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Author Topic: The Burden of Certainty  (Read 127 times)

Description: tag: Vashti+

Offline Ennead al-Bali

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The Burden of Certainty
« on: Nov 15, 17, 09:40:35 PM »
Vashti was there.  He could feel her with him.  She was nowhere that he could see from where he now was, but he could reach out and feel her, know she was there.  He had marked her, not just with a piece of his soul, but with a bit of Craft he had not even realized he was using.  She was his, and he would not lose her, not anywhere in Pruul, or possibly beyond.  Ennead was living in a bubble of uncertainty now, The Mineborn, Khadi, the Bali and of course, Vashti.  It seemed that he was going to be pulled in every direction, and where once he was certain about his place in the world, now he was less so.  A part of him gnashed its teeth at him.  He knew his place, his Soul knew it.  He would serve, he would Protect his Queen, and see her grow.  He would be her and she his.

That did not mean he was no longer Khadi’s, or that his Huntress was no longer his.  It was simply—different.

When the smoke cleared after his fiery time with Vashti, and they could bear to part, he was left somewhat devastated.  Not by Vashti’s absence, though he felt that keenly for a time, but by everything that the Bond and his Queen could mean.  He remembered, with a flash of anger, that Omid and Lucky had hidden her from him, but he squashed that down quickly.  They had no way to know what it was they were keeping from Ennead, and Lucky knew that his sparring partner was leery of Queens, any Queen.  For a brief moment, he felt the walls closing in, as if the Bond and everything that went with it were a new cage, a new mine to escape from, but he angrily shook those thoughts away.  She was HIS.  It was not a choice, but the Darkness had given this to him, and the Darkness had not led him astray when he needed Her most.  He would not ignore her blessings now, even if they made him—uncertain, off- balance.

Ennead had given Vashti her space, and to her credit, she had given him his.  He wondered if she ached to see him, as he ached to see her.  Seeing was not enough, he wanted to be near her scent, to feel her power harmonizing with his as he knew that it could.  He ran the brush over the horse that had been a gift to him from the Voice of the Jinan, and spoke softly to the young stallion.  ”I should really give you a name.  So much as happened, I think I have forgotten.”  The horse nuzzled him and whickered softly.  ”I am sure between the two of us, we will think of something.  I could call you Sand…you will disappear against the dunes.”  The horse made a sound that Ennead interpreted as disapproval, ”Or not.”  The horse made him smile, and their gentle mind connection soothed him.  The horse was as elegant in thought as it was in form.  ”Maybe Rain, to mark the recent occasion.”

Nothing from the stallion, ”Alright then, shall we go for a ride?”  The horse pranced in place, and without saddle, bridle or even a blanket, Ennead pulled himself onto the horse’s back, and curled his fingers into its mane.  He leaned over and murmured, ”Let’s go then.”  And they were soon riding away from the makeshift stables Ennead and the al-Izar had put together for Vera’s gifts.  He let his Mark guide him, pulling him forward, close and closer to his Queen.  Ennead just wanted to see her, that would be enough, surely.  He was not sure what she would be doing, or whom she would be with.  He felt a pang.  He should be near her, always, he should protect, everything in him cried out to do just that, but Vashti had no Court, no place of her own, and she had been as ill-prepared for him as he had been for her.  They would have to talk about that.

Offline Vashti al-Sahar

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Re: The Burden of Certainty
« Reply #1 on: Nov 19, 17, 11:34:28 AM »
Vashti sat beneath the shade of an overhanging cover, legs folded beneath her as she stared down at the patch of dusty earth.  She had been tired of reading, of piecing together words and looking up the words she didn’t understand and yet needing another book of words to tell her what those words meant.  How did Omid enjoy this?!  If she had to look at one more dusty tome, she might set them all a blaze and dance merrily around the bonfire.  She needed to feel the craft, and learn how it moved through her and how to temper it.

So she had decided to take matters into her own hands.  She had begun trying the things in the books.  Vashti started small, little craft things that she had pieced out how to do on her own as a child and now had more clear instruction and could hone better.  Rania, the nice woman who cooked and cared for the Mineborn had been very nice and let her practice with her, helping with some of the chores in the house to practice some of the more basic craft.  That had been rather disastrous.  No matter how much she read, she still couldn’t call in any sort of witchfire.  Her most successful attempt summoned a small spark and a poof and that was it. 

After a few days, Rania kindly suggested that perhaps she try working on her more Queen craft.  Someone else telling her this would have made her feel awful and lacking, but Rania had a kind way about her that didn’t make her feel like she was in the way.   Rania had taken her out to the small garden she had been trying to make grow behind the residence and explained that the ground couldn’t seem to hold much in the way of nutrients and even the smallest herb garden seemed to exhaust it.   Perhaps she could try some of that Gift that only Queen’s had with the land, and work on her craft that way.

Happy to be useful and still accomplish her goal, Vashti had spent the last week every day out in the garden with one of those damned books.  She finally had some better understanding of the things her former Masters had been making her do, when they took her to the Mines and showed her charts and pictures and then had her lay in the sand and dust, press her cheek against the ground and find the special stones...no ores.  They were called ores, she knew that now.   She remembered how the smell of the dust and the feel of the rock under her skin was like a warm embrace, remembered how she could almost see things in the earth, reaching up for her, calling out to her.  She always got special treats after one of those days, sweets and cold crisp clean water.

So for the first day she laid out in the sun, her face pressed against the dusty garden and let it hug her, let it talk to her in that strange special way that the ground always did.  It was like listening to the secretive whispers of little children, just barely understandable.  It was tired, it told her, it was confused because of all the water that had fallen but it was happy because of the water.  It was tired, very very tired.  The book said that she could give it some of her blood and it would help so she had brought out a small little sharp piece of glass and made a little slice on her hand and pressed it onto the ground. 

At first she didn’t feel anything, and then it was like those little voices had hands and they pulled at her, wrapping around her wrist as the ground drank that small little bit of blood.  It almost hurt, so little blood and so much thirst.  It was frightening and she had pulled her hand back and stared at the small dark spot in the ground that was quickly absorbed.   Queen’s did this?!  How did they do this without dying?  So it was back to the book again. 

The next day, she brought out a small container of water and repeated the process with her hand, only this time she placed her hand in the container and let the water become pink with her blood.  Then she scooped out some of the liquid and poured it over the ground, her other hand pressed into the dust to feel what happened.  That same thirst rose up, but it didn’t strike her but at the water as it fell down.  Better, but not better. 

She repeated this process every day, each day trying something new.  Water with blood and a little of her Purple Dusk craft, water with no blood and craft, water with blood and Green craft.  That last one had the best results, spreading out over the entire garden to the surrounding walls.  Still so thirsty but happy.  That’s the sensation she received after the last of the water was gone.  Little green vines had begun shooting up along the cracks and crevices of the wall and the herbs that were looking thin and worn had fluffed up like little birds, filling with leaves.  She began adding more craft to the water and the results had been even better and the best part, she felt really good afterwards.   Before this, she had felt anxious and confused, like she had an itch under her skin she couldn’t scratch, but doing this sort of craft left her relaxed.

She had asked Rania about it, and Raina’s explanation made the most sense.  Vashti had all this craft she wasn’t using regularly so it had no outlet, now it did and she could drain away some of the extra power productively and feel better.   She had liked this explanation and made a promise to keep doing little craft things, learning more about what she could and couldn’t do to keep this relaxed feeling.

She had been so preoccupied with her new practice that she hadn’t even realized how much time had passed since she had see Ennead.  Well he was always around, she knew that.  He was like a shadow that followed right behind her, but he hadn’t really come to bother her and he hadn’t come for sex since that first day.  She wasn’t sure if that was ok or if that meant something was wrong.   The sex hadn’t been wrong, it had been incredible and she knew he felt the same way.  Maybe he had started getting scared again, or angry about having a Queen.

Why were both her males so upset about having a Queen?  They were happy-upset, which was even more confusing.  The books said that males liked having a Queen, that they were supposed to feel more relaxed, but Ennead still had that panic scent sometimes and Tariq, well she had only really seen him the one time, and he had a different scent than Ennead and she hadn’t really understood all of it.  But they both belonged to her, so she would have to figure all this out to keep them happy and safe. 

There was that other thing, Queen’s Touch.  The books said Queen’s could use it to make males happy and relaxed.  She had done that before, when her Masters brought her a male who was causing trouble.  She just had to touch their arm and then they were quiet and almost sleepy, looking up at her like she was the best thing in the world.  She had liked that feeling, and it made her sad when the guards had always taken those men away.  Maybe she could practice that on Ennead and Tariq, she hoped they would let her.  She liked the practicing.

An awareness, a soft buzzing at the back of her mind that was slowly growing.  She had noticed it just before Ennead would turn a corner or show up in the same room.  She rose up from the ground, brushing the dust and dirt from her pants and let the feeling pull her towards the garden gate.  She pulled herself up on the low wall and crouched there, looking around for a sign of her Ennead but didn’t see anything.  She could hear something though, the soft clomping sound of hooves on the stone of the street and it was coming closer.

Ennead appeared, on the back of a tall horse who moved like the wind over the sands.  She smiled happily and waved her hand, reaching out both arms to him when he neared enough to touch.  “Ennead,” she said happily and let him pull her off the wall and into his arms.

Offline Ennead al-Bali

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Re: The Burden of Certainty
« Reply #2 on: Nov 19, 17, 09:04:05 PM »
Ennead could sense her long before he saw her.  He did not like this uncertainty that he felt.  He was always focused, and he always knew what was what, and what needed to be done.  He was the knife straight to the heart of the matter.  With the exception of Tribe, and the future, Ennead knew where he stood, between the enemies of the Mineborn and the Mineborn themselves, Khadaji in particular, along with Roshan, but Lucky, Hadjara and all the rest.  Ennead had promised them his Water, and that was something he meant to hold to, but then Vashti had come along and what would that all mean?  They had shared a night that he would remember for the rest of his life, and by all accounts, he had decades to look forward to.

Vashti, for her part, had seemed as uncertain as he.  She had not pushed him away, nor shown him any signs of regret.  In truth, he should have gone to her long before now, but he did not want to rush her.  It was not in his nature to put himself first, at least, not anymore.  Ennead had believed that she needed time to adjust, that he needed the time to adjust.  Everyone would need that much, because everything was changing.  He had spent so long fearful of being Bound, fearful that it would a new prison, a new Mine to be thrown into, that he had been ill-prepared for what the Darkness sent to him.  The Darkness overcame his fear, just as it had in the mines.  Vashi was his now, and he was hers, and they both had to become settled with that, whatever it meant.  They had accepted it, not they had to love with it.

Ennead had a carefully considered set of words he meant to say to Vasti, a statement of clarity that he would open with.  He would tell her how they would proceed, even though she ought to be telling him.  It was clear that she was not ready for that, but he could teach her how, he could show her how to be a Queen even as he served.  Couldn’t he?  But then he heard his name in her voice, and saw her standing atop a low well, and all of those organized thoughts vanished like so much dust in the wind.  She extended her arms to him, and Ennead pulled her from the wall and onto his lap, setting her down across his horse, with her legs dangling down one side.  ”Vashti…”  He breathed, and nuzzled her, breathing her in and holding her close.  ”I—are you well?  You seem well.  I came to see if you would join me for a ride.”

He smiled slightly, sensing her happiness, which pleased him.  ”Will you come with me?  We will not go far, just away from here.”  Ennead felt the need for her rise, felt a desire for her just as he had when they had become Bound.  She would know that as wel, she would feel it as surely as she had that night.  He could have come to her for that, he knew, he felt that was certain, but that did not seem right, not until he was sure where they stood.  "It is good to see you."  He added quietly, "Have you been gardening?"  He brushed  a bit of sand from her cheek.  "Any luck?"

Offline Vashti al-Sahar

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Re: The Burden of Certainty
« Reply #3 on: Dec 13, 17, 09:28:55 PM »

Vashti almost purred with contentment as Ennead’s arms went around her.  It was still new and confusing but she knew that this was a good place to be, a right place.  Her feet swung lightly, careful not to hit the horse, she was learning about horses when she shadowed Hadjara to her lessons.  The Priestess was always very sweet and nice to her and let her pet her horse.  She wasn’t ready to ride on her own yet, but she was getting used to being around such large creatures.  She never had to ride on a horse’s back before, her Masters had always kept her hidden in a carriage if they took her anywhere.  She never ceased to be a little surprised by how tall they were!


Her hand went up and cupped his head as it nuzzled her neck, smiling happily.  “Yes!  I have been eating a lot like you asked me to and I’ve been doing a lot of practicing with craft things.  I help out Rania in the compound sometimes, in fact I was hoping you would come by today so I could tell you about what I’ve discovered.”  She rested her head on his shoulder, “I could use a little break though, so I’d love to come for a ride with you.  Should I move to sit behind you?  I’m a little worried I’ll slide right off if your mount makes a turn too fast.” 


His questions flowed like water, and she grinned.  She was hoping to save some of the talking until they were alone but she couldn’t deny him anything, especially answers.  “I was!” she exclaimed happily, “I was trying to practice my Queen’s gift in Rania’s garden.  It did so well with all the Rains but it still was  so dry and hungry, so I’ve been reading my books and trying out different things.”  She bit her lip thinking, “It took me a few tries to find something that worked best for the land.  The books had so many examples and I had to lay out on the ground for days and listen to what the land wanted, then I tried to feed it right from my hand but it was far too thirsty.  So then I added my blood to the water and that worked a little bit, finally I realized if I added a little blood to water and some Green craft, the ground was more content and things would grow faster.”  She beamed at the fact she had figured this out on her own, studied and read and learned.  She was enjoying the books more, once she figured out how to make the words on a page into something that made sense to what she had always been doing naturally.


She wrapped her arm around his waist to hold herself in the seat, but his arms held her tightly and she knew that he wouldn’t let her fall off the horse, even if they had to run.  “What about you?  Are you still feeling nervous about our Bonding?  Is that why you were gone?  I missed you, but I knew you needed your space to figure things out.  Have you talked to your sister-friend Khadijah?  I asked Hadjara about her, because I haven’t met her yet and she is very important to you.  Hadjara told me that Khadijah is a strong witch and she is very protective of you.   I’d like to meet her someday, I think we could become good friends, because I am very protective of you too.  You and Tariq, you are MY males and a Queen protects her males.”


Sometimes, she worried that she talked strangely, or that she sounded simple because she listened to how other people talked and realized she didn’t use the same words as others did.  She didn’t know yet how to talk to people, and that was something the books still hadn’t told her how to do. Ennead seemed to understand her just fine, but if she was going to be a REAL QUEEN and have a court and do important things, she had to learn how to talk like a REAL QUEEN.


“Ennead,” she said after a few moments of silent content riding, “do you think maybe your Bali Queen will let me talk to her?  I need to...I need to talk to other Queens I think, learn from them how to be a good Queen for you.  Rania’s Omid is her Bonded I have heard, and he is a good man so she must be a good Queen as well.  You told me you met her, will she be willing to maybe teach me things I don’t understand from my books?”


Offline Ennead al-Bali

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Re: The Burden of Certainty
« Reply #4 on: Dec 22, 17, 08:04:02 AM »
Just as he had in the Mines, and just as he had on the night they had Bonded, Ennead trusted that The Darkness and Mother Night had him in hand.  They had chosen them for this, him and Vashti both, and there was no sense in acting as though that was not certain.  Their Bond was true, as much a fact of life as the sun rising or that water was life.  He was resolved not to fight it or to allow their discomfort to cause them undue pain or even stress.  The only way through was forward, and that meant they would have to move forward together.  Ennead felt Vashti’s contentment when he drew her close, and that pleased him.  It was possible she had come to the same conclusions that he had, and there was something different, as though she had accepted who and what she was since he had last seen her.  It was exciting.

”I am glad to hear it.  There’s no reason to go without if you do not need to.”  Ennead smiled as she spoke, and let the horse have his head, riding along in the direction he was already facing as Vashti settled against him.  ”Rania is a wise woman, I am glad you are letting her teach you, and that you help her in turn.”  He leaned his cheek against her hed for a moment, ”A little break will no harm you at all.”  Enead chuckled a bit, ”I would not let you fall.  You can sit in front if you like, but as you are is fine.”  He reached down and patted his horse’s neck.  ”The stallion would not turn to sharply.  I have told him who you are to me.”  Ennead frowned very slightly, ”I have not named him yet.  I am waiting for it to come to me, or to him.”

Ennead smiled at her enthusiasm, and listened to her very closely.  He held her gaze as they rode, trusting in his horse.  ”The ground was content?  Is that how it felt?”  He considered that for a moment, ”That must be a good feeling, though you have to be careful with your blood.  If—well—If I were to scent it, and not understand…”  He trailed off, have never had to consider that before.  He had been told about it, read about it, even.  ”It could drive me into a frenzy at worst, make me knock down a few walls to reach you at best.”  He smiled again, ”Also, you only have so much of it, the ground would be too thirsty for you.”  She slipped her arm about him, and he made sure she was not slipping.  ”Nervous?  I do not know if that is the right word.  No, I do not think that I am.  We are here, now, and we must go on together.”

He laughed, ”I missed you as well, but I thought it was you that needed the space.”  Ennead shook his head, ”Yes, I did.  Our story is complicated.  I do think that you could be friends, but that might take time.  It is not only that she is protective of me.”  He was quiet for a moment, considering how to describe what Khadijah was to him, and he to her.  He could not find the right words.  ”I know that you would protect me and keep me safe, given the chance…who is Tariq?”  He had a bond-brother already?  He would have to get used to that as well.  He had chosen his Family, had a Queen thrust upon him, and now another Male.  He would have to remember not to treat him like a challenge, not to stake out his territory and make clear who and what he was.  It would not be easy.  He waved off his own question, ”Khadijah is…was…my hope for the future, when we were in the Mines.  I never expected to leave them, but I hoped, believed that she would, one day, and when she did, I would go with her in spirit, at least.  I would not have been free to be here, to meet you, were it not for her and for Roshan speaking on my behalf.”

Ennead considered her request, ”Queen Zaehrah?  I believe she will if I ask it of her.  She is just and kind, and would want for you to know yourself well.”  He nodded at her desire, ”If I am honest, Vashti, I do not think you would have to speak to many Queens after consulting with the Queen of the Bali.  She is kind, just, and understands Protocol better than most that I have known.”  His eyebrows rose, ”I do not know if she could teach you, but while we are all here near Onn, I do not think she would turn you away.  I will ask, but do not be too hopeful—she has a Clan to tend, and I have not truly been of it in a very long time, though I am now absolved.  I have not committed myself to the Clan…I remain with the Mineborn.”

Offline Vashti al-Sahar

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Re: The Burden of Certainty
« Reply #5 on: Jan 11, 18, 04:03:42 PM »
Vashti nodded, her smile bright.  “I like Rania.  She is also teaching me cooking things.  Oh! Here!” She called in one of the cookies she had vanished for a snack and handed it to him.  “I helped make these this morning.  I have plenty so you can eat this one, and more if you want.  You need to eat as much as me, because you and I share the same jewel.”  She shifted her weight a little, carefully moving to pull her leg up over the horse and down to the other side of the saddle, wiggling a little into place.

“I will sit up here.  I want to be able to look at you while we talk and see where we are going.  Also, then you can keep your arms around me.  I like that as well.”  She settled back against his chest, looking down at the horse thoughtfully.  “Picking a name is very important.  I took more than a week to pick Vashti for my name.  It just...felt like a good name.”  She felt a little insecure for a moment, fussing with the saddle edge a little.  It was the first time she had actually revealed that her name wasn’t really her name.  Was this a bad thing perhaps?  Would he catch that and want to know more about her past?  She didn’t mind telling him, but this was just another strange thing about her.  The girl with a dozen or more names.

She rested her head against his shoulder as they moved, enjoying the scent of him and even the scent of the horse.  They moved as one creature and she found that they were well suited to each other, which made her like the horse a little more.  “Yes...it feels content.  Like pulling a warm covering up to your chin on a chilly night, settled and relaxed.  The ground doesn’t talk,” she said matter of factly, “but it feels.  At least, it feels to me.  And sometimes if I listen really well, it tells me special things, like where to find important things deep underground.  That’s what the Masters used me for, because I could find things.  Also because I could keep males quiet by touching them.  I know it’s called Queen's Touch now, but they just liked it if I held their hand or touched their shoulder.”  She shrugged a little, as if she were brushing the memory off her real shoulder and letting it fall away before looking up at him.

“Do you like that?  I haven’t seen you mad or upset...well, not since that first day and I did try to calm you down a little but only just a little.  I’ve never really TRIED to really use that craft before.”  She gave a thoughtful look, “I should though.  LIke with the land, I should practice such things to make sure I can do it right when it’s really important.  Right?”  She looked up at him seriously.  “ I did need the space, but not from you.  Well yes, and no.  It is important that we grow together but also on our own.  You have important things to do and I know you can’t spend all the time with me and that is alright.  And I don’t expect you to sit out in the garden with me either.”  She frowned as she searched for the right words.  “It is...a feeling I get about you.  If someone tries to hold you too tightly, you will run but if you have the choice you will stay.  Is that right?”

His question about Tariq had her feeling a little nervous.  She hadn’t really gotten around to telling him about the strange encounter with the man who came looking for Hadjara but she didn’t like the idea of secrets.  “Tariq is a Summer Sky Warlord Prince, who has a sister who is an important water priestess, like Hadjara but I think she’s in charge of all the Aubdina.  I don’t like her.  She sent Tariq to find Hadjara when they were all asleep.  I was guarding them when he came to the residence.  I didn’t want to let him in,” she said, pointedly looking down at the ground as it passed beneath them.  “I almost didn’t, but he spoke and I felt… well like I felt with you but different.  Safe but not…” and at this point she blushed fiercely.  “He is older than me, older than you but not old.  He has a very warm smile.”  She curled her hand over Ennead’s where it rested against her side.

“He kept his promise to me, that he didn’t tell anyone about the Mineborn when they were asleep, but he had to go back to his sister because she would come looking for him or send others to look for Lady Hadjara.  That was weeks ago and he hasn’t been back.” She frowned and sighed.  “It is strange to miss someone I only met one time, but I guess that is part of being Bonded.”  She looked up at him again.  “I am sorry to hear that Khadijah went away.  I hope she will come back soon.  She sounds very interesting to meet, even if she wants to hit me.  I think that will be ok.  Sometimes you need to fight before you can become friends.  I saw it happen a lot on the streets.”  She gave him a tentative smile before relaxing against his chest.

“If the Bali Queen will meet with me, that would be nice.  I know she is very busy, the Bali are a REALLY big Clan and I’m sure she has many things to do for her people, but maybe if I could visit her tent when she comes to Onn, just to talk and have drinks.  It would mean a lot to me.  I don’t have a Clan, and I don’t know if anyone will ever ask me to rule but I would still like to learn how to be a good Queen for you and Tariq, even if I don’t ever have a Court.”

They rode in silence for a little while until she jerked her head up and looked at Ennead closely.  “Could I…. practice on you?  I mean the Queen’s Touch?  Like now?  I mean, we have the same jewels, so I couldn’t be too strong right?  If you know of a quiet place we can go with some shade, we could go and sit and talk and then I could see what happens when I really try to use this craft?  Please?”  She gave him a large eyed pleading look.

Offline Tariq al-Latifh

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Re: The Burden of Certainty
« Reply #6 on: Jan 12, 18, 03:38:53 PM »
He left her presence but not her service. The memory of her, standing on her dais with her hands curled like claws, the air crackling with fury, followed him across the desert as he rode back to the other woman whose presence he had left but was now the only woman in whose service he wanted to remain: Vashti.

He was deeply conflicted. As younger, brasher man, Tariq had sworn service -- Blood and khanjar -- to his sister, Azar, thinking that it was a great honor, even if he had to put up with her mood swings. Then, as he learned more of her temper, he naively thought that he could keep her balanced and under control with his own personality and words. For a while, it had worked.
And then, Azar learned of Hadjara, and try as Tariq might, his sister’s obsession with the Mineborn Priestess that both evaded and eclipsed her became too wild to control.

He had thought that Azar would grow bored or could be dissuaded from this fanatical pursuit. But with every snippet of news that involved Hadjara’s name, or any of the names close to it by relation, Azar grew even more furious and determined. Tariq could not comprehend why but then again, Azar had always been ambitious and zealously so.

So, he rode. And rode. He did not retrieve his children, not yet, in case Azar had sent someone in pursuit of him, but he did check in with them and assured them that it would not be long now.
Except that it was a lie. He was Bloodsworn. He was bound to Azar. To leave her service, though he greatly desired it, would to be forsworn. Dishonored. Eternally tarnished. Tariq lied to his children because he did not know what yet to do.

Or, perhaps, he did not yet have the courage to do it.

Eventually, he rode with a destination in mind, heading for Onn and for the woman he needed to see before he made this decision. He could not do what he thought to do without knowing more about what sort of Queen she was, he told himself, but in truth, he would do it simply because she was his Queen and for no other logical reason besides the hope that she was better than Azar.

As he neared the outskirts of Onn, he saw others riding out, noticed a particular couple astride a horse, a woman resting against a man at her back, as they passed. And he turned, for no reason he could discern, because…

“Vashti?” he said, loud enough to be heard but soft enough to be speaking to himself.

And then he caught her psychic scent, and the scent of the man she was with, and protective instincts roared to the surface. His mount danced forward, coming to a halt right in front of the other horse, snorting angrily. With one hand, Tariq controlled his mount; with the other, he gripped the hilt of his khanjar, ready to draw. “Identify yourself!” he snapped at the younger man, heedless of the Jewel he saw. Raw power was not the sole decider of battles. Tariq had a decade of warrior training on the youth and that counted for more than just his Summer Sky, hence why he challenged the young man, hardly older than his own son, so boldly.

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Re: The Burden of Certainty
« Reply #7 on: Jan 15, 18, 10:44:19 AM »
Ennead’s mind might have been on Khadijah’s reaction to Vashti, but this did not mean he was not happy to be near his Queen again.  He had done all he could, and the future would have to wait for him where it was.  His Queen seemed very different, perhaps more comfortable with her newfound role, or rather, with her identity now being public and known, rather than hidden away.  Ennead understood why Omid and Lucky had done so; likely because Omid’s good sense prevailed, or Lucky’s instincts, or both.  He had been annoyed with both of them at first, but what was done was done, and Vashti had clearly decided to take her Caste and responsibility as a Queen much more seriously.  Bonding with Males likely helped to bring that on.

”I like Rania as well.”  He smiled gently as they went, and chuckled when she conjured a cookie.  He took it and had a bit of it, ”This is good.  Was it your first try?”  Ennead nodded about eating.  He could eat.  Pretty much all the time, and he generally tried to.  ”Thank you.”  Vashti wiggled a bit, and despite himself, she heard a soft, hungry growl in his chest.  He silenced it, for the moment, by leaning his head down and nuzzling into her hair, just behind her ear, and then straightening.  ”I got crumbs in your hair.”  he brushed them away, and smiled as she resettled in her seat.  Ennead kept his arms around her, not needing the prompting.  ”Vashti is a fine name; I did not know it was not your first.  By the time I am done, I will have changed names as well, I think.”  He sensed her anxiety and lightly kissed her shoulder, ”I did not Bond with a name, my Queen.”

Ennead then shrugged slightly, ”Horse and I will agree when we agree.  He’s not liked any of my suggestions thus far, and the Voice of the Jinan gifted him to me months again.”  He let her rest against him, as she described what it was like to work her Queen’s Craft.  His was the power to destroy, her’s was the power to grow and build.  It was right, and as he had been counseled by the Bali Queen, it felt right to be there with her.  Ennead frowned slightly, ”The Masters?  You—you were a slave?”  Somewhere, down deep, his anger at the notion did more than simmer, he became cooler to the touch, for a brief moment, the sense of his presence made animals uncomfortable, and made their own horse prance a bit.  He took a breath, and quietly said, ”I did not know that.”  There was so much he did not know.

He nodded a bit tightly, ”Yes, I know what it is.  I do…that first night…yes, I liked it.  I am sorry that I made that difficult for you, I know that I am not easy to know.  I did not expect to find you, and I had thought…”  Ennead shook his head, ”It did not matter, we found each other completely by the end, but I do not want you to worry.  I am yours.  I am not mad or upset, I am just yours.”  He hugged her tight, ”Yes, I am glad you are practicing.  You should practice.  I practice as well.  One must to get better, or get sharper.”  Ennead chuckled, ”If my duties were done, I could sit in the garden.  Gardens are peaceful places, usually.”  The Green Warlord Prince tilted his head slightly at her declaration and question, ”I—maybe—yes.  I do not imagine that you like having your choices taken away either.  I am getting better, things are changing.  You haven not gripped me too tightly, Vashti.  You are my Queen.”

Ennead stiffened slightly at the news of a connection to the Aubdina, and that someone had been sent to find Hadjara.  He relaxed as she went on, and shook his head.  ”We must be careful of his sister then.  The Aubdina are not terribly happy about Hadjara.  She is my friend, the sister of my heart.  I do not wish to see her harmed.  Her love is also my good friend, she has a family.”  He had let her know his concern, and nodded when she essentially described the Bond, ”If he did that for you, then I will try to trust that he means Hadjara no harm.”  Ennead was quiet for a moment when she mentioned Khadijah, ”She has to find who she is outside of all of this.  Khadijah is—learning what it means to be Blood.  What that means for all of us.”  His eyebrows rose, ”I hope the both of you will be great friends, but—let us try to avoid a fight.”

He explained, ”Queen Zaehrah is a patient Lady, I believe she will entertain me long enough to ask this of her, I just do not want to make promises I cannot keep.  I am almost certain she will be happy to meet you, and help you, because she did more for me than she had to.”  Ennead tilted his head slightly at her question, and was touched by how careful Vashti was being with him.  ”Actually, there is harmony between us, because of our Jewels.  It might be stronger than you think, but yes, you can practice.”  Ennead somewhat relaxed demeanor vanished in an instant, replaced by a cool and deadly calm, causing his horse to prance again.  He shifted Vashti to one side, shielding her with his body, and wrapping in in rapidly appearing layers of shield, Green close to her skin, rising to Purple Dusk for the final layer.  He did this instantly, sparing no real thought for it, even as it surprised him.

Ennead had been challenged, and where others might posture or bluster, perhaps strangely, the young Green Warlord Prince only became increasingly calm.  The calm was a lie, it was focus, preparedness to accept the killing edge and ride it to conclusion.  ”I am Prince Ennead al-Bali.”  Name given, it cost him nothing.  His voice was held a barely perceptible edge, ”Who are you?”

Offline Tariq al-Latifh

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Re: The Burden of Certainty
« Reply #8 on: Jan 15, 18, 12:21:39 PM »
”I am Prince Ennead al-Bali,” the boy answered in a deceptively calm voice. Tariq knew that sort of calm. Warlord Princes were violent but violence could be expressed in many different ways. It could be as quiet as a poison slipped into the veins, as precise as a rapier strike to the heart, as quick as a slash across the jugular, or as destructive as the wide sandstorm. The horse beneath Tariq sensed that violence building between the two males as they stared at each other, the moment stretching into that critical eternity that arrested heartbeats and breathing. Waiting.
But he had said Ennead al-Bali and that name alone kept the haze of the killing edge from completely overwhelming Tariq’s mind.

“You,” Tariq answered vaguely, dancing the horse around again but removing his hand from his khanjar. “The other one,” he added. My Brother, he thought, though he could not yet come to grips with that connection. It would take time.

Tariq’s smile turned lazily arrogant, the old charmer in him rising to the surface. “I am Tariq al-Latifh,” he answered with pride to his voice, “Bonded to Vashti.” He nodded his chin towards her. “The Queen that holds your leash as well.” He did not give his other, more commonly known title: bloodsworn of Azar al-Latifh, the Head Aubdina. That title was old and now an ill-fitting coat that Tariq wished to rid himself of. Soon.

He stilled his horse enough so that he could dismount. “Leash your anger, Prince,” he told the younger man as he approached the two of them. “If there’s anyone allowed to steal her away, it’s you, but I still get to give you a bit of a tongue lashing because you left her unguarded. Shields around houses can be broken or breached.” Amongst other things. Ennead was young, so Tariq couldn’t lay into him too much, but immediately, Tariq was setting the relationship between them as older and younger brother, providing the guidance and advice that came with maturity and experience, while not discounting Ennead’s own knowledge. And also letting Ennead know that Tariq wasn’t intimidated by his Green Jewel or his prior claim. Ennead was going to have to share Vashti.

Tariq turned his attention towards their shared Queen. With that next exhalation, it was apparent that something was bothering him, but he would not share it yet. Not in such a public setting. Still, he said, “Lady, I’ve returned to you, like I promised.” And it was a great relief to be back here, he realized.