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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 145 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."






Offline Dragos Cutrov

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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: Today at 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. 

 


 

 

anything