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* Plot Information for Pruul

Seven children are destined to save Pruul and shake the traditions of the territory to their very core. In response, factions have broken the peace of a previously unified territory and violence has erupted across the dessert. It is a battle between the past and the future, the young and the old, and blood won’t stop seeping into the sand.
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Author Topic: Thrice Lost. Thrice Found.  (Read 302 times)

Description: Attn: Clan Sabbah

Offline Elenor al-Sabbah

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      DragonGirl

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Thrice Lost. Thrice Found.
« on: Oct 11, 17, 02:42:04 AM »
Summer 192

She had been summoned. There was only one reason she could think of for that, so in the scant hour she had before they had to leave to make it to the outskirts of Onn at sunset, she prepared.

She dressed carefully in the early evening light. Sturdy boots -hot, but better than broken toes- tight tan pants tucked in to avoid getting sand everywhere, and a light-colored long-sleeved shirt with a vest keeping it flush to her skin. Nothing to grab onto, nothing to snag. Her hair was pulled back into a braid and wrapped around her head so as not to get caught on anything either, and she had slathered a copious amount of the lotion Judiah had given her to protect her skin from the sun all over every remaining inch of exposed flesh in case the Trials lasted past dawn. And that was it. There was nothing else she could do. Either she was ready or she was not, she just wished this blasted headache would go away. It had been steadily growing since Shadya had knocked on her door to let her know to get ready. Elenor had not had much contact with the young Black Widow, and what time they had shared together had usually been in the company of Fin, but the quick squeeze of Elenor’s hand in encouragement had given her courage. There were people behind her, maybe not as many as thought that she had no business ruling the Sabbah, but she wasn’t alone. Did she have time to ask someone for a brew to help with her head? A glance at the clock told her no. It was probably just the stress of the unknown and would fade once adrenaline took over.

She walked to the dresser by the door and reached for the necklace she had left there the night before. Her fingers came up empty and her heart sank. Of all the times to misplace the little five-petaled flower pendant, this wasn’t ideal. It would have been nice to have the comfort of the one precious, irreplacible thing she still had from the family that had died so long ago. Normally she kept it vanished and safe, but ever since Fin told her that her Trials were coming up, she had started wearing it again. Her good luck charm.

There was a knock on the door. Wishing she had the time to search for it, but knowing she didn’t, Elenor took one last look around the room and went to the door.

The trip out to the gathering place was a silent, tense affair, her escorts near motionless and studiously avoiding making eye contact with Elenor. It did nothing to help her nerves, and by the time they walked out into the courtyard of the Sabbah Residence she was sweating.

Her eyes rose to look out at her surroundings and she felt her mouth go dry. Mother Night! Had the whole clan come out to watch this? It seemed it from where she was standing. Gold eyes wide, she scanned the crowd, trying to find the three faces she actually wanted to see, but if Fin, Judiah and Bashir were here, she couldn’t find them in the throng. A nudge from one of her escorts reminded her that she was supposed to be walking. Elenor tried to keep her head high and steps steady, aware for the first time in months of the very minute limp she still had from that unremembered childhood injury. Usually, she hardly noticed it unless she was under the weather or particularly tired, but it must just be the unfamiliarity of all the stares making her self-conscious.

Up ahead the crowd parted into a large empty space, in the middle of which...Elenor tried not to let her dismay show on her face. She had tried, really tried, to like Amira, but it wasn’t Fin’s other niece waiting for her, but the bitch who led the faction of the so-called ‘True Sabbah’, Zhaleh. Really though, Elenor should have expected it. These tests were supposed to push a person to the extremes, they were hardly going to be comfortable.

With shoulders held high, but head bent respectfully to one who served the Darkness, Elenor stopped a few feet away and waited.




Offline Tavar al-Sabbah

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Re: Thrice Lost. Thrice Found.
« Reply #1 on: Nov 13, 17, 01:08:30 AM »
Clan Sabbah had, indeed, come forth for this night of judgement.

The Sabbah residence had been cleaned to perfection over the past week to remove the linger dirty and debris from the actions of the Mineborn wretch who’d damaged the building during his fight with one of the holiest of Mother Night’s creatures. The Izar had brought the Rains but they also carried strife and destruction everywhere they trod. Clan Sabbah was split between support for Lord Fin al-Sabbah, newly-declared Voice of the Clan and Lady Zhaleh al-Sabbah, Voice of the Darkness who spoke for Mother Night and lead the Sabbah Priestesses in rites that kept the clan whole. It was Zhaleh who declared that the residence must be spotless, every crevice dusted and clean to prepare for the latest of the Trials.

Lord Fin declared his pet Queen ready to earn her name and place as one of the Sabbah, but Zhaleh did not believe. Still, after much negotiation between the parties, it was determined that the Pale Queen (the derogatory term that some had taken to calling Lady Lirion) would be granted the chance to take the Trials and earn membership among the Sabbah. Immediately after the agreement was reached, Zhaleh sent her people to secure those who would help her administer the test. Only when the Priestess secured the agreement of those clan members had promised to lend aid did she finally reach out to Elenor Lirion and direct her on where to present herself for her Trials.

One of the clan’s younger members would usher her into the Sabbah Residence, the scent of baking bread and stewed meat flooding the home from the kitch. She was guided her down a long, long hallway of several doors and down a pair of terms before they emerged in the large courtyard in the center of the Residence. Three stories of balcones were filled to bursting with nearly the full membership of the clan, most of whom had not seen each other in peaceful fashion since the Battle of the Rains. Adramelech had held them together, then, keeping the clan from fracturing despite being surrounded by those who did not share his views. This day had been declare a day of peace, though, and no one wished to violate for fear of answering to Lord Fin.

Elenor would recognize swiftly that her Eyrien was not among the gathered.

In the center of the courtyard, perched atop a large, flat stone much like a dais, stood Zhaleh al-Sabbah. Her dark hair, graying at the temples, was tied back in a ponytail adorned with silver rings.

Enter, Lady Lirion, and present yourself those you hope to rule.” Zhaleh said, her tone cold, imperious, and firm. Once Elenor was in sight, it was easy to see the signs of age that permeated the older woman’s countenance. Easier to see that the gentle crow’s feet at the corners of her eyes, or the the graying hair at her temples as the icy cold glare she gave the Queen. Elenor was her senior by two centuries but one would be forgiven for believing the younger of the pair.

You present yourself before the salt of the earth, Clan Sabbah, and dream of ruling us. Our Voice believes you ready, but I shall keep my own counsel on who is ready. The Trials have begun, but I provide you the first of your tasks, She-Who-Would-Rule. You have no doubt noted the loss of your bauble, the one you’ve not been without since your arrival in Pruul and the first days you came to us. A Queen of the Sabbah must learn to see not only what is before her eyes, but also what is hidden in plain sight and what is conspicuous by its absence.” Zhaleh said, holding her arms up to take in all of the Sabbah arrayed before Elenor.

Your bauble has been taken by someone in this place. You have until sunrise to locate it and take it back. Walk the grounds. Speak to whomever you wish. When you have found the culprit, summon me. Choose wrongly and the Trials are over and you will have failed.” she said.

Choose well and you may continue.

Begin.
” the Priestess said, clapping her hands.

At that moment, the Sabbah began to speak, everyone turning to the people around them and seeking the possible culprit. Some moved away to dinner while others watched the young Queen to see what she would do. Still others began to drag out long tables into the courtyard to seat all of the members who’d come to witness this this evening and let them eat beneath the hall that many of their ancestors helped to build and maintain.

Offline Elenor al-Sabbah

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Re: Thrice Lost. Thrice Found.
« Reply #2 on: Nov 13, 17, 01:47:00 AM »
Elenor heart was hammering as Zhaleh explained the details of the first part of her Trials as the crowd gathered at the residence murmured. Her hand went reflexively to her throat, to the space where the pendant should have sat. Not lost, stolen. Did they know just how precious it was to her? Did Zhaleh understand just what she had taken from Elenor and the lengths she would go to get it back? It was all she had left of her family other than her own name, and if it was here, in this crowd somewhere, she would find it.

"Thank you for the chance to prove my worth, Lady Sabbah." She said simply, not wanting to grace the woman with more that the expected simple curtesy to the person administering the Trials.

The Priestess dismissed her to see to her task, giving Elenor until sunrise. Sunrise? The Trials were only supposed to last from sunset to sunrise, and surely this could not be all that she was expected to do. Right? Elenor studied the graying woman, so proud, so self-assured. This Priestess -why did it always have to be a Priestess?- lead the True Sabbah. THe order to have Elenor raped had likely come from her mouth. Was it even possible that these Trials were not rigged in some manner?

It’s a trick. She wants to see me waste my time on this and then have to hurry through the next two. That or something subtler, but why be subtle when you have all the power?

Elenor scanned the people gathered around. They had left a large, circular space open for the Trials, a ring of rocks marking the perimeter. The ground here was sandy but swept clean. Beyond it, the Sabbah milled, some drinking and eating, others watching her in attentive silence. There must be hundreds if not thousands gathered on the expansive grounds. Somewhere, someone out where had her necklace, but Zhaleh could have put any number of false leads among their number. How would she tell truth from lie when she couldn’t even reliably tell when someone was joking?

To the girl that had spent her whole life alone, it was the definition of impossible.

Behind the Priestess she heard what sounded like a quick, angry scuffle, but she paid it little heed. WIth so many clansmen gathered together it was almost inevitable that tempers would rise high here and there. Elenor could not afford to be distracted. Instead she closed her eyes and focused. 

Doing this Zhaleh’s way would take time, time she might not be guaranteed to actually have. It would mean using skills that Elenor was not strong in, and in a situation that was sure to have been weighted against her. If she was going to lead the Sabbah after tonight though, Elenor had no intention of doing it Zhaleh’s way, so she might as well start now.

She strode to the middle of the empty space and picked up a short, dusty stick.

Elenor had lived in her suite at the Queen’s private residence for a year now, the longest time she had remained in one place for decades. Wordlessly, she placed one end into the hard-packed, dusty sand and began drawing. She paced out the perimeter of the room, the adjoining bathroom, the location of each window and door. Then she added the furniture, simple squares and circles in the sand.

Picking up a rock, she set it in the middle of the rectangle that represented her dresser and closed her eyes, going back to the night before, as she removed the pendant before bed. Had she locked the door? Yes. Locked and Opal Shields. Fin had reminded her after dinner, when she met with him briefly to discuss her upcoming Trials and if he through the True Sabbah would try to interfere in them.

Her shields had still been up when she woke? While it was not impossible to penetrate a shield without breaking it, there was no way she would have slept through that and having an intruder in her room, not with how light of a sleeper she was.

Opening her eyes, she had to blink a few times to clear the afterimages of bright lights as the torches and balls of witchlight that lit the crowd danced before her eyes. Shaking her head once to clear it, she took a few steps over to the spot where she had drawn her bed. Out of bed on the left side and over to the restroom. Shields still up. Getting dressed by the wardrobe then going to the dresser for her hairbrush. Had the pendant been there?

Yes. She had brushed her fingers over it and picked it up, but then put it back down. Sparring practice had been first on her agenda for the day and Elenor had not wanted to lose the necklace.

Out the door. No shields left on the room this time. When had she returned? Early evening, just before dinner. Elenor had rushed in, changed, brushed out her hair and run back out. As she thought through each step she paced it out, the murmurs of the crowd fading. She reached up to rub the back of her neck, trying to get the headache to cease as she considered. Had she seen the necklace?

Eyes shut again, she tried to recall the top of the dresser as she put her hairbrush down. A white ribbon for her hair lay curled on a glazed ceramic plate, along with a pair of earrings Judiah had lent her, a handful of pins, and...yes. The little gold flower, chain hanging off the edge of the plate right next to where she set her brush down.

Dinner had followed, and she had tried to get a few hours more of work, but Fin had said she looked tired and had insisted she retire early. Back to her room with a book, then a few minutes later a knock on the door and, Sweet Darkness, why was someone playing music so loudly?!

Her eyes snapped open, darting over the crowd for the source of the noise. She knew that sound. They were Shaladoren flutes and drums, like the ones that had sounded through the jungles she had been lost in as a girl. Who the fuck was playing Shaladoren music in the middle of a Sabbah Trial?

There was no one, and as soon as she focused on the sounds, they started fading. Elenor’s brow furrowed. That was...odd. There was music, yes, but Pruulian music, coming from some other part of the residence.

Elenor chanced a glance towards the crowd. There were more people watching now, confused look on many faces. Nerves were making her queasy. Was she doing this wrong? Should she follow the instructions she had been given more closely? Was doing things differently breaking some unspoken rule Fin had forgot to warn Elenor about?

No, she had to stay on track. If this hellspawned headache kept getting worse she wouldn’t be able to think at all. Better to get this done fast, if she could.

Focusing back on where she had left off, she closed her eyes again. She had been reading, and then there was a knock, and Shadya had told her to get ready for her Trials. She had wished her well, then left and Elenor had gone to wash up and get ready and...no, she had not shielded the room.

But it could have been anyone then. The dresser was right by the door, and it would have been so easy for someone to just slip an arm inside and take it. There were dozens of people allowed in the Sabbah residence. Where was Elenor supposed to start?

She felt the start of panic as she once again looked out over the crowds gathered. Fuck. It could have been anyone There wasn’t even a good place to start. There was nothing. Nothing except...

Facts.

She had to start with what she knew.

Elenor had been given one hour to get ready, which meant the theft had occurred in those sixty minutes. She had only been out of the room, in the adjoining bathroom, for twenty of those, and would have noticed the door opening after that.

Twenty minutes was still a lot of time, but it was somewhere to start. Sitting cross legged on the dusty ground, because her tense muscles were starting to ache, she kept hold of her stick and started writing names in the sand. Everyone in the provisional Court, Fin, Judiah...no, it would be someone from the Clan, so not Judiah. Fin’s nieces, her guards, the women who tended to her room. Name after name until she the ground all around her was filled, and for a moment, she reeled at just how long the list was, both for how hard it would be to narrow, and under the weight of the knowledge that she actually knew that many people by name.

She could go and question each of the people on the list, but that would take hours, and if this was at all like the Sabbah Trials that Fin had told her about, the trial of Endurance usually took the bulk of that time, which meant this had to be something she could solve quickly. She would only get one guess though, so she also had to be certain.

Zhaleh didn’t know every servant and guard in her home. Fin had hired most of them, and much of the staff had changed just a few days ago, after the attack on Elenor. While it could still be one of the new ones, her gut told her it wasn’t, not with how careful Fin had been.

Fin. He was the one who had told her her Trials were coming up and told her to go to her room to rest. How would he have known that if he had not had some hand in arranging them? He would have know how hard she would fight for her necklace, more than for anything else she owned. If that was how Zhaleh had chosen the object, was it so improbable that he would have had a hand in who the thief would be as well?

This puzzle wasn’t about the thief, it was about the people who had ordered the theft take place.

Elenor stood and looked at the list again, and started crossing out names.

Anyone who had not been assigned to the residence before the day when Fin told her to expect her Trials soon. That took away a good third of the list. Anyone they might assume she didn’t know by name and wouldn’t know to suspect were crossed out next. That left sixteen names: the entirety of her prospective Court, Fin’s nieces, Kata who took care of her room and acted as a lady’s maid when required, and Mehdi, who took care of all the container gardens and with whom Elenor had spent much of her free time, learning about the native plants of Pruul.

Eight of the twelve men who had been working with her lived with their families and left after the working day ended. While it was not out of the question that one of them had returned, she put them at the bottom of her mental list.

Who did she know was in her wing of the residence in that twenty minute window?

WIth the stick, she underlined three names.

Kata
Mehdi
Shadya

Motivation wouldn’t have been a factor. This had been planned. Kata had popped her head in almost as soon as Shadya had left to ask if Elenor needed any help. How would she have known that she was going to be going to her Trials?

The buzz of conversation answered that question. Apparently Elenor had been the only person who didn’t know the date and time. Had Elenor turned her back on Kata at any point? No.

Mehdi? She had heard him moving about and humming in the private courtyard below her window while she washed up. To make it up to her room in the ten minutes after that but before she returned to her room… possible, but unlikely, not with how tight security had been. Chest tightening with indecision, she shakily crossed him off the list.

A bead of sweat rolled down the back of Elenor’s neck as she stared at the two names on the list, both women in her room at the right place and the right time. The names blurred as her head continues to pound. When she looked up at the crowd again, the lights of the torches wove dizzyingly, making her stomach turn, almost like everything had spun during the attack….

Like that Black Widow’s brew…

Shadya had come to deliver the news. She had been right there. Could she have taken it?

Without a doubt, but would Zhaleh really choose someone so close to Fin to be her pawn? For that matter, why send Shadya to tell Elenor at all. Surely anyone in the clan could have been used to deliver the message…unless delivering the message was only the excuse.

A hand, touching Elenor’s elbow. Symptoms of something wrong starting shortly thereafter. An unexpected word of encouragement from a woman who had never really warmed to the Queen who had ensnared her uncle. A Black Widow, with a bone to pick and who had no reason to be where she was except to be a pawn.

Her eyes scanned the crowd, until they landed on Shadya, standing near the back of the courtyard by one of the tables heavy with food.

Was she sure? No, but her gut told her she was right, and she had learned the hard way that when push came to shove, her intuition was the best tool she had.

“Shadya al-Sabbah, my necklace please.” Elenor asked, voice loud and unwavering, holding out her hand. “And the antidote to whatever it is you poisoned me with.”

Offline Tavar al-Sabbah

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Re: Thrice Lost. Thrice Found.
« Reply #3 on: Nov 18, 17, 09:08:11 AM »
Shadya al-Sabbah wasn’t known for her kind and friendly demeanor. Even among the rest of the Sabbah, the young Pruulian woman known as the niece of the former Master of the Guard and current Voice of the Sabbah had a reputation for being standoffish, prickly, and generally unpleasant to nearly everyone around her. It wasn’t that Shadya was mean-spirited, but most that she didn’t suffer fools and idiots. Among the Sabbah, thus far, three people had earned that distinction:

Her uncle, Fin.

Her sister, Amira.

The Hayllian Courtesan (and Shadya’s secret idol), Judiah Vidanic.

The rest of the clan received her aid only because it shamed the other three people if Shadya did not offer it.

She’d come to watch Elenor Lirion’s Trials out of some crazy amalgamation of grudging respect, care for her uncle’s feelings in case his Queen died, and a desire to see if this young woman (Shadya did not like to think that the fair-faced woman was actually two centuries her senior) possessed the grit to become a member of the Sabbah. Shadya didn’t envy her. The enemies of Zhaleh al-Sabbah and her band of zealous imbeciles met bad ends. Elenor escaped it once but that hadn’t deterred the Priestess of the Sabbah. Instead, she’d redoubled her efforts and drawn Shadya into her plans by threatening Amira’s ability to advance among the Priestesshood.

Shadya sat alone at one of the tables that had been brought out upon Zhaleh’s command to begin the Trials. She’d stood in line, obtained a bowl of soup and some bread, and sat down to eat. She’d been working non-stop over the past few days, readying herself for her part in this drama. She just hoped she had time to eat a little something. She broke off a piece of bread, dipped it into her soup, and lifted it to her mouth.

It was halfway there when Elenor appeared at her side.

Shadya al-Sabbah, my necklace please. And the antidote to whatever it is you poisoned me with.

The Black Widow froze...and sighed.

The courtyard went dead silent. Zhaleh, seemingly deep in conversation near an awning, looked toward the pair with great interest. She rose and walked over, flanked by two other Priestesses.

Lady Lirion, are you making an accusation?” Zhaleh asked, looking between the pair. If Elenor confirmed that she was, in fact, accusing the niece of the Voice of the Sabbah of taking her necklace and poisoning her, Zhaleh nodded. She looked expectantly to Shadya.

What have you to say for yourself,  Lady Shadya?” Zhaleh asked.

Shadya dropped the piece of bread and looked up at Elenor with barely-concealed anger. She summoned the necklace and offered it to Elenor.

Lady Lirion has completed the Test of the Mind. The Test of Strength begins presently, where Craft use is prohibited.

The Black Widow snarled, her knife racing for Elenor’s throat.

Offline Elenor al-Sabbah

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Re: Thrice Lost. Thrice Found.
« Reply #4 on: Nov 18, 17, 01:04:21 PM »
(WARNING: Violence, self-harm, attempted rape, mental instability)

Elenor’s hands had barely had the time to take the to take the necklace and clasp it around her neck and feel the rush of relief that one of the three tests was over, before Zhale declared the next test begun and Shadya lunged at Elenor’s throat with a knife.

Elenor stumbled back, eyes going wide and panic beginning to rise in her. In all their discussions about the Trials, Fin and everyone else she had talked to had all assured her that the chances of a fight being her test of strength were minimal. The Trials were supposed to test the supplicant in ways that would prove their usefulness to the Clan. Queens weren’t likely to need to fight hand to hand, so she had focused her training more on strategy and less on combat. It was only in the days since her attack that Fin had taken Elenor aside and given her some practical self-defense training. That likely wouldn’t be enough for this fight, and her drug-addled mind wasn’t processing things as quickly as she would need either.

Shadya advanced on Elenor as she retreated. If she could have used her Jewels, Elenor could have vanished, masking herself in sight and aural shields and the glamours that would mask her psychic scent. She could have won by stealth, but that wasn’t an option, and neither was fighting in the middle of a crowd. Someone could get hurt. It occurred to her for a moment that any of the people milling around would serve as a good shield, but she dismissed that as quickly as it had come. No, she was alone in this.

Shadya continued to advance all the way until they reached the empty ring. Elenor had just enough time to duck down and pick up one of the palm-sized rocks that marked the perimeter as she passed them, hefting it.

The Black Widow stepped to the side and Elenor mirrored the movement, circling around each other. Elenor grip on the rock was slippery with sweat, and as she watched her opponent, Shadya’s face kept slipping out of focus, reminding Elenor that every minute she delayed the poison in her system was having more time to work.

Cursing herself for not calling in a knife when she had the chance, Elenor tried to think. She needed to get that blade out of Shadya’s hands and either into her own or far enough away that neither of them could use it. Elenor had spent her whole life fending for herself in the wild, she might not have the skills of a warrior, but she knew she was stronger than she looked, knew she was probably stronger than Shadya, if everything else was even. Of course, it wasn’t. Elenor was poisoned, and Shadya had a weapon that could not be taken from her beneath her ring finger. But surely she wouldn’t use that, would she? That would kill…

Her eyes flicked towards Zhaleh, the woman who likely did want Elenor dead, and who was conducting her Trials. People did occasionally die in Trials, and it would look like an accident it that was what happened to Elenor.

That was as far as she was able to take that thought because the moment of distraction was what Shadya had been waiting for. She lunged forward, and Elenor’s sluggish reflexes were not quick enough to avoid the slashing blow. It landed on her shoulder instead of her neck as she lurched to the side, but the pain was still blinding.

Clutching her bleeding shoulder she tried to retreat again, but Shadya seemed to be done waiting. She attacked again, forcing Elenor to duck to avoid having her throat sliced open. These were not half-hearted attacks such as those she had seen in sparring matches. Shadya was after blood, and with a sick tightening of her gut she realized that she would not win this by playing defense. She would have to try to hurt the young woman, get her down and immobilized in some way. She was Fin’s niece, one of the few people he loved with all his heart. How was she supposed to hurt her?

Shadya’s arm darted forward again. Elenor dodged, but when her eyed next focused on the young woman, it wasn’t Shaya’s face staring back at her, but another. One Elenor had not seen since she was eight years old.

The Priestess that had tried to sell Elenor to Askavi held the knife. Elenor growled, anger rising up within her to overwhelm fear and worry so quickly she didn’t even have a chance to consider her next action. She flung herself forward with a cry of rage, into the reach of the knife. The sudden forward momentum seemed to take the Priestess by surprise just long enough for Elenor to crash the rock she still held in her hand into the side of her head. The bitch swore and the knife flashed. Elenor raised her hand to block it and felt the blade tearing through her palm, bones in her hand snapping as the bloody end of the blade emerged on the other side. THe pain was blinding, excruciating, but pain was not an unfamiliar companion to Elenor. She twisted her hand, the knife going deeper, all the way to the hilt. She screamed in pain but continued twisting, even as she once more slammed the rock into the side of the Priestess’s head. Her grip on the knife handle loosened, and Elenor jerked her hand away, knife flying to the ground and out of her hand. Blood gushed, the air thick with the smell of it, and suddenly they were no longer in Pruul, no longer being watched by thousands. The jungles of Shalador loomed all around them, glittering eyes peering out of the dark.

The Priestess growled and moved and suddenly Elenor’s legs were no longer supporting her and she slammed to the ground, head slamming into the hard-packed earth. Her vision jarred, giving her one glimpse passed the hallucinations to Shadya’s face, blood trickling down and matting her hair where the rock had connected hard enough to draw blood, but it was only a flicker.  The Priestess was back a moment later, and that moment had given her the chance to raise her fist and slam it right into Elenor’s face, splitting her lip and leaving her jaw stinging.

Elenor twisted her hips, hands pushing up and shoving to the side with all her might. It dislodged the other woman just enough for Elenor to fling herself towards the bloody knife, but the Priestess was right there too, tangling her fingers into Elenor’s braided hair, nails digging into her scalp and pulled. She cried out, eyes watering, but kicked back with all her might and felt her foot hit and heard the grunt.

She reached for the knife again and her fingers tightened around the hilt just as the Priestess lunged forward and tackled her again.  She twisted, and after a scuffle she ended up on top. She pressed the knife against her throat, pressing down, wanting blood. Pressure, pressure.

“Elenor, stop!” A panicked voice, one that did not belong to the face she wanted to see detached from the body.

She blinked, then blinked again, each time getting just one glimpse of Shadya behind the mask.
Her hand released the knife.

And then she was flying and Shadya had the knife again.  Elenor felt the blade press into her chest as Shadya leaned forwards, hair falling over their faces giving them a moment of privacy.

“She wants me to kill you.” Shadya whispered, voice terse. “If I don’t look like I’m trying there will be consequences I cannot allow to happen.”

Elenor grabbed her wrist, pushing against the downward pressure, knife digging into her skin. She grit her teeth, whole focus on keeping that knife from inching forward towards her heart. She couldn’t die, not now, not after everything she had gone through to get here. Zhaleh would not take her down like this!

Angers, white hot and feral rose up in her, not at the hallucinations of a woman probably long dead, but at the Priestess that was now trying to ruin her life. Why did fucking Priestesses keep messing with her!?

She surged forward, twisting her body as she did, THe knife raked across ther breast and collar, but she didn’t care. She was done with caring. She flipped them over, smashing her elbow into Shadya’s face and catching the knife as she dropped it in surprise.

She drove it into her shoulder and into the ground beneath and pressed her forearm into Shadya’s neck.

“Yield!” She shouted, then, when Shadya didn’t immediately respond, she repeated, “YIELD!”

“You have passed the Test of Strength, Lady Lirion.” Zhaleh’s voice, while still formal, had an overtone of anger as she spoke over the din of the crowd. “Your Test of Endurance begins now. You have been given a poison. All you must do is survive until dawn without leaving this circle of stone. Use of Craft is still disallowed.”

All the fight left Elenor. She crawled to the side, allowing Shadya to get up with the help of a woman who ran forward. Probably a Healer. Good, that was good.   

Elenor stumbled to her feet, squeezing her eyes tight against the way all the lights and faces were warping and stretching as she standing made her vision start to swim. Shadya was being lead away, or at least she thought that was what she was seeing. She blinked. The shadows from the two women seemed to be moving independently of them now, weaving and snaking like serpents.  Elenor took a step backwards, then shrieked as one of the shadows lunged right at her throat.

Her legs, already shaky from the fight buckled, and she landed on her ass with a thump, dust flying as she scrambled backwards until her she felt hands grab her under the arms and hoist
 her to her feet. When she realized they were about to push her back at the advancing shadows she started struggling, but there were too many hands, the wall of the crowd too dense to get through.

“You can’t leave the circle, Lady.” Someone whispered. “We’ve got you.”

The voice was familiar. One of the men who had tutored her on Protocol all of the past year. Others were coming forward too, faces she recognized and some she didn’t stepping to the edges of the circle, forming a wall. She glanced over at Zhaleh and saw her face darkening, eyes glittering with malice. But she did not speak, did not stop them, because none had actually entered the circle to interrupt the Test.

“We’ve got you.” The man repeated, then pushed her back towards the center of the circle.

She stumbled forward, then whirled. Where had the snakes gone they gone? They had just been there? Where…

A body lay on the sand, unmoving.

“No. No…Sweet Darkness, no…”

She ran to Shadya, skidding to her knees to shake the unmoving young woman.

“No. Fuck. NO! You can’t die, Shadya. I didn’t kill you. You can’t die!” The Black Widow’s head rolled back, eyes open. Elenor looked down and screamed. Blood covered her hands, it pooled around them, more blood than a human body could hold, enough blood to drown her. She clutched at Shadya, pulling her head up against her shoulders. No, she couldn't be dead. The healer had been taking her away, she couldn't be dead. How was she supposed to ever look Fin in the eyes again if she had killed in niece? How was she supposed to tell Amira she had killed her sister?

Suddenly, the body in her arms shifted and lurched upwards, rolling to push Elenor to the ground. Shadya’s face shifted, morphing and settling into someone else entirely. A Green Jewel swung on a pendant as the man pressed Elenor into the pool of blood, straddling her hips. Shock overcame instinct and in the split second in which she froze, he grabbed her wrists and slammed them to the ground on either side of her face.

“Little bitch. You got away once but not again. It’ll be harder to break you now that you’ve fucked your foreign scum, but I always enjoyed a challenge.” He leaned down, whispering in her ear, breath hot against her skin as his fingers tightened around her wrists. She bucked, trying to unseat him, but it only made him laugh, “oh, I see, the right little slut already. Did the Hayllian whore teach you to beg for it? You don’t think they’re going to help you now, do you? They’re all going to just stand there and watch while I rape you. That’s how little they think of you, how little they will always think of you. You’ll never be their Queen, you’ll never be Sabbah, but you are pretty, maybe the Voice can keep you as his pet. You can sleep at the feet of that whore of his, where you belong.”

Tears ran down Elenor’s cheeks as she thrashed but to no avail. He was bigger than her, stronger than her, and getting larger by the minute, muscles bulging and face growing inhumane in it’s sneer, teeth sharpening to points.

She squeezed her eyes shut, fingers scrabbling for purchase on the packed ground, hand still bleeding freely where the knife had stabbed through, and as her blood sank into the earth...center.

“This isn’t real.”

The land was real. She could feel it like she had every day of her solitude. It wasn’t just the source of all life, it was her friend. Her first, her oldest, her most trusted friend.

“This isn’t real!” Stronger, this time, not a whisper but a shout. Still keeping her eyes shut and not breaking her connection to the land, she got to her knees, nothing stopping her or holding her down. The ground was dry, not soaked with blood.

“None of this is real.”

She opened her eyes.

She was deep in a Shalador jungle and the water was rising. In the distance she could hear screams, voices she knew and loved calling for her to help, crying, begging, and the water was rising. Elenor dug her fingers into the hard-packed sand, dry as a bone but for where he sweat and blood was making it stick to her skin.

Not real.

The screams grew louder. The water rose from her knees, to her chest, to her neck, heavy, the current strong. It pounded against her, wanting to wash her away.

Not real. She might not be able to use her Jewels, but they could not take her Caste away, and her connection to the land was the most real, the most honest, the greatest joy in her life. Nothing could take that away from her. Still, she could not help but take a deep breath as the water rose above her head, cold and silty and fast, suffocating her, washing her...clean…

She gasped as the water crashed away, ran away, poured out and through and around her until all that was left was the ringing in her ears and the sound of...gulls...laughter, high and sweet. She knew that laugh, knew the smell of salt and water and seaweed. She cracked her eyes open, everything clear and looked up.

It was a gull. It was flapping in the air, and as soon as she saw it, it began flying away, and with it the sound of her laughter.

“No, stop, don’t go!” She scrambled to her feet, breaking her connection to the land and to reality.

The gull flapped above the heads of the crowd. She ran forwards, eyes on the bird above until arms grabbed her, holding her. Not real. She struggled, but this time they didn’t go away, many hands, the sound of cursing as the gull flapped further away, laughter, rich and sweet and familiar, but just beyond the reach of memory urging Elenor to follow.

“Don’t go! Please, let me go, let me go to her!”


But the arms held firm, pushed her back into the empty space.

They kept coming. Visions, nightmares. One moment she would be huddled on the ground, almost in control, breathing and fighting and knowing what was real, wounds screaming, blood flowing but mind almost in control, and then what she thought was reality would turn out to be the cruelest of all the illusions thus far.

At one point she could have sworn she saw Fin’s face in the crowd, his hands among the ones holding her as she tried to ram her way through them again. His smell washed over her and she knew he was real, but then she blinked and it wasn’t his face as all, but the yellow-eyed Eyrian from her childhood, eyes staring and dead and not there to protect her anymore, and the people around him the glowing eyes of predators in the jungle and she was backing away, screaming, running.

Exhaustion was her salvation. As minutes stretched into hours, her legs buckled. Unable to move, her connection to the land remained unbroken once she kicked off her boots, but it didn’t stop the hallucinations. At one point insects, like the ones who had eventually come to feast on the flesh of the man who saved her as a child, crawled up her legs and arms. She tore at her clothing and gouged her flesh trying to get them off her, blood spattering the sands.

The faces of people she loved and trusted taunted her again and again. Go away, they said. We don’t want you here, they said. We hate you. You aren’t fit to be Queen of anything. The Sabbah would be better off without you. Pitiful. Scared. Dishonest. Despicable. Unlovable. They spit on her and taunted her, and all she could do was rock back and forth, arms wrapped tight around her head, chanting over and over until her throat was raw:

“Not real, not real, not real.”

Then, at last, the sky began to lighten, and a stillness of mind and body fell over her. She sat, legs crossed, both hands pressed into the ground, eyes closed. The voices inside her head quieted one by one, to the continued chant. Rational thought began to return, and with it, pain. Her skin was marred by hundreds of shallow cuts and bruises, her limbs were heavy and aching, her mouth parched, her eyes burning.

She was alive.

After hours of near-perfect immobility as time washed in and out of focus, Elenor lifted her head and looked around. Dawn was cresting over the mountains to the east, red and pink and blue. The crowed had not thinned in the night, if anything, there were even more bodies pressed in, murmurs spreading as she looked around.

She found them: the handful of familiar faces. The Queens of the Hague and Tarazed, too lod to be ruling but all the only ones fit to, who she had studied with this past year. Members of the provisional Court Fin had assembled to help guide the Sabbah in the absence of a Queen, who had accepted her and allowed her to assist them as she learned their ways. Fin and Judiah, holding each other, both looking worse for ware, tired and worried, Bashir only a step away, hovering on the balls of his feet with a similar expression. Amira, Shadya, blessedly alive.

She tried to smile at them in reassurance, but she couldn’t get her lips to move. There was something pressing up from inside her and it wasn’t care or kindness, love or gratitude. It wasn't even relief that her ordeal was over. Her eyes kept moving, settling on another man with black wings, a wicked smile curling Lucky’s lips.

“There is nothing wrong with anger. It’s a type of fuel in a way. Next time you feel it, try and focus, narrowing it with your Craft. You will be surprised what you can accomplish running on rage.”

Rage, that was it, boiling up from inside her, anger that had been building for much longer than the hours of her Trial, or even the time she had lived in Pruul. Old, powerful, bitter anger of a child who felt powerless to set her own course, who was destined to be nothing more than a tool in the hands of others. Her gaze fell to the Priestess, the bitch who dared call herself the leader of the True Sabbah, as if what she represented was some sacred ideal. From even before Elenor had arrived, Zhaleh had been pushing forward in Adramelech’s footsteps. She had seen Elenor and dismissed her without a chance, and had doubtlessly ordered the attack on her. To break her, not to kill her. To use her instead of letting Fin use her. Greed or good intentions, she was tired of running, and she was tired of playing other people’s games. She was pissed.

Even now, when she had done it all right, had taken the Trials and survived, Zhaleh was standing there with a knowing smirk as if she understood something that Elenor didn’t, as if she still had the upper hand.

Stiff, aching, powered only by seething anger, Elenor stood and didn’t wobble. Still barefoot, she stepped forward until she was right back to where she had started, standing in front of the Priestess conducting her Trials, except this time, she did not bow her head, but rather looked up, shoulders square and proud.

“I come before you to speak a Truth of the Self, as is the way, and to claim the name of Elenor Lirion al-Sabbah.” She spoke calmly, but not quietly, and it was the calm of a brewing storm, not that of a summer day.

“I have faced three Trials, and have survived, and this is the truth that I offer to you, Zhaleh, Priestess of Clan Sabbah: I am here to stay, and you will never be rid of me.”

After two centuries of running, that was the most frightening, most grounding, most earth-shattering truth she had ever known.

Offline Matin al-Sabbah

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Re: Thrice Lost. Thrice Found.
« Reply #5 on: Nov 18, 17, 05:05:20 PM »
By the time Matin arrived at the Clan Residence in Onn, a crowd had already begun milling about. Sabbah Trials always had an air of festivity, and with such a noteworthy supplicant the large courtyard was teeming with even more bodies and noise than usual. Any member of the Clan in the area was likely to make at least a cursory appearance to see how this foreign Queen fared, and most of them would stay until the morning, bearing witness and passing their own internal judgements.

Beyond catching up with acquaintances and friends he hadn't seen since arriving days before, Matin had little interest being here at all. He had been avoiding involvement in politics since Prince Adramelech’s death, and he felt certain that his mother did not plan on letting him return to traveling quite yet.

Zhaleh had too many uses for her son to let him waste himself caravanning, especially with Lady Elenor inching closer and closer to the position of Queen of Clan Sabbah.

Matin wove through the crowd, catching bits of conversation, noting how people held themselves as they stood in tight clusters or loose circles. Their attention focused on their companions, their eyes wandering through the gathered mass, their pensive glances towards the empty circle in the center of the courtyard. The air was thick with the same apprehension that Matin had been getting in bursts and brushes for the last several months whenever this foreign Queen was brought up.

Most people assumed she was Lord Fin’s puppet, and how they felt about that depended largely on their opinion of the Eyrien and on which of the rumors about her origin one subscribed to. Matin may have decided to keep his hands out of Clan business, but he never stopped collecting information. There was too little he knew for certain about this Queen to make any judgements himself yet, but somewhere there was truth, and he felt compelled to find it despite his distaste of the situation.

He was nearing the area where the Priestess officiating the Trials would traditionally watch from when the crowd around him hushed, the energy in the air suddenly sharpened to a knife's edge as friendly chatter became furtive whispers. Even those stilled as the familiar cadence of his mother’s introduction met Matin’s ears.

He changed course, pressing towards the center of the courtyard. A few people turning to give him admonishing looks before they recognized him. He stopped when he reached the edge of the circle. He wanted to see this Queen he had heard so much and so little about and take his own measure of her.

He shouldered between two people in the front row and the glimpses of golden hair and fair skin resolved themselves into a person. She had squared shoulders and a hard expression as she faced Zhaleh, but as his eyes moved down her body he noticed a tension in the way she held her arms that was different than determination, the tips of her fingers betraying a slight tremor.

She wasn’t held together as well as she was trying to seem, and he was sure his mother would see that same vulnerability, exploit it, make the trials more difficult than they needed to be. Matin’s heart quickened. The trials were meant to be brutal, but this felt like she was in real danger.

He clenched his teeth together, contempt surging past his sudden protectiveness. Of course the Queen was weak, and of course Zhaleh would be taking advantage of it. That was what this female deserved, not his pity. Yet even through his anger he was fighting back the need to step between the two women and make certain that the Queen came to no more harm, to find the root of that unsteady, unfocused look in her eyes, to keep her safe.

The truth of what was happening struck him in the chest like a steer and it took every ounce of his training not to curse aloud. He had done everything in his power to avoid being near Elenor Lirion since she arrived in Pruul, and now...

He pulled back, stumbling into the people watching behind him. He needed to be away from this place. The crowd stirred around him as he pushed in the direction he had had came from, his mind racing with excuses he could give his mother for his absence as he tried to drown out the pull he felt towards the foreign Queen. His thoughts were pierced by a spear thread, his father's curt words stopping him just as he cleared the throng.

*You've had enough socializing, come meet us before your mother returns.*

Matin’s head whipped to where he knew his father would be, in a covered area overlooking most of the yard, and saw his familiar form shadowed by the smaller figure of Matin's sister. He growled quietly to himself. He could have found a reason not to be at the Trials in the first place, but it would be much more difficult to make an excuse she would believe for showing up and then leaving before they began. He could feel his father's glare tracking him as he started to move towards his family.

The small, deep part of him that was bound to Elenor struggled with some emotion between apprehension and relief. He was staying, he would be near her, but he would be watching her Trials beside his mother and he could think of no easy way to escape this.

Matin reached his destination as his mother explained the first task to her supplicant. His sister, Adileh, stepped close.

“Get lost in the crowd?” Her quiet voice dripped with derision and a low growl escaped from Matin’s throat before he choked it back. Adileh circled him with a teasing grin. “I thought you'd be eager to see mother put this Queen in her place, but it almost looked like you were avoiding us.” As Adileh started her second circuit, Matin’s hand darted forward to grab her arm. She brushed it away and, in one quick movement he was too distracted to react to, put him in an elbow lock.

Their father hissed between his teeth at both of them and they separated, Matin still growling under his breath. He had no energy for his sister's antics tonight, especially when hearing the Queen’s few words to his mother and the crowd had strengthened the draw he felt towards her.

By the time Zhaleh joined them, he had leashed his temper and was merely brooding quietly as he watched the Queen begin her first test. His mother would have expected her to talk to people in the crowd, to test her ability to connect with and judge people. She also would have planted trusted members of their Clan to throw her off and add to the doubts of those who had yet to decide whether she deserved what she was seeking.

Instead, the Queen drew lines in the sand, and she sat in silence. Murmurs spread along the spectators as people guessed at what she was doing, and Matin shut them out of his mind. She was all that mattered, and he could practically see it as her mind picked apart the puzzle. There was something entrancing about her stillness and focus, occasionally jarred by a nervous twitch or a quick, wide-eyed scan of the crowd. He leaned forward slightly, knowing what was coming next but not how he would deal with it. Resisting this didn't seem like a viable option, but neither was running away. He was trapped like one of the curving metal rods of a blacksmith’s puzzle, interlinked with the others until one found just the right angle to slide it free.

He hadn’t found that angle when his choice was taken from him, one trial becoming the next and suddenly the Queen, his Queen was under attack.

That was the only thought in his mind as he surged forward, only to be stopped short by bonds that were too much stronger than his Purple Dusk for him to fight.

*The time is not yet right, Prince.*

His eyes darted to his mother. Zhaleh stood with a serene, smug expression, and by the lack of response from anyone nearby, she had him behind sight and aural shields as well as physical.

He snarled, and she did not respond. There was a brief moment of clarity where he saw just how impossible it would be to avoid becoming her pawn in all this, then the sound of combat pulled his attention away from his mother and onto the bindings and shields he had no hope of breaking even as he danced between the Killing Edge and uncontrolled rage.

That fury honed to a point when Elenor began acting more erratically, her fighting becoming worse and worse, and with the lucidity of the Killing Edge he knew that this was more than exhaustion or the disorientation that could come with fighting a more skilled opponent.

He also knew, through Shadya’s movements but he also just knew, that Elenor failing the trials wouldn't be enough for Zhaleh and that the test of Strength would be the easiest way to kill her.

He pulled against his bonds, muscles straining, and roared in desperate anguish.  By the time Elenor had bested Shadya, Matin was exhausted and his Jewels were drained but he was still clinging to the Killing Edge. The Queen was becoming more distraught as whatever poison Shadya had given her worked through her body, and Matin could do nothing but pace, muttering curses to Elenor and his mother and the Darkness itself for putting him in this situation.

Elenor’s Trial of Endurance began, and while the immediate danger of the fight had lifted he knew she was not yet safe. It would not be unprecedented for the poison in Elenor’s body to be one that had a chance of killing her. The Queen rushed towards the edge of the stone circle, and a man moved forward to push her back. Gradually more moved in, forming a ring of bodies that shielded her as she tried to escape, screaming words that might have almost made sense if Matin had been able to focus on them instead of being taken in by the distress in her voice, the need to be with her driving him to fight against bonds and shields that were as strong as they had been all night.

He rode the Killing Edge longer than he ever had before, his anger restrained but not quelled as he paced back and forth within the space his mother had given him to move. There was not enough latent moisture in the air to form frost, but a chill emanated from the Warlord Prince. His tight control broke when Elenor clawed at her own skin and thrashed on the packed dirt, his need to protect her from herself stronger than his exhausted will.

Then, gradually, she stilled. The gathered crowd’s murmurs washed over Matin, unheard, and as he watched the Queen he felt something in himself that he didn’t want. He screamed, banging a fist ineffectively against his mother’s shield. His mind edged towards coherence, and he realized what this would mean for him, what this would mean for his daughter, and rage boiled up within him again. After everything he had done to protect Salma, this pale-skinned piece of foreign trash was going to take him away from her.

He was still seething with bitterness at that thought, that reality, when Elenor stood and approached his mother. He barely heard her what she said, the smoldering, retaliatory fire in her voice twisting his emotions as he mirrored it and fought against it. His mother’s words were a bit clearer, years of being managed by her bringing his mind into focus at the sound of her voice.

“Lady Lirion, your truth is heard and accepted. You have demonstrated cunning, have shown your strength and mercy in combat, and have faced the truth.” Zhaleh said, words clipped and without any of the praise and encouragement that usually came at the end of Trials. “You will be allowed to carry the name of Elenor Lirion al-Sabbah from this day forward.”

Matin felt the shields hiding and holding him drop and the exhaustion of a night spent pushing his body and mind and Jewels to their limit dissolved in a surge of raw energy. He surged forward, his eyes, his attention, every element of his being focused on his Queen, on the need to be near to her, to touch her, to yield to her. That need was intertwined with layers of rage he did not have the mental presence to understand, but they drove him forward as well.

In that moment, Elenor was the only thing that existed. He reached her. She pulled away, raising a hand in defense, and acrid fear joined the amalgam of emotions coursing through him. Desperate not to lose her, he reached for the hand, tightening his grip as she jerked back until he heard and felt bone snapping beneath his fingers. Sickening shock rushed through him, flushing out everything else he felt, then he was being pressed down, his knees buckling beneath him as he dropped to the ground, weight on his head and shoulders keeping them bowed. Opal strength he might have been able to fight if he had not spent all of his stored power struggling against his mother.

Another moment of clarity. Another realization of just how far this had gone out of his control. The moment passed, replaced again with anger and pain, and he didn’t have the will left in him to hold back the tears.
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Offline Elenor al-Sabbah

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Re: Thrice Lost. Thrice Found.
« Reply #6 on: Nov 18, 17, 05:08:54 PM »
Relief at hearing Zhaleh all but growl out the words that made her Sabbah was replaced by fear almost instantly. Elenor felt the sudden zing of connection as the unfamiliar Warlord Prince burst from the crowd behind Zhaleh, heading straight towards her. She backed away, even as she reeled from the undeniable knowledge, as deep as her bones that this man who was coming at her, bearing such a clear resemblance to the Priestess now serenely smiling,  was hers. He lunged for her and she pulled up a hand to try to stop him.

The sound of bones snapping came a split second before the rush of pain. Elenor cried out, yanking her arm away and drawing from her Jewels at the same time. She lashed out, pushing him away and to the ground under the weight of her Opal strength until he was on his knees. How dare he? How dare he, who belonged to her, think to attack at this of all time? SHe increased the pressure from her Jewels, pushing his head down so he could not even look up at her, so that he was helpless in her power.

Clutching her throbbing wrist with her injured, sand-caked hand, Elenor whipped around, turning her back on the kneeling Warlord Prince, her chest heaving with fear and rage, pride and fury.

This was just another piece of Zhaleh’s plot. Just another attempt to take back this day. She wanted Elenor to fail, saw in her only a foreign girl who had no business leading the Sabbah. Who did not deserve to bare their name, but she was wrong. This was going to stop right now. Fin had helped get her here, but it was up to her to finish this.

“Brothers and Sisters, look at me! LOOK AT ME!” She shouted, her voice booming over the crowd as she pushed her Opal strength into it. With another flash of power she vanished her bloody, torn, sweat-soaked clothes, down the the ties that held her hair in place and the pendant she had fought so hard to retrieve. The cut across her chest that had mostly stopped bleeding, dried blood and dirt clinging to cloth was torn open as she vanished her clothing, but she didn’t care anymore. She stood before them, blood-soaked and furious.

“I am not like you! My skin is pale and burns, my hair is the color of sand, not of night.” She reached up, fingers working through the braid that had fallen over her shoulder until her hair fell in golden waves down her back. “You will live decades, I have already lived centuries. I was not born to this desert, and no tests or days in the sun of Pruul will change any of this.” She gestured down at herself, turning slowly so her eyes could meet those of the suddenly quiet onlookers.  “The Sabbah are a people that value truth above all else, and this is the truth, so look at me, see me for what I am.  We are not the same and never will be, but that has ever been the Pruulian way!”

She stopped circling, stood her ground, letting her throbbing wrist hang at her side as she lowered her voice a fraction “Landen and Blood are not the same, yet here, unlike anywhere else, we live side by side. It doesn’t matter if you wear Jewels, or have a Caste, if you are young or old, wise or foolish, to the desert we are all the same.” Her eyes rose to meet Zhaleh’s, to stare in open hatred at the woman who would have seen Elenor hurt and broken. “The water we drink is the same, the sand we walk on will shift the same way under our feet and if we lose our way, the sun will bleach all our bones the same brittle white!” The last three words came out as a snarl through clenched teeth, a wicked, feral smile curling her lips as she saw the flash of fear in the Priestess’s eyes.

Then she whipped away, turning her back to the Green Jeweled woman in an open sign of dismissal, and yelled, “change, not tradition, has defined this Territory! It must! Like a man walking the dunes, to stop is to run out of water and die. Our Clans do not live in cities, we do not have Provinces, no lines in the sand. We move and shift like the wind, and that is how it has always been.”

She took a step forward, out of the circle of empty space that had formed around her and the Warlord Prince, tears of frustration now coursing down his cheeks as her power kept his head down, arms shaking and palms pressed against the sand. She walked until she stood before Fin, close enough to touch, and gave him a small, exhausted smile. “I have waited centuries to find a people to call my own. I’ve walked until my feet bled to find you, have scaled mountains and traversed lands where the water Pruul so desperately clings to runs freely.” She reached out, brushed her hand against his cheek, then faced Bashir, who was standing next to him, still as a statue. “Those lands are bountiful and rich, beautiful and kind, but they did not speak to my heart. Pruul does.” Another touch, another half smile, and then she turned and declared, voice booming, “Pruul is harsh, it is demanding, it does not hide behind pretty lies because there is no space for them.”


“When I walked into the desert, I stood in awe. The brutality of sand and sun would have made any other people flee, but not us. We, who are of Pruul, are fighters. We fight with all our wit and strength and tenacity just to keep living! It grants us unimpeded perspective of what matters most. It’s not gold or pretty baubles, not political clout or conquest, it is us! Family, Tribe, Clan, people of the desert.”

The crowd was murmuring now, Elenor’s heart, which had been racing before, now felt as if it would burst from her chest as she strode back to the center of it all, holding out her arms to gesture to those gathered here.

“The Sabbah do not define themselves by their herds or their festivals, their achievements or their traditions. We define ourselves by the very ground under our feet.” She could feel the power of that ground pulsing from under her bare soles. She knelt, calling in a knife, and sliced open the palm of her smarting hand so that both her palms were open and bleeding. She pressed the wounds into the sand, eyes fluttering shut a moment as she felt the ground hungrily take what she offered. Mine, it said, you are mine and I am yours, always. “The earth, the salt, the mountains, they are unyielding and eternal. Wash them away, and they will form anew, crush them and the wind will whip them into a storm and bury you where you stand.  We, who are Sabbah, who know the truth and stand in the light of it, unafraid, are not of Pruul, we are Pruul.”

She broke the connection with the land and rose, wiping blood and sand on her bare skin of her thigh, knife forgotten in the sand. “I have spent my whole life hiding -from what I am, from where I came from, from the secrets I kept- but no longer. Today, I am Sabbah, and I will always be Sabbah. I take upon myself all the truth, good and bad, that come with that name, and I offer myself to you, naked, unarmed and with no secrets left to keep.”

A beat of silence, a whisper of wind.

“There are no roads in the desert! There is no path to guide our way or shape our destinies. We are seekers of truth, and the truth is that the other Clans do not see the Sabbah I see.” Her voice began to rise again, anger returning. “To the rest of Pruul, we are monsters!” Her words echoed against the stones and rocks around them, reverberating over the Clan, amplified by her Opal strength. “It doesn't matter how much we pay, how much is torn from us in retribution, we will always be the demons they despise until we prove not to be with such indisputable truth that it blinds them.”

Another pause, another turn on the spot, this time facing where Lucky still stood in the crowd. “That is not to say that we should not take full responsibility for what we have done. We imprisoned a whole generation underground, we were butchers, traders in flesh and blood money. We let ourselves be lead on a string spun by a spider and never questioned the truth of his lies. Our reputation and their hatred have been earned twice over. To not take responsibility for these crimes is to lay the path for them to repeat themselves. The other Clans have a right to watch us with caution, for their trust in us was shattered. We have gone from one of the most trusted, the fairest and most honorable of Clans to the least, hardly worthy to keep breathing. That is what they think of us, but that is not the way I would have it be! To those expecting greed, I would have us bury them in generosity. To those who accuse us of arrogance, may they trip over our humility, and to those who want us dead...Let them scream their frustration as we thrive!”

She continued on, hardly pausing for breath, words coming from somewhere deep within her, the part of her she had hidden from for nearly two hundred years but could hide no longer. The part of her that was Queen, raw and with the guise of civility ripped away. There was no longer any room for anything but the undiluted truth. She had poured all of what she was into being here, in this place, in this time. One glance at Zhaleh’s face made her sure that if she didn’t settle this now, not even Fin would be able to stop the separatists from finding a way to kill her before she could rise to power. It had to be now, and it had to be her way.

“Without change, we will fall! We will waste away under their hatred, their disgust.” She snarled the word. A possessive, territorial rage washing through her, instincts suppressed but not contained breaking free, a dam shattering to bring the flood. “Under their scorn we will become little and weak, and wither, until there is nothing left of us except whispers on the wind. We will be extinguished. But that is not the only way! Your Voice found me in the desert, he brought me to you so that I may serve you, lend my strength to yours and forge a new way ahead, but I am not yet your Queen.” She sucked in a ragged breath, throat raw but the pain only fueled her passion. “I have chosen you, my brothers and sisters. I have given everything I had to stand before you now. There are those among you who hate me, who would see me broken, the water in my blood spilled across the sand and flesh left for the carrion eaters.” She did not point at Zhaleh. She did not have to. Enough eyes moved to the Priestess to make Elenor sure that she had been responsible for all of this. Then her eyes fell to the Warlord Prince who bore such clear resemblance to Zhaleh. She could feel his fear and anger like a tangible force over the link between them, thrumming like the beat of a drum. “They see me as an interloper in your midsts, with no right to rule over you and they are CORRECT!”

With that, she released the bonds holding him, and turned her back to him and the True Sabbah faction, facing the rest of her people. “I have no right to rule, because that isn’t how it works. It is not my Caste or my Jewels that will set me at your head, but your choice. I have chosen you, but it is up to you, gathered here, right now, to chose me. I have spent the last year living among you. I have traveled with the Hague and the Tarazed, I have studied the ways of the desert. I have worked every day to assist your Voice and the men he chose to help lead the Clan until a Queen could rise to power. I have faced your Trials, given you the blood in my veins and the salt in my tears and the truth within my heart. Now I ask only one truth in return.”

She paused, planted her feet, and with everything left in her lungs and the strength in her Jewels bellowed,

“WHO WILL SERVE?”


Offline Leila al-Sabbah

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Re: Thrice Lost. Thrice Found.
« Reply #7 on: Nov 18, 17, 07:49:41 PM »
'Who can understand my complaint of love ....'

Locale: Pruul. Sabbah Residence in Onn.
While she had spent the last several nights, perhaps a fortnight's worth in movement around the poorest sections of the Sabbah Encampment within and just outside of Onn, tending those that had the least to offer, or perhaps only food and a place to rest her head with conversation as payment for her efforts, it did not mean her senses were not well tuned toward the well being of the Sabbah as a people. In the end of all of this, she had decided to stay. Truth was, that in all of these things, they needed her, whether that was the stubborn followers of Lady Zhaleh al-Sabbah, or the hobbled together and hastily built court around the foreigner, Elenor Lirion.

While she had been "hidden" for a time by the Voice, given that Leila had lived among the Sabbah for over fifty years of her life, people talked to her, because she tended to be a skilled and patient listener to both the hurts of the heart and the body. So it was perhaps some months back that she had been aware of the gulf between the Sabbah that supported Lord Fin as the new Voice, and those that absolutely did not. Truth was, though she found him competent, and did not doubt that the Queen the male had bonded was as much the same, there was one thing they did not have, was Pruulian heritage even though there were certain connections, and a life spent and built.

So she both sympathized when it was time for the Queen's Trial, and had many, many concerns about the way in which the court was being rebuilt. If there was one thing that Leila had agreed with, it was the consideration of the "True Sabbah", as ridiculous as that name was, that their grievances had been allowed some kind of presence. What that might amount to however, had Leila very strongly contemplating neutrality. Bandages lay in a bundle in a large basket she had woven herself, and now had spent the day in the shade not too distantly from where Lady Elenor had been quartered off to complete her three trials.

Eventually, another quietly sympathetic, but voiceless member of the Sabbah that she had treated almost a week before for a sore throat wandered over to where she was seated: close enough to be part of the action, but far away enough that she'd likely go undisturbed unless things had gone very wrong and while it was certainly a possibility that the Trials had been rigged not to go in the pale skinned woman's favour, Leila could not help but be stirred by her own conscience to do more.

"She's passed the trial, but she's been poisoned, at minimum. I might agree with Lady Zhaleh, but I don't agree quite this much. Please don't tell anyone I've sent you along. I can't be seen to care. Many of us can't," the tiny, delicate daughter of an apothecary remarked to Leila. 

"All right I will look in. True enough that no Queen should be treated as she has been, even if the grievances are potentially fair ones. I'll decide what I think when I hear the Lady Lirion's story for myself." Leila decided to take her basket of supplies with her, slipping into a colourful green silk robe that brought out the gold-and-green hue of her eyes. The honey hue of her hair as well, made her stand out sharply against most of the dark haired Pruulians. Her father however, had been one of those people, born to the Kurhah, a tribe of the Bali. So on the one had, Elenor reminded Leila, at least in terms of story, of her own mother.

Tamerie had found it easier. She'd paid her water debt to the Kurkah several times over with the lives she'd saved, and given that she also had been dark haired and brown skinned, it was easier to fit in with the Kurhah. A skilled Black Widow as well and one willing to learn customs as well as marry in, had given Leila's mother a serious appreciation for her detractors. Only her brilliant eyes of blue and gold had made her stand out.

So Leila understood the bitter Sabbah.

Betrayed by Adramelech, while a pair of technical outsiders ruled them. Mocked by the other Clans, despite their great wealth and fair-weather numbers. It could potentially make anyone frustrated and tending toward grief or rage. She had come among them, and married in, and despite the facts that her son had not lived, and her grandson had gone back to the Kurhah and married among them, it still left a key niche and a trading avenue for both clans and the smaller Kurhah tribe.

She had managed to stroll up after Elenor had begun some sort of speech that might have been designed to make the woman appear an outsider hero for the Sabbah to cheer for. It in fact, made Leila snort, but a very brief scan of the Queen revealed honestly that the fact that she was still alive was perhaps a miracle. Leila did not require much Craft to be able to tell that at minimum, the woman didn't need to be making pretty speeches. Business like that only tended to the do the exact opposite that most thought it did. Gently, she passed through the crowd, giving an encouraging touch to those that needed it, passing out tonic and beautifully sewn bandages where she went before ending up in front of the Crowd around Elenor.

"I have little intention of serving until I learn you as a person, Lady Lirion al-Sabbah, but I hear you. That is in fact, how a court among our Tribes and Clans are formed. Not through pretty speeches, or making friends with those marginally connected to the Sabbah but whom many still see as outsiders. It's you that has to be patient to allow them to see what you do, and then and only then, choose to serve." Leila did not speak with fire, but she did speak with the soft wisdom of a young woman that had aged and grown among the Sabbah, helped them heal aches, and had learned to truly see her husband's people before making demands of them.

"If you can consider that path, you might be surprised what is gained in a slow dance with the Sabbah. While many tribes and the other Clans might have passed their own judgement upon these people, my people now, for decades, since my distant marriage, we bleed, hurt, and are stoic and stubborn just like any other people in Pruul. Passing a test as you can see, is only part of the tangle. You ask for them to look at you, but don't forget to look at them from their point of view."

The healer offered forth her hand while setting down her pair of baskets. "Leila al-Sabbah, little sister. Allow me to assist you for the present? Court politics I think, can wait. As can clan politics. But that is my opinion. I needn't sweep you into hiding to heal you, and perhaps, it might allow you to trust my motives if we remain right here." It mattered not at all to her that the woman might have been slightly older than she was at her own mere seventy-five years, she was a baby Pruulian and would remain so until she truly learned. She had noticed that the Warlord Prince near had managed to snap Elenor's wrist as she was moving through the crowd. Given that it hadn't seemed deliberate, she only gave Prince Matin a polite nod in equal to his ranking Caste above her own.
"Bend thine façade upon potent determination, Darkness birthed and Night kissed. Blessed in weaving for the Priestess Queen."
♪ Writer's Tracker | A Midnight Dreaming Rose ♪

Offline Bashir al-Sabbah

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Re: Thrice Lost. Thrice Found.
« Reply #8 on: Nov 18, 17, 10:31:05 PM »
Bashir had expected this. All of the Sabbah had to go through this, why not her? All of Pruul tested its inhabitants, every day, without mercy or remorse, and the Trials just tested a person more. If Elenor was to claim the title of Queen of the Sabbah, then she would have to be tested the same. He knew this. He had told himself this over and over in the day leading up to it.

He still didn’t fucking like it.

He wasn’t called until after the first Trial had started. He had pushed his way through the crowd, elbowing a few unwilling fucks who didn’t want to move, until he was peering over the shoulder of someone who refused to move just then. And he saw her, his Queen, in the circle, obviously...hurt? Something. Not herself. For a moment, his mind flashed back to the first time he had seen her, drugged and dragged out into the desert, unsteady on her feet like she was now, and he felt anger and bile rise in his throat.

Bashir shoved the fuck aside, telling, “Elenor!” as he came charging towards her. He was within reach of the circle when hands grabbed him back. “Let me go, you bastards!” he shouted, futilely of course. He knew he couldn’t interfere with the Trials -- no one could. But that still didn’t stop him from trying. “Fuck off, she’s hurt! We have to help her!” he shouted at the hands and voices restraining him.

It got a shit ton worse when that fuck of a Priestess said, “You have passed the Test of Strength, Lady Lirion. Your Test of Endurance begins now. You have been given a poison. All you must do is survive until dawn without leaving this circle of stone. Use of Craft is still disallowed.”

Poisoned? Survive until dawn? Without Craft?

“Are you fucking nuts? You can’t do that!!” Bashir shouted angrily at the Priestess. She ignored him. Fucking bitch. So, since he couldn’t cross the circle to help his Queen (this time), he lobbed insults at the Priestess instead. “You old hag! You’re going to be replaced when she makes her Court! You’ll be exiled, you fucking bitch! How’s that going to feel, huh? Kicked out because you decide to be a bitch to the Queen the Sabbah deserve? I can’t wait to see that happen!”

But eventually, that wasn’t enough, and Bashir, in his despair over not being able to do a damned fucking thing, stopped doing what he did best (cursing up a storm) and found himself kneeling just at the edge of the circle, going through the stages of grief for someone who hadn’t died yet but dying in front of him. He entreated her to be strong, he flat out commanded her not to die, he threatened to drag her back from Hell if she did...on and on, through the hours. His voice went hoarse and if he knew of a fucking way to pour his Jewels into her, he would have, but that was the sort of shit Eskandar knew how to do. Bashir didn’t. And that would probably break the rules somehow. So, he watched, as she went through hallucinations, as she alternated between hearing him and being unable to hear him, as she lay there like she was dying and he watched her chest to make sure she was still breathing...

These fucking rules! His fucking Queen was on the brink of death and he was stuck by these fucking rules!

“It’s not real, El, it’s not real,” he echoed when she said it, hoping she would hear him. On and on and on...until finally...FUCKING FINALLY...the sun started cresting over the horizon. “Almost there! Almost there, El! We’re almost there!” The moment they fucking let her out of that circle, he was going to be there.

The sun broke the line of unending sand and Elenor stood, squared her shoulders, and said, “I come before you to speak a Truth of the Self, as is the way, and to claim the name of Elenor Lirion al-Sabba h.I have faced three Trials, and have survived, and this is the truth that I offer to you, Zhaleh, Priestess of Clan Sabbah: I am here to stay, and you will never be rid of me.”

Bashir never felt more proud of anything in his life as he was of her in that fucking moment.

“FUCK YEAH!” he shouted in the moment that followed. And when the Priestess declared that she had heard the name of Sabbah, Bashir let out a whoop of exultation and said, “Yeah! Fuck off, you old hag! I told you she would make it! I told you!” The Trials blocking Bashir from Elenor were over but that vile snake of a man called Matin moved in first.

Bashir heard the snapping of fragile female bones and screamed.

The young Warlord threw himself at Warlord Prince, not giving a shit about how utterly stupid it was to attack a Warlord Prince, but luckily, someone grabbed Bashir before Bashir grabbed Matin, and Elenor still had two males and not one bloodied and the other dead. “You fuck! You bastard! You hurt her!” he screamed, rage and terror coloring his voice. And those hands held him back.

Elenor, Queen that she was, turned that moment into something more, capitalized on it. “Brothers and Sisters, look at me! LOOK AT ME!” And that stilled Bashir. He stopped struggling, the hands gradually let go, and he listened, fucking LISTENED to every fucking word that came out of her mouth, how she talked about Pruul, how she UNDERSTOOD Pruul now, how she was an outsider like him but now no longer, and how she had chosen them but it was now up to them to choose her.

“WHO WILL SERVE?”


Bashir roared back. “I WILL!” In hindsight, it would be one of those moments where he could totally relate to the absolute devotion and commitment that his brother Eskandar felt towards his own Queen, the kind of emotions he had always begrudged Eskandar for having, but now totally understood and needed in his own life. “I WILL!” he shouted at the top of his drained Jewels, feeling both exhausted and invigorated at the same time.

He didn’t give a shit about circles or Shields or politics or his actual placement in her Court. He finally, fucking finally crossed the distance separating them to come stand at her side, understanding so keenly why Eskandar had spent all of those years pining for a Queen who was across the Territory and needing to be physically close to her.

He let the Healer tend to her but if Matin got close, Bashir would gladly snarl at him for hurting their Queen (fucking snake) but he’d let Finn come near because, well, he couldn’t really argue with Fin since they were really on the same team now.

Offline Abaddon al-Sabbah

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Re: Thrice Lost. Thrice Found.
« Reply #9 on: Nov 18, 17, 11:06:54 PM »
Fin would not be there, nor could he be.  Abaddon would not have trusted himself to watch Ghanima’s Trial, if he were pressed into doing so.  Who could restrain Fin if he lost control, very few, possibly not even Abaddon, though he was Darker than his oldest friend.  Fin had experience, Fin had taught Abaddon how to fight, how to strike the killing blow, how to hunt and be patient for the kill.  It would have been folly for the acting Voice of the Sabbah to watch his Queen willingly put herself in danger.  That was why Abaddon went, though he as not asked to.  Invitations were not a thing the Black Widow Warlord Prince received in recent days, but no one could tell him where to go or where not to be. 

He was irritated by the press of those gathered.  In truth, he was irritated by many things, but now there were more eyes to stare at him, more mouths to whisper, and it only added to his annoyance.  Abaddon stood straight and proud, unbowed by the glares of those that thought him a villain or a traitor.  He let the mildest sense of his rising annoyance loose into the area around him, like a cloud of electricity, and the crowed parted before him when he arrived.  In this manner, he pushed his way to the front, to the edge of the open space, and stayed alert, in case someone forgot what they were there for, and decided to attack the so-called Spider’s Heir.  It would be their last mistake, and it would be risky for him to call on combat craft when he felt surrounded by enemies, but part of him almost wished for it, so he could bathe in the blood of idiots.

Abaddon understood tradition.  The Spider had wielded it like a scalpel for decades.  Just how many Queens did the Sabbah have that this lot thought it wise to refuse even one?  He knew that the Trials were meant to give Lady Elenor the opportunity to earn her place, to show he true desires, but he sensed something he did not like.  His Dreams had been restless, as they had been since the Rains, but he his own turmoil hade made interpreting his visions all the more difficult.  Abaddon had not been entirely calm, try as he might, for days now.  He had turned his skills inward, and he felt certain that once the last of The Spider’s Webs were pulled from his being, he would find peace—somewhere—maybe.  Abaddon remained alert, though now he spread his senses out, looking for more than personal attacks.  When the food was brought out, Abaddon determined to eat alone, lest he hurl his fist at some ‘True’ Sabbah that could not contain their bile.  Fin would be angry at him for pulling the focus from his Queen.

He was watching Elenor when she made her accusation, and his eyebrows rose slightly at the mention of poison.  Poison?  That seemed a reckless addition.  Abaddon had been a part of many Trials, and while his competitiveness and his temper might get the better of him, he usually did not risk the supplicants life.  People dying in the Trials would be counter-productive, and that would be especially true of the death of a Queen over some added layer to a test that should not be delivered in the manner.  When the knife flickered, Abaddon had to force himself to remember where he was.  She was not his Queen, but she was Fin’s, and he could now allow that sort of harm to come to him, but he held himself in check, and drank wine with more calm than he actually felt.  He watched the fight intently, and recognized Fin’s hand in Elenor’s movements, and when she finally won, Abaddon hid his half-smile behind another pull of wine.

Abaddon watched as Elenor was kept in the circle, and waited.  He could hear the intensity in Zhaleh’s words, and knew that while she would not kill the Queen outright, she would do her best to do so by accident or by failure.  He was so reminded of The Spider’s machinations, that the ceramic vessel in hand began to crack from unconsciously applied pressure.  When Elenor claimed her name, he was again relieved.  That should mean the end of it, perhaps she would lead, perhaps she would not, but she would be Sabbah.  Then came the sounds of bones breaking, and a Male being pressed to the earth in desperation.  He moved forward then, slightly, but the situation was swiftly contained and Elenor was moved to address all of the assembled Sabbah.  Words, well formed or not, would mean little to the Sabbah.  Elenor would have to prove herself with deeds, every day after this one.  Fin would help with that, doubtless, perhaps Abaddon would as well.

He watched as the beautiful Healer, Leila al-Sabbah, extended the hand of peace to their newest member.  She would heal the Queen, who had been allowed to suffer more than she should have, as far as Abaddon was concerned.  The restrained Male looked as desperate as Leila was serene.  He put aside his broken cup and strode across the sand, beaten to the punch by Bashir, which again, made him smile very slightly.  He moved to stand perhaps three strides from the Queen, not wanting to upset the Male any further.    Abaddon looked at Matin with understanding, and hoped the man saw it.  He could sense what was happening there, so he turned to the Queen, and inclined his head, ”Lady Elenor.”  To Bashir, ”Lord Bashir.”  And then to Leila, ”Lady, no Healer should be without an escort.  I would be honored to serve as such while you tend to our newest sister.”  Then he folded his arms and stood there, glowering at the crowd, daring anyone to do something stupid.

Abaddon stood near, but apart, backing Elenor, Elenor’s Males, and Fin.

Offline Malika al-Sabbah

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Re: Thrice Lost. Thrice Found.
« Reply #10 on: Nov 18, 17, 11:55:03 PM »
Previously, Malika had not been worried over a trial quite like she was this one. While she did not have a personal connection to this Queen, she knew that her brother did, and if something happened to her, Malika was not sure what that would do to Bashir. Sure, males survived the death of their Queens, but that did not keep her from worrying.

Also worrying was the possibility of seeing their father here. It had her constantly looking over her shoulder, and with each unexpected movement, each time she was jostled by the crowd, her heart raced for a few beats.

She was heartened when Lady Lirion passed her first trial and then her second, hopeful for her brother, and impressed by the Queen herself. Maybe she was a bit biased because of her brother, but still. Malika understood the traditions of their clan, understood what it meant for a foreigner to undertake them, and that made her want the woman to succeed as well because of Malika's own foreign heritage. She had always been different from the other girls, sometimes disliked and teased for it. That Elenor could do this and succeed was something that Malika found to be encouraging.

It was tough, watching the Queen go through the third trial. Tougher still for Malika was watching Bashir watch her. She wanted to do something for him, to hug him and offer him comfort, but she doubted that would be welcome.

*Bashir?* Malika tried on a private thread. *It'll be okay.* It had to be. *She made it though the first two, so I'm sure she'll make it through this.* It sounded lame even as she told him that, and she wished she had a better way of saying that, something more convincing, more... just more. Not that it mattered, probably. He was so upset that she was not sure if he was even hearing her. Malika had never seen him like this before. Angry yes, upset, but this was something completely different. It was wrenching, and she hid her tears as best she could, feeling frustrated and helpless.

Then, finally, it was over. She had lived. Her brother's Queen passed all of her trials. Malika grinned at her brother's cheer and turned her attention to Elenor Lirion al-Sabbah, feeling herself drawn into the words the woman spoke. She was leaning forward, and took a few steps before she realized what she was doing and stopped.

Malika's eyes went directly to Bashir at the call to serve and she couldn't help the grin as her brother pledged himself and in that moment, she felt none of her own loss, that her brothers had their purposes and she did not, only happiness for him. There was happiness for the Queen as well because, even if Bashir was not the most agreeable male, Elenor was lucky to have him.

Offline Tavar al-Sabbah

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Re: Thrice Lost. Thrice Found.
« Reply #11 on: Nov 30, 17, 10:29:53 PM »
Fin did not appreciate being summoned.

He knew that, at some point, Elenor would be called upon for the Trials. He’d done his best to prepare her, discussing possible tests. He explained a few of the tests he’d seen, but cautioned her to have faith in herself above all. Fin did not know who would administer her Trials, though he knew that it would not be his niece, Amira. When he last left Elenor, Fin spent his time in meditation and considering how best to communicate with the other clans. Prince Omid helped in his relations with the Bali, but there was more, more to do with the other clans. Eventually, he’d meet with the other Voices, though some of those meetings he did not look forward to.

He took the time to enjoy Judiah’s company and lavish his attention upon her, for she’d been patient, deeply patient, with the changes in their lives since Elenor arrived. While Fin had not expected his Queen and his lover to mend their initial disputes so well, he was glad they did. It was one less stressor on his mind, allowing him to focus on other issues of note.

Such as Shadya’s increasing absences.

The summons had broken his contemplating that very thing upon its arrival. Lady Zhaleh had seen fit to invite him and Judiah to Elenor’s Trials. The hour told him that they’d have begun at sundown, which meant that the Priestess had seen fit to gather the clan, without him, and administer the Trials to his Queen. Fin’s anger, hard to rouse on most days, ignited into a flame that threatened to consume anyone in his way.

Judiah, we must go. Now.

They arrived to find Shadya in combat with Elenor.

Blood thundered in Fin’s ears when his niece drew blood from his Queen. No one was stopping this or interceding. Fin looked around for a member of the clan who'd have an idea of what the hell was happening here.

He found Zhaleh al-Sabbah, watching this foolishness. Fin stalked toward her, pushing his way through the crowd until some of the gathered recognized who stood among them. Whether or not they disputed his position as the Voice of the Sabbah, everyone knew that the Eyrien was one of the deadliest among them.

They got the hell of out of his way.

Zhaleh noted Fin’s proximity only when he was nearly upon her. She offered him a polite smile, but did not show deference to his station as Voice of the Sabbah.

End this, Zhaleh. I don’t know what you’ve done here, but it ends now.

It ends when it ends, Lord Fin. Unless you would see Lady Lirion fail her Trial?” the woman asked, raising a brow.

You spill the blood of a Queen and call this a Trial? End it now or---

Lady Shadya has done so, not I. She will be disciplined for her zeal.

Once I know how you arranged this, you will pay.

As you say, Lord Fin. For now, we should pay attention to the Trial. Perhaps your Queen is stronger than she looks.

Fin nearly reached out and snapped the woman’s neck, but doing so would only play into whatever game she’d concocted. She wanted to provoke him. She'd make a mistake sooner or later. When she did, Fin would destroy her.

Elenor survived. Shadya was helped from the circle and now Fin moved closer see that Elenor was fine. He could not enter the circle, but he could take a position near the front to be as close as possible. The sight of Elenor’s blood made his own boil, made him want to kill every living person in this place for letting it happen. He forced himself to keep his wits. If he lost his mind now, they’d try to remove him and then he would have to kill everyone to get to Elenor. Fin watched his Queen sway on her feet and, briefly, considered how bad it would be to go to her, even if it ruined her Trials. Maybe it would cause a rift between them.

It did not matter so long as she lived.

She came to him now, her eyes focused upon him, but not and Fin recognized the signs of poison, having endured them himself. His gaze flashed back to Zhaleh as time passed, while Elenor endured the torments in her head. The Priestess did not meet his gaze and that was good. If she’d dared, Fin would have killed her without blinking. So Fin was forced to endure Elenor's fear and torment through their bond, though he would have gladly spilled oceans of blood to cut the cancer out of his clan once and for all, in the form of Adramelech’s followers.

Dawn arrived and Elenor rose to speak her truth, signaling an end to the farce that Zhaleh had perpetrated. Fin was ready to move forward and take Elenor away from this place. Fin spared a glance to Judiah and Abbadon, knowing that he could count upon the two of them as he counted upon few others.

Abbadon, Judiah, Please see to Shadya. Let no one bar you from aiding her.” Fin said.

Elenor’s fear and pain raced across the bond faster than her voice did. Fin’s head snapped back toward her and found her under assault by the Warlord Prince. He recognized Matin al-Sabbah, son of Zhaleh, assailing his Queen and Fin had had enough. He shielded Elenor as best he could, even as he drew his knives.

*Get away from him, Elenor! He and his mother die today!* he snarled over the thread, drawing back his arm to hurl the knife into the back of Matin’s head and end this madness once and for all.

*He is mine! Do not harm him, at least not until I know more.*

Hers? This fool boy was his bond-brother?

Fin froze, a growl rumbling deep inside his throat and chest. The people around him backed away quickly, hoping to avoid his gaze. He almost threw the knife anyway and killed Matin al-Sabbah. He turned his gaze on Zhaleh, who now glared daggers at him. Her face was filled barely concealed anger...and fear.

Fear for her son.

"Know that he lives now only because the Queen of the Sabbah holds his leash, Lady Zhaleh. Remember that you hold no such protection." Fin said, sheathing his knife.

Zhaleh turned and left immediately, flanked by her escorts.

Offline Elenor al-Sabbah

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Re: Thrice Lost. Thrice Found.
« Reply #12 on: Dec 01, 17, 01:27:13 AM »
Even as she stood and spoke before the Sabbah, Elenor took heed of what was going on with her bonded. How could she not with Sapphire shields close around her, having sprung up only a moment after the snap of bones. That safety and Zhaleh’s retreating form as her speech ended gave her boost of much needed courage. The bitch didn’t even have the decency to stay to see if Elenor was successful or not in forming her Court. Well, let her go. The crowd was thrumming with energy as the last of her words echoed off the walls of the Residence. A woman emerged from the ranks first, a Healer, with honey-colored hair and flowing robes. She spoke quietly, words that were wise, but not what Elenor wanted to hear right now, not with her temper high and so many conflicting, intense emotions coming from her bonded...all three of them. Three.

Her eyes flashed to the Warlord Prince on the ground, the one whose name she still didn’t even know, the one who she had almost lost before she had even fully realized he was hers. She had only gotten a split second’s warning from Fin,only just enough time to tighten the leash, to keep this man whose motives she did not yet know alive. He had hurt her, yes, but not badly enough to deserve death. She wasn’t sure how much of that willingness to excuse his actions was the natural protectiveness of a Queen for a bonded male, but did not have the energy to question it too much.

Instead she focused on the Healer, Leila. “Thank you for your words of advice and yes, I would gladly accept your assistance here and now.” She said, although the words were hardly out of her mouth when another familiar face thundered out of the crowd, eyes bright and lit with the same fire that coursed through her veins.

The three words that flew from Bashir’s lips were like music to her ears, and even though she hurt in more places and more deeply than she ever had before, even though she was exhausted and famished and her head pounded from the aftermath of the poison and blood loss, her face still spread in a huge grin as Bashir was the first to swear his service to her.

She reached for his hand, holding it tight and drawing him close, then, because that wasn’t enough, throwing her arms around his neck for a brief but tight hug as she whispered, “thank you.” Then she released him as another man stepped forward from the crowd, one who wore a Red Jewel on his robes. She gulped, but he inclined his head and offered not service, but protection for the Healer who was already busying herself at Elenor’s side. Still, as Abaddon took his place beside and a little behind her, something shifted in the muttering of the crowd. The knife edge of near-violence that had danced in the air since Fin’s outburst settled just on the side of calm. It would still take little to turn this whole mess into a killing field with this much blood in the air, but the presence of a Red Jeweled Black Widow Warlord Prince standing witness was just enough.

And just enough was all that it seemed was needed. Another man stepped forwards from the crowd. He moved with confidence, kneeling before her.

“I will serve, if you’ll have me.”

Elenor smiled at him, quickly opening a psychic thread to Fin.

*What do you know of him?*

*Stable and reliable* she got back without hesitation. She smiled and extended her hand to him.

“I will, and would count myself lucky if you would serve in my First Circle.”

Two more came forward, one after the other. Fin, bless him, kept a running commentary. She accepted these into her service but did not establish where or how they would serve as Fin suggested she watch them. The next man she graciously turned away, heart pounding in fear that she would not make it to the needed twelve.

An older man with golden eyes and skin emerged yet. He had a fighter’s build and seemed a little startled as he found himself kneeling. She half expected to feel the tug of a bond like she had for Fin or Bashir, but instead there was something lighter, like she had with the first man that had come forward. An understanding that they were hers, just not hers. Fin confirmed as much, adding that she should keep him as close to her as possible.

“What is your name?” She asked as he knelt before her.

“Danyal al-Hague.” He replied. Close now, she could see the Green Jewel that hung on a medallion at his breast. “I served as Master of the Guard for my Tribe’s Court a century ago, but have not been in service since.”

Long lived then, or at least in part. Elenor smiled. “You are now, Lord Danyal. As you did then, would you serve now as my Master of the Guard, for the welfare of your Clan above your Tribe?”

He looked up at her, and inclined his head. “I will serve.”

She took a step forward, lifting his chin with a single finger so as to look into his eyes. Hands shaking slightly, he took her hand in both of his, lips pressing into the sliced-open palm, blood signing to blood. He might not be hers the way her bonded were, but as she had told Judiah, sometimes a choice was just as powerful as the way the Darkness brought people together. He let go of her hand a moment later, and stood at her side.

Another man made it through to the front of the crowd. Stout, with a large mustache and dressed in rich robes, she nearly jumped out of her skin as the thrum of connection she had not expected to feel again this night zinged in the air between them.

Fin didn’t know that of course, but his words in her mind told her much the same as he had for Danyal. Keep him close.

“Lady Sabbah. My name is Shaharokh al-Tarazed.” He sounded a little dazed, and Elenor took a step towards him as he did towards her.

“Prince Tarazed, will you…”

“I will serve.” He interrupted, before she could even get the words out. “I only...only just got her. I was caught up in a book and almost didn’t come…”

“You are a scholar?” She asked as he came close enough that their words would be somewhat private.

“Yes, books are my passion, Lady.”

“Could being my Steward be another thing you could feel passionate about?” She asked, as he reached out to brush the back of his knuckled over her cheek, as if he half expected her not to be real. Her words made him start, but he only thought about it for half a second.

“It would be an honor I do not deserve, my Queen.”

She could hold herself back no longer. She flung her arms around his neck and felt him deflate in relief, felt his lips press against that spot that Fin and Bashir both seemed to always find on her neck.

The rest came in a blur. Face after face. She stopped counting after she asked the eleventh man to stand in her first circle, but there were...many. Some she turned away. Some had been part of her provisional Court. Some she accepted without knowing how they would serve the Sabbah, but knowing that they would.

Finally, only two people were left that she had to address. She walked over to Fin first, stepping close and looking up into his golden eyes as she felt her heart rending. He was hers. He should be standing up with the men who now formed her Court. He should have been the first, should have knelt before her as first Danyal, then Shaharokh had and cemented his place in her life in blood, but he could not. He was the Voice of their Clan, and as such, could not also serve in the Queen’s Court, and definitely not in her Triangle. Still, she placed her hand on his cheek, a hand now  free of blood thanks to Leila, and spoke quietly, for his ears alone. “I would not be here, if it weren’t for you. I know what is in your heart, beloved, for it is in mine as well. If ever the day comes when you chose to step down and release the title you carry, know that there is a place already made for you by my side, and there always will be.”

She didn’t kiss him on the lips, though she wanted to, wanted to so badly it hurt. Instead she reached up on tiptoes and pressed a kiss to his brow, then turned, at last, to the Warlord Price still kneeling on the ground.

*What do you know of him?* She asked, directing the question silently to Fin, Danyal and Shaharokh. The answers came quickly.

His name was Matin al-Sabbah. He was the eldest son of Zhaleh, had trained to be the companion and First Escort to a Queen, had served as assistant to the Steward in the Court Adramelech all but ran. He had been away from Onn for some time, and had a tendency to disappear right before things got messy. All three of them concurred on one thing: He was a threat. He was an enemy.

He was also the son of the leader of the True Sabbah, a faction that made up much of the crowd, a faction that might look more kindly on her if, even after everything Zhaleh hd put her through, she showed herself willing to include them in her rule, for with the number of males and females at her back now, she would rule.

She walked over to him and waited for him to look up. The bond they shared thrummed between them now. Warlord Prince. It flavored that connection in a way she had never felt before. The connection between a Queen and a Warlord Prince was one of necessity. They needed each other, her for his strength, he for her grounding presence. Streaks of dried tears marred his face as he knelt in the sand, a thousand different emotions playing behind dark eyes.

“Matin al-Sabbah, your life was spared tonight by my will. You have a choice before you, one I will offer only once. You may walk away now, this instant, and never become involved in your mother’s machinations against me again, go far away and never again come into my sight,” she paused, hating the thought of one of her bonded going away but dreading her next words even more, wishing it were Fin she was speaking them to and not this stranger. She could ask Bashir, she wanted to ask Bashir, but he was as of yet untested in the workings of a Court. He didn't have the years of polish that would be needed for the job. She squared her shoulder and continued, “or you will serve me -and only me- from this day forward as my First Escort, and have a chance to make amends for your actions this day.”


Offline Abaddon al-Sabbah

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Re: Thrice Lost. Thrice Found.
« Reply #13 on: Dec 01, 17, 01:48:04 PM »
Abaddon had made his stand, and he knew that some amongst the Sabbah would be wondering what it meant.  They would wonder if he echoed a dead man's wishes, or if he had made a stand on his own.  The True Sabbah would see him as one more enemy, or possibly even a traitor, since who but the Son of the Spider should lead them, but the rest of the Clan, thost that feared him, they might see it as a step in the right direction.  Abaddon stood by, and prepared to launch himself or his Craft at whatever or whomever decided to harm the Queen or what he took to be her slowly forming Court.  He did not vocally choose to serve, instead, he placed himself as the guarding of the Healer, Leila, which doubtless would be come a subject of much whispered discussion.

He sensed Fin's approached before he saw the man.  Abaddon had spent a lot of time in the Voice's presence, and the only other person he would recognize so easily at a distance was Lady Kesare, but she was not there.  As for his Queen, he always knew where she was.  He could sense Fin's anger, and it made him stand up a little straighter.  If Lord Fin lost his temper, then Abaddon would join him in the slaughter.  It was not even a decision he had to think about.  He did not have Fin's reputation, though by dint of being his student all of his life, some of that respect had fear had trickled down to him.  His Castes and his Jewels did the rest.  When Fin appeared, Abaddon moved to cover his back, his senses spreading out to cover the area, drawing on Craft to sense the smallest movement of attack.  His lips held the ghost of a smile as Fin parted people like a sandworm cutting through dunes.

Fin' enounter with Zhaleh continued, and Abaddon found his weight shifting slightly, his body instinctively preparing for action as his old friend's anger ontinued to rise.  His own began to rise in harmony with it, and slowly, he began to welcome it--until Fin barked a request he could not ignore.  Shadya was important to Fin, and so she was important to Abaddon.  He had no Family left, only his Queen and Fin, and while he did not know Shadya well, she fell under his shadow of protection.  Abaddon moved to her swiftly, and took her up in his arms.  His Craft explored the surface of her form, and he applied what minimal healing art he could, knowing that Leila would have to see her as well, before Fin was satisfied.  He returned with Fin's niece in his arms, and took up the same sentinel position.

Somehow, with a woman in his arms, and his golden eyes bright with power, the Black Widow Warlord Prince looked more intimidating, rather than less.  Finally, he looked down and quietly said, "Hello, Lady Shadya.  I would have preferred to meet you again over tea or something.  Is there anything that Zhaleh might have done to you that I should look for?"  He thought about that for a moment, realizing she might not be able to answer. "Do not answer that, I will check for Webs anyway."

Offline Judiah Vidanic

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Re: Thrice Lost. Thrice Found.
« Reply #14 on: Dec 01, 17, 02:12:32 PM »
Judiah felt Fin move before she even opened her eyes.  He had moved at some point after they had both falling into a sated sleep, and his head was resting on her stomach, cloaking the lower half of her body in his heat and weight.  She could tell when he began to awaken, even if he didn’t move an inch.  It was the way his muscles tensed, the feel of his breath on her skin and from this position, the slight tickling flutter of his lashes against her solar plexus.   She had done her best to ease his anxiety as she knew how, even though her own stomach turned and twisted with worry.  Elenor, now safe from the dangers of being a virgin Queen, would have to face her Trials with the Clan before she could be accepted as theirs.  There wasn’t much reason to think that they would have to wait long, and every moment he was out of her sight, Judiah knew he was thinking of Elenor and fretting.   

She had been worried too, but was used to hiding her emotions and thoughts in lieu of the pleasure of others.  A distracted courtesan, whose focus was elsewhere would end up poor and homeless, back in the gutter with the other whores.

He tensed, and the hand that had begun to move to settle into his hair paused mid-air as he lifted himself up off her in that singularly smooth movement that attested to years of training and skill, moving off the bed to gather his clothes.  She sat up, her elbows braced behind her in a moment of sleepy confusion when his words splashed over her like ice water.

“Judiah, we must go. Now.”

Hard, angry, cold.  A lesser woman would have questioned the command, pouted and complained that he had left her bare and chilled in the night air.  She was no lesser woman and moved quickly herself, pulling on undergarments and gown, craft weaving through her hair until it was a tight neat plait that ran down her back.  She grabbed a simple linen head covering, one she had purchased recently that was very commonly seen among the women of the Sabbah.  She had taken to dressing as modestly as possible when outside of the residence, even more so if she was with Fin or Elenor.  The more she could blend in, the less attention and gossip was drawn towards either of them.  She knew it bothered Elenor, she could see it in the flashes of looks from the other woman’s eyes, even when she didn’t address it vocally.

Judiah took long strides to keep up with Fin’s pace as they hurried out into the chill night air, following a summons that she didn’t hear but had obviously been directed towards him.  It didn’t take long for the sounds of voices to reach their ears, the hum almost liquid in the air and the light of witchfire illuminated over a sea of heads, all encircled and centered around an empty ring.   Fin pushed through the crowd and Judiah stayed on his heels, ignoring the grabbing of hands at her arms and clothing to stop her as they pushed towards the front of the crowd.

The sight there stopped her heart and she grabbed Fin’s arm in reflex, her face pressing against the muscle of his bicep as she steadied herself.  Elenor, filthy with sand and blood, the redness of it stark in the light of the witchfire orbs that hovered above.  Her hair was matted, her eyes were almost wild and dilated as she was fixated on the other figure who advanced and retreated on her with a long bladed knife.   For a moment, she didn’t believe her eyes, thought that it was an impossibility when her brain told her that El’s attacker was Fin’s own niece, but she had known the girl for over a year now and there was no mistaking the spice and scent of that particular Black Widow.  Judiah’s hand slid down and gripped Fin’s tightly, offering as much strength as she could in that moment, and was suddenly bereft when he pulled free, stalking over towards an older woman who wore garb she recognized from Hadjara’s own wardrobe.  A Priestess, who watched the fight with a smug smile that only barely hid the feral hunger of approval at every drop of El’s blood that hit the sand. 

Judiah could only imagine the rage in Fin’s body, her own trembled with fury at the sight of El, her El being attacked and wounded while the crowd watched and did nothing.  She felt power surge along her skin, Rose tinted craft that begged to be released and it was only a hair of control that kept her from unleashing it.  She turned to follow Fin, needing his presence to focus on something besides her need to rush out into the ring and fling Shadya away from their Queenling.  This time the crowd had parted in his wake and had left enough room for her to follow quickly without being impeded.  She stood at his back, one hand gently resting beneath his wings, a silent reminder of her presence and support as he snarled at the woman she now recognized as Zhaleh, an important Priestess of the Clan.

Judiah felt her hand clench as she listened to the discussion, the calm and almost detached way the other woman had removed all responsibility from herself for the injuries to El by blaming Shadya.  It didn’t take a genius to know that Shadya had been placed into this position, played upon by her strong commitment and duty to her Clan.  She was Fin’s niece after all, practically a daughter to him and had been raised with his same sense of honor.  His back tensed as his wings flared in anger and Judiah leaned in, gently pressing her cheek to the moving appendages.

Not now Fin, not here.  El needs us.

The fight ended, El victorious but the tension that had been building in her stomach rushed out of the Hayllian like a blow to the gut when Shadya had been taken away to have her own wounds tended to while Elenor was left to bleed and stumble in the dust.  Her eyes were so… unnatural, and unfocused as if the pale woman couldn’t see and kept shifting her gaze to try and settle her sights on one specific thing even if there was nothing there.  It reminded her of another night…

Fuck, had they really given her poison again?!  Judiah snarled in the realization, recognizing the same look on the night that El had been attacked as the expression that crossed her face now.   She couldn’t pull her gaze away but didn’t want to look.   She wanted to leap into the ring, wrap Elenor up in her Rose power and throw them both into the Winds and far away from this place and these people who wanted to torture her instead of seeing her for the treasure she was.   

She turned to look at Fin, saw the barely contained fury in his face as he stared at Elenor while his eyes were wide and helpless.  She wanted to hold him, but she didn’t.  Her touch might break his restraint at this most crucial moment and she couldn’t do that to him.  She stood near, close enough to feel the heat of his body against her but she wouldn’t touch him as they both watched the last of the Trials, both silently willing their own strength to Elenor to push through and be the victor.  It was the longest night of Judiah’s long life, holding her breath and waiting, never lifting her eyes from Elenor for fear that in that moment when she noticed her, she would be looking away and that it might make the Queenling think she had any doubts.

Dawn arrived and Elenor stood on shaking legs but she stood, glaring her defiance at the Priestess who had orchestrated all this, naming herself rightfully one of the Sabbah.  Judiah wanted to cheer and restrained her exuberance, especially seeing the damage that it had cost her beloved.  Fin’s gaze finally turned her way, and she felt the power beneath his words as he asked her to look after Shadya.  She nodded, and moved towards the direction that the little Black Widow had been taken when a larger man, Red jewel glinting in the dawning light moved ahead of her and scooped up Fin’s niece, carrying her back towards Fin instead.

Judiah moved to intercept them, placing her hand gently on Shadya’s shoulder as Abaddon spoke to her, speaking of Webs and craft that were beyond her skills.  Black Widows, a craft and caste she had never once in her life wished she could have been a part of though she had no ill will towards them.  She had seen the damage that Widows could and had done in many territories, the way the mind could be clouded and manipulated against the will of the victim and it made her skin crawl.  She knew that craft was only as dangerous as the wielder, and it could be used for the benefit of all but still…

A healer had tended to the deep wound in Shadya’s shoulder, though the stain of blood still seeped through the bandaging.  It wouldn’t do her well to continue to be exposed to weight of anger and pain that permeated the air.  She called in her own first aid kit, something she had taken to carrying with her as a force of habit after the third time Elenor had forgotten a hat and burned her cheeks in the sun and pulled out more bandages, carefully wrapping them again over Shadya’s shoulder. 

She’ll be fine, a bit sore for a few days but nothing damaging, she reported back to Fin as she turned to find him in the crowd just as she heard something pop and Elenor’s cry pierced the air.  Judiah spun towards where she had last seen her friend, saw Elenor clutching her wrist with pain across her face and a strange male bent in the sand at her feet.  Saw Fin advancing with murder in his eyes before stopping, staring at Elenor with disbelief and frustration.  Her poor darling,  if he had been tense before, he was going to be near ravenous after all this.  The scent of his Queen’s blood in his nose, the need to kill those who dared bring her harm and the inability to unleash those primal feelings were building up to a dangerous point.

She turned back to Abaddon, “Can you see that Lady Shadya is brought safely back to Fin’s residence and rests?”  She saw the stubborn look in the girl’s face and she schooled her own into a stone wall of immobility.  “Your Uncle is on the verge of murdering someone, he does NOT need to come home and find you bleeding all over the rugs for foolish pride.  Rest and heal yourself Shadya, and give him that little bit of relief.”  She placed her hand gently on the other woman’s arm.   “I saw what you did,” she whispered softly enough for only the three of them to hear.  “I saw enough of Judas’ fights to know how many openings you had to kill her and how many ways you let her get the better of you.  Fin will know this too, he will know you would never have harmed his Queen.”

She looked up at Abaddon, “I’m going back to Fin and see if I can assist Elenor.  Sit on her if you have to.”  She gave him a tired little smile before pushing her way back to Fin and Elenor.




Offline Leila al-Sabbah

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Re: Thrice Lost. Thrice Found.
« Reply #15 on: Dec 04, 17, 05:29:35 AM »
'Who can understand my complaint of love ....'

Locale: Pruul. Sabbah Residence in Onn.

While understanding that the Sabbah Queen might have preferred hearing passionate and blind desire to serve even just to soothe her emotions, just as the number of men grew that were willing to immediately serve very nearly to three full circles, she was aware that time taken to consider what she might do was a better choice for herself. Leila both realised she could not do the same as others and held her ground but also committed herself that she would ensure that the Lady Elenor would be left without a single scratch by the time she was finished and prepared to rest for the day or night, whichever came first. Given the weight of pain that the Queen had faced over the last several hours, Leila could also not deny that immediate servitude from some had to be a balm, and at once felt conflicted that she required more time, while pleased for herself that she had moved past and through some of the grief that still clouded her mind at times.

The honey haired woman followed every step the Queen made, more comfortable doing so with a vicious Red Jewelled male ensuring she would not die from doing so. Continuing to cover the woman in elegant Healing Weaves with both her Tiger Eye and Summer Sky Jewels. The task became as real and artful to her as any that she enjoyed, yet Healing simply was who and what Leila was. Like a dancer with no limit upon her time, she moved with the Queen. She took into account the pain the woman would feel and pulled that immediately into herself, and both grounded it and dispersed so that she could focus her intent upon the woman and not the gathering crowd that she would need to become accustomed to if the decision to serve was the right one.

Don't panic. Everything will be fine and well.

Truth was, that Leila had never done well with a considerable number of people unless she could hide since the death of her husband, and the Healer was well aware that it was a troublesome part of her needing repair, but had grown accustomed to putting it off. Thus, the lack of attention on her actions with even the reasonably looming Warlord Prince Black Widow occupied by Lord Fin's niece needing to be tended to allowed that sense of needing to flee quiet within her to a degree. It was not due to fear, as there were few people regardless of Jewels that Leila was afraid of, but due to what she could not give. Yet, in this moment, the entire focus was divided.

Having no intention of allowing anyone to distract her or separate her from the Queen's healing, including any of her bonded, friends, or lovers while each tried to get what they needed from Elenor, or serve their own purposes, Leila continued gently sealing the woman's wounds and cleansing the scent of her blood from both Elenor herself, but from the grounds and air around them, and fervently once permission had been granted. Not choosing to speak further to anyone present yet, save for offering a nod toward Prince Abaddon for his help, Leila took note of the actions of all around, both those that gave themselves without hesitation to the Queen, as well as those that were more cerebrally driven in their alliances. Leila had lost much in remaining among the Sabbah, and whether she remained or no, it was important to her to do so in the best memory able to be offered by herself.

Leila trusted emotions only to a point largely due to how light jewelled she was, well aware that the same feelings that had driven many to immediately desire to serve could also be swayed the opposite direction, whether bonded or no, even while she hoped that would not be the case. She had only heard of the Hayllian courtesan that had attached herself to the new Voice of the Sabbah for love, and considered well even this woman, deciding that if one could walk away from the richness of Hayll and its wonders much as the Voice of the Bali had, long ago, that perhaps she could be trusted. She paid attention particularly to Lord Fin's reaction to each of the new personages that decided they too, would serve, carefully considering allies, neutrals, and potential enemies at once. Most of what needed healed upon the Queen would have to be done in some privacy, which Leila understood well would be some time before she could at all insist, or had any right to do so. Each of her bonded would require Touch or reassurance before there was any chance they might disperse.

Thus only after the Voice's daughter was attended to, Leila spoke softly to the dual casted Warlord Prince in passing. "We will need privacy soon, within the next pair of hours, or she will fall apart from stress or her body being unwilling to accept the pressure of a further crowd, even while it is important as a Queen that has chosen to lead must tend to her duties as much as I understand it. When the moment comes, will you stand at my healing quarters? I am not concerned for myself, but it is kind that you are. After I am finished Healing the Queen, we may speak if you were willing, Prince Abaddon."

Considering service was well more than the open presence she was accustomed to with people that had not been either needing her assistance with safe near-anonymity in some years, and the thoughts of it had her nervous, but prepared as much as one could be. "I will stay with you until you are safely sleeping, Lady, regardless of whether I choose to serve or no. It is not a decision I can ... make without considering the whole, much like a chess board, each pieces' movement can change everything. But I have been Sabbah for many decades, and anyone intending to improve us, is someone I can support even to a minimal degree."
"Bend thine façade upon potent determination, Darkness birthed and Night kissed. Blessed in weaving for the Priestess Queen."
♪ Writer's Tracker | A Midnight Dreaming Rose ♪

Offline Judiah Vidanic

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Re: Thrice Lost. Thrice Found.
« Reply #16 on: Dec 04, 17, 11:23:53 AM »
The Healer had already reached El, tending to her wrist and other wounds, and Judiah moved to the other side of her, careful not to put herself in the way of the Healer’s workings.  Her hands cupped Elenor’s face gently, her thumbs brushing against the cracked and dirt covered lips gently, her eyes holding all the emotions that she couldn’t let her face express - not in such a public place.  The man on the ground, the one that had harmed her Elenor still cowered in the sand, but she didn’t bother giving him more than a small glance.  Sounds swirled around them, bursting the momentary bubble of isolation that she had slipped into, reminding her that something much larger was still going on around them and just how many people were privy to it.

She was then very aware that beneath the blood and dust, Elenor was still very much naked.  Judiah unwrapped her burnoose, ignoring the mutter of voices that rose up as her face became visible and those who hadn’t yet realized who she was became very aware, and very angry at her intrusion.  She ignored the heat of those gazes as she wrapped Elenor in her burnoose, hiding her vulnerable naked body from the eyes that watched them just as Elenor called for the men to form her circle. 

She stood silently just behind Elenor’s shoulder, her eyes watching each person who came forward, first of all the young man Bashir who had rescued Elenor from the attack in the desert.  She watched as men one by one stepped forward, and noticed Abaddon’s return with a delicate lift to her eyebrow but didn’t question what had been done with Shadya.  She knew that the Black Widow would be looked after and turned back to the formation of Elenor’s court.

Fin approached and Elenor closed the difference between them, and looked on solemnly at their exchange, at the delicate brush of her lips against Fin’s brow and the way his eyes closed at the touch.  She envied that public display just a little, the easy way that El could reach up and touch Fin because he was Hers, and Voice or not no one would interfere with that sacred connection.

Once the proceedings were wrapping up, Judiah stepped up to Elenor’s elbow, her hand reaching out gently to touch the younger woman.  “Lady, I must insist with the Healer’s recommendation.  You have been too long under the beating of the sun.  You need to bathe, eat and rest before meeting with all your circle.”  She gently moved her other hand to the small curve of Elenor’s back, just a light touch and hoped that someone among her males would help escort Elenor back to her rooms.




Offline Bashir al-Sabbah

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Re: Thrice Lost. Thrice Found.
« Reply #17 on: Dec 04, 17, 01:52:10 PM »
Bashir had been really hoping that Fin would arrive and beat the shit out of Matin for what he had done. It even looked like he was about to! Bashir had clenched his fists, tensed and readied himself to either join in or hold back others from stopping Fin. There was that other Warlord Prince, the one with the Red, that was near the Healer, protecting her, but he looked ready to help too.

Good, Bashir had allies. And Elenor had protection.

But Fin didn’t do a fucking thing to Matin. Bashir’s jaw dropped and he took a half step forward before he realized that Elenor must have told Fin something to make him stop. That was the only person who could stop Fin, right?

Matin had to wait. Other guys were stepping forward. Bashir stayed as close as he could to Elenor, ready to jump to her defense. But each one that approached, they said the same thing he did: I will serve. A Yellow. A Rose. A fucking Green. Master of the Guard. Steward.

Then, Elenor turned her attention to that fucking snake Matin. “Matin al-Sabbah, your life was spared tonight by my will. You have a choice before you, once I will offer only once. You may walk away now, this instant, and never become involved in your mother’s machinations against me again, go far away and never again come into my sight,” she told him, pausing. Bashir found himself willing Matin away. Fuck off. Get out. Good riddance. That shit.

“Or you will serve me -and only me- from this day forward as my First Escort, and have a chance to make amends for your actions this day.”

Wait, what?

Bashir’s jaw dropped. First Escort?! He was offering him First Escort? WHY?! That’s the job he should have! He was the one who had saved her from those thugs! Didn’t he deserve the position of First Escort because of that? Because of proving he could keep her safe?!

This was fucking bullshit!

“Why does he--” he started to say but a gentle touch from Judiah, who had come to stand close, stopped him from continuing his childish outburst. He glared at the witch briefly and then looked over at Elenor.

“Lady, I must insist with the Healer’s recommendation.  You have been too long under the beating of the sun.  You need to bathe, eat and rest before meeting with all your circle,” Judiah said.

Bashir didn’t wait for someone else to steal his position here. He went to Elenor’s side and said, “She’s right. Let’s get you inside and have a Healer look at you.” He shot murderous looks at most of the males who dared get near her because fuck them, he had been here first!

Offline Nayarreh al-Sabbah

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Re: Thrice Lost. Thrice Found.
« Reply #18 on: Dec 04, 17, 11:28:36 PM »
Nayarreh stood at the railing of one the the upper stories of the Sabbah residence, heart breaking for Matin. She had not been here when the Trials of the Foreign Queen had started. No, she had been busy putting Salma and the boys to bed and cleaning up from dinner, while Elham chatted with the family camped next to theirs who had joined them for the evening meal. She had just about finished when a lanky teen ran up to their tent yelling that the Second Trial was over and the Third was beginning. Elham had met her eyes and frowned. Matin had dropped Salma off with them before heading out, and he had made it clear that his mother expected the foreigner not to make it past the first of the Trials. If it was going this badly, it meant something had gone wrong.

“Go, Naya. I’ll take care of the kids.” Elham said, voice low. Naya had kissed her wife on the lips, grabbed a shawl and ran out the door.

The Sabbah residence had been full to bursting when she arrived, but she wasn’t one to stand at the back, jumping up to see what was happening. So instead she had pushed her way through until she could get a good look at what was going on in the courtyard below, aware of how antsy the crowd was and the smell of a Queen’s blood in the air.

The sight that met her confused Naya more than anything. The woman lying in the dust, rocking, and crying must be the Queen that she had heard so many rumors about. She didn’t look like much, neither strongly built for the rigors of the desert nor with the elegant, stern features that commanded respect, as Lady Zhaleh had. She just looked ordinary and in pain.

And that was all the mind Naya gave her. She scanned the crowd, picking out familiar faces. Adileh was there, close to her mother, watching a spot to the right of the High Priestess of Clan Sabbah with bored indifference, although what the girl was staring at, Naya had no clue. Her mother was watching the Queen clawing at the ground with a twinkle in her eye that suggested hearty enjoyment, and Matin...was nowhere in sight. Naya frowned, looking again, but still unable to locate her sometimes-lover.

If he wasn’t here then where the fuck was he?

Her breath caught as she caught sight of their Voice though. The way he was looking at the Queen, as if ready to snap and start taking heads if the wrong pressure was applied made Naya reconsider being here, but curiosity kept her rooted to the railing of the walkway.

It was a long night. Even though she had no interest in a foreign-born puppet-Queen ruling, she still felt a touch of pity once someone explained to her what the Trials had been up until now. She remembered watching Elham’s and Matin’s, heart in throat but sure they would pull through. Each had been a bit bruised by the end and had slept well that night, but it had not been quite as brutal as this. Then again, they had each had a lifetime of service to the Clan as proof of their place among them. This woman had only this night. It was right that it should be harder for her than for true Sabbah clansmen. 

It was not until dawn came that anything of real note happened. The pale-haired woman finally stood and crossed over to Lady Zhaleh, uttering words that Naya was too far away to hear. The meaning was clear though. She had passed. Another victory for the self-appointed Eyrian Voice who was, as far as Naya could tell, just one more fool who worshiped the ground the Mineborn walked upon. Matin would be furious.

As if the thought summoned him, her favorite Warlord Prince appeared as if out of thin air in the crowd behind his mother, and Naya’s breath caught at the sight. She had only once ever seen him disheveled, and that had been a very long time ago. Even in the throes of passion, there was a poise to Matin, but all that was gone now. He looked half-crazed and feral as he burst through the crowd straight for the Queen.

She watched him grab for her, saw her yank away and heard a gasp from the crowd even though she was too far away to hear the breaking of bones. A cry of alarm passed her lips as she watched her lover’s knees buckle as the Queen turned around, fury in her gaze, and addressed the crowd.

Naya couldn't give a fuck about what she said. The entire time the woman ranted, she only had eyes for Matin, and for the tears streaming down his face. Tears! He was a man of the desert, a man who had lost more than most could comprehend. Hatred for the woman who wanted to rule them sprang up within her unbidden, and when she asked the Sabbah to serve, Naya hissed her displeasure as men began to answer. Who, among those who called themselves Sabbah, could answer the call of a woman who held one of their own down? What the fuck was wrong with them that they couldn’t see that even though she had passed her Trials, all they had to do to stop her was simply meet her words with the cold indifference they deserved?

But no. One, two, three full circles worth of men and women gathered, one by one. Naya ground her teeth and kept watching Matin, willing him to his feet. Finally, the Queen turned to him, as if only now remembering him.

And offered him an out.

Take it. Hell’s Fire, Matin. That’s all you’ve ever wanted. Take it.

It was more generous than Naya had expected the bitch to be. Then she continued, and she nearly laughed out loud. As if! As if Matin, for all his training, would ever willingly serve someone like her, except…

Why was he hesitating?

Could it be…

Naya’s eyes narrowed, piercing the distance between them, looking at Matin’s face as he raised it to look at the bloody Queen who stood before him, her back to Naya, and saw the truth in his familiar eyes.

She knew what his answer would be before he gave it, and was one among only a handful in the crowd who knew the price that answer would cost him.

*I’ll take care of Salma, Matin. Ama and I can keep her safe with us. This woman need never know your daughter will one day be the rightful Queen of our Clan. We’ll keep her safe and close by.*

If he really was feeling the pull to serve this Queen, so be it. Naya didn’t even have to ask Elham what her thoughts on the matter were. Matin was as close to family as their sons, and if he would be staying here in Onn, so would they.

*Do what you need to do.*

Offline Matin al-Sabbah

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Re: Thrice Lost. Thrice Found.
« Reply #19 on: Dec 06, 17, 05:14:01 PM »
Elenor’s words washed over Matin, his mind too full of despair and longing to give them meaning. He didn’t see the looks of encouragement and anger that others gave him, didn’t know how close he had come to death before his Queen intervened. He gradually regained cognizance as more men and women stepped forward. He was confused at first, then he realized what was happening. She was forming her Court, moments after being named al-Sabbah. Resentment churned sluggishly in his chest as more and more of his clansmen pledged themselves to her. So many. Were they so blindly loyal the Sabbah’s self-proclaimed Voice that they would follow wherever he pointed his finger? Many had been so disillusioned by Prince Adramelech’s treatment of the Mineborn Queen that they turned against everything he had stood for, rather than seeing it as a slip in the sanity of a Black Widow who had dedicated his life to the service of their Clan. Matin had seen that lapse in faith among his clansmen over there past year, but he had never expected them to turn their backs on their own people in such numbers.

Even with so many offering themselves to her, the Queen barely turned any away. Blood who had never stepped near a Court were accepted just as readily as those who had once been First Circle, and some of those who she did reject had more experience and clout than she deserved.

Eventually no more came forward and there was a long, uncertain silence. He saw Elenor move in front of him, his face downcast despite her having released the Craft holding his head bowed. Matin looked up at his Queen, at this audacious foreigner who defiled everything that the Sabbah should be, this beautiful woman that his heart sang for.

She spoke, and it took a moment for the sounds to coalesce into words. She wanted him to leave? His mind warred with itself. He could take his daughter, take her far away from here, raise her in the mountains where they had spent many of her first years or to another Territory. It would tear him open to leave Pruul and his people, but for Salma, he would do it. His mother might hate him for it, but she wouldn’t stand in the way, would she? Not after the Queen of the Sabbah had told him to leave.

But she was his Queen, and he knew if he left now he would spend the rest of his life with a hole in his heart, an ache that would never heal and a hunger that would never be sated. Had he not already lost enough? Why was that Darkness torturing him with this as well? His mind was clouded and nothing made sense.

Elenor offered her second choice, and his breath hitched, eagerness and joy rushing through him before tangling in everything else he felt. He looked into her gold eyes, captivated, divided. She pulled at him in a way he had never known before, a way that threatened to take him in entirely, but she was not his only Queen, and Salma needed him more than anyone else ever could.

He thought he would implode with the impossibility of the choice when Naya’s familiar voice entered his mind. If there had been any water left in him, he may have wept again in pain and relief. He had been given two impossible choices, and he didn’t have the will to choose the one that he knew was right.

“I will serve.”
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Offline Tavar al-Sabbah

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Re: Thrice Lost. Thrice Found.
« Reply #20 on: Dec 06, 17, 10:07:29 PM »
Elenor assembled her Court, paying attention to his suggestions, but Fin kept his eyes upon Matin al-Sabbah. The urge, the desire to kill him still burned beneath his skin. Fin imagined dragging his knife across the Warlord Prince’s throat, feeling his skin part a second before the rush of hot blood stained the ground. Zhaleh would rage, oh would she rage, but she’d be powerless to stop him. For a moment, Fin nearly acted on his thought.

He stayed his hand because of Elenor.

She offered Prince Matin the opportunity to run for his life and Fin hoped that he would. Surely the man knew that continuing to support his mother would lead only to his ruin and eventual death. Fin hoped, despite knowing better, that Matin would pick up stakes and leave Pruul, the he would leave Fin’s Queen alone before Fin ended his life.

Of course, Elenor continued and offered the damned fool the chance to stay. Fin forced his hands to remain at his sides, away from his knives, because Elenor was too close to him. He couldn’t risk hitting her, even by accident. When she offered Matin the position of First Escort, Fin’s expression grew stony. He would have made a different choice, and Elenor could feel his disquiet through the bond. Despite this Trial, the Sabbah were not unified and there would be many, many more challenges to come.

*Matin al-Sabbah, listen carefully, for I will say it once. Your mother will die before the end of the coming year. Make your peace with her. If she attempts to harm Lady Sabbah, it hastens her end. If she attempts to harm or coerce my family again, it hastens her end.

If you love her, commit her last days to your mind. Should you have children, you will want a positive memory to grant them after she’s gone.
*

Fin closed the thread, wholly uninterested in any response that Matin might cobble together.

Lady Sabbah, I shall remain to offer counsel and guide Clan Sabbah as its Voice. I will remain available whenever you need me.” Fin said.

Offline Elenor al-Sabbah

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Re: Thrice Lost. Thrice Found.
« Reply #21 on: Dec 07, 17, 12:03:37 AM »
Elenor watched as indecision played over Matin’s tear-streaked face as she clutched the burnoose Judiah had draped over her shoulders tight around herself, glad, now that she was starting to come off the high of adrenaline and anger, that she wasn’t quite as exposed anymore. Especially not with this Warlord Princes eyes on her.

There was a long moment of tense silence then, all at once, he seemed to deflate, and as he uttered the words that would bind him to her, Elenor felt equal parts horrified and relieved. Still, it was not over yet. As she had for Danyal and Shaharokh, she went through each step that would bind a male into a Queen’s Triangle, felt his mouth hot upon the skin of her wrist as she tied him to her in the oldest of rituals among the Blood.

Fin approached her, words formal: a Voice to his Queen, but under that formality lay unease and the continued burn of anger. Elenor would have to talk to him once she had been seen to by Leila...would have to talk to a lot of people.

She smiled and thanked him and then...it was over.

She looked around, a little dazed, as Bashir took her arm, voice gentle as he repeated Leila and Judiah’s sentiment of getting her inside. Her eyes drifted over her new Court, crowding around but giving her a respectful bubble of space in the morning light, and felt her knees wobble. Bashir steadied her, something that by rights was now Matin’s job, but he just remained kneeling in the dust. Elenor looked up at her youngest bonded, smiling her thanks, but then a door slammed open somewhere with enough force to carry over the crowd. Everyone looked up, and then the crowd was parting like a wave. Elenor couldn't see who it was that was approaching like a storm off the dunes, but the Psychic Scent hit her even as about a dozen layers of Craft Shields ranging from Yellow to Red sprang up around the newly-formed Court.

Warlord Prince.

Sapphire.

And for the third time tonight,

Hers



 

 

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