earned from consistent training.

She responded to each of his actions in kind. She moaned against his lips when he massaged the aching area of her lower back. When he ran his finger against her lower lip, her teeth flashed forth for just a second and bit into him, teasingly, before releasing him and returning her mouth to his. Her arms around his neck helped her keep her balance and a secure hold on him. She was nearly drowning in contentment. She never wanted to let go.

"So. Interesting to talk to, enjoyable company, not a drunk, won't completely neglect you, and has the ability to relax. Is that about it?" Her eyes glittered with laughter, her words a soft breath against his face. When he nipped at her neck, shivers ran down her spine. There was a part of her that wanted to take that farther, to fall into the heat of teeth and nails and tongues. But that could wait. She didn't know why she knew there would be time for more later, she just did. There was time. And right now wasn't about dark desires, even if they played at the corner of her mind.   

"Oh, and of course, someone you can chase." She kissed him hard then, stealing both their breath as she did so. When she pulled away, she grinned, before pushing away from him. She slipped from his grasp and bounded from his lap, laughing and racing away from him toward the opposite side of the roof. Her hair whipped her face as the wind picked up. She pulled her off her jacket as she ran, letting it go so it flew a bit behind her before landing wherever it would. Without the coat, a number of things were visible about Riley. The musculature of her back that Drake had already felt was clearly visible through the thin fabric of her shirt. The pants sat low on her hips and a swath of skin was easily visible between the top of her belt and the bottom of her shirt.

But perhaps the most striking thing that was suddenly apparent were the bruises that laced both her back and arms. Some were yellowed and nearly faded. Others were bright hues of purple and blue. And one particularly distinctive one on the back of her left arm was a sickly green, small marks like fingerprints running along the back of her tricep.

As she neared closer to the edge of the roof, she felt a Red shield envelop her. Drake's Red. She smiled. It felt so different than Adrian's Red or any of the other Dark Jeweled shields that she so often found herself inside of. She couldn't understand why, other than this was Drake's Red. There was a connection between them that she didn't understand, but it was clearly there. It was as simple and complicated as that.

Riley didn't slow down as she neared the ledge. She ran hard and then leaped up onto the railing, laughing as she turned around. The wind picked up, blowing her hair across her face and back. She raised her arms, the hem of her undershirt raising more, and tipped her head back, utterly free for this one single moment in time.




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Re: A taste of home
« Reply #23 on: May 26, 17, 09:51:42 PM »
The way Rilandra kissed him made Drake want to hold her in his arms, in his lap like they were right now, and figure out just how long they could sit there, drinking wine in a tangle of limbs and bodies and explore. His arousal was apparent now, after his determination to keep it at bay. Every time she moved against him, they both felt it, and Drake murmured in assent, encouraging her to keep going, keep kissing him, keep moving.
 
He hadn’t been kissed like this before.
 
She repeated his requirements for a Queen and he confirmed each one with a kiss to her neck and throat. Rilandra’s hips shifted subtly in his grip and he relaxed it a little bit, wondering if those hips had any other devious movements in store or if she just wanted a little space between them. A small voice in the back of his mind told him not to let her go, to hold onto her until she demanded her release, but then he would have been forcing her to accede to his will. He and Rilandra had gotten along so well, thus far, because neither of them had demanded anything of each other.
 
So she kissed him once more, the buss so deep and sweet that Drake let his guard down for a half-second.
 
And then she was gone.
 
His eyes remained lidded briefly as her footsteps retreated away from him. Then his eyes opened fully to see her coat fluttering to the ground, the lines of her body, and the bruises. Mother Night, the bruises! Drake knew bruises like that; he’d learned of colors they didn’t teach in school lessons during his own training.
 
He knew that Rilandra was unorthodox, to say the least, but something inside of him rankled at the idea that a Queen could be harmed that way. There were plots in motion against her. The Aristos wouldn’t let her stay in power forever, not unless she was under their control. He shoved those thoughts aside as her destination became clear.
 
The roof’s edge.
 
His Red shielded her even as he drew on his Opal to force speed and strength into his limbs and heightened his reflexes. He was on his feet, running after her. If she noticed, she’d find him hot on her heels in short order.
 
She leaped onto the ledge and threw her arms out and Drake readied himself for her attempt to throw herself over. He’d leap after her and keep her from injuring herself to prove whatever point she was after. But she did. Rilandra simply remained there with her arms out, basking in the sunlight and fresh air. Her bruised body was still attractive in it shape and form.

Drake let out a deep breath and shook his head.
 
Okay, that was cute. Now come down.” he said.
 
There was a gentle shove at her back from behind, meant to unbalance her into falling toward him. When she did, Drake caught her and held her in his arms, watching her with a difficult-to-read expression. But he smiled all the same.
 
You already had my blood racing, Rilandra. Is this going to be my official duty in your Court? Or will we just consider it one of the many services that I provide?


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Re: A taste of home
« Reply #24 on: May 26, 17, 10:49:23 PM »
He moved so fast behind her she honestly didn't know whether she would make it to the ledge in time. She could feel the strength of his Opal at her back. Whoever had trained him or however he trained back home, it felt so similar to what she was used to reminding her of all of the times she had given Adrian yet another scare by running off. She attributed it to their matching Jewels and not to he possible relation in their training. She knew he wasn't a Jack, and so he hadn't trained like a Jack. But the Jacks had always taken refuge in her Courts and around her home, making Tulzbruja a kind of second home for them. It wouldn't surprise her in the least if he had a sparring partner or two who didn't have a similar past.

She felt his presence beneath her even before his Craft pushed her into his arms. It felt like she might fall forever, but it was really just a moment before he caught her, pulling her in close to his body. The Red shield lengthened out from her body until it extended over both of them entirely. She could feel his heart pounding against her hand. There was something in his expression that she couldn't quite read. Something behind the smile.

"Oh, so it's me you'll be serving then?" she teased, but she too had shadows dancing behind her eyes. She draped one arm around his neck and pressed the other to his chest, her head cradled against his shoulder. Safe. He felt safe. And that scared the fuck out of her.

When she spoke again, it was quieter, warm air brushing against his neck. "Everyone who serves me has one, overarching official duty: to keep me alive. Not serves me in name only, but actually serves me. I don't want your service if it's nothing more than a title. Not from you." She nuzzled in closer to him, wanting to feel his warmth against the skin of her bare arms. "And as often as not, I'll infuriate you by running head long into danger. Can you handle that? Because if not, when you leave here today, you shouldn't come back."
 
She took a deep breath, her whole body seeming to settle into his arms. "This was nothing by comparison. This is play. I want to play with you. Do you know how insane that feels? You taste like home and you feel so fucking safe and that is crazy because I haven't seen you in years and yet..." She shifted in his arms then, pulling herself up to be eye to eye with him, her legs parting and wrapping around his waist. She hooked her ankles behind him as his hands slid across her body to support the new position. "I barely know you and I never want to let you go."




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Re: A taste of home
« Reply #25 on: May 26, 17, 11:38:59 PM »
Unless I’m reading the situation wrong, and I could be, you don’t kiss someone the you’ve been kissing me and then recommend them to another Court.” Drake said, confident in his read of the situation. She’d nearly caused his heart to jump out of his chest from the shock of watching her run towards the edge of the rooftop, but now Drake understood the woman he was dealing with. He wouldn’t let his guard down like that again, especially when they were alone like this. She laid her head against him.
 
I’m a wine-maker from Tulzbruja, Rilandra. That’s what my family has done for centuries. I’m an Aristo. Half your Court will hate me because I’m Aristo, the other half will hate me because I’m a stranger and I’m not yours.” Drake said, outlining the reasons that she’d bar him from her service. Despite how good all of this felt, Drake understood that she hadn’t seen him in years. She didn’t truly know him; she just remembered a scrawny teenager with dead parents and more sadness than he knew how to handle.

"My job is to make your job easier."
 
And for all he knew, she was even more insane than all of the intelligence on her suggested.
 
I'll infuriate you by running headlong into danger. Can you handle that? Because if not, when you leave here today, you shouldn't come back.
 
He tensed slightly, but managed to relax himself. He could ask for another assignment. They could probably find ten more men with his skill set that could keep her alive and avoid giving in to nostalgia and worse in the doing. Yet when she suggested that he leave and not come back if he couldn’t handle it, something in him recoiled at the idea. She lived in a den of vipers.
 
She needed a mongoose.
 
I want you to stay alive, Rilandra. I also want to help out around here, if you’ll let me. What you’re building here, I want to try to help out with. I don’t know how far we’ll get with playing” he said, moving his hands to cup her ass and hold her in place when she shifted to wrap her legs around him.
 
...but if there’s anything I can do to build a bridge between you and the Aristos that aren’t out to undermine you, then I’ll do that. If I can help your Court understand what’s going on in Tulzbruja and make sure that they don’t forget that there’s more to Dena Nehele than just Bidea, I’ll do that.” Drake said.
 
“And maybe someday I’ll get you to agree to come back home and enjoy the place for a little bit.” he said, grinning.
 
Now that we’ve hammered out the general idea of my presence here, Rilandra, is there anything else I can do for you? I don't feel like letting you go, but I know you're a busy a woman. But you're going to explain these bruises sometime. Just in case you thought I didn't notice. I totally noticed.
 
 


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Re: A taste of home
« Reply #26 on: May 27, 17, 12:41:05 AM »
She listened to his words, watching the way his lips formed each syllable. She wanted to interrupt him, to press her lips against his and fall back into him. It would be so easy. But what he said was important. If he was going to serve her, an Aristo and a friend, the road would not be easy for either of them. Riley didn't give a fuck about easy, but it needed to be looked at and acknowledged. He named the things that would challenge them, and named the ways he could help. The ways he wanted to help.

Just the fact that it was a genuine desire pulled at her. Her imagination tumbled over so many questions. What if he had served her sooner? What if he had served her when they were younger? What would their lives have been like, coming from a Province they clearly both desperately loved? She didn't regret her decisions or the path she had taken. But she couldn't help but wonder what a path with Drake at her side could have looked like.

Still. He was here now. And even if they weren't Darkness bound, they were bound by a history neither of them seemed to want to erase. When he brought up home, she did kiss him then, lightly, before pulling back and saying simply, "I'd love that."

He echoed her desire to not let go and she smiled. At least she wasn't alone in the feeling that existed here on this roof top in the moment, no matter how irrational it was. He mentioned her bruises and her eyes darted away for just a moment before finding his again. She wasn't sure he actually wanted to know that while most of them were from training, a few were from some very rough sex. But she would tell him, when he asked. Which made her think of one final thing. "Honesty," she said. "Like during the game. If you ask me a direct question, I'll answer. And I want the same from you. So when you're sure you want the answer, you can ask me about the bruises," she said.

She looked to the sky, checking where the sun stood in position to the palace. Mid day had bled into the afternoon and as much as she hated him for being right, she did have other things she had to do that day. Still. She had a little time. She called in an hour glass and spun it, setting it back on air. "When that runs out, you have to put me down, and I have to use all of my will power to walk away and back to what awaits me. But until then..." Her arms encircled his neck tighter and her legs tightened around his waist. Her teeth found his bottom lip and she tugged on it, slightly harder than earlier, before she slid her tongue along his lip. She kissed him then, because she could, because she knew he wanted her to, because she needed this moment to last just a little bit longer.  The sand slowly slipped through the glass and Riley lost herself in him and the way he tasted of home.